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This chapter introduces new rules which represent many of the cleric’s unique duties and interests. Within, you will find new uses for existing skills, a new method of using saintly remains to empower objects of divine power and rules for that most dangerous of holy duties, the exorcism of dangerous otherworldly spirits.
Normally, one uses Diplomacy to influence the king, to bend the ear of influential merchant princes and to barter freedom from bandits. A successful Diplomacy check can basically change the attitudes of others in respect to yourself and occasionally others. Detailed below is a new application of the Diplomacy skill, created specifically with the cleric class in mind.
One of the most important duties of the cleric is the induction of new members into the faith of their god. Since in a standard fantasy campaign, the power of each god is directly related to the number of worshippers he claims, the best way for a cleric to advance through the hierarchy of his church and, more importantly, prove his devotion to his god’s cause, is to convert as many non-believers as he can. There are many ways to do this, of course; by fire and sword, through bribery with promises of eternal riches are popular choices, even with good aligned churches, but nothing works quite so well as preaching of the glory, satisfaction and reward to be found in the devotion to something larger than yourself.
In order to attempt a conversion, the cleric must have three things; an audience, a relatively quiet location in which to preach and at least an hour’s time. This last requirement can be mitigated somewhat by outside, extraordinary circumstance, such as when a cleric attempts to convert the peasant levy after saving them from a demon in battle, or when he attempts to sway a king to his faith after resurrecting the queen from the dead.
If the cleric meets all the above circumstances, he can attempt the conversion. To do so, he must preach the doctrine of his faith to the audience for at least one interrupted hour; should he choose, he can dedicate more time to the conversion, with every additional hour adding a cumulative +1 bonus to the eventual Diplomacy check (to a maximum bonus equal to his cleric level). Additional hours of dedicated preaching need not be performed concurrently, meaning the cleric can spend days or even weeks paving the way for the final conversion check.
Once the cleric feels the time is right, he then attempts a Diplomacy check. In order for the check to succeed, the cleric must change the target’s attitude to Helpful, meaning the base DC of the check varies by the target’s initial attitude. If the target, or anyone within the group of targets, has 5 or more ranks in the Sense Motive skill, then the DC is increased by another 5. Also, if the cleric has tried and failed to convert the target (or anyone in the group) in the past, the DC is increased by a further 2. If the cleric’s Diplomacy check succeeds, then he has converted his audience to his faith.
- Multiple Converts: It is definitely possible for a cleric to convert more than one person at a time. In fact, the most charismatic priests can sway throngs of people to their beliefs with an impassioned sermon. It is, however, considerably more difficult to convert a mass audience; since the cleric does not have time to really bond with any one member of the audience, he cannot establish a personal rapport. For every 10 people, or portion thereof, in the audience, the DC of the check is increased by 2.
Hitting the target DC when converting more than one person means 25% of the crowd (rounding down) is converted. For every 5 points by which the check succeeds, another 25% of the crowd is converted.
New converts to a church now claim the cleric’s god as their primary faith. This does not mean that they worship the cleric’s god exclusively; in polytheistic faiths, most worshipers pay at least lip service to all gods. It does mean, however, that the new convert will by default be Helpful to the cleric who converted him, friendly to any other cleric or priest of his new faith and indifferent to all others who openly practice the faith. Of course, extenuating circumstances and the behaviour of the cleric can cause the convert’s attitude to change for the worse, as normal.
Example: A cleric with a total Diplomacy skill bonus of +18 is attempting to convert a minor prince to his cause. The prince is Indifferent to the cleric and his faith, so the base DC of the check is 30. The prince is a savvy, world man, however, with 10 ranks in the Sense Motive skill, so the base DC is raised to 35. The cleric rolls a d20, resulting in a solid 15, for a total result of 33. That total falls short of the DC of 35, so the prince remains unmoved.
Building Up to Conversion
Normally, it is a good idea for a priest to build up towards a conversion, by first priming his audience. The best way to do this is with public preaching, perhaps from the pulpit of his church, or in a public speaking hall, or even in the town square on market day. In doing so, and with a successful Diplomacy check, he can slowly sway the crowd’s attitude so it is more friendly to him and thus, more receptive to the ideas of his faith. A cleric can not attempt to convert a crowd on the same day in which he has swayed their attitude through Diplomacy.
Special: A cleric with 5 or more ranks in Perform (orate) gains a +2 circumstance bonus to all attempts to use Diplomacy to sway a crowd towards conversion.
Example: The cleric and the prince remain in contact and the cleric preaches of his gospel at every opportunity. Over time, and with a successful Diplomacy check, he manages to sway the prince’s attitude to friendly. At last, he decides that it is time to attempt converting the prince again. Since the prince is now friendly towards him, the base DC of the check is now 20, with an additional +5 from the prince’s 10 ranks in Sense Motive, and +2 because the cleric has failed to convert the prince in the past. The total DC is therefore 27. The cleric rolls a 10 on his check, for a total result of 28 – enough to beat the DC. The prince’s attitude is now moved to Helpful and he is converted to the worship of the cleric’s god.
