Dark Sun-style Defiling

My group is cooking up a setting based on Dark Sun, and I’ve been meditating on defilers and how to express their themes in a BW game. For those who have never played Dark Sun, defilers are sorcerers who suck the life out of the land to cast spells. When they use magic the plants die and the land is blighted. The most powerful of them can even suck the life out of nearby creatures. Here are my thoughts so far, and input is very welcome.

Defilers use Art Magic. I’d likely trim the list and maybe add a power here and there, but I’d use Art Magic to keep the obs high and the magic potent.

To get the bags of dice necessary to cast Art Magic effectively, defilers would be able to use an action of some sort to rip life out of spirits (from Spirit Binding). Perhaps each success on the defiling skill would net two dice toward a spell they would cast? Or maybe just net one success? In any case, if they draw too much they can harm the spirit. Maybe if they draw more dice than the spirit has Strength, the spirit is permanently weakened by 1D. Or by the margin by which the defiling successes overtop the spirit’s Strength… Diminishing a spirit diminishes the ability of its domain to support life, and killing a spirit blights its domain. Obviously spirits will turn hostile as soon as they realize someone is a defiler.

Defilers can also pull extra dice from living creatures, using their defiling skill, but this is much less effective than pulling dice from spirits. Maybe it would be an attack against Forte, and every two successes would net a single die on their Sorcery roll or something. Forte could be permanently reduced if the defiler successfully draws any dice from the target.

Defilers are subject to Corruption. Defiling counts as a test toward Corruption.

What do you think? How would you express defilers?

I’ve not got huge amounts of BW experience, but what I would do is ask the player “what are you defiling?” Then give them Defiling dice accordingly, and if they want more, I’ll tell them how far they have to go. Then I’d set guidelines as to how much defilement is required for certain amounts of dice. I don’t generally like setting up multiple rolls for what is effectively a single action.

I might also use an Emotional Attribute for this. You can defile your surroundings to add the attribute in dice to your test, and then log an extra attribute test to double-tap it. I’d work something out about the attribute levels, where the higher your attribute is, the more you have to defile to get that bonus (something akin to the Obs for Hatred, Greed, and Grief).

Cool. I like the “what are you defiling” question.

I don’t have my MaBu at hand at the moment, but could drilling maybe be a modification of blood magic? Also, if reverse the successes to advantage dice ratio - 2 defiling successes net one Sorcery advantage die.

Thanks! :slight_smile: For me, the most important part of defiling is impressing the fact that the defiler is warping and corrupting the world around them. So you let the player get advantage by making demands on the world. Maybe even require them to take an Instinct about ripping power from the world.

(You could also take the Tax rules from Sorcery, and loosely apply them to the world instead of the character; give guidelines for what 1D, 2D, etc. of Tax looks like in the world, and then declare that the player can freely Tax to get more dice.)

Ya know, it might also be represented with just Corruption alone. The amount of dice you can pull from the spirits = your Corruption level. Use those dice in a narrative magical way.

And suck the life out of things.

In our Dark Sun game different types of land had life dice and Sorcerers could choose to rolle Forte or the Land’s life dice to resist tax. Taxing the land involved turning plants to ash creating a barren lifeless area with loss of Life Dice equal to Margin of Failure.

So, the Salt Flats had B1 life dice, while Thick Forest had B7.

Shaun, I don’t have a MaBu either… Dean’s got it. Dean, does blood magic have anything we could loot?

Carpe, is there any way we can marry up your idea of the description and the single roll with my idea of harming the spirits? My group has already decided that spirit binding is going to be in the setting, and I’d love to have the magic systems (defiling and spirit binding) connected. I was excited that spirit binders, while also using the spirits against their wills, would be opposed to defilers the way that preservers were in Dark Sun because of their different philosophies on how to use the spirits. The defilers use them up like fuel, but the binders can use them continuously with no diminishment. A binder would want to protect a powerful spirit from a defiler, not because he loves the spirit but because a powerful spirit can be bound to do greater work than a weak spirit.

Dean, I like the idea of using the Corruption stat directly in defiling. Maybe if we keep the system I proposed initially, with the two rolls, Corruption could only be added to the first roll (the defiling) and not directly to the second roll (the sorcery).

