This spell from page 104 the Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition supplement Book of Vile Darkness--even more than the spell consume likeness--makes my head hurt. I'd just let it go and find a different spell, but I'm pretty sure it's the lowest-level spell that traps a soul.
Level: Brd 5, Sor/Wiz 5
Components: V, S, F, Location
Casting Time: 1 [standard] action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One living creature
Saving Throw: None (see text)
Spell Resistance: Yes
The caster draws out the soul of a dead creature and imprisons it within a specially made talisman. The subject must have had the talisman in his possession when he died, or the spell cannot function.
Henceforth, if the talisman is in the caster’s possession, she can call forth the soul of the subject and question it about what it knew in life for up to 1 round/level each day, asking one question per round. The soul looks as it did in life, including the clothing and equipment it had with it on the day it died. Answers are clear, complete, and precise.
If the subject is hostile, or if the answer to the question was an important secret to it in life, the subject gains a Will saving throw. A successful saving throw indicates that the spell ends and the soul departs to the afterlife.
Focus: The talisman that will be the receptacle for the soul.
Location Component: An area under the effect of a desecrate or unhallow spell.
The Spell's Two Readings
The Dysfunctional Version: The caster slips the talisman in among the future target's possessions. The future target, while he's carrying the talisman, dies in some abrupt and horrible fashion--that certainly had nothing to do with the caster!--while in possession of the talisman. The caster casts the spell soul shackles on the now-dead target, imprisoning the target's soul in the talisman.
The dysfunction is that the spell, despite never being subject to errata, instead of reading Target: 1 living creature should read Target: 1 dead creature. This makes the spell interesting but not game-changing; the target's saving throw is, essentially, not accepting a gift from an evil wizard. The spell's manageable. Getting any important fellow to carry around something for no apparent reason in D&D 3.5 is a challenge.
This is how I'd read the spell for a long time. Then, when considering adding the spell into an upcoming Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 campaign, I looked at the spell again and thought Maybe it's not supposed to be played that way. Maybe the spell's doing something that defies my expectations. Thus below's the alternate rules-as-written reading.
The Functional but Wild Version: The caster casts the spell on the target. Later, the caster convinces the target to carry with it the talisman. When the target dies, the target's soul is sucked into the talisman, which the caster retrieves at his leisure.
Maybe I rejected this rules-as-written reading as too frightening. With no saving throw and 1-standard-action Casting Time, the caster could cast this on anyone or everyone. With its instantaneous duration, there's no aura to give away the spell's effects--the target's soul's fundamentally and forever altered so that instead of the dead target's soul departing the Material Plane, heading through the Astral, and eventually arriving on the plane of its eternal reward the dead target's soul goes into the talisman.
That is, that's what happens if the creature dies while its carrying the caster's talisman. Nonetheless, the campaign implications are huge.
Casters might cast the spell on everyone, selling tchotchkes on the cheap from push carts and swiping them from the families of the dead, 'cause, hey, souls--awesome. Dozens of casters might've cast this spell on a single target, and the target may be carrying several talismans; where does the soul go? The instantaneous duration means there's no magic aura to detect on the talisman; a target's soul could be in anything he was carrying when he died, and the only way to find out if the target reached his reward is to ask a god if he's seen the target lately. If the talisman containing the soul's destroyed, and the creature had a different (or the same!) caster's soul shackles spell cast on him before he died, and that different (or same) caster's talisman was in his possession when he died, does the soul enter a new receptacle?
For those who've had experience with this spell, how've you used it? Did you use the spell as written, or did you house rule it? Did the spell change the campaign as much as I imagine it would, or am I overreacting?
Note: I've labeled this question house-rules because I'm comfortable with either reading of this spell, and both readings mandate going beyond the text.