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In Curse of Strahd,

The bones of St. Andral (herafter, "the relic") are stolen from the church by the forces of Strahd. If the players recover them, "St. Andral’s church once again becomes hallowed ground, as though the building was protected by a hallow spell." (p. 97-98) Father Petrovich (hereafter, "the priest") would preside over their interment. Lady Wachter (hereafter, "the diabolist") represents Strahd's interests in the town.

Note that the hallow spell has two principal effects.

The first is that it bars the entrance of undead, as well as prohibiting them from charming those on the hallowed ground and removing the effects of charms on anyone who enters the hallowed area.

The second effect, however, is chosen by the caster of the spell from a list of ten possibilities.

  1. Does the second effect apply in this case? If so, is it chosen by the relic or by the priest?

  2. If it does apply: While the first effect will go a long way to excluding Strahd and his minions from entering the hallowed ground, which second effect choice would best protect from his non-undead minions? If the priest were the one making the decision, what would he be most likely to choose, based on what he knows about Strahd's minions?

Note that Strahd's minions include bats, rats, wolves, and dire wolves, but also living humans.

Humans could be those Vistani that serve him, but could also include cultists under the direction of the diabolist. I think it is likely that the priest knows about these loyalties and activities. Humans could also include town guards who are not charmed themselves, but might be acting under orders should Strahd decide to charm the 'mayor' or the 'captain of the guard', possibilities that I think the priest would consider.

Note also that the relic far outdates the priest, so he is unlikely to have considered making this choice before, and that he is incapable of casting hallow himself or indeed any spells above third level, so he might lack practical knowledge of what his actual choices are.

A good answer will explain why the priest or relic is likely to choose what they would, based on how the mechanics would interact with Strahd's non-undead minions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae I do ask what the priest would choose, but explicitly with the goal of keeping out Strahd's non-undead minions that he knows of. If you find that tying the question to a specific NPC involves too much role-play, it can be rephrased as "what choice would most effectively protect the church from free-willed humans" \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 22 '20 at 6:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt That would be a good idea, that wording is a lot easier to answer. I still think it's a little borderline, but you are likely to get good answers from that wording. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22 '20 at 7:40
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It's not specified whether "as though the building were protected by a hallow spell" includes the second effect as well. Your DM will have to make a ruling. I'd probably rule that it didn't include the second effect.

If your priest did get a second effect and were trying to choose a good hallow effect, honestly none of them are going to be any use in a fight.

The best choice is the Fear aura; if we assume a creature has a 50% chance of making its save every turn, then half the attackers will be unable to attack on the first round of combat, and one-quarter of the attackers will be unable to attack on the second round of combat, et cetera, so we can model this as costing the attackers one round of combat on average. That might swing the tide of a close battle, but it's not going to be any help if ten cultists kick down the door wanting to kill the priest when he's alone.

The second-best choice is Energy Vulnerability, probably choosing Radiant and casting spirit guardians. This will let the priest do some extra damage in the first round or two of combat, but it's unlikely to turn a losing battle into a winning one.

(Of course, neither of these will work at all unless the combat happens immediately when the attackers enter the temple. I think it's more likely that the attackers would enter, they'd have a conversation for a few rounds until they'd all made their saves, and then they'd start the fight.)

The Extradimensional Interference aura is useless against most human attackers. The Silence and Darkness auras are actively harmful to the priest (and in addition they prevent the building from functioning as a place of worship).

But there's a worse problem specific to the Fear aura, which is that everyone who the priest designates as an enemy is going to get affected by it the first time they walk into the church, and they're going to be pretty offended by that, and it will make them more likely to attack the priest even if they hadn't planned that previously.


I think the priest should focus on non-combat benefits, in particular the Courage effect, simply because it would uplift the spirits of anyone who visited the church to pray. Uplifting people's spirits is an important aspect of a place of worship.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While uplifting spirits would indeed be a great benefit within the church, unfortunately the purely mechanistic effect of Courage is that affected creatures can't be Frightened. None of the likely non-undead minions of Strahd have the ability to Frighten. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 23 '20 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited my answer to clarify why I think the combat abilities are unhelpful here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Jul 23 '20 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had already upvoted it, but your edits greatly improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 23 '20 at 16:56

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