The Phantasmal Pessimist and Other Living Spell Examples

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0777

A couple weeks ago I offered a tip on creating Living Spells using a three step recipe. At the end was a challenge to use the recipe and create your own Living Spells.

In today’s Musing I share with you four Living Spells, crafted by your fellow readers, that caught my eye.

Here’s a link to a spreadsheet of all 39 entries. [] Alas, I don’t have time for editing. But if you enjoy editing I can give you edit permissions to the sheet. Just email me.

Meddling Mender

From Jochen Linnemann


Mending is just minor magic, or so people think. It’s great to keep stuff orderly while travelling. The Meddling Mender is the result of a late night repair attempt of a young fey-blooded sorcerer at a dying campfire who just fell asleep while casting this spell over his damaged clothing.


Since that night, the Meddling Mender travels that specific patch of the road and invisibly joins a party’s campfire when most are asleep. The Mender looks like a two-feet high elfin creature wearing patchwork clothing. As soon as the last person falls asleep it starts to work on the damaged clothing of its hosts. Sadly, it isn’t too picky with what to fix: holes, tears, or rips. Chain mail might get fixed using nearby grass finely woven into rings, or the mage’s robe might get patched up with pieces of scrap metal.


The Mender just wants to help people but fears to be seen by mortals. It does not know what is wrong or right, or how things should really be fixed, resulting in sometimes irksome changes. If someone should ever spot the creature while doing its work (it will be visible when working) it might decide to follow this person forever, gladly patching whatever needs mending.

Ice Mist

From André


A proud elemental mage’s ritual gone awry when she failed to turn a cold fog spell permanent to defend her hideout.


The effect spread uncontrollably. The entire ruins used as a hideout by the mage turned to an enclosed glacial cave and attracted creatures attuned to that environment. Everyone inside the dungeon will suffer constant cold damage and exposure effects. At the bottom of the dungeon, where the mage hid, the core power of the spell manifests as the frozen body of its former caster, reigning like a queen of ice.


Its impulse is to spread, creating a land of winter. It is only barred by the sun outside. However, reports say the cold winds echoing from the dungeon entrance are becoming stronger with each passing night.

Sentient Clairvoyance

From Infinitum3D


A wizard cast Clairvoyance on a summoning ritual, which negated the summoning of a demon and instead created this area of Sentient Clairvoyance.


A zone of Sentient Clairvoyance is an immobile 20 foot diameter 10 foot high half sphere. Upon entering, the spell will send images into your mind, attempting to communicate thorough these visions.

Options: it can move under its own desires, or it randomly appears around the dungeon once a day, or after every encounter, or whatever you like.


The Sentient Clairvoyance is lonely. If the PCs spend any amount of time being  friendly, just talking with the spell, telling it about the outside world (it can see outside, but cannot get there, so it wants to know more) the PCs can befriend the spell and it will show them wherever they want to see, like a scrying pool.

Phantasmal Pessimist

From Mad Mat The Mad


The pages of a spell book had become stuck together, and two different spells were accidentally merged when being cast by a drunk mage. Pessimism – a low level spell to cause despair, and Phantasmal Killer – a more powerful spell to bring forth an imaginary horror that stalks and kills through fear, directly in the mind of the victim.

Within minutes of miscasting the spell, the mage committed suicide, the power of the magic backlashing upon him. A fragment of his own life force then became part of the misfired spell, and the Phantasmal Pessimist (PP) was born.  

Since then, the PP has drifted. From time to time it has been drawn to positive people, and latched onto them, haunting their lives until they finally give up and commit suicide.


This living spell is essentially invisible to everyone bar the one person it decides to stalk. It is only affected by weapons that can hit the incorporeal.

Like a moth to a flame, the PP is drawn to happy and optimistic people (bards are a favourite). Once in their presence, it will focus on them, and the victim will become slowly aware of it, seeing it perhaps as a ghost.

Others, if they have succeeded their saving throw, will see it merely as a vague shape. But the victim will see something depressing and dispiriting. A fighter might see a ghostly form of himself, frail and weakened by disease. A wizard might see himself with memory problems. A cleric might see himself with no faith. A rogue might see himself being judged. Alternatively, they might see a loved one, corrupted by death, disease, or something else suitably depressing.

Unlike the Phantasmal Killer spell, this living spell has no way of actually physically harming anyone. However, it can drive them to harm themselves. Wherever it is, the light level seems to gradually drop, and it becomes difficult to laugh or even smile.

For the person at the centre of the PP’s attention, their ability to perform is severely affected.   In game terms, the victim gets a penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, non-perform skill checks, and damage. If the victim is a performer of some sort, then they get a steep penalty to performance skill checks.  

The victim also must roll a series of willpower saves (1 per round if in combat). Three successes in a row mean they recognise the PP for what it is and can resist its self-destructive urges going forward. The PP will then seek another target.

One failure means the victim hesitates, able to defend themselves if necessary, but too depressed to be proactive.

Two failures in a row means the victim slumps to the ground, dropping anything in-hand, too depressed to do anything including defending themselves.

Three consecutive failures means the victim considers taking their own life, picking up or drawing a new weapon in preparation for using it against themselves.

Failing a fourth save means they will attempt suicide.

Anyone who decides to attack a PP will become subject to its attention. A PP can only give its attention to one person at a time, but will always start with the most optimistic or positive person.  Anyone subject to its attention will continue to suffer its after-effects for another 3 rounds.


The PP wants to cancel out positivity and optimism with its deep well of negativity and pessimism. This is partially due to the psyche of the drunk wizard who accidentally created the PP. Since it was created, it hasn’t moved far from its origin location, staying within a mile or so of the original wizard’s tower where it was accidentally cast.

Thanks Thanks to everyone who entered the Living Spell Challenge! I hope you enjoyed the exercise. You’ve given the rest of us some awesome ideas for our games.