The Social Implications of Magic: Mystic Base Lists

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"It might be part of the initiation of a young Mystic to demonstrate the illusory nature of perceptual reality."

This is the twenty-third 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.

Confusing Ways

This list is generally useful both in combat and in training. Many of these spells hinder an opponent or a student who needs to be challenged.

Distraction, Blur Vision, Fumble, and Hallucination are also found on the Sense Control (Mentalist Base) list. Confusion and Fear are also on the Mind Control (Mentalist Base) list. Mass Distraction is just Distraction for groups (making it more widely useful), while the Word of Fear and the Shout of Fear are upgrades of Fear, improving its utility without adding new functions. Shout of Confusion upgrades Confusion in a way that makes it suitable for preventing a brawl that is about to break out.

Properly timed, Stumble can used to commit murder while making it look like an accident (although if forensic magic is routinely used, the perpetrator will probably be caught). Athletic and artistic performances can be sabotaged. This spell is also useful in chases. It can be used to help teach humility. It is useful for practical jokes, embarrassing rivals, and general harassment.

Spin is just fun; cast it on yourself and yell "Whee!" Girl watchers can use it to get an all-around view. Girls can use it to turn girl watchers around. Guides can use it ("You're going the wrong way!"), as can a guard or bouncer ("No admittance.").

Weapon Alteration is a good use of a rules feature to make the spell much cleaner than the RM2 version.

Mirages are an interesting illusion variant. They would be less effective or even useless when dealing with some non-human species with motion-centric vision (felines come to mind, but I am sure other examples could be found). A bachelor can use a Mirage to cover up his (lack of) housekeeping during a walkthrough of his residence. An artist or crafter can offer a preview of a design before proceeding. Like most illusion spells, Mirages can be employed for practical jokes.

Blinding has the same effect as the version on the Channels (Cleric Base) list, although the parameters differ.

Shifting could make the target appear under the influence of alcohol or some other drug. This is another spell that could be useful in arranging an "accidental" death. It is also another spell that will appeal to practical jokers.

Amnesia (True) can be used to help deal with trauma, to hide secrets (although it is an extreme method), to create dupes, to create melodrama, or to create clean slates to populate a Utopian venture.

Long Bewilderment, Lord Bewilderment, and Bewilderment True are upgrades to the lower level spells. Bewilderment True is inconsistent between the descriptive text allowing "up to 20 targets" and the "1 target/lvl" in the spell list table. The one target per level seems more appropriate to the power scaling and the twenty-target limit appears to be an artifact of a copy & paste error and the 50th level spell on this list in previous editions having been a Lord spell, rather than a True spell.

Parallel Reality may be confused with mental illness or a drug hallucination. The caster's lack of control means that the results are unpredictable. This spell might be used to go on a spiritual journey. It might be part of the initiation of a young Mystic to demonstrate the illusory nature of perceptual "reality."

Gas Alteration

Most of this list duplicates spells from previously considered lists. Condensation was on Water Law (Magician Base). Airwall (True) was on Barrier Law (Open Channeling). Air Stop spells and Reverse Winds have been seen on Wind Law (Magician Base). The Mystic's Fog spells are similar to those found on the Gas Manipulation (Closed Mentalism) list, but are a superior set of spells. Gas-Air, Oxygenation, and Whirling Winds are all the same as on Gas Manipulation. Cloud Shaping is the same as Gas Manipulation's Cloud Mastery except for its vague area of effect: "clouds". This should probably be 1000'R/lvl like Cloud Mastery.

Vacuum spells provide a series of strong, but small, area elemental attacks that can be used with rather minimal material requirements. The dramatic noise of a Vacuum can be used to call attention or for effect (or "special effect" in theater). Fire Bolt spells differ from those on Fire Law (Magician Base) in requiring a fire source nearby. This does not need to be of any particular size; a candle should do the job.

The effects and value of Transmutation depend on available gasses, but the caster can potentially produce large quantities of poisonous gas, combustible gas (fuel), lifting gasses for balloons or airships, narcotic inhalants, and industrial chemicals.

