Friday, 25 September 2015

Shamanic Healing (AKA: 'So, where is this guy's soul, anyway?')

I have been reading a lot about Central Asian shamanism, recently. One of the key tasks of the shaman is to heal the gravely sick, and/or revive the recently dead (the line between the two is pretty blurry): different shamanic traditions have a whole range of different methods for doing this, but they all have in common the idea that sickness can cause (or be caused by) the separation of the soul from the body, meaning that if the shaman can get the soul back them the person should recover. In ATWC, if a character is on the verge of death (dying of injury or poisons, seriously ill, in a coma, etc), a shaman may be able to heal them by finding their soul. Roll 1d10 to see what the problem is:


  1. The patient's soul is fed up with this life and has decided it would be better off in the underworld. (Who knows why a soul would decide this? Souls are weird.) The shaman must arrange for the patient to be surrounded with delicious food, beautiful objects, and strong drink, before going into a trance, intercepting the soul en route to the underworld, and trying to tempt it back into its body, pointing out how much good stuff it has waiting for it in this life and warning it that the food in the underworld is awful. Make a Charisma roll to persuade the soul to return, with a bonus or penalty based on how impressive a feast is laid out around the patient.
  2. Dislodged from the body, the patient's soul has fallen in a river and sunk down to the bottom. The shaman needs to fish it out, using special nets or rods. For each day spent fishing, the shaman should make a Wisdom roll to catch it, applying their Dexterity modifier as a bonus or penalty to the roll. For each day that passes without the soul's return the patient will get worse.
  3. A wicked spirit has stolen the soul and run off with it. The shaman must track the spirit down in the spirit world and bargain for the soul's release. (Rules as per normal spirit bargaining; how big a favour the spirit considers releasing the soul to be depends on the importance of the soul which has been stolen.)
  4. The spirit world requires a death for enigmatic reasons of its own, and has picked the patient's soul as an appropriate victim. The shaman must offer up a sacrifice, and persuade the spirits to accept its life instead: this requires a Charisma roll. (-5 penalty if a small animal is sacrificed, such as a dog or a sheep; +5 bonus if a human is sacrificed; +5 bonus if the sacrifice is an unusually perfect specimen of its species.) If the roll fails, the spirit world is still not appeased and another sacrifice must be offered.
  5. The patient's soul has become entangled with the soul of a wild animal which has been imprisoned somewhere nearby; the shaman must find this animal and free it, and the soul will return to its body. If the animal dies before the soul is returned, the patient will die, too.
  6. The spirit of a recently-killed bear has grabbed the soul in revenge for its own death, and is slowly crushing the life out of it. The shaman must talk to the bear-spirit, placate it with offerings, and persuade it that the victim's clan wasn't responsible for killing it. (This may be tricky if they actually were responsible for killing it, though...)
  7. A host of petty, spiteful spirits have seized the soul. The shaman must scare them off by threatening them and making loud noises, preferably with the help of as many other people as possible. Make a charisma roll, with a bonus or penalty based on just how much of a din you're able to produce; if you passes, the spirits will drop the soul and run.
  8. The soul has passed into another animal. The shaman must track it in the spirit world to find the animal which the soul is currently inhabiting, and then return in the real world, track that animal down, kill it, and smear the patient with its blood, at which point they will recover. Forever afterwards, the patient will feel a special affinity with that type of animal.
  9. The patient's soul has become lost and needs to find its way back to its body. The shaman must track down the wandering soul in the spirit world, and then arrange for the body to be brought to its location and a rope stretched out between the two, allowing the soul to climb back into its body,
  10. The soul is already in the underworld, guarded by the Men of Iron and Bone. Only an epic vision-quest into the lands of the dead can recover it now.
(All of these come from historical shamanic traditions, by the way, although some have been adapted for gameplay purposes!)

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