Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ghosts, Spectres, Wights

So there’s a new article over on WOTC about the art for undead. I had some comments to make, and I’m feeling egotistical enough that I think they might be interesting reading. (If you don’t click the link, the writing below won’t make a lot of sense.)

The ghost as shown looks hostile and not particularly human (living). It doesn’t fit the description. I’d prefer something with more detail and color — albeit faded and washed out — and just a hint of transparency. When we say someone looks “haunted” or has a “haunting expression”, it tends to imply sadness, distance, melancholy, a sense of a mood of loss and wasting. I see ghosts as fragments of source code left executing when the program has crashed, stuck in a loop, unable to get outside the boundaries of their mind (and a physical location as well). If pushed too hard (by overly inquisitive PCs), their sad loss becomes maddened rage, and they attack, with the damage they do physical or metaphysical based on various factors.

If specters are the victims of violent death, each should show clear signs of it — a perpetually bleeding wound, hideous burns, etc. They may “shift” over time, morphing from a seemingly healthy, but translucent, figure that resembles them before the incident, to a “freshly mutilated corpse” that shows them at the time of their death.

Wights should be, in my mind, those tied to the world by material things (as opposed to ghosts, who are tied by psychological things). You know how “you can’t take it with you”? Wights wouldn’t leave it behind. They are bound to the wealth in their tombs, and their appearance should be that of once-luxurious clothing, weapons, or armor, in rags.

I do not consider any of the art here exceptionally strong or evocative (sorry…), and the key weakness is the same — they’re all impersonal. Becoming a ghost, specter, or wight requires an emotion so strong that it is literally more powerful than death. This can be broadly categorized (personal loss, violent death, greed), but it will still manifest uniquely in each person. We should be able to tell a story about a ghost from seeing her picture. We should be able to imagine what she lost or why binds her here.

For the specter, the same thing — we ought to know how he died, and his clothing, gear, etc might give clues to what caused someone to kill him so violently (or it might not he could be the innocent victim of a madman — but that’s a story hook, too.). For the wight, again — we should see “That was a rich merchant; that was an arrogant noblewoman.” Make them people — dead people, but people who, in life had something so important to them that it allowed them to give the finger to Death.

Oh, Nifty!

I just found out my “AddInto” Firefox add-on can connect to this page. It’s likely y’all will be seeing much more frequent, and utterly trivial, updates, as now it’s really simple for me to connect to and comment on any random gaming stuff I happen upon.

A Spell For All Time: Acidic Mouth

A Spell For All Time: Acidic Mouth

Dungeons And Dragons Original  Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons  First Edition Dungeons And Dragons Third  Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fourth  Edition

Prior Articles In This Series

Inspired by some guy who was ranting on RPG.net about something. Look, I can’t be expected to remember trivial details like “who said it” and “what was the context”. Anyway…

This is the third in a series of articles showing how the same spell concept can iterate across generations. The first two were created by randomly rolling terms from a sourcebook. This one was, as noted above, inspired by RPG.net. I suppose I could do a whole bunch of those… “Induce Nerdrage”, “Unbias Moderator (Enchantment, Mind Affecting, Yeah Good Luck With That)”, “Greater Topic Drift”, “Celestial Banhammer”… uhm… wait, where was I again?

(Yes, it’s another iteration of Lizard going off an unrelated rant that has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and then pretending he’s talking out loud, not sitting at a keyboard using an editor, which means, he could just edit out stuff he knows is stupid and irrelevant, but he doesn’t, because he thinks it’s funny to pretend he is just writing this into a live feed and so can’t go back and correct things, which he self-evidently can, because he just fixed three typos. This is Overused Internet “Humor” Cliche #781.)

So. Acidic Magic Mouth.Don’t look for some kind of meta-reference in the name; the poster was talking about the limitations of the D&D magic system (basically, he wants Mage: The Ascension, and there’s nothing wrong with M:TA that 10,000 screaming White Wolf fanboys haven’t already written about at great length, but it’s not D&D), and he said something like “What if I want a magic mouth that spits acid?”, which struck me as pretty darn cool. So, here it is, dude whose name I’ve forgotten. In four versions.

Dungeons and Dragons, Original  Edition

Original D&D (“Brown/White Box” + Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry)

(As published in The Dragon’s Review Of Dungeon Strategy, Issue 21, “The Magical Mouths Of Mourdlane The Magical”)

Third Level

Mourdlane’s Acidic Mouth: This spell functions exactly as does magic mouth (Greyhawk, p. 22), and the magic-user must have that spell inscribed in their book to be able to learn this one. In addition to the normal functions of the mouth, this one can spit a gout of acid doing 4-24 points of damage to all creatures within 10′ of the mouth. It can do this either on a specific condition (“When a man in armor approaches”), or if a word is not spoken within 1 round of it delivering its message (often, this is a riddle or “What’s the password?”). It can be made permanent by using permanent spell, otherwise, it acts as a normal magic mouth.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,  First Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition

(As published in “Unearthed Arcana II”)

Acidic Mouth (Alteration/Conjuration)
Level: 4

Components: V, S, M

Range: Special

Casting Time: 2 segments

Duration: Special

Saving Throw: 1/2

Area of Effect: One object

In most ways, this spell is identical to magic mouth (Player’s Handbook), in regards to the limitations placed on the number of words spoken, how far the mouth can detect beings, what sort of information it can glean about those beings, and so forth. Indeed, this spell is presented in most magic-user’s books as supplemental to the aforementioned dweomer, and so that spell is required to be scribed in the same book as this in order for the caster to properly memorize it.

