Before the days when the only spells wizards were worried about getting in their spellbooks were rituals, D&D 3rd edition had spells…a lot of spells. There were spells in modules, spells in handbooks, spells in sourcebooks, and spells in monster manuals. Spells were everywhere, and it was very difficult, when you were playing a spellcaster, to have every book that contained all the spells you wanted.
In their great wisdom (and no, I’m not being sarcastic), the good people of Wizards of the Coast eventually took all of those errant spells – the ones appearing outside the Player’s Handbook – and put them into one large volume. This Spell Compendium was a blessing from the gods of gaming, and I know my copy got a lot of love during the course of our 3/3.5 campaign.
Recently, as part of their campaign to cater to fans of earlier editions, WotC put out a deluxe reprint of the Spell Compendium. I ended up with a copy of this beautiful book, and I wanted to give you my thoughts on the original and the new release.
There’s no denying how danged pretty this new edition of the book is. With a new, super-shiny cover, it’s a very attractive volume, ready to stand proudly next to the other deluxe re-releases that WotC’s been releasing of late. It’s also wonderful in that it contains errata for the material within.
I could wish that WotC had finished the work it had begun and expanded on this book in their re-release. Imagine if they had gone back and collected all of the spells that came out in other books after this volume was published, lavished attention on them, and then inserted them into the book before releasing it. That would’ve been a grand gesture to the fans of 3/3.5 that they are well-valued customers, still. But this is a reprint, after all, now a new edition, so I understand why they didn’t.
Also, the book only ever contained spells for the core classes of the game and gave no love to those esoteric classes like Hexblades, Wu Jens, and the like. As a result, there’s no knowing if there were any of those spells that might’ve been added to these far flung classes’ spell lists. Ah well.
The spells lists provided in your Player’s Handbook are great, of course, but the spells in the Compendium just up the ante to make things wonderful. They fill in some gaps, expand the lists of spells for each of the schools of magic, and generally offer more options to make spell casting more fun.
I got to know a lot of these spells intimately, as my husband was playing a Wizard. Some of the spells I have fond (and not so fond) memories of at my table include:
Benign Transposition – The fighter/wizard in my game practically made this his signature move. Did I get some buff monsters in past the party’s defenders to strike at the soft underbelly of the party (its sorcerer and wizard)? He would move to a more defended position, cast Benign Transposition, and the fight would wend on its merry way.
Defenestrating Sphere – You have got to appreciate the comic magic of a spell that is designed to hurl people out of windows. As I recall, my husband was so taken with this spell that he ultimately created a character, Codcullion the Defenestrator, simply to hurl people out of windows.
Body of War – I will never forget my husband’s eyes lighting up when he saw this spell in the book. Unshockingly, once he had 7th level spells, he kept a Warforged Titan mini close to hand. It was a wonderful spell, because it offered complications equal to its benefits, but there were times when this really aided the party.
Vortex of Teeth – A swirling vortex of teeth that chews on your foes. How can anyone not want to cast this spell?
Black Blade of Disaster – Well, I suppose having a sword-shaped sphere of annihilation could be useful under the right circumstances…like…say…every fight ever. Don’t get me started on when the sorcerer grabs this spell in your campaign.
Revivify – This is the spell all clerics everywhere should keep in their list always. It’s like a Raise Dead spell that you cast before someone actually dies at 1/5th the cost. My clerics adored this spell, and I preferred it, as I liked the idea of death being a bit harder to get out of, so the gods of my campaign looked hard at any requests for Raise Dead or Resurrection spells.
Bigby’s Slapping Hand – We laughed ourselves silly at this spell, which simply grants combat advantage. But we constantly mimed using it on major villains. “Now, Seekers, my wrath will descend on you like a…*SMACK!!!* Augh! Who dares? Seriously? While I’m monologue-ing?”
Seriously, there are wonderful spells in this book. Some of them may be, shall we say, a tad bit unbalanced. Overall, however, they’re flavorful, entertaining, and unique.
In my campaign, a lot of the “named” wizards (Bigby, Mordenkainen, Otiluke, etc.) were living people. The players knew some of them, and they would sometimes give some of their signature spells to the players on scrolls as a reward. This made them very special.
Knowledge of a specific spell could be the whole basis of a quest. If the players want to learn Black Blade of Disaster, perhaps they need to descend into the crypt of Emirikol the Chaotic, the only mortal mad enough to try and mold a sphere of annihilation to his own purposes. Imagine the quest this could lead to!
If you never owned a copy of this book and play 3/3.5 D&D…what’s wrong with you? For my money, this book is one of the quintessential pieces of 3.5 D&D goodness. Get out there and buy it!
If you play 3.5 and own the original copy of this Spell Comendium, you might find purchasing it worth it if you want to have a handsome addition to your library and desire the errata. If not, I don’t know if you’ll need this book.
If you’re not playing 3.5, your mileage may vary. I would not likely have gone out to find a copy of it on my own, because I like having my books as workhorses, rather than show pieces. But there’s no denying that this book would make an attractive item in anyone’s gaming collection.
Do you have a favorite spell in the Spell Compendium? Do you remember a time when one of these spells made or ruined an adventure or battle? Tell us about it.