Tag: magic

RPG-ology #36: Phionics

This is RPG-ology #36:  Phionics, for November 2020.


I was conversing with someone via messaging and he misspelled a word.  I recognized what he meant, so I overlooked it—but it got me thinking.

The word he wanted was psionics, which had just been mentioned in our conversation, but he misspelled it phionics, which is probably more intriguing to me than to most of you because I do a bit of study in Greek, and I know that psionics comes, indirectly, from the Greek word psychos, which has several meanings but we usually take to mean soul, and it begins with the letter psi.  We get a lot of words connected to the inner person from that, including psychology, psychiatry, psychic, and of course psionic.  But in my mind he had replaced the psi with a phi, a different greek letter and the first letter in the word physis, which literally means natural but which is connected into our language with things that are physical, including physics and things that have to do with the body, like getting a physical or engaging in physical fitness.

So why not a category of special powers called phionics?

My first thought was the D.C. Comics joke hero Super Elastic Plastic Man, who could stretch his body in all kinds of crazy ways—and you could certainly go there if you wished.  Yet we all know people who can bend and stretch in ways we find unthinkable.  One of my sons from an early age would sit on the floor, lie forward, and put his chest and face against the rug between his legs and go to sleep like that.  Now full grown and taller than my six feet he still sometimes puts his feet behind his head and walks on his knees.  In terms of what people do, though, that’s out there.  Do a Google images search for contortionist and you will see bodies that look as if they must have been sawn apart and glued back together.

And while these are certainly due to special talents and plenty of exercise, they are obviously all within the realm of humanly possible.

As with psionics, you can parcel these out in small doses—Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2 can dislocate his shoulder to escape from a straitjacket.  The titular character in Kick-Ass feels no pain and so enhances his ability to take damage.  You could go beyond these, with physical powers that seem supernatural such as the Iron Fist, or those which actually are impossible, such as the aforementioned rubber body.

In the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, psionics were rare gifts with which some characters were born (or perhaps otherwise accidentally obtained prior to the beginning of the game).  In 2nd edition they became primarily techniques taught by masters in which individuals were schooled, working from the simpler, less potent, to the more powerful.  With phionics, you could do either—or both.  Just create a list of incredible through impossible body skills, and rank them from the simple to the amazing.

So here’s a short list to get you started:

  1. Hyper-flexibility:  the character can bend and stretch in surprising ways, such as putting his feet behind his head, and so can fit through narrow spaces and such.
  2. Double jointed:  Some of the character’s joints bend in unusual ways.
  3. Hardened musculature:  the character can cause muscles in some part or parts of his body to become excessively hard, such that they can withstand blows or deal significant damage.
  4. Adrenal control:  the character can give himself a brief boost of strength and/or speed.
  5. Disconnecting joints:  one or more of the character’s joints can be disconnected, permitting the body to take a different possibly useful altered shape.
  6. Reduced pain response:  the character’s ability to feel pain has been reduced or eliminated such that although he can be injured he does not feel it.
  7. Expanding ligaments:  the character can stretch his arms and legs by expanding the joints while holding them together with stretched ligaments.
  8. Rubber body:  the character can stretch and reshape his body in nearly any imaginable way without reference to bones.

Call it one more tool to enhance your game without using magic.


Previous article:  Believable Nonsense.
Next article:  It’s Greek to Me.

Faith in Play #35: Seekers

This is Faith in Play #35:  Seekers, for October 2020.


The “magic” in our role playing games is “make believe.”  It’s not real, and no one could by reading any of the Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks or source books learn how to do any “real magic,” if such a thing exists.  Indeed, you can’t learn it from any of our fantasy fiction, not Narnia, not Middle Earth, not even the Harry Potter books in which young “wizards” and “witches” attend classes in which the teacher characters explain to the student characters how to do it.  It’s just not in there.

The image shown is the alchemical symbol for sulfur and as such has no more occult meaning or power than the letters of the alphabet.

Yet once in a while someone tells about how the game was a sort of “gateway” for him to become involved in paganism and occult practices.  What should our concern be for such individuals?  How should we respond in such situations?

The first point that should be noted is that such people aren’t casually drawn into magic by the games or books.  They are looking for something, and they use fragments of information from the books as a starting point to help them look.  Magic in games such as Dungeons & Dragons is inspired by a wealth of sources, including the Bible (healing, parting water, calling fire, raising the dead, and more are all miracles from scripture), but also from other sources, mostly fictional, some of which have tapped popular culture and books about occult practices.  It is apparently not impossible to use books about fictional magic to help search for occult magic, and easier now in the world of the World Wide Web than it was forty-some years ago when such searches required hours in library card catalogues.  But these people aren’t stumbling into magic because it happens to be included in game books; they are seeking it, and using game books as a reference.

