Judicial Curses

Crime and Punishment

Author Keith Baker

Series Campaign Style

Publisher Atlas Games

Publish date 2003

There are times when a criminal cannot be brought to justice, or when she is simply too powerful for the forces of the law to overcome. But where an evil archmage may be able to resist any minor spell a crusading cleric has in her repertoire, the church can call on the power of the faithful to overcome his resistance. If a spell is identified as a judicial curse, it has the following benefits and restrictions:

Ceremonial Force: You can increase the power of the spell by taking additional time to perform the ritual and by receiving support from assistants. This increased effect is measured in ceremonial force.

For every two hours you add to the casting time of the spell, you receive 1 point of ceremonial force. You can receive a total of 3 points of ceremonial force by increasing casting time.

For every two assistants you have helping you with the ritual, you receive 1 point of ceremonial force, to a maximum bonus of 3. Assistants must be of at least 2nd level in a class that has the potential to cast the spell in question. To provide you with this benefit, an assistant must perform the verbal and somatic components required by the spell, and he must participate for the full casting time of the spell.

If the spell is divine in nature, you can increase its power further through use of a sacred relic of your deity. The nature of the deity will determine the nature of her relics; a goddess of knowledge might have spread the pages of the first book across the world, while a war god would treasure the weapons of his sacred champions. You cannot create a relic, and it’s ultimately up to the GM to decide if your god even has relics. Depending on the holiness of the object, you will gain 1 to 3 points of ceremonial force from its presence. Even if you have multiple relics, you cannot gain more that 3 points of ceremonial force. Arcane casters may be able to mimic this effect by creating esoteric spell amplifiers; this is left up to the GM. Ceremonial force has the following effects:

  • Spell formulas (such as spell range) may be modified by the number of points of ceremonial force in the spell. These effects vary, and details can be found in the description of a specific judicial curse. For example, steal the painful memory uses ceremonial force to determine both the range of the spell and the number of people that it can affect.
  • The ceremonial force is added to the DC of the spell’s saving throw. This cannot increase the DC by more than 5 points.
  • If the spell effect can be removed with break enchantment, the ceremonial force is added to your level to determine the effective caster level of the spell.
  • Unless otherwise specified, the effects of a judicial curse can be broken with remove curse. Add the ceremonial force of the spell to your caster level; the character attempting to break the curse must be of equal or higher level or remove curse will fail.

Example: You’re a level 15 cleric casting scourge. You take two hours (+1 CF), you have two assistants, (+1 CF) and a minor relic (+1 CF), for a total of three points of ceremonial force. This increases the saving throw DC by 3 and adds 15 (3 x 5) miles to the range of the spell. If someone uses break enchantment to try to remove the curse, the DC of the check is 29 (11+15+3).

Restrictions: A judicial curse can only be used on a creature who could normally fall under the jurisdiction of your justice system. Nationality is not an issue, so most societies could target any human; but you can’t excommunicate a dragon. As an optional rule, the GM may decide that judicial curses cannot be used unless the target has actually been convicted of a crime (even if she was tried in absentia); alternately, he could receive a +5 bonus to his saving throw if he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

These benefits and restrictions only apply to spells that are clearly designated as judicial curses! You can’t increase the power of a fireball just because you have a few friends working with you.

Spells of Judgment

The following section presents a few new spells designed to punish the guilty. Anathema, Ban, and Excommunicate are tools that a theocracy can use to mark its enemies, while sever from the source is a severe punishment for an arcane caster. Malediction and scourge are more powerful forms of bestow curse; scourge is a particularly flexible spell that can be tailored to produce especially appropriate punishments.

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