Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We Gotta Kill This Guy

Creatures that are "only hit by silver or magical weapons" are all over every edition of D&D. They're really scary to a low-level party who can't hit them, as they should be. But it's also a bit of a cheat, and a bit samey. You need silver to hurt a werewolf, fine, that's right from the inspiring legend - but you also apparently need an enchanted blade to even think about hurting a wight. Which is material! I could see maybe a "mundane weapons do half damage due to the unearthly nature of the creature" or something...I mean, a giant can't drop a tower on a wight and kill it unless you assume 'massive damage' then counts-as-magic or something.

This came up, sort of, in game last week. Faced with a creature they believed required magic to assault, the PCs were at a bit of a loss and were attempting to strategize a way of minimizing risk while still going after the ghostly thing. Then it occurred to me that the PCs knew the ghost's name. That's a pretty special thing to know, either from a 'laws of magic' point of view, or from a fairy-tale one. Magically speaking, knowing the name of a thing ought to give you some sort of advantage over it. Storybook-wise, this wasn't "some ghost-thing on level one of the dungeon", it was a former person with a name and a (presumed) backstory who had already escaped one conflict with the PCs. Didn't he deserve a little more?

In the end, I went with a quick-and-dirty consecration of weapons to the destruction of the ghost; an expansion of what we used is below. The other way to go would have been to give the creature a fairy-tale-style weakness - perhaps he remained as a ghost because of a particular sin or something, and confronting him with evidence of that sin would banish him or make him vulnerable ("Look upon this mirror, vain spirit!" or even "And yet your son, thought dead, lived! AND HERE HE IS..." followed by cackling and ghost-go-asplodey or something).


A cleric may, via consecration, dedicate an item or weapon to the destruction or downfall of a single named creature which is immune to mundane weapons. Although the process varies from faith to faith, the principle is the same - weapons are blessed, prayed over, etc in the hopes that the cleric's patron will smile upon his effort and temporarily make the weapons proof against the beast. The process, being faith-based, does not always function, however. All clerics are presumed to have some knowledge of this ritual at first level.


A single consecration of this sort takes the better part of the day. Typically the priest will place the weapons to be consecrated in some sort of basin (if using liquid ingredients such as blood or holy water) or coffer, or perhaps a hole in the ground for the earthier hippie-type druidic faiths. These items are then covered in holy water, animal blood, fresh water, oils and unguents, or whatever is appropriate to the faith, along with an admixture of other ingredients - perhaps iron filings, a drop of serpent venom, the spittle of an honest man, hot peppers, liquified gold, etc. This combination is then prayed over for hours as the cleric calls upon the Gods to dedicate these few material items to the destruction of the creature in question; in some cases the priest may also promise things to the deity in exchange for this meager favor. Brief visions are not unknown during the ceremony.

A single concentration affects only a handful of items - three daggers, two clubs, ten arrowheads or bullets, or perhaps one shortsword (or appropriate combinations of same).


Add together the below modifiers to find a percentage chance that the dedication worked properly; GMs may elect to roll once for the batch, or for individual items within the batch ("...maybe this one last bullet will actually work!"). In all cases the dedication must be toward the destruction of one individual creature - not "those darn things in the cave".

Base chance 5%
True name of creature known +10%
Piece of creature present and used in ritual +5%
Level of cleric +level%
Target is of opposite alignment to Deity +10%
Materials used in ritual are particularly fine +1-5%
Cleric has very recently done great stuff for the church +1-5%
Cleric swears an oath to accomplish something awesome/dangerous in near future +1-5%
Ritual performed at proper altar of the faith +5%
Extra worshippers (real ones, not hired chanters) praying over the batch +1% each

Weapons successfully blessed by this form of dedication count as silver or magical as necessary for the purpose of being able to strike the creature. Dedicated weapons remain so for twelve hours. If an expedition to slay the creature is mounted and it fails (for example, if the creature cannot be located, or the party flees) the dedication fades.

Obviously, at higher levels, this all becomes rather moot.
The dashing but thoroughly eeevil Phineas Gristle, a dapper phantom in league with the Necronauts.
Some player notes & doodles from the hunt for Phineas.  The orangutan pictured is a PC.


  1. I actually like creatures that require unusual things to kill or to permanently destroy. It is a classic monster hunting situation where you need to research your foes to properly defeat them. I never much cared for "oh, magic weapons hit everything" that just seems like too much of a cop out.

  2. This is very nicely done Erik. I really like how to take our requests/queries and "Wampify" them : )

  3. @seaofstars - Oh, I totally agree. I much prefer "looks like you guys need a blind man's tears" type stuff over "magic plusses to penetrate". I figured this was mostly a riff on "we know its true name, I wonder if that'll help..." :)