D&D 5E Improving Imprisonment (Houserule)

Stalker0

Legend
A staple of many fantasy stories, the Dark Wizard X, or giant monster Y.... is sealed away by a group of heroes....only for them to return 1000 years later and hit the world.

The theoretical spell for this is Imprisonment. The issue is that while the flavor is there, the mechanics just don't work. This is a horrible 9th level spell, and if I'm chucking that kind of juice at a creature....I'd rather just....you know, kill it.

So I wanted to try a different version. Commonly in fantasy, they use imprisonment as a special ritual done by multiple wizards, because they just can't kill the monster. Or look at Naruto for a modern reference with their sealing jutsus.....the common context is that sealing is stronger than killing...with the obvious downside that the bad guy could (and probably will) come back one day. So in this version I am going to try and highlight that.

Imprisonment​

4th Level Abjuration
Casting Time: 1 minute (Ritual)
Range: 300 feet
Components: V S M (A Crystal Sphere, worth 200 GP per Hit Dice of the target, which is consumed by the spell)
Duration: Permanent
Classes: Warlock, Wizard
You create a magical restraint to hold a creature that you can see within range. The spell must be finished simultaneously by six casters, who all utilize the same material component and have chosen the same form of imprisonment. The material component and the target must remain in range of all casters for the entire casting time, or the spell fails. If any of the casters stop casting, the spell fails.

Upon completion, the target doesn't need to breathe, eat, drink, and doesn't age. Divinations can't locate or perceive the target.

Choose one of the following forms of Imprisonment:
  • Burial. The target is entombed far beneath the earth in a sphere of magical force. Nothing can pass through the sphere, nor can any creature teleport or use planar travel to get into or out of it.
  • Chaining. Heavy chains, firmly rooted in the ground, hold the target in place. The target is restrained until the spell ends, and it can’t move or be moved by any means until then.
  • Hedged Prison. The spell transports the target into a tiny demiplane that is warded against teleportation and planar travel. The demiplane can be a labyrinth, a cage, a tower, or any similar confined structure or area of your choice.
  • Minimus Containment. The target shrinks to a height of 1 inch and is imprisoned inside a gemstone or similar object. Light can pass through the gemstone normally (allowing the target to see out and other creatures to see in), but nothing else can pass through, even by means of teleportation or planar travel. The gemstone can’t be cut or broken while the spell remains in effect.
  • Slumber. The target falls asleep and can’t be awoken.

    Ending the Spell: You must specify a condition that will cause the spell to end and release the target. The condition can be as specific or as elaborate as you choose, but the GM must agree that the condition is reasonable and has a likelihood of coming to pass. The conditions can be based on a creature’s name, identity, or deity but otherwise must be based on observable actions or qualities and not based on intangibles such as level, class, or hit points. The effect cannot be dispelled, but an Anti-Magic field immediately ends the effect.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell at 5th level or higher, the number of simultaneous casters required is reduced by 1 for every spell slot above 4th.



Designer Comments

So the idea here is to make it like the common fantasy trope where many wizards have to work together to bind a creature. The real key here is that there is NO SAVING THROW, so you could in theory imprison anything....which is the point. When all else fails, you could try an imprisonment to stop a BBEG, and it will work no matter how strong that BBEG is. However, its incredibly tricky, you need 6 casters working together, you need to ensure they can concentrate for a full minute (aka if just one of them loses concentration its game over), and they most likely need a way to hold or contain the creature, as the second it leaves the area... game over. So this creates a very fun and tense moment....an epic battle not to kill the creature, but to protect the casters and hold the creature in place just long enough for the effect to kick in. Though the spell is exceptionally powerful, it is also incredibly difficult to pull off.

The upcast allows for a smaller cabal of more powerful wizards to do the same effect, and the "ultimate wizard" (aka 9th level spells) can do it by themselves, which again I think is very appropriate to many stories out there.
 

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A warlock

First Post
Very good idea!
Although I would add it to the spell list of warlocks, clerics and maybe druids, in order to make the trick a little easier to pull off. But since we're talking about sealing a lich, fiend or other powerful evil, it would still be a hard task.
The only slight issue for me is that as of I understand it, all spellcasters must be of high level in order to upcast this spell. Here is what I would do:
The casting time is "special". The spell requires a total of 10 minutes of casting to take effect, but this amount is divided across all casters. If a caster stops casting or concentrating, its contribution to the total pool disappears.
At higher levels: When you cast this spell at 5th level or higher, your contribution to the casting time is increased by one for every level above 4. For example, if you cast this spell with a 6th level spell slot, you make the casting time progress 3 times as fast.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Interesting idea.

I think that one point the players might challenge is why, if they had the monster helpless for an entire minute, they couldn't kill it. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, just something to think about so you have a good answer for the sake of verisimilitude.

The other aspect is preventing it from becoming a permanent solution of indefinitely kicking the can down the road. To that end, I think maybe put a limit on it? For example, perhaps the first time the spell is cast on something they get no save, whereas subsequent times they do. That way, it's only a sure thing once.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Interesting idea.

