Utility Magic

And when you're done with the basement you can clean the upstairs bathroom.

In many works, magic is something to blast things with and generally make stuff explode.

But not in this universe. In this universe, Mundane Utility isn't a secondary effect of all those awesome spells, but the primary one. The magic essentially has to do with things on the more mundane scale of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality, like Cleaning Magic, or Gardening Magic, or Paper-Filing Magic. Why modify that fireball spell to cook your hotdog, when you can just have a spell that does exactly that in the first place, and to your perfect specifications?

This can get as crazy as worlds where everything is done with a spell, from cooking to transportation to brushing your teeth. Another manifestation of this trope is where everyday things or tasks seem to be imbued with magic. It might be so subtly done that it leaves one wondering Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, especially in a Low Fantasy or Magic Realism work.

Either way, this kind of magic is somewhat prone to the What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? question, especially in works where the more ordinary (less ordinary?) way we view magic is also used. It happens pretty often though that this kind of magic can turn out to be Lethal Harmless Powers, when the user is pushed into a corner, implying that Heart Is an Awesome Power. If the ability is a personal power rather than a general spell the user might be recruited to the Hero's group for some particular task, or the character will improvise the uses of their power to match the situation using cleverness.

It should be noted that in worlds where there is some kind of Equivalent Exchange for performing magic, this kind of power appears much less often because the mundane nature of it can be performed without magic, and often times a mage, witch or wizard would rather just wash those dishes by hand then pay out the cost, whatever it might be.

Compare Mundane Utility and Martial Arts and Crafts, for the martial arts version. If the magic is incorporated into or used in conjunction with some kind of mechanical aspect, it might be Magitek.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the world of Fairy Tail, magic is a part of everyday life and "is bought and sold there everyday. It is an integral part of people's lives, and there are people who use magic as their occupation". In other words, it's used instead of technology.
  • Alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist. Granted, we see a lot of alchemy being used for fighting and blowing stuff up in the series, but that's primarily because we're following characters in the military. Alchemy has a ton of uses ranging from fixing broken appliances, to building things very quickly, to healing people... the list goes on and on. Since the official alchemist's creed is "alchemy is for the people," it's likely this is why most people become alchemists in the first place: To fix broken stuff.
  • In Slayers, Lina invented a spell for fishing; Amelia uses a spell for spraying on graffiti; one episode in the third season demonstrates the usefulness of magic in heavy construction work.
  • The lead of High School DD, Issei, creates his first two personalized spells to fit under this: Dress Break, which destroys the clothing of any female he can touch, and Bilingual, which allows him to communicate with a girl's breasts (did we mention he's a Lovable Sex Maniac?). Hilariously, he manages to invert Mundane Utility and find combat applications for these skills.
  • Loads and loads of spells into Ah! My Goddess can be used as this. The most notable instance are magic brooms, that can both fly at enormous speed and be used to clean (in fact that's the basic definition). Even Gluhen Des Herzen, that looks like a broom-shaped rocket but is actually a vacuum cleaner (much to Urd and Peorth's protests when they find out).

    Fan Works 
  • Game Theory (Fan Fic) has an entire magic style designed around constructing buildings and assembly line production.
  • The Dark Wars has a broken masquerade in the Harry Potter setting, leading to things like roads that self-heat to remove snow and tyres that never lose their grip.

    Films — Animation 
  • Most of the magic seen in Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle is used to keep the house together and moving. There is a magic war raging on, but most of it happens off screen. Howl and Markl also run a kind of magic "shop" out of the castle, selling useful spells and potions to customers for profit.
  • Merlin's higitus-figitus spell in The Sword in the Stone — good for packing, washing up, and other household chores.
  • Fantasia has a segment that features Mickey as The Sorcerer's Apprentice, using magic to do his chores. We're not really sure what the original intent of the spell is (is it an actual 'cleaning' spell or does it just make objects sentient?) so it might also be Mundane Utility. Ends pretty disastrously, either way, because Mickey forgot to add a stop condition for the brooms.
  • In Sleeping Beauty the fairies have avoided using magic while hiding Princess Aurora from Maleficent, but when they mess up preparations for her sixteenth birthday, they resort to magic for making a dress, baking a cake, and cleaning up after their previous attempt. Earlier in the film, they are also seen conjuring up some tea and crackers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Film version of Practical Magic, Sally Owens can be seen using a minor spell to make a spoon stir her coffee.
  • Disney's Mary Poppins. In the "Spoonful of Sugar" segment Mary and the children snap their fingers to clean up a room.
  • In Enchanted there is a scene where Giselle magically convinces the bugs in Robert's apartment to help her clean.
  • The film The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is loosely based on the Fantasia example, and also contains a mops-gone-wild scene.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell. Everyone can use magic, usually for completely normal activities.
  • In the Harry Potter films, any scene in the wizarding world will feature utility magic in the background for such tasks as sweeping or cooking. This is taken to eleven in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which Queenie cooks an entire meal using only magic.

