Chapter 7: Spells

          Magic spells can be very powerful things, quite often determining the outcome of a battle, and some encounters consist of nothing but spells. Magic is fairly simple and easy to understand in BG1, but once you hit BG2 there is considerable increase in both the number and variety of available spells, especially for Wizards. This chapter should help you make sense out of things and figure out why your Warriors just can't seem to kill that Mage. The exact specifics of spells aren't listed here, this chapter is more about general knowledge of spells, what they do, and how (not) to use them. The only way to truly understand spells is to understand the workings of each individual spell (and for that, you'll want to consult the Spell Dictionary in Appendix 1), but for the purposes of an overview, this chapter will suffice.

          The most important distinction between spells is the various reasons for casting them, what purposes they serve in (or out of) battle. The basic types are: Damaging. These spells' primary function is to kill the enemy, to burn away its (or their) hitpoints until there are none remaining.
Healing. Just the opposite of Damage spells, these restore hitpoints and heal wounds, whether they were caused by a weapon or spell.
Summoning. These spells call forth a wide creatures, both from the Prime Material and other Planes of existence, to aid the caster in vanquishing his foes.
Buffing. There are two major types of buffs: Those that increase offensive abilities of the target(s), and those that boost their defensive abilities. Buffs can be cast during battle, but they are usually cast beforehand (if possible).
Incapacitating. Spells that, while doing no direct harm to an enemy, still removes him from the fight, by reducing or even eliminating his ability to contribute to it.
Spell-storage. These spells allow Wizards to preserve some of their unused spells to be used later—perhaps in a few minutes, perhaps several days down the road.
Anti-Protections. Some Buffing spells are powerful Combat Protections that shield from physical attacks, others are Spell Protections that guard against magical threats. The sole purpose of Anti-Protection spells is to counteract and remove these spells, and of course there are Spell Protection spells that block certain Anti-Protections, and there are Anti-Protections to bypass those Spell Protections, and so on, in an arcane arms-race.
          Not all spells fit these basic types, in fact many very important ones don't match these categories. But this is enough of a framework for now.

          The second most important thing about a spell is its target: The creature or creatures that it can effect.
Self-targeted. These spells affect the caster and no one else: Almost all of these are buffing spells, in one form or another.
Touch spells. These spells target one, and only one, other creature, which must be close enough for the caster to touch with his empty hand. Almost all Healing spells follow this pattern (though healing spells can also be targeted on their own caster). There are also offensive Touch spells, most of which require the caster to first cast the spell, then walk up to the enemy and make a melee hit on the first try.
Single-target. These spells (usually of a Damaging, Incapacitating, or Anti-Protection nature) affect one creature, which can be anywhere in the caster's field of vision.
Area-of-Effect. Arguably the most useful type, these spells affect all creatures that are within the area selected by the caster and as predetermined by the "projectile" that the specific spell uses. There are many projectiles, each affecting a different area. The most common is a circle with a radius of 30 feet: Spells like Fireball will damage all creatures standing within 30' of the target point, which can be any creature or patch of open ground within the caster's sight range. Other spells have the same 30' radius, but the caster does not get to choose the central point: The caster IS the center of the spell. Other examples include Cone of Cold, which uses a projectile of a wedge approximately 120 degrees wide and 25 feet long, erupting directly from the caster. The spell Aganazzar's Scorcher creates a line of fire that connects the caster with his victim and remains there for two rounds—if either creature moves, so does the burning jet of fire. Aganazzar's is technically a single-target spell, but because of the (possibly) moving line of flame, it also has an area of effect. Some AoE spells can be cast on open ground, while others require a (visible) creature to serve as the target. The Mage in red is helpfully demonstrating the AoE of a Cone of Cold.