I think that one point the players might challenge is why, if they had the monster helpless for an entire minute, they couldn't kill it. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, just something to think about so you have a good answer for the sake of verisimilitude.

The other aspect is preventing it from becoming a permanent solution of indefinitely kicking the can down the road. To that end, I think maybe put a limit on it? For example, perhaps the first time the spell is cast on something they get no save, whereas subsequent times they do. That way, it's only a sure thing once.
I think your point about subsequent uses is valid, and I could probably add a clause that says "this spell fails on an already imprisoned creature" or something like that.

Good point on the "kill it when its helpless". I don't want it to be full suspended animation, as part of imprisonment might be to pump the creature for information or to torture it. I could perhaps add in something about damage or conditions are removed after 1 minute or something...have to think on it.
 

Yea sure. But why?

And what I mean is why create a spell for something that is so special and one off that unless a campaign is designed specifically for this spell, it is never going to be used by the PCs. (How many parties are going to have 6 spell casting PCs with this on their spell list? How many of those are then going to need this?)

And if it's not going to be used by the PCs, then the only rule that the DM needs to apply this effect is the Rule of Cool. There is no need to detail this out as a spell, rather just give it to the appropriate NPC as an action much like is done with a hag coven.

This is story element, just tell the story and set the conditions for the party to overcome it and move on with the fun.
 

Stalker0

Legend
And if it's not going to be used by the PCs, then the only rule that the DM needs to apply this effect is the Rule of Cool. There is no need to detail this out as a spell, rather just give it to the appropriate NPC as an action much like is done with a hag coven.

This is story element, just tell the story and set the conditions for the party to overcome it and move on with the fun.
I would argue that this version CAN be a more PC driven element, but would probably need NPC support.

I agree that 6 7th level PC wizards is unlikely. But 1 PC wizard who gathers 5 other NPCs, defended by the rest of the party, to try and trap the BBEG.... I could totally see that.

The real answer to your question is....of course I can handwave anything if I wanted to. But the key difference is....if I just make it up its the GMs giving the PCs a story tool when they want the players to have it. If the PCs know about a tool ahead of time, then its they're planning and effort that can drive the story. Players are dealing with super insane BBEG and suddenly the party wizard goes....."what about imprisonment as an option?". The wizard looks up the spell, and starts to hatch an idea. Okay we will need to recruit 5 more wizards....I'll need to give them copies of the spell so we will need magical ink. Etc etc"

Suddenly the PCs created a cool story plan all on their own, as opposed to me giving them a plot way to take out the BBEG. Both have merits, but I do find that players are much more invested in things when they get to figure out the path as opposed to being given the path.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
Interesting idea.

I think that one point the players might challenge is why, if they had the monster helpless for an entire minute, they couldn't kill it. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, just something to think about so you have a good answer for the sake of verisimilitude.

The other aspect is preventing it from becoming a permanent solution of indefinitely kicking the can down the road. To that end, I think maybe put a limit on it? For example, perhaps the first time the spell is cast on something they get no save, whereas subsequent times they do. That way, it's only a sure thing once.
Renewing the seals that hold the Great Evil at bay every X years is kind of a trope. And of course one day something will go wrong.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Renewing the seals that hold the Great Evil at bay every X years is kind of a trope. And of course one day something will go wrong.
Sure, but when things do inevitably go wrong, the solution is rarely to just keep bottling the evil up again and again. In most stories, after the evil is released, it is finally dealt with permanently by the heroes (the PCs, in this case).

What you describe could be an imprisonment whose end clause involves a certain rite being observed every year, or something along those lines.
 

I would argue that this version CAN be a more PC driven element, but would probably need NPC support.

I agree that 6 7th level PC wizards is unlikely. But 1 PC wizard who gathers 5 other NPCs, defended by the rest of the party, to try and trap the BBEG.... I could totally see that.

The real answer to your question is....of course I can handwave anything if I wanted to. But the key difference is....if I just make it up its the GMs giving the PCs a story tool when they want the players to have it. If the PCs know about a tool ahead of time, then its they're planning and effort that can drive the story. Players are dealing with super insane BBEG and suddenly the party wizard goes....."what about imprisonment as an option?". The wizard looks up the spell, and starts to hatch an idea. Okay we will need to recruit 5 more wizards....I'll need to give them copies of the spell so we will need magical ink. Etc etc"

Suddenly the PCs created a cool story plan all on their own, as opposed to me giving them a plot way to take out the BBEG. Both have merits, but I do find that players are much more invested in things when they get to figure out the path as opposed to being given the path.
Honestly I get it. To me it's just not worth the effort to develop in detail something that might be used once. Are they even going to use this even one time? That's a lot of work to go through. But hey, maybe its the best way to solve a story problem. But then is it something they are going to want to use with ever BBEG? You can work that out if it becomes a problem.

Look, you already put in the work. You have a workable solution, so make it available to your players.

But realize, you did just make it up. Whether you did so as a new spell/ritual that is an available tool before needed, or as a scroll, result of research, or a quest; in the end, you just made it up. (Which is good, it's one of the expectations of a DM) It's all about how you feed it to them :)
 

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