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Maldin's Greyhawk

Spirit Combat

by Denis Tetreault
Version 1.0

Spirit Combat is a new type of mental contest tailor-made for the direct competition between minds/souls associated with creatures from the outer planes. The concept of Spirit Combat originated from ideas developed by Joe Rush and Steve Speyer in the early '80's which I heavily modified and expanded into what you see presented here. My purpose was to develop a system of mental combat that could be associated with the use of summoning, magic circles, and the creation of intelligent magical weapons and items. I always felt the few spells associated with this field of study, such as magic jar and trap the soul, were not up to the task involved. The core rules describe how entrapping a creature within a magical circle of confinement lowers Intelligence and makes them more vulnerable.... but to what? Though a mental discipline, psionics does not fit into this niche at all, being more of a mental version of normal magic. And I felt that attempts to deal with the fiends on this new terrain had to rise beyond the simple use of raw magical power. The characteristic used in determining this type of combat is Willpower (Pow for short), and is described on my "New Player Character Stats" webpage.

Do your players feel they can go toe-to-toe with the master manipulators of the mindscape? The eaters of consciousness? The harvesters of souls? Not bloody likely! But they might have fun trying! ;-)

Who uses Spirit Combat?

Spirit Combat is a test of wills unique to certain outer planar creatures whose stock and trade are minds and souls. DMs should limit its use to combat with the fiends (baatezu, yugoloths, gehreleths, and tanar'ri) and their equivalents on the other outer planes (such as the aasimons, slaadi, and modrons). Allowing PCs to enter into this sort of combat with any being is certain to invite abuse of what should be a rare and dangerous encounter. For this reason, I have ruled that while planars may initiate combat with each other, the planars (and non-planars) cannot initiate combat with a non-planar mind except under special circumstances. Combat with other beings is normally only possible when mediated by special magic items such as the Book of the Guardian, as described below, but DMs can of course develop there own "exceptions to the rule". Non-planars can initiate combat with planars, however.

Because the mind and soul are considered sacred and sacrosanct, creatures from the upper planes will normally resist all attempts to enter into combat. Those of the neutral planes may or may not accept the challenge, depending on the situation and the nature of their attacker. Those of the lower planes will almost always accept the challenge, knowing that they are, of course, the superior beings and certain to win. Also, the benefits to be gained are great. Generally they do not initiate combat between themselves because, if they were to lose, their enemies might discover important secrets. And there is always a chance, no matter how slim, that a creature with a higher score will lose to another with a much lower score. Hence they are generally under orders from their superiors to not initiate combat with the enemy except under certain circumstances, though most will not allow a challenge to go unanswered. Most evil planars have permission to squash any weakling non-planars who have the gall to challenge, "acquire" their knowledge, and collect their souls if possible. Creatures with lower Willpower such as imps, spinagons and rutterkin (generally, any planar creature with a Pow of less than 14), will always flee if at all possible or attack physically when challenged.

Calculation of Creature Willpower

To calculate a player character's Willpower, refer to my "New Player Character Stats" page. Outer planar creatures excel at Spirit Combat, and most have scores that reflect their theoretical maximum based on Level and Intelligence. This is particularly true of those creatures that have a vested interest in minds and souls, such as the baatezu, tanar'ri, and yugoloths. Unlike other characteristics, there is no maximum, however at high hit dice (=level) and intelligence the value is not a direct calculation (otherwise some would have scores in the 40's and 50's!). The following chart holds true for all creatures, however it is highly unlikely that a non-planar will ever reach a high enough score to require this chart. Since physical toughness has little to do with mental fortitude, only use true level or hit dice when making this calculation. Additional hit points, which are more a reflection of Constitution, do not count. For example, a 2nd Edition arcanoloth has 12+24 HD and an Intelligence of 19-20. The +24 hit points are not counted, so it has a Lvl+Int of 31-32 (which, from the chart below, yields a Willpower of 25 or 26).

Lvl+Int   Willpower
    2             7
    3             8
    4             9
  5-6           10
  7-8           11
 9-10          12
11-12         13
13-14         14
  15            15
  16            16
  17            17
  18            18
  19            19
  20            20
  21            21
  22            22
23-24         23
25-27         24
28-31         25
32-36         26
37-42         27
43-49         28
50-57         29
58-66         30
67-76         31

Introducing Spirit Combat to your Campaign

One can say that the learning curve on Spirit Combat training is rather steep! The only way to learn the technique is to be attacked. For this reason, DM's should only consider introducing Spirit Combat to mid- to high-level PCs. Though outer planars will not normally initiate combat, the DM could have a specially trapped fiend (along the lines of a magic jar or trap the soul victim) reach out to a PC under special circumstances (an abandoned evil conjurer's lab, or ancient evil temple). The method I used to introduce Spirit Combat to a PC was the discovery of a magical tome in the conjuration laboratory of an evil archmage.

