Thursday, September 1, 2011


You might notice that in the Beacon divine spell list there is no Bestow/Remove Curse.  My noble play testers remarked on this recently.  I might be wrong, but I believe I did this for a reason. If you are running a game it's only natural to want to have actionable mechanics like "ah ha!  He casts Bestow Curse: take -6 to your ummm Dex and -4 to all your rolls Chumley."  Yes yes I realize that this is just a quick spell description and you would skin this to make it much more freakalicious in your game and all, but it still really limits the vast boundlessness of Curses into a simple fighting mechanic and thus not really scary.  Curses can cover a lot of ground - pricking your finger on a spindle and falling asleep, turning into a frog, objects possessed by spirits of past owners, objects that try to eat your spirit- oh there really are so many storytelling type things that could fall into this.  In the stories however folks are pretty freaked out by curses.  There's also the problem that  removing curses is really YMMV even in the SRD.  You can cast Remove Curse at 5th level and remove the effects of a cursed item, or maybe you can if you are high enough level compared to the curse, or maybe if it's not a special curse, or maybe something else entirely, on Tuesdays perhaps.  I just don't think it's a good mechanic. Lastly, a lot of traditional curses are simply spells or enchantments (for example Blind, Baleful Polymorph or Flesh to Stone) - and these all have their in game remedies and would just get buggered up by treating them as also as curses.  So I want to stay away from generic Curses and instead try to focus on types of 'curses' not already covered,  for example spiritual possession and influence.

Boogity boogity you interlopers!
Specifics time:  Over the last few game sessions, Thedric found a helmet you might consider to be cursed.  I had an idea that it should be haunted by a dwarven spirit.  There was no actual curse flag attached to his character sheet like in a video game - it wasn't physically welded to his head and impossible to remove/destroy but you can bet that if it was removed and given to someone else it wouldn't make him all better suddenly either.  It didn't effect his stats (yet) but it did make him all creepy and stuff.  I didn't think that a cleric would be able to simply whip off a remove curse and they would all be off on their way.  I suppose I had some idea that it would make use of the spirit related spells I was working on lately, especially Manifest.

So I kind of dropped the ball on this one.  They had the head cleric of Foxhollow remove the helmet - it was all behind closed doors and howling and spooky lights - but it was off camera.  I should really have had the party be in the room with the master cleric when he cast his Manifest spell and then they could have had a good duke it out with the dwarven spirit.  To be honest I hadn't thought the issue would come up so quickly and I figured that they would have left poor Thedric alone for a while longer.  If Henril hadn't been so eager to pull the helm off Thedric's head and causing him to do the funky chicken - or if he hadn't offered gold to a poor peasant woman to try to slap the helm on her head I probably would have gotten around to basing an adventure around speaking to the spirit in the helm, having it made manifest and then beating it up.  No blame on the players - they will always do the unexpected and focus on the things you aren't prepared for.  I wasn't prepared - so we lost an opportunity there.

Thinking back on it however I can see how those spells would work out, at least with possession type curses.  They would be fun. I don't know if they solve the entire 'curse' question however.  For example I can see needing some way to sanitize or corrupt areas in the name of religion.  I can see having ways to confound demonic imps much as as you would confound the undead.  The problem being this is mostly setting based and not universal game mechanic.  Not all setting would be interested in the old order/chaos pseudo christian religion I'm using in my game and so not all the spells I might like to have clerics use would be generally useful.  Yes yes, people can always DIY things and add them into their campaign but I also think the basic game should cover most of the bases.  

I don't have an answer for this right now but I am considering adding in some Rituals to the Divine spell list.  Rituals would be different than spells in that they would take longer to cast - hours not rounds.  They would also possibly have material components.  Either there would be one per spell level, say some sort of Cleansing ritual at first level,  or there would be a small number that could be learned as character advanced though the church.   These rituals would be primarily there to deal with weird religious shit like more traditionally cursed items or effects, 'evil' presences, keeping out chaos minions etc. My initial instinct is to make this setting material and not put it in the Beacon rules - but if they turn out really good and useful I might change that opinion.

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