Thursday, September 10, 2020

Is the Cleric spell Protection from Evil too powerful?

This question, one of many from Mark, regular gamer and commentator on all things Vanishing Tower (VTP), is definitely an issue I put in the undecided box. And is a spell, much like Read Magic, which I struggle with cap-stoning with a definite and unequivocal opinion. The tendency for myself and players is towards specificity. The nebulous definition of “Evil” in a variety of fantasy relevant context is rendered more apprehensible with hard walls. Hard and fast definitions. “Elves are good, Orcs are evil.” Black is back and white is just alright with me, just alriiiight, oh yeaaah. 

But my game world, my fantasy campaigns tend to begin with the question, or nature, of evil relatively unanswered. Outside of societal norms defining moral and its opposite, evil, the nature of a roleplaying game is to have these big questions answered in play. And so is why everyone wants to know the answer to these type of questions before play, or when they come up.See the source image

So my answer is the bullshit one, it depends. What is the right call at the moment? Everything in a roleplaying game is case and or context dependent. Some one has to decide what is or isn’t evil in the game world and that job ultimately ends in the DM’s lap. My best efforts have come to a couple of “best practices” I’ve adopted for myself. Have the player define what their god considers good and evil. Accept it and incorporate their ideas into the pantheon developing. And when I say accept it I don’t mean make it all true. Just be super-mindful of it and you can be prepared for when you have something they believe their spell would protect them, and it doesn’t! If they really start to push on it sucking ask them if they have considered their god may not be correct in all things? Maybe their god is fucking with them? Maybe their god lied about this subject? It makes sense to attack, or frame, the PfE spell with less specificity on the front end because it preserves the fascinating feature of emergent play.


  1. What is evil?
    Interesting question especially considering the nature of the Dying Earth setting you have. For example in a realm ruled by vampires would feeding upon humans be seen as evil or would it be taken as an honour to have a family member selected? And any who opposed it was going against tradition.
    As for clerics in could be even murkier assuming a base level of what is good and what is evil (murder, theft etc.) you have to factor in the god's point of view for example these things are evil unless they are done in the advancement of my faith.i agree with your comment about the best way to decide is through gameplay develop the settings morality organically it will certainly keep your players busy as each realm might need a completely different set of rules.

  2. There are human slaves among the ranks of the royal vampire houses. They take their position, and ultimate sacrifice, as a great honor. Families hold these servant/slave positions for generations (think Victorian England). There are human societies which live in the wilds. They fear the vampire and hide deep in the forests of Zeu Orb. These are hunted like foxes for sport.

    As for Clerics my mythology is pretty chopped up. So far I have them behaving like Moorcock's "gods", so good and evil is relativistic, it all depends on the god's inclinations and passions.

  3. I find vampire society so interesting as it doesn't seem to be so bloodthirsty. They live forevrr, have abilities far removed from the mortal norm and they might only need a pint or two of blood a day/week to exist.
    So through religion or the promise of great reward a large part of the population might be pretty cool with it. After all some feudal obligations in history were worse Russian serfdom wasn't a great laugh so the Lord drinks X amount of blood from the nearby villages it's better than him taking 80% of our crops, though if the heroic adventurers see it that way is another issue. In fact they would make excellent pawns of a lesser vampire as waiting to become the next lord must suck if that particular lord is undead.

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