When casting spells while there are ANY creatures other than your party and enemies nearby, make sure you know whether or not those spells are party-friendly. You could wind up killing Innocents and screwing your Reputation, you could turn quest-related people Hostile to you and thus be unable to finish that quest, and you could make your own Summons turn on you: Even if you hit a Summoned creature with a form of damage to which it is immune (such as catching one of your own Fire Elementals in the blast radius of your Fireball), it will still read that as an attack, and change allegiance to be Hostile to you.
          The last (and in some ways the most important) consideration is whether or not the spell is party-friendly; that is, does it affect only creatures that are Hostile to the party, and can you cast it without fear of harming creatures that are Neutral (such as innocent bystanders if you're in a town) or even Allied (such as your own party members and Summons). One spell that is party-friendly in every way is Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting, which can do some severe damage to all creatures in a 30' radius . . . but only if those creatures are openly Hostile to you. It doesn't matter how many innocents are within the area of effect, the spell won't touch one hair on their pretty little heads. If you had cast a Cloudkill at the exact same spot, however, every single Commoner in that area would be dead. In a middle ground between those two extremes are most of the Incapacitating spells, such as Stinking Cloud: It's not party-friendly, because it affects all creatures within the area of effect, but you can still cast it with Innocents about because it doesn't cause actual harm: After the spell expires, all the Commoners caught in the fumes will get back up and go about their business, apparently not minding that you just enveloped them in a cloud of nauseous vapors that made them deposit their breakfasts all over the floor.

