Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
”We’d been searching the streets for days. Each face we saw, blended with the last hundred. We were tired, bone tired, and we could feel the quarry slipping away. But with each passing hour it seemed we were less able to do anything about it. Tianu would not sleep, would not let us rest. We went from warren to alley, shaking hints and half-rumors from the urchins and the beggars. There was a manic feel to it all, but when Tianu set on a quest, none but Tyr himself could put him off. We were in a deep basement near the center warrens when men came at us from behind. I was last in line, and took down their first man almost without thought. Three more were behind, daggers out, and they stayed just out of range as the three of us turned and spread out. Stari got the slowest one on the left, and I took the hand off of his friend, at which point they all turned and ran. I took two steps to follow, but turned with a start at the gasp. The turbaned wretch who’d snuck up behind Tianu was already yards down the tunnel at a run, but Tianu stood in the half-light gasping, like he’d been poleaxed. As we watched, great rending wounds opened on his neck, up onto his face, blood and pus near gushing from them, like sack of guts being torn open. He never screamed, but gasped twice more and fell forward into the muck. On his back, smoldering and impressed on his shining chain, Bane’s paw, just as clear as day, with Tianu’s blood soaking a deathly red halo around it.” – Charion, paladin of Tyr
Necromancy as a school of magic has been the most maligned and attacked area of study the world over, with bans and restrictions on its use throughout history. Some bans still exist. Like many powerful magics, it can be used in what society perceives as great ill, and its intersection with death – and the limited power over it that necromancy provides – makes it a controversial magic to many.
When it comes to clerical spellcasting, necromancy has a more nuanced interpretation. Even among those most lawful and good clerics, their most powerful and archetypical clerical magics involve necromancy. Raise Dead, Resurrection, Revivify, Speak with Dead, even Gentle Repose and Spare the Dying, rely upon necrotic energy to perform these miracles.
Civilized society has long stereotypically viewed the cleric as active extensions of the churches of our gods. We seek them out for blessings of our actions. We enact their will. We bless the people and we heal their wounds. We are Good! We are noble. Bring us your gold and your time and your lofty works and we will divinely inspire you and bring you Joy!
Hogwash! The piffle and rot of a thousand generations of ignorance and profiteering on the part of religious orders who have arbitrarily defined “good” and “evil” to suit the selfish purposes of themselves and their so-called gods. Morality and dogma, introduced to cow the common, to make of them a herd to be cruelly manipulated by the very forces to whom they supplicate.
The truth that none will reveal is that death is a mere step in the ever continuing and everlasting continuum of existence on planes and through fantastic realms far too vast for the understanding of mere mortal beings. That death, then, and by extension necromancy should be demonized, cast as evil, forbidden, only keeps mortals below the realms of understanding where they might attain greater, rapturous enlightenment.
Few cleric spells are as fraught with holy baggage to those who proclaim in the traditional clerical dogma as Inflict Wounds. Unlike most other cleric spells (the exceptions being Bestow Curse and Inflict Wounds’ big brother Harm) Inflict Wounds brings the cleric, stereotypical bringer of healing, face to face with one of its arch nemeses: physical harm.
It is not without irony that I discuss this topic, for including such necromantic spells as Inflict Wounds in the arsenal of its clerical channelers the so-called gods of good lead their followers directly into the garden of ambivalent amorality. Cure harm and cause it. Heal wounds and inflict them. Two sides of the same coin? Or good and evil? Context is left to the caster, giving them the ultimate say, and leaving their actions open to the interpretation of their unknowable deity. A trap. Set for mortals. For the amusement of the gods.
But I digress… Let us look at the characteristics of this cornerstone spell and savor its delicious possibilities.
