Technology that Enhances Spells

Derek Holland

For dInfinity #3, I came up with artifacts and other technology meant to enhance mutations, everything from tin foil hats that improve telepathic powers to goggles that increase the range of the optic emissions mutation. While I was working on the spells for the vivimancer, I thought of some tech that can be used for spells. Even though Mutant Future mutations are supernatural powers, they are very different from spells in how they work. So much so I was suprised to see how few spells from Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion could be enhanced in a similar way. The spells have to have some sort of physical effect and must not be conjured at the site of the effect. And by technology, I mean objects that a blacksmith or woodworker could make, not magic items. With those limitations, here is what I thought of:


The most obvious tech that could enhance fire magic is explosives and extremely flammable objects. This isn't that useful for Burning Hands and Fireball unless there is an ambush with these spells in mind. The only spell I could find that should get some sort of tech boost is Flame Arrow. Between tree pitch or white phosphorous and superior arrows, the damage should increase by 1 to 5 points. That doesn't include the 1 point that the spell normally provides. These arrows should also cost 5 to 20 times as much. As for the Burning Hands and Fireball enhancements, that depends on the explosive or flammable material used, but should increase the damage no more than 50%.


Lightning Bolt is a weird spell, especially for those people in armor. Does metal armor ground the spell or make it worse? In any case, it could be enhanced with a metal surface. Instead of zapping through a line of targets, the caster could aim the bolt at the surface and toast everyone in contact with it. Take the remaining distance of the bolt and divide it in half. That is the radius of the effect when it strikes the metal.


The (Bigby's) Hand spells just cry out to me for help. They have an armor class of 9 and terrible hit points. So, how about building a massive gauntlet for them? It wouldn't help with the hit points, but it should decrease the armor class to 2 or better. For the damaging spells, the gauntlet adds 1 or more dice. The more spiky and expensive the gauntlet, the better the armor class and damage. Of course, who wants to haul around a half ton steel glove? A portable hole should help there. And Mending (or a better version of it) is a must to repair the gauntlet as needed.


The tech I thought of for Web depends on how the LL views the spell's effects. If the Web simply appears, there is no good way to do this (at least without burning a few rounds). If it is more like Spider-man's webshooters, then adding caltrops can make the webbing much more painful for those who try to move through it. If the LL uses weapon and armor damage (that is damage to the weapon or armor), the caltrops may blunt, break or score the item badly. I would say that to make it most effective, the caster has to have at least 100 caltrops on hand. To get them back, all they need to do is burn the Web.


There has been articles in Dragon that talk about making Animate Dead more useful, some of which use non-magical enhancements. Everything from grafted weapons to explosives hidden inside a zombie's torso. Nice, but what about the simplest- nailing plates of metal to the corpse so that it has better armor as a zombie? Or using barbed wire between a line of zombies, buried in their flesh, so that they can nab people trying to break the line or sneak through them? Or mechanical traps inside Large zombies meant to go off when the zombie falls (a dinosaur could hold a ballista or three). Of course all of those would be better with magic, but that increases the expense as well.


Light and Continual Light can be placed inside a mirrored bull's eye lantern to increase the range while decreasing the area lit. A bit expensive, but it allow searching and possibly not alerting all the monsters within a few hundred yards.


A few captive animals- chickens, insects and such can be used with Polymorph Other to make a monster as needed. Of course the caster has no control, so it can backfire badly. A higher level version might allow some gear placed on the animal to become something more for the resulting creature. A chicken in a suit of armor is funny. When it is turned into a manticore that has armor and steel spikes, the humor is lost (at least for those it tries to eat).


And that is it. There may not be many existing spells for this (at least in LL), but consider this idea when you design your own spells. Relying on technology, rather than having it has an enhancement, might even be worth a level or two decrease. Detonate is a 1st or 2nd level version of Fireball that does no damage on its own, it just ignites objects (not creatures).