Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
“As High Dawnlord Marmon raised his arms to welcome the cresting dawn, the ripping sound of almost palpable flatulence echoed back down the temple’s central hall. As the acolyte’s gallery filled with barely stifled snorts of laughter, I knew that I’d found the new apprentice I’d been seeking. If only I could identify him and be gone before Marmon got to him with the ‘Rod of Lathander’s Judgment’ whose bitter touch I knew so well from my years at the temple. " Caeron Dalmoral, Morninglord of Lathander
Thaumaturgy is at its root, a basic mechanism to make a deity’s will and purpose seen and heard. But like any basic tool, it can be used to great purpose, or abused. When used for ill, the wielder should take great care to be sure that use would find favor with their deity.
The effects one can generate for up to a minute using Thaumaturgy include:
- Booming voice effects, up to three times as loud as normal
- Alterations to appearance or behavior of flames in the 30’ area of effect
- Harmless tremors within the earth
- Sounds which can emanate from anywhere in the area of effect
- Opening or closing of doors and windows
- Alterations to the appearance of the eyes of the caster
While it may be easy to dismiss such effects as charlatan’s tricks, their proper use can be practical and powerful in conducting the business of the church. A booming voice can communicate to large groups of congregants or in areas of high ambient sound. A soft rumble in the ground might hold the attention of groups who would benefit from the church’s teachings. Subtle alterations of the immediate environment can create conditions ideal to delivery of the deity’s message.
Likewise, the goals of the deity may be furthered even in the face of enemies through demonstration of power that can assist clerics in their righteous persecution of one’s enemies and detractors. Great advantage can accrue to those who use thaumaturgical effects to intimidate foes or aid in convincing others of a just course of action.
For as long as there have been adherents of the gods, the tools provided by Thaumaturgy have been granted in one form or another. The creativity of bored acolytes have ensured that its misuse has been nearly as broad. Yet for all its misuse interrupting ceremonies sacred and profane throughout the centuries, Thaumaturgy remains a key tool to promoting the faiths of many religions. Origin tales of most deities and great deeds recounted throughout the realms include examples of its use. Local priests and acolytes learn it as an aid to their work even when they don’t progress to travelling outside of an individual church.
Thaumaturgy is one of the earliest spells, perhaps after Light, that new acolytes drawn toward ritualistic traditions learn to use, and it is often an indicator of the favor of the gods toward a mortal, sometimes even without the mortal’s knowing it.
The casting of Thaumaturgy varies with the caster. There seems to be no particular somatic requirement for casting, though many priests who are not general spell casters do ritually motion when casting. There are likewise no material components to the spell.
The vocalizations to trigger its effects vary widely. I have seen priests who require lines of sacred narration to bring on a dimming of candles, and I have encountered novitiates who could shake the chandeliers with what sounded like the barest clearing of the throat. For those of us whose backgrounds included an early aptitude for magic, there’s always a tell, though it’s sometimes challenging to spot.
There is no visible interaction between the caster and the effect that I’ve seen. Changes to the eyes of the caster seem to require a blink to accomplish, though in truth I’ve always found the effect tickles the eyes when taking effect in a way that it would be hard not to blink.
The spell can be learned quite easily by those who do not discover it themselves. Vocalizations tend to be longer for those who learn the spell than those who discover it innately. Environmental manipulations of the immediate vicinity are part and parcel of religious life in an institutional setting.
The area of effect for most of these changes is roughly 30 feet or 10 meters. However, I’ve seen situations where the very elder officiants or high level clerics have displayed effects over areas much greater when performing acts of great need or import to their god.
Any of these effects can also be dismissed without vocalizations at will while they are active.
Interactions and Multiple Castings
Thaumaturgical effects can be chained together, up to three at once. Though concentration is not required for the spell, producing effects more than three at a time seems to eliminate the first effect cast, replacing it with the fourth; the second with the fifth; and so on. While not being able to pile up effects indefinitely, the impact of a holy man or woman muttering the same phrase to themselves as the environment constantly changes about them can be as unnerving as anything.
Because the effects take a few seconds to cast, there is also a delay between the effects even if they are cast immediately after one another, and so they expire a few seconds apart at the end of the period of effect. I’ve been successful also at dropping all of the effects simultaneously or just one or two as an action.
I’ve spent a good bit of time experimenting with how long I could maintain a particular effect through periodic casting. It takes a good bit of effort to maintain without interruption, and on at least one occasion, I believe that my extended use of Thaumaturgy did not meet with Lathander’s approval, leading to a several day period of reflection and service to reconnect with the principal purpose of my abilities.
Like many fundamental powers, Thaumaturgy can be used to enhance the effects of some larger effort by oneself, one’s companions or something naturally occurring. Intimidation of the weak minded minions of one’s adversaries can sometimes be enhanced by the booming voice or flaring torches of a priest about to unleash fiery retribution within the ranks of cowed opponents. Subtle changes to the room lighting or whispers from a dark corner might convince an otherwise reluctant potential ally to help with a cause in support of one’s god. A rumbling of the ground might keep inquisitive villagers from intruding too closely on an area that holds dangers best handled by those more prepared to combat them.
Thaumaturgy is at its heart a way for those of us who channel the power of our gods to spread that influence and power more effectively, more persuasively and with more power than normally available to most mortals.