A cleric can attempt to convert a being who is actively opposed to his church but it is very difficult to do so. The mere fact that the target is hostile to the cleric or the faith is not enough to qualify it as a being who must be forcibly converted. Clerics are quite used to dealing with those who angrily reject offers of salvation.
There are basically two conditions which qualify a target as one which must be forcibly converted; an alignment in direct opposition to the god’s, or levels as a cleric in another church, a paladin sworn to a differing faith, or a druid. In either case, the base DC of the check determined as for a standard conversion, then modified as follows:
- If the target’s alignment is opposed to the cleric’s god on one axis (Good vs Evil, Chaos vs Law), then the base DC of the check is increased by +10. If the target’s alignment is opposed on both axis, then the DC is increased by 20.
- If the being to be converted is a cleric, druid, or paladin, then in addition to the DC of the check being modified by the target’s alignment (if applicable), the target’s total levels in these classes is added to the DC.
With a successful check, the cleric succeeds at his forced conversion. The target’s alignment is permanently altered so that it is compatible with the god’s faith. If the converted being was a cleric, then the being’s original god no longer grants him spells; if the new god chooses (and they usually do), then he can choose to provide the converted cleric’s powers instead. See sidebar for details of how to handle druids and paladins.
Example: A powerful priest (10th level cleric) is attempting to convert a young acolyte (1st level cleric) of a rival faith. The cleric’s god is lawful good, the acolyte is chaotic good and indifferent to the cleric’s faith. The base DC of the check is therefore 30 + 10 + 1 = 41. The cleric, who has a total Diplomacy modifier of +15, knows that there is no way he can convert the young acolyte without dedicating a good deal of time to the conversion. He therefore dedicates nearly half a day (11 hours) to a marathon preaching session, adding a +10 (1 hour base + 10 extra hours) to his Diplomacy check. At the end of the sermon, the cleric rolls his forced conversion check, with a result of 16. This gives him a total result of 15 + 10 + 16 = 41, just enough to convert the acolyte.
Druids, Paladins and Their Faith
The relationship between a druid or a paladin and his god is a special one. For the most part, druids worship nature, not particular gods, and so they are far less likely to abandon their faith for another, particularly if the new faith is not directly concerned with the natural world. To reflect this, when forcibly converting a druid, add an additional circumstance modifier to the DC equal to the druid’s Wisdom modifier. Also, the Games Master may well rule that the druid’s love for nature is simply too strong to overcome and only those clerics who serve gods of nature can ever attempt to forcibly convert a druid.
Paladins, likewise, are handpicked servants of their gods and gods are notoriously loathe to give up their favoured servants. Add the paladin’s Charisma modifier to the DC required to forcibly convert him. Also, the Games Master may well rule that a paladin can only be forcibly converted to the worship of another lawful good god, so that his powers remain intact.
Knowledge (religion) represents the character’s education in all matters related to faith, religious doctrine, holy symbols and other such matters of spiritual import. Knowledge (religion) is usually used to puzzle out the nature of obscure holy symbols, or to remember some ancient bit of church history. Detailed below is a new application of the Knowledge (religion) skill, created specifically with the cleric class in mind.
Though most do not realise it, the mortal world is under constant spiritual assault from the immortal realms beyond. Servants of the gods, angels, demons, devils, saint spirits and the like, all seek to influence the course of mortal history, to ensure that their divine master’s agendas are promoted and, occasionally, simply to work mischief of their own. The common man is helpless before the power of such beings and becomes little more than a slave to their whims, mind held helpless, trapped in the prison of his own flesh.
Fortunately, clerics and paladins, these holiest of holy men, are well equipped to deal with the ravening hordes of the underworld and the meddlesome ranks of the celestial hosts. Their tool is exorcism and their weapon is their own willpower and indomitable faith.
Exorcism is the act of driving out evil or good spirits (more often the former than the latter) from people or places, using a combination of faith, willpower and especially prayer. Though actual divine powers are not required to exorcise a possessing spirit, proper training in spiritual matters is – a character or Non-Player Character without at least 5 ranks in Knowledge (religion) cannot attempt an exorcism.
How to Games Master Exorcism
The key to successfully using exorcism in your campaign is ramping up the tension. Exorcism is not just a life or death struggle; the stakes are much higher than that. Exorcism is a battle for the soul itself. If the exorcist cannot banish the malevolent (or much more rarely, benevolent spirit) then the victim’s soul will be dragged off screaming, to face an eternity of torment in a hellish afterlife. Though all Players (hopefully) realise that gaming is ultimately an exercise in cooperative storycrafting, the implications of what will happen if they fail should still resonate with them and lead them to consider the matter seriously.