Spell Effects

          In Chapter 6, I mentioned that items can have a buttload of fancy-dancy effects on them—spells can do everything items can do, and more, because a big reason that the flashiest items are so flashy is because they cast spells. Just about any stat, from the most basic ones like Strength all the way down to the amount of damage you do on any particular hit, can be altered with spells and their effects. There are spells that put enemies to sleep, that turn creatures to stone, that allow creatures to heal by taking Elemental damage, that send enemies to other planes of existence, that call forth angels and demons to fight on your behalf, even spells that stop time itself. As I said, I won't be going over specific spells here; instead, I'll just give a run-down of several common effects and what they do, so that when you encounter them in-game, you'll know what they mean.
Blindness: Blinded creatures have a sight range of 0 (you can see as far as the end of your arm), and take +4 penalties to their THAC0 and AC. Because you cannot target creatures you cannot see, you have to walk right up to them in order to fire spells or ranged weapons at them.
Charm: The affected creature becomes a devoted and faithful servant of whoever Charmed him, even if he had been violently opposed to them a moment before. Charmed creatures will typically attack their former comrades without mercy, until the duration of the Charm wears off.
Confusion: For the duration of the effect, Confused creatures will erratically switch between wandering in a random direction, attacking whatever creatures happen to be nearby, and standing around doing nothing.
Deafness: Just as speech is required for spellcasting, apparently you need to be able to hear what you're doing as well: Deafened creatures suffer a 50% chance of Spell Failure (cumulative with other sources) for as long as the Deafness remains in effect.
Fear: There are three types of Morale Failure, and when achieved through magical spells the most common result is Morale Failure: Panic, in which the affected creatures alternate between running for their lives and randomly attacking whatever creatures happen to be nearby. Regardless of the type of Fear, all affected creatures remain uncontrollable for the Fear's duration. One thing I have noticed, at least in BG1, is that creatures under Fear still retain their basic, default AI—meaning, if anyone attacks them, they will fight back. So even if your entire party succumbs to Fear, there's a good chance that your panicked party members will still attack the bad guys anyway.
Screenshot by Dundee Slaytern
Infravision: An almost-completely useless condition that makes warm-blooded creatures appear to have a faint red glow in dark lighting conditions. It does not allow one to see invisible creatures. All playable races except for Halflings and Humans have permanent Infravision.
Invisibility: Invisible creatures cannot be seen, attacked, or have spells or abilities targeted directly at them (except by certain creatures who can see the invisible) until the effect wears off, the Invisibility is removed (by a Thief's Detect Illusions or any of several Divination spells), or the Invisible creature breaks the invisibility by making a successful attack or casting an offensive spell. Creatures under Improved Invisibility may break the invisibility and can then be attacked, but are still not a valid target for spells.
Hold / Stun: Held creatures are locked rigidly in place by means of a wall of magical force that envelops them completely: They can breathe, and possibly move their eyes, but are completely immobile. The wall does not protect them from physical attacks made by other creatures. Stun, on the other hand, attacks the motor control centers in the victim's brain, causing them to temporarily forget how to move. Both effects cause the affected creatures to become sitting ducks: All attacks made against them automatically hit. The state of Free Action provides immunity to Hold (as well as Slow and Haste), but is inconsistent with regard to Stun: Some sources of Free Action protect against Stun, others do not.
Luck: This effect places a modifer (usually positive) on all dice rolls made by the affected character: To-Hit rolls, damage rolls, and Saving Throws are all affected, as well as Thieving skill checks. I am unsure if a Mage's odds of scribing a spell, or hitpoint rolls upon Leveling Up, are adjusted.
Miscast Magic / Spell Failure: Creatures under this effect have a chance to spontaneously fail casting spells as long as the effect is in place, with the percent chance of failure determined by the strength of the Miscast Magic effect. (As a player, you have no way of knowing exactly what your odds of Spell Failure really are, only that you have some chance of screwing up.)
Silence / Vocalize: As almost all spells require certain words to be spoken, creatures who are Silenced are effectively prevented from casting spells. The one spell that can be cast while Silenced is Vocalize, which removes the need to actually speak the magic incantations, and therefore both counteracts the existing Silence spell and grants immunity to being Silenced again. The Silence effect only prevents speech, not noise; casting it on your Thief will not improve his Move Silently skill.
Slow / Haste: Slowed creatures move at half their normal speed, take a +2 penalty to their Speed Factor, and suffer +4 penalties to their THAC0 and AC. Hasted creatures, conversely, have a doubled Movement Rate, get a -2 Speed Factor bonus, and gain an additional attack per round. The Slow effect will Slow a creature that was previously Hasted, and vice versa. There is also the condition of Improved Haste, which instead of granting +1 Attacks per Round, actually doubles the affected creature's ApR. It also doubles the rate of time-based effects such as Poison and Regeneration: If an Improved Hasted character is hit with an effect that causes him to take 4 Poison damage per round, he will instead take 8 damage per round.
Regeneration: Depending on the specific settings used in the Regeneration opcode, this effect will heal affected creatures of a certain amount of lost hitpoints either every round, or every second, until the duration of the effect expires.
