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[5e] (help wanted) Re-fluffing Spiritual Weapon

Laurefindel

Legend
Magic is by definition supernatural, I get that. But I'd like to have your suggestions and opinions about re-fluffing the spiritual weapon spell.

Mechanically speaking, I'm cool with the spell. What I don't like however, it's that spiritual weapon creates an entity that is not an entity; you are attacked by something you cannot fight back. There are a multitude of spells that do that, but for some reasons this one bugs me more than a flaming sphere for example.

It's not even clear to what extent the cleric is the obvious source of the magic. I'd imagine that many animals, or creatures with animal-level of intelligence, would try to attack or defend themselves against the spiritual weapon instead of the caster, just like they would try to sniff out an invisible opponent if they were attacks by something they couldn't see. Actually, I could see many opponents doing the same thing, not just animals. I'm voluntarily ignoring the fact that most animals would simply flee because most, if not all, flashy demonstrations of magic would have this effect.

Thus I'm asking; any ideas on how spiritual weapon could be re-imagined, ideally without changing the spell's mechanical effects themselves? The main goal is to make the caster the obvious threat; not the spell itself.

'findel
 
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not-so-newguy

Adventurer
I always visualized it as an incorporeal hammer. Perhaps it’s invisible up until the moment the hammer strikes and disappears right after that moment.

ETA Perhaps the caster needs to make hand gestures mimicking the striking weapon
 

It requires a bonus action to attack, so to make it obvious, just require the cleric to make gestures to make it attack. Maybe a ghostly, ethereal string is attached to the weapon from the cleric.

- You could simply have it as a weapon that flashes into existence just as the weapon attacks and then disappears. More intelligent creatures could track it and, thus, dispel it or realize it's the caster controlling it. Or it's simply a divine strike. The caster points at the target and it manifests divine lightning or force that smites the enemy. It might look a bit more similar to the Witch Bolt spell.

- Many people I play with have it be an actual weapon that flies from the caster's hand. He or she is willing the real weapon to attack. It's easy for even a low intelligence creature to realize the caster is the source. When the spell breaks, the weapon falls to the ground(if concentration is broken) or flies back to the caster's hand(if they end it themselves).

- It could be a ghostly warrior - perhaps a legendary hero of the particular god, or an avatar of the god - wielding the weapon. Translucent and, obviously, unaffected by mortal attacks. So, one would not even attempt to attack it. The cleric is controlling it like a puppet.

or a ghostly version of the cleric himself is wielding the weapon. A wispy band of ethereal energy attaches the two together.

- the cleric makes a slicing motion and a visible blade arcs from his arm and shoots out towards the target.

- The sword is always hovering above the cleric but when he commands it to attack someone, a flame appears over their head (or some other symbol associated with their god), marking that person for their god's retribution. Every time the cleric uses his bonus action, the sword flashes out and strikes the target then returns to the caster. When you 'move' the weapon to a new target, you are just moving the 'symbol/mark' and not the sword itself.
 

5ekyu

Hero
The rules are pretty vague and leave it up to the gm in many cases as to the obvious nature of ongoing effects. Is taking (bonus) actions to direct spiritual weapons or flaming spheres obvious? Is it in obvious but something an Insight "intentions" vs deception csn tell? Is it impossible? Does whether or not concentration is involved a factor ?

For me, if there is a question, I would tend to allow wis/insight vs cha/deception (possibly casting ability/deception) as a valid check for "can I tell who is controlling the sphere/hammer.

I am pretty liberal with the descriptions of the "weapon" even allowing it to thematically seem more like a creature than a weapon as long as it's done for flavor not to draw misdirection about what it is.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
TaranTheWanderer said:
- You could simply have it as a weapon that flashes into existence just as the weapon attacks and then disappears.

- Many people I play with have it be an actual weapon that flies from the caster's hand. He or she is willing the real weapon to attack. It's easy for even a low intelligence creature to realize the caster is the source. When the spell breaks, the weapon falls to the ground(if concentration is broken) or flies back to the caster's hand(if they end it themselves).

- the cleric makes a slicing motion and a visible blade arcs from his arm and shoots out towards the target.

Yes, presently I'm leaning toward something similar, whereas the cleric's held weapon is "spectrally projected" to the targeted area as he/she swings it. I'm considering changing the component to VSM; the material component being a weapon or holy symbol held in hand, and giving each bonus action attack a reach of 60ft and forget about the fixed area with 20ft movement.