That matters because people who are seeking such things can usually find them.  Game books and fantasy fiction are hardly the only sources for such information; they’re not even very good ones.  Yet fantasy games do something in relation to these seekers that other sources do not:  they bring them into contact with other people.  This is why it is so important that Christians be involved in these games—if we leave the games to the Pagans and Wiccans and occult practitioners, then when someone is seeking magic, there will be people there to point them to Paganism and Wicca and the occult, and no one will be there to point them in the right direction.

While that is critical, it might seem that the second point contradicts it:  it is not our job to prevent people from falling deeper into sin; it is our job to point them to the way out.  Many people cannot be saved until they recognize just how lost they are, and we are often trying to prevent them from becoming that lost, damaged enough that they recognize their own need.  At least sometimes we need to let go and let them fall, so they can grab the hand that really can save them.

But to help them at all we need to understand why they are looking for something at all.  My impression is that people who want magic feel inadequate; they need something to make them feel more important, more empowered, than other people.  We have the answer to that.  We are in touch with the greatest of all powers, the Name above every Name, and He tells us that each one of us is infinitely important, important enough that Jesus died for us, not just for all of us, but for each of us.  We need to communicate that to these lost people.  Those of us who have truly connected with God don’t need the paltry substitute that they call magic.  Our reality is much greater than that.  We need to offer that to those who are seeking magic in their lives.

The author has previously written on this subject in Difficult Question:  What if Non-Christian Friends are Interested in Magic?.


Previous article:  Guidance and The Machine.
Next article:  Thanks.

RPG-ology #32: Doing Something

This is RPG-ology #32:  Doing Something, for July 2020.


Although this is actually about a gaming referee technique, I’m starting with an example from a book, my novel Verse Three, Chapter One, freely accessible on the web.  It also begins with magic items, but moves beyond that to objects in other settings and genres.

As the story unfolded I needed to have one character, effectively a support character or non-player character, give one of my main characters a specific small magic object in a magically-shielded bag, but had to do it in a way that would not make it seem obvious that this was my intention.  The easy way to do that was to put several other small magical objects in the same bag, so that the immediately important one would be just one of several.  That’s one trick you should note.  Somewhere in the Harry Potter books, probably in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry enters the Room of Requirement in its guise as the place to hide things so no one can find them, and Rowling mentions several objects as examples of the mass collection of junk.  One of them is a tiara, I think sitting incongruously on the head of a bust of a man, if memory serves.  Then in the final book, The Deathly Hallows, we come to a place where he has to find the Diadem of Ravenclaw, and neither he nor we know where it is–but in fact he and we have seen it already, and just didn’t realize it was important because it was hiding amidst all the other junk.  I had already done the same thing with my important object, dropping it into a bag with four other objects.  My five objects were a paper clip, a coin, a six-sided die, a cat’s eye marble, and an acorn. Read more

Faith in Play #30: Conflict

This is Faith in Play #30:  Conflict, for May 2020.


A few years back my band Collision left its equipment set up in a church in which we had been practicing.  The drummer had gotten our logo made as a drum head cover, so there was this picture of the earth crashing into a giant cross and exploding.  (I don’t know whether you can see that in the picture, but that’s what it is.)  The youth pastor saw this and complained to the pastor about it; the pastor replied, “Are you kidding?  That’s what it’s really all about.”

My Multiverser co-author E. R. Jones was at a church service somewhere and the pastor asked the congregation how they would define Christianity in one word.  Several other people gave the kinds of responses one expects, and then he gave his:  War.  Our religion is, on one level, about a major spiritual battle between God and all that would oppose Him; we are soldiers in that battle.

When I first read about Dungeons & Dragons™ back in 1980, I was drawn to it because it sounded like this was finally a game that could actually reproduce the kinds of adventures we read about in Tolkien and Lewis and other fantasy authors.  Once I started playing it, though, I realized that it went much deeper than that.  Its use of magic and demons, of good and evil alignments, of spiritual forces, made it a wonderful metaphor for the real battle in which we are all immersed, whether or not we are aware of it.  It reminds us that only spiritual weapons can be used against spiritual adversaries, and that our enemy often is not flesh and blood, even when it uses people as its weapons.

There is some reason to think, and some believers do think, that the ritual of bread and wine was never intended to be a special moment overseen by a priest, but was supposed to force us to take our everyday meals as a reminder of what Christ did, that every time we opened a meal with a bite of food and closed it with a final drink that this would remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice, of the body and blood given for us.  Our faith is filled with images and objects whose purpose is to remind us, to cause us to think in terms of our faith.  How wonderful would it be if we played a game that also reminded us, that we are in a spiritual battle fighting on God’s side against the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places.

That’s where we are, what we are called to do.

Fight the good fight.


Previous article:  Victims.
Next article:  Magic Roads.

Faith in Play #23: Kralc’s Law

This is Faith in Play #23:  Kralc’s Law, for October 2019.


