Natural Magic

for use with Fudge and Gramarye

(NB: This is an unplaytested draft).

This is a system I created for a setting where magic is seen as just another part of nature, and is integral part of the struggle between good and evil.

My system relies on characters to enhance their skills with art and knowledge of the unseen world, and to achieve levels of mastery that modern folk would consider magical, such as ballads that bring visions to the eyes of the listeners. This I call "Everyday Magic". Some magical efffects (such as turning yourself into a bear, or unlocking a box) cannot be simulated by this, and for those I will adapt the "Gramarye" improvisational magic system. The Gramarye has the advantages of being well known and tested, and not requiring the creation of long lists of spells. This I call "Spellcasting".

The same learnt Skills and innate Abilities should underlie both systems. The two should shade into each other, so that preternaturally good singing really can cast a spell that aneathetises the enemy army. Everyday Magic can make Spellcasting easier.

Everyday Magic

Characters with relevant magical Abilities (Command, Protect, Sight, Lore, Art) can bring their understanding of the magical world to their other skills, and give them a preternatural edge. This is similar to S John Ross's hedge magic rules for rural medieval Russian magic. Whereas mundane skills have the standard Fudge trait levels:

Terrible Poor Mediocre Fair Good Great Superb Legendary

A skill enhanced with everyday magic can gain extra effectiveness, and rise to these levels:

Terrible Poor Mediocre Fair Good Great Superb Epic Mythic Enchanted Magical

The Skill and Ability levels for new characters still need to pass the reality check of the GM. If in your game skills gained with experience cost exponentially higher costs once they rise past the relevant Ability level, then experience costs only rise when the Skill level passes both the munane and magical Ability levels.

The magical Abilities are interpreted broadly for the purposes of letting a character use Everyday Magic. There is more information about those abilities in the Traits section, below.

The Everday Magic levels are, like the usual trait levels, equally spaced. Their practical effects obey the scale rules, even though they might have obviously magical "special effects". Everday Magic cannot do anything substantially and qualitatively different to mundane skills. It is quantitatively more effective.

An Enchanted blow from an elf is still around as effective as a Good blow from a large ogre with a +5 weapon. But someone who was looking at the elf (rather than the immediate threat to their own safety) would notice the sword darting through deathly skin and unseen sinew like a fork through yesterday's compost, whereas the ogre is simply a mundane big hitter.

A bard has the "Storytelling" skill at the level Enchanted. Although he can tell stories that convince people for a few moments at a time that they can see the participants in the story, so much so that they will agree afterwards on the details of appearance, the effect is to tell a better story, not to convince the listeners that something is there when it is not there.

As the everday magic skill levels increase, they shift further into the obviously magical:


I'm not quite sure how this is going to work. I suspect it will change radically in playtesting.

Spellcasting is based on the Gramarye, a noun and verb mana-powered improvisational magic system of the Ars Magica ilk. To summarise, the caster needs magical skills in both what they can do (verb-skills), and the things they do it to (noun-skills), and rolls on the lowest relevant skill for a particular spell. Spells are powered by magical energy, called "mana". The mana cost of the spell is calculated with the help of some tables. Spells can be held in the forefront of a caster's mind until let loose. The caster can trade difficulty against mana cost, and use time, material components, and other elements of sympathetic magic to help power to spell.

In any decent fantasy setting, magical energy is not distinguished from physical energy. These rules will call it "Power". Casters do not store it, but are wearied by spells that challenge their abilities. Casters let loose spells immediately - they do not store cast spells ready for release. Either Everyday Magic skills or Magical Abilities can be used as verb-skills, to supply the expertise in what the caster is doing. The "noun-skills" are a set of specialised magical skills, representing knowledge of the magical aspects of creation. Mundane knowledge of the target can still augment ability and lower the power cost. Spells that require knowledge of two different things (to turn one thing into anotherk, for example), might use more than one relevant noun-skill.

Power Costs

Compared with the Gramarye, effects, range, damage, defence, wounds, and increased difficulty affect power costs normally.