When Games Mastering a session which features an exorcism, you must also pay careful attention to building atmosphere. Most exorcisms take place in relatively static locations, such as a bedchamber or a church hall, and they usually involve metaphysical rather than physical conflict. This means that good description and narration will be vital. Fortunately, you will not have to entirely rely on description, since most of the powerful extraplanar beings who will take the role of possessing spirit have supernatural abilities with which to assault the Player characters. Still, in any exorcism scene, the spiritual battle must take precedence.
Those Games Masters looking for inspiration on how to handle an exorcism scene can do no better than the film The Exorcist. Fearsome, grotesque and starring two of the most cinematically heroic holy men in popular culture, it is justifiably a classic.
Before the rules of exorcism can be implemented, the circumstances and rules of possession – how it works mechanically and who and what it can do – must be spelled out.
What is Possession?
Possession is the means by which beings of the lower and upper planes, as well as ghosts and other spectral undead can attempt to seize control of a mortal’s body and spirit. A possessing being can influence and then ultimately gain control of its victim entirely, which almost always leads to the death of the victim – but not before he has been directed to perform a great deal of mischief, mayhem and murder.
Demons, devils, angels and the like are some of the most powerful and dangerous beings in creation, capable of snuffing mortal life with a shrug. Fortunately, most such beings have incredible difficulty crossing over from their own planes of existence to the mortal plane. Most can only do so by waiting for a hapless mortal to attempt to summon them, a situation which happens far more rarely than they would like. So, in order to take control of their own destinies, lower and upper planar beings have learned to push their consciousness through the veil between worlds, the better to tempt and torment mortals into summoning them forth, or, if nothing else, to ride their skins and have a spot of fun.
During possession, an extraplanar being does not have access to the majority of its abilities. Instead, it gains a few new minor abilities which allow it to influence the real world. In order for an extraplanar being to bring its full powers and body through to the mortal plane, it must control its victim long enough to guide it through the performance of a summoning ceremony. Thanks to both the diligence of holy men and the possessing being’s own hunger to destroy, possessions rarely last enough for the summoning to come to pass; few beings from the lower planes truly mind that, so long as they can control their victim long enough to cause pain and suffering.
Who Gains the Power to Possess?
Angels, celestials, demons, devils and all other intelligent outsiders who directly serve gods of any sort have the possession ability. Other powerful extraplanar beings can have the possession ability if the Games Master so chooses. Many forms of intelligent, spectral undead have the possession ability as well, though beings like ghosts, who already have the malevolence ability or special attack, do not.
Possession (Su): There are two stages to possession; initial contact and full possession. All creatures who are to be given the ability to possess mortals follow these two steps. If a monster already has a listed power which allows it to possess a living creature, as the ghost does with its malevolence ability, then it uses those rules instead.
Initial Contact and Tainting – When a possessing creature’s will first comes into contact with its victim, the victim must attempt a Will save. The DC of the save is equal to 10 + 1/2 the possessing creature’s Hit Dice + the possessing creature’s Charisma modifier.
- If the saving throw succeeds, then the victim hears phantom voices, is overcome with chills and perhaps feels a strong sense of foreboding but is otherwise unaffected. The would-be possessing spirit cannot attempt to possess the victim again for a full week.
- If the saving throw fails, then the victim’s mind has been tainted by the possessing spirit. Each day, the possessing spirit can attempt to force the victim to perform some action of its desiring, typically something which would debase the victim or result in blasphemy of some sort; at this level of possession, the victim cannot be forced to do something which is immediately lethal to itself or to someone else but there is otherwise no restriction as to what the possessing spirit can force its victim to do, subject to the limits of the victim’s capabilities. The victim is allowed another Will save against the same DC; if the check succeeds then the victim has resisted the urge but if it succeeds, the victim succumbs and performs the act.
The initial contact and tainting of the victim lasts only for a relatively short time, with the exact duration determined by two factors; the comparative dominance of the possessing spirit over the victim’s will and the raw power of the possessing spirit. The Required Time for Full Possession table is a guideline for the base time required for a possessing spirit to seize full possession of its victim.
Required Time for Full Possession
To determine exactly how long within the listed timeframe it takes for a possessing spirit to assume absolute control over its victim, subtract the victim’s Charisma score from the possessing spirit’s Charisma score. Then deduct this amount from the duration given in the Required Time for Full Possession table. So, for example, if a 13 Hit Dice demon with a Charisma of 19 was attempting to seize absolute control over a peasant with a Charisma of 9, it would do so in two days time. Likewise, if a 4 Hit Dice angel with a Charisma of 14 attempted to seize control over an orc warlord with a
Charisma of 8, it would do so after six months had passed.
If the possessing spirit actually has a lower Charisma score than its victim, then it can quite possibly take longer to complete the full possession than the time listed in the Required Time for Full Possession table. For example, if a 22 Hit Dice devil with Charisma 12 tries to seize control over a king with a Charisma score of 20, then it will take 20 hours for full possession to take effect.
