One of things that has been on my mind as I flesh out my own campaign world is how magic is used in the daily world. Is the world low magic? High magic? Are wizards rare and selfish, or tradesmen who work like any other guild? Those questions led me down the road to look for non-combat spells that could be used outside of the adventure, for just daily life.
Why Mess With Non-Combat Spells?
Good question. In a lot of ways, The Fantasy Trip did not look at magic at that level–there’s magic for adventuring, for combat and for magic item creation. Maybe they would have gotten around to that if Metagaming and Steve Jackson could have stayed together. Who knows.
But that lack of non-combat spells leaves some big holes in the magic system used by TFT. Other games from D&D to GURPS have them, because they fill a role. They may be the spells that players skip right over to get to Fireball and Control Person, but they really do fill a need.
What is that need? Life. The world around the characters does not stand still, and the players need to see that. Unless your campaign is just about being murder hobos and fighting in arena combats, things happen outside the PCs. What are those things? Well, some of them are the ways that magic is used to live–and improve–daily life. And in a medieval-type world, daily life revolves around food.
OK, but so what? Well, there are two big Whats: One, the way magic is used in food production drives a lot of the depth of your campaign world. While a non-magically influenced world may be historically accurate, it is also boring. Look at the way technology has influenced our culture’s development over time. Technology and magic are not interchangeable, but the trend of using what is available to improve the world around him is a basic human trait. A world where people have used magic to improve harvests and livestock production is not only more “believable” but also more fun.
Two, these spells and the way they are used provide a great source of story hooks. How is the harvest going? What is killing the crops? What is killing the livestock? Why are the normal spells not working? Who has a grudge? All of these plot threads could be small or large, whatever you want. The point is they are there.
What Exists Now?
So that being said, what already exists in TFT? Here are the canon ones I could see:
Detect/Analyze Magic. These basic spells can be used to determine if any bad magics have been used against any crops or livestock.
Detect Life. Another good, basic spell to determine if any plants are really alive or not.
Fire. A good, basic spell for everyday life.
Control Animal. A great spell for farmers or drivers. I would imagine a lower power of this spell could be used to simply calm domestic animals with no saving roll, too.
Repair. Another great spell for farmers or drivers. Hey, things break. Instead of welding, famers could pay the local wizard to simply mend the broken parts.
Control/Create Elemental. This may be a stretch, but using elementals to do things like clear fields, form dikes or build earthen fences seems like a very practical thing to do (if not a little dangerous).
But that’s really it. There are just not a lot of spells that could be used for food production, craft production, etc. Is there something we can do to fill in those holes, just a little bit? Absolutely! Here are a few:
PLANT FERTILITY: (S) [AD&D, HOW] Doubles output of 1 hectare (about 2.5 acres) for 1 harvest cycle. Will not make barren land produce harvests. Caster has a +3 to DX if he also has the Farmer mundane talent. Cost to cast: 7 ST per hectare. Time to cast: 5 minutes.
PURIFY FOOD: (S) [AD&D, GURPS] Removes any contamination, foreign objects or poisons from 1 meal for 1 person. This spell will not make the food taste any better–just make it edible and wholesome. ST cost: 1 ST. Time to cast: 3 turns.
ANIMAL FERTILITY: (S) [inthelabyrinth.org] Doubles the ability of the subject animal to have offspring for 1 cycle. The number of offspring an animal can have per year depends on the type of animal. Will not make barren animals produce offspring. Caster receives a +3 to DX if he also has the Vet talent. Cost to cast: 5 ST per animal. Time to cast: 5 minutes.
PREDICT WEATHER: (S) [AD&D, GURPS] Accurately predicts the natural weather in the surrounding area. Area must be visible to the wizard. This spell does not predict any future influence by magic on the weather! ST cost: 2 ST per day of prediction, up to 4 days. Time to cast: 6 turns.
One more thing… AD&D has a spell called “Ceremony.” This is not the same spell as the TFT IQ 15 Ceremonial Magic spell. This is a very basic spell that wizardly priests could use as part of various rituals throughout daily life. It could be simple background color–or even a story hook for an adventure in itself. I started to add it here, because it ties very well in with the theme of daily life. I decided to leave it out because the explanation started to get pretty long. I’ll write that up in a separate article.
There are more spells than these that could be created to show depth in any campaign world. Whether you want to give your world a lived-in feel, give your characters some background color or just develop some story hooks for future adventures, spells & magics along these lines will help.
What have you done in your campaigns for non-combat spells or magics? Let me know!