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The Power Word Kill spell description says:

You utter a single word of power that instantly kills one creature of your choice, whether the creature can hear the word or not.

What is the actual word of power? Like can it be anything or does it have to be the word kill or any other word involving death like die or dying?

And if the latter is the case could you be able to use it in a sentence to discreetly cast it like if you said “I bet that guy is going to die soon” or “What would it take to kill that guy” would the spell activate or are you only able to use it if you just say the power word on its own?

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    \$\begingroup\$ We can't tell you what the word is. It's too dangerous to utter here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Seth R
    Jul 12 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you expect other spell triggers to be in plain English? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thus quoth the raven, "Nevermore." \$\endgroup\$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 12 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ In Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller chronicles, when the main character hears someone speak the true name of fire it sounds like "fire" because it essentially bypassed his conscious mind. I always thought the Power Words were like that: not in any language, but the "true name" of death \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ni. As one of the famous Knights that say it. \$\endgroup\$
    – WernerCD
    Jul 13 at 5:08
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There is no canonical answer for which word are the various Power Words. See this D&D 5e reddit post regarding some tables' choices. Yes, I know we're talking about Pathfinder, but the Power Words go back to PF1e's source material... even so far back as the first Greyhawk supplement in 1975. Greyhawk, if you haven't heard the name, is the setting used by Gygax in the original iterations of D&D when he was modifying it from Chainmail. I know of no source, from Greyhawk or more recent, for D&D or Pathfinder, that defines the Power Words.


Regardless of what the word is, it cannot simply be hidden in speech. All spellcasting, even if it is only verbal (or even no components via metamagic), is obvious in the Pathfinder rules barring the use of special abilities such as conceal spell.

From the FAQ:

Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball. You can see some examples to give you ideas of how to describe a spell’s manifestation in various pieces of art from Pathfinder products, but ultimately, the choice is up to your group, or perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details. Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated; this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation. Special abilities exist (and more are likely to appear in Ultimate Intrigue) that specifically facilitate a spellcaster using chicanery to misdirect people from those manifestations and allow them to go unnoticed, but they will always provide an onlooker some sort of chance to detect the ruse.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega That's from the Pathfinder FAQ. I'll suggest an edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jul 12 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The link was in "obvious in the Pathfinder rules", but a more direct mention of what that website is was a better idea \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jul 12 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The reference in the first paragraph is a bit mingled. Power Word Kill first appeared in Original D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk, published in 1975 (a booklet of added and variant rules). That's different from the Greyhawk campaign setting, published in 1980. Also note the spelling. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I'm terrible with years and was just going off some Google results for specifics. Guess I'm used to spelling 'gray' with an A and didn't even pay attention to the actual spelling \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jul 12 at 23:51
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The Power Word spells all are phrased in such a way. It is not an ordinary word - the magical word that slays the target is an ancient form to incant magic. In fact, you could to look at the Words of Power part of Ultimate Magic and you easily see the parallels:

Words of power represent a primal form of magic used in ages past.

The Power Word Kill is not a simple word, it is a spell that is one word long. What that word is? Only the mage casting the spell knows.

It might be a modern language, or a dead one, such as the imperative dēmorere!, the imperative I singular form of "to die, waste away, depart", but it could just as likely be the 2nd person non-object imperative Klingon ylHegh or even more a conceptual word like calling out for DEATH in the same voice he speaks in. It might not even be a human word but more a sound imitating something like a snake hiss, the hollow clicking of bones, or the wailing cry of a survivor.

Make the choice of casting a Roleplaying one - but it isn't a word you can hide in a normal sentence.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Whatever the word, it's not just a question of uttering the word. Someone couldn't simply repeat the word, for example. It must have the force of magic instilled in it. So it could even be "die". \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Jul 13 at 16:42
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The "Power Word" spells were originally lifted straight from Tolkien. As was much of the original D&D. In that setting Eru created the Ainur who then "sung" the world into existence.

As such, the language of the Ainur was powerful. It literally reshapes reality just by the act of speaking it. Gandalf used a single such word in his battle with the Balrog and it stopped even that powerful beast in its tracks, albeit briefly.

Editions of D&D and its offshoots are vague about what the actual words are, presumably so they can have whatever fluff attached that makes sense in the particular setting. But if you want to go all the way back to the roots of it, then while the characters are normally speaking "Common" or "Dwarvish" or whatever, a Word of Power would be Real-World English (Or whatever language you speak around the table). For a moment the character speaks with an authority second only to the DM and (in the case of PWK) tells the target of his spell to die. And since he's speaking the language in which his universe is written, merely saying it makes it so.

No, you probably can't hide that in a normal conversation. This is the kind of word that leaves everyone's ears ringing and everyone around knows something "big" just happened, even if they're confused about exactly what.

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