Common Defenses Versus the Supernatural or Magical

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Note that readers of ‘The Dresden Files’ or ‘Dresden Universe’ may feel familiarity with these house rules. They do have an impact on spell casters, so these rules should be read by them.

All sorts of horrible monsters stalk the average fantasy world. Against many of these creatures, the common people have little defense. How do the common folk manage to stay alive when a single mob of shadows could lay waste to the average hamlet?

Adventurers are a big help but Adventurers aren’t supposed to be a dime a dozen. They can’t be everywhere all the time. What common means of defense against supernatural monsters exist?

Fire
With many supernatural or abnormal threats someone’s probably going to set some thing on fire in order to destroy it. Fire has a long history of use as a purifier. In the game, fire gets deployed a lot, especially against regenerating monsters and when taking out groups of foes conveniently clustered together in fireball formation. Other monsters, such as mummies, have well-known vulnerabilities to fire.

Some creatures have a lesser vulnerability to fire. Against fire-based attacks, these monsters suffer +1 point of damage per damage die. Fire-users need to take care, however. Not all lesser vulnerabilities to fire apply to mundane fire. In these cases, only magical fire causes extra damage.

Holy Symbols
What could be more iconic than the stalwart monster hunter holding a vampire at bay with a boldly presented crucifix? Anyone can present a holy symbol associated with their faith in an attempt to hold supernatural evil at bay. Doing so is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity targeted against vulnerable creatures within a 30-foot spread who have both line of sight to the presenter and the holy symbol.

If the presenter has faith in the symbol/religion, the presenter makes a Will save which is opposed by the Will saves of the affected creatures. If an affected creature’s Will save is less than the presenter’s Will save, then the affected creature cannot attack the presenter for that round. If the presenter scores a natural 20 on his Will save, all affected creatures within range are dazed for 1 round regardless of their respective Will saves. The presenter can attempt to hold supernatural evil at bay repeatedly until the creature succeeds in the contest of wills or it is subject to some sort of attack.

One cannot attempt this mundane use of a holy symbol while using the channel energy class feature but those who possess the channel energy class feature add 1 to the roll for every D6 of energy they could manifest – which can be counted towards the generation of a ‘natural 20’ result.

Iron
Iron (and to a lesser extent, steel) also works quite well against incorporeal undead, as well as the Fey. Normal iron’s properties affect the fey and the incorporeal undead differently:

Normal iron and fey: Normal iron doesn’t bypass DR, but it does harm fey creatures. A normal iron weapon enjoys a +2 bonus to damage rolls against fey. An iron implement (such as a horseshoe) that is held against a fey’s skin for one full round burns the fey creature for 1d6 points of damage. Even touching iron is generally enough to cause pain and possibly inflict a point or two of damage. Steel weapons still pain fey though not to the same extent and inflict an additional +1 damage.

Normal iron and incorporeal undead: Normal iron weapons (including improvised weapons) cannot inflict damage on an incorporeal undead, but they can disrupt its form. Striking an incorporeal undead with an iron weapon forces the monster to make a DC 15 Will save. If it fails, the incorporeal undead is disrupted.

While disrupted, the incorporeal undead can only take a single move action each round. It becomes invisible and cannot be harmed by weapons of any type. Magic and channeling energy can still harm a disrupted incorporeal undead. Each round at the beginning of its turn, a disrupted incorporeal undead gets to make a DC 15 Will save as a free action. If it succeeds, it is no longer disrupted and may act normally. A disrupted incorporeal undead gets a +1 bonus on this Will save for each round that it has been disrupted.

Steel weapons may not have the full benefits that an iron weapon does.

Cold Wrought Iron (commonly called Cold Iron) has the same effects as Iron as well as bypassing DR.

Running Water
Some supernatural creatures cannot cross running water. They can’t even use bridges or fly over running water. This is one more reason why most communities are built near rivers or streams.

When confronted with running water, a supernatural creature with this vulnerability can attempt a DC 15 Will save. Success allows it to cross the running water, but the creature is treated as if staggered during the crossing. Failure means the monster simply cannot cross under its own power. It could, however, have a minion or vehicle carry it, but during the crossing the creature is treated as helpless. The monster is only ever allowed one saving throw to cross any particular body of running water. Creatures like vampires may have greater sensitivity to this weakness.

Even if successful in crossing the effort of crossing may temporarily weaken the creature.

Many magics can also be ended by running water… water grounding out magical energies. Immersing the subject of a spell in running water or under moderate to heavy rain reduces the duration of a spell by 1 hour for every full round in the water.

