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Thread: The Power Words

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    Default The Power Words

    This question just donned on me the other day:

    What exactly ARE the Power Words for Power Word Kill, Stun, Heal, etc.?

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    The exact fluff is left to player/DM agency, but I like to think of them as: "Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z'Bang!", "zoom-Boing!", and "z'nourrrwringnmmm!"
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    Assume that there is a Power Word such that if I communicate it to you, you immediately die.

    For obvious reasons, you don't want me to tell you what it is.

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    I always pictured it as the caster screaming "KILL!!!!" (or whatever spell (s)he is casting) at the top of their lungs.
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    I've always figured that they were some of the "Words of Creation", so to speak. As in, they were words from the divine language which created the world, and so still held the power to change the way the world works just by being spoken. They would not be words found in the Common tongue.
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I've always figured that they were some of the "Words of Creation", so to speak. As in, they were words from the divine language which created the world, and so still held the power to change the way the world works just by being spoken. They would not be words found in the Common tongue.
    I like that idea. The one for Power Word Kill might be Hakai.

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    The word cannot even be spoken except in a magic field generated by the preparing of the spell. Otherwise, any first level Fighter could use it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    I always pictured it as the caster screaming "KILL!!!!" (or whatever spell (s)he is casting) at the top of their lungs.
    This was always my headcanon

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I've always figured that they were some of the "Words of Creation", so to speak. As in, they were words from the divine language which created the world, and so still held the power to change the way the world works just by being spoken. They would not be words found in the Common tongue.
    In all honesty, this is probably what's intended. Going by the fact it takes a high level spell to use them we can also say that these words are essentially unpronouncable by mortals, and the entire point of the spell is to generate the incredibly specific sounds.
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    "Nothing you can't spell will ever work." - Will Rogers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Assume that there is a Power Word such that if I communicate it to you, you immediately die.

    For obvious reasons, you don't want me to tell you what it is.
    For obvious reasons, oneself wouldn't be able to know it either, since being communicated to oneself with kill them..

    so therefore, how did the spell get made? and how do you cast it? I must assume that its kind of looking at an unsolved puzzle and having to put it together without actually solving it in your head so that you fill in the spaces that the spell is not, tracing the shape of the spell around a void rather than knowing what the word actually is, to the point of the caster being temporarily deaf every time they speak Power Word: Kill.

    alternatively, the power words are like console commands in skyrim. your not ACTUALLY saying a word, your opening up the console of reality and typing in "targetbeing.setstate= dead." or something, and people just die as if out of nowhere.
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    And nobody's even said Avada Kedavra...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Mirror View Post
    And nobody's even said Avada Kedavra...
    This is about world-building. Considering the world-building in Harry Potter is... Let's just say lackluster, it's not a good example to follow.

    I say this as someone who likes the series too. It's got good characters and a good story. But the world-building is crap.
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    To be serious for a minute. The spell is not merely one word long. The spell has to be prepared like any other. After preparation (either immediately for a sorcerer, or later in the day for a wizard), it can be cast
    with a single word.

    And note that it has to be intentionally aimed, or everybody in hearing distance would die.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    To be serious for a minute. The spell is not merely one word long. The spell has to be prepared like any other. After preparation (either immediately for a sorcerer, or later in the day for a wizard), it can be cast
    with a single word.
    A bomb can be detonated with the simple push of a button, but it's not the button that's dangerous. As I recall, the big deal about the Power Word spells in earlier editions was that they had a very quick casting time with only a verbal component. They take just as much prep time as any other high level spell, but they can be used quickly in an emergency.

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    I always saw those types of spells like a programming code. A really long one that touches on the fundamental command sof the Software running the Universe..

    Which, once executed (rgo "cast") makes the Universe respond to it by speaking its Root Command for "Kill/Stun/Pain".
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    I like to think they’re Plato’s World of Forms represented as spells. When you use Power Word: Kill, you pull the purest, absolute manifestation of Kill itself into your plane. It’s unstable, and doesn’t last long before it gets absorbed into the impure world it is now in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    For obvious reasons, oneself wouldn't be able to know it either, since being communicated to oneself with kill them..

    so therefore, how did the spell get made? and how do you cast it? I must assume that its kind of looking at an unsolved puzzle and having to put it together without actually solving it in your head so that you fill in the spaces that the spell is not, tracing the shape of the spell around a void rather than knowing what the word actually is, to the point of the caster being temporarily deaf every time they speak Power Word: Kill.

    alternatively, the power words are like console commands in skyrim. your not ACTUALLY saying a word, your opening up the console of reality and typing in "targetbeing.setstate= dead." or something, and people just die as if out of nowhere.
    I think Skyrim is a good example here, because Skyrim actually has words of power as a system in it. Fus Roh Dah and all that malarky. It's a language, a primal, "code" to the universe that can be both spoken as a language, but can also be infused with power and desire.

    So, in effect, the primal beings of the universe speak in this language, and can have casual conversations about killing, deafness, stunning and so forth without actually causing any of those things to happen. But when they put their magical will behind the words, they become something more.

