View Full Version : Anyone know any interesting soul stealing rules and mechanics?

2016-04-29, 07:39 AM
I'm looking for game mechanics for a class or even just a creature that harvests and collects, or just consumes, souls to either increase its power, attributes, or allow for special abilities, as opposed to say The Elder Scrolls series where they are merely an ingredient in item forging. A game play component as opposed to merely fluff. Anything is appreciated from official game rules, to homebrew, to ramblings off the top of your head.
currently I'm only aware of(can remember only) WoW's warlocks, which have changed quite a bit since I played, gonna have to relearn them.

just some of what I'm wondering

Did the souls allow for a special ability or power and get consumed on use?
Did the souls provide some increase in attribute or ability while owned?
did the souls increase a pool or recharge rate while owned?
could they both be a one time use for a special purpose, but a benefit until 'spent'
were the souls consumed instead. perhaps a digestion period?
what were the rules dictating the number of souls that could be bound, possessed?
what were the rules for acquiring, capturing, new souls
was there a cost, penalty for having bound souls?(concentration penalty for example due to the voices)
could the souls be stripped, freed, from the harvester?
did the souls have different values based on their source?

Any examples would be appreciated

2016-04-29, 10:53 AM
I ran a campaign (homebrew) with this as a central premise. The gods were basically farming the souls of the dead for power up until someone figured out a way to engineer a sort of spiritual toxin and more or less blew them up. So lots of soul fragments (including fragments of god-souls) got strewn about. Those with the fragments of god-souls ended up in a sort of alternate version of the world that the gods used to create fates and destinies and such, but from their point of view it was just a kind of weird post-apocalyptic wasteland since most people were actually shadows of the real people, and so took the form of a kind of soulless zombie that just went about the most generic, usual behaviors that could be ascribed to that person without ever forming memories or changing.

When someone with a fragment of a god-soul was killed in that place, the soul would manifest corporeally for a brief time before it basically spontaneously resurrected the individual somewhere else. In that moment, another person with a god-soul fragment could choose to absorb, consume, or destroy the fragment. Each option had certain benefits and certain consequences.

Benefits: Each type of action granted a source of a kind of specialized XP that could be used to unlock related powers. That is to say, a character who Absorbed one soul would get +1 Weft XP per game, a character who Consumed one soul would gain +1 Shape XP per game, etc. Party balance was maintained by having ways that these points could be traded around or transformed, as well as having a few major encounters early on which granted multiple fragments, so variations in XP gain rate were relatively small compared to the mean rate.

Penalties: Each type of action caused the accumulation of a certain kind of taint, which could cause problems if it got to high levels.

- Absorbing souls caused one to begin to be able to see the fabric of reality in the special realm as a projection of souls rather than as a concrete reality. By pulling upon aspects of their own soul (which grew and diversified with every absorption), they could manifest those aspects to perform different kinds of personalized idiosyncratic magic. They would also gain a greater presence, creating a sort of aura around them that made the world work their way rather than other people's way - that aura could create low-level persistent effects. At the moment of absorbing a soul, the individual would revisit a moment of their past and would have a choice to integrate some aspect of the absorbed soul's past in that place - this would actually change their past (due to the properties of the alternate plane), so there were some weird things you could do there. The downside to Absorbing is that it granted a point of Legion taint, which would slowly create a compounding multiple-personality-disorder type situation, and at very high levels could result in having one of the other souls within the person seize control of the gestalt by force.

- Consuming souls essentially converts the soul into power to make the host's soul grow stronger while totally stripping away every last vestige of the consumed soul's original identity. This is probably the 'safest' route, as the main downside was just that doing this was addictive (mechanically represented by Hunger taint). The upside is that the character begins to realize how to restructure souls instinctively, and in this plane that corresponded to being able to reshape the projection of one's soul onto the world - e.g. change one's physical form at will. So this path granted a lot of shape-shifting and raw physical ability type powers.

- Destroying souls releases the bits of causality and connectedness that give them form and power in the universe. However, because the process is irreversible and in this setting there can only ever be a finite amount of structured souls, doing this was a great taboo forbidden even to the gods. In order to enforce that taboo, long ago the gods created a curse which would strike down anyone who engaged in the destruction of souls - a curse which would eventually even erode away a god. The Curse taint causes a number of spiritual maladies as it grows - essentially what happens is that the Cursed individual tends to warp effects near them to be awful for themselves and for those around them. At very high levels this would extend to things that would normally just be part of normal existence, such as projecting a body into the world. The upshot was those who destroy souls learn intimately about exactly how souls 'work', and as a result gain the ability to manipulate deep parts of reality. These 'Numina' powers were the sort of grab-bag of plot powers such as the ability to transform types of soul into each-other, the ability to modify souls in weird ways (soul surgery), to create destinies and fates, and even to rip open gates to other planes of existence.

