Dweomer Day: Grimwald’s Graymantle

n.b. Dweomer Day is a series in which I convert a spell from an earlier edition of D&D to 5E or update a homebrew spell from previous editions/campaigns. 

This might be the most famous of the spells I will cover here on “Dweomer Day.” I mean, it is no magic missile but I think among the fans of the Forgotten Realms it is probably recognizable. It not only appeared in Dragon #92 for use in the original AD&D rules, but it was also printed in Volo’s Guide to All Things Magical (1996) for 2E AD&D and in the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001). The version I am working from is the 1E version printed in Dragon. I don’t have access to the two other versions and I don’t think I need them. My guess is that somewhere on the DM’s Guild there is probably a product with a 5E version of this spell, but why pay for what you can make yourself?

The text of the original version by Ed Greenwood reads like a masterclass in early D&D cludge. Back then the spells not only did not have style guide to encourage consistency, but they often included lots of fiddly details rather than presenting the most common way it works as a guideline for a DM to give a ruling when circumstances varied.

Before going into the deets of the spell, it probably should be mentioned that this is not the kind of spell that I can imagine most PCs caring to have or cast. Perhaps it is my own naiveté, but between it being a necrotic spell and its limited utility (as enemies rarely get to heal themselves mid-battle) I think most would not bother. On the other hand, it is the kind of spell I can totally imagine a BBEG casting on PC while his minions soften up the party, making it difficult for them to regroup and heal before the final showdown.

It could also be a great spell to open up an assassin attempt. Wait. Surely you have had someone try to assassinate the PCs in your D&D campaign before. . . right? It seems to happen in nearly ever campaign I run. Adventurers are always making enemies of someone.

According to the lore surrounding the spell, it can be found in the Tome of the Covenant, a spell book that is the product of the four most powerful mages in the north of Faerun (at the time of the book’s making) who founded a covenant of peace among warring tribes of the area. How a spell like this ended up in the repertoire of a group of powerful wizards dedicated to good and peace and included in a tome meant to represent their peaceful pact of cooperation, I am not sure.

The first thing I did when converting the spell was get rid of the touch attack aspect of it and the chance for it to backfire on the caster. Both of these limitations seemed way too strident for a 5th level spell. Getting up close enough to someone to touch them and they get a saving throw to resist the effect is too difficult. Only requiring a successful spell attack to have the spell go into effect is too easy. So making it ranged and allowing a Constitution save seemed like the way to go.

The Tome of the Covenant.

In order to bring the spell in line with the structure of 5E magic, I made the spell’s duration concentration, but unlike many 5E spells I did not want to allow the target an additional saving throw at the end of every round. I wish there was a lot less of that in 5E and where I can, I have gotten rid of it. It just makes throwing off a spell way too easy. You are bound to do so sooner rather than later. What fun is that? Instead, I added the mechanism where healing spells of a higher level than Grimwald’s Graymantle allow for another saving throw. At the same time, I have a hard time imaging someone potentially blowing a 6th or higher level slot to get rid of the mantle, but I think magic should come with a price.

Lastly, I prefer when the physical manifestation of a spell has an effect. As such, I decided the mantle of gray light also makes it harder to hide, especially from undead.

Click here for a PDF version of Grimwald’s Graymantle.

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