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Anatomy of a Spell

Anatomy of a Spell

Article #1 – Thunderclap
By Alzandrion

Level 1: Invocation or Air Warlock spell. Read spell description for exact effects. (RMB p. 169, BoM p. 57 & 93, RCB p. 62) For purposes of copyrights, full spell can not be reprinted here.

Spell Summary
Thunderclap is a spell that, like many of the lower level spells, grows weary with obsolescence as Rifts Earth becomes more familiar with magic in general. This spell causes a quaking crackle of thunder that stuns and startles everyone within 30 feet, and can be heard a mile away. Although the intentions are quite dramatic for both this Invocation and it’s Air Elemental equivalent (Thunder Clap, two words), the spell has historically been proven game and game again to have somewhat of a distorted intended target.

Possible Origins
This spell was obviously the creation of Elementals back in the beginning of time when, yet could also have been the design of the intimidating Zeus or Brontes, one of the first Cyclops. Given that humans had a much better relationship with certain elementals than with Zeus, Thunder Clap almost certainly got handed down from those timeless entities. This spell can be purchased via scroll from scribes in the Magic Zone, as they are aware of its decreasing popularity. It can be researched normally (level advancement) or even taught by a fellow mage, warlock, or even by an elemental. Non-warlocks will use the Invocation version of the spell, regardless of the teacher.

Outside the Box
My favorite category! It’s time to think like a wizard. This is an audible spell effect. Let’s take a look at spells that deal in sound. Hmm…The spells effects only work within 30 feet of the caster. To extend that range, cast Distant Voice and open a “sound portal” to your opponent. See that mercenary group on the horizon? Want a long range advantage? Cast Distant Voice first, then Thunderclap and extend your 30 foot range to 2,000 feet per level. Remember that Distant Voice is line of sight, and Distant Voice will allow somebody to hear and feel the effects of the spell as though they were standing in your immediate area of effect. Some GM’s might rule otherwise, but it’s worth fighting for.
The spell affects friend and foe alike, but you can also protect your allies with Globe of Silence. Or, a crafty techno-wizard can have this spell recorded on a TW Recording device to play at certain intervals, or when an alarm must be sounded. (Subject to techno-wizard item creation rules) Did you ever wonder what thunder would sound like underwater? At GM's discretion, one might argue that the spell's immediate and long range affects be multiplied by four to five times greater! Sound travels much more quickly underwater than it does in the air. Take that, Coalition Navy!

Spell Anatomy
As a GM, I have had the argument from players that the bonuses initiative, combat, and Horror Factor are magical, and should happen even if opponents know “where” the thunder originated from. As a GM, I responded with, “It is the thunder that is created, and the effects are the results of being startled by it. If you are deaf, you are unaffected. If you have audio “boom” filters, you are unaffected. If you know the thunder is fake or magical, the effects are reduced or nullified. Similarly, if an illusion is disbelieved, it has no effect on the opponents.” This being said, Thunderclap has been less useful in the hands of standard spell casters than it has been for its Warlock and Elemental manufacturers, who can easily couple or pair this spell with other effective magical incantations. (See combos.)

In the heart of the Magic Zone, Thunderclaps can often be heard from a distance cast by fledgling mages miles away. It has become somewhat of a nuisance to all but the apprentice’s proud mentor, and Thunderclap has been reduced in awe to the meager shock value of a bottle rocket on the 4th of July. In the Coalition States, this spell is rarely cast at all. Fear based spells, as well as Befuddle or similar spells are favored over Thunderclap which is a calling card to Coalition reinforcements a mile away. In mercenary groups, this spell is only effective when employing the element of surprise because once it is lost the mage’s responsibilities will be to cast spells more offensive and defensive in nature during combat. On days where clouds do not loom overhead, Thunderclap is an easy way for a wizard to draw attention to oneself, and any Psi-Stalker with rudimentary Magic Lore will know that a meal is nearby.

My conclusion is, as per the spell description, the spell alerts enemies just as well as allies. Buy a radio instead. It’s intimidating to enemies just as well as allies, whereas other spells with similar effects do not need to target friends. Intimidation works only when the spell is believable. The spell easily falls near to last place when in combat situation. My opinion is that this spell is in serious need of a few modifications. As of now, I’d only use it to spook cattle into a stampede (useful in New West).

Spell Rating: 1.5 out of 5
I would never research it in place of something else. I’d pay minimally for a Scroll on this just to have it. The 1.5 rating is due to the spell’s nostalgia and its ability to be transformed into something better (a good foundation). It’s also fun at parties while casting pyrotechnics.

Spell Combos
Combining this spell with others from the Air Elemental for stormy effects is obvious. Combining this spell to supercharge its intended effects of fear and disorientation are also a great idea. Try it alongside Fear, Call Lightning, Shatter, Disharmonize, or Aura of Power depending on the effects that you’re looking for.

Spell Modifications
NOTE: Rules for spell modifications/variations of existing spells can be found on p. 38 of Nightbane WB 3: Through the Glass Darkly (TtGD). Penalties, bonuses, and changes to spell level do apply, as per TtGD.

