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    Default [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Hello and welcome back to the forums. I do not want to devolve this thread into an alignment debate.

    I have always found alignment spells fascinating. It is something truly unique to D&D and while other games (such as Vampire's humanity) have similar ideas, nothing encompasses good versus evil like D&D's alignments. I love to give my good divine characters Protection from Evil. My wizards are prepared with a Magic Circle against Evil, even if it is just for summons.

    But I want to talk about spells like Holy Word, Holy Smite and Holy Aura. To an extent I want to talk about stuff like Align Weapon, Consecrate, Weapons against Evil or Spear of Purity. From a design perspective, these spells are intended to be harmless/helpful for those with the correct alignment, mildly inconvenient for neutral creatures and dangerous for those who are the opposing alignment.

    I have never seen these spells work their full effect. Not even in "cinematic" moments, where the heroes or the villain bombards the enemy army with their version of Holy/Unholy Blight. Because usually commoners are neutral-ish, so unless you got an army of fervent crusaders, you hit your own people too. You can't even snipe the disguised lich out of a crowd of followers because chances are the lich resists the magic, but a few commoners die because they cannot handle your holy light.

    If you use these spells with reckless abandon, chances are you'll drop from your Good alignment. If you kill too many underlings as an Evil character, you can assume an upcoming revolt. We all know how the spells work. So my questions are mainly aimed at those interested in game design. Be it DMs, interested players or homebrewers. How do you manage this?

    Do you make most citizens/soldiers of a good empire good aligned?
    Do you homebrew these spells?
    Do you welcome the notion of "a few of you may die but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make"?
    What does a game without alignments even replace the spells with, if they replace it at all?

    I am of course familiar with the ideas of radiant and necrotic damage and the idea of fiends and celestials of 5e. But that kinda pushes the problem away from the usual actors in a dramatic subtext. Angels are guardians of mortals. Fiends are the tempters. They are usually not the focus of the game. BoVD and BoED have their own ways of dealing with it (which I am not completely familiar with) but vile and exalted damage seem overly complicated.

    In my personal experience, we have suffered a devastating Dictum from an enemy general (again my character was neutral, so I could undo the one guy who did not succeed on his save with a restoration spell the following turn). A fellow player has used Unholy Aura (even though the only thing she got was the save bonus and the SR, both of which were redundant because we played drow fighting against another evil wizard). I tried casting Holy Smite once on three targets. Two made their save, the third one took mildly inconveniencing damage, making the spell slot be more useful with a buff (even prayer) or a healing spell.
    Last edited by Spore; 2020-02-22 at 08:37 AM.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    your best option here is to simply avoid getting your own people in the area of effect.
    otherwise, you could just use detect alignment on your soldiers and form a few special platoons of only good soldiers that will stay close to you and will be immune to your blasting. though, frankly, if you are casting 7th level spells, then you have no business with regular soldiers.
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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I've successfully made the point to my current players that they can't be sure everyone around them is good aligned, so they understand that recklessly using magic that powerful could harm or kill innocent bystanders.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I've been fighting a lot of undeath and demons in the game I'm in currently, and as a CG cleric of Corellon Larethian, the [Good] spells have been doing well by me.

    I have been using spells like Celestial Brilliance and Holy Storm with my crew. Our mage regularly uses crowd control spells such as Solid Fog and Freezing Fog, so pop a Storm in there and they take constant damage. Celestial Brilliance cast on a bauble or ball and toss it into a fight and everything is in that radius. Heck, I could put the ball behind me and it'd still be doing good damage over time. Magic Circle Against Evil is absolutely great and its AC bonus saves my butt on a regular basis.

    I'm a melee Cleric, lost five caster levels for the ability to REALLY hate undead as a Ranger. As such, a buff like Holy Transformation, Lesser. It's not the strongest buff, but it's useful.