    Because really in D&D, anyone can speak the magic words of a spell, wiggle their fingers and stand on one foot and sprinkle some bat guano in the air. However, only people with access to magic, either innate or learned, can put any real power behind this.
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    RPG rule books are not contracts.

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    I feel the Power Words are part bardic spellcasting (tune into cosmic harmonies and use their power), part musica universalis (trying to describe and assign everything with and to a particular tune, frequency or harmony) and part Theory of Everything (trying to condense the understanding of the whole universe into a single string of formulae). I am not well versed into either of these esoteric and metaphysical models and I feel D&D-esque gaming has always portrayed the "fix everything with one tool" with the wish and miracle spells better.

    Of course most of the times something goes wrong because mortals will never fully understand the cosmos and thus screw up.

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    I would think of them as being like a verbal iteration of Plato's Perfect Forms. All words communicate ideas, but the Power Word is a version of that word with its truest meaning unleashed by magic, so strong that it not only communicates the idea but rather manifests its meaning into the material world.

    So when someone says Power Word: Kill, they are literally saying "KILL"; the purest, most raw form of that word manifested into reality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    That's how I picture it. The Power Word is a simple word (usually not so simple as "Stun"; you don't want to accidentally release it), but the formulae that let you release all that power with a single word are extremely complex.
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    Indeed, since you must prepare Power Words (or, if you're a spontcaster, at least expend a spell slot on them), the actual pronunciation may be beyond the capability of mortal and even most immortal creatures. It requires extensive preparation of particular magics and the backing of power that is greater than mere air through vocal chords to properly pronounce them. The caster might pronounce only part of them as the verbal component, which also triggers the rest of the spell, which basically provides the extra sounds and such to properly shape it.

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    For a fantasy setting, I really like the idea of "ur language", the words of creation, the language the gods used to bring the universe into existence -- I have that in one of my settings. For those who've mastered the language, speaking the words with intent has effect, but how much effect depends on how much of the power you can handle without it "leaking" and cooking you from the inside out. Mistakes can be lethal, in the "we heard a loud 'CRACK' like thunder from his study, but all we found was a black scorch mark centered here, and charring on the furniture and books" sort of way.

    When one really intends to cause another's death, and speaks the word in that language aloud and directed at the target of one's enmity, with utter perfection, they might actually die -- because it's the word that the gods would speak to make a mortal die and carries that power with it.

    Also, because it's the ur language, any being that can understand any language can understand it when spoken, at a fundamental level that's as much psychic as it is audible -- as long as they're of the solar deities' creation or descended therefrom. (Which becomes a plot point in the fiction, as there's a character who is not descended from creation, and all she hears when someone's speaking it is meaningless random babble -- she needs a translator for the words that should never need translating.)


    On an entirely different note, the guys who make Thieves Can't did a 5e supplement called Power Chord Kill for musical magic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For a fantasy setting, I really like the idea of "ur language", the words of creation, the language the gods used to bring the universe into existence -- I have that in one of my settings. For those who've mastered the language, speaking the words with intent has effect, but how much effect depends on how much of the power you can handle without it "leaking" and cooking you from the inside out. Mistakes can be lethal, in the "we heard a loud 'CRACK' like thunder from his study, but all we found was a black scorch mark centered here, and charring on the furniture and books" sort of way.

    Also, because it's the ur language, any being that can understand any language can understand it when spoken, at a fundamental level that's as much psychic as it is audible -- as long as they're of the solar deities' creation or descended therefrom.
    I like that a lot.

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    They are fragments of Truespeak. ToM 191:

    LESSER TRUENAME MAGIC

    "Truename magic already exists in a limited form in every D&D campaign; it appears in the form of the command and power word spells. These spells originate from the power of truenaming, using a single word to wreak mighty magical effects. Though powerful, they are merely spells and lack the reusability and flexibility real truename magic."


    Putting aside the irony of saying that "mere spells" can't stand up to truenaming, in-universe that's the fluff explanation.

    Dracolexi (RotD), a PrC which uses a form of "draconic truenaming", gets some affinity with Power Words also.

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    Default Re: The Power Words

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For a fantasy setting, I really like the idea of "ur language", the words of creation, the language the gods used to bring the universe into existence -- I have that in one of my settings. For those who've mastered the language, speaking the words with intent has effect, but how much effect depends on how much of the power you can handle without it "leaking" and cooking you from the inside out. Mistakes can be lethal, in the "we heard a loud 'CRACK' like thunder from his study, but all we found was a black scorch mark centered here, and charring on the furniture and books" sort of way.
    The take in Fantasy Craft fits neatly with this idea; the Power Word spells in that game are symmetrical, all reading "you and a character of your choice" then having some no-save irrefutable effect. Power Word Kill requires some setup to use safely, as it reads "You and a special character of your choice each suffer enough damage to kill them, even if they can’t hear you."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    I always pictured it as the caster screaming "KILL!!!!" (or whatever spell (s)he is casting) at the top of their lungs.
    Holy Word as well

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Holy Word as well
    Also, STUN.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: The Power Words

    I did once give a cannonical answer to this for my PCs.

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