Full Possession – Once a possessing spirit seizes full control over its victim, it can do as it will with its new puppet. Full possession is functionally equivalent to a magic jar spell, save that no receptacle is needed, there is no time limit duration on the spell and the possessing spirit cannot leave its victim (unless invited to enter another being). It gains none of its supernatural powers but does gain access to a few minor supernatural abilities, which it can use at will as a standard action.
It can use prestidigitation, mage hand, ghost sound, dancing lights and message at will, can use cause fear, charm person, unseen servant and major image 3/day and bull’s strength, bear’s endurance and cat’s grace 1/day. All these abilities can be used whether or not the possessed being can perform verbal or somatic actions, so they are cast as though both Silenced and Stilled.
Once a spirit has taken total possession of a victim, its essence is somewhat anchored to the mortal plane. It cannot be forced back to its own plane by means of banishment, dismissal, dispel evil or other, similar spells. Likewise, while an undead possessed victim can be forced to cower by means of turn undead, the possessing spirit is neither destroyed nor banished by that clerical ability. It is for this reason that exorcism is practiced, for it allows even non-divinely powered holy men to force demons and other extraplanar monsters to flee the mortal realm.
Mind Control is not Possession
In a typical fantasy campaign, there are many different ways through which monsters and men can seize control of a hapless victim’s mind, among them charm spells, drugs, bardic music, the nymph’s glance and domination spells. Though these magical effects have much in common with possession, they are not the same thing and cannot be dispelled or overcome through the use of exorcism.
Good Beings and Possession
In a typical fantasy campaign, good and evil are absolute moral constructs. In such a world, it stands to reason that powerful good beings would use their abilities to seize control of evil creatures, in an effort to either reform them or force them to destroy themselves or other evil beings. It also stands to reason that evil priests would, in such a world, have the ability to exorcise such meddlesome good spirits.
The rules for good spirits possessing mortal beings and the rules for exorcising good beings are identical to the rules for exorcising evil spirits.
Conducting an Exorcism
In order to conduct an exorcism, there must be a presiding priest or other holy man of some sort. The priest must have access to his holy symbol and must either be absolutely conversant in the relevant texts of his faith or have them on his person. The exorcism must also be performed in a quiet place, relatively free of interruptions – save those created by the possessed victim, of course. Many exorcists also find it helpful to surround themselves and their victims with candles, with holy symbols sacred to the their faith and with other such religious knick-knacks but that is a matter of taste and comfort, not an actual requirement.
A single priest is all that is required to perform an exorcism, but most choose to bring in both assistants who are conversant in religious matters and those who are conversant in decidedly more physical skills.
Finally, in order for an exorcism to be performed, the possessed victim must be present and must be bound or restrained in some fashion.
Once all the preparations have been made, the exorcism can begin. Once begun, it cannot be interrupted for longer than a few minutes, lest the efforts be wasted and the exorcism automatically fail. See below for further details of interrupting an exorcism.
At the beginning of the exorcism, the conducting priest must announce his intention to banish the possessing spirit and must formally declare that he is bringing the will of his god to bear against the spirit. Following that declaration and throughout the remainder of the exorcism ceremony, he must hold onto or brandish his holy symbol and recite the exorcism litany of his church. He must do this for a minimum of eight full hours.
At the conclusion of each eight hour period, the exorcist can attempt to exorcise the spirit from the victim. To do this, he rolls a Knowledge (religion) skill check; the following conditions modify the check, as appropriate:
- +1 circumstance bonus to the check if the exorcism is performed in a church of the exorcist’s faith. The bonus increases to +2 if the church is in the exorcist’s own parish.
- Assistants can use the aid another action to enhance the exorcist’s check. A maximum of two assistants can help in this fashion.
- +1 cumulative circumstance bonus (maximum equal to the exorcist’s Charisma bonus) to the check if the exorcist succeeded in his previous check (see below).
- –1 cumulative penalty to the check each time the possessing spirit succeeds at its Will save to resist exorcism.
- +2 sacred or profane bonus to the check if the exorcist is a cleric or paladin and uses a turn undead (or alternative divine power) use for the day.
The result of the exorcist’s Knowledge (religion) checks sets the DC for a Will save which the possessing spirit must then attempt.
The spirit gains a +2 circumstance bonus to the Will save if it is in full possession of the victim, since it is so firmly anchored to the mortal world. If the possessing spirit’s save is successful, then it has successfully weathered the exorcism for that eight hour period. If the save is failed, then the spirit’s hold on its victim is weakened, with results depending on whether the spirit had merely tainted its victim, or if it had completely possessed it.
- If the possessor spirit had simply tainted the victim, then it is forced out of the victim entirely and banished back to its own plane for a period of a year and a day.
- If the spirit had assumed full possession of the spirit, then its absolute hold is broken and it is now considered to only be tainting the victim.
