Removing Alignment From Pathfinder – Part Two: Magic

Alignment and magic is one of the newest examples of alignment changing from being a set of personal morals and ethics to becoming part of the game mechanics. While classics like detect evil have been around forever, it’s newer that spells like blasphemy can now damage you more or less depending on your moral state. And of course, this also goes for several magic item properties – want to know if someone’s a bad guy or not? See if he takes a negative level when he tries to wield that holy sword, and voila.

Continuing where part one left off, this is a guide to removing alignment from your Pathfinder game. In this installment, we’re going to comb through spells and magic items and remove alignment wherever we find it. So without further ado, let’s begin.

Alignment Descriptors

The first change to make, and the easiest, is to simply get rid of all alignment descriptors on spells and magic items. This is an altogether minor change, as these had virtually no game significance anyway. As such, getting rid of them requires little more than a hand-wave.

Alternately, you might want to keep these descriptors for spells as the sole place where you retain alignment in your game. That’s because – just like using the Dark Side of the Force can be inherently corruptive – using certain types of energies, found in specific magic spells, can also sway a character who utilizes them. Even if that happens, however, it’s purely a role-playing effect, as there’s no mechanic for a character being so altered.

Cleric Domains

Perhaps surprisingly, we’re keeping the Chaos, Evil, Good, and Lawful clerical domains. Why? Because these are still metaphysical ideals that gods can represent, and mortals can strive for. A cleric of a benevolent deity might still worship that aspect of his or her god, and strive to do good in the world. It’s just that goodness isn’t an absolute anymore, and so we tweak the alignment domains like so.

Chaos domain: The chaos blade domain ability now grants a weapon the throwing and returning magic weapon properties. Otherwise it functions as listed.

Evil domain: Delete the second sentence (“Creatures sickened by your touch count as good for the purposes of spells with the evil descriptor.”) from the touch of evil domain ability.

The scythe of evil domain ability now grants a weapon the wounding magic weapon property. Otherwise it functions as listed.

Good domain: The holy lance domain ability now grants a weapon the defending and merciful magic weapon properties. Otherwise it functions as listed.

Law domain: The staff of order domain ability now grants a weapon the ghost touch and spell storing magic weapon properties. Otherwise it functions as listed.

Finally, we come to the domain spells for these domains. In fact, these domain spells are near-total mirror images of each other. Since we’re merging, deleting, or tweaking alignment-based spells (see below), these domain spells are going to be completely identical to each other. Hence, all four of the aforementioned domains have the following spell list:

1st – ward of protection, 2nd – owl’s wisdom, 3rd – warding circle, 4th – blast of faith, 5th – dispel scourge, 6th – planar ally, 7th – word of faith, 8th – divine aura, 9th – summon monster IX.

Note that, of the original domain spells, only the 2nd- and 6th-level spells weren’t just analogues of each other (and the 9th-level spell, which was the same for each, save for a now-obsolete alignment restriction). I elected to replace these with, respectively owl’s wisdom and planar ally because both seemed appropriately religious without mandating a particular moral or ethical stance – being wiser, or summoning a divine ally, will advance your cause no matter what it is.

Spells

Align Weapon: Deleted. This spell has no application in this game, since DR doesn’t use alignment anymore.

Atonement: It’s barely worth mentioning, but this spell can’t undo a forcible alignment change since there is no more alignment to forcibly change. However, all of its other functions still work normally – so your paladin who was hit by a spell that made him start butchering orphans is still going to need somebody to cast this on him after he comes back to his senses and finds that his powers are gone.

Bless Weapon: We’re going to delete this spell entirely. Since we’re removing the alignment component of damage reduction (more on this next time), this spell’s ability to overcome DR is pretty well made superfluous by magic weapon. It does score critical hits on any threat now, not just against evil creatures…but frankly, I think this is rather stupid, as the spell says this effect doesn’t work if the weapon has any sort of critical-related enchantment, like the keen property.