Resistances: Elemental Resistances are far more common than Physical ones (at least when granted by spells), but Physical ones are just as possible. Most creatures have 0% Resistance, of course, and if you have 100% Resistance to a particular element, you take no damage from it whatsoever. You can even raise your Resistance above 100%, at which point you will actually heal from taking damage of that type. The maximum possible resistance to anything is 127%, and the lowest known is -25%. Even if you are immune to an element, however, you will still "flinch" when being hit by it; even if the damage actually heals you, the "flinch" can interrupt your spellcasting, so be careful. Note that some spells will set Elemental (or other) Resistances, while other spells will add to them. If you're going to be combining 2 or more spells that affect the same stat, be sure you know whether
or not the effects are cumulative, and what order you should be casting them in.
Unconsciousness: Creatures under this effect fall to the ground and cannot move for the duration of the effect, whatever that might be. Because the sleeping creatures cannot move, all attacks made against them automatically hit—the game doesn't even bother rolling the die to see if the attack was successful. (Which means, paradoxically, that you can't get a Critical Hit on an Unconscious enemy.)
Dispel Magic: All of the effects listed above can, in most circumstances, be Dispelled—that is, terminated prematurely via a spell or effect that causes all (Dispellable) active enchantments affecting a creature to immediately cease. Most temporary effects caused by a spell or potion can usually be Dispelled, as opposed to the more permanent Equipping Effects caused by wearing certain items, which almost always cannot be Dispelled. Some sources of effects such as Blindness and Deafness are treated as undispellable, but even then
A gratuitous display of power.
they will respond to spells such as Cure Disease, or at least Restoration. In BG1, Dispel Magic had the effect of instantly dissipating all dispellable enchantments, no matter what. In BG2, however, the odds of a successful Dispel are dependent on the levels of the person A, who cast the original spell/effect, and person B, who is trying to dispel it. The in-game description of the Dispel Magic spell accurately explains how the spell was intended to work, but there is an unfortunate bug in the actual implementation. When Caster B is of a level equal to or greater than Caster A, the spell works as intended: The odds of a successful Dispel are 50% + (B's level - A's level)%. But when a lower-level caster tries to dispel magic that was placed by a higher-level caster, the odds of a succesful Dispel are virtually zero. To my knowledge, this has not yet been corrected in the Fixpack. The effects below (almost always) cannot be Dispelled.
Death Magic: As opposed to "death by losing all your hitpoints," death magic instantly snuffs out the entire life force of the affected creature. Some (rare) forms of Death Magic do not take effect immediately; rather, the party member simply gets a portrait icon that says "Dying" (it looks somewhat like a white cobra), and one round later, they will die beyond Resurrection. As far as I know, all instances of this latter effect only occur in BG1, and can be Dispelled during the 1-round grace period.
Disintegrate: Creatures affected by this, and any objects they are carrying, crumble into dust—permanently.
Fatigue: Although Fatigue is almost always caused solely as a result of characters being awake for a long time, it can sometimes be caused by magical means as well; for example, the spell Haste causes as much Fatigue as approximately 16 hours of marching, and Restoration spells simulate having been up for a whole day. Fatigue works like the opposite of Luck, imposing penalties on all of your die rolls: Hit and Damage rolls and Thieving skills are known to be adversely affected, and Saving Throws might be as well. These penalties increase the longer you stay up past your bedtime.
Level Drain: Depending on the level of the creature causing the effect, from 1 to 5 Experience Levels are "drained" from the victim, reducing their hitpoints, THAC0, Saving Throws, spellslots, and Thieving skills accordingly. (Even if only one level is drained, a Dual- or Multi-classed character will lose 1 level from both/all of his classes.) The affected creature is unable to get his lost levels back by earning more EXP. This condition is permanent until the victim recieves a Restoration spell.
Maze: This effect sends the affected creature to another plane of existence, a plane which consists solely of a gigantic labyrinth. How long they remain there depends on random chance and their Intelligence: The smarter they are, the more quickly they can find an exit.
Imprisonment: Like Maze, this too sends the target to another plane, but unlike Maze, the duration is practically infinite. The affected creature is sealed into a tiny sub-plane no larger than the creature itself, where it remains locked in suspended animation until the spell Freedom is cast in the area from which the creature was Imprisoned. Party members who get Petrified are effectively booted from the party: Even if you free and re-recruit them, they will act as if you intentionally kicked them out of the party, and have their feelings hurt accordingly. In BG2, the party may control only 5 Summoned creatures at any one time, and if one of your Summons gets Imprisoned, it will continue to remain alive—and count against your Summon
limit—until it is freed.
Petrification: This effect essentially kills its target, instantly turning them to stone right where they stand. If the resulting "statue" takes any kind of damage, it will immediately shatter, killing the Petrified creature permanently. (Flying creatures who are Petrified in midair do not come crashing down to earth.) Petrified creatures can be restored by casting Stone to Flesh on them, which brings them back to life with only 1 hitpoint. Like Imprisonment, this effect also makes party members think that they have been cast out from the party.
See, not even Petrification spells use the Petrify/Polymorph Saving Throw. Screenshot by Dundee Slaytern.
Poison: Creatures who are Poisoned will take a certain amount of damage either every second, or every round, depending on the specific settings used on the Poison opcode. Note that Poison damage and the condition of being Poisoned are two completely different things, and immunity to one does not necessarily mean immunity to the other.
Disease: This effect is like Poison in that it can inflict extended damage over time, except that it uses (I believe) Magic damage, not Poison damage, and it can also cause Slow and penalties to your basic stats (like Strength and Constitution).

