The Social Implications of Magic: Sorcerer Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"The Sorcerer is well qualified to obtain his goals by force without killing."

This is the fifteenth 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.

The Sorcerer is often associated with evil and cruelty. Many assume that a Sorcerer is a sinister figure or even that his Channeling must be from dark gods or demons. While these stereotypes have some basis in the nature of the Sorcerer's art, they are like most stereotypes in making a universal out of a mere trend. In a low magic world, where Sorcerers are scarce, such attitudes might even be correct in practice, but in a world where the use of magic is more common, there will be academic Sorcerers, who went into sorcery just because the art of it interested them and to learn about things through learning about their negation. Others will have studied spells of destruction in order to understand them the better to defend against them. The majority of a Sorcerer's emphasis is on 'destruction,' but that does not mean individual Sorcerers cannot use those spells in a constructive way. His path is no more inherently dark than that of a Warrior or a Magician. On the other hand, it is a path that likely attracts enough sadistic egomaniacs to make prejudice against this Profession common.

Flesh Destruction

Sprain Limb, Limb Pain, Lock Joint, and Break Limb are good for live captures, providing practice subjects for medical skills, putting pressure on those who have not paid their protection money or loan repayments, and fixing sports events.

Touch of Disruption is an effective attack, but range is an issue. It would be good for faking death by falling, if you needed to make it look accidental. This will not work in a high magic world, where you can expect a "magical autopsy" to be routine. The other Disruption spells and Long Flesh Destruction are serious combat weapons.

Skin Death can be used to punish crimes, especially those of vanity or promiscuity. It can provide an effective method of "persuasion;" it does no serious harm, but almost anyone would want to avoid it. With a little bit of bluffing, one could convince the victim that it was some terrible wasting disease and charge for the cure. The Sorcerer could even cast Skin Death on himself to become a figure of horror.

Rupture Ear, Limb Death, Eye Disruption, Collapse Lung, Muscle Death, Bone Death, and Petrifaction all inflict brutal injuries. These are frightening spells, giving the Sorcerer considerable ability to intimidate and threaten to get what he wants.

Black Channel spells were discussed under the Dark Channels list (Evil Channeling).

Mass Flesh Destruction can deal with a fair-sized angry mob or squads of soldiers.

The Sorcerer has many nasty but totally non-lethal attacks with which he can intimidate or incapacitate targets. This is ideal for mob enforcers who do not want a murder rap or for evil overlords who want their minions obedient through intimidation, but hate the waste of executing a perfectly useful rebellious peasant or erring soldier. For that matter, benign agents or rulers might prefer such methods of instruction as alternatives to lethal force or penal systems that employ long periods of incarceration. The Sorcerer is well qualified to obtain his goals by force without killing. As a Channeling hybrid, the Sorcerer can even offer healing to those who comply with his demands.

Fluid Destruction

Vaporize Fluid does not affect a large enough volume to help with major flooding, but it can be employed to clear a flooded basement, to quickly dry an area, to clear out water in a leaking ship, to enforce prohibition, and to clear minor flooding in rescue or archaeological operations.

Freeze Fluid can produce an ice dam to patch minor levee breaks. It provides a source of ice, like many spells already considered. Other possible uses are the creation of ice sculptures from molds and easing the clean up of spilled fluids that one wishes to recover (and with mercury or other liquids with hazardous fumes, freezing could also be a safety measure).

Evaporate spells can be used for post-flood cleanup, obtaining salt from sea water, draining wetlands to open up development, and drying out a wet playing field. In drier climates, they are significant strategic weapons.

Unwater spells can be used to clear flooding, to remove water from a ship's interior, and for emergency emptying of a well or pool to prevent a drowning. They could probably be adapted to naval combat.

Calm Water spells can reduce storm damage along a shoreline, aid ships or boats in a storm, prevent surfing, and make aquatic rescue operations easier.

Water Bolt provides the Sorcerer with a directed attack if he wants one. It can assist in fire fighting.