A spell that’s actually less effective if you upgrade your weapon? How lame is that? As such, this spell goes bye-bye.

Detect Evil/Good/Law/Chaos: Delete these spells entirely. They don’t do anything except detect the emanations of a part of the game we’re doing away with, so they’re entirely superfluous now. From now on, determining what sort of person someone is will be more difficult than using a first-level spell that deals in absolutes.

Dispel Evil/Good/Law/Chaos: These spells, which have multiple functions, are all replaced with a tweaked version called dispel scourge, described below.

DISPEL SCOURGE

School abjuration; Level cleric 5, paladin 4

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Target or Targets you and a touched creature from another plane, or you and an enchantment or spell on a touched creature or object

Duration 1 round/level or until discharged, whichever comes first

Saving Throw see text; Spell Resistance see text

Shimmering energy surrounds you. This energy has three effects.

First, you gain a +4 deflection bonus to AC.

Second, on making a successful melee touch attack against a creature from another plane, you can choose to drive that creature back to its home plane. The creature can negate the effects with a successful Will save (spell resistance applies). This use discharges and ends the spell.

Third, with a touch you can automatically dispel any one enchantment spell. Spells that can’t be dispelled by dispel magic also can’t be dispelled by dispel scourge. Saving throws and spell resistance do not apply to this effect. This use discharges and ends the spell.

This spell’s effectiveness is slightly curtailed by the loss of evil spells for it to dispel. To compensate for this, we open it up from enchantment spells cast by evil creatures to all enchantment spells.

Forbiddance: Despite not requiring a name change, this spell deals with alignment to such a degree that we’re going to have to rewrite it.

FORBIDDANCE

School abjuration; Level cleric 6

Casting Time 6 rounds

Components V, S, M (holy water and incense worth 1,500 gp, plus 1,500 gp per 60-foot cube), DF

Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Area 60-ft. cube/level (S)

Duration permanent

Saving Throw see text; Spell Resistance yes

Forbiddance seals an area against all planar travel into or within it. This includes all teleportation spells (such as dimension door and teleport), plane shifting, astral travel, ethereal travel, and all summoning spells. Such effects simply fail automatically.

In addition, it damages entering creatures whose religion is different from yours. The effect on those attempting to enter the warded area is based on their religion relative to yours (see below). A creature inside the area when the spell is cast takes no damage unless it exits the area and attempts to reenter, at which time it is affected as normal.

Same religion: No effect. The creature may enter the area freely (although not by planar travel).

No religion or different but non-hostile religion: The creature takes 6d6 points of damage. A successful Will save halves the damage, and spell resistance applies.

Hostile religion: The creature takes 12d6 points of damage. A successful Will save halves the damage, and spell resistance applies.

At your option, the abjuration can include a password, in which case creatures of religions different from yours can avoid the damage by speaking the password as they enter the area. You must select this option (and the password) at the time of casting. Adding a password requires the burning of additional rare incenses worth at least 1,000 gp, plus 1,000 gp per 60-foot cube.

Dispel magic does not dispel a forbiddance effect unless the dispeller’s level is at least as high as your caster level.

You can’t have multiple overlapping forbiddance effects. In such a case, the more recent effect stops at the boundary of the older effect.

Some clarification on the changes may be helpful. To be clear, a “hostile religion” is one that is considered an enemy of yours, whereas a non-hostile religion is one that isn’t an enemy to your own faith (and indeed, it may be an ally). What religions are hostile to your own are up to the gods to determine (that is, the GM).

Notice which class is the source of most of these spells?

Glyph of Warding/Greater Glyph of Warding: These spells function as normal, with one change: you can’t set them with respect to good, evil, law, or chaos.

Hallow/Unhallow: These spells only need a few minor adjustments made to them, rather than entirely new write-ups. Primarily, both spells now guard their site or structure with a warding circle effect. Secondly, when affixing a single spell effect to these spells, you can’t choose alignment as a designator for whom the spell affects or doesn’t affect; only faith may be selected in this regard.