  • Lone Wolf:
    • Kai-alchemy (which has nothing to do with mixing magic chemicals, just go with it) is full of utility spells that help you out in a pinch, but not so much combat magic (that would be Magi-magic, which at its highest level lets you do things like crush a man in armor like a paper cup).
    • Elementalism (the Kai version, not the Shianti version) lets you do a number of things with small amounts of flame, dust, water and puffs of air, so it too falls under the "Utility Magic" label.

  • The Wizard of 4th Street. When Merlin returns, magic does as well, but electricity vanishes. With everything run by magic, this trope is in full force. For example, to drive a taxi, the driver must repeatedly chant a mantra to keep the vehicle moving. Experienced cabbies are able to banter with passengers and chant the mantra at the same time.
  • In the Circle of Magic series, the main characters have 'Ambient magic' which is magic from everyday things, including thread magic, metal working magic, gardening magic and carpentry magic. Later books feature cooking, glass, carpentry, stone and dance magics.
  • Robin McKinley loves this trope.
    • In Rose Daughter, the main heroine has a supernatural talent for growing roses, which seem to have some magic of their own.
    • In Chalice, the primary vehicle of the heroine's magic is honey - she was a beekeeper prior to becoming a member of her demesne's Fisher Court. The most obvious effect of her magic for much of the story is that it makes her bees remarkably docile and productive, and her tiny farm supernaturally fruitful.
    • In Sunshine there is a minor character who has a very specialized minor magical talent: coffee that she pours is always hot.
  • Averted in Discworld with the witches: they use magic as little as possible, even for chores, preferring to use trickery and/or other people to do it. It shows how far Granny's gone when she magics the wheels of a cart, requiring a Bright Slap from Nanny. Played straight with the wizards, who indulge in Mundane Utility with it as well. Some younger wizards are also fond of Magitek, summoning miniature demons which are sold to the populace to act as cameras and personal organisers.
    • In one of the Tiffany Aching series, there is an advisory warning of a witch who tries to use household spells to enchant brooms and mops and buckets to do the dogsbody stuff for her, so she doesn't have to. As with the Disney film this is parodying, the tale does not end well: she loses not only the soles of her shoes but also several toes to over-enthusiastic cleaning from rogue magic that doesn't know when to stop.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novella Magic, Inc. has magic being used on a regular basis for mundane purposes, such as construction work.
  • In the Harry Potter books, wizards have roughly the same standards of living as muggles did in the '50s (radio but no TV or internet). Except they use magic for everything beyond medieval technology.
  • The entire Magical Land of Xanth runs off of this. And puns. Often at the same time.
  • Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei describe mostly the magically strongest region of the World of Rod. Not only mages used to hang out where they are more powerful, but all locals use low-grade magic for everything and are spoiled rotten, having a very vague idea of living without telepathic communication and kitchen spells. Their equivalent of tea is almost undrinkable without magic, and houses are ready for living only when enchanted so that inhabitants never suffer from splinters, stumble on doorsteps, etc. Away from Heart Of The World magic gets harder, so... A lady from the capitol who can't afford servants will not stay in a remote province simply because she "used to have fat never spluttering from the pan and to crack nuts by poking them with a finger".
  • In Sherwood Smith's Inda series, the protagonists' culture primarily uses magic for waste-disposal, Fantasy Contraception, and similarly mundane tasks.
  • This is how magic is used in the Lord Darcy books. It many cases, magical devices will take the place of some sort of mundane technology in our world, e.g. the magical "preservator" chest that acts like a refrigerator, the magical "tracers", the forensic tests, and at least one equivalent of a super-powered smoke bomb. There are also magical ways of sensing sociopathic and other tendencies and restraining them, kindly but firmly. Darcy's top-secret light source, on the other hand, is clearly just a battery-powered flashlight, although magic is used to make the bulb, and ensure only he can use it; the teleson (telephone equivalent) is likewise a technological device that everyone thinks of as an unusual kind of magic.
  • Furycrafting in Codex Alera has several military and commercial uses. This is due largely to it being used in place of just about any kind of technology.
  • This is also the case in Jim Butcher's other series, The Dresden Files. Harry comments frequently that most wizards specialize in mundane spells that are more useful in everyday life, and that evocation magic (a.k.a. magic that goes boom) is not only of incredibly limited use outside of combat, but is extraordinarily difficult to use. Even White Council wizards typically don't specialize in combat magic (aside from the Wardens, since it's their job to kick ass).
