The Social Implications of Magic: Bard Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"An egotistical Bard could always appear to his own theme music."

This is the twenty-first 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.

Controlling Songs

Many of these songs have utility as non-lethal methods for avoiding combat or assisting in combat.

Calm Song (True) is useful for treating emotional distress or performance jitters.

Sleep Song (True) can be used as a lullaby, whether putting a child to bed or treating insomnia.

Charm Song (True) is good when busking (improving one's tips) and generally has the same uses as Charm Kind on the Spirit Mastery (Closed Essence) list, with a shorter duration.

Fear's Song and Panic's Song (True) are useful for avoiding unwanted visitors (especially debt collectors). In the case of Panic's Song, the Bard might profit by "salvaging" dropped equipment.

Forgetting Song is very, very important when borrowing money or when caught with someone else's wife, daughter, sister, son, goat, etc. It is useful for eliminating witnesses without committing murder (either to aid in a life of crime or more responsibly to protect state secrets). It can allow the release of captured spies so that they will continue operating without knowing that they have been compromised. It provides yet another means of removing traumatic memories.

Song of Mastery (True) provides the same services as Master of Kind on the Spirit Mastery list. A Bard might play it like a stage hypnotist, having a volunteer behave in mildly embarrassing ways to amuse an audience.

Song of Seeking is the same as Geas on the Mind Control (Mentalist Base) list or Quest on the Spirit Mastery list, except that the Bard's instructions are more likely to rhyme.

Song of Coma allows the removal of an individual without killing, a scenario whose utility has been discussed before. It can be used to protect an insane or mentally assaulted loved one while seeking a cure.

Slaying Song provides the Bard with a lethal spell option. Of interest mainly for the various bad performing arts and music jokes that can be made about it.

Entertaining Ways

The applications to performances should be obvious. Suffice to say that the entire list is useful for enhancing the quality of performances by the Bard or others (he may work as a special effects device for a theatre company).

Spotlight may be used to provide light to read by or to perform some task where illumination helps (such as picking a lock).

Dim Lights can assist in hiding, create mood lighting, or even serve a ceremonial role.

Hush is useful for addressing unruly crowds or eliminating distracting noises.

Fanfare can provide alternative pomp for authority figures. An egotistical Bard could always appear to his own "theme music."

Showman spells will assist a Bard in casting Magic Rituals that require dancing.

Legerdemain is useful in theft, of course, but also for putting away an object that goes on a high shelf. Disappear (True) is good for moving larger loads and can be used to move a person or other living creature to safety.

Enthrall spells are a variation of Holding Song on the Controlling Songs list. They are generally inferior, except in allowing multiple targets by level twelve.

Hidden Pocket is useful for smuggling, shoplifting, or other theft. It can also be used to secure sensitive documents during a search. It may be used to conceal a weapon or other material that one wishes to keep hidden when passing through a checkpoint. It can be used for performing magic tricks.

The Music and Orchestra spells provide a primitive version of recorded music. They are useful when composing, if unable to play (whether missing an instrument or suffering an injury) or sing (laryngitis, perhaps?), or as a provision of emotional cues when delivering a speech (acting, a plea to the object of one's desire, delivering a funeral oration, giving a sales pitch, etc.).

Volunteer from the Audience is a more convenient control spell than Song of Mastery and can be used for general manipulation of others. For example, one could use this spell to get someone to vote the caster's way or to obtain a loan.

Lovely Assistant can be employed for pleasing vanity, improving tips (especially for strippers), modeling gigs, wooing (especially for casual encounters), and political or sales persuasion enhancement.

Item Lore

Jewel/Metal Assessment, Item Assessment, Detect Power, Assessment True, Significance, Origins and Origins True were discussed under the Thieving Law (Dabbler Base) list.

Item Analysis spells provide the ability to identify magical abilities of objects, which is useful in evaluating the worth of these items, identifying dangerous or prohibited items (although the spells would be more useful in this respect if they had a greater range than "touch"), and the investigation of artifacts in archeological research. In trade, the True version allows a buyer to confirm claims prior to sale, whereas the lower level spells are useful to the buyer only if the seller is unaware of the item's properties. This list's identification magic is inferior to that of the Delving (Open Mentalism) list, which does full identification at 19th level instead of 50th level.

Item Vision (True) has the same uses as Item Vision on the Thieving Law and Delving lists, although it has some difference in its details.

Detect Curse allows someone dealing with unknown items to avoid curses and identify the source of item-bound curses.

