Exorcise Haunting Presence

A sample use of Placate the Dead (Core 183) is Exorcise Haunting Presence. To my reading, Exorcise Haunting Presence is a Momentum glutton of a spell. It’s a D2 so at least 3d20 is a good bet.

First you can spend additional Momentum to increase the Difficulty for the spirit next test one step further or making additional tests (but not all future tests) subject to the normal penalty, which is repeatable.

You can also spend 3 Momentum to make normal penalty permanent.

There are a lot of variables there, but no matter what, I calculate (hopefully correctly) 8 Successes with 6 Momentum would be needed to put down a nemesis skeleton with this spell on the test.

Which leads me to my question: As RAW, is this Spell an example where adding to the doom pool for Momentum is allowed?

There had been a few comments in the Sorcery FAQ.

In general regarding the example spels like “Exorcise Haunting Presence”, which is a combination and extension of the effects of the basic “Placate the Dead” spell, it was commented:

Q. Do spell examples use the casting for consequences rule?
A1. Yes, and are reverse-engineered for your convenience.
Note: The intention of these examples was not simply to provide formulaic combinations of effects but to show how sorcerers might use magic creatively in concert with their gamemaster. Lists of Momentum spends are seldom, if ever, exclusive and creativity is encouraged.

So you can use this Casting for Consequence rule for the example spells listed - and others your sorcerer player might come up with.

Exorcise Haunting Presence (D2+)
Spell: Placate the Dead
Note: This spell has a unique Momentum spend. This is intended to show how players and gamemasters might come to a common agreement over Difficulty and Momentum spends.

The “Exorcise Haunting Presence” was, by this comment, more designed as an example how to negotiate Momentum costs and Difficulty between sorcerer player and GM.

My own take on this spell:

You can cast the spell as a D2 Sorcery test - a normal test or as Casting for Consequence, your choice.
To raise the Difficulty of anything the spirit might do to the maximum of D5 would require a success (makes it +1D) plus 3 Momentum (for a total of +4D, making D1 actions into D5 actions).
To make this effect permanent would require an additional 3 Momentum to make the effect permanent for this spirit (as per the table on Momentum spends for Placate the Dead).

That is rather easy to achieve without the risk of calculating all necessary Momentum into the Test for Consequence in advance and having to meet a D8 Difficulty:

  • Make some preparatory actions (Lore tests, Sorcery tests, Insight tests, anything that might support a ritualistic approach to prepare an exorcism) that generate Momentum to fill up the group pool to 6 Momentum, the maximum.
  • Then cast the spell at D2, maybe spend a Fortune point to make it a sure thing, if you want, or roll it, maybe even buying some additional dice for Doom, possibly leading to even more Momentum.
  • If you get 2 successes, then spend the group Momentum of 6 Momentum on making all attempts of this spirit at +4 Difficulty and make this a permanent effect. Should you have generated more than 2 successes on the Sorcery test, then you can draw less Momentum from the group pool.

It is like a ritual, you make some preparatory actions to fill up the group Momentum pool, then you cast it and use up all the prepared Momentum on a very strong effect.

No, as this is not an Immediate Momentum spend, so you may not spend Doom as Momentum for it. (The GM may use Doom as Momentum for NPC spells, of course.)

And it is not at all “necessary” in the first place, because you can easily generate the sufficient amount of Momentum by using some preparatory actions to fill up the group Momentum pool.

Delving into some old discussions, sadly only partially saved from the wreckage of Google+, this spell was a point of Contention more than four years ago. I’ll copy the exchange between Person A and Person B here (and I didn’t copy their Google+ usernames in the first place, so I don’t know who was actually involved at that time - back then I just copied interesting bits that might be useful for my Conan games later). Maybe it sheds some more light on the question in the opening post here. It went on like this (bold formatting from the original Google+ post):

Person A:
Is it just me, or is the Placate the Dead spell extremely weak? The standard spell requires offerings of Vigor and Gold and has the effect of increasing the difficulty of tasks done by one single spirit by one. That’s not really strong, is it?

