Priests and clerics are the servants of Powers—immortal entities with abilities far beyond those of mere mortals. Yet these servants do not wield magical forces equal to those of wizards; priests have nothing to compare with the wish spell, for example. Circumstances will arise when a priest should be able to call upon the magical energies controlled by his Power to achieve something extraordinary in serving a sacred duty. Quest spells are designed to satisfy these extremes and allow the priest to wield high-powered magic without drastically altering the scope of his magic.
Quest spells are a category of powerful spells without an assigned level. They should not be confused with the 5th-level spell quest, which is a specific single spell.
While quest spells are powerful, they are not as powerful as the energies used by Powers. If a god chose to flatten a mountain or raise an island, he could probably do so. Priests cannot achieve such huge effects; they are still mortal beings. But quest spells do provide a priest with magic more powerful than any other priestly magic; a quest spell could easily mean the difference between success or failure in a mission. Quest spells are capable of affecting large areas or numbers of creatures and allow the shaping of great energies; they are often difficult or impossible to resist or dispel.
Quest spells are not part of a priest's normal repertoire. These spells are granted powers, bestowed directly by one's deity to achieve special goals.
Why Quest Spells
Two circumstances are most likely to warrant the granting of a quest spell to a priest. First, a Power may contact the priest in a dream or omen, or by sending a servant or avatar. In this case, the Power requests that the priest perform a vital service on behalf of the Power (the nature of such a request is discussed later). The priest is effectively commanded to go on a quest—hence, the generic title of quest spell.
A second case for the granting of a quest spell may occur if a priest were to discover something of fundamental importance to the faith which the Power must be appraised of (not all powers are omniscient). A priest contacting the Power (with a commune spell or by prayer) might beseech the Power to grant him some exceptional magic to address the situation. The request for a quest spell must never be motivated by selfish considerations on the priest's part (such hubris is grossly offensive to any Power), and circumstances must be truly exceptional. The Power then considers the priest's request and responds accordingly.
In game terms, the first condition translates to the DM using a quest spell as a plot device to spice up a quest for the priest and his party. The second condition translates to a player requesting exceptional aid for his priest PC followed by the DM's decision whether to allow this.
Conditions for Quest Spells
The circumstances which prompt a Power or priest to seek the use of a quest spell are usually related to a major sphere of concern of the Power. A god of druids is not likely to grant a quest spell to address a matter of warfare, commerce, politics, knightly virtue, or other irrelevance (as this Power would view them). However, destruction of a huge swathe of forest by fire is entirely different. To protect or regenerate a great natural resource, a druidic Power would surely consider dispatching his most powerful servants with awesome magic. A major challenge demands a major response.
A Power may choose to equip followers with a quest spell in preparation for a major conflict with servants of a hostile Power. This may be true for both sides in the conflict; the NPCs as well as the PCS might be equipped with quest spells. In this manner, two Powers avoid fighting each other directly; their servants carry out the warfare instead. This will be a major event in any campaign setting! Milder variations on this theme would include the razing of a major temple of the enemy Power or the destruction of a major resource belonging to the Power's servants.
This is a situation in which a DM must exercise caution. This kind of conflict can easily swerve out of control and threaten the destruction of the game world; no Power wants this. Only if a Power has stepped out of line is the retribution by a rival Power tolerable among the community of Powers. If an evil temple has stood in the capital of an evil land for centuries, it is unacceptable for a good deity to strike at it. If an evil temple is hidden in nonevil lands, it is reasonable for a good Power to strike it down. It is important that game balance and the status quo are maintained.
A Power is likely to grant a quest spell when there is a major threat to his followers, church, consecrated grounds, or territories. These situations may become considerably extended; a Power of healing may extend the use of quest magic to help his priests cure a virulent plague affecting ordinary folk. For such a Power, the welfare of the common man is important. In cases such as this, game balance must be maintained by granting quest spells only in true catastrophes.
Exceptional and unique circumstances will arise which will draw quest magic into the game. This may include racial interests (for elves, dwarves, etc.) such as defense of the homelands or protection of great fortresses, or it may include communities of exceptional artisans wishing to draw quest magic from Powers. The discovery of an intensely magical artifact or place important to the Power may necessitate the use of quest magic to secure it. Establishing and developing a major sacred location may justify the use of quest magic (especially with spheres such as Creation, Guardian, Protection, and Wards). Such cases will be individually determined by the DM as major elements of a campaign story line.
Situations Unworthy of Quest Spells
What types of requests do not warrant a Power granting a quest spell? Generally, a quest spell is not needed for events which affect only a minor sphere of interest for the deity and events that are part of normal Prime Material conflict; a senior priest being killed by an agent of an evil Power isn't enough to justify the use of a quest spell. Any problem that has limited scale or should resolve itself in time through the normal efforts of priests does not need quest magic.
The DM must consider whether a problem is out of the ordinary. Only under extraordinary circumstances should a quest spell be granted. If the DM is in doubt, a simple question may provide the answer: Could the problem have a fair chance of resolution through the use of upper-level priest spells if wisely used? Only if the answer is "no" should quest magic be considered.