TaranTheWanderer said:
- It could be a ghostly warrior - perhaps a legendary hero of the particular god, or an avatar of the god - wielding the weapon. Translucent and, obviously, unaffected by mortal attacks. So, one would not even attempt to attack it. The cleric is controlling it like a puppet. Or a ghostly version of the cleric himself is wielding the weapon. A wispy band of ethereal energy attaches the two together.

I'm less inclined to go this way, mainly because I want to differentiate the "translucent and unaffected by mortals' attacks" effects from the "translucent and unaffected by mortals' attacks" creatures. I wouldn't want to trick my players into thinking that this is an undead that they need to dismiss, or waste spells to make their weapon deal magical/radiant/etheral damage in hopes of affecting it.


TaranTheWanderer said:
- The sword is always hovering above the cleric but when he commands it to attack someone, a flame appears over their head (or some other symbol associated with their god), marking that person for their god's retribution. Every time the cleric uses his bonus action, the sword flashes out and strikes the target then returns to the caster. When you 'move' the weapon to a new target, you are just moving the 'symbol/mark' and not the sword itself.

hehe, neon sign "CASTER HERE" (with arrow pointing down). When the bonus action is not used on the spell, the sign changes to "I'M WITH STUPID" (with an arrow pointing toward the party's barbarian)
 

I envision in in the string way [MENTION=15882]TaranTheWanderer[/MENTION] mentions.

The haft or hilt of the weapon twines back in an ethereal mist to the caster. Perhaps they use it akin to a whip, some how grasping the wisps and flicking them at the opponent. Perhaps the weapon remains visible (preferred) or it dissipates after the strike but wisps remain evident of it's presence.
 

5ekyu

Hero
One thing i would add though, regarding this "Thus I'm asking; any ideas on how spiritual weapon could be re-imagined, ideally without changing the spell's mechanical effects themselves? The main goal is to make the caster the obvious threat; not the spell itself."

i would not do this for just spiritual weapon. it makes no sense to have this one spell house ruled to make its source obvious but leave others as "unknown" especially if the others are concentration effects where there is in fact an ongoing link between them that can be broken.

So, that means if someone is under say Shield of Faith's shimmering field there should be a string or whatever back to its caster too, IMO.

Otherwise this becomes "rule by it bugs me" which is pretty close to "arbitrary."
 

I always assume that any ongoing effects that require concentration it is someone apparent who the caster is. Or at least I can't think right now of any that wouldn't be.

I mean, Shield of Faith, it surrounds the caster right?

Maybe not Bless. Though... It's a magical world, doesn't seem unlikely that anything after tier 1 wouldn't have some idea right?

Doesn't RAW say something about this? That all creatures are aware of effects on other creatures etc?
 

aco175

Legend
Spiritual Weapon does not carry concentration, it is only a bonus action to cast and a bonus to move and attack again for 1 minute. I kind of see it as a symbol of the deity and more intelligent monsters can see the caster wearing the same symbols. I can also see something where if it hits, then a pulse of power from the caster streaks out to the weapon to deal damage.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
One thing i would add though, regarding this "Thus I'm asking; any ideas on how spiritual weapon could be re-imagined, ideally without changing the spell's mechanical effects themselves? The main goal is to make the caster the obvious threat; not the spell itself."

i would not do this for just spiritual weapon. it makes no sense to have this one spell house ruled to make its source obvious but leave others as "unknown" especially if the others are concentration effects where there is in fact an ongoing link between them that can be broken.

So, that means if someone is under say Shield of Faith's shimmering field there should be a string or whatever back to its caster too, IMO.

Otherwise this becomes "rule by it bugs me" which is pretty close to "arbitrary."

Not quite.

A creature wouldn't be utterly confused by a shield of faith, and who is the caster behind that spell has a limited impact on its behaviour.

A creature getting confused by the spell, wasting attacks and actions on an immaterial effect because it doesn't (immediately) understand the nature of the spiritual weapon, or not being able to assess who the aggressor is, has a bigger impact on the combat. I don't want to play spiritual weapon as a misdirection spell - and I don't think it was designed to be used that way - but as a combat spell.

"Suddenly, you are attacked by an spectral-looking, slightly glowing animated, spear" can cause all kinds of reactions from players. It takes a certain mastery of D&D spells to immediately identify this as a spiritual weapon effect, and that the correct course of action is to ignore and outrun the spectral spear, and to zero-in on the cleric who cast it. An intelligent opponent might catch what's going on after one or two rounds or trials and observation, but only an opponent with a good grasp of magic or experience with clerical war magic would immediately know what's going on.

