Level Up (A5E) Spells that would ruin the world


log in or register to remove this ad

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Calculate: This gives you early computer levels of mathematical power. A caster with this spell can do the math in seconds that it would take the greatest math genius to ever live an 1 hour to do....that is actually obscenely fast. A cabal of casters with this simple cantrip could be crunching the numbers done in like 1960's society with computing.
so much more when paired with other spells. early computers operated by punch card & had paltry amounts of memory. ENIAC was the first computer with built in memory in like 1945 with a (physically) gigantic 100 word memory capacity with each word being 20 bits. Back in the 3.5 days there were theorycraft ways of making a computer with animate dead & magic mouth as logic gates and memory. It would take a lot of space sure, but with magic mouth's if->then functionality you could use it as computer memory to go with calculate or a babbage difference engine with enough precision if not some hybrid of the two.

I don't think it would "ruin the world", but it absolutely would accelerate certain developments

edit: difference engine was just a calculator, the analytical engine was the more advanced never built successor that had logic
 
Last edited:

xiphumor

Hero
An ironic point here is that magic would probably stifle a few developments as well. The Romans invented a steam engine (Hero of Alexandria did, specifically), but they only used it to fake miracles at temples because as far as manual labor was concerned, slaves were considered sufficient. I imagine that in a magical world, many inventions would never be considered because a magical effect could replicate it decently enough, even if the magical effect was worse.
 

nevin

Hero
Long time player, first time poster, at least here.

I'm starting up an A5E campaign, and am very excited about the many improvements. However, one of the things I'm not looking forward to is the Alter Self spell, which for my money, is one of the most broken spells in the game. My personal vendetta against Alter Self began with a player whose sorcerer would use it, along with a Hat of Disguise, to gain total impunity to consequences for his actions. The hat was always activated, leading to strings of saving throws from NPCs observing his crimes, and when he'd get in a pickle he'd use Alter Self to avoid the guards. I was trying to run a low-ish magic game, so I didn't want guards walking around with items that cast Detect Magic, not least because enterprising parties would would soon lay their hands on such an item and further unbalance the game.

To me, it seems like Alter Self and Disguise self would be the favorite spells of sex offenders and general a-holes, and I shiver to think of a world where that kind of magic would be available. Looking at T&T, the A5E Hat of Disguise is only 250 gp. 250 gp!?! I shiver to think what the spoiled noble sons of the A5E would would get up to with that kind of magic.

So, what spells have you encountered that, if used by actual people, would lead to unexpected and horrific effects?
If you are allowing magic in a game and law enforcement, kings men, nobles etc can't have access to it then suck it up you've created your own problem.

Magic only works if other people have it and can counter it. Otherwise every single level of spells for all casters has something that can be horribly abused. Sounds like you want to run a Gurps fantasy game without magic instead of D&D
 

Stalker0

Legend
If you are allowing magic in a game and law enforcement, kings men, nobles etc can't have access to it then suck it up you've created your own problem.
So lets play that out then. Ok our villain has a hat of disguise, what could our law enforcement have to counter it?

And remember we can't go too expensive here. If every police force has to have 5k in magic items to counter a few hundred... your quickly on the losing end of the economics war.

Now what might make more sense is an "FBI" like group. A special forces under the king lets say, that deals with special magical crimes. So after a few times of this "thief who seems to have 1000 faces", perhaps the special forces are brought in, with their specialty equipment, to deal with the case. That could be a fun campaign idea actually, the CSI of dnd:)
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
So lets play that out then. Ok our villain has a hat of disguise, what could our law enforcement have to counter it?

And remember we can't go too expensive here. If every police force has to have 5k in magic items to counter a few hundred... your quickly on the losing end of the economics war.

