The Social Implications of Magic: Evil Mentalism Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"They provide effects that would appeal to a twisted sort of mind"

This is the twenty-fourth 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.

This completes the original task of the "Social Implications of Magic" series. Reviewing the full contents of Spell Law is quite a task. While some flaws have been mentioned, it really is a very good work overall and if reading it carefully has been a significant task, creating it must have been a much greater one.

The Evil Mentalist spell lists offer a few useful spells, but mainly they provide effects that would appeal to a twisted sort of mind. What goodness-scorning knave would not want to use Trait Subversion to turn a proud, thoughtfully judgmental Paladin into an arrogant, snap-judging parody of himself? While I cannot say these lists are appealing in general, they are at least suited to seducing the wicked, and that is all one can really ask of a set of "Evil" spell lists.

Mind Death

Mental Block spells produce temporary amnesia, which is useful mainly as a delaying tactic. It can be employed in various scams, mainly for either getting away while the target has forgotten he has reason to be angry with you or setting up sucker bets. (Wait until news comes of the result of the game, then Mental Block poor Joe so he does not remember you have already heard the result, make a bet, and ask for the results again.) These spells are good for assorted mischief, but it is hard to find constructive use except to delay someone acting foolishly or violently on some fresh piece of information. It might be useful to employ Mental Block spells in certain psychological studies.

Forget spells previously appeared on the Mind Destruction (Sorcerer Base) list, but the Evil Mentalismist can erase much longer memories. These spells are good for government or criminal cover-ups and for keeping secrecy of all kinds.

Mind Block spells are very useful in combat for kills or live captures. They also provide another technique for preventing the existence of witnesses.

Mind Death spells leave the target vulnerable and may be used to discourage prisoners or forcibly reformed characters from taking up risky ideas of escape or rebellion.

Lost Experience can help keep enemies in check over the long term. It is also cause for a no-mercy stance when dealing with Evil Mentalismists.

Mind Disease

Insomnia (True) might be used and later cancelled by the caster in order to help guards stay awake, as well as to help students or workers pull all-nighters in order to meet a deadline. These are also useful spells if one needs to avoid sleeping/dreaming for some reason. A killer monster waiting in dreamland would be a classic fantasy scenario of this type, but it could also be used to help someone recently concussed.

Neurosis (True) differs from the version on the Soul Destruction (Sorcerer Base) list in containing a destructive urge that is absent from the Sorcerer spell. The Neurosis effect can be used to create a useful aversion, such as giving an addict a neurosis toward his drug to prevent a relapse. Phobia is similar to Neurosis, but without the chance of attack (like the Sorcerer's Neurosis), and therefore, it is safe for application in cases where attacking is undesirable. It could be used as a form of enforcement of a restraining order. Psychosis (True) is much like Neurosis (True), but with increased violence.

Guilt is worded slightly differently here than on the Soul Destruction list, but it is the same spell. Guilt True adds a need for ongoing atonement, making it suitable for very serious offenses or habitual offenders.

Paranoia can help advisors control an independent ruler, or it can be cast on a na´ve individual to keep the target safer in dangerous territory. Greater Paranoia and Paranoia True are essentially destructive, but might be useful as punishments for instigator, mastermind, or manipulator types.

Panic is stronger than the Soul Destruction version, not offering a Resistance Roll for each dangerous situation as the Sorcerer's spell does. In a low magic world, this will give the victim a reputation for cowardice that ruins his reputation for a long time. In higher magic worlds, the possibility of magical influences probably means there will be more suspension of judgment (and excuse making by supporters of genuinely flawed individuals).

Hallucinate (True) could see recreational use.

Schizophrenia (True) would be useful for undermining enemy leaders, spymasters, criminal bosses, or brutal dictators. MPD is similar, but much more entertaining and might have some utility in experimental (and not particularly ethical) psychology.

Catatonia (True) could be used as a precautionary measure on dangerous prisoners.