That's why I believe that an obvious connection between the caster and the spell is important in this case, unless we are ok with spiritual weapon being a good misdirection spell.

Otherwise, of course I created this thread because this particular situation bugged me. House rules are just that; attempts to fix things that bug us (whether they succeed at it without creating other bugs is debatable, I'll give you that).
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Counterpoint: The spectral weapon is clearly a spell effect -- not a creature -- but who says you can't fight back?

For example, can the weapon move through solid objects? The rules don't say that it can't, but most DMs would be kinda surprised if a player directed the weapon to go straight through a wall to get to someone on the other side. If the weapon can't move through solid objects, what happens if a solid object suddenly fills the space the weapon is in (maybe the ceiling collapses or something)? Does the weapon blink out, or get shunted aside? The spell text is very silent on these issues. Let's say that you decide the weapon gets shunted aside: well, why couldn't I shunt the weapon aside with my shield, pushing it into a different position, or even pinning it to the ground? There are other movable force effects in the game (Tenser's, Otiluke's). Let's say you decide that the weapon blinks out; why can't I smash my hammer into the weapon, such that it goes through the weapon, blinking it out? Suppose you rule that the weapon can move through and exist inside objects just fine; in that case, when I fight it, it would be like fighting a "damaging illusion" where my attacks go through it but it can still hurt me. I think most creatures would waste at most 1 round with that thing before running away or seeking a different target.

I'm not sure how I would rule on any of this stuff, but I think ruling that you can push/pull/grapple the weapon is at least as reasonable as saying that the weapon is invisible except when attacking, or that it has invisible strings back to the caster. I know in the past I've told players "You can't attack the weapon, it's a spell effect," but if someone had a clever idea (e.g. trapping it in a cage) I'd probably let it roll.
 

5ekyu

Hero
Not quite.

A creature wouldn't be utterly confused by a shield of faith, and who is the caster behind that spell has a limited impact on its behaviour.

A creature getting confused by the spell, wasting attacks and actions on an immaterial effect because it doesn't (immediately) understand the nature of the spiritual weapon, or not being able to assess who the aggressor is, has a bigger impact on the combat. I don't want to play spiritual weapon as a misdirection spell - and I don't think it was designed to be used that way - but as a combat spell.

"Suddenly, you are attacked by an spectral-looking, slightly glowing animated, spear" can cause all kinds of reactions from players. It takes a certain mastery of D&D spells to immediately identify this as a spiritual weapon effect, and that the correct course of action is to ignore and outrun the spectral spear, and to zero-in on the cleric who cast it. An intelligent opponent might catch what's going on after one or two rounds or trials and observation, but only an opponent with a good grasp of magic or experience with clerical war magic would immediately know what's going on.

That's why I believe that an obvious connection between the caster and the spell is important in this case, unless we are ok with spiritual weapon being a good misdirection spell.

Otherwise, of course I created this thread because this particular situation bugged me. House rules are just that; attempts to fix things that bug us (whether they succeed at it without creating other bugs is debatable, I'll give you that).
Sorry but to me deciding that one spell bugs me so we rewrite the rules because it might confuse creatures is a fine and dandy reason to make a house rule. But to me deciding that change is to only establish a source-to-effect link for this one spell is just a rather inconsistent solytion.

Do the fey spirits summoned by Healing Spirit also have a link? Or are creature not confused by an actual fey spirit healer? Will an entangle, web, restraining vines etc etc all the various other effects that sustain, cause conditions etc even dsmage also point to their source to avoid confusion and let the creatures know where the real threat is?

I mean, you can imagine all sorts of solutions. Maybe spirit hammer has the image of its creator shown on its surface.
 

Counterpoint: The spectral weapon is clearly a spell effect -- not a creature -- but who says you can't fight back?

For example, can the weapon move through solid objects? The rules don't say that it can't, but most DMs would be kinda surprised if a player directed the weapon to go straight through a wall to get to someone on the other side. If the weapon can't move through solid objects, what happens if a solid object suddenly fills the space the weapon is in (maybe the ceiling collapses or something)? Does the weapon blink out, or get shunted aside? The spell text is very silent on these issues. Let's say that you decide the weapon gets shunted aside: well, why couldn't I shunt the weapon aside with my shield, pushing it into a different position, or even pinning it to the ground? There are other movable force effects in the game (Tenser's, Otiluke's). Let's say you decide that the weapon blinks out; why can't I smash my hammer into the weapon, such that it goes through the weapon, blinking it out? Suppose you rule that the weapon can move through and exist inside objects just fine; in that case, when I fight it, it would be like fighting a "damaging illusion" where my attacks go through it but it can still hurt me. I think most creatures would waste at most 1 round with that thing before running away or seeking a different target.

