28 December 2020

Analysis of the Red Book of Magic - Part Two, Spirit Magic

I hope you enjoyed the analysis of the Rune magic spells in the Red Book of Magic that I posted last week. Today, I would like to share a few thoughts about the Spirit magic spells in the Red Book of Magic. The first very noticeable thing is that Spirit magic spells are much less numerous than their Rune magic counterparts; “only” 69 Spirit magic spells vs 448 Rune magic spells.

Even the increase itself is much less spectacular: whereas the Rune magic spells increased almost threefold from the core RuneQuest book, the Spirit magic spells only increased 30%, from 53 to 69.

This is as it should be: ever since Cults of Prax (1979), the Gods’ protection over their worshippers has translated into Rune magic rather than Spirit magic: as written under the Sleep spell in Chalana Arroy’s cult write-up in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax:

No non-cult person can be taught this spell. Befuddle was once a special cult battle magic spell as well, but unwise teaching of it beyond the cult led to its use in attacks, perverting its merciful origin. That cult mistake will not be repeated.

Exactly! Battle magic (i.e., Spirit magic) can be disseminated, Rune magic, being linked to the cult’s runes, is much less likely to be taught beyond the cult.

Statistically, here is the distribution of the spells in terms of magic point cost:

1-point spells: 26 (38%)

2-point spells: 13 (19%)

3-point spells: 5 (7%)

4-point spells: 2 (3%)

5-point spells: none

6-point spells: 1 (1%)

Variable spells: 22 (32%)

Let us now go back to the individual Spirit magic spells. 41 of them are straight from the original RQ2 rules, 27 of which being practically identical. The differences are as follows:

The spells Befuddle and Demoralise have had their cost raised from 1 to 2 magic points.

The variable spells Bladesharp, Bludgeon, Dullblade, Ironhand, Multimissile, Shimmer and Vigour, which were limited to 4 MPs, have no upper limit in the Red Book of Magic.

Extinguish was a fixed-cost spell; it is now a variable spell. The 2-point RQ2 spell would extinguish any fire, now the cost depends on the size of the fire.

Fanaticism used to be a variable spell, with one person affected per magic point. That was way overpowered; I am glad the current rules have you cast one spell per person.

Farsee was a fixed-cost spell; it is now a variable spell with a finicky explanation as to why it is variable. I prefer the RQ2 version.

Repair is another fixed-cost spell that has become variable, and much less interesting than it used to be: a 2-point spell repairing 20 points of damage. Now each point only fixes 1D10 points of damage.

Slow has merely undergone a name change – it used to be called Binding.


Some RQ2 spells have been removed, viz.:

Detect Detection, which I found useful, even though to be honest I can’t possibly remember having ever used.

Detect Gems – unless it falls under the umbrella of Detect (substance).

Mindspeech. I can see how it may have been considered overpowered, but it enabled good infiltration-style games.

Xenohealing has become useless since Heal now heals any target and not only your own species.

Some other RQ2 spells have become Rune magic spells: Detection Blank, Harmonise, Invisibility. Honestly, I can see why, as someone who has abused their Invisibility spell for years.

The same has happened with two Spirit magic spells from the very first RQ2 supplement (Cults of Prax): Stone Biting and Tree Chopping Song.


Let us have a look now at the “new” spells, those that were not there at the time of RQ2.

Binding Enchantment is from the RQ3 rules; way cheaper now, since its cost used to be 3 MPs.

Comprehension and Pamalt’s Touch are from the write-up of the cult of Pamalt in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change (they are still restricted to the cult of Pamalt).

Conceal Item, Face of Lanbril and Forget are from the write-up of the cult of Lanbril in the RQ2 supplement Pavis; Conceal Item’s cost has been reduced from 2 to 1. The two other spells are identical. And all three spells are still restricted to the cult of Lanbril.

Control (entity), Magic Point Enchantment, Second Sight, Spell Matrix Enchantment and Visibility are from the RQ3 rules, with no change.

Cool is from the write-up of the cult of Norag in the Book of Drastic Resolutions, volume Darkness, with no change in terms of its cost but with a big change with regard to its accessibility: it is now a non-special spell that costs 250L or less, i.e., it is among the most common of the common Spirit magic spells (see p107 of the Red Book of Magic).

False Healing is from the write-up of the cult of the Black Sun in the RQ3 supplement Troll Gods, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with a big change with regard to its accessibility. I am truly unhappy with this change… False Healing used to be one of the big surprises of the Ignorant cults of the Black Sun and of the Blood Sun.

Food Song is from the write-up of the cult of Aldrya in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change in terms of its cost; as for its accessibility, it is unclear… the spell is not amongst the ones listed on p107 as being restricted to a certain cult; however, the spell description sort of makes it look like it is restricted to Aldryami.

Heat Metal is from the write-up of the cult of Lodril in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with quite a change with regard to its accessibility.

Hotfoot is from the write-up of the cult of the Trickster in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Eurmal).

Jumping is from the write-up of the cult of Kyger Litor in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Kyger Litor).

Lantern and Seek Sun Dome Temple are from the write-up of the cult of Yelmalio in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax. Lantern used to be a variable spell with a duration of 10 melee rounds per point; now it is a 1-point spell, which I think makes perfect sense. Seek Sun Dome Temple has not changed. Except for this change, they are still both only available to Yelmalio cultists.

Meteor Swarm (unless I have missed my Library Use skill check) is the only truly new spirit spell in the book. It is also the one and only Spirit magic spell with a cost greater than 4; we may consider it as a kind of “anomaly” brought upon us by the Lunars and their constant meddling with the fabric of Glorantha. In the context of the Hero Wars, I really like this addition— especially since the use of the spell is limited to the Lunar cult of the Crater Makers.

Parry is from the write-up of the cult of Humakt in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change in terms of its cost but with a big change with regard to its accessibility since it is now available to any player characters.

Preserve Herbs is from the write-up of the cult of Chalana Arroy in Cults of Prax, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Chalana Arroy).

Rivereyes is from the write-up of the cult of Zola Fel in the RQ2 supplement Pavis, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with a big change with regard to its accessibility.

Sleep is from the write-up of the cult of Chalana Arroy in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax. Much like Fanaticism (see above), it used to be an overpowered variable spell, with one person affected per magic point. Luckily, it is still only available to Chalana Arroy worshippers.

Sneeze is from the write-up of the cult of Mallia in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Terror, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Mallia).

Solace is from the write-up of the cult of Xiola Umbar in the RQ2 supplement Trollpak, with no change except for its accessibility.

Summon (entity) is from the RQ3 rules; it used to be a 1-point spell but is now variable although it is only a difference in how the spell is presented.


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