Spell Law Deconstruction: Charm and Charm-like magic.

The Charm Spell. One of the four foundational spells that are required in fantasy RPG’s. (Sleep, Fireball, and Fly being the other 3). Rolemaster Spell Law includes several type of “Charm” magics, but they don’t feel well thought out in requirements, applications or effects. Charm types spells should not only be differentiated by their Realm assignment, but should also have specific mechanics: mechanics that might break the standard SCR/RR counter play.

Charm type spells can have a potent impact on gameplay: they can create an ally, remove an adversary from the “table” or bypass normal gameplay by using an NPC’s actions to further player goals. Charm spells can have a variety of effects: control, persuasion, influence or distraction. One well cast Charm spell can upend the course of an encounter or combat quickly. Basically it’s a force multiplier: take a combat of 4 on 4 and one successful Charm spell can tip it to a 5 on 3. That’s a winning advantage; especially in a combat system like Rolemaster.

For purposes of this blog and my recent work on BASiL (a complete rewrite!) I see “Charm” spells as covering a spectrum of effects and mechanics:

Charm. I see “Charm” as spells that act as a magical friendship. This may limit what the caster can ask the target to do and excessive requests may break the magical bond.

Enslavement. These type of “control” spells are most often used for controlling Demons, Elementals and other entities, but could also be used in Evil spell lists to enslave a subject. While this might be considered evil, it’s also very potent and conceivably allows a caster to have the target do most anything.

Master. I would classify these types of spells as sitting between Charm and Enslavement. The caster can ask the target to put themselves in harms way–even against their friends, but not unduly put themselves in danger for no reason.

Enthrall. This is more akin to Charm, but the target has an unnatural attraction or focus on the caster. These types of spells are like “Bewitching”, “Love”, or “Seduction”.

Mesmerize. A broad range of spells that subsumes the targets senses. Similar to hypnotism, but could be simple spells like “distraction” or “blind spot” or “tunnel vision” or more potent spells that act like a combination of Charm and Enthrall.

Certainly, my classifications might seem like a distinction without a difference, but they can also be used to differentiate these types of spells among the various Realms. Since I try to incorporate different functionality into the standard RM Realms, I would argue that these spells might also work differently even adopting standard RM (and not BASiL). What might these differentiations be? Here are a few ideas in no particular order of relevance:

  1. Most Charm type spells of any sort should be Mentalism or Channeling. Essence could have control spells for Demons and elementals, but the fundamental basis of charm spells is the subsumption of will or spirit. This is distinctly in the Realms of will, spirit and soul.
  2. Charm spells should have a range of efficacy. Charm, Enthrall and Mesmerizing should require the caster to be in intimate or interactive range (and a supportive environment) to cast. You can’t just mesmerize a target hundreds of feet away in a crowded combat can you?
  3. Some of the spells may require the constant presence of the caster to maintain the duration?
  4. Failure could mean that the target is aware that they were being magically influenced?
  5. Are there any other inputs that could cancel the spell’s influence or require a check of some sort?
  6. Do “third parties” (even the other PC’s) impact the influence of these spells or is it meta gaming?
  7. Should any Channeling based “Charm” spells incorporate the moral implications of the spell and the host Diety?

What I’m trying to get to here is a system–a protocol for most every spell that maintains the logical coherence, game balance and uniqueness of player ability. Yes, it’s magic so by it’s nature it doesn’t require logic. Right?

Anyway, appreciate any thoughts. As I’m finishing up BASiL: Mentalism these issues have become pre-eminent.

One Reply to “Spell Law Deconstruction: Charm and Charm-like magic.”

  1. This reminds me of the D&D Spell School division of Enchantment (your Charm/Master/Enthrall) and Illusion (your Mesmerize):

    Charm: These are spells that make the target regard the caster as a friend.

    Compulsion: Spells of this kind force the target to do something beyond their natural will.

    Figment: A figment spell creates an image/sound of something that isn’t there but cannot make something appear to be something else.

    Glamer: A spell from this subschool can fool all of the senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and can also make creatures and object disappear.

    Pattern: Pattern spells are similar to figments, but they also can affect the minds of those perceiving them, often with negative effects.

    Phantasm: Phantasms are personal mental images conjured into the subject’s mind such as making them believe that they are witnessing their worst nightmare or a loved one. Observers see nothing.

    Shadow: Using extra-dimensional energy, illusions from this sub-school are partially real and can affect the world around them or damage things.

    Really nasty (and a movie classic) is the combination of Charm+Phantasm, especially on a battle like switching the images of the combatants and adding a simple charm towards their own party (actually the ememy party) that makes disbelieving a little bit harder.

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