I don’t want to say that Arthur C. Clarke is famous for this; he is, after all, author of the book behind one of the most iconic of near-term science fiction space travel movies (have I limited that enough?), 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  However, he is quite frequently cited for one of his proposed “laws”, with sufficient prominence that it has become known as “Clarke’s Law”.  It states

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,

and a significant part of the point of the quote is to imply that magic never has to be the explanation for anything, because something we do not understand could well be technology beyond our knowledge.

I don’t know whether Clark believes in magic; I don’t know enough about the man.  James “The Amazing” Randi is a devout disbeliever and debunker, yet I read a short story by him years ago (in Omni Magazine) in which the lead character, a stage magician, discovers that there is real magic in the world outside his knowledge, and so seeks to learn it.  It is easy to assume that what we are watching has an entirely scientific explanation—what we would perhaps prejudicially call a “rational” or “logical” explanation.

However, the reverse is also true. Read more

Cultures of Northumbria: Elves

In this series of articles, Michael Garcia shares various custom rules and handouts related to his worldbuilding for his ongoing Northumbria campaign. 


The Elves are undoubtedly the oldest known race in the world. Their culture is ancient and largely unchanged, despite the millennia that have passed.

Typical Appearance

Elves are generally slender and graceful people, with long straight blonde or dirty-blonde hair. Eye color tends to be amber and bluish-green though violet is not uncommon. They do not grow facial hair.

Concerning fashion, elves favor elegant displays of great workmanship. Colors are usually rich, while patterns tend to be both intricate and subtle. Nature motifs are very common.

Elves favor tight-fitting hosen or breeches, along with tight-fitting tunics. They also prefer loose-fitting, ornate robes, made of very light material. Narrow shoes and boots are typical. Their cloaks, though lightweight, are usually long and flowing.

Language

It is common in many cultures for people to call themselves ‘the people’ or ‘the speakers’, but elves recognize that humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes are all sentient beings that fit such a bill. Therefore, they call all these races ‘the singers’ (laulajia). Their specific words for elf/elves are keijukainen/keijut.

The elven base word for any language is the same as for ‘song’ (laulu/laulut). As the elves are the eldest race, they call their own language the ‘ancient song’ (vanha laulu).

The elves use a sound-based system of runes, which later became the inspiration for other runic systems, such as that of the dwarves and that of the Varangians (a northern group of humans). They actually have two sets of runes, one used for common writing (sanat, meaning ‘words’) and another (voimat, meaning ‘powers’) used for important concepts like magic and law.  All elves know the former, and all elders know the latter as well. Read more

Deliver Us From Evil — Rules for an Exorcism Ritual

Deliver Us From Evil

Optional Rules for the Ritual of Exorcism

“And they cried, ‘Dominus, in Thy name, even wicked spirits are under our dominion!’ And He replied, ‘I saw the Enemy hurled from Heaven like a thunderbolt. You know I granted you power over all the powers of wickedness… Nevertheless, take not pride in this fact, but rather in that you belong to the Almighty. Thy Heavenly Father hath granted me all power.’”
—Fragmentary Book of Disciples III, Dominite Scripture

PREPARATION FOR THE RITUAL

Careful preparation for an exorcism may reduce bodily harm to the possessed and the all participants, while poor preparation can be deadly. While there is no absolute standard for the number of participants, the type of participants, the rules for participants, or the materials needed, there are suggested norms. These are presented below.

Participants

The exorcist (usually a cleric) is the only essential participant, but most theologians and religious authorities consider it wise to have assistance. Typically, one lesser cleric will be assigned to aid the exorcist spiritually. Two to four additional lay assistants are suggested to restrain the possessed, to care for the wounded, and to run errands. All clerics and laymen should be hardened to blood, vomit, excretion, disgusting sights and smells, and foul language. All should be devout believers with no sins on their consciences during the ritual. Lay assistants must be strong to hold down the possessed.

If any of these participants are NPCs, the DM should create some important background information for them. Better yet, each player may develop an NPC. The success of the players’ NPCs will be tested by fire as the DM tries to crack each of the participants during the ritual. Each NPC should have at least one flaw, be it a vice or a fear. These should not be announced, but written down secretly and handed to the DM. Only during the ritual would the characters (and players) learn of these secrets. The DM may wish to make basic stats for these NPCs, as they may be affected during the ritual. Alternatively, the DM may simply assume their roles and have them react however he wishes.

Rules for Assistants

There are three time-honored rules that exorcists will demand of all participants:

  • First, obey the exorcist immediately and without question
  • Second, take no personal initiative
  • Third, do not address the evil spirit or the possessed

Needed Materials

The exorcist must have his holy symbol and holy water. In addition, two white candles and silver dust worth 25 gold pieces are traditionally recommended, but other materials may be suggested as well. The DM may determine the effect, if any, that these have.

