So, phase one of the function triage project for the roughly 100 1st level spells in 3.5 D&D. First criterion: does it just duplicate things that players can or should be doing for themselves, with skill, thinking, or equipment? Here are the ones that don't make it by this criterion.
Alarm: This is a marginal one. On the one hand, it's really more an NPC spell to make things harder for the party. I'm all in favor of NPCs having spells from diferent books and playing by different, unpredictable rules. Players who want to set up a guarded camp or area, arguably, should just set watches or rig up contraptions. On the other hand, it can be useful in those situations, to guard a player's stuff, keep an eye on the mule you left outside, and so on. On the balance, it feels more like a cantrip-level spell. I'm leaving it out.
Detect Secret Doors: Pretty much the definition of a character/player skill usurpation. Ditto Instant Search, Spontaneous Search, and the numerous spells that give a bonus to skill checks in 3.5. You want spells to do something special, not just buff along another character's specialty.
Discern Bloodline: Leaving aside the Himmleresque implications of this spell, it is a fun killer par excellence. It is normally completely useless except when the party suspects there is a doppleganger or other deceptive creature around. Then, in the true "party vs. referee" spirit, if they have this spell they get to laugh at the exposure of the plot. It's this adversarial mentality that leads to the creation of such spells that are so useful for the party. Then the DM institutes heavy-handed countermeasures. Ooh, the doppleganger is wearing a special medallion of non-detection. Hey, teleport and passwall don't work in this dungeon due to "magical energies" in the wall.
I'm giving this Nazi spell the heave-ho and that also goes for Identify, Know Protections, and Locate City. There is a place for divination magic in a way that can help and not stifle good old detective work. These spells aren't in that place.
Mount: Buy a horse. I can see maybe a "Summon Docile Creature" spell that would allow more creative applications, but as is, Mount is way too specific.
Tenser's Floating Disk: Buy a hireling. I know this has an illustrious lineage but if players want to be lazy or cheap in hauling treasure, that's what spell research is for, just like in the original Greyhawk campaign. Besides, there's a better replacement for this if we diversify one of the weak first level spells from the list. I'll explain later ...
Erase: This spell just rubs me the wrong way - so to speak. I suppose it could be used creatively, but I'm really only going to favor a spell if it also has an easily comprehended mundane use. Right now it seems only good for tomb inscription vandalism and messing up spellbooks on the sly; any other uses can be substituted for with a wet rag or broom.
Anyway, so that's roughly 18 off the list for now. I hope this clarifies what I meant by "fun murderer" spells. There are more at higher levels, of course, and plenty of medallions, counterspells, fiats and kludges to make sure players don't get to use them.
Also: I should probably restrict myself to the SRD; and probably will once at higher levels. If this exercise is convincing me of anything, it's that most of the non-SRD spells are for one reason or another not fit for the aims of rules-light, player skill driven gaming.
Tyranny of the Black Tower
3 hours ago