Death Magics in The Fantasy Trip

Death Magic in The Fantasy Trip

Death magic! The stuff of legends! The things of high fantasy and low swords & sorcery! The Fantasy Trip has a few spells that can be considered true classic “death magics,” but there can always be more. And here are a few…

What Exists Now?

I’m talking about spells designed to take lives, to kill. Not spells that merely cause damage. Some spells are made to kill in battle, some in the shadows… These are spells that are part of the canon rules in Advanced Wizard:

Drain Strength. IQ 12. Even though this spell can’t kill the subject (according to the rules), it is still a nasty spell… Suck the victim’s strength and then a simple dagger thrust…
Open Tunnel. IQ 13. Another spell that can kill. The rules say it takes time to take effect, so the victim gets a saving roll–but it can vaporize them.
Death Spell. IQ 16. The classic. The rules don’t go into the actual effects, but I always imagined this was the spell used on the cover of basic Wizard–the face disappearing in a bubble.

Keep in mind, though, death spells are pretty much evil spells. If you consider killing bad guys in a standup fight good, then these spells are not for your good characters. If your world is, shall we say, more gritty and morally gray–then knock yourself out. This is a good opportunity for critical failures to have really nasty effects on evil wizards… Things like physical deformities, insanity, etc.

The Spells

But are these the only death magics out there? Hardly. Some more are listed below, gathered from other games. A common theme is all death magics are hard, and costly. That translates into high IQ requirements and high ST costs.

But it should also be more–much more. The very evil nature of death magic should force good characters to avoid them like the plague, while villains would kill their mothers for them. Penalize good characters who rush to use them, and reward evil characters who search for them.

Another thing, they should be rare. If every NPC wizard throws a death spell around, it diminishes the simple fear of them. Use with caution and for effect.

And so, with creeping dread and chilling fear, I give you… DEATH MAGIC!

IQ 15
MINDBLAST: (T) [GURPS] Creates a telepathic blast that overloads the mind of the subject. The victim has one chance: a saving roll of 4d against ST or IQ, whichever is higher. If the victim fails, he takes 4d damage. No armor or magic resistance prevents the damage. ST cost: 10.

IQ 16
DOOMTOUCH: (T) [GURPS] Allows the caster to strike the subject, draining the life force from them. Roll 5d. If the total is more than the ST of the subject, then the subject dies, with no resistance. If the total is more than the subject’s ST, then nothing happens. ST cost to cast: 10.

IQ 17
BURNING DEATH: (T) [] Slowly incinerates the victim from within. Each turn the spell is in effect, the victim must make a saving roll of 3d against ST. If he succeeds, he takes no damage. If he fails, he takes 1d of burning damage. Armor or magic do not prevent the damage from occurring. A critical success breaks the spell. Even if he makes his saving roll, he is excruciating pain, with -3 DX. After 3 turns, the victim’s clothing and personal items start to smolder, and after 12 turns will catch fire, causing an additional 1d-2 damage each turn.

This occurs each turn the spell is in effect, until either the victim dies or the spell is not renewed. If the victim dies, his body and belongings fall into a pile of ashes and blow away.

ST to cast: 7 to cast, 3 to maintain.

IQ 19
SHADOWSLAYER: (S) [] Creates a shadow assassin that hunts and kills the victim. The shadow will have the silhouette of the victim himself, and once it finds him–will attack and strangle him, killing him in one turn. The shadow assassin can travel at the rate of 10 km per day, and will unerringly find the victim.

No magic resistance or armor can protect the victim. The only defense is to have strong light that will allow no shadows–at all. As long as the spell is maintained, the victim is at risk. The only way to break the spell is to kill the caster or force her to not renew the spell.

Requires either physical touch or a physical piece of the victim to take effect (hair, fingernail, etc.)

Cost to cast: 10 ST, 5 to maintain.

All of this is good and all, but I think one of the best pieces I found was in GURPS Magic: Death Spells. There is a great page that has suggestions for special effects when death spells are cast. Here is a bit:

