Alexander Hellene

Withering Touch

Withering Touch. 7th-level necromancy. Classes: cleric, sorcerer, warlock, wizard. Casting Time: 1 action. Range: touch. Components: Verbal, Somatic. Duration: instantaneous.

You touch a creature and its flesh instantly putrefies, rots, and sloughs off, leaving it crippled. The target must succeed a Constitution saving throw or its Strength and Constitution scores are each reduced by 1d6. In addition, you can attempt a melee spell attack in order to target one of the target’s limbs; if your attack succeeds and the target fails its Constitution saving throw, that limb or natural weapon is permanently withered and becomes useless for combat. If the limb is used for movement, including an arm for climbing, wing for flying, leg for walking, or tail for swimming, the target’s Dexterity is also reduced by 1d6 and that movement speed is halved. Only a regenerate or wish can reverse the effects of withering touch. This spell has no effect on any creature lacking flesh, such as constructs, elementals, oozes, and plants.

Do you know who can also cast Withering Touch?


The entertainment industry broadly, if you want to be more accurate. And I, personally, would classify those in charge of it as being warlocks:

Warlocks are seekers of the knowledge that lies hidden in the fabric of the multiverse. Through pacts made with mysterious beings of supernatural power, warlocks unlock magical effects both subtle and spectacular. Drawing on the ancient knowledge of beings such as fey nobles, demons, devils, hags, and alien entities of the Far Realm, warlocks piece together arcane secrets to bolster their own power.

Sworn and Beholden

A warlock is defined by a pact with an otherworldly being. Sometimes the relationship between warlock and patron is like that of a cleric and a deity, though the beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are not gods. A warlock might lead a cult dedicated to a demon prince, an archdevil, or an utterly alien entity—beings not typically served by clerics. More often, though, the arrangement is similar to that between a master and an apprentice. The warlock learns and grows in power, at the cost of occasional services performed on the patron’s behalf.

Freaky, right? There’s more:

Warlocks are driven by an insatiable need for knowledge and power, which compels them into their pacts and shapes their lives. This thirst drives warlocks into their pacts and shapes their later careers as well.

Stories of warlocks binding themselves to fiends are widely known . . .

*     *     *

Dungeons & Dragons is not real life. And it was probably the only subject targeted by the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 1970s and 1980s to not actually be a gateway into devil worship. Especially not the original version of the game, created primarily by E. Gary Gygax, who was a Christian and infused Christian themes into the rules he created.

The people in charge now? Who the hell knows?

But there are important, elemental parallels between what we consider “game” and “real.” Our mythology and memory as a species is infused into everything we create. When we keep our minds and our souls set on the eternal, we create deeply profound works that show us both the light and dark aspects of existence, but more importantly, that the dark can be overcome because the light is worth fighting for.

When this equation is inverted, you get modern entertainment. Don’t kid yourselves: the warlocks in charge of our stories are sworn and beholden to someone, and I don’t think it takes a leap of logic for even the most ardent non-believer to detect an odor most foul emanating from what it produces.

These high-level warlocks are in the thrall of dark forces that provide earthly power and privilege at a price. This price is the constant demand for decadence and corruption, for befouling that which they hate. And what they hate is all that is good, that is to say, creation.

There’s a reason Withering Touch seems to be their most favorite spell. With every casting, something you love is desecrated just enough to be unnoticed by most before it’s splashed onto the screen. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Dune or Hyperion or The Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time or The Iliad or Castlevania or Conan or Masters of the Universe or some superhero or—

You know what? Let’s just call it “Brand.”

Brand must be withered and useless. Not unfit for physical combat, but for spiritual combat. You cannot have stories extolling the virtues of, say, monarchy and aristocracy, of nationalism and virtue, of moral clarity, escape the warlocks’ clutches lest these ideas penetrate the mass consciousness. It’s far better to present a shell of the story that looks nice and familiar on the outside, but inside is full of pestilence and lies.

Here’s an example of how Withering Touch works:

Roger Waters wrote Pink Floyd’s 1977 epic album Animals as a take on George Orwell’s Animal Farm,  but with an important twist: Animals posits that Orwell’s book was railing against capitalism.

Capitalism has its problems, and Animals is an excellent, thought-provoking album, but notice what high-level warlock Roger Waters did: he took a work that everybody understood one way and, through subtle manipulation (and awesome music), twisted it to mean something else.