Now what might make more sense is an "FBI" like group. A special forces under the king lets say, that deals with special magical crimes. So after a few times of this "thief who seems to have 1000 faces", perhaps the special forces are brought in, with their specialty equipment, to deal with the case. That could be a fun campaign idea actually, the CSI of dnd:)
aura & residual aura detecting methods similar to fingerprints or dna is an easy one. Not everything NPCs do needs to be doable by PCs. As to disguises, look into the ones used by thre unibomber when shipping his packages without magic or the kind of movie magic multihour mapeup & prostetic session type stuff
 

Stalker0

Legend
aura & residual aura detecting methods similar to fingerprints or dna is an easy one. Not everything NPCs do needs to be doable by PCs. As to disguises, look into the ones used by thre unibomber when shipping his packages without magic or the kind of movie magic multihour mapeup & prostetic session type stuff
I do think it should be kept to core spells and items though, I mean the dm always can say just xyz, that’s not even a challenge.

The challenge is can the dm counter these abilities without creating their own custom stuff
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
So lets play that out then. Ok our villain has a hat of disguise, what could our law enforcement have to counter it?
Have a victim or guards throw something strong-smell and long-lasting on the villain. Anything from strong perfume to skunk musk. Hats of disguise don't do anything about smell. And if you're worried about prestidigitation, don't forget that cleans 1 square foot at a time, and a human has about 22 square feet of skin.

And then give the guards bloodhounds.
 

Kinematics

Adventurer
So a lot of the listed worries remind me of an anime — Ascendance of a Bookworm — and how it dealt with what could be considered similar problems.

First, as a medieval society, it uses mercantilism, not capitalism. The merchant guild and the various production guilds were everything, economically, and they strongly defended their monopolies. In Bookworm, the main character invents a wood-based paper, and that puts her in conflict with the guild that has the rights to make parchment (an animal skin-based paper).

And that right is enforced by something akin to the Blood-Writ Bargain spell. A contract was made, guaranteed by the Lord of the land, which gave the Parchment Guild exclusive rights to make and sell paper. Anyone else anywhere in the territory that violated that contract (knowingly or unknowingly) would be magically punished, and likely killed. The knowledge that such a contract existed, or even could exist, put a huge amount of pressure on anyone else pursuing a production craft that could potentially be under the contractual control of one of the guilds.

One difference that should be noted is that Blood-Writ Bargain only lasts 13 days, while the contracts in Bookworm were (more or less) permanent. It was a fundamental part of how their society's economy worked. It also required the use of a special ink (itself under the contractual control of a certain guild) which was incredibly expensive simply due to the fact that it was necessary to make these contracts, so it wasn't something used casually. The Merchant Guild kept tight control over such matters.

This would put the kibosh on freelancing Fabricate wizards. Still have to deal with however many of them the guilds manage to control, though.

The standard Blood-Writ Bargain spell I think is too easy, though, in that it has no cost at all, just a bit of blood to seal the contract. I don't think it would be too big a problem if it had even some basic level cost associated with it.


On the Alter Self issue, Wands of Magic Detection are fairly cheap. Getting 100% coverage in any area would be difficult, but having them available to higher-ranked guardsmen would not be out of line.

Calculate is not nearly as big a threat. It can only solve an equation; it can't determine what equation would be needed to solve the problem.

Continual Flame would be useful, and somewhat game-changing for any city, but it would run into coverage limits pretty quickly, particularly in terms of sabotage and theft.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
@Stalker0 Players have skills too. I've had players do that kind of thing using arcana & "artificer's tools" but investigators tools or similar would probably work too. Just because a player can do it doesn't mean that doing it is suitable for the time constraints of the game. Take for example the Knox box & fire services elevator keys, those are almost always using a key that it documented in a way the public can simply look up for their area but you can't buy the blank or have it cut like that& can get in trouble for having one because it's literally a code enforced key that gives the actual key to every commercial building & secured elevator in the region. Even if the player gets the trace aura results tomorrow or next week it's not like they can just pop over to the local police arcane operations center & thumb through the aura imprints made on all of the guest passes & citizen records or whatever

So a lot of the listed worries remind me of an anime — Ascendance of a Bookworm — and how it dealt with what could be considered similar problems.

