The Social Implications of Magic: Closed Essence

Copyright R Dan Henry © 2008

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"What is Suggestion not good for?"

This is the tenth 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.

Closed Essence lists are probably going to be nearly as available as Open Essence lists. Both of the Essence Pure spell casters, the Illusionist and the Magician, have specialized and fairly narrowly focused Base lists and are likely to pick up Closed lists to round out their abilities, especially where there is a good market for those abilities on the Closed lists.

Dispelling Ways

This list offers a more powerful set of magical defense spells than does the Spell Wall list. Unessence, Unmentalism, and Unchanneling allow neutralizing magical individuals or items and may be employed when dealing with dangerous prisoners or items. They are, however, too high-level to use in regular police work or other routine handling of magical threats.

Gate Mastery

This list duplicates some of the Cleric's Summons list and my comments on summoning demons apply here as well, although the attitudes of a secular Essence user may differ considerably from that of a Channeler when it comes to dealing with demons. While the aid obtained from Summons spells was already discussed, they can also be used to discover local fauna. Essence users can exploit these spells for hunting, which could be problematic for Clerics. As combat options go, Essence users generally have something better. Animals can be mounts, beasts of burden, providers of distractions, or educational aids. The caster might also wish to portray himself as a "friend of the animals" for reasons ranging from impressing a potential employer to impressing a potential girlfriend.

Waiting Summons can be used, as previously noted, to provide amusement. It can also be employed for love notes ("cute" animal summoned), a signal, a guide (the animal leads someone to a place), deliveries (the animal fetches an item), or warnings (the animal hisses, growls, or otherwise warns someone off).

Control Demon and Demon Mastery allow the wielder of this list to command demons he has not summoned, allowing him to defend against demons as well as employing them for either constructive or destructive purposes. The impact of these spells depends on the available demons and how commonly they might appear. The Demonic Gate spells summon demons, again making them world-specific, but Greater Demonic Gate can summon a Type VI demon, which cannot be controlled with the spells on this list. This makes the use of the Greater Demonic Gate rather dangerous. Demon-summoning is great for scaring the peons, though.

A Familiar is limited to a percentage of the caster's own mass. This provides an advantage to larger mages. Depending on how this requirement is interpreted, there may be some exploits available. If the mass requirement is based on the caster's mass at the time of casting the spell, possession of the Living Change list will be helpful. If it is based on current mass and the familiar is lost if the caster's mass drops too low, use of Living Change becomes restricted and the mage may need to avoid going on a diet. Depending on how desirable certain familiars are considered to be, this spell could lead to a trend towards overweight Essence users. Perception through animal senses is probably a remarkable experience; it would be very useful in investigating such animals by learning about their sensory environment. An animal pal is going to be very appealing to nerdy, socially-awkward mages. Experience with a familiar might make someone more sympathetic to small animals in general. Small animals might either benefit or be persecuted after a couple of incidents of angry mages avenging their familiars.

Companion, like Familiar, favors larger casters. The result is still too small for a mount, but the companion could serve as a pack bearer, guard animal, friend, and/or party mascot. With Companion True, one is finally free of size limits and the pixie mage is not discriminated against in favor of the ogre. This spell can provide a loyal mount.

Summon Folk is useful for surveys of faerie populations and for establishing contact with local faerie populations. Contacting the faeries may allow the opening of diplomatic or trade relations if the faeries are willing. The effects of such arrangements vary, but could potentially be quite important.

(Lesser) Waiting Gate is a superior option to Waiting Summons if you mean ill to those involved, although a demon could also be summoned to perform a non-violent task (it would make a dramatic messenger or salesman). It is, however, more likely to be used to discourage pursuit or as a security measure. "If anyone other than me touches my gold, kill them."

Invisible Ways

Unseen is useful for smuggling items or stealing them. It could also be used by showmen, using the ability to cancel the spell by striking the object to make it "appear" suddenly.

Invisibility and Invisibility Sphere are more useful for making equipped individuals and groups invisible.

The applications of invisibility are generally well-known. However, for voyeurism and spying, scrying spells are a better approach if you do not need to handle anything (you may need to go in invisibly to search through someone's files, but for listening to conversations, remote hearing methods are a lot safer). Invisibility is very useful for theft, assassination, planting or recovering evidence, and evading pursuit. If invisibility is common, countermeasures will be as well. These include not only magical devices and spells, but the employment of dogs and other creatures who cultivate the non-visual senses and the use of barriers or surfaces that will give away invisible intruders, such as bead curtains, a layer of sand or flour on the floor, or the placement of one's hideout behind a waterfall.