The Book of the Guardian radiates magic and outwardly resembles an ancient, well-crafted spellbook. If anyone opens the book and so much as glances upon any page, the entrapped spirit of a lower planar guardian immediately reaches out mentally and attacks them. This spirit should have a Pow score of between 14 and 18 (the DM can choose this to more evenly match the PC most likely to pick up and read the book). Suggestions for the trapped creature include hezrou tanar'ri (Pow 17-23), red abishai (14-16) or hamatula (17-18) baatezu, or (if the DM is feeling particularly cruel) a mezzoloth yugoloth (15-17). DMs who use 1st Edition rules have a wider range of possibilities, where some of the true demons have lower intelligences. If the PC wins the combat, he or she can peruse the pages without further interference, and learn about Spirit Combat technique and the types of actions that can be taken after victory (see below). The guardian will not attack that particular PC again.

If the PC loses the battle (as happened in my campaign), then the fun really begins. The entire battle with the guardian will take less than 2 rounds, so it easily possible that the rest of the party will not notice the momentary trance as the PC stares into the Book. The magic of the Book enables the victorious guardian to immediately Soul Switch, no matter how many points it has left. After the switch, it will be momentarily disoriented, but the disorientation does not last long. The fiend cannot employ any of its physical attacks, because it is now in a human or demi-human body, but it can employ any of its magical attacks! (Hence the particular nastiness of using a mezzoloth.) A hezrou is a likely as not to immediately launch into a violent attack upon the party, but an abishai, hamatula or mezzoloth will likely attempt to masquerade as the original PC, size up the party's abilities, and bide their time until they can either get away or destroy the group. The creature may even use its inate abilities while faking spellcasting actions to maintain the masquerading of a wizard or priest. The remaining PCs may eventually notice something awry if they are observant enough... a flash of cruelty, a short temper, a lack of personal knowledge. In my campaign, my players were suspicious fairly quickly and incapacitated their "friend". The second wizard then inspected the Book and was immediately launched into a combat with its guardian... which he then discovered (after losing the battle and getting sucked into the Book himself) was now his friend! So now the mind of wizard 1 was in wizard 2's body, wizard 2 was in the Book, and a tanar'ri was in wizard 1's body!!! A real mess indeed. It was eventually sorted out by switching wizards 1 and 2, then forcing the tanar'ri to look onto the Book again and combatting it a second time, this time the wizard won and switched back into his real body. Because they were all relatively evenly matched, none of the switching could have been done without the Book (not enough points left after each battle).

Initiating Combat

Combat is offered by "reaching out and pushing" with your mind, much like the process of psionic telepathy, though any creature trained in Spirit Combat can accomplish this, whether psionic or not. If the creature being attacked "pushes back" then combat proceeds and both creatures are locked in conflict until one is defeated. Neither can pull out without opening themselves to the conditions of failure. If the attacked creature does not "push back" combat is not initiated, and all mental contact ends there. Protective circles have no effect on combat, although confinement over a long period of time can lower intelligence, and thus lower the maximum Willpower of the trapped creature.

To differentiate a creature's original Willpower ability score from its current mental state, the latter is refered to as its Power score. Power starts off equal to Willpower, but may be less after a Spirit Combat round, or after confinement within a magical circle, level-draining, enfeeblement, or other circumstances that effect a creature's mental state.

Game Mechanics

Each combatant rolls a d20 and adds that number to their current Power score. The numbers are compared and the loser subtracts 1 point from his current Power score. Ties result in 1 being subtracted from both creature's scores (mental exhaustion from wrestling to a draw). There are 10 such exchanges (or combat rounds) per round, so combat may not last very long before one combatant is defeated.

A roll of 1 on the d20 always means failure in that combat round, and may result in a Critical Miss. Roll a save vs current Power and consult the following table for additional "mental damage" over and above the standard 1 point subtracted from the loser's score.

Equal to or under Power score - no additional damage
> Pw to 2xPw -  1 point additional damage
> 2xPw to 3xPw - 2 points
> 3xPw to 4xPw - 3 points
> 4xPw to 5xPw - 4 points
> 5xPw - 5 points

A roll of 20 on the d20 is a critical hit, and always means that the opponent will loose a point (or more) even if the opponent still won the combat round (because they have a higher current Power score and rolled high on their d20). Roll a d100 percentile, and consult the following table:

01-60  +1 damage
61-80  +2 damage
81-90  +3 damage
91-96  +4 damage
97-99  +5 damage
   00    +6 damage

Once combat stops, Power points can be slowly regained. Any sort of activity limits recovery to 2 points per turn. Resting and deep meditation will enable the recovery of 1 point per round. During this time of "drained" mental capacity, a character should also be more vulnerable to other forms of mental attacks such as psionics, enchantment spells, and certain lower planar environments, and DM's should modify saving throws appropriately as they see fit.

