One of the innovative new ideas in the Eberron campaign is that of the living spell--a spell giving permanent form and semblance of life during the terrible battles of the war that eventually created the Mournland. This unique use of the template mechanic applies a template to a spell rather than an existing creature, opening up a vast number of possibilities for new creatures. In this series we'll create stat blocks for various "common" living spells (saving you the work of doing so) and explore the boundaries of the living spell template by applying it to unusual spells or those that don't quite fit its requirements. The end result for you is a series of useful living spells, some of them less predictable than others.
Any spell capable of blinding large numbers of opponents is valuable in war, and glitterdust saw heavy use in Cyre, especially against enemy leaders and spellcasters, whose blindness greatly interfered with their ability to direct troops and target enemies. The spell was also used defensively (to check an area for invisible assassins and saboteurs) and as a long-range signal (as the sparkling dust is visible at great distances). Its frequent use during the Last War means that living glitterdusts are not uncommon in the Mournland, though they are more of an annoyance than a significant threat, particularly as most of them were cast by low-level spellcasters. This living spell was formed by a glitterdust spell with caster level 4.
This thing looks like a faintly sparkling cloud of golden dust, some parts drifting lazily and others whirring with mad speed. It leaves a trail of golden dust behind it as it creeps forward, feeling its way with ropelike pseudopods.
Living Glitterdust CR 4
Engulf (Ex) A living glitterdust can flow around a Medium or smaller creature as a standard action. It cannot make a slam attack during a round in which it engulfs. The living spell merely has to move over the opponents, affecting as many as it can cover. Opponents can make attacks of opportunity against the living spell, but if they do so they are not entitled to a saving throw against the engulf attack. Those who do not attempt attacks of opportunity must succeed at a DC 13 Reflex save or be engulfed; on a success they are pushed back or aside (opponent's choice) as the spell moves forward. Engulfed creatures are subject to the full normal effect of the glitterdust spell each round on the living spell's turn, and are considered to be grappled.
Sometimes it's a good idea to tweak a templated creature's abilities to suit its unique nature in a way that the general template doesn't address--by changing or adding abilities that are thematically appropriate, the creature becomes more well-rounded and less predictable to players who memorize monster statistics. In the case of this creature (which is based on a spell that illuminates invisible creatures) it would be reasonable to give it the ability to see invisible creatures, but as the template gives the creature the ooze type (which has blindsight) this customization is not necessary.
Living Ice Storm
The ice storm spell saw much use during the War, especially against enemy groups containing fire creatures such as fire elementals. A cadre of Cyrran mages calling themselves the Frost Batallion used it in almost every battle, coupled with conjured ice para-elementals. Unfortunately they were almost entirely wiped out when three of their ice storm spells transformed into living spells and devoured them. A warforged called Ironjaw now living in Sharn was witness to this event and can describe what happened in detail. Living ice storms are especially dangerous in the winter months, as they easily blend in with the strange weather in the Mournland. Sometimes they lay dormant in lakes or pools, freezing solid a small area around them, breaking free when they choose to move again. This living spell was formed by an ice storm spell (sorcerer/wizard version) with caster level 8.
This flurry of falling hail and snow does not follow the wind and seems more intense than the surrounding weather.
Living Ice Storm CR 8
Engulf (Ex): A living ice storm can flow around a Large or smaller creature as a standard action. It cannot make a slam attack during a round in which it engulfs. The living spell merely has to move over the opponents, affecting as many as it can cover. Opponents can make attacks of opportunity against the living spell, but if they do so they are not entitled to a saving throw against the engulf attack. Those who do not attempt attacks of opportunity must succeed at a DC 16 Reflex save or be engulfed; on a success they are pushed back or aside (opponent's choice) as the spell moves forward. Engulfed creatures are subject to the full normal effect of the ice storm spell (see above) each round on the living spell's turn, and are considered to be grappled.