    In the game, we're gearing up for the defense of a citadel from an army of Undead. Celestial Brilliance is going to create some pockets of safety from the horde, so yeah, I'm waiting for that to go down.
    Last edited by Wildstag; 2020-02-22 at 01:02 PM.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    your best option here is to simply avoid getting your own people in the area of effect.
    We did usually play theater of the mind, and even if I did DM with a battle map, I immensely dislike "precision bombing" ala square perfect fireballs. Simply put, I won't allow such precision in my games, and I will not try to use the spells as such when I am the player.

    But yeah, I get the general idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by DarkSoul View Post
    I've successfully made the point to my current players that they can't be sure everyone around them is good aligned, so they understand that recklessly using magic that powerful could harm or kill innocent bystanders.
    Good on you I guess? A good aligned soldier of the enemy faction is no innocent bystander. An evil civilian would be. Then you devolve into alignment debates. Does an evil villager deserve to burn up in righteous glory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wildstag View Post
    I have been using spells like Celestial Brilliance and Holy Storm with my crew.
    Yes, these spells are cool. Yet again, evil soldiers, even if they fight against the undead just MELT in your storm.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spore View Post
    Yes, these spells are cool. Yet again, evil soldiers, even if they fight against the undead just MELT in your storm.
    Tell me, why would a Good cleric be travelling with evil creatures or associating themselves with a contingent of Evil soldiers? If it's a platoon of evil footmen, and you want to buff or heal them, are you willing to be complicit in their later deeds should they survive the battle and loot, murder, pillage, rape, etc.? Part of playing a character is considering their surroundings. You could go the lazy route and say "well I like playing with my friends, and they want to play this while I want to play that", but that doesn't really make for a satisfying story.

    Besides, the two aoe spells I mentioned are aoe, but they don't hinder one's ability to get out of it. So you can easily filter out the evil soldiers by watching them run from the very visible source of damage. Additionally, Holy Storm is one of those spells that has other alignment options. There's Axiomatic Storm, Unholy Storm, and Anarchic Storm for the other alignments. So prepare and cast the one that will deal maximum damage to the foe while dealing the minimum damage to your allies.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    The spells hit a 40 ft radius, not an entire city. If you use it in a room with closed doors, it won't leave that room. If you travel with a good-aligned party (relatively likely) and there's no-one in the room who isn't either in your party or trying to kill them (most D&D combats) then the chance of acccidentally hitting a LN civilian with your holy word are about zero.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spore View Post
    We did usually play theater of the mind, and even if I did DM with a battle map, I immensely dislike "precision bombing" ala square perfect fireballs. Simply put, I won't allow such precision in my games, and I will not try to use the spells as such when I am the player.
    This also probably explains why your players' AoE spells aren't working the way they're meant to. I certainly wouldn't cast spells which could hurt my allies if I weren't able to aim them, in which case the alignment-based spells are better than the standard-issue fireballs of this world because they won't kill your own party even if your DM decides to aim your holy smite on top of the party fighter.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I had Holy Word used on me once, as a player (in an Evil party), and that was enough I houseruled the CRAP out of the line and made it Fort negates. "You automatically loose" is just bad design, especially with how relatively reivial it is to get into the automatic "I win" stage.



    As for the others, it has never come up. Evil parties either don't care or simply endevour not to be fighting in urban areas, good parties tend to fight enemies which are usually all Evil and again, don't tend to lon any area-effect attacks off when civilians are around anyway, so it's not something that comes up often. Come to that, a lot of the alignment spells (sans the aforementioned words, which are too abusable unmodified) are a bit paff, so if area damage is required, the character will have usually have loaded something better anyway. (Holy Smite/Unholy smite will tend to obly get loaded as a domain spell if there's not a better option, for instance.)

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I recently played a Lawful cleric in a Discord game that was in a throne room suddenly beset by a huge number of demons that teleported into the room and summoned many of their fellows immdiately. I cast Dictum and banished 90% of them back to their home plane in the first round of combat. It didn't take long to finish off the rest. I was later told that the DM had planned on us being driven out by that attack, not winning it outright.