If the possessing spirit resists the first exorcism attempt, or if its hold is weakened to tainting, then the exorcist can make another check after another eight full hours has passed, with results as outlined above. Once the possessing spirit has been completely banished, as outlined above, then the exorcism is ended.
If a spirit which has fallen from full possession of its victim to merely tainting succeeds at its next saving throw, then it regains full possession of the victim, gaining all appropriate bonuses.
The Costs of Exorcism
Performing an exorcism is extraordinarily taxing on body, mind and soul. At the conclusion of the second hour of the exorcism rite and each hour after that, the exorcist must attempt a Fortitude save. The DC of the save is equal to 10 + 1 per hour of exorcism after the first. So, an exorcist in the 3rd hour of the ceremony must attempt a save against a DC of 12. If the save is successful, there is no adverse effect but if the save fails, then the exorcist suffers 1d6 points of nonlethal hit point damage and is considered fatigued. Eliminating the nonlethal damage eliminates the fatigue. The exorcist who rolls the Knowledge (religion) check to exorcise the possessing spirit also becomes fatigued each time the spirit successfully saves – if already fatigued, the exorcist becomes exhausted instead.
In order to eliminate fatigue, the exorcist must rest for a full night, which will end the exorcism attempt. This means that an exorcist who is working alone must hope that he can end the ritual quickly. Exorcists who have assistants are more fortunate; while they are resting, a trained assistant can continue the exorcism ceremony, though any failures they suffer also penalise the lead exorcist when he resumes his work.
A Failed Exorcism
If an exorcism is interrupted before it is completed, or if the exorcist becomes exhausted, or if it otherwise fails for any reason, then the possessing spirit retains its hold on its victim. The exorcist who failed to exorcise the spirit cannot attempt to exorcise that spirit again for a full year and a day, regardless of who the spirit possesses.
Creation of Saintly Relics
When a cleric, or particularly pious non-spellcasting priest, receives his final reward, not all of his holy spirit passes into the realms beyond death. A portion of his essence remains behind, suffusing his mortal remains with divine energy. This energy can be harnessed and used in the creation of holy relics, the better to strengthen the faith the priest devoted his life to advancing.
What are Saintly Relics?
Typically, saintly relics are the preserved remnants of the body of a sainted figure, or holy man important to a faith. The most common relics are bits of bone, teeth, locks of hair, fingernails and the like, since those are the most easily preserved parts of the body. In a fantasy world, however, literally any part of the saint’s body can be preserved through the use of magic, meaning a saintly relic can be almost any body part; be it tongue, eyes. liver, genitals or heart.
Most faiths hold one or more parts of the body to be more sacred than the rest, a distinction based more on doctrine than on any real basis in fact. Still, since belief and faith are the basis of worship and divine magic, the mere fact that the church holds one part to be more holy than another works to make it so.
Collecting Saintly Relics
The remains of a priest can be used in one of two fashions, depending on the strength of the divine energy which the holy man possessed while alive.
- The remains of priests without access to divine magic can be placed within objects which are intended to be enchanted as divine objects. The presence of the holy relics both strengthen the power of the objects and facilitates their creation.
- The remains of clerics can likewise be placed within divine objects, but they can also function as magical items in their own right, either as objects which can be enchanted with outside divine effects, or in rare cases as objects which generate their own divine magic effects.
In either case, the steps necessary to prepare a saintly relic for use in producing magical items is the same regardless of type and follows the steps below.
The first step in preparing a relic for use is to harvest it from the deceased’s body in the first place. In order for a saint’s remains to be removed in such a way as to allow for the relic to retain its divine energy, the harvesting must be done in a ritualistic fashion, as dictated by the faith’s laws. Typically, this ceremony requires that the participants utter one or more prayers dedicated to the deceased saint and that they approach the removal of the saint’s body parts with appropriate reverence.
At least one of these harvesters must have 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (religion). There are no extra costs associated with the performance of the harvesting ritual. Under no circumstances can relics be harvested by a priest or cleric not of the saint’s faith. Efforts to do so automatically result in the dispersement of the saint’s sacred essence.
Once the potential relic objects have been removed from the saint, the remains of the body must be interred, as befits a peer of the church. If the proper burial services are not performed, then the potential relics cannot be enchanted, nor will they develop spontaneous abilities (see the Spontaneous Elevation section for exceptions to this rule), at least until such time as the oversight is corrected.
Obviously, a saint can only be harvested for so many potential relics. What is more, a saint’s body can only give up those body parts it still possesses, meaning a disintegrated saint will not offer up any potential relics and a saint whose body is several centuries in the grave will only be able to supply soft tissue relics under miraculous circumstances. The Potential Relics table gives a rough idea of how many potential relics a body can offer.
