Ritualistically Speaking: Spirit Idol

Ok since I am going through each level and selecting one ritual about which to write, level 7 leaves me with very little choice. That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with this ritual. I have to admit I never thought about using spirit totem, I really hadn’t even looked at it much in the past, but now that I have I am really excited about some of the role play elements it can add to a story. A DM who enjoys adding quirky NPCs and plot devices should really enjoy a player making use of this ritual. I am going to be referring to one of my favorite book series, The Dresden Files, throughout this post because it gave me one of my favorite ideas for using this ritual to build a fun NPC.

Spirit Idol

Component Cost: 150 gp, plus a focus worth 150 gp Market Price: 520 gp Key Skill: Heal (no check) Level: 7
Category: Restoration Time: 1 hour Duration: Instantaneous

This ritual is performed on an adjacent corpse. It binds the soul to the focus, preventing its passage to Dolurrh. The target must be willing to allow the ritual to take effect, otherwise the ritual fails. Once so bound, the soul rests in state of torpor.
At any time thereafter, once per day, you can ask a single question of the corpse as if you had performed the Speak with Dead ritual, and, as with the ritual, the corpse knows only the information it knew in life.
You can perform the Raise Dead ritual on a corpse preserved by this ritual regardless of how long it stays in stasis. You cannot restore life to a creature that died from old age.
If the focus or corpse is destroyed before the target is restored to life, the soul is released and the ritual ends.
Focus: A specially prepared phylactery.

First published in Eberron Player’s Guide.

To quote CubeSteve “it is basically Gentle Repose + Speak with Dead…on a stick!” and what happens when you put something on a stick? Think about it! Ice cream + stick = popsicle, hot dog + stick = corn dog, hard candy + stick = sucker. Put it on a stick and it becomes even better! This ritual can be insanely useful and really fun without being over-creative. Most of the ideas I have for this ritual requires the DM to allow players to ask questions and interact with the phylactery, which will be referred to as the focus from here on out.

Making it accessible: Spirit Idol already fits into my system for rituals; it was designed to be cast on a focus. It requires the players to create a  “specially prepared phylactery” so Bamn! My work here is done, thanks for making it so easy on me WotC! No really though, there are tons of things creative players and DMs could do with this to make it a larger part of the story.

The focus is a big part of what could be a great story. For a player to contain a person’s soul, they must have a container that has a great amount of meaning to the deceased. A soul must have a solid anchor for it to resist the luring pull of the Shadowfell and the Raven Queen. A spirit freed from its corporeal body feels an immense pull to the other side and without something of great meaning to keep its interest or attention the spirit might slip into the Shadowfell.

As a DM, I would require the players to use either a part of the deceased or a possession that had great meaning to them. Wow, just think of all the cool things you could use. I instantly think about Bob, from the Dresden Files, a spirit who inhabited a rune-carved skull. How creepy and awesome at the same time! A spirit trapped in its own skull could take on such a personality of its own it could be crazy fun, though I’ll get to that later.

If the spirit the players intend to save was a great warrior, perhaps they would use that warrior’s sword to encase their spirit. The party would then have a haunted, talking sword. If the players wanted to save the spirit of a great wizard they might use the spell book the wizard had spent so much time studying. This would result in a talking book the players may consult when they have questions of an arcane nature. A cleric might leave behind a holy symbol passed down to him/her by family, or a rogue might have a trophy he/she procured which they never intended to market. There are really tons of cool plot devices that might become a focus for this ritual.

Getting it into your game: I would suggest that DMs allow a player to use the ritual in a slightly more liberal way. As a DM, I would allow my players to ask the focus a question instead of the corpse. I would also allow the party to interact with the focus more often than once a day, though I would only give them the benefit of its wisdom once daily. This would allow both the party and the DM to create an NPC who can act as a mouth for the DM.

The DM would be free to give the new NPC focus a personality of its very own. It could be a wise cracking motormouth, or the spirit of a stoic wizard who often gives stern advice with out being asked. It could make for a wonderful plot device the DM could use to move a story forward or convolute it if need be.

Giving the players the option to draw upon the knowledge of the focus could be offered in more ways than just answering a question. If the players wanted to draw upon the street knowledge of a dead rogue they might be carrying, a DM might allow them to use it to make a streetwise check giving it a skill level which might be equal to the being trapped in the focus. If they players had the soul of a scholar with them they might be able to use it to make a history or religion check. These checks could only be made once per day in place of the one daily question.

A focused Spirit Totem could also be a great way to begin a quest. Players might come into possession of an item containing a spirit. The spirit might promise the party treasure or other rewards for bringing it back to life, or for doing favors for it’s family. Or, the item might be resigned to never being alive again but it has a wish to travel and offers to aid the players with information if they would be willing to take it on their travels.

If a DM wanted to go so far as to force a party to use this ritual he/she could always kill a very important NPC. This NPC could be carrying information necessary to stop a war, save a life or find treasure. The party would need the assistance of the NPC, and the NPC could bargain to aid the players if they would later return them to life.

Getting the Most as a Player: I have two words for players, “leap Frog”. Do you have a new character concept you want to try out but don’t know what to do with the character you are currently using? Did the mean DM kill a player you really wanted to use later? If your DM is cool to play along you can always carry your other character with them in a focus. This would allow the character who might return at a later time to have a full understanding of everything they might have missed otherwise. The party might also enjoy the continued presence of the fallen character’s personality.

The DM might require a deity or powerful creature such as a dragon to revive the fallen player in order to give it more power and allow for any level gap which might have occurred to be covered. It’s easy to work into a game; a player’s level 6 fighter dies and is saved into a focus, when the party is level 17 an ancient dragon infuses the fallen fighter with its own blood during the resurrection giving the newly revived fighter extraordinary power and bringing him up to level 17.

Particularly vindictive player who might have a deep vendetta against a particular villain might offer to keep their soul alive in bonded service instead of killing them and sending them to the shadow. This would mean the character would be the owner of their previous tormentors soul and could now force them to help them for good instead of evil. Though this might be hard to work out it would be a really cool plot point.

Creative Combat: A DM could allow a player to consult the spirit focus at the beginning of combat as their daily question. Doing this would mean the players could tap the soul in the totem as a repository for monster information. If a player decided to do this the DM would give the character a bonus to their monster knowledge check equal to what the DM felt the souls skill would have been. If it were a trapped wizards soul of paragon tier a proper bonus to an arcana check might be +10 give or take at the DMs discretion. A DM allowing this should list out the skills and bonuses the soul has at the creation of the Spirit Totem.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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