Hiding

Blur is a common defensive spell. As noted before, the visual effect could be used in theater as a conventional marker. Likewise, Shadow can be used for stealth or simply as a visual effect. Flattening is on the Escapes (Magent Base) list, while Nondetect is on the Disguise Mastery (Magent Base) list.

Unseen is useful for smuggling items or stealing them. It could also be used by showmen, using the ability to cancel the spell by striking the object to make it "appear" suddenly.

Invisibility and Invisibility Sphere are more useful for making equipped individuals and groups invisible.

The applications of invisibility are generally well known. However, for voyeurism and spying, scrying spells are a better approach if you do not need to handle anything (you may need to go in invisibly to search through someone's files, but for listening to conversations, remote hearing methods are a lot safer). Invisibility is very useful for theft, assassination, planting or recovering evidence, and evading pursuit. If invisibility is common, countermeasures will be as well. These include not only magical devices and spells, but also the employment of dogs and other creatures who cultivate the non-visual senses and the use of barriers or surfaces that will give away an invisible intruder, such as bead curtains, a layer of sand or flour on the floor, or the placement of one's hideout behind a waterfall.

Silence allows the caster to make rude noises with impunity, whether concealing himself as the source of flatulence or cursing the nobility to himself. It can also allow one to whisper into someone's ear and go unheard beyond your intended listener by even magically-enhanced hearing.

Screens can be used to create advertising and theater sets. In itself, it can constitute a (transitory) form of art. At a more primitive level, this spell can be used for hunting by driving animals into a trap hidden by the il1lusion, or one can simply allow animals, birds, and persons to bump their heads by hiding obstacles. If they hit hard enough, they can then be taken for food or easily robbed. Such magic is likewise useful militarily for tactical deceptions. Finally, Screens can be useful in education by putting up large, potentially highly-detailed, images.

Displacement spells are excellent defensive spells, useful in sports (particularly contact sports) as well as combat. For the Mystic, they may also serve as another tool for teaching the deceptiveness of appearances.

No Sense is a very powerful stealth spell. Do not, however, forget that a careless target could pick up an odor after the spell is cast (by getting sprayed by a skunk or similar creature, by stepping in dung, by spilling perfume, etc.), Presence will still detect the hidden individual (although it may not help to locate him or raise suspicion in all circumstances, depending on how Presence is interpreted), and some creatures will still detect the target of the spell through other senses (e.g., scorpions feeling the vibrations of his footsteps). Note that the wording of this spell does offer concealment from bats' and dolphins' sonar. Unpresence can close one of the windows of vulnerability, although only while concentrating (or using a method to make a Concentration spell last without concentrating). Note that unlike the Mind Mastery (Closed Mentalism) version, the Mystic's Unpresence does cost power points, so it cannot be used without considering the cost.

Shadow Mystic is the same spell as Shadow Mentalist on the Cloaking (Open Mentalism) list. The Mystic is more likely to use this spell in creating an impression or hammering home some point on the duality of human nature, the deceptiveness of the senses, or some similar subject.

Merging can be used to penetrate stone walls (of a limited thickness). In addition to the offensive, defensive, and infiltration possibilities that this opens, it also allows for secret chambers with no doors, accessed through Merging (or certain alternative magics). Just looking for secret doors in the mystic's fortress may not turn up his treasure room. Fortifications will likely make an effort to thicken outer walls sufficiently to prevent penetration by Merging, even where construction allows thinner walls. Doors probably cannot be thickened sufficiently and are vulnerable to Unbarring Ways, so there should be no unguarded doors into a competently secured area. Merging can also be used to get some peace and quiet to think in or to perform rites of meditation, should the caster live in a distracting environment. It also allows hiding, whether you want to avoid confronting someone who is angry, someone who has an unwanted work assignment for you, or simply someone playing hide-and-seek with you. Passing makes physical barriers less protecting, more so even than Merging. Simply thickening walls will not be a sufficient measure at this level of penetration. At least if one is surprised by a Mystic, he might well be more interested in lecturing you on the foolishness of relying on the material for security than he is in assassinating you. Great Merge allows excellent spying opportunities and the student of a Mystic may be observed when he least expects it.

