Converting PF1 spells to Starfinder: Death Emoji

Okay, we’ve moved into doing glyphs, runes, and symbols for the project to convert to Starfinder all the Pathfinder 1st edition spells that don’t already exist (or have a clear replacement) in that game. You can find an index of the spells that have been converted to-date here.

That brings us to symbol of death, which is the basis for a lot of “symbol” spells in PF1. Honestly, glyph and symbols don’t feel very much like mystic or witchwarper spells (or empaths, for that matter), which means I want to write these as just technomancer spells. And if I am making that change anyway, I may as well reframe them to feel more technology/computer symbol bases.

Symbol of Death is also one of the classic “Save or Die” spells, which can be a big problem in PF1. If a target saves, they take no effect, and the spellcaster feels their effort was wasted. Since I’m reworking the spell for Starfinder, I have many more tools at my disposal to make it a powerful magic warding, without going entirely all-or-nothing with it. The rules I picked actually cut PCs a break compared to most NPCs… and I’m fine with that.

So, here’s death emoji.

(Art by Michael Hinkle)

Death Emoji
technomancer 6
School necromancy [death]
Casting Time 10 minutes
Range 0 ft.; see text
Effect one rune
Duration see text
Saving Throw Fortitude partial (see text); Spell Resistance yes

This spell allows you to scribe a potent rune of power upon a surface or encode it within a computer program. Each viewer of the rune perceives it slightly differently, with the rune taking the visible form of a simple symbol that indicates death to the viewer. When triggered, a death emoji damages or kills one or more creatures within 60 feet of the rune (treat as a burst). The death emoji affects the closest creatures first. Once activated, the rune deals a maximum total of 150 points of damage. Each time you cast a death emoji, you must expend one Resolve Point. You cannot regain that RP until the death emoji is discharged, dismissed, or dispelled.

If a creature has any Stamina Points, the death emoji deals damage equal to their current Stamina Points, then moves on to the next target in range. If a creature has no Stamina Points, the rune deals Hit Point damage until the target is reduced to 0, in which case the target dies. If a creature has Stamina Points, it can expend a number of Resolve Points needed for it to Stay in the Fight to reduce the damage it takes from the death emoji rune by 50% (though the full amount is still counted against the rune’s 150 damage total). If a target succeeds as a Fortitude save, it also takes half damage (which also counts against the rune’s total damage done). If a target both expends the needed Resolve Points and succeeds at a Fortitude save, it takes no damage.

Once triggered, the death emoji‘s rune becomes active and glows, lasting for 10 minutes per caster level or until it deals 150 hit points of damage, whichever comes first. A creature that enters the area while the death emoji‘s rune is active is subject to its effect, whether or not that creature was in the area when it was triggered. A creature is damaged by the death emoji only once as long as it remains within the area, though if it leaves the area and returns while the death emoji is still active, it is targeted again.

Until it is triggered, the death emoji is inactive (though visible and legible at a distance of 60 feet). To be effective, a death emoji must always be placed in plain sight and in a prominent location, or tied to a computer or computer program so it becomes visible when they are acrtivated. Covering or hiding the rune renders the death emoji ineffective, unless a creature removes the covering, in which case the death emoji works normally. Similarly if attached to a program in a computer, it has no affect until and unless that program is activated or hacked, in which case the death emoji‘s rune appears on the computer’s control screen and becomes active.

As a default, a death emoji is triggered whenever a creature does one or more of the following, as you select: looks at the rune; reads the rune; touches the rune; passes over the rune; activates a computer or a computer program into which the rune is embedded, or passes through a portal bearing the rune. Regardless of the trigger method or methods chosen, a creature more than 60 feet from a death emoji can’t trigger it (even if it meets one or more of the triggering conditions, such as reading the rune). If a death emoji is tied to a computer or computer program, it can appear at any interface (including a hacking effort), but once it does so that is the only interface the spell’s rune appears at. Once the spell is cast, a death emoji‘s triggering conditions cannot be changed.

In this case, “reading” the rune means any attempt to study it, identify it, or fathom its meaning. Throwing a cover over a death emoji to render it inoperative triggers it if the spell is set to reacts to touch. You can’t use a death emoji offensively; for instance, a touch-triggered death emoji remains untriggered if an item bearing the spell’s rune is used to touch a creature. Likewise, a death emoji cannot be placed on a weapon and set to activate when the weapon strikes a foe.

You can also set special triggering limitations of your own. These can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. Special conditions for triggering a death emoji can be based on a creature’s name, identity, or official group affiliation, but otherwise must be based on observable actions or qualities. Intangibles such as level, class, HD, alignment, Resolve Points, Stamina Points, or Hit Points don’t qualify.

When encoding a death emoji, you can specify a password or phrase that prevents a creature using it from triggering the spell’s effect. Anyone using the password remains immune to that particular death emoji‘s effects so long as the creature remains within 60 feet of the spell’s rune. If the creature leaves the radius and returns later, it must use the password again.

You also can attune any number of creatures to a death emoji, but doing this can extend the casting time. Attuning one or two creatures takes negligible time, and attuning a small group (as many as 10 creatures) extends the casting time to 1 hour. Attuning a large group (as many as 25 creatures) takes 24 hours. Attuning larger groups takes an additional 24 hours per 25 creatures. Any creature attuned to a death emoji cannot trigger it and is immune to its effects, even if within its radius when it is triggered. You are automatically considered attuned to your own death emojis, and thus always ignore the effects and cannot inadvertently trigger them.

Detect magic allows you to identify a death emoji with a DC 21 Mysticism check. Of course, if the symbol is set to be triggered by reading it, this will trigger the symbol.

A death emoji can be removed by a successful dispel magic targeted solely on the rune. Other spells that affect text or computer programs do not affect a death emoji unless they specify they function against magic glyphs, runes, and symbols. Destruction of the surface where a death emoji is inscribed or a computer it is imbedded in destroys the symbol but also triggers it.

Magic traps such as death emoji are hard to detect and disable. While any character can use Perception to find a death emoji (which may trigger it), a character must use the lowest of their Engineering or Mysticism skill (based on the skill’s total bonus) to disarm it. The DC in each case is 34.

If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on March 8, 2022, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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