I'm not sure how I would rule on any of this stuff, but I think ruling that you can push/pull/grapple the weapon is at least as reasonable as saying that the weapon is invisible except when attacking, or that it has invisible strings back to the caster. I know in the past I've told players "You can't attack the weapon, it's a spell effect," but if someone had a clever idea (e.g. trapping it in a cage) I'd probably let it roll.

No no no! Stop making me think of these things, Isn't it time for you to go to sleep?
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Sorry but to me deciding that one spell bugs me so we rewrite the rules because it might confuse creatures is a fine and dandy reason to make a house rule. But to me deciding that change is to only establish a source-to-effect link for this one spell is just a rather inconsistent solytion.

Do the fey spirits summoned by Healing Spirit also have a link? Or are creature not confused by an actual fey spirit healer? Will an entangle, web, restraining vines etc etc all the various other effects that sustain, cause conditions etc even dsmage also point to their source to avoid confusion and let the creatures know where the real threat is?

I mean, you can imagine all sorts of solutions. Maybe spirit hammer has the image of its creator shown on its surface.

I'm not sure what you mean by re-writing the rules. I'm looking for a refluff on a single spell, not on a way to change all spells.

One of the many proposed solutions was to establish a physical link, like a leach or a thread, between the spiritual weapon and the caster. But that wasn't the only proposed solution, nor the one I'm going for.

As you say, we can imagine all sort of solutions; that's what I come to these boards for. Your proposition to have the image (literal or otherwise) of the creator on the spiritual weapon is a form of link, one that helps you identify the caster as the source of the effect. This "link" does not have to be literal. Maybe if the cleric has to mimic the movements of the spiritual attack, that would be enough to establish the connection (or link) between the caster and the magical effect.

I'm a sucker for consistency but spells are already very disparate, so I don't think adding a visual component of some sort is against the spirit of D&D. There are plenty of precedents too; see crown of madness its proverbial sign above the head signifying mental domination.
 

I wouldn't do anything to change the spell. If you want to change the fluff, I think that's fine. I wouldn't discourage your players from doing that themselves, though. For what it's worth, I've never seen a DM make, even a stupid monster pause and attack a spiritual weapon. I've seen them make smart monsters use counter-measures like dispel magic though.

***

re: knowing if someone is concentrating. Spells like suggestion are concentration. To know if a spellcaster is 'distracted' by something and 'might' be concentrating on a spell might be a good way to use Insight. Using it on the battlefield might be easier or harder.

Easier because, if there's a glowing spiritual creature protecting the caster, there's probably a good chance they're concentrating, especially if you saw them cast

Harder because there's lots going on and combat is chaotic and 3 people cast spells this round. And maybe that guy used subtle spell.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
If you want to change the fluff, I think that's fine. I wouldn't discourage your players from doing that themselves, though.
My prefered approach as a DM has always been: to player; "I don't like [x] because [reasons]". Then player goes; "what if we do [y] instead". But I like to think of my perceived issues out loud beforehand, and either have a solution to propose or realise that the issue wasn't much of a problem in the first place.

Typically, I'm confronted to realise that the issue, if still problematic, isn't as big as I first thought, and that only a very simple solution or houserule is required to eliminate it. Which is what is happening now.

For what it's worth, I've never seen a DM make, even a stupid monster pause and attack a spiritual weapon. I've seen them make smart monsters use counter-measures like dispel magic though.
I have, once a few years ago and again recently, and is threatening to be a recurrent issue (which prompted this thread)
 
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not-so-newguy

Adventurer
Counterpoint: The spectral weapon is clearly a spell effect -- not a creature -- but who says you can't fight back?

For example, can the weapon move through solid objects? The rules don't say that it can't, but most DMs would be kinda surprised if a player directed the weapon to go straight through a wall to get to someone on the other side. If the weapon can't move through solid objects, what happens if a solid object suddenly fills the space the weapon is in (maybe the ceiling collapses or something)? Does the weapon blink out, or get shunted aside? The spell text is very silent on these issues. Let's say that you decide the weapon gets shunted aside: well, why couldn't I shunt the weapon aside with my shield, pushing it into a different position, or even pinning it to the ground? There are other movable force effects in the game (Tenser's, Otiluke's). Let's say you decide that the weapon blinks out; why can't I smash my hammer into the weapon, such that it goes through the weapon, blinking it out? Suppose you rule that the weapon can move through and exist inside objects just fine; in that case, when I fight it, it would be like fighting a "damaging illusion" where my attacks go through it but it can still hurt me. I think most creatures would waste at most 1 round with that thing before running away or seeking a different target.

