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.
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!
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.
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.
BURNING DEATH: (T) [inthelabyrinth.org] 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.
SHADOWSLAYER: (S) [inthelabyrinth.org] 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…