Living Change

Shrink Self and Enlarge Self provide minor movement advantages. The short duration of these spells limits their usefulness, but they can help access locations that would otherwise be inconvenient. They can be used in libraries, warehouses, and construction work to reach high areas or restricted spaces. One could also use this spell to portray a giant or dwarf as a bit part in a play. It could also be used to activate or avoid activating a pressure plate or to break or avoid breaking a fragile surface.

Change to Kind is useful for short-term infiltration or to avoid prejudice when shopping. It lasts long enough for significant performances, so it is valuable in entertainment. It can be used to provide variety in sex and might be in demand in brothels.

Shrink allows fitting wooden furnishings through doorways that are otherwise too small. It can make moving large pieces of wood, leather, etc. easier. It is useful in rescue work to gain access to an area or ease extraction of a victim. It can be used to put a prisoner or animal into a cell or pen with an exit too small for the occupant to get back out (assuming a Utility spell may be used on an unconscious target, since this situation is unlikely to provide a willing target).

Enlarge allows better reach for an individual or an organic reaching tool, including wooden ladders. Those working either side of the law might find it useful for intimidation. It is also useful for working in flooded areas, as the water level will be relatively lower compared to an enlarged body. Mass Enlarge may be of some help in construction, emergency repairs, or rescue work.

Change is even better than the lower-level spells for use in performance. It also allows for more exotic infiltration attempts and kinkier sex use. Mass Change has the same uses as Change, although allowing for group infiltrations and bizarre themed orgies.

True Change will have a very high value in the sex trade, in performance for entertainment or as propaganda. It can be employed in politics, business, or personal relationships to cause trouble. A criminal can use it to frame another or at least prevent witnesses identifying the true culprit (although lesser spells suffice for the latter use). If Change Lore includes unseen features, it can be used to check the target's moles, etc., especially any significant tattoos, such as those indicating secret society membership or those which are treasure maps. It could also reveal cross-dressing. This option provides a lot of possible plot elements. If hidden features are not learned, some individuals will be able to distinguish the original from the copy (and this also has its plot potentials, including attempts to arrange to Change Lore a target while the target is naked). This spell can provide stand-ins for various tasks. In particular, more expert individuals might be hired to take an exam or fight a dual in one's place. Politicians and despots alike may have decoys using True Change when assassination is feared. A hard-working ruler might have a magical double take care of ceremonial appearances while he continued working on managing the realm.

Changing works much like True Change, only with improved potential for mischief. As a defense attorney, I would employ this spell every time in court as I questioned eye witnesses against my client. It is also good for setting up politicians or others for manufactured scandals. "She was an adult when we started!"

Merging is more flexible than the Merging Organic spells on the Ranger's Moving Ways list or the Open Channeling list Lofty Movements. It can be used to penetrate stone walls (of a limited thickness). In addition to the offensive, defensive, and infiltration possibilities that it creates, it allows for secret chambers with no doors, accessed through Merging (or certain alternative magics). Just looking for secret doors in the magician's fortress may not turn up his treasure room. Fortifications will likely make an effort to thicken outer walls sufficiently to prevent penetration by Merging, even where construction allows thinner walls. Doors probably cannot be thickened sufficiently and are also vulnerable to Unbarring Ways, so there will be no unguarded doors into a competently run secure area. Merging can also be used to get some peace and quiet to think in, should the caster live in a distracting environment. It also allows hiding, whether you want to avoid confronting someone who is angry, someone who has an unwanted work assignment for you, or simply someone playing hide-and-seek with you. Mass Merging allows group use and could be used by criminals or spies to get a group inside a place after hours by coming in while the place is open and merging into a wall only to emerge after hours.

Invulnerability provides some physical defense, but scarcely make one invulnerable. It is useful for anyone threatened with combat or accidental damage (such as from rock slides). I would change the name if I were selling this spell as a service to others, lest I be sued for false advertising, however. "Damage Resistance" might be a good alternative name.

Passing makes physical barriers less useful, more so even than Merging. Simply thickening walls will not be a sufficient measure at this level of penetration. Most leaders may take up the habit of frequently changing their sleeping places and posting guards inside their sleeping chambers. Others with enemies sufficiently powerful to employ 20th level spells against them may also take up such habits.

Lofty Bridge

In general, this list is useful in chases, which means it will be valued by police and criminals alike. I assume that "caster teleports" means that the target of the spell may be inanimate, while "allows the target" requires volition on the part of the target, except for landing, since inanimate objects will land through simple gravity. I will also note that this list really gets exciting in a setting that includes explosives, as it allows bombing from the air as well as quick placements and escapes for more precisely targeted charges. Many of these spells are also useful for teenagers or cheating spouses seeking to sneak out at night.

