OSR: Class: Book Exorcist

Retrieved from here. Original source unknown.

Base Exorcist class.

Starting Equipment: holy symbol
Starting Skill: Law

The Church has chosen you to fight Possessive Undead. You are most effective against spirits that inhabit the bodies of the living. You might be a priest who stumbled into the practice of exorcism by necessity or fate. You might be a holy healer, outside the normal doctrines of the Church. You might be a monk exiled for some grievous sin, seeking redemption, or a callous and grizzled combatant in a hidden spiritual war.

To most people, demons and evil spirits are the same - everyone knows that demons sent by the Adversary plague the living. The truth is more complicated. Demons were created by the Authority to tempt the living from the path of righteousness. They have no power over the devout and cannot harm the innocent. Demons aren't even malicious. They are probably more religious and open-minded than most people, even if their profession makes them deeply cynical. However, as natural rule-breakers and order-corrupters, some demons seek to escape their role and live a different life. These rogue demons are the ones the Church hunts. Proper orthodox demons who do their task are left alone, but they aren't the ones possessing the faithful.

Similarly, the souls of wicked men and women seek to avoid judgement and hide inside the bodies of the living. An excommunicated soul knows there is only one fate waiting for it. If it can sneak into the body of a living person and either meld or overpower their soul, it can live again, free of consequence and worry. Most cases of possession are not demons at all, but corrupt ancestors and old ghosts.

Finally, some diseases are caused by evil spirits of one form or another, and can be exorcised. Diseases caused by living creatures, poison, foul air, inheritance, or self-inflicted spiritual harm cannot be cured by an exorcist. 


A: Rite of Exorcism, Literacy, Keen Eye
B: Doctrinal Skill, Soul of Iron
C: Brandish
D: Doctrinal Mastery

Rite of Exorcism
Through ritual and prayer, you invoke the Authority's power and restore the natural order of Creation. Make an opposed Charisma check against a spirit, demon, or disease inside a living creature. You must be within 10' of the creature to make this check, and the creature must be able to see and hear you. If you pass, the spirit is banished. If you fail, you take the creature's [HD] in damage. You can attempt this test once per hour. Multiple failed attempts may lead you to doubt your own faith or abilities (see below).

+1 per Book Exorcist template. Up to two Book Exorcists can work on the same exorcism, adding their templates together. If a regular priest of the Authority or a very devout lay person assists instead, they add +1.

+1 per hour spent in uninterrupted ritual before attempting the test.  
-1 per HD of the spirit

-2 if the spirit has possessed the target for more than a day, a week, a month, or a year (so a year = -8)
-some number, determined by the GM, if you doubt your own faith, abilities, or cause, or if you are in poor standing with the Church.

The minimum requirements to begin an exorcism are a holy book and a holy symbol. The spirit may attempt to interrupt the ritual several times, requiring Saves vs Fear, Saves to Dodge, etc. Restraints may be required.

You can read and write. A surprising number of people could do both in the middle ages, but you can really write. Your letters can allow for Charisma tests at a distance. You can roll to see the intentions of an author, the delicate themes of a poem, and the inconsistencies in a complex text. To most people this is a kind of sorcery.

Keen Eye
You know the signs of possession well, and can determine if a creature is afflicted or not by a few simple tests. You can also diagnose diseases (as the Medicine skill) but not assign treatments or offer advice. You can separate the mad, the attention-seeking, and the injured from the truly possessed. 

Doctrinal Skill
You are an unparalleled expert on the holy books. You can find a passage or an appropriate phrase instantly. If you choose to challenge a point of canon law, you can always find relevant precedents, counterexamples, and devastating flaws. For example, you could challenge the appointment of a bishop, the fitness of a village priest, the validity of a marriage, or the interpretation of a command from the Archpriest. Listeners do not have to believe you, but they will admit there is a possibility you are correct, and either allow a court case or have you silenced by force.

Soul of Iron
You can spend 1 HP to gain a +2 bonus to any Save against Fear, a direct demonic attack (such as hellfire or soul drain),  or any soul-altering effect (such as a curse, a compulsion, or any other personal enchantment). You can spend as many HP as you would like, including inflicting Lethal Damage on yourself. Wounds you take appear as stigmata or premature aging. You only gain this ability after performing a successful exorcism. Additionally, if you ever roll a natural 1 (critical success) on a Save vs Fear, all allies who can see you automatically pass their Saves vs Fear (or rally if already fleeing).

If you suddenly raise your holy symbol, you can cause any undead (not just possessive undead), spirit, or spell to turn aside. They must Save to approach within 10' of you. Creatures get a bonus to Save equal to their HD. Spells get a bonus equal to the number of magic dice used to cast them. Some spells might be deflected and seek a new target. Very minor undead creatures or spirits (1 HD or less) must Save or be banished.

As long as you keep the symbol raised (Save vs. Constitution every hour as your arm gets tired), the creatures or spells first affected by this spell cannot approach you. If you attempt to use this ability while in doubt over your own faith or abilities, nothing happens.

Doctrinal Mastery
Your expertise has reached nearly supernatural levels. Any issue of canon, secular, or natural law you challenge is likely to be decided in your favour, no matter what the case is, although there may still be arguments (or attempts on your life). You can also argue directly against ancient courts, Angels, Demons, the Adversary, or the Authority and, often, win. If an angel turns up to kill your friends, you can probably convince it to go away.

Le Pater, Alphonse Mucha

Mechanical Notes on the Book Exorcist

Again, this is a highly specialized class. You're more likely to encounter embodied undead than possessive undead in any given game, so without the GM customizing certain portions of a pre-existing module, this class may not seem that useful at first. However, the Exorcism ability also works on curses and some diseases. Both turn up on a regular basis. The Brandish ability works on a wide variety of targets. Deflecting spells is not to be underestimated.

But the major secondary feature of this class comes from the Law skill, the Religion skill, and the Doctrinal and Literacy abilities. This class is effectively a ghost-fighting lawyer. The descriptions of just what a PC can do to dispute "canon, secular, or natural law" are left vague. I want to see what kind of nonsense people get up to with this ability. Paladins might be able to command the sea to part, but a Book Exorcist could convince it to divide as a point of order.

Also, if you choose to be an ordained member of the First Estate, you can hear confessions, officiate at weddings, sell indulgences, and generally interfere with the workings of all three Estates.


  1. So your attack power is being dead good at arguing and also sometimes forcing corrupt ghosts out of people.

    Your defense power is also being dead good at arguing, but you can also turn undead against a lot of things that are not actually Undead, such as some diseases and some spells.

    Can one with this template also wear any armor or swish a mace about? Because then you're talking.

    1. Yup, all armour is OK (unless the class says otherwise. Barbarian has a few backgrounds that prevent chain+plate, Monk has double encumbrance, etc.)

      And all weapons are OK, except you aren't really trained in them, so unless you pay someone to train you or land 8 successful hits in combat, you're rolling at a -4 penalty. But yeah, combat exorcist on horseback is A-OK.