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What official rules exist for sacrificing living creatures? That is, outside of the standard encounter system, are there rules for using ritual murder to improve my character?

If no official sources are available or if, in your opinion, better rules are available, magazine content and third-party sources are acceptable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be a great question for a traditional forum where answers accrete unsorted. Unfortunately, a raw list of every possible use of a living creature for personal advancement across three systems --including the immense swath of third-party products created for D&D 3.x-- is outside the ability of this site's format to handle. Quite aside from the immensity of the task, it would be nigh impossible for citizens to vote usefully on the relative value of answers. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 21 '15 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ What specific problem or challenge are you facing? If you describe your situation, rather than asking for help with the sort of solution you think is best to resolve a situation we don't know about, then we can provide expert answers whose usefulness can be evaluated by clear criteria. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 21 '15 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: Since @BESW made the traditional forum comment without including the traditional forum finding link, here it is. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 22 '15 at 0:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I don't think purpose is necessary here; sometimes, you just want to make sure there's a mechanical way for your dark god to reward your ceremonial killings, y'know? I'm guessing this question's phrasing poisoned it, not its purpose, and urge it be reopened. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 22 '15 at 12:50
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Book of Vile Darkness has rules for this in Chapter 2: Variant Rules. Pages 26 through 28 describe how sacrifices may be used in conjunction with a Knowledge (religion) check to gain various boons. Examples from Table 2-2: Typical Sacrificial Rewards include 24-hour-long versions of various spells, some entries from the planar binding series, and at the high end, wish. You can also get “virtual” gp and XP for crafting purposes.

In my experience, however, these rules are not very good. They are mostly-meaningless unless you abuse loopholes to game the system (mostly, pump your Knowledge (religion) check to stratospheric levels, which is not hard), at which point they are game-breaking. Which might be rather fitting, but still doesn’t leave you with a fun and engaging play experience.

I have not personally tried any alternatives to these rules, however, so I cannot point out anything better. If nothing else, these exist.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Faustian pacts are fun, they were in one of those books too. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jun 22 '15 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, there's also a weapon enhancement that only works if people are sacrificed to it \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jun 23 '15 at 6:26

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