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Hey I Can Chan

High-level Play, Part 9

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Preventative Measures, Part 2: Make Folks Different
One of the hard absolutes that assures the disappearance of an actor from the milieu forever is transforming the actor into something else then shattering and scattering whatever the actor’s become; the creature’s somewhere between life and death, often registering as neither, but usually needing the majority of its parts in the same place, the transformation spell ended, and then an appropriate spell afterward to return the creature from the dead.

A permanent spell is ended via spells like dispel magic [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 223), while an instantaneous spell is ended by spells like break enchantment [abjur] (Player’s Handbook 207).

Animal: The 5th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell baleful polymorph [trans] (Player’s Handbook 202-3) turns a creature into an animal permanently, but as it’s a polymorph effect it has… issues. Add insult to insult with the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell create darkenbeast [trans] (Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn 31), which costs 200 gp but gives the caster permanent mental command of the creature.

Ice: The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell flesh to ice [trans] (Frostburn 94) turns a flesh creature into “a mindless, inert ice sculpture” instantaneously.

Plant: The 5th-level Drd spell jungle’s rapture [trans] (Spell Compendium 128) is a days-long process that ends with the creature turning into a plant permanently, except as a curse the spell isn’t subject to dispel magic spells. The 9th-level WuJ spell arboreal transformation [trans] (Complete Mage 95) turns the creature first into a caster-controlled treant (Monster Manual 244-5) for the caster’s level in days then a tree permanently.

Salt: The 5th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell flesh to salt [trans] (Sandstorm 116) uses different mechanics but results in a creature turned into “a mindless, inert statue” with the “consistency of rock salt” instantaneously. Seriously. This is also the only one of these spells that has a mass version.

Smoke: The 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell smoky confinement [trans] (Complete Mage 117) transforms the creature into “unaware and ageless” “gas or smoke” and instantaneously traps the creature in a stoppered container worth at least 100 gp; this spell lacks the language about the creature being neither alive nor dead, making divination spells function as though the creature were still alive.

Stone: The 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell flesh to stone [trans] (Player’s Handbook 232) turns a flesh creature into “a mindless, inert statue” instantaneously. The 9th-level Drd spell cast in stone [trans] (Spell Compendium 43) grants a gaze attack that does the same.

Water: The 6th-level Drd and Sor/Wiz spell curse of spilt water [trans] (Dragon #334 74) turns any creature into a like-sized amount of water instantaneously.

Wood: The 6th-level Drd spell wooden blight [trans] (Complete Champion 130) eventually turns any creature into “a mindless, inert, wooden statue,” and the language leads me to believe the transformation instantaneous.

No, I don’t know why turning folks into animals, ice, plants, salt, or smoke is easier than turning folks into stone, water, or wood. Also, no spell I know of instantaneously or permanently turns a creature into mindless, inert eternal fire, a shameful oversight in the Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules.

Preventative Measures, Part 3: Take Folks’ Souls
If the soul can’t return to a body, the returning-from-the-dead attempt always fails. This makes imprisonment and destruction of a creature’s soul the ultimate method of removing them forever.

As previously mentioned, animating a corpse as an undead infuses the corpse with enough of its soul that using return-from-the-dead magic on an undestroyed undead is impossible. But if that’s not an option, other spells for screwing with souls exist.

The 5th-level Brd and Sor/Wiz spell soul shackles [necro] (Book of Vile Darkness 104) technically can’t be cast. The Target entry reads, “One living creature,” but the spell’s description says that it “draws out of the soul of dead creature.” There’s no erratum. Further, the spell requires a specially-made talisman but lists no price or guidelines for making it. If it were an otherwise horrible spell no one’d care, but unfortunately many creatures will want a working version of this spell: the spell level is low enough that creatures might actually cast it, it has an interesting side effect (if the soul’s not hostile or the question’s unimportant a trapped soul can be interviewed 1/day), and the spell requires the (still living) creature to die while carrying the talisman, this last being good for stories. The icing is that the talisman is apparently innocuous—it’s neither a receptacle worth 100 gp nor a black sapphire worth 20,000 gp but a random tchotchke. The Call of Cthulhu d20 version of this spell—also by Monte Cook if you’re looking for someone to blame—is renamed soul trap, doesn’t change the Target entry, doesn’t detail the required talisman, and charges the caster 1,500 XP to cast the spell. House rules address this spell’s targeting issue.