    • For instance, Harry, one of the strongest wizards in the world in terms of raw magic power, states that his true specialty is not evocation magic, but thaumaturgic magic, such as tracking spells that let him find lost items (which is of great help in his work as a PI).
    • Probably the most frequent example of utility magic is Harry's invocation to light candles; "Flickum Bicus."
    • At the climax of the first book, he briefly uses a cleaning spell on a bog-standard broom to sweep up some scorpions about to attack him.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, the Aes Sedai have a rule that their pupils may not use magic for chores, partly to build character and also because magic is highly addictive; however, full sisters do it from time to time. The Ashaman, on the other hand, are focused on becoming as magically competent as possible before it drives them mad, and so are required to use it for absolutely everything.
  • Incarnations of Immortality has an Earth where magic was always used publicly (and never went away); technology was eventually invented, resulting in such odd things as car salesmen competing with Flying Carpet salesmen.
  • Rhymes with Witches has a high school coven of witches who use their power to become the most popular girls in school.
  • In the world of The Balanced Sword magic is used for many things that we use technology for: air conditioning, burglar alarms, surveillance, locks, printing...
  • The Young Ancients has a magitek industrial revolution, where sure, lots of magic devices are made with combat applications. But far more are along the line of magic water pumps, filters, flight, moving cargo, construction, refrigeration and cooking. Tor's first magic device is an instant clothes-dryer, and while one student mocks him for it, others are quick to point out how profitable such a thing can be.
  • Magic in the Young Wizards series is based on asking the universe (or smaller things) to do things for you. It works well for combat, but it's at least as useful for mundane things. The protagonists have used magic for everything from fighting the Lone Power directly to finding a lost pen, teleporting to a friend's house, or fixing a stuck damper that's blocking the air conditioning.
  • In The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, part of what causes The End of the World as We Know It when magic disappears because of a Fantastic Nuke is that most people have a little bit of magic and became reliant on it in their work. They used magic to keep food from spoiling or drive away farm pests, and buildings and seawalls reinforced with magic to cover construction errors and corner-cutting often collapsed when the magic was lost. Some people are less handicapped than others: Blaine's magic just made him a slightly better swordsman and Verran's better at picking locks, which they compensate for by practicing more.
  • Very common in the One Rose Trilogy. Roughly 25% of the population of the nation of Adara have magical powers of some kind (usually one power apiece), and those powers are an everyday part of life. Yes, there are people who can throw fire and lightning around, but they actually get less respect than those who can perform truly "useful" magics, like healing, farspeaking, controlling winds (a true boon for sailors), and baking bread that will never go bad. Adara's ruler in the first two books got the job at least partly because she can magically detect lies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • When Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer began using magic this way, it was a clear sign that she'd become over-reliant on her magic powers and that they were starting to corrupt her.
  • Played with on Charmed where on the one hand, selfish use of the witches' magic tends to lead to immediate and usually ironic punishment from the universe (lottery ticket goes blank, love spell attracts all the men) and there's even a Bad Future with modern witch-hunts all started because the women used magic to punish an obnoxious neighbor. On the other hand, the universe never seems to object to their using their powers for mundane chores or to escape awkward situations, which often happen once or twice an episode.
  • The Magicians: It's a Running Gag that a lot of magic is actually pretty boring. On career day the most famous magician who came to the school was a magical foot doctor, one episode sees the students being taught a spell to drive a nail into wood perfectly, and Nate Silver has published a number of spells for accurate polls and approval ratings.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS Technomancer. Magic is used for mass market consumer products, such as electronics.
  • Dungeons & Dragons. For the most part, (A)D&D tends to avert this. Dungeon Masters are repeatedly advised not to let magic be treated as if it were technology. This is usually justified as being intended to preserve the mystique of magic from the perspective of the general public, as well as maintain a Medieval style setting. While "general-purpose" utility spells and magic items can be found in the books in each edition, the focus is always decidedly on combat and (sometimes highly specialized) adventuring applications.
