Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holy Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

Ah, the vial of holy water. That most convenient of tools in a Cleric's arsenal, the one that gets pulled out when the turning isn't taking and you just don't want to get up close and personal with the ghastly undead beasties quite yet.

There's just one question: why would an adventurer ever buy it?

Glancing through the Red Box, it quickly and painfully becomes apparent that a vial of holy water is overpriced, underutilized, or both – especially when stacked up against its mundane counterpart, a flask of oil. A quick comparison:

Holy water: range 10/30/50; 1-8 points of damage to undead; 25gp / vial. may also be used as a hand-held weapon.

Oil: range 10/30/50; 1-8 points of damage per round to any flammable creature if the oil is burning, for two rounds if the target is covered in oil; oil will burn for a turn instead if in a 3' diameter pool on the ground; 2gp / flask. may also be used as a hand-held weapon.

Something's just not right here.

An oil flask admittedly needs to be lit, but a toss of a torch against AC 10 will take care of that, and many many creatures and objects will burn quite nicely, offering at least two rounds' worth of damage for your trouble. Or you could, y'know, light your lantern with it, or make the floor slippery, or ...

Meanwhile, the holy water only affects undead, and deals damage for a single round. Yet it costs more than ten times the coat of a flask of oil. Granted holy water is a sacred substance, but still – why would an adventurer, especially a beginning adventurer, cough up 25gp when oil will do the job and then some? Removing some of the “tricks” of a flask of oil wouldn't make any sense. Nor would making the oil more expensive.

So then, back to the holy water! What can be done to make it more worthwhile? Lowering the price would arguably cheapen the roleplaying aspects of carrying the precious blessed waters of your Cleric's faith; it could be done, but what other options are there?

One possibility is to allow the holy water to damage undead for two rounds, much like burning oil (unless washed off, say by normal water). This brings it more in line with oil, without the possibility of turn-long burning holy puddles.

Perhaps a few roleplaying-related tweaks and quirks to be considered along with the extra round of damage? True, enterprising players may well try some of these anyway, but putting few “into the canon” as it were might jog their creativity along. A few possibilities:

 Blessing a corpse to prevent it from rising as one of the undead
 Used as an impromptu holy symbol (perhaps with a penalty to the turning roll)
 Poured out over an unholy idol or altar as part of a cleansing of its taint

Some DMs may even permit holy water to be used to supplement a turning check (for +1 to the roll, perhaps) or for blessing a weapon to allow it to strike a magical undead once. Situtions such as these would, however, require careful judgement on the part of the DM.

Personally, I would consider allowing the turning supplement but would be careful about the weapon enhancement.


Anonymous said...

Random ideas:

Have it affect undead and demonic entities.

Pour it to ground to form a line (or circle...). The unholy are loathe to cross these.

Dipping an item in it may give hint as of that item's nature; some evil or cursed items will boil the holy water into nothing or have it explode or turn unholy or even be cleansed; the vial will glow softly if a holy or blessed item is dipped therein. Mixing the holy water with other potions may sometimes have specific identifying effects.

Drink it to fight possession and certain supernatural afflictions and curses.

Dip your hand in it to demonstrate your uncorrupt nature to someone who doubts.

Have it dispel illusions of undead and demons upon contact.

taichara said...

Those are great! I especially like the exploding-if-evil submersion notion, but I'm a little off that way --

Thank ye muchly!

Anonymous said...

just reduce the quantity required for the effect. the listed damage becomes only a single ounce of holy water (versus a pint of oil), throwing more than an ounce at a time inflicts more damage. all those vampire movies are a good example of this, a very little holy water goes a long way. of course if you have a gallon of the stuff, that's gonna do more than leave a mark.

here's a nasty trick- fill a waterskin with holy water and squeeze. you got youself a makeshift super-soaker. try that with oil and your gonna immolate yourself. likewise a bladder full of holywater hurled becomes a water-balloon filled with acid against undead, but doesn't harm your buddies.

regenerating undead (like vampires) cannot regenerate damage from holy water, just like trolls can't regenerate from fire.

also, keep in mind the listed price is the market price. having the party's priest cast a bless spell makes holy water for free. voila! cheaper than oil! if you allow this, be careful since the party can turn any old bucket or barrel of water into a world of hurt for your poor undead monsters.