Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rewriting Spells Takes a Lot of Time

Paul Di'Anno in concert Wednesday night, Blood Bowl down at Puolenkuun Pelit on Thursday. I still expect the new rules version to be done Friday, but if the "quick" layout takes as much time as it did last time, it won't post until Saturday.

Until then, another peek, because I need to know whether I really should be pleased with myself or if I'm just being self-indulgent (because there is the fine line I often cross separating 'inspired stuff' and 'too much, dude').

See, when I said "Weird Fantasy" I'm drawing upon Lovecraft's definition of Weird here. Lovecraft's own brand of cosmic horror doesn't much frighten me. I like the stories, and find a good deal of them suitably atmospheric and effective, but I know there are no monsters in the center of the universe and no squid guy sleeping under the Pacific. The fact that man is unimportant in the universe is not a source of horror either; it's the truth as I see it.

So how to inject some of that existential horror into a game that isn't about that, that stays true to the Weird atmosphere without recreating Lovecraft's specifics?

Speak with Dead
This spell rips the spirit of a corpse from the afterlife and returns it to its body. The habitation is imperfect, and as such the spirit is only able to move the body’s lips and tongue, and thus is able to answer questions.

The corpse’s knowledge is limited to what the person knew during life, including the languages it spoke (if any). Answers are often brief, cryptic, or repetitive.

People that were decent, honest, innocent, or at least devout in their religion (not all gods care about morality), they will be anxious to answer questions and remain on Earth for as long as possible. They have learned that the afterlife is nothing, simply a void with no effective consciousness and no sensation but for the numbing awareness of passing time. They know that being alive, even inside a rotting corpse for the briefest sliver of time that leaves them in agony as the decay of their physical form leaves every nerve transmitting unrelenting pain, is better than being dead.

Cads, scoundrels, and heretics, on the other hand, were pleasantly surprised to not find eternal torture waiting for them in death. Only the vicious and undeserving find this peace in death, and they will be furious about this peace being disturbed. This allows them a saving throw versus magic to resist answering questions.

The spell allows a base of three questions. If the death occurred more than a day ago, one less question. More than a year, one less question.

This spell does not affect a corpse that has been turned into an undead creature. The head of the person to be spoken with (or at least the mouth), even if it merely a skull, must be present and intact for the spell to work.

Note that there are no Raise Dead, Resurrection, or Reincarnation spells in the game. Also, various spells having to do with death or the afterlife (Animate Dead and Commune, for two examples) will give contradicting information about the hereafter. I think I slipped and made one of the possibilities pleasant. ;)

(how many points from TSR's Code of Ethics does this one spell violate?)


  1. Where does this leave people who were devout in their religion but whose religion did not preach of an afterlife?

  2. A thought:

    You intend this to be an item for purchase, yes?

    Do you realize the sort of word count you're adding with all the purple prose?

    It's definitely evocative, but you're probably going to want to employ a sharp editorial knife.

    The reason the SRD-type spells are so dry and tasteless is because they were efficient.

  3. I'll write it first, then edit it afterwards depending on space limitations. It'll be choosing between extra wording and artwork, I think, but we'll see in the layout.

    But I certainly can't deliver an SRD-like experience. The essence of the system has been out there 36 years already, and the clones have repeated it in 'basic language' form multiple times in the past few years.

    I believe this project needs to be different to have a chance of success. If achieving that increases the page count (and thus cost) a bit, well, I already decided this wasn't going to be a "budget" release when I hired a cover artist that costs much more than I've ever paid for a months rent.

  4. i too was concerned about the length of these things... But i applaud your decision to draw things out as it were. You're going for a lot of flavor, and that's cool.

    i was also a little worried that you had taken some of the Weirdness out when you described the afterlife, but conflicting descriptions in different places adds it all back in and then some. Bravo!

  5. Yeah, this one's disturbing... but speaking with the dead should be!

    I'm liking what I see so far. I hope you're working off the OD&D list and not the AD&D list. I'd never have gotten my secondary effects written out if I'd tried to do the whole AD&D bunch, and that was just magic-user spells.