First, as a medieval society, it uses mercantilism, not capitalism. The merchant guild and the various production guilds were everything, economically, and they strongly defended their monopolies. In Bookworm, the main character invents a wood-based paper, and that puts her in conflict with the guild that has the rights to make parchment (an animal skin-based paper).

And that right is enforced by something akin to the Blood-Writ Bargain spell. A contract was made, guaranteed by the Lord of the land, which gave the Parchment Guild exclusive rights to make and sell paper. Anyone else anywhere in the territory that violated that contract (knowingly or unknowingly) would be magically punished, and likely killed. The knowledge that such a contract existed, or even could exist, put a huge amount of pressure on anyone else pursuing a production craft that could potentially be under the contractual control of one of the guilds.

One difference that should be noted is that Blood-Writ Bargain only lasts 13 days, while the contracts in Bookworm were (more or less) permanent. It was a fundamental part of how their society's economy worked. It also required the use of a special ink (itself under the contractual control of a certain guild) which was incredibly expensive simply due to the fact that it was necessary to make these contracts, so it wasn't something used casually. The Merchant Guild kept tight control over such matters.

This would put the kibosh on freelancing Fabricate wizards. Still have to deal with however many of them the guilds manage to control, though.

The standard Blood-Writ Bargain spell I think is too easy, though, in that it has no cost at all, just a bit of blood to seal the contract. I don't think it would be too big a problem if it had even some basic level cost associated with it.


On the Alter Self issue, Wands of Magic Detection are fairly cheap. Getting 100% coverage in any area would be difficult, but having them available to higher-ranked guardsmen would not be out of line.

Calculate is not nearly as big a threat. It can only solve an equation; it can't determine what equation would be needed to solve the problem.

Continual Flame would be useful, and somewhat game-changing for any city, but it would run into coverage limits pretty quickly, particularly in terms of sabotage and theft.
The novels go into a lot more than the anime but this 100%. The way that nobles interact with lower rungs of society through proxies & other stuff like interacting with each other solves a lot of problems for a GM while really making it easy to set different groups apart.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
Continual Flame would be useful, and somewhat game-changing for any city, but it would run into coverage limits pretty quickly, particularly in terms of sabotage and theft.
Yep. In In The Cage: A Guide To Sigil, the "light boys" are kids who have managed to procure continual light wands, and they rent themselves out as torchbearers, because Sigil is such a dark and gloomy place and the dabus no longer maintain the streetlights. They typically will fight amongst themselves for possession of one of these wands and steal them when they can.

Now, a more typical type of town has normal daylight and so doesn't need constant lighting. But if continual flame torches are used as streetlights, there could still be people who steal them. After a while, a city may not want to bother replacing them, especially not in poorer sections of town. It may be only the richest areas have them.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
thinking about ascendance of a bookworm, the baptism ceremony used there is another great example of adapting low level everyday magic to solve "modern" problems, Tuli & Main go through it in the earlier books but it's not until things shift to life in the church later on that you really learn the details.

Cops in the US have Armored Personnel Carriers.

"Economics War" is irrelevant.
I once saw a Mine Resistant Armored Personnel Carrier done up with boca raton florida PD paint making a left totally out of place at this intersection, it was surprising how close to hitting the stoplights it came. They got it so the military could make a bit of money rather than having to need to pay to store or dispose of a thing they no longer needed. PCs ditch stuff like that all the time when they outgrow it or don't think it would be useful.

The local police don't need to invest in all of that expensive stuff because some group of PCs will eventually barter access to something or barter their wayout of a problem with it.
 

TYP

Villager
Desperately hoping not to get political here, but also, the police of the USA are not a representative sample of what law enforcement looks like.