Possible Actions after Victory

After a creature wins in Spirit Combat, they may immediately expend any spare Power points they have left to affect the loser. For example, if after combat is complete, the winner only has 5 points left, he may expend a maximum of 4 points. Any action must be taken immediately, and cannot wait until the victor has meditated and recovered any points. Obviously, the more expensive actions can only be possible if a creature with an extremely high Willpower quickly defeats a creature with a low Willpower. For this reason, it is very unwise for a human mage with above average Willpower (maybe a 14 to 16) to take on a Pit Fiend (Pow 25) or Ultroloth (Pow 26). ;-) It should also be noted that before expending all your remaining points, you should make sure your opponent doesn't have any friends around, because you will be left defenseless until mediation and rest heals your battered and exhausted mind.

Action            Cost           Explanation
Soul Compel        1          As suggestion spell
Soul Stun             2          Stunned 2d4 rounds
Soul Bruise          3          Temporarily lowers Intelligence and Willpower by 2 points for 2d6 hours
Soul Command     4         As Domination
Soul Warp           5          Inflicts a form of insanity (choose from your favorite table)
Soul Switch         6          Minds exchange bodies
Soul Search         6          Search opponent's mind and memory, can learn history, desires, true name, etc., nothing can be hidden
Soul Wound         7          Permanently lowers Intelligence and Willpower by 1 point
Soul Meld            8          Two souls within one body, losing soul does not know about 2nd soul present
Soul Containment 10        Forces soul into an object, can be used to create special magic items
Soul Banish          12        Soul banished from body, becoming a free spirit
Soul Slumber        14        Sleep for 1 month, cannot be awakened short of a wish,
                               expending additional points results in longer sleep periods:
                              +1      1 year
                              +2      10 years
                              +3      100 years
                              +4      500 years
Soul Slavery         18        Victim becomes a total slave to the victor in every way
Soul Death           20        Permanent death, soul is destroyed, no resurrection is possible

Increasing Willpower

Winning a Spirit Combat battle stretches the mind, builds confidence, trains concentration, and teaches successful technique, so the winner's Willpower increases, much as weight training builds muscles (up to an individual's natural maximum, of course). Gains can be reasonable at low Willpower scores, however as Willpower increases the gains decrease. And the nature of Spirit Combat is so dangerous that entering combat willy-nilly at every opportunity is a recipe for disaster. Even a high-score creature taking on a low-score creature could suffer a few critical hits and easily lose a battle. The odds of that happening become quite good if a large number of mental battles are attempted. Spirit Combat is best reserved for very rare and very special situations. After a victory, consult the following table to determine how much Willpower increases by. Remember that fractions have no effect on combat, only whole numbers.

Score    Increase
  <17     1/2 unit
17-18    1/5 unit
19-20    1/10 unit
21-22    1/20 unit
23-25    1/50 unit
  26+     1/100 unit

The actual value of a "unit" varies according to the difference between scores of the two combatants. Obviously defeating a creature with half your Willpower shouldn't reap the same benefits as defeating one with a higher score.

Therefore, "one unit" is equal to (Pw of Enemy divided by Pw of Character)²  to a maximum value of 1 point. This is assuming that the character won the combat, of course.

Though it is highly unlikely that a non-outer planar creature will acquire a Willpower of over 23, remember that the score can never exceed Intelligence+Level as modified by the chart at the top of this page. Wishes may be used to raise Willpower in the same manner as any other characteristic, i.e. above 16 it takes 10 wishes per point gained. However, not even a wish can raise Willpower over the Int+Lvl maximum.

Campaign Use

Spirit Combat can be used for several things. It can be used in the creation of powerful magic items where a creature is forced into a specially dweomered receptacle and magically sealed within (9th Level spell) so it cannot attempt escape by successful Spirit Combat. It can be used to learn great secrets from planar minds that resist most magical and physical "encouragement" . It can create a near perfect disguise for a spy (think of a wizard "borrowing" a baatezu body, and prowling around Baator!). And it can be a powerful, yet very dangerous weapon. DMs and players beware! ;-)

As a final note, I'd like encourage DMs to adapt this new technique to their own special campaign circumstances. If you find Spirit Combat useful, let me know. And if you find new ways of using Spirit Combat, or develop addition Spirit Combat rules for things like magical circles and magic item creation... send me a note describing it! ;-)

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This page last modified on December 20, 2004