The 7th-level Clr spell imprison soul [necro] (Book of Vile Darkness 98) imprisons the creature’s soul in a Tiny worthless receptacle and leaves his dead body intact, but the body suffers 1d4 points of Constitution damage per day until the body dies or the soul’s freed, and the soul’s freed if the body dies. The caster can, of course, prevent the body from dying (and, therefore, keep the soul imprisoned) with the spell lesser restoration [conj] (Player’s Handbook 272), and many creatures are immune to ability damage anyway; so while it stops folks from returning from the dead if enough resources are devoted to it, there’s still a body to deal with somehow. The spell does allow casters, in an extremely convoluted and unpleasant fashion, to rook the need for the soul component of certain spells (although it’s a long way to cast imprison soul on your buddy, then to cast call nightmare, then to give the nightmare the Tiny receptacle with your buddy’s soul in it, then to let your buddy die or kill his body, then to return your buddy to life, and then to mount your nightmare with your buddy behind you, but that’s possible, I guess).

The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell trap the soul [necro] (Player’s Handbook 295-6) is a barely revised legacy spell whose complex requirements, components, and casting methods the DM would handwave were this Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It’s supposed to imprison a creature, body and soul, in a 1,000-gp-per-creature’s-HD gem either, first, by just casting the spell trap the soul on the creature and reciting the creature’s name to ignore its SR and increase the spell’s save DC or, second, by making the creature accept the gem, imprisoning creature automatically (allowing no saving throw and no SR) if the creature’s name and the spell’s final word are inscribed on the gem. Issues: In the first case the gem is a material component which is “annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process” (Player’s Handbook 174), so a creature failing the saving throw is freed automatically. In the second case, no method to determine if a gem’s inscribed is provided, turning every gem into a potential trap and making abandoning gems large enough to hold the creature’s soul the only protection; in other words, a failed Appraise skill check—which the DM can set arbitrarily high—ends a character. House rules resolve these issues.

The 8th-level Clr and Sor/Wiz spell soul bind [necro] (Player’s Handbook 281) imprisons the soul of a creature who’s been dead no longer than 1 round per the spell’s caster level in an at-least-1,000-gp-per-creature’s-HD black sapphire. That’s all it does. It lists a saving throw of Will negates, but since the creature’s dead (thus unconscious) I’m not sure how that works; the gem doesn’t even shatter on a failed saving throw. House rules resolve this issue.

By the way, the most expensive black sapphire in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (55) is 1,600 gp, and the most expensive one in the Magic Item Compendium (268) is 1,000 gp, so where folks get, like, a 20,000-gp black sapphire without the 8th-level Clr spell true creation [conj] (Spell Compendium 224) is a mystery.

House Rules
After a corpse or a soul’s become an an undead creature, that undead creature must be destroyed before the creature can be returned from the dead.

Pretend the Target entry of the spell soul shackles reads, “Target: 1 dead creature.”

Pretend the Material Component entry of the spell trap the soul is part of the Focus entry. A creature with the trapfinding extraordinary ability (Player’s Handbook 50) determines if a gem’s the focus for a trap the soul spell if he succeeds on a Search skill check (DC 33).

Pretend the Saving Throw entry on the spell soul bind reads, “None.” This worries me slightly, therefore I’m happy to go with the spell as written if pointed to another spell that allows dead or unconscious creatures to make saving throws.

Next: I dunno. I do know that polymorphing and illusions lead to madness, so I'm not touching those. What other other topics need addressing?

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  1. Hey I Can Chan's Avatar
    Addendum 1
    Going through my notes, I missed a couple of things.

    The spell burst of glacial wrath [trans] (Dragon Magic 64-5) turns creatures to ice. Sadly, there’s no other burst of wrath but glacial.

    A weapon made from the special material thinaun (Complete Warrior 136-7) captures the last soul killed with it, regardless of the creature’s HD or level, then frees the second-to-last soul killed with it. Even a light weapon composed of thinaun costs an extra 10,000 gp and ammunition can’t be, so this isn’t a cheap option for capturing souls, but it’s available to everyone.

    The weapon special ability Keeper’s fang (Eberron Campaign Setting 266) (+4 bonus) traps souls killed by a weapon with the ability in Eberron’s accidental hell run by a highly competitive, sometimes ghoulish but always either emaciated or obese Satan. I’m not making this up. What this means in an individual campaign is for the PCs to discover, but at the very least it means the soul of some poor fool downed with a Keeper’s fang weapon isn’t immediately eligible to return from the dead. Be forewarned: “Most followers of the Sovereign Host [nominal Eberron good guys] consider the mere possession of a Keeper’s fang weapon to be an abominable act,” says the Campaign Setting, and “the use of the weapon is a heinous and unforgivable crime.” Yeah. Role-playing restrictions. Seriously.

    I tend to ignore prestige classes because my homebrew classes don't need them, but The Book of Exalted Deeds has the vassal of Bahamut prestige class with the dragonwrack supernatural ability: half the damage the vassal inflicts to evil dragons is permanent hit point drain. As the Races of the Dragon spell essence of the dragon gives a (willing) creature the dragon type, this is potentially devastating and, I'm almost sure, can't be fixed as hp aren't ability scores, making returning to life impossible if all of a creature's hp are drained.