Holy water batman! Are you doing it wrong?
If you think holy water requires a priest, some water, and a ‘bless’ – think again. Holy water as been in tabletop gaming from the beginning and has been house-ruled many times. It’s a powerful weapon against undead, evil items, and the stuff of many fantastical legends. Holy water is many things, but it is NOT simply a priest casting bless on some water.
This post comes about in response to a meme seen recently on social media. It asks, “What happens when a priest casts bless on the ocean?”. This meme is so far off base with holy water creation anywhere, fantasy or reality, that I find it particularly irritating. The answer in game or real world terms is – nothing. OK, in gaming terms not really nothing.
Bless (AD&D 1E) raises the morale of friendly creatures by +1, raises to-hit rolls by +1 – affecting those not already engaged in combat. *reversable
Components : Verbal, Somatic Material (Holy water)
For a very long time many DM’s and players alike have glazed over this common item in various ways with assumptions, primary among them is – a cleric casts ‘bless’ on some water. Let’s take a closer look at holy water creation and how it might apply to our games. We’ll leave out the real world religious debate since it isn’t productive on the topic. What was done in the AD&D 1E book is similar to the practice of certain churches to create holy water. In that, in the real world it requires pomp and circumstance, ritual, a holy vessel and other implements.
Making Holy Water
Page 114 of AD&D 1E DMG Magical research > Creation of Holy water (paraphrased): Only Clerics, excluding druids may prepare holy or unholy water (depending on alignment). I think this assumes good clerics would not be allowed to create unholy water. The cleric MUST be level 5 or above to create holy water.
A specially blessed / cursed basin of fine workmanship and precious metal (Copper, silver, electrum, gold, or platinum) must be fashioned for the cleric. This vessel must be engraved with the holy / unholy symbols of the cleric’s deity and it must be in a special repository of finely crafted and carefully worked rare wood, with a base, pedestal, chest-like holder and lid – the whole being known as a font. This is a reminder that Gary did a bit of church-going and applied research and available knowledge to the game. The basin is placed within the font, and the cleric casts the following spells in succession while robed in formal vestments appropriate to their religious persuasion:
- Create Water
- Purify food & drink (or reverse for unholy water)
- Bless (curse for unholy water)
- Chant (1 full turn)
The amount of holy water created depends on the metal of the receptacle and cost of the font. Once created the holy water cannot leave the font for more than a turn unless it is placed in specially blessed (cursed) vials of crystal – either rock or special leaded glass (each vial worth 2-5 gp)
- Copper – 6 vials
- Silver – 10 vials
- Electrum – 18 vials
- Gold – 32 vials
- Platinum – 50 vials
basic costs range from 130 gp – 200,000 gp and font costs range from 200 gp to 2,000 gp.
The ritual requires a full day and may only be done once per week and requires an 8 hour rest afterward. Only one font is allowed per religious edifice. Defiling such a font is rather easy to do and requires a complete re-smelting.
A priest in a boat casts bless
Well, thank you now my morale is a +1 while I’m considering being a cannibal and I get a +1 to hit while your back is turned! none of the water around you is blessed and nothing more happens. In AD&D especially even through 2E the creation of magical items, even the simplest ones was no small task.
As DM’s we should not be allowing priest players to walk around arbitrarily casting bless on a stream to refill holy water vials. We also should be applying appropriate costs to those vials. Holy water is a blessed, holy, carefully created substance, not a religious after-thought that boils through undead like lava in a hayfield.