Mind Disease True is not defined in terms of lower level spells; presumably, it is not limited to previously listed disorders and can create nymphomania/satyriasis, compulsive behaviors, etc. Gamemaster Law includes a list of psychiatric diseases, which may be inspirational. If the Mentalism Companion is being used, it will provide a bit more detail on mental illness.

Mind Domination

Mind Distraction can be used to amuse your pet or as an alternative to narcotics.

Mind Lock could be the basis for a tradition of mental dueling. It keeps the target busy, so it can buy time in a confrontational crisis. Mind Invasion improves Mind Lock, allowing the caster to make a getaway as long as he does not lose the contest.

Demonic Possession spells are unlike those on the Soul Destruction (Sorcerer Base) list in that they only summon homicidal maniac demons. It would be very difficult to find a constructive use for these spells. Transferral differs from the Soul Destruction version in that it is more than fatal should either body die and the range is touch (the area of effect should be listed as "1 target"). Transferral True is quite different from the Sorcerer's version, providing for a long-term transfer of souls. The Evil Mentalismist can hope to steal the victim's life and make it his own.

Domination is a very powerful control spell, since it has the potential to make the target commit "completely alien" acts. This can obviously be used to produce self-destructive acts or horrifying treachery, but it can also cause a miser to open his purse to charity or cause a cruel tyrant to grant mercy. It is limited by the need for concentration, but it allows the issuing of multiple commands. It is generally good for all the uses mentioned with respect to Suggestion on the Spirit Mastery (Closed Essence) list, but is capable of even more.

Mind Slave (True) produces continuing control over an individual. An organization with ethical guidelines might possibly consider the use of this spell only if the target was being used as an ongoing informant, saboteur, or agent for positive change within a malignant organization. Most would simply shun this method of control. A ruthless dictator, however, would use a Mind Slave to harm the victim's own family and associates to create a horrifying punishment for resisting his rule.

Banishment (True) is not only cruel; it is also risky due to the loose control of the target. This spell is probably never a good idea except to spread evil and chaos.

Waiting Domination (True) only allows giving one order, but it does not require concentration. The intent of the True version is somewhat unclear; I would assume it allows continuing tasks, such as "deposit 100 silver coins into my account every Tuesday" or "send me a copy of the minutes of every meeting of the Villatown City Council."

Mind Erosion

Dull Mind spells generally are not going to find positive use, although one could try using them to hobble an "evil genius".

Dazed is another of the non-lethal spells that will (largely) disable an individual.

Power Leak spells are useful for dealing with spell-casters and can be used to handle lawbreakers, prisoners, or enemy combatants.

Mind Erosion spells are similar to Dull Mind spells, but attacking the potential stat is more serious. Presumably, that part of the effect is permanent. If not, is the victim just unable to improve his temporary stat above the reduced potential if he happens to advance in level during the spell duration? This spell could have benefited from a little more clarity in its description.

Mind Illusions

Jumbled Text can prevent a messenger from reading the message(s) carried.

Hypochondria may get someone to go to the healer even though he generally insists on "toughing it out."

False Sense spells have a very short duration, making them much less useful than many other illusion spells.

Misleading spells can be used in training or contests as a method of handicapping an individual.

Phantom spells are unclear as to what kind of attack is done. Two options appear as the obvious choices: (1) the Phantom uses the same attack table as the target does, or (2) the Phantom uses Martial Arts Striking Degree 1, the same as an Essence illusion attack.

Waking Dream I has a duration inconsistent with Waking Dream II and Waking Dream III. These spells could see recreational use and use during training or contests as a form of handicapping.

Mistaken Identity is useful for pranks, covering up illegal or embarrassing activities, establishing alibis, and discrediting witnesses.

Mind Subversion

Suspicion can be used to break up conspiracies, possibly even creating a turncoat.

Trait Subversion spells could possibly be used for poetic punishments (this does not apply to Random Trait Subversion, of course).

Suicide may be used as a method to eliminate someone who is "untouchable" for political, religious, or other cultural reasons.

The remaining spells can create a crime wave. This may have some utility in concealing one's own activities in the confusion, but generally, this is simply a highly anti-social list.