Thursday, October 13, 2011
The problem was that, much as I liked the idea of 0-level spells, they simply never caught on with any of my players. And, really, who can blame them? Even at an exchange rate of four cantrips per 1st-level spell, they aren't particularly attractive, at least not to an adventuring magic-user. I honestly can't recall a single time that a player ever made use of a cantrip. For that matter, I don't think I ever made use of them for NPCs either.
Looking back on it now, I recognize a couple of things. First, I think Gary came up with cantrips because they were a natural outgrowth of his world-building. That is, he'd given a lot of thought to what a magical society would be like and the existence of minor spells to teach neophyte magicians seemed perfectly logical. Second, I think Gary had tired of dungeons and much of his thinking was occupied with the world outside them. If you look at his output from at least 1981 on, what you see are rules expansions and elaborations that make more sense if one imagines a campaign where dungeons are, at best, a sideshow compared to other adventuring activities. In such contexts, cantrips might have a place.
This specific article didn't undermine my devotion to Gary Gygax; as I said, I liked it a great deal. But it was one of the first times where something Gygax wrote went over like a lead balloon in my gaming group and that was significant. For that reason alone, this article was a significant one for me.