The Site

The location of the exorcism should be a place familiar to the possessed. The area should contain a bed or comfortable surface upon which the possessed may rest. The area should be easily accessible to the exorcist and his assistants, and they should also have a safe area nearby in which they can rest and eat. Remember that the ritual can go on for some time, so long-term preparations should be made for food and other necessities. The room or area where the possessed will remain should be stripped bare of all items save anything necessary for the ritual. All loose items, especially heavy or sharp objects, should be removed, lest the demon use them against the possessed or the participants. Should the exorcist fail to make these important preparations, the DM should not hesitate to take full advantage of this grave mistake.

ROLE-PLAYING THE RITUAL

The rite of exorcism can be role-played for maximum dramatic effect as long as all players are comfortable with this. Certain DMs and players may opt to use appropriate scriptural quotes to provide atmosphere, while others may refrain from doing so. This is a matter of taste.

The Rules of the Game

The DM must decide the rules by which the demon will play during the exorcism ritual. He creates the cosmology of his world, so he sets the rules for how evil forces will act. Yet, it is commonly believed that the demon will not reveal itself or openly wield its powers unless provoked. It is also commonly believed that the exorcist is safe from direct physical attack, but only as long as he purports himself as a servant of his deity, acting on his master’s behalf. However, the instant the foolish exorcist oversteps his bounds and confronts the demon directly in his own name, the demon has full discretion to assail the exorcist with all its power.

Game Mechanics

Exorcisms usually go through the following stages: Presence, Pretense, Breakpoint, Clash, and Expulsion. There is no fixed duration for any of these, and the exorcism will not generally finish in one session. Exorcisms generally last from 10 hours to several weeks. Though the participants will usually require rest and breaks, the exorcism proceeds until it succeeds or fails. After each day of exorcism, the exorcist must make Fortitude save (DC 15) or temporarily lose one Constitution point. No restoration is possible until the exorcism ends in success or failure.

For each stage, the chart below provides concrete things that the exorcist must do, as well as attacks that the evil spirit will make. It is important to realize that the chart lists only what the exorcist MUST do to complete that particular stage of the exorcism, not the many things that he should do to protect himself or the host. The DM can always add to this template, for it is just a guide.

STAGE OF EXORCISM THE EXORCIST MUST… AND THE EVIL SPIRIT…
Stage I. The Presence

Everyone in the room or within a 20’ area becomes aware of an alien presence. It can be felt, but not with the senses. Sometimes it feels singular, and other times plural. Characters can not physically locate the presence.

  • Cast Consecrate (2) on the room or place of exorcism
  • Cast Detect Evil (1) on the possessed
  • Cast Aid (2) on the possessed
  • Will exude its presence as soon as the exorcist casts Detect Evil, thereby forcing everyone within 20’ to make a Will save versus horror (DC 15). Failure means that the character will suffer a –2 penalty on all future Will saves that day. A roll of 1 means that the character must make a Will save versus fear (DC 30) or flee.
Stage II. The Pretence

During this phase, the evil spirit hides behind the identity of the possessed. Breaking this pretence is the exorcist’s first task.

  • Get the evil spirit to reveal itself, or the exorcism can go no further. He can do this by channeling positive energy and making the evil spirit uncomfortable (using a series of successful Turn Undead checks). One check can be made every 10 rounds, after appropriate prayers and rites have been read. The strength of the evil spirit will determine the number of checks required. After the last successful check, the evil spirit will again let slip a hint of its supernatural nature, but will not necessarily identify itself.
  • May, while masquerading as the possessed, be silent. Alternatively, it may beg and plead for the exorcist to stop his badgering of the “innocent” victim. The evil spirit will attempt to make the exorcist look like the villain. This forces the exorcist to make a Wisdom check (DC 20). Failure indicates uncertainty, but success means that he get the feeling that the alien presence is very cunning, but at times also capable of crass stupidity. He must not expect stupidity, however, lest he fall into a deadly trap.
  • Becomes violent as the pretence breaks down, attempting to drive the exorcist “from the field”. It will use telekinesis to hurl objects at the exorcist to disrupt him (use Concentration checks to continue). The evil spirit may also attack the possessed, or cause the possessed to attack the exorcist. When the violence begins, all characters must make a Will save against fear (DC 15) or suffer –2 to future saves this day. This is cumulative with previous modifiers.
  • Once the evil spirit lets slip his alien nature, it will verbally reveal the exorcist’s deepest sins. Any hint of self-righteousness, justification, personal anger, or personal challenge will open a door for deadly assaults on the body and mind, using the demon’s normal powers. Role-play this or do opposed Charisma checks to see if the exorcist avoids these pitfalls.
  • May make melee attacks on the exorcist, but only if the exorcist opened the door by somehow challenging the demon on his own authority. If melee ensues, neither the exorcist nor any witnesses will see an opponent. Yet the wounds from such combat will be real, gashes and cuts appearing fantastically on the exorcist’s body as if inflicted by an invisible monster.
Stage III. The Breakpoint

This stage occurs when the exorcist is on the verge of getting the evil spirit to reveal a name to which it will answer. It may last only seconds, but it always precedes the Clash.