The player should describe how tired or injured their character is willing to get in order to see the spell cast before attempting it. Each of the following health levels pays two power points:

Appropriate props usually don't decrease the cost. Some spellcasters have magical creations that reduce their power cost (such as a staff). Other locations (such as ancient hillforts or standing circles) make magic, and sometimes only certain kinds of magic, innately easier and lower the power cost by as much as four points. Familiarity, affinity, and ancient bonds with particular areas can similarly lower the mana cost.

Although some spells can require long rituals, this should be the exception, not an easy way of reducing cost, and the player should describe exactly what their character is doing with the time and why preparation time helps. The GM is encouraged to limit the power value of long rituals, or extended everyday magic, to low point values.

The manner of casting varies from caster to caster and spell to spell. Many effects, from honeyed words to healing herbs, melt into everyday magic. Still others appear to be an act of will grown out of close affinity. It should reflect the setting. If it the world was created by song, then casting by singing will be common. If it has a rich variety of languages, then ancient words of command may be common. If it was created from fire, then sacrificing material components in fire may be important.

The Gramarye sets a high penalty (doubling the cost) for casting without words or gestures. This does not allow those exceptional creaturs which wield an inner ability without them. The penalty can be waived, therefore, for spells that only affect the caster when the caster has at least Superb skill in all relevant traits or skills (not merely those being used for the spell), and a Merit to allow for casting that particular spell without words or gestures.

When a Spell is an extension of Everyday Magic (such as a song, or a blade that captures the light of the moon itself), then the success of the Everyday Magic can pay part of the power cost. The player should make a roll for the Everday Magic before rolling for Spellcasting. For every level above Superb, one point of the power cost is paid.

Spell failure

Characters decide when to stop casting a spell that has become too burdensome, by which time it is too late to recover any lost strength. Players decide when casting how much fatigue and health (see the levels above) they are willing to spend on the spell. They only use what the spell needs, but might waste all of it. Spell failure results in either increasing the fatigue cost until either the power cost is paid or the players "maximum bid" is reached, or reducing the spell effects until the power cost is affordable. Or both.


Some magical items can take part of their power from their creators, such that the destruction of the item would also weaken their creators. Item creation rules may follow, if I have time.


There are three kinds of magical traits. Firstly, there are skills enhanced with everyday magic. Secondly, there are the Magical Abilities, which are required for Everyday Magic and most Spells. Finally, there are the overtly magical skills, which are required for Spells.

Everyday Magic

These are used as verbs when they closely match the intention of a spell. The skills used need not even have reached beyond the munane levels of Superb, for there should be no real difference between the mundane and the magical, as long as the Magical Abilities suggest that the understanding of the skill reaches beyond the sight of normal men. Wilderness Survival, then, can be used with the understanding of fire, to start a fire without a tinder. The effect is similar in spirit to Hedge Magic, but at high levels can have some of the over the top effects (without any implication of the style) of Wuxia.

Magical Abilities

These rank alongside the other Abilities, such as Strength and Wisdom, in their importance (and point cost, and the difficulty of increasing them). They are needed for a range of related Everyday Magic skills, and used alongside or instead of Everday Magic skills to supply the understanding of what kind of change the Spellcasting intends to wrought. They are:

Whereas a magical ability can only be used in Spellcasting if it is directly relevant, Everday Magic allows more fleixibility to rely on a Magical Ability that is only tangentially related.
For example, an enchanted level of skill with Archery could be accomplished by seeing the unseen in the air, the bow, and the target (Sight), or by honing the physical form of the archer (Art). Alternatively, the archer could rely on Command to understand to strike things so they shatter, but this would have to be purchased as an extra damage merit for each weapon, and not improve accuracy.

Magical Skills

These are paid for as skills. They are needed for spellcasting, to supply an understanding of the magical nature of the thing being changed. Sometimes (such as turning one thing into another, itself a difficult spell), more than one Magical Skill will be needed.

Fudge by Steffan O'Sullivan. Gramarye by Carl D Craven. Middle Earth setting and situations by JRR Tolkien, and the relevant trademarks belong to his estate. Text © Ian McDonald 2002. Ian McDonald is not affiliated to Steffan O'Sullivan, or Carl D Craven.