Fall in a Feather-Like Fashion

Feather Fall (or the Magic Parachute spell) is an astoundingly useful spell, especially when you're plummeting to a grisly doom on to nasty, sharp, hard, pointy rocks. It's a spell that (as far as I can find) doesn't exist in OD&D or B/X, but it does turn up as a 1st level magic-user spell in AD&D. The closest thing I can find in OD&D is Levitate, but the chances are that by the time you get to casting that, you're already going to be smushed on those nasty sharp rocks.

Anyway, Feather Fall is one of the AD&D spells I'm bringing into my S&W game. In common with my usual habit though, I intend to make it a bit less convenient in some ways than its original incarnation. Here'a the original spell description from AD&D1e:
Level: 1
Range: 1"/level
Duration: 1 segment/level
Area of Effect: Special
Components: V, M
Casting Time: 1/10 segment
Saving Throw: None

When this spell is cast, the creature(s) or object(s) affected immediately assume the mass of a feathery piece of down. Rate of falling is thus instantly changed to a mere constant 2' per second or 12' per segment, and no damage is incurred when landing when the spell is in effect. However, when the spell duration ceases, normal rate of fall occurs. The spell can be cast upon the magic-user or some other creature or object up to the maximum range of 1" per level of experience of the spell caster. It lasts for 1 segment per level of the magic-user. The feather fall affects an area of one cubic inch, and the maximum weight of creatures and/or objects cannot exceed a combined total  equal to a base 2,000 gold pieces weight plus 2,000 gold pieces weight per level of the spell caster. The spell works only upon free-falling or propelled objects. It will not affect a sword blow or a charging creature, but it will affect a missile. The material component is a small feather or a piece of down somewhere on the person of the spell caster.
OK, that's what we have to work with. There are a few things about the spell I had never really considered until I typed it out just now, one of which is that although it's a 1st level spell, it's going to be pretty useless to a 1st level magic-user since it will only work for 6 seconds over a whopping 12' drop. Woo-hoo. OK, so a 1st level M.U. could easily be killed by a 12' drop, so he'd probably like to feather fall that distance, but then again it has a casting time of 0.6 seconds, so even if he started to squawk out the verbal component the very instant he starts to fall, he's going to have landed before he's finished speaking. Ow. Poor, pathetic 1d4 hit-point fool.

Another is the phrase "immediately assume the mass of a feathery piece of down". That may not be a big issue in a calm, still subterranean dungeon environment, but outside in places where a feather fall spell would be really useful — like mountain climbing, for example — it tends to be a bit windy. Often, in the mountains, quite windy. That means that your person-sized, down-massed individual is quite likely to be blown far, far away, until the spell duration ends and they plummet to their doom somewhere else, instead of just falling from where they were. Come to think of it, that could be quite hilarious.


Anyway, on to my rewrite of the spell. The first thing to do is to do away with that 0.6 second casting time. One of the things I like about D&D's Vancian magic system is that it requires some forward planning (and often plain guessing about what's coming up), and I don't like the idea of instantaneous spell-casting. I'll replace that with a casting time of, say, a minute, but have the spell activated more or less instantaneously later on.

It would have a double duration: first, the time in which the spell can be activated... let's say an hour per level, and second, the time the feather fall effect actually lasts once activated... let's make that one round per level (note: I use ten second rounds), so that will let our 1st level M.U. fall 20 feet without fear.

I'll make personal activation automatic rather than by command word; that way the spell will still protect someone who has been knocked out. I'm kindly like that. The activation circumstance will be any free-fall further than 10', so the spell won't be wasted by jumping down from a 6' wall.

I will keep the "...immediately assume the mass of a feathery piece of down" thing, because I think it has great game possibilities.

I will make the spell a multiple-effect, in the same way the Pyrotechnics is a multiple-effect spell. The spell caster can learn it in either an active or a passive mode; in its active mode he or she can voluntarily activate its effect against a falling object or creature within range, while in its passive mode it can the spell is cast on him/herself and/or others and will then be activated automatically, as above.

So then:
Feather Fall
Level: 1
Range: 10 yards per level
Duration: 1 hour per level; target feather falls for up to 1 round per caster level.
Area of Effect: Special (see text)
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 minute
Saving Throw: None

This spell reduces the recipient's mass to that of a piece of feathery down for 1 round (10 seconds) per caster level, and slows a creature's or object's fall to a maximum of just 2' per second.

The caster may learn this spell in either of two forms:

Active: At any time within the spell's duration, with a single word and gesture the caster can activate the spell effect on a falling creature or object within range. The spell caster must make a successful attack roll against an AC of 10 (plus any range modifiers) to affect his or her target. The spell's energy is vitiated regardless of whether a successful hit is made or not.
Passive: The magic-user may cast the spell directly on him or herself, and/or on any number of other creatures up to a maximum total weight (including his or her own) of 200 lbs per caster level. Each spell recipient is given a magically activated feather; as long as they are carrying the feather, if they fall more than 10' any time within the spell's duration the spell is activated and their mass (and rate of fall) is reduced as described above. The spell being activated on one recipient does not end the spell for any of the others.

Note that a human-sized creature with the mass of a piece of feathery down is very strongly affected by air currents, and in any sort of breeze they may well be carried a very long way before landing. Updrafts may even carry them higher than they were before the spell was activated.

A feather-falling creature has no footing and nothing to brace against, and falls like a piece of down — that is, in a swirling, haphazard fashion. Therefore, attempting any sort of melee combat, missile fire or spell-casting is likely to be futile.

When the spell recipient lands, he/she/it immediately regains their normal mass. Once the spell's duration ends, normal falling resumes.

Material component: a handful of down, which is distributed among the recipients of the spell.

OK then, so that's my version of the Magic Parachute. I don't think I've forgotten anything.

Yet Another Hill

 I got a cheap 30-watt foam-cutting hot wand from China a few days ago, and tried it out by carving up a foam off-cut into another hill. ...