2016-04-29, 03:10 PM
The way my campaign setting works, the spiritual component of the soul (spiritus, as opposed to animus and intellectus) crosses into the Underworld upon death and becomes a shade. When that happens, it releases ambient energy near the site of death, which psychometrists and other sensitives can pick up on, but that energy can't be harnessed.


If you trap a soul at the moment of death, using a ritual circle or a special device, you can keep it from crossing over immediately. Then, if you later release it under controlled circumstances (again, using a ritual circle or a special device), you can harness the energy it releases when it crosses over. Instead of forming that psychic imprint, it gets channeled into whatever spell or ritual or magical item you decide to use it for.

The catch is that the spiritus wants to cross over--its natural course is to cross over into the Underworld, make its way to the River Styx, and pass beyond the mortal coil. Keeping it from doing that twists it: even a short entrapment can make a soul confused and unable to find its way once it's in the underworld, and a longer entrapment can make a soul monstrous and destructive...but, the longer you keep a soul trapped, the more potent it becomes when you finally release it.

I once set my players up against a necromancer who used trapped souls, and after they defeated him and entered his private sanctum, they discovered the racks upon racks of entrapped souls...some of which he'd inherited from his master, who'd inherited them from his master, etc. Some of the souls had been entrapped for centuries, and that made my players very nervous about releasing them to their final rest...in the end, they picked out the oldest and most dangerous ones, and set out on a quest to carry them bodily into the Underworld so that they could release them directly into the River Styx, where they hopefully wouldn't be able to do any harm in their misery and madness.

2016-04-29, 07:11 PM
Do the Dark Souls thing. XP is just absorbing souls. Levelling up is spending them.

Make it the in-game currency and suddenly you're pretty close to how DS works.

2016-04-30, 07:11 PM
The goal i have is to come up with mechanics to invoke a truely sinister, horrid image of a creature. Like the artwork I occassionaly see for demons, warlocks and necromancers. Beings surrounded by the twisted, agonized souls of those they ensnared, or whose bodies are composed of the writhing tortured spirits they're slowly consuming. Just that malevolent, vile entity.

Obviously you don't want the rules to get too weighty, but at the same I want them to be fairly frequently present to reinforce that image, mechanics that remind you of how that creature/class is operating when it can't be conveyed otherwise, so that you always know, this monster/player is doing very bad things. A simple action on someone with less than 2HD remaining, so that you can recover a few spells, doesn't really convey that on its own, its a coup de grace. similiarly dark souls using them as currency, without any real interaction, doesn't really sell it either(never played it, went to their wiki).
Its nice to see the zombies in Skyrim groaning in pain and begging you to kill them, for example(although it does get annoying after awhile) but all the fuss over black soul gems really comes off as silly

I'm reluctant to inflict insantiy and addiction on a player character, but it definitely helps convey the message, and i think this is mostly because i've seen it done poorly too often(my bad luck, i'd like to hear exactly how you did this if you wouldn't mind). I do like enviormental impact, and the corrupted souls potentially becoming dangerous monsters themselves on being released, especially if they can be identified(you find out the monster you are fighting was once a good, simple person) is a very nice touch.

ofcourse while the goal is to create mechanics for this abomination, any similiar mechanics are interesting and appreciated. Many thanks for the responses. Some good ideas and inspiration in here.

2016-04-30, 10:38 PM
I'm reluctant to inflict insantiy and addiction on a player character, but it definitely helps convey the message, and i think this is mostly because i've seen it done poorly too often(my bad luck, i'd like to hear exactly how you did this if you wouldn't mind). I do like enviormental impact, and the corrupted souls potentially becoming dangerous monsters themselves on being released, especially if they can be identified(you find out the monster you are fighting was once a good, simple person) is a very nice touch.

ofcourse while the goal is to create mechanics for this abomination, any similiar mechanics are interesting and appreciated. Many thanks for the responses. Some good ideas and inspiration in here.

The players almost never let it get so high as to matter (which was in part the intent - to give the players a lot of indications of danger and then see how much they're willing to play with fire to get more power). The other factor is, each of these taints corresponds to XP gain rate, not just XP gain. So if you have 6 points of taint and someone else has 3, you're going to basically always be twice their level (at least, inasmuch as the concept maps onto this very different game system). So since there's a lot to gain, the system is designed such that there's a lot to lose as well; 'do I want to deal with that 7th point, or would that ruin the character?' is a question that one might be expected to have to ask themselves.

