Secret Magic

Crime and Punishment

Author Keith Baker

Series Campaign Style

Publisher Atlas Games

Publish date 2003

If you’re playing a wizard or a sorcerer and you’re passing through a superstitious nation or a restrictive theocracy, you’re going to need to hide your abilities – but you probably want to find a way to use your powers. One of the first questions is what you have to worry about from the opposition. Is it simply a matter of not being seen casting a spell, or do you have to worry about inquisitors or magehounds picking up your scent and tracking you down?

Magehounds and other foes using Detect Magic present a difficult challenge for any spellcaster. Your best friend in this situation is Misdirection; cast this spell on your friend the fighter, and suddenly you don’t radiate magic at all. Other options include nondetection, mystical void, and magic aura (if you’re just trying to hide magic items). In addition to these spells, there are a variety of magic items that can help to conceal your activities
from Detect Magic; these are provided at the end of this chapter.

If your problem is one of physical observation, there are two primary issues: components and effects. The feats Still Spell and Silent Spell are invaluable for concealing your activities, but even if you don’t utter an incantation the appearance of a huge ball of fire may draw unwanted attention.

In a theocratic society where the worship of ‘false’ gods or use of arcane magic is suppressed, you can always try to trick your opponents into thinking you’re calling on the local gods to produce your magical effects. If you’re casting a spell that has no verbal component, you can chant whatever invocation you want. With a successful Knowledge (religion) check (DC 10) you can make up an incantation that at least sounds plausible; remember that the average guardsman can’t check the rulebooks and say ‘Hey! clerics can’t cast fireball!’ If one of the observers also has Knowledge (religion), he can make a check opposing your roll; if his score is higher than yours, he recognizes that your invocation is a Bluff. In addition, if you’re casting an arcane spell with somatic components, an observer can make a Knowledge (Arcana) check (DC 10) or Spellcraft check (DC 10) to recognize the gestures as being associated with wizardry. If the situation is reversed, you can disguise a divine spell as arcane; follow the same procedure, but switch Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (Arcana).

You can also use a Knowledge (religion) check (DC 10) to try to disguise a divine spell by pretending to invoke a different god than you actually are; you might recite a prayer to the moon goddess while actually drawing on the power of the sun, for instance. Of course, spells that require a divine focus are a bit problematic; it’s hard to appear to be invoking the Lady of the Moon with a sunburst in your hand.However, many useful clerical spells don’t require a divine focus, including bestow curse, blindness/deafness, cause fear, command, contagion, all cure spells, Detect Magic, Detect Poison, dispel magic, geas, harm, heal, all inflict spells, lesser geas, and silence.

One drawback with this trick is that if the gods are really paying attention, you may find that you’ll have a little explaining to do somewhere down the line. If you’re truly acting in the interests of your god, he’ll probably overlook this minor transgression – but what about the deity whose name you’re taking in vain?

Of course, if you don’t have the Silent Spell feat, this strategy won’t be of much use. Another alternative is the cloak of silence spell, which allows you to cast a spell with a verbal component without being heard. This won’t help you explain how a lightning bolt appeared when you gestured – but it can keep people from starting a witchhunt at the first sound of an incantation.

If you’ve managed to find some way to cast your spell in silence, an ally can attempt to draw other eyes in the room away from you for long enough for you to perform your ritual. This requires a Bluff check opposed by the Sense Motive checks of the other people in the room; if successful, the people will glance over at the character instigating the distraction. This trick only works if you don’t appear to be a threat, though; people will rarely look away from you in the midst of battle because a half ling is jumping up and down. It should also be noted that only hostile actions disrupt an invisibility spell; as a result, if you’re invisible and able to cast silently, you can sneak around healing your friends or casting spells like bless or protection from evil.

In peaceful situations, a Perform check (DC 20) will also tend to draw the eyes of the audience. A lesser score may or may not attract attention, at the GM’s discretion; but a truly masterful performance is hard to ignore.

If you can cast without being seen, another alternative to silent casting is to drown out the sound of the incantation with other activities. If you really need to cast divination and you don’t want the people in the next room to hear, get your bard to sing a song, or have the dwarf recite an epic tale. Just because your god has to hear your voice doesn’t mean that anyone else does.

If you can’t disguise your spells, your best answer is probably to rely on subtle long-term effects like darkvision, bull’s strength, cat’s grace, Disguise Self, bear’s endurance, invisibility, mage armor, magic vestment, mislead, and mount. The long durations of these spells allows you to cast the spell when the opportunity presents itself, and continue to benefit from it for hours to come.

Hiding in Plain Sight

It’s hard to beat Still Spell and Silent Spell when it comes to hiding magic from the masses, but here are a few more tricks for your repertoire. Suppress Spell Energy is a metamagic feat that helps you to conceal your actions from Detect Magic and Detect Magic residue. Cloak of silence is a new spell that allows you to maintain a bubble of silence around you – so you can incant as loudly as you want, and no one can hear you. Combine it with invisibility and you can cast all the spells you please, as long as you don’t actually attack anyone. Finally, mystical void conceals the auras of ongoing enchantments and magic items on your person – which can be invaluable when you need to sneak past that pack of magehounds.

New Feat: Suppress Spell Energy (Metamagic)

New Spells:

Scroll to Top