Finally, from the list of allowable spells to tie to these, delete detect evil from hallow‘s list, and delete detect good from unhallow‘s list.

Holy Aura/Unholy Aura/Shield of Law/Cloak of Chaos: We could just pick out the alignment-based effects here, but once again it’s easier just to rewrite the spells into one.

DIVINE AURA

School abjuration; Level cleric 8

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, F (a tiny reliquary worth 500 gp)

Range 20 ft.

Targets one creature/level in a 20-ft.-radius burst centered on you

Duration 1 round/level (D)

Saving Throw see text; Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

A shimmering aura surrounds the subjects, protecting them from attacks, granting them resistance to spells, and causing creatures to become blinded when they strike the subjects. This abjuration has four effects.

First, each warded creature gains a +4 deflection bonus to AC and a +4 resistance bonus on saves.

Second, each warded creature gains spell resistance 25.

Third, the abjuration protects the recipient from possession and mental influence, just as ward of protection does.

Finally, if a creature succeeds on a melee attack against a creature warded by a divine aura, the offending attacker is blinded (Fortitude save negates, as blindness/deafness, but against divine aura’s save DC).

Holy Smite/Unholy Blight/Order’s Wrath/Chaos Hammer: Yet again, these are four spells that do pretty much the same thing, just for different alignments. Here’s our singular version to replace these four.

BLAST OF FAITH

School evocation; Level cleric 4

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S

Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Area 20-ft.-radius burst

Duration instantaneous (1 round); see text

Saving Throw Will partial; see text; Spell Resistance yes

You call upon the power of your deity to strike down your enemies.

The spell deals 1d8 points of damage per two caster levels (maximum 5d8) to each creature in the area (or 1d6 points of damage per caster level, maximum 10d6, to an outsider) and causes it to gain one of the following conditions (your choice; this must be the same for all creatures affected by the spell):

  • blinded for 1 round.
  • dazed for 1 round.
  • sickened for 1d4 rounds.
  • slowed for 1d6 rounds.

A successful Will saving throw reduces damage to half and negates the secondary effect.

For this spell, having it affect all creatures without regard to their alignment makes it slightly less desirable (since you’re now also potentially hitting allies for full effect). Given that the status conditions are different and last for different rounds, however, we can make up for the spell’s lack of discrimination in targets by letting you choose the condition it inflicts.

Holy Sword: This spell functions normally, save that is makes an affected weapon function as a +5 keen bane weapon. You choose the creature type subjected to the bane property at the time of casting, but once chosen it cannot be changed for the duration of the spell. The +2 enhancement bonus increase against the bane creature type does stack with the weapon’s +5 enhancement bonus granted by this spell.

This may seem like an increase in power for this spell. However, the total value of the bonuses is the same – the original version grants a +5 enhancement bonus and holy, a +2 bonus; whereas this version grants a +5 enhancement bonus and two properties that are +1 bonuses, keen and bane.

Using the bane property narrows the types of creatures the weapon causes increased damage to, but this damage is heightened thanks to the additional +2 bonus the property brings. Likewise, having it be keen increases the chance of a critical against all enemies, so it balances out.

Holy Word/Blasphemy/Dictum/Word of Chaos: Despite having some minor differences in the status conditions they inflict, these are all essentially the same spell. As such, we’re once again going to chuck them all in favor of a unified spell, given below.

WORD OF FAITH

School evocation [sonic]; Level cleric 7

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V

Area creatures in a 40-ft.-radius spread centered on you

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw Will partial; Spell Resistance yes

Any creature within the area of a word of faith spell suffers the following ill effects. You may designate creatures that are not affected by this spell at the time of casting.

HD                                             Effect

Equal to caster level           deafened

Up to caster level -1          staggered, deafened

Up to caster level -5     paralyzed, staggered, deafened

Up to caster level -10  killed, paralyzed, staggered, defeaned

The effects are cumulative and concurrent. A successful Will save reduces or eliminates these effects. Creatures affected by multiple effects make only one save and apply the result to all the effects.