  • Force the evil spirit to identify itself by name. He can do this by additional Turn Undead checks. The same rules apply as in the previous stage. After the last successful check, the evil spirit will provide a name that it will obey, but usually not its true name.
  • Strikes back with confusion of some sort. All senses are distorted by powerful illusions (Will saves to negate). The exorcist is attacked more so than the others.
  • Now uses its own voice for the first time. It is alien and full of malice. All must make a Will save against horror (DC 15).
  • Will eventually attack with the Voice—a supernatural effect that will drive the exorcist mad if he can not overcome it. He must make a Will save or suffer penalties each round. He must also get it to stop somehow. Concentration checks apply if he is trying to cast spells.
Stage IV. The Clash

This is a battle of will between the evil spirit and the exorcist. The exorcist must invite this clash, but it can be deadly. During this clash, the exorcist must get as much information as possible from the evil spirit—its true name, superiors, mission, tactics, etc.

  • Make one successful Turn Undead check, which can only be attempted after surviving one battery of the evil spirit’s attacks (described at right). Failure on this check means that the evil spirit gets another battery of similar attacks before the exorcist may try again. If the attempt is successful, the evil spirit will yield a piece of accurate information that the exorcist demanded. More information, however, requires an additional turn undead check, made only after another battery of attacks.
  • Will first threaten to kill the host unless the exorcist submits and leaves it alone. The possessed may now endure extreme punishment and strain.
  • Then assaults the mind of the exorcist, casting doubt on everything that he believes. He must make a Will save to maintain his faith. Failure means that he will suffer –2 on subsequent Turning Undead attempts.
  • Will attack his body with overwhelming fatigue. He must make a Fortitude save (DC 15—adjust for the evil spirit) or temporarily lose 1d4 Constitution points.
  • Will also attack the exorcist with horrible smells, requiring more Will saves (DC 15). Failure indicates that the exorcist is nauseated. Nauseated characters are unable to attack, cast spells, or do anything requiring attention. Only a move action or move-equivalent action is permitted.
Stage V. Expulsion

Having withstood the Clash, the exorcist now attempts to complete the rites that will expel the evil spirit.

  • Cast Dismissal (4). Success means a successful exorcism; failure means that the evil spirit may continue its attacks on the exorcist.
More of the previous battery of attacks.

 

AFTERMATH

The effects of exorcism are felt years after the event itself. If successful, the possessed may go on to live a normal and healthy life. Often the encounter restores or otherwise rejuvenates the faith of the possessed, and the bond to the exorcist remains strong afterwards. For the exorcist, a successful exorcism may bring joy and satisfaction, but the encounter never leaves him without scars—emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical. A failed exorcism may leave deep scars or it may push the exorcist to insanity or suicide.

Rewards for the Exorcist and his Assistants

If the exorcism is successful, meaning that the evil spirit has been driven from the possessed host, the exorcist gains full experience points for defeating the demon, as if he had done it single-handedly. The participants may also receive experience points, totaling one half of that normally gained for defeating the demon. This does not detract from the full award granted to the exorcist. For example, if a 9th level cleric banishes a demon with a challenge rating of 13, he gains the full award of 10,800 experience points. His five PC-assistants (one cleric and four laymen) would divide half of 10,800 experience points as their portion. This strange division reflects the extraordinary dangers to and consequences for the exorcist, without neglecting the role of his assistants.

Consequences for the Exorcist

A failed exorcism should have drastic consequences for the exorcist. Even a successful one should have mild consequences. Use the following tables to determine the consequences to the exorcist after the exorcism:

Consequences for an Exorcist after a Successful Exorcism

Roll 1d00 and consult the following table.

Table 1. Consequences for a Successful Exorcism
01-30 Nightmares plague the exorcist; once per month he is fatigued from lack of sleep as per a Nightmare spell
31-40 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hair turns gray from stress
41-50 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hands are chilled to the touch
51-60 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent -1 penalty to Fortitude saves
61-70 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent drain of 1 Constitution point
71-80 The exorcist has a new appreciation and fear of the supernatural; he suffers a permanent -1 penalty to Will saves against supernatural effects
81-90 The exorcist becomes more withdrawn and distant; he suffers a permanent drain of 1 Charisma point
91-93 The exorcist takes on one escapist vice to purge his memories (alcoholism, herbal addiction)
94-96 Mild insanity (nervous disorder, phobia)
97-99 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
00 Roll three times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher

Consequences for an Exorcist after an Unsuccessful Exorcism

Nightmares plague the exorcist; once per month he is fatigued from lack of sleep as per a Nightmare spell.
In addition, roll 1d00 and consult the following table.