Significance True is a great improvement on Significance for historians, archeologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and students of comparative religion.

Death's Lore, like similar spells, is useful in the investigations of deaths, whether of historical, criminological, medical, or military significance. Given the ability to work on an item, a Bard might be able to operate in the absence of a corpse by trying on a valuable item the deceased had stolen from him during the presumed murder or on the victim's written will (if the motive was inheritance). Other such scenarios can be envisioned where creative use allows an inanimate object to bear witness.


While the version of the Recall spell on this list is not identical to that on the Mind Mastery (Closed Mentalism) list, it has the same uses. A Bard will find it especially useful for maintaining his mastery of material he has not used recently. He can have a joke or anecdote for every occasion. It also allows a bonus to skills that are influenced by Memory, making the Bard a better loremaster and craftsman.

Learn Language spells make language acquisition fast and easy for the Bard, making him a capable translator and interpreter. For diplomacy, trade, or exploration this ability is invaluable. This ability is also highly valuable to spies, assassins, reporters, and academics. The Learn Language True spell should probably have duration listed as P for clarity. The one limitation is that it must be possible to learn the language normally, so "lost" languages cannot be recovered. A literary Bard can save money by translating his own works.

Language Lore makes a Bard a capable classifier of documents. Libraries, museums, and bureaucracies in multi-lingual nations will see value in this spell. It is also useful for checking for plagiarism.

Mind's Lore spells are useful for interrogation, espionage, avoiding paying for specialist consultants, and cheating on tests or in trivia contests. They are also useful in social situations for bluffing one's credentials.

Study spells increase reading speed, going up to superhuman levels for Study True. Combined with Recall, this allows the Bard to become a walking reference library.

Passage Origin is similar to Language Lore, but of greater use with historical documents and for academic studies of literature.

Sound Control

Quiet and Silence spells were previously discussed under the Sound's Way (Open Channeling) list. They also provide the Bard with a boost to stealth. Silence True can cover a work area to keep noise down, but duration remains a problem. These spells can also provide some security against non-magical eavesdropping.

Sonic Law spells are similar to Sound Mirage, although the Bard's skill at audio illusion is rather limited until one reaches Sonic Law True, with is an excellent audio illusion spell. A Bard is likely to use this ability to enhance his entertainment or persuasive abilities, providing a background beat or starting applause/laughter/cheers/boos in a crowd to sway opinion.

(Long) Sudden Sound provides a stunning attack that is useful in combat or for deterring pursuit. It can also aid in capturing persons or animals alive.

Deafen can assist the Bard in sneaking past someone in a place quiet enough that the deafness is not immediately noticed. It can prevent the target from hearing orders, disrupting military or other group organization. It can assist the target on an effort that requires blocking out distractions.

Cracks is the same as Cracks Call on the Solid Destruction (Sorcerer Base) list. Shatter Blast can be used for vandalism and as a dangerous offensive spell. It might be used for terrorism, but the very limited range greatly limits its utility. Crumble is useful for destroying defenses, demolishing condemned buildings, and sabotage.

Waiting Sounds provides a good programmed audio illusion ability. It can be used to provide accompaniment to the Bard's own performance, to create distractions, to plant rumors (including advertising, political promotion, character assassination, etc.), or to perform an act like a ventriloquist's but with more freedom of movement.

Mind's Song (True) provides an area effect stunning attack centered on the caster. This is useful for self-defense when alone or for going in alone to make an attack. If the Bard is held hostage, this spell can create an opening for a rescue attempt.

Sound Projection

Long Whisper spells provide some covert communication ability (and within a group of Bards, security can be increased by use of an obscure language). These spells can be used in furthering conspiracies, in coaching or prompting another unobtrusively, and in keeping noise minimized (in respect of a library or temple, perhaps). Teachers and other supervisors will find them useful to deliver correction (of performance or of behavior) discreetly.

Sounding spells can be employed in making public announcements, announcing sporting events, advertising goods or services, and heckling.

Sound Sounding spells increase the range of Controlling Songs. Song spells increase the number of targets of Controlling Songs. Great Song spells make Controlling Songs into radius effect spells. Silent Song prevents anyone but the target(s) from hearing a Controlling Song, which is useful for stealthy use if the Bard is out of sight. Most of this list is devoted to augmenting Controlling Songs.

Song Mastery is the "any lower level spell each round" omnibus spell that gets used when no original 50th level spell is devised and has no unique effects to consider.