Law of the Land, Part 3 – Suspicious Spellcasting

Two of the most major aspects of “fantasy” as a genre are the presence of monsters, and the existence of magic. As far as laws go, monsters aren’t protected by it, nor do they typically recognize or abide by it; that’s part of what makes them monsters. Magic, however, is something altogether different. In Pathfinder, magic is a tool that can be used for good or for ill or even for other things altogether, by virtually anyone. Hence, some laws need to be devoted to magic.

"Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!"

In this article, we examine the use of magic in upholding the laws and investigating their misuse, as well as look at what constitutes criminal uses of magic.

(I must confess, this article is the main reason for this entire series. I originally wanted to examine laws governing spellcasting, but quickly realized that this would be exceptionally difficult without a backdrop regarding the basic structure of laws in a Pathfinder campaign. Hence the first two parts to this series.)

Supernatural Sleuths

In order for criminal laws to have any real effect, you need to be able to investigate violations of them; otherwise you had better hope that law enforcement is present when a crime occurs. Given that, how can uses of magic be invested?

One of the first ways is to examine the magical auras left behind after magic has been used, as per the description in detect magic. That’s not very helpful though, as the auras don’t last very long and only reveal the school of magic used, rather than the actual spell. For that, I suggest making a correction to the spell’s functionality. In general, this should be enough that the rest can be solved by good old-fashioned detective work (e.g. working out who had the ability to use such a spell, why they would have cast it, where they were when the crime occurred, etc.).

For those looking for magic to provide results near-instantly, higher-level divination spells can also gather information about something that’s already happened, but it usually requires quite a bit more magical ability. The earliest available such spell in the Core Rulebook is contact other plane, with spells like legend lore and vision offering even greater answers as levels are gained.

Divine spellcasters make, pound for pound, better detectives than their arcane counterparts. With a bevy of low-level spells like speak with dead, zone of truth, discern lies, a cleric, paladin, or inquisitor can likely whittle down a list of suspects very quickly.

And that’s not even getting into what can be done with magic items and a good Use Magic Device skill bonus.

Even beyond these, there are plenty of sourcebooks out there that can offer great new spells and abilities where magical detectives are concerned. For a particularly useful one, check out the 3.5 supplement Crime and Punishment (available for free over on the Grand OGL Wiki).

Intervening in the Divine

The above notation that divine spellcasters make some of the best magical-crime investigators may seem somewhat odd (if not outrightly hypocritical), given that the first part of this series made note that most of what’s here was going to be independent of the game world’s religions. We’ve gone this far without presuming much of anything on that front, so why start now?

The answer is that while this series takes a hands-off approach to in-game religions, that’s due solely to practicality – there’s no reason not to have them be more active as it suits your game. If there are Lawful Good divine spellcasters who want to take part in enforcing the laws, then (presuming it makes sense for a given country to allow them to do so) let them do so. Likewise, having paladins or inquisitors in the city guards may be normal in a state religion. Some religions may even have religious dispensations in regards to some of the laws listed below. Like any other part of this article, change what’s necessary to make the divine spellcasting aspects work better in your game.

Magic Is As Magic Does

It should be clear, both to the players and their characters, that the law won’t make fine distinctions between “types” of magic. Whether it’s by arcane or divine magic, a spell-like ability or a supernatural one, a magic item or an inherent magical ability, it all falls under the laws listed here. Using magic to commit a crime is enough for those in charge of enforcing the law – the type of magic doesn’t matter except as it relates to bringing the perpetrator to justice.

Criminal Thaumaturgy

The list below presents criminal actions that can be performed using magic (as examining specific spells is impractical in the extreme). The category of the crime refers to the degree of punishment it commands, as laid down in part one of this series. Some magical crimes refer to non-magical criminal activities from part two.

Attack Spells: As a general rule, spells which cause hit point damage are treated as crimes equal to non-magical attacks which deal damage. So killing someone with magic is murder (this includes death effects that don’t necessarily deal hit point damage, unless those attack the soul, in which case they’re necromancy (q.v.)), damaging things with magic is destruction of property, starting a fire with magic is arson, etc. Note that area-effect spells can quickly rack up multiple counts of such crimes.

Conjured Creatures: Depending on the type of creature summoned (or called) this can constitute devilry (q.v.; see part two). Further, creatures brought forth via magic are subject to the Principle of Transferred Guilt (see enchantments, below).

Enchantment: Mind-affecting spells, particularly charms and compulsions, are governed via two distinct legal principles. The first is the Principle of Non-Consent. This states that someone under the effect of an enchantment (which, to be clear, means any magic that affects their mind) is automatically presumed to be unwilling in everything they do while so enchanted. Hence, someone under an enchantment who then signs a contract is not legally bound by it. Someone who is charmed to offer a discount on an item has been subjected to theft (the amount stolen being equal to the discount given). Someone who is enchanted to have sex with the caster has been raped, etc.

The second principle governing the use of enchantments is the Principle of Transferred Guilt. This holds that someone who performs an illegal action while under an enchantment is not responsible for their actions, and the blame for them is instead placed at the feet of the one who enchanted them. So someone dominated and made to kill someone isn’t guilty of murder; the person who cast the spell on them is.

By themselves, enchantment spells don’t constitute any sort of crime, save for usually being an impermissible use of magic (q.v.). However, these two principles usually mean that whatever you want the charmed person to do will usually be a crime.

Impermissible Use of Magic: This is the most basic law governing magic – that people have the right not to be affected by magic without their consent; this also extends to the things they own. In other words, this makes it a crime to cast a spell of any sort on someone, or on something of theirs, without receiving their permission first. However, given the ubiquitous nature of magic, this is an infraction-category crime – if its discovered, it’s usually sufficient for a law-enforcement official to make the perpetrator stop…if it doesn’t break any other laws.

Necromancy: Criminal necromancy is any magic that raises or otherwise aids the undead, or damages or otherwise harms the soul. So using enervation would constitute necromancy, whereas vampiric touch would not. Note that magic to bring the dead back to life is not considered necromancy, since the soul must be willing for such magic to function. Likewise, spells that deal negative energy damage may aid the undead – since they heal them – but generally aren’t considered necromancy unless actually used to heal an undead creature. Necromancy is a felony-category crime.

Scrying: By itself, using magic to spy on someone (e.g. via clairvaudience/clairvoyance) is an impermissible use of magic (q.v.). However, when used against a ruler, this can instead be charged as treason, unless there is highly-convincing proof that the spellcaster wasn’t attempting to spy for purposes of bringing harm to the ruler or the realm.

Unauthorized Transformation: Changing someone into something else, or changing their possessions into something else, is a misdemeanor-category crime (and, of course, always includes immediately changing them back to normal). Likewise, using magic that creates or alters things in a way that disrupts economic conditions (e.g. using a lyre of building to construct a building, rather than allowing the carpenters’ guild to do so) is considered to be a form of enterprising (see part two), unless the spellcaster has permission from the government or relevant guild.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this series has given you some ideas on how to flesh out your game world using the laws of various communities. The legalities of a community can offer great new avenues of play in your Pathfinder game, whether the PCs are the breaking the laws, writing the laws, or laying down the laws.

(Four wheels of fury are optional.)

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One Response to “Law of the Land, Part 3 – Suspicious Spellcasting”

  1. Ancient Scroll's Secret Room: On Magic (or How Easy Solutions Can Spoil Your Game) | Game Knight Reviews Says:

    […] Law of the Land, Part 3 – Suspicious Spellcasting from Intelligence Check ( […]

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