Table 2. Consequences for a Failed Exorcism
01-10 Physical appearance is slightly altered—the exorcist’s hair turns gray from stress and his hands are chilled to the touch
11-20 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent -2 penalty to Fortitude saves
21-30 The exorcist appears drawn and gaunt; he suffers a permanent drain of 2 Constitution points
31-40 The exorcist has a new appreciation and fear of the supernatural; he suffers a permanent -2 penalty to Will saves against supernatural effects
41-50 The exorcist becomes more withdrawn and distant; he suffers a permanent drain of 2 Charisma points
51-60 The exorcist takes on one escapist vice to purge his memories (alcoholism, herbal addiction)
61-80 Mild insanity (nervous disorder, phobia)
81-90 Severe insanity (paranoia, mania, schizophrenia)
91-94 Roll twice on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
95-97 Roll three times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
98-99 Roll four times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher
00 Roll five times on this table, ignoring results of 95 or higher


The exorcism ritual is easily adaptable to any system, but the following creature is designed to Dungeons & Dragons rules and may require extensive revision to make it compatible with other systems.

The Demon

In its natural form, the demon is invisible and intangible. It can appear as a humanoid with infernal features like night-black skin, horns, bat-like wings, long tails, animal traits, etc. It can also appear as a wraith-like shadow. It can also appear as a dark silhouette or featureless man. Finally, it can appear as an old and wrinkled man. This wild spirit is unable to truly live and thrive unless it has a corporeal host, hence its urgent and almost desperate desire to inhabit a human body.

The demon is drawn to sin. In its non-physical form, it is limited to non-physical attacks and communication. Most of its time will be spent preparing its next host for possession, though this sometimes takes years. Once it actually possesses a host, its powers change slightly. It is able to use the host’s body to move, communicate and attack, though it will be careful not to draw too much attention to itself. When it desires, it can augment most of the host’s natural abilities (reflected in the adjusted modifiers below). It also retains its non-physical powers.

Possession is not an ability that it can use on an unwilling target, so it is not considered an attack. The process often takes a long time, and the details are not important here.

Medium-Sized Outsider

(Chaotic, Evil, Incorporeal)

HD: 10 HP: 132
Initiative: +2 AC: 15
Speed: 30’, 30’ fly in natural form (perfect)
Base Attack Bonus/Grapple: +10 / +14

Attack:
Claw +17 melee (1d8+4)
Targets of this attack are often treated as AC 10 because they cannot see it coming. Consequently, the chance of critical hit is also higher. Moreover, the attack does not hamper the demon’s invisibility in any way. Finally, this attack also ignores DR from armor. Despite the lethality of the attack, the demon often chooses to wound and to inspire terror rather than to kill.

Full Attack:
Two claws +17/+12 melee (1d8+4)

Space / Reach: 5 feet x 5 feet
Special Attacks: Fear Aura, Stench, Telekinesis, Unnerving Gaze
Special Qualities: Acid Resistance 10, Cold Resistance 10, Damage Reduction 5/Blessed, Darkvision to 60’, Electricity Resistance 10, Fire Resistance 10, Invisible, Incorporeal, Poison Immunity, Spell-Like Abilities, Spell Resistance 19, Telepathy 100’, Turned
Saves: Fortitude (+13), Reflex (+11), Will (+13)

Skills: 8 +5 =13 x 10 = 130
The following stats use the modified physical stats of the host. Where non-physical skills are concerned, the demon uses either its own score or that of the host, whichever score is higher:

Appraise +5, *Balance +2, *Climb +5, Concentration (15, +17), Craft +5, Decipher Script +NA, Disable Device +NA, Disguise +4, *Escape Artist +2, Forgery (13, +18), Handle Animal +NA, Heal +2, *Hide +2, *Jump +5, Knowledge of Amannah Mythos (13, +18), Knowledge of Arcana (13, +18), Knowledge of Architecture and Engineering +NA, Knowledge of Dungeoneering +NA, Knowledge of Geography (13, +18), Knowledge of History (13, +18), Knowledge of Local (13, +18), Knowledge of Nature (13, +18), Knowledge of Nobility and Royalty (13, +18), Knowledge of Religion (13, +18), Listen +2, *Move Silently +2, Open Lock +NA, Perform +4, Profession +NA, Ride +2, *Sleight of Hand +2, Speak Other Language +NA, Spellcraft (13, +18), Survival +3, *Swim +10, *Tumble +NA, Use Rope +3

Feats: Weapon Focus, Flyby Attack, Greater Weapon Focus, Improved Natural Attack

Host’s Natural Ability Modifiers:
STR: 14, +2 CON: 16, +3 DEX: 14, +2; INT: 12, +1 WIS: 11, +0 CHA: 10, +00

Possessed Host’s Ability Modifiers:
STR: 20, +5 CON: 20, +5 DEX: 14, +2; INT: 21, +5 WIS: 14, +2 CHA: 19, +4

Challenge Rating: 15

Darkvision to 60’ (Special Quality)
The demon can see perfectly in complete darkness.

