The Social Implications of Magic: Closed Mentalism Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Is anyone finding it plausible that out of all these various sense-enhancement lists, not one contains a Clothesvision spell?"

This is the eighteenth 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.

Gas Manipulation

Condensation and the Unfog spells were previously discussed under the Water Law (Magician Base) list. Likewise, Airwall, Air Stop, and Vacuum spells were discussed under the Wind Law (Magician Base) list. The Curved and True versions of Airwall add some flexibility, but the function is the same. The Mentalismist's version of Vacuum does not hit as hard as the Magician version, but here is a Mentalism attack that is physical and affects mindless or mind-shielded targets.

Warm Air can be used to provide comfort and medical care and to speed the thawing of frozen foods.

Fog spells on this list are of rather short duration and limited effect until one gets to Fog True. They are mostly good for quick cover in tactical situations or as visual effects with dramatic intent. Fog True can have strategic uses. Conspiratorial Mentalismist groups can use it to help a city keep its secrets.

Gas-Air is good for industrial or laboratory work with dangerous fumes, for rescue operations (although the need for caster concentration is an issue), for defense in the case of chemical warfare, and for pollution reduction.

Whirling Winds is almost a personal force field. The concentration requirement limits its use in combat, but it is still a valuable defense. The caster's immunity to missiles could be exploited for show (even as a sideshow gimmick where one can pay to shoot at the "Missile-proof Man") or to appear invulnerable in a low magic world to establish one's power, perhaps even as part of a claim of godhood. This spell could also be used as a defense against accidental flying debris or against sandstorms.

Oxygenation may be used for medical purposes or to improve combustion for various purposes, including extra power for furnace-driven engines.

Cloud Mastery can break a drought if clouds are available. It can also be used to shape clouds for fun, to deliver messages, to create an "omen", to get the sky to "pose" for a painting, or to honor some individual or special occasion. Control of fog can allow an advantage in tactical situations and also in business (selective fog obscures a rival's sign but not one's own). Manipulation of clouds or fog can manipulate the mood of a scene. Controlled fog is also useful for dramatic unveilings.

Liquid Manipulation

This list is rich in spells we have seen before. Boil Water and Freeze Water were on the Fire Law and Ice Law (Magician Base) lists, respectively. Waterwall, Water Bolt, Calm Water (True), and Whirlpool were on the Water Law (Magician Base) list. We do get a slightly new effect with a Curved Waterwall, but that is a minor difference. The Calm Water description differs from the Magician's version in that it specifically negates currents, which could be useful during rescue or salvage operations by preventing currents from moving the target.

Clear Water and Desalination are useful for purifying liquids to create drinkable water or liquid chemicals for industrial or experimental use.

The Mentalismist's Evaporation is puny compared to the Sorcerer version, but could be used for removing small amounts of water, perhaps to dry stairs or other potentially hazardous areas after a rain.

Water Corridor spells would be useful in close-quarters naval combat, crossing rivers, and gaining access for underwater construction, inspection, maintenance, or demolition. It is unclear if loose contents move with the water (Spell Mastery might control this). If they do not, these spells would be useful to rescue drowning victims and to catch fish in quantity.

Wave may be used to rock or swamp boats and ships. It could be used to splash a shore, bridge, or port as a prank, crowd control measure, cleaning method, or to clear things a bit for a landing invader. It could also be an entertaining spell for surfers.

Water Bubble is useful for undersea research and treasure-hunting.

Mind Mastery

Storing was covered on the Spell Reins (Closed Essence) list. Presence was covered on the Essence's Perceptions (Open Essence) list. The Misfeel spells and Unpresence were discussed under the Mind Sense Molding (Illusionist Base) list; the Mentalism versions of these spells (and Presence) are Self only, but can be used without Power Point expenditure, meaning they can be deployed more casually. Presence is particularly useful for survivor rescues, certain forms of guard duty, and avoiding witnesses to one's activities.

Inner Wall spells provide personal defense against mental attacks, while Mirrormind provides an awesome mental defense (and counter-offensive).

(Total) Recall would be useful in games of knowledge (trivia games, spelling bees, etc.). An adventurer or entertainer might learn a lot of riddles. These are also useful spells for researchers, librarians, curators, and bureaucrats.

Observation (True) is useful to police, private investigators, insurance investigators, health inspectors, archaeologists, artists, or anyone else whose job calls for careful observations.

Correlation (True) is a valuable tool for scientists, inventors, engineers, generals, detectives, or anyone else who must think things through.

Resolve (True) aids physical performers, soldiers, and anyone needing to focus or exert willpower. It will be useful for some (or all) craftsmen (depending on whether or not the optional variable third stat rule is used).

