The Social Implications of Magic: Evil Essence Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Making the Evil lists Everyman or even Occupational would be appropriate if some real risk is involved in their use."

This is the sixteenth 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.

Dark Contacts

Force Analysis spells are weak. Force Analysis III is nigh useless: type I or II demons never know anything and type III demons hardly ever do. So the first of these spells is a waste of time and power points. By the time you can hope for a 90% chance of identifying an item, you are casting a 30th level spell, while someone with the Open List Delving Ways can cast Power Analysis True as a 30th level spell that works every time (if correctly cast) and does not require access to a demon first.

Demonic Contact spells are dangerous and their only purpose is to allow the use of the other spells on this list.

Force Information spells suffer the same problems with unreliability, as do Force Analysis spells and are limited to yes or no questions to which the answer is known by someone. There is the further question of how the demon knows the answer is correct, since it is reading it out of someone's mind. Even assuming that the demon is scanning a correct answer, there are better options for information gathering magic. These spells are largely useful for confirming suspected secrets.

Force Search spells are also unreliable, but good for locating anything, so it has applications for research, police work, military strategy, and locating individuals of interest. If "specific person, place, or thing" is interpreted flexibly enough to search for "my ideal mate," the Evil Magician may work as a matchmaker. Otherwise, you would definitely be better off learning Detecting Ways.

Demonic Link spells allow the creation of something like a demonic reference librarian on call. Given the "Mirror, Mirror..." reference, I suppose we can assume "fairest of them all" type searches work, in which case one can search for "the best choice for king (or messenger boy or human sacrifice)" or even "the Chosen One."

Dark Summons

Familiar and Summons spells were discussed under the Gate Mastery list (Closed Essence).

Investiture spells are among the best Evil Essence spells. They modify the caster's familiar so that the animal becomes an effective spy and remote spell delivery system. The familiar also becomes more capable as a combatant, but normally one does not want to risk one's familiar in combat, so it is the increased durability of the familiar that is the chief advantage gained. The downside of these modifications is the distinctive appearance, which can make the familiar more of a target.

Binding spells have their utility limited by very short range. They allow the use of non-domesticated beasts as mounts, bearers, and laborers. This requires the spell-caster act as supervisor. Binding may also be used to control dangerous animals either to manage a risk or to use them as performing animals, as in a circus act.

Order Bound spells allow sending a Bound creature on an errand. This is useful for sending deliveries by sending the subject of the spell to a known spot with the item of interest. Other uses will depend on the available creatures.

Darkness

Darkness and Utterdark spells were discussed under the Light Law list (Magician Base).

Nightvision and Darkvision spells were discussed under the Physical Enhancement list (Open Essence). Nightvision True has increased range, making it superior for night operations involving long distance visibility, such as scouting or night watches.

Dark Control spells can be used in the theater to "dim the lights" or for mood control. It can lower the light for a romantic atmosphere. It can be used to convince an individual that he is going blind, in order to con a mark with a "cure" or bluff someone during an interrogation. In bright daylight, it can be used to shield VIPs from the glare.

Shadowy Forms can enhance ghost stories or create a "haunting."

Clouds of Darkness spells provide a long duration of darkness, allowing darkening of (non-windy) areas over prolonged periods. The effect can kill vegetation (to clear stubborn weeds or to cause mayhem). Clouds of Darkness is ideal for overlords of light-sensitive minions, like orcs or vampires, which can operate freely under their cover.

Entity Summons

Summon Elemental spells are world dependent, but elementals tend to vary less between campaigns than do demons. Uncontrolled, the elemental causes havoc and may be good to cover escapes, but is not widely useful. Controlled, fire elementals can warm areas or provide flame for lighting things. There is also the potential to use them to cook food or as medical aids for cauterizing wounds or sterilizing equipment. Air and water elementals may be useful in assisting transportation. Fire and light elements can both provide yet another form of magical illumination. A cold elemental can act as a cooling device. If more exotic elemental types are included, additional possibilities will emerge based on their abilities.

