This is a different kind of classification from "how do they work" (enchantment, summoning, transmutation and so on). But it might help us arrive at a minimal set of effect types that should be in a spell list at most levels.
FrDave at Blood of Prokopius is already exerting a heroic effort analyzing the OD&D spell lists vertically - creating rules for custom spells based on the balance of spell versus level within each type. I want to do something like that, but horizontally. This means adjusting for an approximate balance across different spell types, as much as they are apples and oranges, but also looking at these other two standards:
* Is it fair to other players? Does the spell duplicate effects that other class abilities or general adventuring skill can take care of? If so, then it is either a waste of a spell slot, or an infringement on the other players. Example: the seldom used Hold Portal, whose underwhelming effect really can just be achieved by a hireling with a handful of iron spikes and a hammer.
* Is it fair to the campaign? Does it allow the giving away of information or overcoming of obstacles that are better resolved in a more creative way? Example: the Identify spell, one of many that take the magic out of magic.
Because this is a carte blanche effort with no sacred cows, I want as wide a choice of spell effects as possible while still remaining "D&D." Therefore I am using the 3.5 edition spell list found here as a starting point. Indeed, it's a sad roll call of what the game had become by 2005, packed with creativity stiflers, metagame-y effects, and fun murderers, with a clear pecking order of useful and dog spells. A large number of these will be thrown out immediately, of course (Locate City whut?) The rest can be classified into seven categories:
1. Creating or summoning objects/creatures
2. Destroying or damaging objects/creatures
3. Changing objects/creatures
4. Gaining knowledge
5. Changing minds
7. Travel through space and time
So, let me know what you think. I'll be proceeding soon with a look at the first-level spells, maybe with a few asides along the way about good, evil, and the colors of magic.
Researcher in social science and appreciator of hexy wargames, role playing games, interactive fiction, board games, and CCGs. I've learned a lot doing design and rules editing work on the side for the Legend of the Five Rings CCG. But this blog is mostly about other things.