Deafened: The creature is deafened for 1d4 rounds. Save negates.

Staggered: The creature is staggered for 2d4 rounds. Save reduces the staggered effect to 1d4 rounds.

Paralyzed: The creature is paralyzed and helpless for 1d10 minutes. Save reduces the paralyzed effect to 1 round.

Killed: Living creatures die. Undead creatures are destroyed. Save negates. If the save is successful, the creature instead takes 3d6 points of damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +25).

Furthermore, if you are on your home plane when you cast this spell, extraplanar creatures that you designate within the area are instantly banished back to their home planes. Creatures so banished cannot return for at least 24 hours. This effect takes place regardless of whether the creatures hear the word of faith or not. The banishment effect allows a Will save (at a –4 penalty) to negate.

Creatures whose HD exceed your caster level are unaffected by word of faith.

The major change here is that this spell now potentially affects everyone within range, but you decide who is and isn’t affected. This is because making this spell work against everyone who doesn’t share your religion isn’t broad enough – an adventuring party may contain PCs of multiple faiths, making the risk of “friendly fire” too great. Instead, you can now designate whom this spell affects as you like; presumably, by 13th level, your god trusts you to make decisions like that, instead of making it have a blanket effect.

Magic Circle against Evil/Good/Chaos/Law: Like their lesser counterparts, these spells are all removed in favor of a singular new spell that replaces them, warding circle, described below.

WARDING CIRCLE

School abjuration; Level cleric 3, paladin 3, sorcerer/wizard 3

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M/DF (a 3-ft.-diameter circle of powdered silver)

Range touch

Area 10-ft.-radius emanation from touched creature

Duration 10 min./level

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance no; see text

All creatures within the area gain the effects of a ward of protection spell, and summoned creatures cannot enter the area either. Creatures in the area, or who later enter the area, receive only one attempt to suppress effects that are controlling them. If successful, such effects are suppressed as long as they remain in the area. Creatures that leave the area and come back are not protected. You must overcome a creature’s spell resistance in order to keep it at bay (as in the third function of ward of protection), but the deflection and resistance bonuses and the protection from mental control apply regardless of enemies’ spell resistance.

This spell has an alternative version that you may choose when casting it. A warding circle can be focused inward rather than outward. When focused inward, the spell binds a called creature (such as those called by the lesser planar binding, planar binding, and greater planar binding spells) for a maximum of 24 hours per caster level, provided that you cast the spell that calls the creature within 1 round of casting the warding circle. The creature cannot cross the circle’s boundaries. If a creature too large to fit into the spell’s area is the subject of the spell, the spell acts as a normal ward of protection spell for that creature only.

A warding circle leaves much to be desired as a trap. If the circle of powdered silver laid down in the process of spellcasting is broken, the effect immediately ends. The trapped creature can do nothing that disturbs the circle, directly or indirectly, but other creatures can. If the called creature has spell resistance, it can test the trap once a day. If you fail to overcome its spell resistance, the creature breaks free, destroying the circle. A creature capable of any form of dimensional travel (astral projection, blink, dimension door, etherealness, gate, plane shift, shadow walk, teleport, and similar abilities) can simply leave the circle through such means. You can prevent the creature’s extradimensional escape by casting a dimensional anchor spell on it, but you must cast the spell before the creature acts. If you are successful, the anchor effect lasts as long as the warding circle does. The creature cannot reach across the warding circle, but its ranged attacks (ranged weapons, spells, magical abilities, and the like) can. The creature can attack any target it can reach with its ranged attacks except for the circle itself.