Noclue, that sounds similar to the “implement” in my witchcraft rules. It’s cool, but it doesn’t make the caster more powerful - just less cautious.

They were pretty damn powerful already.


I don’t think it’s a big jump at all to go to “harming the spirits” as a direct consequence of success on the roll. You could even try something like this–you have to satisfy a cost, depending on how many dice you roll. You satisfy the cost by draining local spirits, flora, and fauna.


I could absolutely see this running like the Rituals of Blood from the Orc lifepaths. They have that same “sacrifice someone else for this magic” vibe going on. That’d give a powerful flavor to defiling. So maybe mine that for ideas?

Wow. I’ve been back and forth through this book so many times, and somehow I completely missed page 246. This is brilliant!

I totally vote for this too. Just rewrite the Rituals of Blood to fit the Defiler. Write up a set list of magical effects, and the cost to use them is spirit sacrifice. Perfect. Furthermore, keep the Corruption connection. Defiling counts as a Corruption test. No problem!

Heh, well…I didn’t think of it until just now. I was looking over the problem, and suddenly realized–“Wait, sacrificing things is totally what the Rituals of Blood are!”

By what mechanism would defilers sacrifice spirits? There would have to be some way for the defiler to possess the spirit or bring it under his control, right? Still mulling it over…

I guess that depends on what feel you want to evoke. I’m not opposed to simply saying “this is what defilers do”, and leave it at that. They perform magic, they drain the spirits. It just happens, and the spirits can’t do anything about it. (Possible failure twist–the spirits find a weakness and attack you!)

You could also make a roll (or series of rolls?) to “procure” a spirit to be drained. (I could imagine that some of the Rituals of Blood involve a bit of work to acquire an appropriate sacrifice.) That might take away from some of the “ambient defiling” feel, however.

Maybe something akin to the Spirit Binder’s / Summoner’s Circination skill? Make a “Draw Spirit” test, with the Ob being the strength of the spirit you intend on sacrificing. Then make a Rituals of Defilement test to draw the essence out of the spirit and transform it into magic.

Ideally I’d like the defiler to be unconscious of the spirit’s involvement. He sees a copse of spiny trees clinging to the lee side of an escarpment, recognizes life, and rips it away to create water for himself, burn his enemies, transform his body, whatever. What he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about is that there’s a spirit of the copse and the life he ripped from the copse was its.

Maybe I can use your suggestion, Carpe, for asking “what are you defiling?” and base the number of bonus dice on the size and vivacity of the domain that represents? So a few square yards of algae growing on the inner walls of a well might house a very weak spirit (strength 1) and a valley full of blooming cacti, firesticks and century plants might house a powerful spirit (strength 7). Each time the defiler draws on the spirit, the spirit permanently loses a die off its strength, so the algae spirit dies immediately, but the valley spirit only diminishes. Outwardly, the algae immediately turns white and flakes away. In the valley the plants droop, and perhaps the highest plants die immediately, shrinking the domain.

That could be a good suggestion, but I’d also allow for some latitude in the other direction. Let them go from “I want to do X” and tell them “the only way you’re gonna get enough power to do X is by defiling all this”. Love the idea of using vitality dice.

One important thing about getting the serious Dark Sun feel is that you shouldn’t need to whip up a spirit of the land first to take the punishment. How about something similar to noclue’s idea for deciding which side makes the health roll. Instead of having the sorcerer or the land make the roll, the sorcerer always makes the roll, but can offset the tax into the ground as narrative damage. That way you don’t need to track the current health exponent of the land and healthy areas aren’t curiously better at resisting the tax entirely.

As for caster power levels, it means that someone willing to Defile can fire off White Fire or any seriously high-ob magic without needing to worry about passing out. This is an immediate boost to the power levels of a Sorcerer. Also, if I remember my Dark Sun right, one of the major differences between Defilers and Preservers was the concept of caution versus recklessness which I think this hits.

Yeah, but it’s already been established that Spirit Binders are in place too. In fact, I intend on playing a Spirit Binder in Ten’s campaign, so the Defilers will likely all be NPCs. In which case, the more the GM can defile specific spirits, the more he can mess with my character, the more fun we all have.

I’m fine with Defilers avoiding tax by passing it off to the spirits, but only so long as this nets them a Corruption test. Defiling should be a quick road to Corruption.