Fear Aura (Special Attack)
The demon can radiate a five-foot radius fear aura as a free action. A creature in that radius must make a DC23 Will save or be afflicted as if by a Fear spell. One that saves is not susceptible again for 24 hours. Those affected become panicked. If cornered, it will cower. If the save succeeds, the target is shaken for one round.

Flyby Attack (Feat)
It can take a move action (including a dive) and another standard action at any point during the move. It cannot take another move action that round.

Improved Natural Attack
Claw damage is 1d8, instead of 1d6.

Incorporeal (Special Quality)
The demon is vulnerable only to incorporeal creatures, +1 or better weapons, or magic. Furthermore, it has a 50% chance to ignore damage from a corporeal source. If it does take damage from a corporeal source, its DR still applies. The demon has no need to breathe, eat, or sleep.

Invisible (Special Quality)
The demon is invisible to the naked eye. Even spells like True Seeing reveals it to be vague and shadowy figure. Only the spell See the Hidden will reveal its true form.

Poison Immunity (Special Quality)
The demon can neutralize any poison in the host body at will.

Spell-Like Abilities (Special Quality)
The Caster Level for all of the following is 13:

At will—Comprehend Languages, Darkness, Detect Evil, Detect Good, Dispel Magic, See Invisibility, Tongues
3/day—Chaos Hammer (DC 18), Confusion, Nightmare, Suggestion
1/day— Desecrate, Hold Person, Summon Swarm, Undetectable Alignment

Chaos Hammer
Range: 100 feet
Area: 20-foot radius burst
Duration: Instantaneous (1d6 rounds)
Save: Will partial
Deals 5d8 in damage to lawful creatures and slows them for 1d6 rounds. A successful DC Will save halves the damage and eliminates the slow effect. Non-lawful creatures receive half damage (or a quarter if they save) and are not slowed.

Confusion
Range: 100 feet
Area: 15-foot radius burst
Duration: 1 round per level
Save: Will negates
Targets cannot think straight. Roll % to see what each the target does.
01-10 Attack host (does not need to use
lethal force)
11-20 Act normally
21-50 Do nothing but hold ears and groan
51-70 Flee from host at top speed
71-00 Thrash about wildly for one round
(one attack at half damage) and
then flee

A confused character that cannot carry out his intended action will crumple into a ball and groan. A confused creature that is attacked will automatically attack the attacker on its next turn (believing it to be a shadowy monster), as long as it is still confused when its turn comes.

Desecrate
Range: 40 feet
Area: 20-foot radius emanation
Duration: 2 hours per level
Save: None
This imbues the area with negative energy. Turn checks receive a -3 penalty. If the area contains an altar or shrine or other permanent fixture dedicated to your deity, the effect is doubled. This counters consecrate.

Hold Person
Range: 100 feet
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 round per level
Save: Will negates
The subject becomes paralyzed and freezes in place. It is aware and breathes normally but cannot take any actions, even speech. Each round, on its turn, it may attempt a new saving throw to end the effect (this is a full round action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity).

Nightmare
Range: Unlimited
Target: One creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Save: Will negates (-10 on saves)
It sends horrible dreams that prevent restful sleep, causing 1d10 in damage and fatigue (so spell casters have only half of their manna pool).

Suggestion
Range: 40 feet
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 hour per level or completion
Save: Will negates
This implants an almost irresistible suggestion in the target’s mind. A very reasonable suggestion provides a -1 or -2 penalty to the save.

Summon Swarm
Range: 40 feet
Effect: One swarm of bats, rats, or spiders
Duration: Concentration + 2 rounds
Save: None
This summons a swarm that attacks all in its area. Once it arrives, the swarm is not controlled by the demon.

Swarm of Bats
HP: 13 Initiative +2
Speed 40’ fly AC: 16
Special Attacks: Distraction
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +3
Blindsense 20’, Immunity to Weapons,
Low-light vision

Swarm of Rats
HP: 18 Initiative +2
Speed 15’, Climb 15’ AC: 14
Special Attacks: Disease, Distraction
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2
Low-light vision, half damage from
slashing and piercing weapons, scent

Swarm of Spiders
HP: 09 Initiative +3
Speed 20’, Climb 20’ AC: 17
Special Attacks: Distraction
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +0
Darkvision 60’, Immunity to Weapons,
Tremorsense 30’

Distraction: Make a DC11 (spiders or bats) or DC12 (Rats) Fortitude save or be nauseated for 1 round. Casting requires a Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level). Using skills that involve patience requires a DC20 Concentration check.
Disease: In this case, there is a 10% chance of contracting a disease per rat injury. If so, consult the disease table.