Of course, only the body of a deceased priest or cleric can ever be harvested for relics. Harvested body parts, and the magic items they are incorporated into, only function so long as the saint remains dead. If the saint is returned to life, then the harvested relics automatically cease to function and cannot be made to work again until such time as the risen saint has the grace to die once more. Likewise, relics cannot be harvested from clone bodies, nor may they be created through the use of a miracle or wish, or any other similar magics.
Once potential relics have been harvested, they must be preserved. In order to preserve a relic, a permanency spell must be cast upon it. The caster of the permanency spell must be of a level at least equal to half that of the saint whose spiritual essence is to be made permanent. The cleric who casts the permanency spell must sacrifice 100 XP for every relic to be preserved.
Once the saintly relics are subject to permanency, they must then be stored in specially prepared preservative solutions, if they are organs or other ‘soft’ tissues, or in specially prepared reliquaries if they are bone, teeth or other, similar materials. Preservative solutions are a mix of holy or unholy water and rare herbs and oils worth a total of 100 gold pieces; one dose of preservative solution is sufficient to store all a saint’s soft tissue relics. Reliquaries are objects which have been specially constructed to hold the saint’s remains and which have been blessed by a cleric of the faith; such reliquaries cost 100 gold pieces to manufacture.
Once a saint’s remains have been subjected to permanency and have been properly stored, they are made effectively eternal; they will not rot or disintegrate, nor will they lose their potency. They can still be destroyed, by fire or sword or rough handling, but will not otherwise lose their holy power.
Whose Body Can Supply Relics?
Typically, only the body of a cleric, druid, paladin, or non-magical priest can be the source of saintly relics. The decision of whether a non-magical priest’s body can be the source of relics is solely up to the discretion of the Games Master, who should keep in mind the Non-Player Character’s role in the campaign and in his faith.
So, for example, a 12th level holy man of the expert Non-Player Character class would not be a good candidate for supplying relics if his duties involved nothing more than tending the church garden. Conversely, a 6th level acolyte of the commoner Non-Player Character class would be a candidate for sainthood if he gave his life to carry a life-saving vaccine from his monastery to a city on the other side of the kingdom.
At the Games Master’s discretion, the bodies of nonholy characters can be the source of relics but this should happen only extremely rarely and only if the character died while performing some heroic service for a church, whether that service was intentional or not. Martyrdom is always a popular way to achieve this distinction, though one which few beings willingly choose.
Real life mythologies and religious texts are full of stories of saints whose remains miraculously did not succumb to the ravages of time and the elements. So, naturally, you might wish to incorporate similar elements into your campaign. It is easy to do. Simply rule that the body in question is specially blessed by the gods and that they have seen fit to preserve it in memory of the service the deceased performed.
Should you do this, however, you should keep two things in mind. First, the Players in your campaign may be leery of having their characters harvest body parts from god-blessed beings, even after you tell them there will be no consequences. Second, if you use this technique too often, it ceases to become special; a miracle which happens every adventure is not much of a miracle, after all.
There is one key mechanical advantage to spontaneous preservation. Namely, spontaneous preservation frees the cleric from the experience point and gold costs involved in preserving the relic. This means that Players will be less reluctant to incorporate relics into their magic items and frees up your gaming time for other issues.
Using Saintly Relics
Once relics have been harvested, they need to be used, lest they be nothing more than particularly disgusting holy paperweights. Relics can be used in one of two fashions, either as objects which can be incorporated into the construction of divine magic items, or as the foundation of magic items themselves. Each of the different uses is discussed in detail below.
Incorporated into Divine Items
A relic can be incorporated into an existing magic item, or into one which is being newly created. A relic can be incorporated into a magic item which falls into any one of the following categories: Ring, Rod, Staff, Magic Weapon, Magic Armour or Shield, or Wondrous Item.
Relics cannot be incorporated into potions, scrolls or wands.
A relic incorporated into the creation of an item does not raise the item’s base cost in any way (unless the character must purchase the relic on the open market, in which case the price is determined by the Games Master), nor does it raise the cost in experience points which the cleric must dedicate to creation. It does, however, add an effective gold piece cost equal to the level of the saint from which the relic came x 1,000 gold pieces but only for the purposes of determining how long the magic item takes to create.
An incorporated relic can be used in one of several fashions, chosen at the time of incorporation.
- Boost Caster Level: A relic can be used to increase the caster level of a magical item. A relic can boost the caster levels of a magic item by a maximum of ¼ the saint’s character level, rounding down, to a minimum of 1. The boosted caster level is not considered when calculating the costs of the item.
This means that the cost of an item whose powers are 14th caster level, with 4 of those levels coming from a relic, would be calculated as though its powers were 10th caster level. No more than one relic can be incorporated into an item for this purpose.
- Boost Charges: When incorporated into a divine magical object which uses charges, such as a staff, rod, or certain rings, weapons and wondrous items, a relic can be used to increase the total number of charges. A relic adds a number of charges equal to ¼ the saint’s character level (rounding down, to a minimum of 1) x 10. This means that a relic from a saint of 12th level would add 30 charges to a magical item. In the case of items like luck blades or rings of three wishes (miracles), then the relic adds a single charge per 5 full character levels the saint possessed. No more than one relic can be incorporated into an item for this purpose.