    Regardless, all version of the holy word line of spells have the [Sonic] descriptor, which means any creatures under the effect of a silence spell are immune to their effects. There are couple of similar effects that also prevent such spells from functioning, such as binding winds, a level 2 Druid spell on pg. 27 of the Spell Compendium.
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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spore View Post
    We did usually play theater of the mind, and even if I did DM with a battle map, I immensely dislike "precision bombing" ala square perfect fireballs. Simply put, I won't allow such precision in my games, and I will not try to use the spells as such when I am the player.
    You'll generally know in advance which spells you're preparing.

    Greater Spell Immunity can handle the 7th level ones like Dictum, Holy Word, Blasphemy, and Word of Chaos, while the regular Spell Immunity can handle chaos hammer, holy smite, order’s wrath, or unholy blight, (at the same level you get those domain spells, even). Ten minutes/level, so you'll need to know you'll be using it soon, but not exactly when.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    My Oracle used Holy Word to end an entire CR 20+ encounter in a single cast once.

    Mind it was MYTHIC Holy Word, but the idea still is there.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Does all your combat happen in crowded cities? Holy Word is just as useful (if not moreso) in, say, a dungeon or crypt - and works great when plane-hopping too.

    The point being, gaggles of civilians make lots of area spells hard to use, not just the aligned ones - picking the right tool for the job is an expectation that comes with being a caster.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I had a demon worshipping CE cultist use both blasphemy and word of chaos to full effect. Full effect, here, being the slaughter of an entire city block, and slowing a fight to a crawl as everyone but him were under the effects of confusion.

    Both spells were calculated, and both went off as intended.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spore View Post
    If you use these spells with reckless abandon, chances are you'll drop from your Good alignment. If you kill too many underlings as an Evil character, you can assume an upcoming revolt. We all know how the spells work. So my questions are mainly aimed at those interested in game design. Be it DMs, interested players or homebrewers. How do you manage this?
    As DM - you don't. IT IS THE PLAYER/PC's obligation to not use spells with possible collateral damage with reckless abandon. If they don't want to become non-good because they don't care what otherwise innocent bystander gets blasted by a religious verbal nuking - then they don't use it without first being very assured that only those who have been found naughty in the sight of their deity shall snuff it.
    Do you make most citizens/soldiers of a good empire good aligned?
    Really I mostly don't give them alignments at all until it becomes important for them to actively demonstrate their PERSONAL religious, philosophical and moral beliefs.
    Do you homebrew these spells?
    No need. Other than the more utilitarian smites and such, alignment-focused spells aren't of much interest to most players or they'd use them. But, it is somewhat presumptuous to say that too because few games reach the levels where the really big alignment-punishing juju is even available.
    Do you welcome the notion of "a few of you may die but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make"?
    Again, that's a matter for the player and their PC, not me as DM. But, I make it as clear as I can at the outset of the game, reinforce it along the way, and verify things again when important alignment issues arise and need adjudicating - If you as a player want your PC to go down that road, there won't be any road blocks - but there will be context appropriate consequences and the choice to go down that road is always - ALWAYS - a verified deliberate choice by the player.
    What does a game without alignments even replace the spells with, if they replace it at all?
    I personally have a firm and comfortable grasp upon alignments and what I believe they should do/not do in my games. They serve a purpose for me. I do not omit or replace them, just clarify my position on them to my players.
    BoVD and BoED have their own ways of dealing with it (which I am not completely familiar with) but vile and exalted damage seem overly complicated.
    I don't need special extended rules from BOVD and BOED. The basic rules I have serve just fine. If anything I've always seen those two as creating as many if not more problems than they solve. I personally have no use for them, thus have no advice for anyone on how to deal with issues that might be found therein.