Hiding True is a great spell for hiding and spying. The caster becomes almost undetectable, rather safe, and able to observe. All for only 50 PP and a substantial DP investment.

Liquid Alteration

According to note 2, "Water" in most of the spell names where it appears, should actually be "Liquid". The list would have been clearer if the names had actually been changed to match the effect.

Boil/Freeze Water combines the effects of Boil Liquid and Freeze Liquid from the Fire Law and Ice Law (Magician Base) lists. Clear/Desalinate Water combines two spells from the Liquid Manipulation (Closed Mentalism) list. Calm Water (True) repeats the effect found on the Water Law (Magician Base) list, but the True version here is weaker in application, being a Concentration spell and essentially centering the effect on the caster. Wave is another spell from Liquid Manipulation. Whirlpool is a scaled-down version of the same spell on Water Law. If scaled down more by casting it on a tub of water, perhaps it could be used in washing clothes. Command Current is also found on Water Law, while Water Bubble is from Liquid Manipulation.

Evaporate Water can deal with localized flooding, leakage, and spills. It can also be used to demonstrate the ephemeral nature of existence.

Waterwall (True) could serve as a bath of sorts, used largely for ritual cleansing and baptisms.

Water Bolt spells require a water source, but are otherwise like those on the Water Law (Magician Base) list. This list does not define "water source", but I would require at least a cup of water. Contaminated, holy, or scalding water could possibly create exceptionally hazardous bolts, depending on the gamemaster.

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. The text says that the True version "does not require concentration", but the listed duration is "C". I suggest 1 minute per level duration without concentration.

The limited rainfall from Call Rain may be useful for gardening, but not for serious farming. This spell can do water damage or provide water for drinking and/or washing. Call Rain can be used to encourage a gathering to break up.

Liquid-Water is useful for obtaining water for drinking, washing, or industrial or scientific use. Becalmed sailors will find it a more palatable way to recycle their urine. Generally, it can be used to speed up the cycle of reclaiming water as part of a wastewater treatment program. There is no limit given regarding the volume of liquid that can be converted, so I suppose one could turn a lava flow into a flood; however, the range limitation of touch means this application would cost the caster a hand. Liquid-Water can also be used to cheat at drinking contests, to destroy the devil's drink that is alcohol, or to safely dispose of toxic liquids.

Water Tunnel (True) produces an advanced form of Water Corridor that does not need to be open on top (but has the same issue with the duration of the True version). This modification means that it can be used underwater for travel between nearby havens of air or for the creation of a "dry moat" barrier to swimmers. It can provide protection in a flood. It can be used to hide in the water, since the surface can remain unbroken. It can be used to help inspect the underside of ships without removing them from the water.

Stream Diversion can be used for irrigation, stealing water, fighting fires, filling moats, and annoying beavers.

The uses of Transmutation depend on what liquid samples are available, so a good collection is important. Reasonably small quantities of hazardous liquids can be disposed of by transformation into useful liquids. Fuel oils, cooking oils, cleaning fluids, beverages (including expensive liquors), industrial or laboratory chemicals (e.g., mercury), liquid soap, disinfectants, melted cheese, molten gold, acids, poisons, antivenoms and other medicinal liquids are among the possible creations of this effect. It must also be considered whether the material needs for magical rituals and other exotic practices (e.g., virgin's tears or unicorn blood) are themselves "magical" or "non-magical." If judged non-magical, a "rare and exotic" ingredient could be much more available.

Mystical Change

Study Form is a preparatory spell as seen before on this type of list.