Somebody cast a spell at me!

          When a spell hits you, the game goes through a cascade of checks for your spell defenses, both natural and otherwise. Let's say you're a Level 14 Wizard Slayer, holding a Staff that grants 30% Electrical Resistance, and a Level 12 Mage casts a Lightning Bolt at you. To figure out how much damage you should take from the lightning (if any), the game runs through these checks, in the following order:
  1. Magic Resistance. Your MR is a percent value that indicates the likelihood of your being hit by (or caught in the Area of Effect of) a spell, and suffering no effect from it whatsoever. In BG1, MR could stop all spells: Even Healing spells cast by your fellow party members could be Resisted. In BG2, however, only damaging or harmful spells can be blocked by Magic Resistance. You have 14% Magic Resistance, and the game rolls a D100 to see if the spell is blocked. The roll is a 61—the Lightning Bolt penetrates your Magic Resistance, and the game goes on to the next step.
  2. Spell immunities. There are several forms of these: Actual Spell Immunity would make you immune to Lightning Bolt (and all other Evocation spells) if you had cast it and selected the Evocation school. But you didn't. If you were immune to spells of Level 3 and lower (either naturally, or through a spell such as Minor Globe of Invulnerability), then that would also block the Lightning Bolt. If you were protected by an active Spell Deflection or Spell Turning, that would be another chance to render you immune, or even bounce the Lightning Bolt directly back at the Mage who cast it. Also, if you were under an Illusionary protection such as Mirror Image, there would be a chance that the bolt of lightning would strike one of your decoys instead of you, saving you from the hit. Lastly, you could be immune to the specific spell of Lightning Bolt. But as none of these conditions are true, the game goes on the next step.
  3. Saving Throws. A Lightning Bolt fired by a Level 12 caster deals 10D6 Electrical damage, with a Save vs. Spells for half, to every creature that it hits. You automatically take 5D6 Electrical damage, and are allowed a Saving Throw to avoid the other 5D6. Your Save vs. Spells is 8, and you roll a 14, successfully making the Save.
  4. Physical / Elemental Resistances. 5D6 damage can be anywhere from 5 to 30 damage; in this case, the roll of the dice comes out to be 21. Because you have 30% Electrical Resistance, that 21 gets reduced to 15: You take 15 Electrical damage.
Having LOW Saving Throws is GOOD.
I know it's counterintuitive, but in this game, the lower you can get your Saving Throws, the better. Drive them well into the negative range if at all possible.

There are five Saving Throws: vs. Death, vs. Breath Weapon, vs. Wands, vs. Polymorph, and vs. Spells. Only the Death and Spells Saves are actually important, however: The other three Saves are checked very rarely.

Anyway, when rolling a Save, the game checks two numbers: One is your (or the target's) personal Save score, and the other is a roll of 1D20. If the die roll is equal to or higher than the target's personal Save value, the target has successfully rolled the Save. The lower your personal Saving Throws are, the easier it will be for the die roll to be higher than them.

Q: "My Mage is being attacked in combat! What should I do?"
          A: That's what Combat Protections are for.
If you're up against low-level archers, the spell Protection from Normal Missiles would fit the bill very nicely, granting you complete immunity for quite a long time. If your enemies prefer to melee, Protection from Normal Weapons and the Mantle spells can make you immune to weapons of up to +3 enchantment, at least for a short time. For a (possibly) longer-lasting safeguard, Stoneskins will completely absorb all of the Physical damage inflicted by the next (up to) 10 successful attacks against you—only the weapon itself is blocked, though, any on-hit effects that the weapon might have will still get through. Finally, the big daddy of combat protections, Protection from Magical Weapons, will render you briefly invulnerable to ALL weapons except Normal ones. PfMW may not be stacked with PfNW or either of the Mantle spells, but it can be stacked with Protection from Normal Missiles, and it also may be cast by creatures who are naturally immune to Normal weapons—making those creatures briefly untouchable by ANY weapons whatsoever.

Q: "This high-level spellcaster is kicking my ass! What should I do?"
          A: That's what high-level spellcasters do.
In BG1, Mages (at least pureclassed Mages) are almost more of a dead weight to the party than anything else, but in BG2 they become powerhouses, at least for brief fights—and as all fights are brief (at least from the enemy's point of view, as they only have to win ONE battle, whereas your party has to win dozens of fights per day), Wizards in BG2 can be extremely dangerous opponents.
And boom goes the dynamite.           If your Warriors are unable to hit the Wizard, that's because he's using Combat Protections, and is completely impervious to the weapons you're using. Either try different weapons, bring down his combat protections with a spell like Breach, wait his protections out, or get creative.
          If your party is unable to target the Wizard, that's because he's under (Improved) Invisibility or Sanctuary, preventing you from targeting spells directly at him. Either remove his Invisibility with Divination spells (which will fail if he's also protected by Spell Immunity: Divination), wait his Invisibility out, or get creative.
          If your party is able to target spells at the Wizard, but they either have no effect or they come shooting right back at you, that's because he's using Spell Protections. Either bring down those protections with spells like Pierce Magic (which will fail if he's also protected by Spell Immunity: Abjuration), wait his protections out, or you guessed it, get creative.

Back to
Chapter 6:

Up to
Table of Contents

Forward to
Chapter 8: