Far Corners of the World07/20/2002

The Far Corners of the World -
Sand and Sun: Spells of the Desert

Welcome to the first installment of the Far Corners of the World series of articles! Each article explores unusual and rare spells, monsters, and magic items related to the distant and often inhospitable reaches of any campaign world. These spells, monsters, and items are presented in a world-neutral format so that you can adapt them easily to your own campaign world, where they can be discovered as rewards and punishments for a party of adventurers who choose to travel far from their homes in search of adventure. This article presents four such spells for use in any campaign, although their strengths can be realized truly only by those who understand the mysterious ways of the desert.

The desert is a beautiful place -- a beautiful place and a dangerous place. Civilization rarely penetrates far into the sandy and stony depths of the desert, for there is little to sustain it in the barren reaches. Nevertheless, many call the desert home and both love and respect its power. Nomadic tribes ply the trackless reaches, navigating by the sun and stars and camping at established oases. Criminals often live in exile in the desert, eking out a living and waiting for a chance to return home once society has forgotten their crimes. Druids live there as well; these solemn individuals possess a knack for finding life and comfort among the dunes and protectors, and they serve their chosen environs as diligently as those who live in less inhospitable climes.

Many of these denizens of the desert turn to magic to make their lives easier. A number of these spellcasters have developed unique spells tied to the sands and sun of the desert. Some have discovered ways to call up the wind and heat of the desert to leach the life from their enemies or to knock them prone with exhaustion. Others have developed ways to imprison their enemies below the sandy dunes for later interrogation. And others have gone even further by developing methods to become a living extension of their chosen home.

Blood Sirocco
Level: Drd 6
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Effect: Cone
Duration: 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Fortitude negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

Blood sirocco creates a hot, stifling wind that tears across the landscape, kicking up clouds of dust and sand and moving in the direction you are facing. The force of the blood sirocco automatically extinguishes candles, torches, and similar unprotected flames. It causes protected flames, such as those of lanterns, to dance wildly and has a 50% chance to extinguish these lights. Creatures caught in the area of this severe wind may be affected (see Dungeon Master's Guide for details about severe wind effects on creatures). Any creature is entitled a saving throw each round to ignore the effects of the blood sirocco.

Those who fail to save against the stifling winds of a blood sirocco quickly become dehydrated (see page 86 of the Dungeon Master's Guide) as the supernatural winds blow through their bodies, carrying away tiny streamers of blood and moisture and carrying it on the wind as a fine mist. Each round an affected creature remains in the area of effect and fails a Fortitude saving throw, this leaching of blood causes 1d6 points of damage and 1 point of temporary Strength damage. Additionally, a creature that suffers damage from a blood sirocco is dazed and can take no actions for 1 round. He can defend himself from attack. (Undead and constructs are not subject to any of these dehydration effects.)

If cast in an already dry region, such as in a desert, the blood sirocco's duration increases by a number of rounds equal to the caster's Wisdom bonus.

Dune Tomb
Level: Clr 8, Sor/Wiz 8
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Target: Up to one creature/level within 60 feet of each other who are in contact with the same sand dune
Duration: 1 day/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

This spell can affect only creatures who are in contact with a sand dune that is at least twice as large as the largest creature targeted. You can target up to one creature per level, but all of the targets must be within 60 feet of each other. All targeted creatures who fail to resist the dune tomb effect sink down into the dune to a depth equal to twice their height and are magically held for as long as the spell persists. During this time, they do not need to eat, drink, or breathe, and they do not heal damage (to hit points or to ability scores), but they do continue to age normally. Each day that passes after the initial casting, a victim must make another Will save or suffer 1 point of permanent Wisdom drain as their mind slowly begins to fall apart under the strain of the inky isolation.

As long as the spell remains in effect, the caster can communicate to any of the entrapped victims in a manner identical to that provided by the sending spell, save that there is no limit to the number of words that can be transmitted. Communicating in this manner requires concentration, and it removes the need for the victim to make a Will save to prevent Wisdom drain until another 24 hours pass after the communication ends. The victims can reply as they wish, but the caster can always opt to end the conversation as a free action, plunging the victim back into isolation. The caster can release any or all of the victims at will by dismissing the magic entrapping the victim in question. A mental ping informs you if the victim leaves the tomb.

The freedom spell can free the imprisoned person, but only if it's cast within 60 feet of where the person is entombed. Magical search by a crystal ball, a locate object spell, or some other similar divination does not reveal the fact that a creature is entombed, but discern location does.

Desert spellcasters often use this spell to entrap enemies, promising them freedom in return for information.

Material Component: A hollow gold 1-inch square box containing sand and a mummified body part from any genie. The gold box must be worth at least 2,000 gp.

Level: Drd 3, Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One living creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude partial
Spell Resistance: Yes

You cause the targeted creature to suffer as if it had been toiling for hours on end under the merciless hammer of the desert sun. If the target fails to resist the spell, it immediately becomes fatigued. If the target is already fatigued, it instead becomes exhausted. The target suffers 2d6 points of subdual damage from the oppressive heat as well, even if he or she makes the Fortitude saving throw to avoid fatigue or exhaustion.

Level: Sor/Wiz 4
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 minute/level

When you cast this spell, your body, along with all equipment worn or carried, transforms into living sand. You take the form of an ooze, and you are immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing, for the duration of the spell. You can still be affected by mind-affecting spells since, unlike oozes, you still possess a mind and retain your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You are not subject to critical hits or flanking. You become blind, but gain the blindsight special quality, which allows you to sense vibrations and subtle changes in the air around you, granting you "vision" of a sort to a range of 60 feet.

You also retain your base attack bonus, base saves, alignment, level, class, type (and subtype), extraordinary abilities, spells, and spell-like abilities, but not your supernatural abilities. You can cast spells for which you have components. The new form can be disorienting. Any time you are in a demanding situation (such as combat), you must succeed at a Will save (DC 19) or suffer a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saves, skill checks, and ability checks until the situation passes. Upon death, you revert to your original form.

Your new form makes you difficult to kill, and, as a result, you gain a number of bonus hit points equal to your size, as detailed on the following table.

Your Size Bonus
Hit Points
Tiny or smaller --
Small 5
Medium-size 10
Large 15
Huge 20
Gargantuan 30
Colossal 40

While in sand form, you have a speed of 20 feet. You can pass through openings as small as a quarter of an inch in diameter, although passing through an opening two size categories smaller than you takes a full round action. You also gain a natural attack: an abrasive slam with a gritty pseudopod that grants 5 additional feet of reach. The number of times you can attack with this pseudopod each round is determined by your base attack, and you apply 1.5 times your Strength bonus on any damage done as if you were attacking with a two-handed weapon. A successful hit does a base of 1d8 points of slashing and bludgeoning damage.

In sandy deserts or on sandy beaches, you gain a +10 circumstance bonus on all Hide checks and one-quarter concealment (attacks against you suffer a 10% miss chance). This natural attack form is the only natural attack form you can use while in this state.

Material Component: A handful of sand taken from an elemental with the earth subtype.

Next month, we look at a handful of the more
dangerous creatures to be found in the desert.

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