I'm not sure how I would rule on any of this stuff, but I think ruling that you can push/pull/grapple the weapon is at least as reasonable as saying that the weapon is invisible except when attacking, or that it has invisible strings back to the caster. I know in the past I've told players "You can't attack the weapon, it's a spell effect," but if someone had a clever idea (e.g. trapping it in a cage) I'd probably let it roll.

I would rule that the caster needs to see the target in order to attack it. the weapon could pass through walls, but not attack. There could be ways around this. The Clairvoyance spell for example.

edit: If the weapon is incorporeal, then I suppose a high level spell caster could cast a spell to pull it into the Material plane (no idea what the spell would be). I suppose then it would be just a normal weapon that the Cleric can no longer control and the weapon would just clatter to floor. But, i’d rather save my spells and just punch the cleric in the face (so to speak)
 
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5ekyu

Hero
I wouldn't do anything to change the spell. If you want to change the fluff, I think that's fine. I wouldn't discourage your players from doing that themselves, though. For what it's worth, I've never seen a DM make, even a stupid monster pause and attack a spiritual weapon. I've seen them make smart monsters use counter-measures like dispel magic though.

***

re: knowing if someone is concentrating. Spells like suggestion are concentration. To know if a spellcaster is 'distracted' by something and 'might' be concentrating on a spell might be a good way to use Insight. Using it on the battlefield might be easier or harder.

Easier because, if there's a glowing spiritual creature protecting the caster, there's probably a good chance they're concentrating, especially if you saw them cast

Harder because there's lots going on and combat is chaotic and 3 people cast spells this round. And maybe that guy used subtle spell.
"For what it's worth, I've never seen a DM make, even a stupid monster pause and attack a spiritual weapon. I've seen them make smart monsters use counter-measures like dispel magic though."

In my games, perhaps unlike the OP, we di not assume a creature stands stock still weapon at side waiting to be tagged in when their initiative brings them into play.

So, you are oretty much assumed to be swinging, jabbing, slashing back and forth during cimbats and your "attacks" are just resolutions of your opportunities that "get thru" or "get close". Basically, its like there is a real back and forth fight going on, but the camera zooms in for your close-up on your turn or your reaction. Rest of the time, you are still doing stuff but its "off-camera."

That model or image has served us well across a lot of systems.

As such, some miscellaneous back and forth that lets you get enough info to recognize a non-deceptive-by-design effect is what it is - just assumed to hapoen during that "off-camera" time. Since no requirement to recognize it was part of the spell, we consider it no-action, off-camera.

Seems obvious to us, right?

Contrast with effects that do intend to deceive like Mirror Image or other types where a specific "way to suss out the trick" is defined as an attsck that hits or an action spent to investigate etc.

Those clearly define the deceptive nature of their effects and move the "suss it out" stuff strictly into the "on-camera" action sequences.

We dont usually cross-over the two enough, if ever, to cause problems enough to make us need to house rule ways to counter the additional deceptive effects we moved from "off-camera" to "on-camera" issues.

Go figure. If we do not add "on-canera" requirements to a spell, we dont then have to house rule to keep those new "on-camera" requirements from being a problem.
 
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MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
One thing that could work would be for the spiritual weapon to appear in the cleric's hand and let the cleric use it to make attacks (using the same numbers as the weapon gets now). The cleric can use his/her bonus action to make a melee attack with the spiritual weapon. To sweeten the pot (since you need to get closer than you would with the existing rules), I would let clerics with divine strike add that to the damage and clerics without divine strike double the spellcasting stat damage.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
In my games, perhaps unlike the OP, we di not assume a creature stands stock still weapon at side waiting to be tagged in when their initiative brings them into play.

I'm not sure what you mean by that?

That has always been our philosophy as well, and it is precisely because we do not assume that creatures stand stock still next to a threat that this whole issue arise in the first place. I'm sure that similar models or images can lead to different playstyles.

By this time I get that you and I don't see eye to eye around the gaming table, but there is no need to be condescending about it.
 

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