Physical pain and wounding is but a facet of existence for many. The followers of Loviatar notoriously and publicly wound themselves in the service of their goddess. Banites have scarification rituals that would shock the common. Ilmater rewards those who suffer though physical pain and wounds as readily as those who struggle in other ways. Even the great Kossuth extols purification by fire, wounding by another method. The so-called good gods, however, subtly encourage wounding others but only in their service. Every race and type of creature worships gods of conquest, war, honorable combat, perseverance, suffering.
And so it is not surprising that Inflict Wounds has become a basic staple in the channeling repertoire of clerical spellcasters of all creeds and beliefs. As it should be.
Who is to say who first enshrined the inflicting of wounds through divine energy into the flesh of another. Surely, it was the less talented of the first two divine channelers gifted with powers by their gods. Whatever their names, it matters little. That they shaped that most basic of energies, the necrotic life force, to their will, we but have them to thank.
Casting of Inflict Wounds is dreadfully simple. It normally requires both a gesture and verbal component but no material component. Gestures and words vary, particularly based upon the deity. I’ve heard both shouted and whispered vocalizations trigger the spell. I faced a follower of Bhalla who literally asked forgiveness from his deity as a method of casting the spell. He lived not long after to perpetrate the idiocy further.
My order uses the word “Erarucio” from a long dead and forgotten language that is now nigh impossible to translate or learn, even for the most esoteric of scholars. I cast with a crooked first finger that twists as I touch my subject or enemy. Banites touch with the palm. My barbarian friends were known to punch with a closed fist while shouting in their ugly, guttural tongue to cast.
Spell Effects and Appearance
As conflicted as many channelers are when casting, it is also not surprising that the effects of casting Inflict Wounds can vary greatly. In long years of study, it has been intriguing to watch the variety, nay creativity, implicit in the effects of this spell. I watched a young dwarf cleric named Morrat in battle whose casting created great axe slashes across the chest of his target. While fighting in the north country I witnessed a shaman of a barbarian tribe channel Inflict Wounds against a great white haired beast and it near stove the poor creature’s head in as if a might hammer had descended upon it.
Ruminating upon the effects it is my interpretation that it is the channeler’s interpretation of a horrible method of wounding that manifests for that caster. Interestingly, in my experience clerics of the great and powerful Loviatar who ritually wound themselves, always create effects based upon a racial or background bias. I believe this reflects the fact that we extol the punishment that purifies our souls. How blasphemous to share the beatific scarifications with one’s enemies.
I have discovered that casters of this spell are able to manipulate the type of damage that becomes evident on their subjects. A caster can cleverly deliver a dose of necrotic damage internally to a subject that is barely visible, aside of course from the effect of the excruciating pain it provides. This can be useful in crowded conditions, when stealth is important, or in other cases. I have not met many who can modulate this effect to cause different effects. Bluntly, most casters are subconsciously conflicted or horrified in channeling this effect that I believe their ability to focus or appreciate it is very limited. A pity.
The spell’s effects also tend to be very personal based on the personal contact required to inflict them. I cannot channel this effect from the safety of an entourage, but must engage, touch and look into the eyes of my foe as I feel my energy channel its wounding energy into his flesh. Delightful.
As I cast this effect upon my foes, I typically not only feel a shiver to the body, but I always catch the coppery tang of fresh blood in my nose. Many others whose damage causes their enemy’s skin to erupt in bleeding wounds also report this to me, but I get it even in cases where I cause only internal damage. Interesting.
Interactions and Multiple Castings
Inflict Wounds, regardless of its outward manifestations, does drain life energy from the subject. Repeated application will kill, and horribly. When the effect is apparent, bleeding, pustules, bone-crushing deformation, the pain seems to center on the effect area. However, when channeled internal to the subject, the pain seems to be radiant throughout the creature. It is as if the recipient of the wound, without an apparent cause for the pain, experiences it in every fiber of its being. It is a delightful effect that I recommend everyone experience. Whether self-inflicted or directed at another, enjoy the casting and relish in the sheer joy of physical wounding that your god has enabled you to channel. Bathe in it. You are life itself as you free it to spill in your god’s name.