The Exorcise Haunting Presence spell is more difficult to cast (D2) and weaker than the base description as the difficulty increase is only for the spirit’s next action. Banishing a spirit successfully would need +3 Momentum to make the difficulty increase permanent and enough Momentum to make it significant (at least 2 Momentum for +2 steps). We are looking at D7 here to banish a toughened ghost… Just as a reminder, a Toughened enemy usually goes down in less than 3 rounds of combat.

It’s also not clear to me why this kind of effect was separated from Raise the Dead. It would make perfect sense to see this as an alternate effect of that spell.
What design decisions are behind this spell? Why is it not as powerful as it’s opposite “Raise the Dead”? Any player character who makes the bad choice to take this spell at chargen would be extremely disappointed in game. If the rare situation arises in which such a spell is useful and it then has nearly no impact, it would be highly demotivating and just not fun.

Person B:
It is a weak spell, but that’s it’s intention. Placate the Dead can be used to quiet one spirit, making any actions it takes one Difficulty harder. Not hugely overpowered, but I don’t think it was ever meant to be.

Exercise Haunting Presence is kind of the improved version of Placate the Dead. It is indeed harder to cast, but the caster is able to spend additional Momentum to make their spirit’s next action more Difficult - and this is repeatable - an option not available for Placate the Dead. Additionally, the penalty can be made permanent - forever, not just the combat/scene - by spending 3 Momentum. It has a lot more versatility than Placate the Dead, in my opinion.

For a necromancer, or some other themed character, it would be useful in the right situation. Whether or not it’d be useful to you, personally, is entirely subject to your opinion. If you don’t find it particularly useful, that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it a “weak” spell or that choosing it is a “bad choice.” For you, I guess so. Not for everyone.

Person A:
So you are saying that designing a spell which is extremely weak and a suboptimal choice for a player sorcerer, i.e. completely crippling him as PCs seldom start out with multiple spells, is intentional?

The base spell makes all actions +1 difficulty during the whole scene while Exorcise works for only the next action, but you can use Momentum to make that action even more difficult. That’s not really more powerful, just different.

Your argument regarding the permanent penalty is what I meant by “Banishing a spirit successfully would need +3 Momentum to make the difficulty increase permanent and enough Momentum to make it significant (at least 2 Momentum for +2 steps). We are looking at D7 here to banish a toughened ghost…” This is by the way not an “Exorcise” only Momentum spend but is for all Placate the Dead spells, so it doesn’t make “Exorcise” more powerful.

Again, we are looking at a D7 sorcery test (with huge risks of complications) just to banish a toughened undead which can be killed by ONE MELEE ATTACK. How is this not a weak spell?

Regarding rules design, there is an objectiveness in it which stands apart from "subjective opinion". That's because rules tend to be logical and are based on probabilities. That is why you want a game designer to create them, and not some random fanboy (I'm not talking about specific persons or games here). They should be the result of careful playtesting, iterations, tinkering, calculating probabilities, balancing and so on. Broken rules, unbalanced systems and the like are not so because of "subjective opinions", but because of bad game design. That is why games with robust rulesets are comparably successful (D&D, Magic the Gathering as examples) while games with bad rules design aren't.

With such a statement you are undermining and blocking any criticism of the rules, moving it to “subjective opinion” territory. You are avoiding a fact-based discussion about the topic by trying to invalidate it in the first place. This is usually done in debates because of a lack of arguments.

You are free to ignore any criticism of this game, but please don’t downplay and undermine other players’ valid concerns about the rules design.

Person B:
No, I’m saying that your opinion is that it’s a suboptimal choice, sir. Picking Placate the Dead as a spell is not “crippling” a PC. I’m sorry, but that’s laughable.

Exorcise does only work for the next action, but it can be ramped up with momentum spends and be made permanent. Just as your comments about how weak and crippling this spell is your opinion, I hold that Exorcise is a different, yes, but also more powerful than Placate.

The test isn’t a D7, it’s still a D2. The D7 is if the spell is being cast for consequence. That guarantees the spell success but with complications of the number of success is not met. So it can be D7 but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Rituals, circles of power, garb, talismans, human sacrifice, and certain talents all can help with the check, so either way the spell is cast (normal or for consequences), there’s a good chance of success.