Spell Resistance (Special Quality)
A caster must score a 19 or above on a caster check (roll 1d20+caster level) to affect the demon with spells or spell-like abilities.

Stench (Special Attack)
It creates a foul smelling stench that forces creatures within 10’ to make a DC24 Fortitude save or be nauseated for as long as it remains in the area and for 1d4 rounds afterwards (they cannot attack, cast spells, or concentrate; they can only take one move action per turn). Those that save will not be nauseated for 24 hours, but they are sickened for as long as they remain in the area (they suffer -2 to attacks, saves, skill checks, and ability checks).

Telepathy (Special Quality)
It may communicate telepathically, regardless of language, with any creature within 100’. It often uses this ability to taunt a victim, creating “invisible voices” in the victim’s head.

Telekinesis (Special Attack)
Six times per day, the demon can either provide a gentle sustained force or a single short violent thrust. If a sustained force is desired, it can move a creature or object weighing 300 pounds up to 20 feet per round. A creature can negate this effect against itself or against an object that it is holding with a successful Will save (DC 14). This action can persist for up to 12 rounds. An object can be telekinetically manipulated as if by one hand. If a violent thrust is desired, the effect lasts only for a single round. It can hurl objects or creatures together. It must succeed on an attack roll for each creature attacked, using +15 (base attack bonus + intelligence modifier). Hurled objects do 1 point per 25 pounds (for less dangerous items, like a barrel) to 1d6 points per 25 pounds (for heavier items, like a boulder).

Turned (Special Quality)
A cleric can turn the demon and the possessed person. It is HD 15. The demon cannot physically harm someone protected by a Protection from Evil spell, unless that person commits a sinful act, thereby allowing the demon to make an opposed Will save against the target. If the demon wins, he can enter.

Unnerving Gaze (Special Attack)
The demon can make its face resemble one of an opponent’s departed loved ones or bitter enemies. Those that fail their saves take a -2 penalty on attacks for 1d4 rounds. A successful DC 18 Will save negates. Range is 30’.

Faith and Gaming: Wizards

I will confess that I specifically saved this one of the Archetypes for this month. It has been something of a tradition to cover subjects related to game magic in October, begun inadvertently when I addressed the objections to Magic that first year and then returned to it a year later when I recommended Fantasy as a particularly Christian medium one year later. A Concern expressed last year also related to magic in games, so at this point it seems that in the month in which Halloween appears I must say something that is related to game magic. In fact, I already have a topic for next year’s October article, so I guess I’m taking the tradition seriously.

Seriousness is one of the characteristics of this month’s character type, the wizard. We would normally call him studious, probably learned, perhaps educated. The wizard is the sort of person who knows great secrets because he applies himself; and because of the breadth and depth of his knowledge, he wields great power. Merlin of Arthurian legend is the prototype for this character, and Gandalf of Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) and Dumbledore of Hogwart’s Academy (the Harry Potter series) both capture the concept beautifully. These are men who know, and because they know, they can do.
Read more

Magic in Role-Playing Games: A Moral Taboo?

“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”  —Randall Garrett, Too Many Magicians

Most role-playing games (RPGs) include some kind of magic or occult phenomena as part of the game. This fact makes some people uncomfortable. Some Christians go so far as to insist that any activity—games, movies, whatever—including the portrayal of magic must be avoided in order to maintain a right relationship with God and to follow His moral guidance. On careful examination, however, the arguments used to support this stand are weak, both from a logical and Scriptural perspective.

There are two aspects to this controversy: 1) what is actually happening when magic appears in an RPG, and 2) what does Scripture have to say about this? In this essay I address the issue of fact rather than the application of Scripture—not because Scripture is less important, but because it is impossible to apply Scripture properly without knowing the factual truth about any situation barring direct divine inspiration, which lies outside the realm of the merely rational mind. Read more

Faith and Gaming: A Concern

Three months ago, in Deals, I suggested something that flies in the face of much of the common wisdom about what is acceptable in gaming: I suggested that a game that focused on making deals with the devil was a very Christian game, which taught a very important Christian lesson to its players. Some have probably wondered since then whether I think there is anything at all that goes too far in role playing.

That would be at least a bit unfair. I have often said that there are things that go too far for me, and things of which others should at least be wary. Admittedly, I’ve never (that I recall) stated that any particular concept was inappropriate per se for all players, but I have said there were things that concern me, and two months back when we addressed Sex I suggested a few that were inappropriate for me (although not for everyone).

This month, there is something that concerns me. It is appropriate that it should fall in October, the month in which this column has traditionally addressed issues related to magic, because it is a matter concerning magic that has come to my attention of which I write. Read more