Control Entity and Entity Mastery spells serve not only to control an Entity, but to keep it on our plane (per section 7.1.31). This allows the use of Entities over an extended period. The maximum of two mastered Entities is inconvenient and there would doubtless be various means contrived by which to get around this limit (e.g., a magic item allowing the mastery of an additional Entity).

Demonic Gate spells were discussed under the Gate Mastery list (Closed Essence), but this list does allow the control of Type VI demons, so summoning them based on the Entity Summons list is practical, in so far as summoning a demon can ever be considered practical.

Order Elemental allows for moderately lengthy tasks at a distance. This allows for elemental assassins. Other missions may be sensible, based on the available elementals. Presumably, an air elemental could carry a letter. A water or cold elemental might be useful to put out a small fire.

Contain Elemental allows the storing of an elemental when it would be outside of the caster's control range. A contained elemental could serve as a trap. This spell also makes the elemental easier to carry, although since compression is only 50%, you cannot bottle it like a genie.

Order Entity and Contain Entity are similar to the elemental-specific spells, but with more possibilities based on what Entities are available. The duration of Order Entity is "varies." If this was not an error, it implies that the Entity pursues the task without a time limit, making both for more relentless assassins and for the assignment of more ambitious tasks. A winged demon might be Ordered to deliver a cargo safely to a location on the other side of the world.

In addition to being vital for gainful summoning, Control spells are useful for bringing rogue Entities under control to prevent them causing havoc.

Matter Disruption

Un-Ice spells can be used for carving ice tunnels, removing ice and frost before it can damage structures or trees, and for clearing away small ice obstacles.

Earth to Dust and Powder Stone spells are useful for breaching fortifications, digging tunnels, mining, excavating graves, creating underground complexes, creating dust supplies, creating flat surfaces upon which to construct buildings, carving roads out of hills and mountains, and clearing rubble (as in post-earthquake rescue operations). Powder Stone may be used in defending against hurled stones from siege engines or giants.

Cracks Call can be used to erode fortifications or commit acts of vandalism.

Disruption and Disintegration spells are useful for waste disposal.

Shatter can be used as an offensive weapon and can have some special uses as a plot device.

Cause Cracks can be used to help breach fortifications and destroy stone dams.

Physical Erosion

Pain, Fire Nerves, Agony, Mass Pain, Torment, Mass Fire Nerves, and Mass Agony provide a selection of non-lethal offensive spells to rival the Sorcerer lists. Since they inflict pain, they may cause the victim to submit to the caster. They also provide a safe means to torture a victim without the risk of killing the victim. However, magic offers options superior to torture for all purposes except sadism.

Impair and Trait Erosion spells hinder the target and may suffice as coercive force.

Ache, Pain, and Spasm are suitable for subtle and secret attack. They weaken the target and the caster could "cure" the victim (cancel the spell) to establish bogus credentials as a healer.

This list makes a fair attack list in the support of fighter-type allies, but I would not want to have it as my offense if working alone.

In Conclusion

Overall, the Evil lists are rather weak. Yes, there are some useful spells, but mostly the same or similar effects are available elsewhere. In many cases, the regular spells have advantages over the Evil versions. Now, Investiture is pretty nice if you have a familiar and if you actually want to summon demons, Entity Summons is somewhat better than Gate Mastery. Still, it seems as if even the "disapproval of superstitious peasants" drawback is enough reason to choose more conventional routes to your goal.

If you want to actually tempt your players with the dark side (or have it plausible that non-nutty NPCs are so tempted), you need to sweeten the deal. I think added power is not necessary. Like the Force, the dark side of magic can be, in the words of Master Yoda, "Quicker, easier, more seductive... like your mother it is." Okay, he did not say that last part, but a more obnoxious alternative-universe Yoda would have. Making the Evil lists Everyman or even Occupational would be appropriate if some real risk is involved in their use. Another option is just to deny them to ordinary individuals and keep them to represent the dark powers of certain monsters.