As far as you rant goes, sir, I understand you think it’s poor game design. But, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s your opinion. It’s objective, not subjective. I do understand you believe you have a valid concern. I understand that you think it’s underpowered. Just as you kindly ask me not to downplay those concerns, I’d kindly ask you not to push and overstate your opinion as something that’s legitimately broken with the game.

When someone has a “valid concern” and expresses that concern in an open forum, it’s going to be subject to either a) agreement or b) disagreement. Tis the nature of the Internet. Typically, the original, opinionated, person either argues, takes offense, or states that their “valid concern/criticism/complaint” is being understated or attacked because some one or ones are disagreeing with them.

You think it’s underpowered and a waste of spell choice. Feel free to think that! You have come on an open forum and stated you thoughts. You have that ability. I believe I should also be able to state that I don’t believe it underpowered, that I see the value of the spell. and remind you that yours (like mine) is just an opinion. I feel that if I had come on and totally agreed with you, then all would be well. It seems more like you have tried to quiet me because I do not agree with you.

Might I suggest that you contact Modiphius with your concerns aboUt Placate the Dead? In my dealings with them they have been very nice folks. They may be able to confirm your suspicions and help you better understand the spell.

Person A:
My points why I think the spell is weak were:

  1. It is weak compared to
    a) other spells (like it’s opposite Raise the Dead)
    b) physical combat (actually this also applies to threaten attacks).

  2. It needs additional sacrifice to cast

  3. It’s effect and usefulness are very specific compared to other spells (or combat for that matter)

Person B:

  1. It is weak compared to other spells. Ok, and? Don’t take it as your first spell. Not really sure what the issue is with that, not everything needs to be world endingly powerful. Magic Missile is weak compared to Fireball as well.
  2. It needs vigor to cast. I can drop my vigor by three and not need any gold. Vigor is replenished at the end of a scene. Really a flavor thing more than a mechanics thing, I seriously doubt it will have much if any influence on the final combat.
  3. Yes, they are, and yet might be extremely useful in certain situations. Increasing an undead nemesis’s actions by 2 steps and making it permanent is actually a pretty powerful effect, and going to allow your warriors to gain MUCH more momentum in their attacks
    Other spells don’t need vigor to cast, so it is more expensive. In addition, the “scene” is likely to contain a combat, which does make it significant, especially considering the lower vigor of sorcerers. It might be a small thing, but it is there. I don’t really see, how your comment invalidates this.

Person A:
the question is why would someone take it? Because they are creating a necromancer that wants full dominion over the dead.

Person B:
If the question is why not make it way more powerful. I’d suggest making all spells powerful will result in an over powered PC… and that’s saying something in this game.

Person A:
I did present quite a lot of facts actually, for example how you need 7 successes to “banish” an undead. Or the fact that toughened foes can be felled with one melee attack. Or the fact that this spell has an additional cost which others don’t have. But as I already described in my rant above, neither you nor Keith were debating these points, but trying to avoid a fact-based discussion. This spell isn’t weaker because I say so, but because of the facts I presented, which you are obviously incapable of understanding. As of now, you and Keith have only presented your personal opinion on the matter, but not one fact which survived even a cursory glance.

Let’s get to your “rebuttals” of my points:

1. The undead fallacy
You think raising a couple of undead which can easily be defeated is not that powerful. But you seem to believe that a spell that can defeat one of these undead with a large amount of successes required and with huge chances of complications is. Is that your point? Really? And on top of that it doesn’t negate any special abilities or Doom spends the undead might have…

The very interesting part of it is, that you say that not all spells are equally powerful/useful (I’ll get to the game balance point later) but you then try to argue that Raise Dead is balanced against Placate the Dead. When trying to make a point, you should really try to stick with your statement and not switch around. It’s just not very convincing that way.

You are right that I did not mention “Council of Shades”. It’s an alternative effect which might be useful from time to time. It’s in a way a small version of Atavistic Voyage. Though like the base spell, it would make a lot of sense to roll it up with Raise the Dead, as for raising you need a) control and b) communication.