I agree with Stalker's analysis about the economic implications of having to kit out guards with magic detection gear. It is absolutely doable, and it makes perfect sense for there to be elite units trained to detect and deal with magical dangers to lords, wealthy individuals, clergy, etc. Faolyn's non-magical suggestions regarding scent are brilliant ways for people to deal with the problem of a face changing criminal. What bothers me about the magic is the starting point: do people know what they're dealing with? This is another aspect of what makes this kind of magic horrifying to me.

Let's start by assuming that people are aware that this magic exists, and are aware enough to know that unscrupulous people can use it for malice. Talk about trust issues! It makes me think of identity theft, and how yeah, I'm wary, because my identity has not been stolen, but someone who has had their identity stolen will be cautious to the point of appearing paranoid. People with the means can protect themselves (which rings too true), but that leaves many vulnerable. And up until now, I've been thinking of person to person violence, but imagine what it would be like trying to track down a con artist who can change their face, or changing your face to look like someone to steal their possessions (see above about speaking to the dead to get past the banker). Terrifying.

Personally, though, I've always considered magic to be exotic to common folk. They are aware it exists, but likely haven't seen much of it up close - I know this has changed in recent editions, but it's what I default to. I also think it's cool to have that kind of mystery in the world, but that's just me. Either way, if common folk don't know that much about magic they might not even know what to look for. Maybe they are so baffled they don't even know to call for help, and assume the person just got away. Maybe they ascribe it to other supernatural forces and, in a superstitious panic, start witch hunts or mob killings.

And either scenario assumes people actually are able to accurately perceive what happened, which is a big if. Human perception is so unreliable that it's a bit of a handwave to assume the NPCs would have seen and understood enough of what was happening to put together that a guy who looked like this went in, and a girl who looked like that came out. A well prepared person could avoid detection for ages. I shudder.

And again, yes, there are many ways a GM can handle it. I just think a world where those kinds of things would become inevitable responses to a threat is horrifying.

Changing the subject somewhat, let's just all be glad that Arcane Eye is a fourth level spell that teenagers are unlikely to be able to learn.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
.
Speak with Dead: Imagine picking the brains of the greatest minds for thousands of years after their dead. Learning the murderers of many crimes with a single spell. The unlimited nature of this spell makes it incredible abusable if you push it.

speak with dead requires the corpse has a mouth - so murderers might have a habit of removing the lower jaw from there victims, the spell also puts the corpse under no compulsion to tell the truth

The other spells cited are net boons but does support the idea thatmagical societies would be more advanced than classic medieval but might also lack certain technologies due to magical substitution.

Steampunkettes listing of presdigitation et all is a far more disconcerting look at things

Of corpse before that happens the world is going to be taken over by an endless horde of auto-spawning Shadows
 
Last edited:

Faolyn

(she/her)
What bothers me about the magic is the starting point: do people know what they're dealing with? This is another aspect of what makes this kind of magic horrifying to me.
In the real world, people had all sorts of wacky ideas as to what would stop magic. The touch of cold iron, a line of salt, a horseshoe above the door, things like that. Probably a lot more in cultures other than Western European as well. Now, D&D and LU don't have those sorts of weaknesses as part of the rules, but it wouldn't be hard to homebrew them. The touch of cold iron on an illusion requires a concentration check or the illusion is dispelled, for instance (even if it's not a concentration spell). I wouldn't add such rules to an existing game unless the players were cool with it, but for a new game, sure.

Also in D&D and LU, well, since magic exists and actually follows rules, then at least some of those rules will be known, unless spellcasters really go out of their way to prevent the mysteries from being exposed.