You can add a special diagram (a two-dimensional bounded figure with no gaps along its circumference, augmented with various magical sigils) to make the warding circle more secure. Drawing the diagram by hand takes 10 minutes and requires a DC 20 Spellcraft check. You do not know the result of this check. If the check fails, the diagram is ineffective. You can take 10 when drawing the diagram if you are under no particular time pressure to complete the task. This task also takes 10 full minutes. If time is no factor at all, and you devote 3 hours and 20 minutes to the task, you can take 20.

A successful diagram allows you to cast a dimensional anchor spell on the warding circle during the round before casting any summoning spell. The anchor holds any called creatures in the warding circle for 24 hours per caster level. A creature cannot use its spell resistance against a magic circle prepared with a diagram, and none of its abilities or attacks can cross the diagram. If the creature tries a Charisma check to break free of the trap (see the lesser planar binding spell), the DC increases by 5. The creature is immediately released if anything disturbs the diagram—even a straw laid across it. The creature itself cannot disturb the diagram either directly or indirectly, as noted above.

This spell is not cumulative with ward of protection and vice versa.

Protection from Evil/Good/Law/Chaos: Once again, we tweak these four into one.

WARD OF PROTECTION

School abjuration; Level cleric 1, paladin 1, sorcerer/wizard 1

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, DF

Range touch

Target creature touched

Duration 1 min./level (D)

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance no; see text

This spell wards a creature from attacks, from mental control, and from summoned creatures. It creates a magical barrier around the subject at a distance of 1 foot. The barrier moves with the subject and has three major effects.

First, the subject gains a +2 deflection bonus to AC and a +2 resistance bonus on saves.

Second, the subject immediately receives another saving throw (if one was allowed to begin with) against any spells or effects that possess or exercise mental control over the creature (including enchantment [charm] effects and enchantment [compulsion] effects). This saving throw is made with a +2 morale bonus, using the same DC as the original effect. If successful, such effects are suppressed for the duration of this spell. The effects resume when the duration of this spell expires. While under the effects of this spell, the target is immune to any new attempts to possess or exercise mental control over the target. This spell does not expel a controlling life force (such as a ghost or spellcaster using magicjar), but it does prevent them from controlling the target. This second effect only functions against spells and effects created by evil creatures or objects, subject to GM discretion.

Third, the spell prevents bodily contact by summoned creatures. This causes the natural weapon attacks of such creatures to fail and the creatures to recoil if such attacks require touching the warded creature. The protection against contact by summoned creatures ends if the warded creature makes an attack against or tries to force the barrier against the blocked creature. Spell resistance can allow a creature to overcome this protection and touch the warded creature.

One point to note is that the original protection from evil spell in the Pathfinder rules notes that it has a material component for the arcane version of the spell. However, there’s no parenthetical notation listing what the material component actually is. Hence, I’ve deleted that requirement for this replacement spell.

Undetectable Alignment: This spell is deleted simply because there’s nothing left for it to do.

Magic Items

Cursed Items: There are two tables regarding cursed items; one for items that are dependant on situations, and another for drawbacks. The dependent table lists (91-95) that the item only functions in the hands of a character of a given alignment. The drawback table lists (50-51) that the user’s alignment changes.

In both cases, if you roll randomly and get either of the aforementioned results, ignore them and re-roll.

Darkskull: A character of any alignment can create a darkskull, but woe betide the cleric of a benevolent deity who does!

Figurine of Wondrous Power (Obsidian Steed): This magic item has a 5% chance of carrying a rider off to the lower planes whenever it’s used, rather than a 10% chance whenever a good character rides it.

Helm of Opposite Alignment: Delete this item entirely.

Alternately, you may choose to keep this cursed item in the game, but with the understanding that a player affected by it would need to role-play his character’s ethics and morals inverted.

Holy/Unholy/Axiomatic/Anarchic weapons: These magic weapon properties are deleted outright. While it can be cool to have something called the “Dark Sword of Chaos” or something similar, it won’t be able to do additional damage to someone based on their morality (or, for that matter, hurt them if they hold it based on said morality either).

Horn of Goodness/Evil: Since this horn is expressly dependent on the user’s alignment, delete this magic item.

