Friday, November 16, 2018

Some Thoughts on Mundane Magic

Yesterday's ridiculous "snow incident" in NYC, where six inches or less of snow brought the city to a standstill, got me thinking of "mundane magic." Follow my thinking for a moment.

Magic in most fantasy RPGs, certainly the OSR ones that draw their direct inspiration from old-school D&D, have magic spell lists that are geared toward adventuring - kills shit, defend against shit, find shit and the like. It makes sense, as there are the spells best suited to keeping adventurers alive.

But what of the mundane spells? The spells that no right-thinking adventurer would keep in his or her spellbook but make daily life easier for the masses. Because magic, if it did exist, would certainly replace bits of technology.

Secure communications? There's a spell for that. Cleaning a mansion? Yep, there's a spell. Butchering? I'm sure. A variation on the web spell for enhanced fishing? Why not? I'm sure there is a spell for quick and safe snow removal in someone's spellbook.

These don't even touch upon magic items that are less about adventuring but more about creature comforts. Magical hair brushes, razors, drinking fountains, lighting, warm baths, snow shovels and the like. Just because it doesn't come up in play doesn't mean it isn't there.

I'm just wondering if it should "be there" a bit more often I guess.

Ah well, back to writing. Yes, thoughts like this come up when I actually try to write. Go figures ;)


  1. I remember some magic like that in the Palladium Fantasy game. Like circles and wards, terribly impractical for adventures but great for a village or castle.

  2. I'm not quite sure I agree with your conclusions. I was going to reply, but it turned into something large enough to warrant its own post.


  3. One of the magic users in my old OD&D campaign made their fortune by inventing the first level spell shear sheep. And it didn't even send him all that insane (I used contact higher plane for spell research).

    On the flip side in my Glorantha game, where magic is everywhere, your Cult Trait represents knowledge of the minor charms that let you do things associated with the skills associated with that trait. It's a normal part of skill use. It's only when you travel to certain places where magic doesn't work that you can no longer use your Cult Trait in tests (plus you get an automatic d12 Penalty for the unnaturalness of these Dead Places). Minor magic use is so common that it's not noticed at all - until it's gone.

  4. It should be there a bit more. More weather, travel, and luxury spells along with related devices would make sense.

  5. Not being there gives the rest of us the opportunity to make them ourselves. In fact, my alchemy codex (WIP) makes strides to fill in such gaps left in the fiction.

  6. From my experience, one cannot maintain a magical world's internal logic unless magic is described as inherently dangerous and thus best left to a few powerful or foolish individuals. As soon as your campaign has commercial magic carpet airlines and self cleaning toilet bowls, it collapses.

    1. You can avoid commercial aircarpet lines by the danger factor you mention but how much danger is there is in a spell to clean your breaath, stop toothache, or a cure for hemmoroids (all things magic and prayer hhave been used for historically)?
      Hair decoarting imps, a miniature salamnder in the fireplace, and a an enchanted broom to sweep the lab all have ficitional roots and creae play opportunities.


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