Unrain spells provide comfort and convenience for the Sorcerer or those who can afford his services. Important events may have a Sorcerer on hand for insurance against the weather. Crops can be protected during times when they are highly sensitive to precipitation. On other occasions, it presents an opportunity for agricultural sabotage. Unrain can provide protection in storms, which is especially useful for ships or traveling parties caught in the open. Sensitive materials, like bowstrings and drying herbs, can be shielded from the rain. Unrain True is powerful enough to be of some help with reducing flood risks and preventing mudslides.

Dehydrate spells are useful for clothes drying and drying other types of items. The Sorcerer can create dehydrated foods and purify samples.

Desiccation can mummify the dead in a quick and easy way.

Dehumidify spells provide for a degree of weather control. They can promote or impede agriculture much like Unrain, but on a larger scale. Humidity reduction can also be good for protection against flooding or erosion and for restricting the growth of mold and mildew.

Gas Destruction

Unfog improves visibility for operations in foggy weather, including searches, attacks, and avoiding hazards in a boat or ship.

Air Stop spells have many uses: to provide comfort and convenience, to slow the spread of a small fire, to cut the wind in the sails of an enemy ship, to protect against a dust storm, sandstorm, or snowstorm, to delay the spread of airborne toxins or diseases, and (if the entire area of competition can be covered) to keep track and field results valid.

Vacuum spells can produce vacuums for laboratory or industrial use. They make serious percussion instruments, which means they can be used as attention-getters or a signal. They can dispose of vaporized waste or polluting gases from industrial or natural sources.

Deoxygenation spells are useful in fighting fires, especially chemical fires that cannot be put out with water. In laboratories or industry, they can be used to prevent or reduce the oxygenation of chemicals. It is also another tool for disabling and capturing living beings.

Gas to Air can be used for toxic/hazardous chemical cleanup and is especially useful in mines or laboratories (in some ways, this spell is better than the modern fume hood).

Implosion can be used to demolish old buildings, but is not very safe for anyone nearby, so is only useful for isolated structures.

Mind Destruction

Pain spells are useful for intimidation and live captures. They can be used in interrogations or other torture without risk of killing the subject. They can be used as punishments or as part of ritual displays of manliness

Jolts spells are good for live captures and for allowing the practicing of stunned maneuvering.

Disorientation, Unbalance, Distortions, and Mind Shock are all good for slowing down a threat, but the altered mental states they create may be considered desirable by some. Since they could be mistaken for the symptoms of illness or injury, they are good for hobbling athletes. Mass Unbalance can spoil a ballet, circus, or other "frivolity." This could be the whim of a prankster Sorcerer (who probably wishes he were an Illusionist) or the action of a puritanical religious or government enforcer.

Some things are better forgotten and that is when Forget becomes useful. This means I must take back one of my comments on Telepathy. You can unsee what you telepathed out of Sick Mick's head, if you have a Sorcerer around. Use of this spell in psychological practice could be valuable, but will likely be strictly regulated. Spies can have secret briefings removed from memory before being sent on missions where they have a high risk of being captured. The Sorcerer can also be party to a simple swindle, where the mark is made to Forget he has already paid for the goods or service rendered.

Mind Death is not a nice spell. It is one of the spells that give Sorcerers a bad reputation in so many worlds, but it might be a useful precaution on someone very dangerous who is better kept alive, but controlled by the threat of exploiting his window of vulnerability. This could be a very knowledgeable or skilled criminal or it could be a ruler who can be kept under control while keeping his even nastier or more incompetent heir from the throne.

Unminding is useful for making certain that someone cannot recall the route you took him through to get to your secret lair. It can assist in live captures. It could protect someone from seeing mind-blasting horrors.

Mind Break can be useful in order to control a dangerous prisoner during transport or to allow passing a prisoner off as one's idiot cousin. If the spell is kept up on the nominal leader, the regent/vice president/steward/counsel can hold real power in his stead, while the hope of the leader's recovery from "this tragic condition" prevents the formal apparatus for the transfer of powers to a successor.

Horror can be used in combat training and in manliness rituals.

Lost Experience is the reason adventurers kill all Sorcerers at birth. It can keep the Sorcerer's enemies in check over the long term.

