1 March 2020

Worth of Soul

There was some talk about this on Discord a while back.

What to do with a soul?

Some would say that apart form the one that keeps you going, you have no need for further souls. Yet many supernatural creatures seems to have taken a fancy to souls, often demanding them in payment or hoarding them for some reason. Let's investigate these reasons.

Side note: Unless otherwise noted, we will be assuming heroic or magical souls, as souls of animals and dirt-farming peasants are too weak and faint for most uses. Except soulsteel. Throw every soul you don't want or need into a soulsteel furnace.

I rather like this depiction of a soul, or at least the core spark of life.
There is a reason that souls are usually depicted as glowing motes of light. Deep within the sevenfold soul is a spark that constantly pumps out raw power, converted by the outer layers of the soul into life energy, psionic energy, mana, the already mentioned ethereal glow, and more. This tiny spark is the core of the soul, a shard of primordial life. This constant flow of power is also the fundamental use of any soul, the basis upon which all other uses build.

Sustenance: At the most simple, soul energy can refresh your body similarly to a ration. Animal souls might taste like gruel, while the soul of a saint would equal to an opulent feast. Of course, most material creatures are not adapted to subsisting on souls, so it is not recommended to skip tangible food for too long. While you wouldn't starve to death, avitaminosis and massive weight loss would soon set in, followed by slow transformation into a wraith or lesser demon.

Power: A soul can also be drained to refresh a spent MD or psionic ability, though faint souls are too weak for this use. Souls of creatures that possessed magical or psionic abilities in life are already accustomed to this draining of energy, so they are not immediately used up, but rather can be drained repeatedly (once per day unless they were very powerful).

Healing: Souls are made of life energy, so of course they are good for your health. A soul can be distilled for the same effect as a healing potion, except potions don't tend to scream in terror all the way down your throat, don't leave fragmented echoes of memories in your mind after use, and don't see you branded as a diabolist and burnt at the stake.

Oh, I haven't mentioned this yet? Abusing and destroying souls is Evil; even using animal souls is heavily frowned upon and may get you in trouble with the Inquisition.

But I digress. Drinking souls is great! Not only can they mend your body, they can heal your mind, too. A soul elixir removes [HD of the original creature] Trauma when drunk, and a soul salve can be used to rub sins right off your metaphysical self. In both cases, the afflictions are transferred to the soul in the medicine, which can be then safely disposed of, or recycled for soulsteel production.

Knowledge: At times you need to know a thing, be it some lore or skill. You don't have the time to learn, but you do have a useful soul. Many people would pay a fortune for a soul that remembers something rare or forgotten, that has valuable abilities, or even one that knows languages they couldn't be bothered to learn on their own.

Entertainment: Many a noble has their secret stash of bottled souls with interesting stories. Wealthy women weep with memories of great romance they never had, cowardly rakes can live the life of danger and adventure through a purchased soul. There's also the "fun stuff" for those of dark desires, but who don't want to risk their own skin and sanity. From memories of humiliation, depraved sex, torture, or murder to souls that literally went through Hell, including such exclusive articles as souls tortured by famous demon lords. Some people willingly sell their interesting memories, as everything has a price.

Protection: There are many detrimental magics that target the soul; life drain, curses, mind reading or memory altering, death spells, soul trapping, etc. Strapping some extra souls on your own makes it much safer to confront such threats, as your ablative soul armour will take the hits first. Even better, so many souls concentrated in a single spot can also muddle up many divination and scrying techniques, making you even harder to pin down for a magical attack.

Traps: Every ghost hunter knows what a haunt is - an area imprinted with death, inflicting the cause of death upon anyone who ventures inside. Any grisly departed soul can be repurposed into a haunt, serving as a supernatural trap. The best haunts are obviously made from souls you specifically prepare for this task - burn a few people alive and bind their souls into a fire trap, torture someone to death for a symbol of pain. The possibilities are as endless as various causes of death. Some ectomancers even compress haunts into ghost-grenades, portable and very dangerous.

Metallurgy: Soulsteel is in high demand due to its high strength and innate ghost touch effect. It can be rather easily created by smelting souls with iron ore, making it the only magical metal available in significant amounts, and thus often employed in larger projects and big magical constructions. Even low-quality souls can make good soulsteel if you use enough of them, and their constant agonized wailing as they are forever trapped in the metal is more faint than with heroic souls.

Enchantments: More advanced and specialized magical weapons and armour utilize souls too, though quality and magical resonance matters here quite a bit. The souls are bound into the finished item rather than smelted into the raw material, and serve as the source of both power and basic magical traits. You'll need several simple soldier souls just to make a boring +1 dagger, while a cannibal chieftain's soul could make a nice human-slaying battle-axe, and a pyromancer's soul would be great for a flaming sword.

Intelligent magical items are the result of enchanting with too powerful and wilful souls, and there are of course stories of weapons with souls so strong they overwhelmed their wielder.

Animation: While intelligent items are normally not the desired outcome of binding a soul, you can use the same process to grant a mind to anything that needs one. Where the first ventures onto the field of golemancy attempted to create a guiding intelligence from scratch, it was soon discovered that such artificial intelligences are too expensive, limited, and inflexible. A soul, on the other hand, already comes with a plethora of innate abilities, instincts and learned behaviour, making it much faster and cheaper to animate a golem.

The trick, then, is to find a suitable soul given the required function of each golem, and find the right balance of geasa and cognitive restrictions that would allow it to perform at peak efficiency without compromising its absolute obedience with residual free will. The infamous golem rages are the result of imperfect application of these restrictions.

Magic: Souls can power your magic, but souls also are magic. Spirits are spells are souls. Think about the main characteristics of the person whose soul you would cast. Were they greedy? Then you can use the soul to cast detect treasure. Cowardly? Expeditious retreat. Pious? Bless, or maybe protection from evil. Some wizards even groom slaves to prepare their souls for specialized magical effects, or cross-breed souls with their favourite spells to get new, exciting magics.

Replacement: It's not uncommon in many magical professions to loose pieces of your soul. While definitely not healthy, it's not life-threatening is promptly treated. Souls that are neither good enough for better uses, nor weak enough to go directly to the soulsteel furnace are often sold for spare parts. Bring your old soul for an exchange and get 20% off your new one!

There is also the much less common practice of soul enhancement, where undesirable pieces of your soul are replaced with better ones. Think plastic surgery for the soul. You could get rid of boredom, switch your laziness for workaholism, implant a bit of faith, or cut down your anger and hatred.

Obviously the good bits have to comes from somewhere, and people with desirable mental traits can make good money by selling them, unless they get soul-mugged and wake up with their love or patience stolen.
A vodník with some souls stored in teapots.
But I didn't answer the question, did I? What is a soul worth?

Exactly [2d100 * HD * HD + 1d20] gp. Happy?


  1. Au contraire, the souls of many dirt-farming peasants are of the highest quality. Diamond in the rough stuff. That's why you find so many devils hanging around bucolic farmsteads tempting peon lads and lasses. With older peasants the issue isn't that they're lower quality necessarily (although a lifetime of hard labour can be soul-destroying) but rather that they're so inimically tied to the land and the soil that attempting to wrest their spirit away with some mere faustian bureaucracy is more difficult than extracting a time-buried dolmen from the blood-infused soil of the farmer's field.