[RPG] way to attack the mental stress track of mortals without violating the Laws of Magic


A fellow PCs in a game I'm in wants to attack the mental stress track of a mortal using spirit-based evocation, but the GM doesn't know whether or not that would constitute a violation of the Laws of Magic.

The GM is leaning towards "yes," but the person is fairly insistent.

Is attacking the mental stress track of a mortal possible without breaking the Laws of Magic?

If so, could you provide an example spell?

Best Answer

Yes, it's possible to inflict Mental Stress with magic without breaking the Laws of Magic. You just can't affect someone's mind directly; whenever you're thinking of an effect that could cause Mental stress, the brain is strictly off-limits.

There are plenty of ways to cause Mental Stress with less psychic effects, though. The entire field of illusion (which Spirit magic does just fine) will work; a few well-timed telekinetic effects can help. Like most illusions, it will work best if your target is unfamiliar with magic. In the Dresden Files novels, Molly uses illusions as her main weapon, but it isn't violating any of the Laws of Magic. Here are a few examples:

  1. Create a horrific-but-plausible illusion: slavering monsters, the walls falling down, or all of the exits are on fire and the room is getting hot.
  2. Create an implausible horrific illusion that still frightens or shocks the target: a simple, still image of something awful happening to a loved one, or a magical Powerpoint detailing the terrible things that will happen as you narrate.
  3. Create a perfectly ordinary illusion of something personal going wrong: a girlfriend breaking up with the target, an illusory phone call from the hospital regarding a loved one, etc.
  4. Irritate the target in a hundred tiny ways, incessantly over several days: whispered voices, machinery suddenly failing when the target uses it, street lights always going out when the target is near, etc. Drive your target mad by making them think they've already gone mad.
  5. Push the target around with small, invisible kinetic forces. Think of the movie Ghost; the (dead) protagonist causes plenty of terror to his enemies by being a poltergeist with an agenda.

Just because the target is taking Mental Stress doesn't mean that you've actually invaded their mind; they just need to think that something terrible has happened. Keep in mind, though, that your actions still have to make narrative sense: simply applying a Weapon:3 of "terrific illusions" every combat round might only work the first one or two times it hits an opponent; after that, they may get accustomed enough to it that it doesn't have the same impact. Building up an illusion over multiple rounds with Maneuvers, and then hitting the target just once for Mental Stress, may make more narrative sense.