Mind's Door

Leave Item and Long Door Item spells are useful for theft, performance magic, grabbing a weapon when unarmed, enforcing one's "dibs" on treasure, recovering items behind barriers or hazards, moving dangerous items, and short-range delivery of items such as gifts, messages, and parcels. This is an ideal list for scavengers.

Leaving and Long Door spells were discussed when considering the Lofty Bridge (Closed Essence) list.

Mind's Door spells are useful for the extraction of agents from the field, prison escapes, and in other situations involving removal from danger or bringing reinforcements. It is also handy as a simple transportation spell. It provides the benefits of teleport without risk of error, but is limited by the need for cooperative mental contact. The utility of these spells depends on mental contact and the easier it is to establish contact over a given distance, the more useful Mind's Door will prove in crossing that distance.

Movement

Leaping, Landing, Levitation, and Fly spells have been seen before on the Lofty Bridge (Closed Essence) and Monk's Bridge (Monk Base) lists. Wind Drift (under the name Float), Underwater Movement, and Long Dive appeared on the Movement Mastery (Dabbler Base) list. Merging and Passing appeared on the Living Change (Closed Essence) list.

Great Merge and Merge True resemble the Organic versions seen on the Moving Ways (Ranger Base) list, but can be used in a greater variety of environments.

Passing True means that physical barriers can be penetrated even when rather thick. It allows searching for hidden caverns and such. Thieves, assassins, and spies can benefit from this spell, but so can explorers, researchers, and emergency services personnel.

Sense Mastery

Sly Ears, Nightvision, Sidevision, Watervision, and Darkvision were previously discussed under the Physical Enhancement (Open Essence) list. Detect Illusion (True) and Disillusion (True) were covered under the Mind Sense Molding (Illusionist Base) list, although a Mentalismist is less well equipped than an Illusionist to make these spells useful. Scent and Touch were discussed under the Senses (Dabbler Base) list.

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. Fogvision True is superior, making it suitable for guiding ships traveling at normal speeds, as well as for scouting or other activities requiring long distance viewing. Sentries and snipers will get good use from it. Do not forget that it functions in rain, snow, or obscuring gasses as well as fog. It can allow a Mentalismist to guide an expedition through a blizzard, for example.

Mentalist Ear (True) and Mentalist Eye (True) are similar to the Listen and Watch spells on the Essence's Perceptions (Open Essence) list, but are somewhat more restricted: these spells cannot penetrate a secure compound that the caster has not been inside.

Vision (True) is similar to other Vision spells, but it has its own unique suite of abilities, a suite that makes it particularly well suited to work at sea.

Is anyone finding it plausible that out of all these various sense-enhancement lists, not one contains a Clothesvision spell? Such a spell might be restricted from general distribution for obvious reasons, but I think it is equally obvious that someone would have researched it, and it is likely available if one knows where to seek. It would have more than voyeuristic uses. For example, it would reveal most concealed weapons.

Shifting

Balance, Waterlungs, Gaslungs, and Changing Lungs were considered under the Physical Enhancement (Open Essence) list, except that I neglected to note that Changing Lungs merely bundles breathing abilities into one spell, a spell useful in a complex environment such as a burning and flooding building. The Mentalism versions of these spells are lower-level and Self only. This means they can have more influence on the caster's performance, but cannot be used to assist others magically.

Contraction is useful for escape artists as well as prisoners. It might also earn extra in the sex trade.

Face Shifting is useful for actors, prostitutes, comedians, politicians, spies, the vain, and the easily bored. Greater Face Shifting lasts long enough to allow the caster to live in the new face, making it highly desirable for someone in hiding or otherwise wanting a change of identity.

Change to Kind, Change, and Shapechanging were covered when discussing the Living Change (Closed Essence) list, although on that list the spell here called Shapechanging is called Changing.

Solid Form makes the caster really good at freeze tag (well, the freezing part anyway), enhances his ability to sink in water, and allows him to disguise himself as a statue.

Waterform can be employed by spies, thieves, investigators, and saboteurs as a method of entry or escape. It is useful for moving in water (and with added stealth) and making a dramatic exit.

Mistform grants good speed, but this is limited in utility by its short duration. It allows entry and exit as does Waterform. One can play Santa and slip up and down the chimney, or one can check pipes or similar systems for leaks.

Form Master and Change Master just combine lower-level abilities, except that the mass range increase at 50th level allows a wide range of "monstrous" forms for entertainment, distractions, and creating panic.