This is another list that discriminates in favor of larger spell-users, especially when using the spells on others.

Leaping allows for restricted access areas that are elevated and therefore require (unsupplied) ladders or Leaping to reach. This spell sets a minimal height for walls that cannot be bypassed by a first level spell (anything lower must be considered insecure in the extreme). Of course, one may restrict the height somewhat if one compensates by topping the wall with glass shards, razor-edged spikes, or the like. Leaping is useful for rooftop work and so is handy for burglars, assassins, snipers, and anyone else seeking urban stealth. It is also useful for rescue workers and roofers.

Landing could lead to recreational falling as a form of entertainment. It is very useful in fire rescues to allow one to safely exit upper stories by window. Unfortunately, as a Utility spell it cannot be used to stop suicide jumpers, unless Spell Mastered to be a Force spell. It could, however, protect someone who falls by accident and can allow performers to work "without a net" safely. Used on an inanimate target, Landing can assist in the unloading of goods. In alchemical or industrial situations, Landing may be used to prevent or minimize damage from accidental droppings. Likewise, Landing is handy to have ready when a work crew is doing a project where they are elevated and at risk of dropping. Depending on how accident-prone one's charges are, this could also be a useful spell in the child care business.

Leaving is of some use in moving freight. It can be used to get someone to the far side of a gap so you can throw a rope across and start building a bridge. This is another useful spell for rescue work, where it allows bypassing hazards such as unsafe ground or fire.

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.

When it comes to Fly, there will definitely be a recreational market. More practical applications include information gathering or searches by air, checking rooftops for damage, and painting/repairing ceilings. Military planning must consider the third dimension and the availability of flying forces (to which monsters as well as spells contribute). This consideration provides a reason for going underground and may justify the classic "dungeon" environment as a somewhat common construct.

Portal (True) provides another way to bypass material barriers. It is useful for transporting others or goods and is well-suited to smuggling operations. This spell is yet another reason that castle or city walls require frequent patrols to keep out spell-casters. Spells do not make fortifications useless, but they do mean that physical defenses cannot be left to stand on their own, but require constant attention.

Long Door also bypasses barriers. It is useful for rescue work and archaeology, providing access to hidden chambers and air pockets within collapsed structures.

Teleport provides long range movement. While errors become likely if the caster has not been to the target location for at least a week, the error is not huge and is likely to be more of an inconvenience than a threat. A "teleport landing field" could be arranged at major destinations, large enough to encompass most off-target arrivals. This quick transportation is good for larger societies, helping to tie distant provinces together. It even allows for a commuter lifestyle for some Essence casters, who are free to abandon the traditional lifestyle where one lives and works in the same place, instead serving a wealthy patron while living one's off-hours in the peace of one's mountain hermitage. Cargo can also be sent by Teleport, allowing quick delivery of exotic packages.

Rapid Ways

Messengers and delivery services will find Run a useful spell. While this list has spells useful in chases, desirable to police and criminals, most of their chases will be at a faster pace than Run allows. Emergency rescue or medical personnel would find Run useful in responding to an alarm. (Fast) Sprint has the same uses are Run and is more likely to be useful in a chase. The use of these spells on mounts should not be ignored.

Speed is basically a combat spell or for impressing someone with rapidity, since the duration is too short for most tasks. Haste is more useful than Speed for longer tasks and it might be used to get a fast start on an activity.

Speed Reading is useful for researchers, accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats, legislators, and anyone else whose reading requirements pile up. It may serve to speed up processes involving paperwork, including the handling of legal contracts. However, such improvements in speed will generally only be significant for routine work, since more complex or unusual cases involve more effort than simply going over the documents.

Any of the movement spells could be used in racing or sports, either as a recognized practice or as a method of cheating. If such spells are disallowed, a referee with Detecting Ways (or the equivalent list from another realm) could be responsible for discovering such cheating.

Shield Mastery

This is a combat-centric list, but may see employment by police, bodyguards, and animal control officers, as well as military application.

Deflections can be useful in cases of industrial or other accidents that send something flying.

Enchanted Leather (or, more rarely, Enchanted Robes) may be used to face environmental hazards.

Spell Enhancement

Since this list consists of spells that alter other spells, the social effects of this list depend on what other spells are available.

Special Effects is good for entertainment and other uses where impressions are important. Spell-for-hire wizardry might employ Special Effects regularly as a method of making the work more impressive and justifying the price.

Extension is useful for enhancing spells that would otherwise need more frequent renewals (such as illusions used as advertising or mobility enhancements on messengers).

(Instant) Ranging is less significant than Extension, but is useful for getting spells to where they will be useful, especially for bestowing effects on others. Many of the spells useful for aiding others have a rather short 10' range in unmodified form and magic-wielders assisting in rescue operations and the like will do well to have Ranging available.