- Provide Enhancement: One or more relics can be used to provide enhancements when crafting a divine magical suit of armour, shield or weapon. When used in this fashion, a relic can power an enhancement bonus equal to +1 for every 4 character levels, or portion thereof, that the saint the relic came from possessed. This means that a relic from a 17th character level saint can power a +5 equivalent enhancement, such as the vorpal property. When used to power an enhancement, the relic negates the need for the item crafter to possess the required spells and minimum caster level. In addition, relic-powered enhancements are not considered when calculating the experience point cost of crafting the item. Enhancements added in this fashion still count against the maximum total effective enhancement bonus the item can possess. Any number of relics can be incorporated into an item for this purpose, subject to the maximum total effective enhancement bonus.
Crafted into a Unique Item
A saintly relic can also form the basis of a unique item. The rules for using a relic in this fashion are purposefully vague; since relics can take so many forms and there so many thousands of magic items already in print for fantasy gaming, it would take the full length of a this book to list all the possibilities. That said, here are some ideas and guidelines for using relics as the basis of a magic item.
- A bone relic of sufficient length can be used as the basis for a staff, rod or blunt weapon. When used in this fashion, the relic adds a number of points to the item’s hardness equal to 1/5th the character level of the saint the relic came from and a number of hit points equal to twice the saint’s character level. For the purposes of crafting a magical weapon, a relic is considered to be a masterwork item and at the Games Master’s discretion, it can possess other properties as well, which would render it mechanically equivalent to an adamantine item, or a cold iron weapon, or the like. A saintly relic weapon is always considered to be either holy or unholy and good or evil for the purposes of piercing magic resistance. It does not, however, automatically possess the axiomatic, anarchic, holy or unholy enhancements.
- When used as the basis of a wondrous item or ring, the relic adds a number of effective caster levels to the item equal to 1/5th the character level of the saint from whom the relic came but only for the purposes of resisting dispelling and other, similar magics.
- In any case, using a relic as the basis of a magic item alleviates the experience point costs of crafting the item. When a relic is used as the basis of an item, lower the experience costs involved in the item’s creation to 1/100th of the base cost.
- Likewise, when an item is crafted using a relic as its base, it is fundamentally linked to the laws of the saint’s faith. It can forevermore only be used by those of the saint’s faith. They need not be clerics but must claim the saint’s god as their own. If they do not, the item refuses to function. If the wielder is of the item’s faith, then the item functions at an enhanced level. It adds either a +1 profane or sacred bonus to attack rolls and skill checks, or adds +2 effective caster levels for the purposes of determining durations of the item’s abilities and resisting dispelling.
Relics as the Tools of Divinity
Saintly relics can also serve as conduits for divine power, either channelled through the caster or generated directly by the gods themselves.
A relic can be used by a cleric, druid, paladin or other divine caster to alleviate experience point costs involved in casting a spell. For every 4 character levels, or portion thereof, the saint possessed in life, a relic taken from his form can generate 1,000 experience points but only for the purposes of paying experience point costs involved in the casting of a divine spell. Experience points used in this fashion are permanently lost and when the relic has no remaining experience points, it loses all holy power forever. In addition, a relic which is used to empower divine spells in this fashion cannot be used for any other purpose for which a saintly relic can usually serve.
At the Games Master’s discretion, a relic can also serve as the conduit for a god’s direct divine intervention. Generally, this sort of relic is functionally identical to a wand, granting access to a single divine spell and a number of charges. The power of the spell and the number of charges depends on the saint’s spiritual strength in life, as outlined in the Maximum Power and Charges table.
Maximum Power and Charges
|Saint’s Level||Maximum Spell Level/Charges|
|1–2||1st level/10 charges|
|3–4||1st level/20 charges|
|5–6||1st level/30 charges|
|7–8||2nd level/20 charges|
|9–10||2nd level/30 charges|
|11–12||2nd level/30 charges|
|13–14||3rd level/30 charges|
|15–16||3rd level/40 charges|
|17–18||3rd level/50 charges|
|19||4th level/40 charges|
|20||4th level/50 charges|
Typically, the type of spell which is generated by the relic will be based on the nature of the relic and of the saint it is taken from. For example, a finger bone relic taken from a renowned healer is the perfect example of a relic which would cast cure moderate wounds or lesser restoration. Likewise, the forearm bones of a priest famous for his athleticism would be a good foundation for a wand of bull’s strength or cat’s grace. In all cases, the caster level of a saintly relic is equal to the character level of the saint.
One of the chief advantages of saintly relics with the ability to cast spells as a wand does is their relative toughness. A saintly relic of this sort has an Armour Class of 10, hit points equal to the saint’s character level, hardness 5 and a break DC of 20.