Acidic Mouth differs in that a second condition, pursuant to all the same limitations as the first, may be placed upon it, and if this second condition is met, the mouth disgorges a spew of caustic acid, striking all in a 20′ cone in front of it and doing 4d6 points of damage (save vs. magic for 1/2 damage). The second condition may be dependent upon a response or reaction to what the mouth says, or it may be triggered without the mouth speaking. Any conditional response must occur within one round of the speech.

The material component for this spell is a bit of honeycomb and a fresh lemon.

Note To Dungeon Masters: Be strict about the time limits of response. A stopwatch or egg timer can be a useful adjunct to this spell. The acid will burst within one round, so those asked a riddle must respond quickly, without undue chatter and consultation among the group. This can be a useful lesson for those sorts of players who dawdle and dilly-dally over the smallest thing. Also note that their screams of anguish as the caustic fluids eat into their skin may attract wandering monsters.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition

There was no version of this spell in AD&D 2e, as Lorraine Williams felt it lent itself to vomit jokes, which might offend someone, somewhere, somehow.

Dungeons & Dragons Third  Edition

Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition, Revised

(As published in “Arcanum Obscurum”, 2007)

Magic Mouth, Mourdlane’s Acidic

School:  Illusion (Glamer)/Conjuration

Level: Assassin 3, Bard 3, Wizard/Sorcerer 3

Casting Time: One standard action

Components: V, S, M (a comb of honey and a fresh lemon)

Range: Close (25 ft.+5 ft./2 levels)

Target: One creature or object

Duration: Permanent until discharged.

Saving Throw: Will negates (object), also Reflex half (see below)

Spell Resistance: Yes (object), No (acid, see below)

This spell is a variant that builds upon magic mouth (q.v.), and if this spell is prepared (or known to a spontaneous caster), they can choose to cast it as a simple magic mouth, as well. All of the normal rules for determining what may trigger the mouth, as described in the base spell, apply. However, there is a secondary trigger that can be added which, if tripped, will cause the mouth to shoot forth a burst of acid doing 6d6 damage, in a 30 foot cone, originating from the mouth’s square. This trigger may be “Fails to hear a specific word after delivering its message”, which is usually a riddle of some sort. However, it is often the case that the need to speak a word or take an action, such as making a particular sign with one’s hands, is not specified by the mouth; those who are “supposed” to be in the area will simply know what to do. The maximum delay between finishing the message and making a response is three rounds; at this point, the mouth will make the attack. Note that the trigger does not have to relate to the message at all; an acidic mouth can be set to speak its message if “any dwarf approaches within 20 feet” and to shoot acid if “any orc or goblin approaches within 10 feet”, for example.

A spellcraft check (DC 18) can determine if a given magic mouth is of the standard or acidic variety. A use magic device check (DC 25) can cause the mouth to perceive the trigger for spitting acid is either passed or failed, depending on the skill user’s choice.

This spell may be made permanent with a permanency spell.

Dungeons & Dragons Fourth  Edition

Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition

As published in Arcane Heroes, 2014

Acidic Mouth

The mouth set into the stone chuckles as the wrong password is given, then spews forth a great wave of acid at the unfortunate adventurers!

Level: 3

Component Cost: 50 gp

Category: Warding

Market Price: 125 gp

Time: 5 minutes, see below.

Key Skill: Arcana

Duration: Until discharged

This ritual must be performed within one hour of performing a Magic Mouth ritual, and on the same object or surface. When completed, the caster can choose a second condition which will, if met, cause the mouth to make an attack (see below for the exact parameters). The second condition may be set to trigger after the mouth has spoken, up to a maximum of three rounds later — this is often done to cause the mouth to ask a riddle, and it will spit acid “if the riddle is not answered correctly”. However, any otherwise legal condition is permissible, including spitting acid without speaking the message, if the two conditions do not overlap.

Arcana Roll Attack
<=8 None. The ritual fails. All components are lost. Really, this should never happen. What kind of schmuck doesn’t have at least a +9 Arcana if they’re casting a ritual in the first place, huh? I mean, you get 5 for training, plus your Intelligence bonus, + 1/2 level, right?
9-12 Close Blast 2, +5 vs. Reflex, 2d6 Acid, Ongoing 2 acid (save ends)
13-20 Close Blast 3, +6 vs. Reflex, 3d6 Acid, Ongoing 3 acid (save ends)
21+ Close Blast 3, +7 vs. Reflex, 3d8 Acid, Ongoing 5 acid (save ends)

 

 

 

On a miss, the acid does half damage and no ongoing. The DM should note the attack roll and damage of any such mouth placed as a trap.