D&D General Cozy Sunday Discussion: Everyday Magic In Your World


We spend a lot of time, design space, and word count on "adventuring magic" -- that is, monsters, PC abilities and spells, strange phenomena and so on. But most D&D worlds are infused with day to day magic, from enchanted plants and animals to hedge wizardry and domestic alchemy.

What are some examples of everyday magic from your world? Are there ever burning torches lighting the streets? Does the baker sell goodberry scones to get your day started right? Do the wealthy have portal portapotties?

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He / Him
This is D&D adjacent, but we've been pushing this in our Ironsworn game. As part of the start of a new game, you establish some truths in this fantasy viking world. We chose that ritual magic is accessible to everyone and very common. I created a random generator for rituals, so now when we come to a new community, we generate a magic ritual that most folks there can do.

There have been some really neat results. One farming community sends their warriors out to sing a keen over all the enemies they have slayed, and it helps the new crops sprout in the Spring. A settlement of raiders paints their faces with ash and blood, and it increases the wealth of those they raid. Another settlement made runes from shadows on the trunk of a big tree, and could use it to foretell the future.

Having different settlements have different rituals makes each place really memorable and interesting.

I could see doing the same in a D&D campaign. It doesn't have to be that everyone in Red Village can cast Control Flame, but maybe it's just a common cantrip most people can cast. How does that change things? Why is that important to them? It could create some really interesting opportunities for world building, NPCs, and adventures.


In my current campaign, I have special fey commonly known as Mungers, that derive their sustenance from spreading rumors, requiring both rumors that have a basis in truth as well as falsehood. These annoying little buggers are almost impossible to keep out, and you never know when one will whisper something in your ear.

Basically, I have a sheet that I give out to my players at the start of each session with, among other things, 3 or so rumors overheard from the Mungers. At least one of the rumors is always true. They're free to investigate or ignore the rumors as they see fit, but attentive players have often found useful clues. And, in at least one case, a false rumor lead to a grand snipe hunt that ultimately resulted in the PCs tracking down and making a deal with a major crime boss who hadn't even been on their radar.


In the past, I have had homunculi be ubiquitous. Everyone had a little weirdo helper patterned after their id running around delivering messages, performing errands, and the like. They weren't really sentient but were a really good "ai" of the individual, but with ticks and strange habits. I planned for there to be a big secret behind them, like they were the spearhead of an invasion or something, but never did and am happier that I didn't. They are better as a funky setting element than an adventure seed, I think.

I also like a lot of the ubiquitous tech-like magic from Eberron and similar settings, where street lights and vehicles and such are enchanted items. i don't particularly care for steampunk, but I do like magitech.


Uncomfortably diegetic
In my current classless 5e game, knowledge of alchemy and sygaldry (runes) is common, and gated behind proficiency in Arcana (expertise for stronger effects). I’m definitely borrowing quite a bit from Name of the Wind for it. :)

So objects like crates of dimensional holding are common, runes of freshness and buoyancy make unsinkable storage barrels, and potions to heal minor diseases and small traumas are readily available.

Actually making these items also requires uncommon to rare reagents, often acquired from sorcerous beasts or plants growing dangerous mana-rich areas. This lets me invoke a lot of magical effects in the story but also controls their proliferation, similar to how dragonshards serve as a magic controlling narrative in Eberron.


While PC classes are the exception to magic users, various types of ritual magic are quite ubiquitous in my world to the extent that people don't even know they're doing magic. So the blacksmith hums a tune and follows a pattern handed down to him while making a knife and the knife never rusts and stays sharp longer than it should. The baker's cookies really are magically delicious and their bread stays fresh longer. People can go to the local herbalist and get effective medicine so, for example, childhood mortality is dramatically reduced. Most homes have at least one source of magical light because even though it's expensive having a 100% safe light that lasts literally forever is game changing.

But it goes beyond that. People heal faster because their bodies take advantage of magic. So that broken leg that would normally heal in 6 months instead takes 6 weeks. People don't realize they heal faster because to them, it's just normal. I still use gritty rest rules because, along with reasons of pacing, because it still takes time to recuperate. It's just much faster. Other supernatural things are, if not common, not particularly surprising. Innocuous house spirits are relatively common, that piece of equipment that's particularly stubborn may indeed be inhabited by an elemental.

But it also explains stagnation of technology and some of the oddities of D&D. Gold is more common because some alchemists really did learn to turn lead into gold, but there's still a cost to the transformation. Technology has stagnated in some ways, why create a steam engine when you can create a golem that, again, will last forever with minimal maintenance barring accident. Meanwhile those steam engines need special protection lest steam mephits decide it would be a fun "home". Crops grow faster and are harvested slightly more effectively, getting close to crop yields we see with modern fertilizer.

On the other hand, I don't go to Eberron levels of magi-tech. There are no magical railroads, while there is the occasional flying ship they're rare. The wealthiest people might have a carriage pulled by magical horses if they want ostentatious displays of wealth but even for the wealthy it's rare.

Magic is pretty ubiquitous in my campaign world, but it's mostly in small ways that serve to aid people in their everyday lives.


I didn't want to have to "invent" bathroom plumbing for my well-to-do noblemen's manors, but I also didn't want them to have to dump out the contents of their latrines. So I created a variant of dust of dryness, and made the creation cost fairly low - enough that hedge mages can crank the stuff out and make enough money selling it to keep them in business. There's a bag of this dust in the bathrooms of most manors; when a pinch of it is sprinkled onto the contents of the toilet, it reduces the waste material to a pea-sized pellet. It only affects water and bodily wastes and the pellet thus formed dissolves into nothingness on its own within about a day. That and some incense in the bathroom and most manor house bathrooms are good to go.



Uncomfortably diegetic
Magic is pretty ubiquitous in my campaign world, but it's mostly in small ways that serve to aid people in their everyday lives.
Agreed. From our modern perspective, life throughout most of history just sucked. I use magitech so I don’t have to imagine my PCs and NPCs living in a world where the streets are awash in filth, minor cuts can easily kill, and infant mortality is 20% or more.

If a part of the setting sucks, I want it to be because of manticore attacks or magical curses, not dysentery.

Along roads through regions without proper settlements where one might find shelter, the high temples of the nation have set up small shrines every three miles, which create a sanctuary effect and repel undead and extraplanar creatures, so travelers might sleep easily.

You must make some sort of offering at the shrine to empower its magic, but this could just be something of thematic significance, like plucking a rock from your shoe to offer to the god of minor misfortunes.


I haven't managed to put it in my world yet, but I like the way the Lord Darcy books by Randall Garrett does it. Iirc things like magic lights and magic door locks don't last forever and there are guilds that do upkeep on them. They also have specialists who have studied how to take care of various other issues, but they each aren't Swiss army knife style casters.

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