Casters attempting to cast spells under running water, on water or submerged in water may suffer the need to make a concentration check to cast successfully. The DC of the check would be determined by the GM at the time. A light rain or drizzle will not inflict any penalties. Even after making the check there may also be a caster level penalty to the spell itself.

See the rules on Spellcasting for more information.

Salt
Salt purifies and preserves. In some places during certain times in human history, salt has literally been worth its weight in gold. Without salt, food spoils more quickly and sickness and death await. Against certain supernatural creatures, salt has two uses. First, it can form an effective barrier, and salt can also cause damage.

Salt barrier: As a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity, a inch or more width of a line of salt can be poured across a single side of a 5-foot square. Creatures susceptible to salt cannot move across this line using any innate means. This includes all modes of movement as well as spell-like and supernatural abilities. The salt line does not prevent the creature from attacking across the line, however, so salt users had best move back to avoid reach.

Also, while the creature cannot directly affect the line of salt, it can use a variety of means to break the line’s integrity. A gust of wind can blow the salt away or water can wash it away. Thus, in many instances, a salt barrier provides only temporary security.

Casting spells within or across such barriers will be impeded similar to that of being in water or within a threshold protected area.

Contact with salt: Salt susceptible monsters who are exposed to salt’s touch for one full round suffer 1d6 points of damage from the contact of a handful of salt. The touch of a lesser amount is painful to such undead that can acknowledge pain.

The GM will let you know what creatures are affected by Salt as it comes up but generally mindless undead also suffer from such vulnerability.

Silver
Creatures without DR /silver that are vulnerable to silver suffer +2 points of damage from silver weapons (including improvised weapons like a silver candlestick holder). A silver item (such as a silver piece) that is held against a vulnerable creature’s skin for one full round burns the creature for 1d6 points of damage. This applies to creatures with DR /silver as well as those that are just vulnerable to silver. Shape changers tend to be susceptible to silver.

Sunlight/Sunrise
The sun’s light chases away the darkness and the creatures that live in it. It is the most common defense against supernatural evil, even if one must survive for several hours before it can be put into play. In many folk tales and fantasy stories, all sorts of creatures can’t stand the light of day.

Several creatures already have sunlight vulnerability or light weakness. These game effects are well-defined. Long duration magics are generally greatly weakened or dispelled by sun rise and sun set (each sunrise/sunset is held as an additional 12 hour period), lessening durations accordingly and sometimes drastically. Summoned Creatures cannot last beyond this threshold of time and return to their place of origin. The same applies at Dusk, it forming another distinct boundary in time.

Thresholds
Before inviting that handsome stranger into the house, make sure he’s not a vampire or some other sort of supernatural beast. Everyone knows that vampire’s (or similar foes) been invited, they can enter at will.

Creatures with a full threshold weakness cannot enter a building unless invited – a partial threshold weakness will greatly weaken the creature if it forces entry. It must be a resident who invites the creature, but not relevant if the invitation is gained via deceit or magic. Of course, this weakness doesn’t prevent the creature from setting the building on fire or sending in minions.

Spell casters are considered to be affected by thresholds. When they or creatures that are sensitive to thresholds force entry, they need to make concentration checks and stand to lose a variable number of casting levels of strength of their magic. The effect is relative to the strength of the threshold. This weakness applies only while they are operating within the protected area. See the rules on Spellcasting for more information.

The effect would be greatly weakening them and making them vulnerable – something that only the most desperate, angry or foolish creatures would risk.

Only personal dwellings are so protected – Inns, places of commerce or areas open to the public offer no protection. Religious sites will have a similar protection but one that is based on the faith of those within it.

Monsters susceptible to iron, salt, silver, and holy symbols can also be kept from entering a building if the appropriate item is affixed or poured near the various entrances. Hanging an iron horseshoe over the front door doesn’t just bring good luck. It also helps keep malicious fey out of the living room. One needs to take care that all potential entrances are so warded. The horseshoe over the front door might stop a gremlin from entering (though not through a window unless it too were warded), and a well stoked fire should keep it out of the Chimney.

Putting these Common Defenses into play
Since these are the commoner’s methods of defense against the supernatural, it stands to reason that the various methods are well-known. Knowledge of when these defenses are appropriate is generally a DC 10 or 15 check.

If the PCs suspect that they will be facing evil fey, then they may be well advised to stock up on iron weapons and to bring along a sack of iron nails and horsehoes to affix near building entrances. If its known that a monster sighted in the area is one that can also be held at bay by a boldly presented holy symbol, this can be critical to the groups safety , when in desperate situations, even the devout fighter can whip out a holy symbol and have a chance to daze the monster before it can gut the party’s wizard.

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Common Defenses Versus the Supernatural or Magical

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