It doesn’t matter that much of Waters’s criticism is correct, or that you personally agree with it and him. What matters is that you can see this kind of trickery at work so you don’t fall under the spell so easily the next time.

I’m not saying we should all become constructs, elementals, oozes, and plants, but to be as wise as constructs, elementals, oozes, and plants.

*     *     *

Brand is dead. Let Brand go. Those in control of Brand are not clerics to a deity of light and goodness. Not anymore, if they ever really were. The warlocks who control Brand do not want your money, not really; it’s a nice fringe benefit, but they’ll never run out of funding despite what the spreadsheets may say.

Far from financial remuneration, their goal is reach: The warlocks of the east and west want to cast Withering Touch on you. But it’s too much work to go around placing their cold, dead hands on a few hundred million people. So they rely on powerful ritual magic to pass their Withering Touch through the medium of Brand entertainment products on to unsuspecting consumers, who actually pay for the privilege.

I don’t know about you, but when I see something dead on the road, a pink smear on asphalt at the end of a trail of bloody chunks, I keep driving.

Let Brand rot. Don’t allow the warlocks to lay their pestilential hands on you. Cast a Prayer spell instead. Even a low-level Prayer spell gives you +1 on all saving throws.

*     *     *

This post is really dorky.

– Alexander

2 thoughts on “Withering Touch”

  1. Dungeons & Dragons is not real life. And it was probably the only subject targeted by the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 1970s and 1980s to not actually be a gateway into devil worship.

    The Satanic Panic originally started due to various reports of Satanic ritual abuse of children (most famously the McMartin preschool case, which became the biggest of the bunch although it was not the first), but eventually morphed into something different. I suspect that this was by design.

    The mainstream narrative of the McMartin case is that it was hysteria. None of those accused in the case were convicted of any crimes. However, FBI documents later released due to the Freedom of Information Act seem to provide evidence that the children may have been telling the truth about the existence of tunnels under the school, among other details.

    These documents also include evidence that similar crimes were carried out by a widespread group called The Finders, which had ties to the CIA.

    Here is an article with some of the highlights from these documents, a link to the full documents, and a compelling video of former Los Angeles FBI Chief Ted Gunderson laying out evidence of widespread Satanic ritual abuse:

    To be fair, there are also thorough arguments that the McMartin preschool tunnel evidence was faked, such as this one:

    I’m not entirely sure which is true when it comes to that particular case, due to the conflicting interpretations of the evidence.

    Either way, the Satanic panic shifted from being about Satanic ritual abuse, and shifted in a different direction, almost as if people were getting too close to something and someone helped steer them in a different direction.

    On June 9, 1982, Irving “Bink” Pulling shot himself in the chest with a revolver. His devastated mother Patricia Pulling found some Dungeons & Dragons items in his possession and blamed the game for his demise. She formed a group called “Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons” (or BADD for short) and published a book called “The Devil’s Web”.

    Here’s an article about how it all went down:

    The most interesting thing about all of this is that Patricia Pulling got quite a bit of mainstream media attention. She was invited onto “Geraldo”, “Sally”, “The Phil Donahue Show”, and “60 Minutes”. Tipper Gore also joined in on the D&D-bashing. And Puller was eventually joined in various appearances by Dr. Thomas Radecki, a psychiatrist and chairman of the National Coalition on Television Violence, who helped lend her an air of credibility. It was as if Puller and her anti-D&D crusade were being promoted by the Powers that Be.

    My guess is that some people in powerful places wanted people to stop focusing on Satanic abuse in preschools and the like, and were looking for red herrings to get them to chase instead. Then Patricia Pulling showed up and provided a perfect red herring, so they promoted and propped her up with such assets of theirs as the mainstream media, Tipper Gore, and Dr. Radecki (who was later revealed to be a sexual predator) in order to mislead a movement that was initially concerned about actual dangers into becoming the paranoid laughing-stock that it is generally regarded as today. This is just a theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true.

    1. Hardwicke,

      Wild stories. I appreciate the context. I think you’re on to something about Pulling being used as a distraction for actual ritual abuse. Nothing would shock me anymore.

      This last line of the Medium article, though . . . what an asshole that author is:

      What could Satan do to humans, I wonder, that we don’t do to ourselves?
      If there was evil in the story, it might not be in Dungeons & Dragons players as much as the ‘good’ people—whose lies went undetected.
      I look back on the faithful and say: You got played.

      Screw off.

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