I'm doubly embarrassed that I omitted Read Languages from yesterday's list of 1st level MU spells because A) I had the OD&D spell list right in front of me and B) it was Read Languages that got me thinking about this subject. What can I say? I'm an idiot sometimes.
Anyway, I consider Read Languages a pretty awesome spell. I know the internet is full of awesome people who speak multiple languages, but I'm not one of them. I struggled with French in high school and college. At one point I could read well enough to fumble my way through Sartre and Voltaire, but I'm sure I've lost that and I never was sufficiently fluent to speak the tongue. I'm pretty sure I passed my final conversational exam because I was almost twice as big as the instructor and he was kind of a nervous little guy. Linguistics as a field fascinates me, but I just seem to have no talent for learning new languages. I can't whistle either but that doesn't bother me as much.
So Read Languages is pretty much a miracle effect to me. Athanansius Kircher, one of the awesomest geniuses to ever live, couldn't crack the code for Egyptian hieroglyphs. Minoan Linear A and Olmec and many other ancient scripts remain undeciphered to this day. But here's a spell that instantaneously allows you to read all of that stuff and the Greek and Roman classics and the original Bible texts and Nietzsche in the original German and all the other written works of humanity. Boom. One spell gets you access to any document put in front of you. If a magic wish fairy could give real-world Jeff access to a single first level spell, this would be at the top of the short list. It's a totally awesome spell and unlike Burning Hands it won't result in me going to jail for setting jerkasses on fire.
Of course, like the issues with the Light spell I outlined yesterday, Read Languages only helps if your DMs world allows it to help. If this spells is going to count for anything, we need more rune-stones, love letters, diplomatic correspondence, roadsigns, inscriptions, etc. And they need to be in something besides Common.
Basic D&D at 40
39 minutes ago