Designer's Notes: The core concept of the living spell template is that it is an ooze-like creature that creates a spell effect when it attacks. One of the problems with applying templates is that the resulting creature may be unexpectedly more or less powerful than the CR adjustment of the template would indicate, simply because of how the base creature's and template's powers complement or interfere with each other. It's possible to rigorously playtest each living spell, but this is time-consuming and most DMs simply don't have the resources to playtest new monsters before using them in an ongoing campaign. In some cases it is helpful to compare the resulting living spell to an existing monster with similar abilities. As published monsters are playtested more than a quickly-built templated creature for a home game, this comparison helps make sure the living spell's abilities are appropriate for a creature of its CR, especially if you're using a spell that the template doesn't normally allow.
We'll test this method with the third living spell presented here: confusion. The confusion spell technically can't be used with the living spell template -- it affects targeted creatures rather than an area (although it's actually targeting all creatures within an area, so it's almost like an area spell). However, confusion is a neat idea for a living spell monster -- it keeps beating on its enemies until they're all dead or have wandered away. As it turns out, the gibbering mouther is a creature that has an at-will confusion ability, plus it is amorphous and therefore immune to critical hits just like a living spell, making it a perfect candidate for this exercise.
It is possible to take this method to an extreme conclusion: building a living spell by adapting an existing monster and adjusting its abilities to make it more like a living spell, rather than applying the template to a spell. An example of this is Stohpo-Ahk, which is a "living spell" based on a phasm but customized to reflect its "origin" as a meld of living spells involving polymorph, acid, and stone. Reusing existing game mechanics -- in this case, an entire monster's statistics -- is a quick way to make a living spell encounter with a fairly certain idea of its target CR.
One common tactic of mid-level enchanters in war is to use the confusion spell on enemy troops; affected creatures are either removed from combat (by fleeing or doing nothing at all) or are likely to attack their own allies, increasing casualties and weakening morale. The Cyrran enchanter Igarn carried a metamagic rod of quicken which he used often in conjunction with this spell to turn flanking troops against their center, and it is believed that one living confusion roaming the Mournland is fused to Igarn's lost rod--the properties of the item and spell interact strangely, allowing the living spell an extra attack each round (whether the item would survive the death of the creature is unknown). The living spell presented here was formed from a confusion spell with caster level 8.
This ephemeral mist seems to contain dozens of floating eyes and mouths which fade in an out of existence. The cloud roils and twists in a chaotic fashion.
Living Confusion CR 8
Engulf (Ex): A living confusion can flow around a Large or smaller creature as a standard action. It cannot make a slam attack during a round in which it engulfs. The living spell merely has to move over the opponents, affecting as many as it can cover. Opponents can make attacks of opportunity against the living spell, but if they do so they are not entitled to a saving throw against the engulf attack. Those who do not attempt attacks of opportunity must succeed at a DC 16 Reflex save or be engulfed; on a success they are pushed back or aside (opponent's choice) as the spell moves forward. Engulfed creatures are subject to the full normal effect of the confusion spell (see above) each round on the living spell's turn, and are considered to be grappled.
Let's compare the living spell to the gibbering mouther. The spell is CR 8 and the mouther is CR 5, so the spell should be tougher than an encounter with two mouthers (CR 5 + CR 5 = EL 7). The spell's DC is higher but it only affects one creature per round, whereas the mouther's confusion ability affects all nearby creatures. The spell has more hit points than one mouther but less than two, but its DR/magic and SR 18 make up for the slight deficit compared to the EL 7 encounter with two mothers. The spell's blindsight is better than the mouther's darkvision. The spell lacks the mouther's ground manipulation ability but is much faster. The mouther has more attacks per round but they do much less damage. The mouther's blood drain ability is powerful but the spell can hold more creatures within itself (4 Medium creatures for a Large ooze compared to 1 Medium for the mouther, or two Medium creatures for a pair of mouthers). The spell's attack and grapple bonuses are greater than the mouther's but its AC is lower. Overall, the living confusion spell seems comparable to an encounter with a pair of gibbering mouthers (it is better in some ways and worse in others), which means that the living spell's CR may actually be 7 instead of 8. If an encounter with this living confusion spell seems easier than its CR indicates, consider adjusting the CR value down to 7 when awarding experience points.
About the Author
Sean K Reynolds lives in Las Vegas and develops worlds for Upper Deck as well as running his own small press d20 company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Savage Species. You can find more game material at Sean's website.
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