    In my personal experience, we have suffered a devastating Dictum from an enemy general (again my character was neutral, so I could undo the one guy who did not succeed on his save with a restoration spell the following turn). A fellow player has used Unholy Aura (even though the only thing she got was the save bonus and the SR, both of which were redundant because we played drow fighting against another evil wizard). I tried casting Holy Smite once on three targets. Two made their save, the third one took mildly inconveniencing damage, making the spell slot be more useful with a buff (even prayer) or a healing spell.
    You may not have realized this but saves increase with level. Bonuses that can be applied to saves from other spells, items, etc. also increase as opponents increase in level. As you get into higher level spells and bigger, badder effects, chances INCREASE that targets will successfully save. Babe Ruth was famous as a home run king. But he also struck out a lot. He struck out MORE than he hit homers - 1.48 strikeouts per homer. I would phrase it as - if your clerics and other casters want to swing for the fences, that's fine. It will result in plenty of BIG WIN moments. But they have to expect that more often they'll come up short and have to try again with something more. It's just the way the math of the game works.
    Last edited by D+1; 2020-02-28 at 08:54 PM.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I don't think of them as "selective" so much as "AoE spells that are specialized against certain foes". Although if the entire party is good-aligned, it's not too uncommon to have only yourselves and foes in the vicinity.

    Re: targeting - unless the opposing forces are completely intermingled, you don't need pinpoint precision to avoid hitting your allies. If you're facing an entire _army_ of demons, just cast it a good way back from the front lines!

    If you're saying that it's impossible to knows how big your own spell that you've been casting for years is, that frankly doesn't sound realistic to me, it sounds like the PCs are supposed to be clowns.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I had a case a few years back where an AoE alignment-based spell worked to good effect, but not as intended. A PC had gotten into a situation where he was surrounded by grues (evil elemental creatures). He wasn't the party tank, so being surrounded was not a good situation for him. My cleric cast Holy Smite, assuming it would hurt the grues and not him.

    Thing is, the other player intended for his character to be CN, and was RPing that at least well enough for the GM to not object. I had been acting under the assumption that he was CG. (The "C" part was not really in any doubt by anyone.) It would have been reasonable to make the decision "he's more likely to get killed by the grues than by this spell, so I'm gonna cast it even though it'll hurt him," but that wasn't the actual reasoning in play.

    Luckily, the spell did do a lot more damage to the grues than to the PC, the PC survived the fight, and neither he nor the GM were upset about it. So all's well that ended well, even if it didn't work exactly as I (or my character) intended.
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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    When alignments are forced due to DM/campaign upon the players or they just share a alignment per coincidence, they can be great AoE tools to avoid friendly fire. Imho the best use for such spells.

    I don't really get the problem. I mean, a regular AoE spell like Fireball is less flexible in these regards. Sure it's a niche, but if you can fulfill the requirements you have a nice tool. AoE onto areas with your allies (not random people) but only affect those who don't share your alignment is nice to have imho. A normal AoE spell would need metamagic to get similar results.
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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gruftzwerg View Post
    When alignments are forced due to DM/campaign upon the players or they just share a alignment per coincidence, they can be great AoE tools to avoid friendly fire. Imho the best use for such spells.