Or optionally, people might be so paranoid about magic that anything out the ordinary could be seen as potentially dangerous. Communities could have contingency plans as to what to do should spellcasting be suspected. This could be bolstered by having natural things that reveal the presence of magic. In one of the Ravenloft Gazetteers (the one for Tepest, IIRC), there were mushrooms that slowly grew around the homes of spellcasters and people who had consorted with the fey. Something similar could very well exist in a more typical setting, which means that anyone whose home (or room at the tavern) has some of these mushrooms growing around it would be automatically suspected, which may give people an expertise die on certain saves against their spells.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In the real world, people had all sorts of wacky ideas as to what would stop magic. The touch of cold iron, a line of salt, a horseshoe above the door, things like that. Probably a lot more in cultures other than Western European as well. Now, D&D and LU don't have those sorts of weaknesses as part of the rules, but it wouldn't be hard to homebrew them. The touch of cold iron on an illusion requires a concentration check or the illusion is dispelled, for instance (even if it's not a concentration spell). I wouldn't add such rules to an existing game unless the players were cool with it, but for a new game, sure.

Also in D&D and LU, well, since magic exists and actually follows rules, then at least some of those rules will be known, unless spellcasters really go out of their way to prevent the mysteries from being exposed.

Or optionally, people might be so paranoid about magic that anything out the ordinary could be seen as potentially dangerous. Communities could have contingency plans as to what to do should spellcasting be suspected. This could be bolstered by having natural things that reveal the presence of magic. In one of the Ravenloft Gazetteers (the one for Tepest, IIRC), there were mushrooms that slowly grew around the homes of spellcasters and people who had consorted with the fey. Something similar could very well exist in a more typical setting, which means that anyone whose home (or room at the tavern) has some of these mushrooms growing around it would be automatically suspected, which may give people an expertise die on certain saves against their spells.

Remember when the 1e Barbarian could see through illusions and detect magic but refused to work with magic users until level 6 or so? The armour restrictions on spellcasters were also, partially, a nod to the effects of cold iron.

Maybe a barbarian style anti-magic feat needs to be added in to the game

Imc I assume that priest regularly cast Hallow and similar anti-magic wards on towns and major buildings, theres probably runes or other sigils protecting settlements too
 
Last edited:

Faolyn

(she/her)
Maybe a barbarian style anti-magic feat needs to be adding in to the game
A lot of the Tempered Iron tradition is built around stopping magic, and unsurprisingly, both berserkers and heralds have access to it. I'm not sure what else such a feat could do, except perhaps cause extra damage to a spellcaster if you successfully made them lose concentration.
 

nevin

Hero
So lets play that out then. Ok our villain has a hat of disguise, what could our law enforcement have to counter it?

And remember we can't go too expensive here. If every police force has to have 5k in magic items to counter a few hundred... your quickly on the losing end of the economics war.

Now what might make more sense is an "FBI" like group. A special forces under the king lets say, that deals with special magical crimes. So after a few times of this "thief who seems to have 1000 faces", perhaps the special forces are brought in, with their specialty equipment, to deal with the case. That could be a fun campaign idea actually, the CSI of dnd:)
Well, detect magic is cheap. Clerics, Paladins, Bards, all have access to it. Two a hat of disguise just makes it harder to detect. You look like someone else, your accent, gait, and gear all stay the same. Most high level characters could be identified by anyone of thier magic items in a low magic world. And potions are even cheaper, just make sure every guard post has at least a few detect magic potions to use if things seem hinky enough. Or if the city leadership is willing to deal they could make deals with the local thieves guild and pay out Bounties for anyone using such magic. If every thief,bounty hunter and poor person in the city knows they can get 50gp for turning you in using such things would get dangerous really quickly.
 

Remember when the 1e Barbarian could see through illusions and detect magic but refused to work with magic users until level 6 or so? The armour restrictions on spellcasters were also, partially, a nod to the effects of cold iron.

Maybe a barbarian style anti-magic feat needs to be added in to the game

Imc I assume that priest regularly cast Hallow and similar anti-magic wards on towns and major buildings, theres probably runes or other sigils protecting settlements too
You mean like Spellbreaker? I mean it's not the hard denial the 1e Barbarian had, but it is very useful against casters.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top