The Social Implications of Magic: Monk Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2008

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Kung Fu Action Theatre could be popular as live action entertainment in some areas."

This is the fourteenth in a series of articles consisting of notes on each of the spell lists in the RMSS version of Spell Law. While it occasionally considers various other ideas concerning the spells, the primary focus is on the commercial or societal use of spells in order to see how they might influence the shape of a culture that employs them.

Body Reins

Balance is useful for performing various stunts, including high wire circus acts.

Contractions would be useful for performing as an escape artist. If one wanted to play a Monk as a "Western" character type, an acrobatic professional performer of some sort would be the best fit and a Monk is well equipped to perform several different roles in the circus or other form of performing troupe.

Concentration spells aid any maneuver, so the caster can essentially be better at nearly everything. This is useful for just about any practical endeavor, but also good for performing impressive stunts, again supporting the role of entertainer.

Unpain spells are designed for combat, but assuming the spells indeed ease pain, they could be used to resist torture or endure other hardships. For example, Unpain might be used during labor or when undergoing ritualistic or other deliberately suffered bodily harm, as with surgery or tattooing.

Face Shifting and Body Shifting do not appear to allow exact duplication, but could still allow for passing as a given individual from a distance. These spells have uses in entertainment, espionage, and inconspicuous tourism.

Waterlungs and Gaslungs may be employed in rescue work, exploration, and escape artistry. By casting Waterlungs before being bound and lowered into a tank of water, the Monk has until the end of the spell duration to get free and get out of the water.

Strength spells can be used for Strength-based tasks. Moving obstacles is just about the only useful task that can be done during a one round duration, but this spell is good for displays of strength, either as part of a performing act or just to show off.

Because Awake only works to throw off unnatural sleep, it is purely a defensive spell. Meditative Sleep allows for the light sleep of one who would not be assassinated. Monks may be common in leadership positions in assassination-rich environments.

Monk's Sleep improves individual productivity. In traveling expeditions, two monks can handle an entire night watch rotation between them and still function normally all day.

Self Keeping means that if you failed to get the Monk's brain, he is not dead. This is another reason to crown a high-level Monk if you have had problems with Disposable King Syndrome.

Body Renewal

Since these spells only affect the caster, they have very little effect relative to the Channeling and Mentalist healing lists that can be applied to anyone. However, they would be good spells to put on items and may have some broader influence that way. Mainly, however, Body Renewal is just another reason high-level Monks are hard to kill.


This list is generally useful in combat and in chases.

Swing allows the performance of swashbuckling stunts and acrobatics, as well as moving like an ape. Flip spells are likewise useful in acrobatic and swashbuckling stunts. The Monk might work as an acrobat, a stunt man, or a fight choreographer for an acting troupe.

Mind Over Matter

The Body Weaponry, Missile's Master, and Body Armor spells are combat specific.

Adrenal Focus spells are useful for showmanship. Other effects depend on what Adrenal Moves the Monk possesses and his level of skill, but their effects are mostly duplicated or exceeded by specific spells anyway.

Shattering Blow is good mainly for show, but can get through obstacles in an emergency. It is also useable in structural integrity testing.

In the case of decapitation, Lion's Heart is extremely impressive (morale check time). This spell is also great if a stunt goes wrong, so that the Monk can get to a safe place to heal and avoid showing how hurt he is to the audience. In athletics, it can be used to "play through the pain".

Monk's Bridge

Leaping and Great Leap spells are useful in rescue work, acrobatics, and accessing elevated construction and stoneworking operations.

Traction is useful in rescue work and exploration.

The various *running and *walking spells and Run True are similar to such spells on other lists and are likewise naturals for enchanting into shoes and boots. They are good for having entertaining races and obstacle courses. They are good for rescue work. They make Monks difficult to keep as unwilling gladiators. Entertainment can use these spells for special effects (like having a Monk play a wall-crawling spider) and amazing feats. Fluidrunning is especially helpful in floods, as well as for work at sea or around the harbor. Cornering spells enhance the *running spells and are another useful spell for performers.

Levitation would be useful when working with vertical surfaces, as when examining a dam or other tall construction. This spell is also good for getting an elevated view of larger structures and therefore has value in archaeology, art, and city planning and management. This high view also has value to the military, of course, as one can see farther, especially in forested areas.

Landing can allow an aerial performer to work "without a net" safely. Landing True makes the Monk an effective "paratrooper", although the 2% chance of spell failure + 1% automatic failure even if the spell is successfully cast is worrying.

Wall Flip makes an awesome visual for great entertainment value. Kung Fu Action Theatre could be popular as live action entertainment in some areas.

Leaving can be used to get to the far side of a gap to suspend a rope across and start building a bridge. This is another useful spell for rescue work, where it allows bypassing hazards such as fire or unsafe ground.

Monk's Sense

Sly Ears, Nightvision, Sidevision, Watervision, and Darkvision were discussed under the Physical Enhancement list (Open Essence).

Scent, Touch, Woodsight, Stonesight, and Ironsight were discussed under the Senses list (Dabbler Base). Scent True may be some help in tracking or locating persons, whether for catching a fugitive or finding victims during rescue operations. It can assist hunting and crime scene investigation. Touch True provides only a quantitative improvement over Touch.

Fogvision is useful for any operations that would be hampered by obscured vision. These include guiding a vessel (slowly, given the spell's range), rescue operations, security patrols, military and paramilitary operations, and driving a wagon.

Detect Invisible provides magical detection of invisibility. The brief duration means it will be used only if an invisible presence is already suspected or when scanning an area for a specific occasion. It is not suitable as a substitute for mundane anti-invisibility measures.

Detect Illusion allows recognition of illusions, but not seeing through them. It is nigh useless in an illusion-rich environment. It can provide a general warning that things are not as they appear, but an Illusionist could bluff by putting on a glamour of the target's true appearance. In a low-illusion environment, it can identify disguised individuals and objects for further investigation.

Disillusion allows the Monk to perceive the physical reality (which may also be an illusion according to the Monk's education) through the veil of an illusion spell. This gives the Monk some of the Illusionist's ability to evade illusions.

See Invisible is the ultimate defense against invisibility. This spell means that someone invisible may want to either move stealthily or to act as if he belongs where he is so that it will not be obvious that he is not being seen by others. Ideally, as a ruler, I want this spell on constant items for all members of my bodyguard.

Long Vision allows the caster to guide a ship at night or in the fog or rain. He can even guide a submarine using Watervision. Even in a whiteout blizzard, he can find shelter. It improves the function of *vision spells in general.

Illusionsight is useful for dealing with visual illusions, but can increase the disconcerting nature of illusion if the caster is still getting the other four senses. Monks may be chosen as Illusionist hunters when a government, church, or other organization decides it is time to get rid of the deceivers.

Monkvision and Monksense just conveniently bundle lower level spells, but that makes them convenient for enchanting into high-level magic items.

Metalsight is an upgrade to Ironsight, allowing the caster to see through more materials (the lead lining approach will not work anymore). It cannot be used to locate precious metals, since those will also be transparent.