While bigger balls for Magicians is the most immediately obvious use for Increased Radius, there are some other uses. Many illusion spells have a radius effect.

Greater Extension and Extension True act as time adders rather than multipliers. This makes them more powerful for most spells, but not all. In conjunction with Invisible Ways, Extension III exceeds either of these higher level spells in effect.

Permanent is a spell worthy of overcastting (using ritual magic if necessary). While a caster is limited to one Permanent spell at a time, there is no provision for caster death canceling the spell. Old cities (or elven forests) could have a significant collection of Permanent spells hanging around. A Magician or Illusionist of high level might place a Permanent Increased Radius IV on himself, churning out large ball attacks or extensive illusions.

Spell Reins

Spell Store is mainly for preparing a spell in advance to cast quickly when needed, so it is primarily useful for combat and other crisis events that are anticipated. Because one cannot cast another spell while keeping one in a Spell Store, it is not suitable for keeping some emergency spell always ready "just in case". I would think that anyone who filled one of the blank slots in this list with a Bypassable Spell Store would be a hero to all Essence users.

Identify Casting is useful for authenticating abilities, revealing Evil or other suspicious spell-casting, and the enforcement of laws restricting certain types of spells.

Spell Hold, Spell Bending, and Reverse Spell make up a rather nice suite of defensive spells and are suitable for use by magic-wielding bodyguards.

Power Loan is a spell of desperation, useful in emergencies when more magical force is needed, but not something that will see regular use.

Spirit Mastery

Sleep spells, including Word of Sleep, are useful for live capture. As such they are useful for animal control, police work, kidnapping, and slave-taking. They are also useful for treating insomnia and enforcing a child's bedtime. Experienced guards will use these spells as their excuse when caught sleeping on duty.

Charm Kind and True Charm are useful for business deals (especially swindles, but also in general deal-making), information gathering (making it a useful tool for spies, private investigators, police, reporters, etc.), counseling services (bypassing the initial resistance from dealing with a stranger), diplomacy, seductions, teaching, and service industry jobs (I would expect it to improve tips received).

Confusion can help control violent individuals who are not actively engaged in violence at the moment. It is also useful for preventing the idiot of the group from messing up current operations, which could make it the most useful spell some adventuring groups have. Confusion is useful as a substitute for Sleep for temporarily neutralizing targets with too many levels to Sleep. It is useful for sabotaging opposition during time-critical operations, especially when used against someone in a leadership position. Depending on the subjective effect of Confusion, it might be used as a recreational change of mental state.

What is Suggestion not good for? This spell is very powerful in the field of getting-others-to-do-what-I-want, arguably the greatest power of all. To mention just a few of its applications, Suggestion is useful in bill collection, trade, sex, crime, official government business, police work ("Give yourself up" is only "completely alien" to very rare sincere "they'll never take me alive" types), parenting ("Be home before curfew."), teaching, and entertainment (like a hypnotist's show). The power of Suggestion is not omnipotent and, like any form of influence, needs to be used with care, but it is powerful and has broad application in nearly any setting.

Hold Kind and Hold True are good for live captures and weird bondage kinks.

Master of Kind is an upscaled Suggestion which allows multiple instructions, but is more time-limited. You can have much too much fun with this and it is as broadly useful as Suggestion is. With this spell, the "power behind the throne" advisor can make certain things go according to plan, even when his social skills alone are not enough to sway the leader he advises.

(True) Quest could possibly be used as a punishment to require the guilty to perform acts of restitution. In other situations, "dirty work" might be done by agents under a Quest, providing the instigating power with some plausible deniability. Of course, being under the power of a Quest or Suggestion or other mind-controlling spell would be a defense in a court of law, but the burden of proof would then reasonably lie on the defense, even in the most enlightened society, as anyone could always claim to have been under magical influence. It is equally unlikely to be acceptable as an excuse without solid proof when dealing with one's boss or spouse after some irregularity in behavior. Unreliable and/or referenceless employees might be required to submit to a Quest spell as part of their terms of employment, especially if they receive substantial payment in advance. Such an arrangement would be quite suitable when entrusting an important task to some "adventuring party", mercenaries of often mysterious origin and dubious character or sanity.

Word of Stunning, Word of Pain, and Word of Calling have some application as live-capture tools. Word of Discord seems good only to spread harm. Word of Death is for deadly combat. Waiting Word can provide traps for legitimate (or illegitimate) security purposes. Phrase could totally mess someone up with the permanent effect, but otherwise offers nothing new. Mass Word and Spirit Mastery just allow more of lower level effects.