Death Spells

April 15th, 2015

Joshua Zaback

Obscure Arcana Archive

                Death spells have long been a part of fantasy roleplaying games and fantasy media at large. From the simple concept of spells which instantly kill, we have many variations, all with something in common: there is some way to get out of it. Either the target can make a saving throw, or could have too many Hit Dice or hit points, or the attack could miss, etc. Recently, these spells have also been distinguished by function, as some spells (phantasmal killer, power word kill) just instantly kill the target, while others (finger of death, destruction) simply do very high amounts of damage. The point is, death spells are always interesting, and the idea of using magic to instantly kill your foe can be used to create myriad unique and interesting spells, but rather than talk about them anymore, why don’t I just show you with this selection of unique kill spells?


School necromancy [death, evil]; Level sorcerer/wizard 9, witch 9
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (the eye of recently deceased human)
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target one living creature
Duration instantaneous (see text)
Saving Throw Will partial, see text; Spell Resistance yes

                This terrible spells produces a deadly force, which seeks out the living in order to snuff out their life-force. If the initial target of this spell fails his saving throw, he suffers 300 points of damage and the spell ends. If the target succeeds on his saving throw, the spell is not ended; rather, the spell energy seeks out the nearest living creature to the target (within the spell’s range) and affects that second target. If the second target also succeeds on his saving throw, this process continues until a character fails his save. A creature can only be targeted by any given instance of this spell once (but can be targeted again if the spell is cast again). When the spell energy reaches the last available target of the spell (i.e., there are no remaining valid targets within the spell’s area), that target automatically suffers 100 points of damage (even if he succeeds on his saving throw) and the spell ends. If a target has no soul, he suffers no damage from this spell.


School necromancy [curse, death, evil]; Level antipaladin 4, cleric/oracle 7, sorcerer/wizard 6, witch 7
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF (heart-blood from a raven)
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one creature
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude negates and Fortitude partial; Spell Resistance yes

                You curse the target, slowly siphoning away his life-force. The target is allowed an initial Fortitude save to negate the effects of this spell; if he fails this save, the curse takes hold and may become strong enough to utterly destroy him. Once the curse takes hold, roll 2d6. If the result is equal to or greater than the target’s Hit Dice, the target instantly dies. If the result of the roll is less than the target’s Hit Dice, the target must succeed on a new Fortitude save each round at the beginning of his turn or feel the curse get stronger. If the target succeeds on three such Fortitude saves, the spell ends. Each time he fails a Fortitude save in this way, roll an additional 2d6 and add it to the previous result. If the sum of all the d6s rolled when using this spell ever exceeds the target’s total Hit Dice, the target instantly dies. Unlike other death effects, this spell is fully effective on undead, constructs, and other non-living creatures such as elementals. Such creatures rot, deteriorate, or diminish as the spell goes on.


School necromancy [death, evil]; Level antipaladin 4, cleric/oracle 8, sorcerer/wizard 7, witch 8
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF (the finger bone of a dead human)
Range touch
Target living creature touched
Duration 1 round/level or until discharged
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance yes

                With a touch, you gouge the target’s life-force, gravely injuring him. This spell requires a melee touch attack to hit. If you successfully touch the target, he suffers 100 points of damage. You may make 1 touch attack, plus 1 additional touch attack for every 5 caster levels beyond 15th before this spell is discharged.