Wondrous Items and Saintly Relics
Should the Games Master wish, he can also decide that a deity has caused a saint’s remains to be filled with holy power, so that it gains magical abilities equivalent to a wondrous item. When used in this fashion, the Games Master should select an appropriate wondrous item and simply assign its powers to a relic. As before, the Games Master should be careful to select only those wondrous items which logically and thematically fit with the relic or relics in question. This means that a saintly relic which is a collection of finger bones should not be divinely gifted with the powers of a gem of seeing, nor should a saint’s teeth be given the powers of bracers of archery. Conversely, the hollow skull of a priest of water is the perfect candidate for the powers of a bowl of commanding water elementals and the braided hair of a drow priestess in service to the Dark Mother of Spiders is both a logically and thematically appropriate relic to receive the powers of a cloak of arachnida. Of course, the Games Master is free to break this rule and should do so occasionally, though even then he is encouraged to break the rule in a way that still makes sense with the character of the saint in question.
As a general guideline, a saintly relic wondrous item will have power equivalent to that possessed by the saint in life. While levels are not the absolute measure of faith and piety, they are the easiest measure for balancing powers. The Relic Equivalent Market Value table gives rough guidelines for the maximum market value of items whose powers should be replicated by a saintly relic.
Relic Equivalent Market Value
|Character Level||Maximum Market Value (gp)|
Feel free to ignore this guideline as it suits you but always keep it in mind, so that when you break it, you do so understanding the thematic consequences. One of the advantages of breaking the power vs character level guidelines is the fact that it can bring home to the Players the idea that piety is not based on one’s ability to break heads or bring down mountain ranges. Giving an infant child saint’s eyes the powers of a chaos diamond, for example, or an old beggar woman’s skeletal hand the abilities of gloves of dexterity, will help bring home the true mysteries of godly motivations to your Players.
Since saintly relics with wondrous item equivalent powers rarely fit in the ‘magic item slots’ defined in the SRD, the Games Master will have to carefully monitor the characters’ access to them. Items are partially balanced by the ease with which a character can blend their powers, so while a character who owns both eyes of doom and eyes of the eagle will only have access to the powers of one or the other at any one time, the same character with eyes of doom and a saintly relic eyeball with the powers of eyes of the eagle hanging around his neck will have access to both, which may cause slight balance concerns. That said, it should not prove to be of too much concern, since saintly relics are not likely to be common parts of your campaigns.
Generally, saintly relics only work for those who practice the same faith as the saint did. This is simply a guideline, however, not a hard and fast rule. It will prove, in many cases, for the Games Master to instead rule that they only work for those who prove themselves kindred to the ideals of the saint whom the relics came from. In this way, you can reward a barbarian character by giving him a club made from the thighbone of saint famed for his tireless courage and battle prowess, or give a rogue a set of fingers from the greatest nimbledabs who ever lived.
Introducing Saintly Relics
As a rule of thumb, a standard fantasy campaign should have no more than one relic per party member at any one time. Introducing more relics than this can cause Players to begin to see them as simply another magic item and while (from a rules-only perspective) that is really all they are, from a flavour perspective relics should and can be so much more than this. The following do’s and do nots should help you with your relic placement:
- Introduce relics at dramatic points in the game and introduce them when they will be of immediate use. Relics which cannot be used soon after they are received will quickly lose their lustre.
- Give relics to religious characters first and make sure they are tied in some way to the character’s faith and, if possible, to the character’s personality, actions and goals.
- Make sure to play up the relic’s divine nature, as that is key to maintaining the proper flavour.
- Be afraid to tie relics into the adventure or the campaign. A relic which has no story specific purpose is a wasted item. Divinities do not give of themselves, or their most pious servants, recklessly.
- Be afraid to remove or destroy a relic once it has served its purpose, so long as you remember to replace it with a suitable reward.
- Restrict yourself to only giving out incredibly powerful relics, or ones which are exclusively combat themed. ‘Pious’ does not mean ‘warlike’ and some of the most likely candidates for sainthood are going to be those who were more concerned in life with the welfare of the common man.
In real world history, false relics were incredibly common, since fervently devout peasants and nobles alike were desperately convinced that owning a bit of the true cross or a saint’s toenail would help alleviate the troubles and tribulations of daily life. So, its even more likely that false relics will be everywhere in a fantasy world, not only because there are more gods and great heroes for charlatans to abuse the good name of, but because the average peasant is even more likely to want a piece of those who have been verifiably proven to have touched the divine. The best ways to use false relics are either as adventure sparks or background colour. Since religious adventurers, will have a vested interest in stopping the spread of false relics (unless, of course, their own churches are selling the relics, which is a real possibility), it should prove a relatively simple thing to draw such characters into the hunt for dealers in false relics. This sort of adventure seed works especially well when you use the false relics as a means of luring the characters into the hunt for a true relic, particularly if the true relic is that which the false relics are based upon.