    I don't really get the problem. I mean, a regular AoE spell like Fireball is less flexible in these regards. Sure it's a niche, but if you can fulfill the requirements you have a nice tool. AoE onto areas with your allies (not random people) but only affect those who don't share your alignment is nice to have imho. A normal AoE spell would need metamagic to get similar results.
    Selected-foe-only AoE is not the problem; no-save-or-suck is the problem (in 3.5, PF apparently ALSO added a Will save against the effects (aside from the banishment), though even they didn't go as far as I did). Fireball doesn't automatically blind/paralyse you just because the caster has a CL a few higher than yours. (The death effect is largely irrelevant, granted, as 10 level is SO high that your already likely at the "doesn't even matter if they make their Reflex save" with Fireball et al anyway.) One caster level for automatic blind is kind of trivial to get, and five is not that hard and unless you are fighting a dragon or something, it's an automatic win button - that scales forever - which makes it worthwhile to invest some effort. (Doubly so from DM to PC.) Paralysed for D10 minutes might as well be instant kill for all intents and purposes. Hell, D10 ROUNDS would be bad enough.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander View Post
    I had Holy Word used on me once, as a player (in an Evil party), and that was enough I houseruled the CRAP out of the line and made it Fort negates. "You automatically loose" is just bad design, especially with how relatively reivial it is to get into the automatic "I win" stage.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander View Post
    Selected-foe-only AoE is not the problem; no-save-or-suck is the problem [...] One caster level for automatic blind is kind of trivial to get, and five is not that hard and unless you are fighting a dragon or something, it's an automatic win button - that scales forever - which makes it worthwhile to invest some effort. (Doubly so from DM to PC.) Paralysed for D10 minutes might as well be instant kill for all intents and purposes. Hell, D10 ROUNDS would be bad enough.
    Those spells are mostly a pain because CL is too easy to boost, not because a no-save debuff is necessarily a problem at those levels; you don't see many complaints about high-level power word spells, after all. They're a problem because in the 3.0 -> 3.5 transition some developer turned a mook-clearing spell based on fixed HD brackets (12+ deafened, 9-12 blinded, 5-8 paralyzed, 0-4 killed) into a slayer-of-PCs-and-minibosses spell based on CL without realizing what effect that would have. I've been houseruling in the 3.0 versions (slightly tweaked so e.g. they're still boosted if you have an alignment domain) for most of my games for years and it's drastically cut down on their abusability.
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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    It seems to me that your problem stems from the situation of your campaign (or how you envision the battles in which sufficiently levelled-characters partecipate), rather than a strict issue with the spells.

    Obviously AoEs are dangerous in situations where you can't make sure they won't hit your allies or innocent bystanders, but this requires either a confused melee or a foe in the middle of a crowd you don't want to hurt. While the former is something casters have to grapple with even at lower levels (wizards casting fireball and hitting the party's frontline fighters as well as their opponents is a meme for a reason), the latter requires to be in a specific situation.

    High-level D&D isn't necessarily about large armies of mortals fighting on a open field or engage in sieges. It can very well be about small band of heroes fighting against a villain and their diabolical minions, or a group of Evil characters attacking a stronghold of Good guarded by paladins and angels. In those situations, spells like Holy/Unholy Blight are perfectly viable, and I would suppose a lot of campaigns feature battles of this kind. In a boss fight at the end of a dungeon, there is no risk of unintended bystanders unless the villains are going to try and use innocents as a meat shield (and while it obviously happens, not every boss is going to do this).

    Even in my campaigns where wars broke out and castles were besieged, I found that it's much more fun to have the armies in the background while the PCs fight against specific members of the opposing side: leaders and high-ranking officials, accompanied by trusted aides or summoned monsters (which either match their alignment or are Neutral), preferably in some climatic location where the risk of interference by the grunts is minimal.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    I don't think Holy Word/Blasphemy/etc are actually as deadly as people think they are. Yeah the tier 2 effects kind of suck but there is a quite a few ways to get around the spells. If anything Dictum's slow effect is probably the nastiest, though Holy Word blind is a solid second.

    It allows SR. Silence (a level 2 spell) stops it dead in it's tracks if the caster or target is in the area of effect. As mentioned having the same alignment cancels it completely. Also while in theory paralysis is a nasty effect there is a half dozen creature types that are outright immune to it and FoM also negates paralysis effects.

    If anything the only real big issue with them is if you abuse CL boosting methods, which is a whole other issue at high levels of optimization and at those levels players who are vulnerable to the paralysis effects of Holy Word spells are probably already screwed for another reason.

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    Default Re: [3e/PF] Has someone ever successfully used an alignment spell ala Holy Word etc.?

    The real issue is that it kills low level Neutral characters:

    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/holyWord.htm

    Up to caster level -10: Killed, paralyzed, blinded, deafened

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post

    Re: targeting - unless the opposing forces are completely intermingled, you don't need pinpoint precision to avoid hitting your allies. If you're facing an entire _army_ of demons, just cast it a good way back from the front lines!

    That's not going to work for a spell with area "Spread, centered on the caster"
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2020-03-04 at 06:07 AM.
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