Mace of Blood: Delete this item.

The fact that this mace is a cursed item that needs to be bathed in blood every day or it loses its enhancement bonus fades might be considered enough of a curse to keep it in the game, save for the fact that even good adventurers regularly kill things in their questing. Hence, by itself that isn’t really a curse, so we might as well toss this item altogether.

Mantle of Faith: Rename this item mantle of might; it now grants DR 5/adamantine.

Phylactery of Faithfulness: Remove the various detect spells in this item’s prerequisites; don’t replace them with anything, but note that the creator must be a divine spellcaster. This item functions normally, save that it provides only warning about things that could affect the character’s standing with his or her deity.

Ring of Elemental Command: Delete the second, third, and fourth sentences in the fourth paragraph (“These creatures recognize that he wears the ring, and show a healthy respect for the wearer if alignments are similar. If alignments are opposed, creatures fear the wearer if he is strong. If he is weak, they hate and desire to slay him.”).

All of the above is still true, but it’s not based on alignment-recognition – elementals so commanded will react to the person as appropriate to what sort of person he is, what sort of person the elemental is, and what the person with the ring makes the elemental do.

Ring of Mind Shielding: This ring doesn’t protect against discerning your alignment, since there’s no alignment to be discerned, but otherwise works as normal.

Robe of the Archmagi: This item no longer has any alignment components; its color is whatever the GM wants it to be. It does not bestow negative levels on any wearers, though only arcane spellcasters can fully utilize it.

Rod of Alertness: Delete all four of the alignment-detecting spells from this rod’s list of powers, and from the prerequisite spells used in its construction. All other details (including price) remain the same.

Rod of the Python/Rod of the Viper: These rods functions for anyone, not just good/evil creatures respectively, and the creators need not be good/evil either.

Seriously, did anyone ever even bother with these details for these rods (for that matter, did anyone ever use these particular rods at all in their game)?

Staff of Defense: Replace shield of law in this magic item’s powers and prerequisites with divine aura. The creator need not be lawful.

Strand of Prayer Beads: The bead of smiting on the strand now uses blast of faith, and that spell replaces the four aligned versions in that bead’s creation prerequisites.

Artifacts

Deck of Many Things: Since the deck has effects for each specific card, we’ll need to change the results for the Balance card (which changes the drawer’s alignment) to something else:

Should the character draw the “Balance” card (the XI. Justice tarot card, or the two of spades playing card), their gender is instantly reversed. If the character is a member of a race that doesn’t have genders, then they gain a negative level instead.

Talisman of Pure Good/Ultimate Evil: Delete these minor artifacts altogether. Between the alignment-based effects, and the unenforceable bit about granting a saving throw unless the user is, basically, a paragon of their alignment, these are more trouble than it’s worth to bring to an alignment-free system.

Next Time: Monsters!

If you thought spells were a big swath of material to cover, just wait until we get to taking the alignment out of monsters! Watch as I go through every single monster in the Bestiary and… and…

…you know what, forget that noise! It’d take way too much time and effort to address the alignment of every single monster in Pathfinder. Heck, most don’t even need that much coverage. A series of well-thought out guidelines should be enough.

So, tune in next time when I lay down the instructions for how to remove alignment from your Pathfinder games monsters. Don’t worry, they’ll still be as nasty as they ever were, even if they’re not “evil” anymore.

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One Response to “Removing Alignment From Pathfinder – Part Two: Magic”

  1. Damien RS Says:

    A different approach might be ‘alignment’ based on specific actions. So the Obsidian Steed might carry off a murderer, or alternately one innocent of ever killing another (not sure who it’s supposed to target). If you’ve never killed (or spilled blood) you’re in one class (or another)… probably unlikely for PCs, but hey. If you’ve killed someone in cold blood, you’re in another. If you’ve ever killed a creature like a unicorn or archon… It’d be more complex, but I can see potential in keying spells or other effects off of such things.

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