The oldest known version of the spell had the caster chose between the effects "Charm", "Fear", "Sicken" or "Sleep" when casting. When looking at a creature and speaking the command word it would effect the target. Charm would attempt to make the target obedient and loyal to the caster, Fear caused terror in the victim making it attempt to escape. Sicken would attempt to weaken the target to half of its ability and it would move half as fast. Sleep would attempt to cause the target to sleep.
A later version would have assaulted a target, causing more ill effects on weaker targets and less so to stronger ones. "Sickened" would have effect any one whom the spell succeeded on and it caused the target to be less able in combat and with its abilities or skills. "Panicked" would have been applied to the moderate or weak, It caused the target to panic and would become shaken for at least 10 minutes and if it saw the caster during that time it would panic again. "Comatose" caused the target to sleep for at least 10 minutes; as this was not a sleep effect, it could have worked on elves.
After the Second Sundering the spell changed again. This time the caster's eyes would have changed to a black void. If the caster could see a target within 60 feet, it could use its dread power on it, choosing between "Asleep", "Panicked" or "Sickened". "Asleep" simply attempted to make the target fall sleep, "Panicked" attempted to make the target always try to get as far away as possible from the caster as possible. "Sickened" tried to make the target disadvantaged in combat and in using its abilities.
- slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), pp. 23, 26. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 207–211, 238–239. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt (June 2008). Player's Handbook 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 132. ISBN 0-7869-4867-1.
- Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (July 2003). Player's Handbook v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 228–229. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7.
- Jeff Crook, Wil Upchurch, Eric L. Boyd (May 2005). Champions of Ruin. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-3692-4.
- David "Zeb" Cook (August 1989). Player's Handbook (2nd edition). (TSR, Inc.), p. 177. ISBN 0-88038-716-5.
- Jeff Grubb and Andria Hayday (April 1992). Arabian Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 153. ISBN 978-1560763581.
- slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 238–239. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.