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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Spells to Detect or Sense Evil

Tim at Gothridge Manor has started going through the D&D spells one spell at a time and has made it to Detect Evil. Rob at Bat in the Attic has also commented on this. I’ve said some things about Detect Evil before, but I figured now is a good opportunity to comment on why I’m changing the spell in Liber Zero.

Tim likes the absence of subjectivity in the GURPS spell Sense Foes more than the vagueness of the B/X version. Rob points out that the original version in Men & Magic is in a way closer to the GURPS spell:
A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil.
I interpret the original spell the same way: the spell detects a plan to do harm, either within a person in the caster’s presence or within an active spell or enchantment placed by someone planning harm. I link it to the ESP spell, which detects all thoughts, not just thoughts of harming the caster. Enchanted objects are an exception to the rule that poison, traps, and other mindless things or substances have no thoughts and thus cannot be detected as “evil”. Enchantments, the way I see them, contain part of the enchanter’s thoughts and desires, as opposed to a mundane bear trap or covered pit.

So, in the LZ Hybrid Class pamphlet, I listed the spell as Sense Evil, and was tempted to rename it completely to Sense Enemy. I haven’t written spell descriptions yet (working on a huge spell database as prep for that…) but it will be something like:
Sense Evil (Short Perception Spell)
Senses beings and enchantments that plan to harm the caster.
Note that this would not detect beings planning harm against someone other than the caster. This is what an ESP (or Sense Thoughts) spell would do.

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  1. Thanks for the input. I'm enjoying going through the spells and learning a lot.

    1. Just remember to make a special tag so when you want to refer back to your notes on a spell, you can find those posts.