Optional rules: Through the Glass Darkly normally uses the Principles of Magic Skill in its modification rules. Substitute Principles of Magic for Magic Lore in Rifts, or fifteen minus what G.M. determines to be the new spell level. In addition to the spell modification rules found in Through the Glass Darkly, I.Q. bonus should logically be applied here. This is another optional rule to be used at GM’s discretion. Again, some modified spells might actually resemble spells that already exist, but keep in mind that it is easier for a wizard in the game to use the knowledge he or she already knows, as opposed to learning a new spell from scratch.

Modified Thunderclap Spells, Invocations

Timed Thunderclap
Range: Directly affects the immediate area (30 feet/9.1 m) around the magic weaver, but is limited to caster’s own voice. Spell can be heard up to one mile (1.6 km) away.
Duration: 1 minute (4 melees) per level of experience.
Saving Throw: None.
P.P.E.: Six
Level: Considered a 2nd level spell.

The Invocation produces a booming clap of thunder similar to that of the original spell, and with identical range however this modified version is entirely different in both duration and intended effect. Timed Thunderclap is normally cast before an engaging speech or any conversation used for intimidation purposes. Upon casting, the Thunderclap does not immediately sound off. Whenever the caster wills it, or when emphasis is placed on certain words being spoken, or at the conclusion of a sentence, the Thunderclap will “boom”. The result is much more dramatic and intimidating, and focuses on the mage’s prowess rather than frightening opponents during combat. This provides the creator of the Timed Thunderclap with +25% to intimidate anybody being spoken to within the spell’s range. Speaking through mechanical devices or not being within visual range of intended targets will nullify the intimidation effect.

Rolling Thunder
Range: Directly affects the immediate area (30 feet/9.1 m) around the magic weaver, but can be heard up to one mile (1.6 km) away.
Duration: 1 melee round per level of experience.
Saving Throw: Save vs. Horror Factor.
P.P.E.: Twelve
Level: Considered a 4th level spell.

The Invocation produces a booming clap of thunder similar to that of the original spell, and with identical range however this modified version is entirely different in duration. Rolling Thunder creates a clap of thunder immediately following the casting of the spell, however the thunder continues to roll and rumble calmly in the background until the next melee round. Another Thunderclap will sound off every melee round until the duration expires, forcing everyone within range to make another save vs. Horror Factor or be affected as per the penalties of the original spell: Creator of the thunder receives +5 on his or her initiative, +1 to strike, parry, and dodge, and creates a Horror Factor of 8. These effects are not cumulative as Rolling Thunder continues to sound off.

Greater Thunderclap
Range: Directly affects the immediate area (120 feet/36.4 m) around the magic weaver, but can be heard up to three miles (4.8 km) away.
Duration: Instant
Saving Throw: Save vs. Horror Factor.
P.P.E.: Twenty-Five
Level: Considered a 7th level spell.

The Invocation produces a booming clap of thunder similar to that of the original spell, though with dramatically greater range and effect. Like the spell of Shatter, Greater Thunderclap with shatter brittle S.D.C. objects such as glass, ice, clay, and ceramic within 120 feet (36.4 m) of the caster. The spell will also spook horses, birds, dogs, and other normal creatures within a three miles (4.8 km) range. Everyone within 120 feet (36.4 m) of the caster must roll to save vs. Horror Factor of 8, and the creator of the thunder enjoys and enhanced bonus of +8 to initiative and +3 to strike, parry, and dodge this and next melee round. Even those who save vs. Horror Factor have a 25% chance of dropping whatever weapons, gear, or items they were carrying.

Deafening Thunder
Range: Directly affects any circular area of (30 feet/9.1 m) within (100 feet/30.3 m) per level of experience of the caster.
Duration: Instant.
Saving Throw: None.
P.P.E.: Ten
Level: Considered a 5th level spell.

The Invocation produces a booming clap of thunder similar to that of the original spell, though the intended affect is to deafen any number of people within the spell’s range. Deafening Thunder produces a more focused boom that can temporarily deafen unprotected ears to anyone contained in a (30 feet/9.1 m) diameter, yet up to (100 feet/30.3 m) away per level of experience! The thunder can still be heard up to one mile away from the focal point of the spell, though nobody else will suffer the deafening penalties. Those affected will automatically lose initiative next round, suffer -1 to strike, parry, and dodge, (-2 to strike, parry, and dodge for those with enhanced hearing!) and will be unable to perform any skills requiring them to hear. Thus, communication and music will be nearly impossible, the affected individuals will be highly disoriented, and victims will hear nothing but ringing for 1D4 hours. A cybernetic sound filtration system (RMB p.231) or Globe of Silence spell is the only two known way to protect against this spell.

Illusory Thunder
Range: Affects anyone in a circular area 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter per level of experience, within caster’s line of sight.
Duration: Instant.
Saving Throw: -2 to save.
P.P.E.: Twelve
Level: Considered a 6th level spell.

The Invocation produces a booming clap of thunder similar to that of the original spell, though the spell is entirely an illusion and only affects those within the spell’s area of affect. The wizard can make the booming sound of thunder appear to be coming from any direction, and is a perfect way to get a number of individuals startled and distracted for a moment. Anybody failing their saving throw will immediately turn their heads into the direction designated by the caster. All victims will hear it coming from the same direction. Victims lose their initiative for that melee round, and can then be subject to a surprise attack. Unlike the original spell that can be heard for miles away, this spell is an illusion, and only those within the area of affect can hear it.

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