D&D 5E Power Word Kill Houserule: Any <100 hp within 1 minute

nevin

Hero
I had this idea to try and get Power Word Kill up to stuff with some of the superior 9th level spells. what do you all think of this one?

Power Word Kill
Bonus Action
Duration 1 minute
Range: 60 feet
Target: 1 creature you can see within range.

The target becomes cursed with the specter of death. If the target has fewer than 100 hitpoints at any point during the spell's duration, the target dies, and the spell ends. A remove curse automatically dispels this effect.


So the idea here is to make the spell a bonus action, and allow it to be more of a "curse" type effect on the creature. This way you don't have to "guess" the target's HP, you can beat on them, and as soon as you hit the threshold, they die.

Now maybe the bonus action is overkill, but there is a pretty strong gap to get to the better 9th level spells, so I figure I would go big. What do you think, does this make the spell worthy of its 9th level peers?
this actually makes it too powerful. 10 rounds makes it almost gauranteed death. I could see saving every round for 3 or 4 rounds vs death and simply doing away with the damage. That would be an appropriate 9th level spell.
 

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Stalker0

Legend
The OP is right that it is underpowered compared to other Level 9 spells, though that is always going to be a problem when one of those spells is wish.
We all know wishes power, but honestly there a lot of very strong 9th level spells.

Invulnerability....I mean enough said.
Foresight: Insanely good bonuses that last an entire day.
True Polymorph: Tons of shenanigans you can do with that.

In comparison, even this version of Power Word kill looks pretty quaint. Sure its cool no doubt, but it provides a very limited effect compared to the overall adventuring day.
 

Stalker0

Legend
We already have a Power Word Kill update in Lord Soth's Word of Death:


This is what I believe the designers would do with PWK today. Granted, DC of the save may be a bit different, but still. No guessing about HP, just a flat 100 (or 50 on successful save) hp damage out of the gate. That will put a dent in anyone's day, though one would still want to be judicious about for opponents that would obviously have very high HP and a high Con save.
honestly that is pretty hot garbage compared to other 9th level spells. I mean hell meteor swarm is going to do 70 damage even on a passed save most of the time, and that's to multiple targets. Even magic missile upcast into a 9th level slot does 58.5 "nigh guaranteed" damage, and with a much longer range.

Disintegrate casts as a 9th level spell does a similar amount of damage on a failed save, now true it does nothing on a passed save, but at the same time when it kills you, you really stay dead (and at those high levels, that kind of stuff matters, regeneration, ressurection, death ward, there are lots of ways to recover from death....and disintegrate takes out many of them).
 

like @nevin said, as written this is broken even for a 9th level spell. my suggestion would be to keep everything the same, except the HP threshold required to trigger the effect reduces by 10 each round (so on round 1 it's 100, round 2 it's 90, round 3 it's 80, etc. down to 10 hp at round *10). that way the spirit of this houserule is the same, but it's less guaranteed death so much as it is a rapidly ticking clock for both sides. *if you don't think that's powerful enough, you could have it reduce by 5 each round instead.

*edit.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
Here's my version of the spell, as I also felt it was underwhelming:

Power Word Kill

9th-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

You utter a word of power that can compel one creature you can see within range to die instantly. If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies. If the creature has more than 100 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw. If the creature fails, it is reduced to one quarter of its remaining hit point total (rounded down). If the creature succeeds, it takes 50 points of necrotic damage.
 

Power Word Kill

9th-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

You utter a word of power that can compel one creature you can see within range to die instantly. If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies. If the creature has more than 100 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw. If the creature fails, it is reduced to one quarter of its remaining hit point total (rounded down). If the creature succeeds, it takes 50 points of necrotic damage.
oh damn, i like this one. i might steal it.
 

Here's my version of the spell, as I also felt it was underwhelming:

Power Word Kill

9th-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

You utter a word of power that can compel one creature you can see within range to die instantly. If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies. If the creature has more than 100 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw. If the creature fails, it is reduced to one quarter of its remaining hit point total (rounded down). If the creature succeeds, it takes 50 points of necrotic damage.
I prefer the OP's version, but this is not bad either!
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
How about:

Power Word Kill
Bonus Action
Duration 1 minute
Range: 60 feet
Target: Self

For the next minute you are aware which creatures you can detect that have fewer than 100 HP within range. As part of casting this spell, or as a bonus action, you can kill a single creature of your choice within 60 feet with fewer than 100 HP, then the spell ends.

---

This keeps the "you say a word and they die" part of the spell intact. But you cast it, and are given a list of valid targets continuously.

The bonus action gathers the power. Then you can either utter the word of death immediately, or can wait up to a minute.

In a game where the DM tells PCs the HP of monsters (or Players can metagame what their HP is accurately), this is basically equivalent (except the pre-commit, which makes it slightly worse). And this spell isn't OP in such games.
A little too gamist for my tastes. I liked the first interpretation better.
 

To me an ongoing effect of any type goes against the theme of the spell, which is the swift, brutal, "kill with a single, overpowered word of ancient, foundational magic". The instant success or failure is part of the vibe, the problem is simply that by time you gain access to it everything worth spending your best spell on is not going to be vulnerable. And the problem on the DM side is that they usually either know a PC is below 100 HP or above, and as much as you might try to compartmentalize that metagame knowledge away, ultimately you usually cast it knowing that you either definitely will or will not kill a PC.

Really I think it should kill any creature below 100 HP but also be a save or die for creatures above. Then it still won't break combats against creatures with legendary resistances (which should be most important combats by time you are wielding 9th level magic), but will not have so much consequence ride on the particular HP which just incentivizes metagaming too much. It would also vastly increase the times when it felt fair for a DM to use it on player characters.
 


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