Roughly the mechanics were:


- Each point of Legion corresponds to something about your past being rewritten to meld with the memories of the soul that point represents. When it happens, the player has some control but not 100% control. This may also mean that things about the absorbed soul's situation become mapped onto the character. So e.g. if you absorb the soul of a wanted criminal, people in the Unknowing World might start mistaking you for that criminal, and things like that.

- At Legion ratings >= 4, some passive effects enter the character's Weft from the absorbed souls. An example of this was an NPC who had been sick all her life, and so that was 'normal' to her - her Weft would just make other people like her, so people were always getting sick around her. If a PC absorbed that NPC and was above 4 Legion, their Weft might spontaneously have that same property. If it were the soul of a hardened criminal, soulless in the Weft might become less generous, more hostile, more extreme in their actions. If it were the soul of a farmer, urban areas might start spontaneously converting to fields or things like that.

- At Legion ratings >= 6, there is a Legion-in-10 chance per game session that one of the absorbed souls imparts a particular special goal or attitude or other characteristic to the PC. The one time this happened, the player was a good sport about it and tried to play it out legitimately. As the Legion score increases, these imparted attributes also become stronger.

- At Legion rating = 10, the imparting soul will also be the dominant persona for that game session. This would normally make the PC unplayable (and there'd be lots of warnings since it takes a lot of time to gain 4 points of Legion when you get about 1 point for a major boss encounter), but there could be extenuating circumstances to make it still functional. For example, if the dominant absorbed souls were chosen as personalities that the player liked the idea of playing, or if the absorbed souls were willing participants (and therefore just gave control back to the player). Also, there are sources of 'Legion Tolerance' which let you reduce the effects of your Legion score temporarily or permanently, so a player could hover at this line by using those things.


For Hunger, the addiction to soul-consumption begins as some other kind of addiction which masks the soul-consuming one (because generally people won't know what feeling hungry for souls actually feels like). The player can choose this mundane addiction. In this system, there were three point pools (Body Points, Mind Points, Spirit Points). Body points refresh completely with rest. Mind points refresh partially with rest, Spirit points refresh at one per game session, or with special circumstances. The basic model of an addiction in this game is that failing to indulge in the addiction slows down or stops the refresh rate of Mind points, or even causes gradual Mind drain for every day that the addiction is not indulged. Mind points are used to power abilities, but they're also used as a kind of hitpoints against social manipulation, magical domination, etc, so even if you don't use Mind points proactively as a character you could be very vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks if you let them run out.

So basically the Hunger mechanics introduce an a scaling mundane addiction of the player's choice at the low ranks (0..3), and then at 4+ the addiction swaps over to consuming souls in order to be able to regain Mind points.

We never got to very high levels of Hunger in the game, but the effect would be that you start to have a sort of always-on consumption and conversion of everything around you into yourself. If you successfully manipulated someone socially, you'd actually passively chew off a bit of their willpower and eat it. If you attack someone with a weapon, you wouldn't just hurt them, you'd eat a bit of their ability to exist as an unharmed whole, etc.


At low levels, the way Curse worked was to null out buffs, luck bonuses, and things like that granted to you by others. At higher levels it would begin to invert them, and would start to turn any positive gain you receive in your life due to the actions of others into an even greater negative outcome. At very high levels, you begin to lose 1SP per game rather than regaining 1SP per game, and when you hit zero you manifest outward physical signs of spiritual decay which actively pollute the world and turn it into a living nightmare around you. There was a char-gen advantage you could take which would basically play with this, which made it so that you essentially became immune to anything involving the SP system - you can't spend it, but you can't be subject to effects that would make you use SP to defend. So if someone did that, they could basically survive maxing out Curse and only have negative effects on others around them rather than suffering any themselves.

A lot of these effects were hinted at in advance with character-gen advantages/disadvantages that more or less amounted to starting with a phantom point of one of these negative taints, so the players had some reference to go on as to what kinds of stuff to expect, even if they didn't know concretely exactly what would happen at the different thresholds. Also, to give a sense of scale, the char-gen ads/disads worked on a +/- 10 point system: you could have as many as -10 points of disadvantages, and could thereby buy up to 10 points of advantages. Getting a single phantom point of one of these taints was considered roughly a 3 point disadvantage.