D&D 5E Power Word Kill (variant)

A lich made a failed Power Word Kill attempt on our L20 paladin last night. The spell is often criticised, and rightly so. Here's a suggested variant that is more fitting for a 9th-level spell:

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

You utter a fearsome word of power directed at a creature you can see within range. The target immediately loses 100 hit points, which can't be reduced in any way. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points, it dies.
 

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jgsugden

Legend
I have a different take in my campaign as a homebrew 9th level spell. I have similar versions of all the other Power Words.

Death Dictate
9th-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 minute (Concentration)

You utter a fearsome word of power directed at a creature you can see within range. If the target hears you, place 2 Death Trackers in front of you and at the start of each of your turns while you concentrate on this spell, place another Death Tracker in front of you. If the creature you chose has their hp total drop to equal or less than 50 times the number of Death Trackers before you, it dies. If your concentration ends before the creature dies, the spell has no effect.
If you cast the dictate at the start of a combat, you might end up taking out a massive creature that has 600 hps left in the 10th round of the combat. However, you'd have needed to concentrate for 10 rounds.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
A lich made a failed Power Word Kill attempt on our L20 paladin last night. The spell is often criticised, and rightly so. Here's a suggested variant that is more fitting for a 9th-level spell:

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

You utter a fearsome word of power directed at a creature you can see within range. The target immediately loses 100 hit points, which can't be reduced in any way. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points, it dies.
This feels a lot more like a 9th level spell to me than the original.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
A lich made a failed Power Word Kill attempt on our L20 paladin last night. The spell is often criticised, and rightly so. Here's a suggested variant that is more fitting for a 9th-level spell:

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

You utter a fearsome word of power directed at a creature you can see within range. The target immediately loses 100 hit points, which can't be reduced in any way. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points, it dies.
Better than the original. Given most monsters die at 0 hit points anyways unless the DM is doing something special, that part doesn't mean much unless its being cast at PCs. Only caveat is that it far exceeds the value of any damage spell upcast to 9th level for a 1-round hit. Nothing even comes remotely close.
 


cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Better than the original. Given most monsters die at 0 hit points anyways unless the DM is doing something special, that part doesn't mean much unless its being cast at PCs. Only caveat is that it far exceeds the value of any damage spell upcast to 9th level for a 1-round hit. Nothing even comes remotely close.
Which I think makes sense. I feel 9th level spells especially should be more powerful that an upcast spell.
 


cbwjm

Seb-wejem
I like it!

I sometimes wonder if there should be an “opposite” to legendary resistance. I.e. the monster forces a failed save in its target. Maybe taking up one of their legendary resistances.
That sounds like a good idea. Call it something like Overpower, only capable of affecting a single target at a time so a red dragon can only force a single person to fail a save against their breath weapon. Having it use its own legendary resistance charges also makes using that resource becomes more tactical. Might need to change it slightly to something like:

 Legendary
This creature has 3 legendary charges, they can spend one charge at a time for the following:
  • Resistance. We all know this one.
  • Overpower. If an ability requires a saving throw, one target automatically fails.
Name might need to change so it doesn't get confused with legendary actions. This also means that other effects could be added to at a later date.
 

I like it!

I sometimes wonder if there should be an “opposite” to legendary resistance. I.e. the monster forces a failed save in its target. Maybe taking up one of their legendary resistances.
That's an interesting thought! You can achieve the same effect by simply having legendary abilities that don't give you a saving throw. Perhaps the monster has an ability that stuns you for 1 round without a save, but once you've been affected you are immune for an hour. That sort of thing.

I have occasionally created spells that, like Magic Missile, are auto-hit. I diminish the damage per level appropriately.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Think about that as a player.

Your PC walks into a room. The DM tells you that your PC is now under the control of the DM as it has been dominated. No roll. No notice. Nothing - you just lose control of your PC.

There are some players that would be ok with that situation - but a heck of a lot will not be and will be extremely frustrated. Save or die is rare in 5E, but save or effectively die is not - and if you take out the save, all you're left with is effectively die without a chance to survive.
 

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