Solid Manipulation

Warm Stone and Heat Stone are restricted versions of Warm Solid and Heat Solid, which were discussed on the Fire Law (Magician Base) list. However, the range limitation of Touch makes the Mentalism versions somewhat less useful.

Warm Metal can be used to make metal armor comfortably or uncomfortably warm. It can interfere with delicate machinery by expanding metal. It can warm metals to facilitate handling them in cold conditions. Heat Metal can be used in cooking by the direct heating of pots, pans, or trays, or it can heat a surface on which multiple pots, pans, or trays are placed. It is sufficiently hot to power steam engines. The resultant expansion of metals could be harnessed for a number of purposes but is highly dependent on circumstances for effectiveness. A device could be specifically designed to use the power of that expansion or simply allow it to trigger functioning. This heat is insufficient for most metalworking purposes, but might occasionally be of use in crafting.

Cool Solid and Chill Solid are similar to the spells of the same name on the Ice Law (Magician Base) list, but include metals. Both the heating and chilling of metals, especially in alternation, can be effective sabotage. Metal armor can be made comfortably or uncomfortably colder. Chilled pitchers or bowls can cool food or drink.

Cracks Call was considered on the Earth Law (Magician Base) list.

Melt Solid can create liquid metal for siege warfare, casting in molds, and traps. It can remove obstacles, such as clogs that melt at a lower temperature than the passage they are clogging. There are uses in cooking, the laboratory, and industry. It can melt down stolen goods made of precious metals. The haste with which this spell allows such melting to be done is all the more important if location magic is likely to be used to recover the items. Melting stone to create lava can create a barrier or major heat source.

Crumble can be employed in demolition (civil or military), and in warfare, it is especially useful to breach defenses.

Bowbreak and Bladebreak can, as their names suggest, be used to destroy weapons as an act of sabotage or defense. They can be employed to destroy cursed or evil items. They may see symbolic use at the signing of peace agreements. They are useful for general mischief, such as breaking support poles to tents or merchant stalls. Such damage might be used more systematically as part of a campaign of harassment and/or intimidation, such as might be used to shake down merchants for protection money or drive away a disliked minority group.

Stone Door, Metal Door, and Solid Door not only allow the sudden creation of an entryway for stealth operations, police raids, counterterrorism, etc., they can also be of use in construction.

Lockbreak can be used for either sealing or opening the thing locked. It might be used to seal (rather ineffectively, most likely) a dangerous creature or item into some prison. Opening could be important in police or military raids or in rescue operations. It can also deal with a pesky chastity belt.

Mold Stone, Mold Metal, and Mold Solid have art, craft, and construction applications limited only by the caster's imagination and skills. The scale of these spells is limited, but larger items can be made of parts or shaped in sections. These spells allow the caster to work quickly, without tools, and on materials otherwise difficult to work.

Solid Transmutation is useful mainly for obtaining rare substances in small quantities. These can make an individual wealthy (gems, spices, and drugs are among the likely candidates for profitable transmutation). This spell is likely to be controlled carefully by the social elites due to the potential for abuse and the threat to economic stability. It could also be used to create exotic poisons in sufficient quantity to kill many. It can also generate medicines that are useful in small doses, materials needed for magical or religious rituals, or larger quantities of a trace chemical product for easier experimentation. An artist might desire a new quantity of an exotic pigment; if the trade route has been cut off, this spell might be his only hope.

Speed

Speed Reading, Speed, Haste, Run, Sprint, and Fast Sprint spells are like those found on the Rapid Ways (Closed Essence) list, save for being Self spells.

Fast Swim will be useful in water rescue operations, pearl diving, swimming races, and managing the crossing of rivers, lakes, and bits of sea, where these are obstacles.

Speed True and Haste True will not time out in lengthy combats, allowing them to be cast in advance of actually engaging the enemy. They are useful for speeding activities without the limits noted in Rapid Ways. Almost any need for hurry can be met.

Telekinesis

Refer to the Telekinesis, Staying, and Hurling spell notes for the Essence Hand (Open Essence) list for a previous look at these effects. While Closed rather than Open, this list provides a rare superior version of an Essence list. The Mentalismist can manipulate multiple items and greater masses. Hurling spells provide an effective directed spell for Mentalismists, and they may be improved by Hurling grenades, vials of acid, or other inherently dangerous items. I would think that one could Hurl a weapon within the mass limit and use the appropriate weapon table instead of the Sling Attack Table. A weapon could even be poisoned to improve its deadliness. The applicability of weapon bonuses when so launched is debatable. (I would allow material bonuses, at least. Magic bonuses would depend on how they are assumed to work, whereas bonuses from superior workmanship likely would not apply.) This list might be used in rescue operations, freight handling, and theater.