Change to Kind, Enlarge, Shrink, Change, Impersonation Change (with the name True Change), and Changing were all previous encountered as part of the Living Change (Closed Essence) list. Misfeel Kind, Misfeel Calling, Misfeel Power and Misfeel were seen on the Mind Mastery (Closed Mentalism) list, although the Mystic gets cool "PP free" versions. Changing Lungs comes from the Physical Enhancement (Open Essence) list. Unpresence on this list is two levels lower than on the Hiding (Mystic Base) list. This duplication is sloppy and replacing or modifying one occurrence would improve the situation. Great Change to Kind, Great Change, Great Impersonation Change, and Impersonation Change True provide longer durations that improve the utility of their effects for long-term infiltration or identity change. Misfeel True is similar to Misfeel on the Mind Sense Molding (Illusionist Base) list. For a Mystic, appearing in the right form may often simply be a tool for best delivering a moral or philosophical lesson.

Face Shifting True is useful in the theater, in espionage, for protecting one's anonymity, or for purely cosmetic changes. It does limit one to impersonating one's own body type in many cases.

Mystical Tongue gives the appearance that the caster is speaking his interlocutor's language, making it suitable for infiltration and probably useful in negotiations as well. In any case, it overcomes language barriers in one-on-one interactions and allows for secret communications.

In a world with active deities, Holy Presence could be a very dangerous spell to use. Otherwise, it is useful for bluff, intimidation, fraud, spreading disinformation, creation of "false religion," reinforcement of "true religion," getting girls (or guys), and practical jokes.

Submerge Self creates deep, deep cover. It may also be useful in order to fill in for an absent person (e.g., a kidnapped or disabled leader, or a high profile individual away on secret business) or to do something the caster realizes must be done but which he cannot bring himself to do. It could also be used for some extreme method acting.

Solid Alteration

Warm Solid combines the Warm Solid spell from the Solid Manipulation (Closed Mentalism) list and Warm Metal from the same list, but with its area of effect increased. The Heat Solid spells are useful for cooking, industrial applications, book burning, trash incineration, and creating barriers. Unlike the Fire Law (Magician Base) version of the spell, the Mystic's Heat Solid can be used to directly heat a stove or other metal object. It can even melt tin. Cool Solid, Cracks Call, Chill Solid, Mold Solid, and Transmutation are also found on the Solid Manipulation list. Solid Door spells are like the one from Solid Manipulation, but this list offers multiple sizes. Shatter has a much shorter range than the same spell on the Solid Destruction (Sorcerer Base) list. The range on this list is only twice the blast radius, so it needs to be used carefully.

Door is useful in tactical situations when needing to open or seal a door. It provides an alternative to a lock for keeping people out of an area that should be sealed (usually for safety). One would hope that a Mystic would be sufficiently enlightened to forego using the Door spell for silly pranks, but it is an imperfect world.

Speed is the main thing gained by Woodfires, although it can also start fires in difficult conditions. Fires are useful for warmth, cooking, fueling steam engines, light, destroying wood, arson, festive bonfires, creating backfires for fighting wildfires, staring into thoughtfully, and symbolizing the force of change.

Wall of Ice differs from other versions in requiring a water source. Normally, this should not be a difficult requirement to meet, but it does mean it cannot perform as a last-ditch water source.

Stone/Earth/Mud combines the functionality of the Stone/Earth, Earth/Mud, Earth/Stone, and Mud/Earth spells on the Earth Law (Magician Base) list. Unstone and Unearth were also considered previously under Earth Law.

Break Solid is useful in destroying items of modest size, including locks, shackles, weapons, forbidden idols, blasphemous writings, and metal items that need recycling. This spell may help in dealing with cursed or otherwise dangerous items that need disposal, but it is probably not effective for disarming explosives.

Solid Tunnel is useful for travel through solid material to breech defenses, to escape imprisonment or free others who are imprisoned, to access doorless areas kept secure except to magic, to take a shortcut, and to search for veins of ore, mineral deposits, or other buried resources. Solid Tunnel True is also good for breeching defenses and making escapes, but further allows the creation of mineshafts, mountain passages, or other construction based on carving the earth. It can create a path to direct water as desired, digging drainage and sewage tunnels as well as water delivery systems.