Curse of the Riddling Skull: A Nuisance Spell for Pathfinder

William T. Thrasher
Who has no thumbs and likes riddles? This skull!

It never fails! Your adventurers are wandering through the catacombs planning to rob a few graves, and all of a sudden a skull animates and starts asking them riddles, promising a glittering reward if they answer true and a horrible punishment if they answer incorrectly. It's the kind of trap evil spellcasters with a whimsical streak love to install higgledy-piggledy around their lairs, towers, and nightmarish demesnes. And with the new spell curse of the riddling skull you can ensure a steady supply of riddling skulls in your dungeons this Halloween.


School necromancy; Level bard 4, sorcerer/wizard 3, witch 4

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (a beeswax candle and emerald dust worth 20 gp)

Range touch

Target one humanoid skull with its original jawbone

Duration permanent until discharged

Saving Throw Will negates (object); Spell Resistance yes (object)

This spell imbues a skull with false life and intelligence, allowing it to ask a single riddle and respond to correct and incorrect answers, often with an additional spell stored in the skull. The riddling skull functions when specific conditions are fulfilled, as magic mouth. When the triggering condition is met, the skull animates, first speaking a taunt or warning, then speaking a riddle. The riddling skull responds to correct and incorrect answers in a manner chosen by its creator. This response can include a spoken message, turning to face a particular direction, or the casting of a single spell. Once the the skull responds, this spell is discharged and the riddling skull becomes a common, inert skull.

When a riddling skull is created, its creator may cast a single spell into it. The riddling skull stores this spell, casting it as part of its response to either a correct or incorrect  answer, as if cast by the skull's creator. The skull does not need to provide the material or somatic components of the spell, as these have been provided by its creator at the time of creation.

A riddling skull is not intelligent. If addressed with anything other than an answer to its riddle, the skull repeats the riddle and giggles sinisterly. If the beings that triggered the riddling skull remain silent or depart, the skull falls dormant in 1d10 minutes. If so, the spell is not discharged and the skull will animate again the next time its trigger condition is met.

The wording of an answer to the riddle does not need to be precise, so long as it is technically correct. Additionally, a spellcaster can cast this spell upon a discharged riddling skull to "recharge" it, immediately priming it for another triggering using all the same parameters used in its original creation, though whatever spell may have been stored in the skull must be recast. Recharging a riddling skull does not requite any spell components.

Curse of the riddling skull can be made permanent with a permanency spell. A second permanency​ spell must be cast if the riddling skull stores a spell.

Note: Cruel, unsportsmanlike, and unimaginative spellcasters can use riddling skulls to simply ask for passwords or to ask riddles to which the spellcaster has provided a nonsensical answer.

Additional Note: An improved version of this spell (two spell levels higher) exists allowing the riddling skull to store two spells, one cast in response to a correct answer and another cast in response to an incorrect answer. Improved curse of the riddling skull requires three permanency spells to be made permanent. Witches may cast either version of this spell on animal skulls.