D&D Did You Know’s: Multiple Abjurations in Third Edition

One of the oft-noted idiosyncracies of earlier editions of D&D is how the books tended to leave relevant rules scattered throughout their text. It’s not unusual for players to mention how some salient rule on a particular topic isn’t located in the same section as other rules on the subject. Often these stories come up as part of the need for a subsequent edition, where things are consolidated, as Third Edition often is.

And yet I recently came across an interesting item in the 3.5 PHB (which also appears in its 3.0 counterpart), from Chapter 10: Magic, under the description for the abjuration school:

If one abjuration spell is active within 10 feet of another for 24 hours or more, the magical fields interfere with each other and create barely visible energy fluctuations. The DC to find such spells with the Search skill drops by 4.

Now, to give Third Edition credit where it’s due, it did restate this in the description of the Search skill itself, showing that some lessons from older editions had been learned (though oddly, it’s listed there as a bonus to the roll, rather than lowering the DC; you just know that someone somewhere tried to claim both of those applied). But although this particular rule was likewise present in the SRD, and even in Pathfinder First Edition (although it didn’t get reprinted in their description of the Perception skill), it seems to have gone near-totally overlooked.

I suspect that’s likely due to the requirements being so stringent, i.e. a certain category of spells, within a certain distance, after a certain amount of time. Of course, the fact that this fell within the “find a magic trap” aspect of the Search skill, which only rogues could use (though I seem to recall a few other non-Core classes and prestige classes getting that ability as well), no doubt helped make this even more obscure.

In fact, it’s such a specific notation that it almost seems pointless, until we recall that the Search skill openly notes several spells that could meet the criteria, such as explosive runes, fire trap, and glyph of warding. Clearly, someone at WotC was worried about rogues setting off several magical traps that had been layered on top of each other if they failed their Search check.

What’s most notable, however, is that the rules provides an in-game description of what’s happening. “The magical fields interfere with each other and create barely visible energy fluctuations.” That’s actually fairly evocative, and it’s not even for the evocation school! Imagine a high-level (13th or above) wizard that used Extend Spell on both endure elements and nondetection; once the 24-hour mark had been passed, the two spells would start to create “barely visible energy fluctuations” around the recipient of those spells. That’s a rather cool image, even if there’d be no need to use the Search skill to find them!

That’s one of the fun things about those older editions of D&D. While it can be annoying to go hunting for those half-remembered references, stumbling across them out of nowhere can make for an intriguing new twist on the game we thought we knew so well.

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