Which Priests Receive Quest Spells
Only true and faithful servants of a Power who have successfully used powerful magic are eligible for quest spells. This limits quest spells to priests; although a paladin may be true and faithful, his experience is not sufficient to command the magical energies of potent quest magic.
Level limitations are important. It is very rare for a priest of lower than 12th level to be granted quest magic. Priests of 9th level and lower cannot use quest magic; the strain of holding and shaping such magic is too great.
A priest must possess Wisdom of 17 or better in order to cast quest spells. It is quite possible that a priest could be granted a quest spell but not possess the wisdom to cast 7th-level clerical spells; Powers sometimes work in mysterious ways.
Under normal conditions, quest spells are granted to high-level priests rather than their junior counterparts (when such an option exists, such as in a large temple). If the hierarchy of a temple has been destroyed, then the best of the junior echelons may be granted quest spells.
Some cases may not offer as many options as to the recipient of a quest spell. If the nearest priest to the site of a mission is of a lower level than priests at a faraway temple, the chances are good that this priest will be granted a quest spell rather than awaiting the arrival of a faraway superior. Similarly, if the senior priests of a temple are too old to travel or are needed to maintain order at the temple, a priest of a lower level may be granted the quest spell.
In some situations, a Power will recognize an extremely devoted follower by granting him a quest spell, passing up older, more experienced colleagues. Age and experience do not indicate devotion or worthiness. Prodigies exist in all walks of life; clerics are no exception.
Faithfulness and piety of the priest are important but are difficult to judge. The priest must be unswerving in his alignment and have an exemplary record of service to the Power. It is reasonable to ignore an offense committed due to magical influence even if atonement was required (or voluntarily undergone) as a result.
Obviously, these criteria depend on DM judgment. The DM must remember that priests are mortals—and mortals have weaknesses. While a priest who has not been zealous in defense of the faith is a noncandidate for quest spells, a priest who is pure of heart but who has made a few errors might still be considered for quest magic. However, such a priest may be asked to undertake a preliminary quest to prove his worthiness to the Power. This is especially likely if there is no time pressure for the greater quest or if the priest has asked the Power for quest magic rather than the Power commanding the priest.
A preliminary quest is not a trivial affair; it should present a stiff challenge. In a campaign, it will be especially appropriate if such a quest doubles as a test of the priest's mettle and as an opportunity to acquire a new resource (magical items, henchmen, followers, NPC co-operation, etc.) which might assist the greater quest to come.
How Is the Quest Spell Granted
A priest must undergo specific preparations to receive a quest spell. Isolated prayer and meditation for 24 hours are required (double this if he has Wisdom of only 17 or is below 12th level). If this period is interrupted, the priest must begin anew. Following this period, the priest needs one hour to establish and maintain a direct mental link with his deity and receive the spell into his mind. During this communion, the priest is in a state of exultation and is oblivious to the outside world. He cannot be roused from this reverie.
The DM may rule that specific ceremonies be carried out by the priest during the time of meditation and the time of the granting of the spell. These ceremonies should be determined in accordance with the nature of the religion. The priest may be required to be in a major church or temple for the ceremony. The presence of junior priests and acolytes, perhaps united in mass prayer, may also be needed. However, these are only suggestions and should not be rigidly enforced—a god of travelers would not require a quest spell to be granted in a temple, for example.
Introducing the Quest Spell
Bringing a quest spell into a campaign should be a major event. It should create a powerful atmosphere that includes elements of pageantry, solemnity, and ceremony to make the event come alive in the game. Such considerations of staging and flavor are left to DM discretion and the demands of the campaign.
The Cost of Quest Spells
Quest spells are not granted without a price. A priest receiving a quest spell is unable to memorize spells of the highest level which he is allowed. He loses any memorized spells of that level (e.g., a 13th-level cleric is unable to use 6th-level spells).
Once a cleric has been granted a quest spell, he does not gain the ability to automatically cast it again. Each time a priest wishes to use a quest spell, he must repeat the described procedures.
Adjudicating Quest Spells
The rules which follow apply to all quest spells. The DM should avoid altering these rules in order to use quest spells consistently and fairly.
Components: Material components are never needed for a quest spell. All quest spells use verbal and somatic components. Since this is invariant, components are therefore not included in the spell descriptions.
Duration: In the spell descriptions, the term "day" is often used. Day means "until the next dawn" if the spellcaster casts the spell during daylight hours and "until the next dusk" if he casts the spell during nighttime hours.
Countering Quest Spells: Most quest spells cannot be dispelled. Because of their semidivine origin, mortal dispel magic spells simply do not affect them. In most cases, only other quest magic will directly counter quest magic.
This also applies to attempts to counter specific elements of quest spells. For example, certain quest spells include the effect of a prayer spell in the area of effect of the quest spell. Such a prayer effect cannot be countered by the use of a mortal prayer spell. The quest prayer overrides the ordinary prayer spell.
Saving Throws: Target creatures at whom quest spells are cast are usually allowed no saving throws. Magical items which would normally protect them against the type of effect (e.g., a ring of free action against a hold/paralysis effect) allow a weakened saving throw of 18. Magic resistance functions, but at only one-half normal. If a quest spell has multiple magical effects, magic resistance checks must be made for each effect.