Solid Destruction

Melt Ice quickly provides liquid water in frozen lands. It can be used to tunnel through ice, whether for immediate travel or to create an ice fortress. Frozen beings can be freed when excavating frozen archeological sites. Machinery and other equipment can be kept from icing over and doors can be kept clear. Melt Ice can also produce a hole for ice fishing.

Loosen Earth, Cracks Call, Stone/Earth, Earth/Mud, Unearth, Unstone, Unmetal, and Tremors were discussed under the Earth Law list (Magician Base).

Erosions is good for sabotage. It can also remove some barriers to construction or hazards to navigation.

Undoor spells may see military application and could influence the construction of doors in defensive structures to just exceed the size limit of a given Undoor spell. Undoor can quickly dispose of any door that needs to be replaced, saving some labor and time.

Corridor is useful for underground construction, mining, and tunneling. Given the number of races for whom these tunnels are too short or narrow, a Big Corridor or Tall Corridor spell at level 16 or 18 would be a natural addition to this list.

Shatter can provide entertainment. If people will watch Dave Letterman drop melons off a roof, they will watch a Sorcerer make ordinary objects blow up real good.

Crevasse can produce a barrier across a narrow land area. It might be used to cut off a peninsula full of dangerous creatures.

Solid Destruction True can be used for waste disposal.

The defensive barrier that can be created with Great Crack may be used in lands that are in current use, because it can be closed again later.

Quake produces a serious earthquake and can be used for major stress testing of earthquake resistant building designs. It can be used to create an opportunity to rebuild a city to a more rational plan. It is an excellent, if ostentatious, way to express one's displeasure when the waiter gets one's order wrong.

Soul Destruction

Any sort of investigation can benefit from the use of Question. It can be enormously useful when dealing with captured spies, enemy officers, and criminals. However, since the Sorcerer version of this spell only requires that the target answer the question, someone with a prepared lie can still be a problem. Someone unprepared for the question will probably answer truthfully for lack of a handy lie and there are skills and spells to help discern lies from truth. Getting someone talking is half the battle. However, it is unlikely to work for "Aren't you the real killer?" Perry Mason antics at a trial. Even if it is a lie, "No" is too obvious an answer to miss. If used for job interviews and the screening of applicants for government posts, it can help to weed out a lot of trouble making ("Why do you really want this job?" "How much would you expect to make in bribes?"). It can be used to get a campaigning politician to actually answer a question, which would make for a different kind of politics. This spell is easily abused in personal relationships as well as in professional situations.

Demonic Possession spells give Sorcerers a bad name. No good purpose is served by them, although this might be changed if the Sorcerer could control the type of demon involved to avoid destructive activity. Possession even by a demon manifesting some vice could help with some kinds of self-destructive behavior. A demon of gluttony could get food into someone who is not eating. A demon of pride or vanity would clean up someone in shabby condition.

Neurosis can be constructive if the reaction is to something that the target ought to be avoiding. For example, giving a drug addict a Neurosis focused on his drug could help him to quit.

Criminals may be rehabilitated through the use of Guilt. While the Sorcerer cannot control the focus of the Guilt, the odds are good of hitting the desired target if the criminal is first made to confront the consequences of his actions.

If someone was under major threat of assassination, he might benefit from a Paranoia spell. False personas can be magically produced and even the closest friend could be an assassin. If the bodyguards might be compromised, Paranoia may be the best defense (it should at least prevent anyone being able to use Ambush unless completely unseen).

Panic might help keep a reckless warrior alive.

Transferal spells are not good for much except making trouble (possibly for the bad guys).

Subjugation and Banishment are morally troubling, but good weapons of coercion.

Unsoul Curse could be the basis of a great reality show. The first player to find his soul wins. It could be played out in an arena or over a larger playing area if there are arrangements to check on players and their souls over the greater distances.

Word and Shout of Panic are defensive spells.

Dark Slumbers is a magical cryogenic sleep. Now the Sorcerer just needs a slow starship and he can start colonizing the galaxy. This spell provides a way to have a great figure from the past show up. A figure of the present might decide to sleep until his enemies are dead.

Absolution spells are likely to be used only for combat or for serious punishments. Exact treatment of Absolution depends on how you treat "souls." These spells were previously discussed in more detail under the Channels list (Cleric Base).