Air: Asphyxia; inflating someone until they explode; turning the victim to air and blowing them away.
Animal: Partial shapeshifting of an organ to a useless form; transforming the subject into small, mindless creatures that scatter.
Body Control: Any mortal condition, inflicted directly!
Communication and Empathy: Possession that fatally separates mind and body; telepathic attacks that destroy the brain.
Earth: Partial petrifaction of vital organs; total petrifaction followed by turning the stone to air, dust, or mud that blows or trickles away.
Fire: Wholesale save-or-die incineration!
Food: Poison that’s fatal if not resisted; Prepare Game perversions that messily turn the victim inside-out.
Gate: Super-accelerated aging; transportation to a plane inimical to life.
Illusion and Creation: Objects created inside vital organs; phantoms scary enough to cause heart attack.
Knowledge: Knowledge so terrifying it causes heart attack–or of a supernatural truth that kills!
Light and Darkness: Body of shadow snuffed out by a bright flash, or body of light doused in shadow.
Making and Breaking: Shatter, Explode, or Disintegrate variants that can destroy living matter.
Meta-Spells: Curses that cause immediately fatal coincidences; dispelling the cosmic magic of life itself.
Mind Control: Deprivation of the will to live; mindlessness too severe to support life; yet more heart attack-inducing fear.
Movement: Crushing telekinetic forces; teleporting away vital parts.
Necromantic: Destroying souls, draining life force, rip- ping out organs… it all suits the college of death!
Plant: Deadly poisonous plants, pollen, or slime; vital organs turned to wood.
Protection and Warning: Force walls that form inside of or cut through people.
Sound: Concussive effects within the body; words no mortal was meant to hear.
Water: Blood to acid; dehydrating someone and blow- ing away the dust; drowning; transforming the victim to water that trickles away.
Weather: Heart-attack inducing lightning jolt; turning someone to lightning and grounding them out.

Have fun roleplaying these effects when you use death magics in your games!

So, what kinds of death magics have you used in your games? Do you allow them at all? Tell me in the comments…

Marko ∞


  1. For the most part, we never got high enough in IQ to use even the existing “superspells” much less any of these. So I can’t really say I have much experience with “death spells” per se. In our games, the death spells were more like repeated applications of the combat spells (Magic Fist, Fireball, etc.) until someone died. And, on one memorable occasion, someone kept casting the Fire spell on a hex that a character was in until he burned to death…

    Death magic was certainly understood by my players to exist, though. I kept a few legendary stories in circulation about such things, even if the players couldn’t think of a spell that they knew that would actually have the described effects. So I guess, in my games, “Death Magic” was more an element of atmosphere, a story that served to shadow their lives, and a source of fear than it ever was an actual factor. But maybe that’s all you need it to be most of the time. I suppose if they ever confronted Sauron, or Emperor Palpatine, it would have been a necessary thing for the villain to use, but since they never got anywhere near that kind of adventure, it never became a “thing” for us.

    As I look back on it, it’s really too bad. And of course now, since I live way out in the boonies in Northern California, I no longer have a group to run through such an adventure. *sigh*

  2. True, Jeff. A lot of these really are for color–the evil sorcerer who has the magic power to strike a hero dead… you are right, too: they are great for legends and myths, things to scare players and characters…

  3. Jeff, your comment about being in the hinterlands is well taken. Even though I live in OKC, it might as well be Alaska when it comes to TFT. That is why I’m really getting into solo gaming. I’ll post more info on that as I work through it.

  4. I’d LOVE (let me repeat that: LOVE) to hear your thoughts on solo gaming. I’ve been looking at a lot of things about “mechanical GMs” (there are several books out on that recently) and playing my Dark City Games (as well as my original Metagaming) solo adventures, but at the end of the day, solo roleplaying is still hard for me to wrap my noggin around. Any advice or thoughts you have would be DEEPLY appreciated!!!!

    Especially regarding how you “develop” a roleplaying adventure beyond just running through a dungeon and being a murder hobo. (Unfortunately, I’m not schizo enough to work out an actual plot line and then “surprise” myself with it! ;-) )

  5. I’m not sure that Open Tunnel should be lumped in with “Death Magic” – mostly because the intent of the spell is simply to allow easy mining and labyrinth building. Killing is incidental. Sort of like saying a steamroller is a “killing machine” since if it runs you over you will be squashed thinner than a coat of semi-gloss paint, but in fact would largely be a freak accident more than anything. Also, it should be pointed out that multi-hex creatures may or may not be killed, depending on size and which “hex” gets vaporized.

    Personally, I don’t like this spell. At minimum I would reduce the saving roll from 4 to 3 dice, maybe even 2 dice, to reflect the fact that it should not really be intended to be a true combat spell. For a mere IQ 13 spell as written it is just too deadly – potentially even more so than an IQ 16 Death spell. Just not logically balanced with the rest of the game.

  6. Thanks, Charles. I included that spell because the canon listing talked about it being used to kill someone. You make some good points…

  7. A nice bit would be to put a book detaining one of these monstrous spells in the lair of the BBEG when the PCs discover it and force the villain to fall back to his next hide out. Does he know the spell?!? How scary would that be…

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