2. A cost is a cost
That the sacrifice can be mitigated with vigor is not changing the fact that this spell has an additional cost, which others don’t have.

3. Applicaility and Scope
There is a difference in scope of applicability between the spells which is to be expected, but this is on an entire different scale.


  • Dismember works on… anything actually (RAW it would even work on ghosts)
  • Enslave works on… any sentient being you can communicate with
  • Placate works on… any undead being you have the misfortune to meet

These are just examples which look at the combat side of things. When looking at non-combat applicability, we can look at how often a spell is cast:

  • multiple times per session
  • once per session
  • once per adventure
  • once per campaign

Applicability + Effect are the dimensions to look at when trying to assess the relative strength of spells.

Game balance
Anyway, I promised to get back to the game balance point your buddy and you brought up. Game balance is a design principle which game designers can choose to follow or not. It is not a “law” or anything, though most modern games put great emphasis on it.

Players are free to prefer it or not. Freedom of choice. You guys prefer unbalanced games and are fine with that. I prefer games in which players don’t have to study the rulebook to avoid making suboptimal choices.

There are prominent games especially from the beginnings of RPGs which show that quite well (MERP as an example, or the early Warhammer editions). It might be thematic to not have game balance. But I would hazard the guess that Modiphius actually tried to create a balanced system (that’s just an opinion)

My whole point assumes that the designers tried to create a certain level of game balance. If that’s not the case, I’ll probably be better off playing a different game, or at least argueing about game balance in a game which doesn’t have it is pointless.

So, if it would be a fact, that Conan 2D20 doesn’t give a ** about game balance, then that would be THE killer argument.

  • Can I as GM/Chronicler just spend 8 Doom for an NPC to cast the same Effect?
  • I thought Momentum was payed forward, with Group Momentum used on D20s and gained Momentum in that roll to gain Combat Dice. Where in Core does it say you can use Group Momentum for spellcasting effects?

Core Rules p102:

During any successful skill test, a character may spend Momentum saved in the group Momentum pool instead of or in addition to any points generated from the successful skill test itself, spending from either or both as desired.

A Sorcery test to cast a spell is a skill test.
A successful skill test allows to spend Momentum which was generated directly by the test AND Momentum which was stored in the group Momentum pool. (See the quote above.)

1 Like

really nervous to ask, but can this be done with regular combat skill tests as well?

You mean spending Momentum after you have determined that the Skill test was successful?
Yes, of course.

But, the Skill test has to be resolved first. So no Group Momentum to win a Struggle, only AFTER you won a Struggle, an opposed test, you can access and spend Group Momentum for all those Momentum spends available in combat scenes.

The outcome of the Struggle determines, whether your Skill test was successful or not. If it was successful, you may spend Group Momentum.

To add: in the Sorcery case above, the actual Skill test is only a D2. If you get at least two successes, you can use Group Momentum for the Momentum spends available for this spell.
The Exorcise Haunting Presence is not stated as being a Struggle, so it is a plain D2 Sorcery test. That has a good chance to work, and after some preparation (filling up the Group Momentum pool and maybe getting assistance by other characters with the Sorcery skill), you can muster enough Momentum to give the spirit a very hard time - forever.

Are there any 2d20 systems in which you spend Group Momentum on D20s and gained Momentum in that roll to gain Combat Dice, where you can’t use group momentum after the Struggle/Test?

John Carter doesn’t have group momentum at all so that one :slight_smile:

There are only few 2d20 games that allow you to spend Momentum for more Combat Dice, most don’t. (A!C, JCoM, Homeworld)

You cannot use generated Momentum or Group Momentum to gain Combat Dice in all other 2d20 games.

In A!C and Homeworld, you may use Group Momentum after the roll to add up to 3 Combat Dice.

In JCoM each character has a personal Momentum pool for stored Momentum, and you can use that Momentum after a successful opposed role - just like the Group Momentum in other 2d20 games.

Infinity has the option on “high paranoia” setting that every PC has their own Momentum Pool, too, so if you are playing with that option, that works similar to JCoM in that regard.