    • Cantrips are the lowest level of mage spells, useful for lighting a candle, cleaning items or sorting out a group of objects. Aside of cantrips, back from the Basic version it had spells like Read Languages, Magic Mouth and Floating Disc, later adding spells such as Unseen Servant and Mending. And, of course, spells like Telekinesis, Stone Shape and Wall of Stone/Iron are powerful construction tools while Control Weather gives an advantage worth its high level in agriculture or sailing and occasionally becomes useful in almost any activity outdoors.
    • The Greyhawk setting had spells such as Bigby's Dextrous Digits (magical hands for performing tasks requiring fine touch) and Drawmij's Beast of Burden (lightens the load on the back of a pack animal).
    • Forgotten Realms added more spells like Quimby's Enchanting Gourmet (Unseen Servant improved so that it cooks on its own) and Nchaser's Glowing Globe (controlled permanent glow-lamp). It also has historic examples in Netheril and Imaskar — Netheril relied on a combination of every Netherese having some minor non-combat magic (called 'cantras') along with the mythallar, a kind of orb which allowed the use of quasimagical items (quasimagical items being items who acted as magical within a mythallar's mile-radius field, but not outside, the upside being that they were much less draining to make for an arcanist) to make it practical within its famous flying cities, while Imaskar's focus on dimensional magic resulted in the elite mages of that society using portals and space-time trickery for some relatively mundane applications (like fresh water and recycling air by means of inverted No Flow Portals to the Elemental Planes of Water and Air).
    • However, the Eberron setting uses Utility Magic on a society-wide scale. Use of Magitek is widespread and "working class" spellcasters such as magewrights earn their livings by providing everyday spellcasting services. There is even a spell called Magecraft, whose sole function is to improve the quality of products being created by ordinary craftsmen. The dragonmarked houses are basically corporations whose role in society is to provide magic-based services up to and including the mass-production of consumer goods using magical methods. Thus the market prices for many goods (such as swords) is fixed because House Cannith, with controls magical manufacturing, has imposed standardized pricing.
  • Mage: The Awakening enforces an aversion in the rules for mages who wish to keep a high Wisdom score - use of magic for mundane tasks dings the mage's Wisdom, as they are so full of themselves that they'll use the transcendent essence of creation to do the laundry rather than get off their butts, and a mage's biggest enemy is his own hubris. It's not a severe act of hubris, though, and you can still be a respectable and humble mage who likes to get the simple stuff out of the way faster so they can get on to business.
  • Exalted has several Charms and Sorcery spells of mundane use, but Thaumaturgy is notable in having no combat use whatsoever. It's mostly only good for fortune telling, enchanting artifacts, and summoning First Circle demons.
  • In the 2nd edition of Ironclaw magic is largely oriented around combat but there are some utility spells. Thaumaturgy is half Counterspells and the other half are utility. Ranging from simply making light to Astral Projection (upgraded to teleportation) and tracking and locking doors. Elementalists in general can perform minor stunts with matter and master Air or Water Elementalists can control the weather. Green and Purple mages communicate telepathically and read minds. Necromancers can speak with the dead.
  • Rifts has a variety of utility magics, particularly the Techno-Wizard core class, who is focused around enchanting advanced technology, his stone age counterpart the Eco-Wizard, the magic blacksmith Mystic Kuznya class, and the entire Shaman family of spellcasters (Shaman, Medicine Man, Rainmaker, Priest, Old Believer, Druid, Sea Druid etc.)who largely protect communities from evil spirits, healing and doing things like make farmland more productive or call down the rains.

    Video Games 
  • One of the first uses of Psynergy in Golden Sun? "Catch", a power for grabbing stuff in hard-to-reach places. Dora uses it to get Isaac's cloak for him in the prologue, Isaac uses it in the intro to patch holes in the roof, and when you have it, its primary use is picking fruit and nuts from trees. (Dark Dawn revised this into Grip, a power mainly used for Le Parkour but which retains Mundane Utility.)
    • The Lost Age gives us Parch (dries out waterlogged areas), Blaze (lights torches), Tremor (knocks things down from high places), and Scoop (dig holes). (Parch and Blaze were replaced in Dark Dawn by powers which retain their use as Mundane Utility)
    • There are also a wide variety of Psynergy powers in the series whose purpose is basically to get debris out of a traveler's way, or to bridge gaps. Many of these have no combat utility whatsoever.
  • The Quest for Glory series has a full range of utility magic, including the spells of Fetch, Open, Detect Magic, and Trigger, the last of which is simply used to set off any already existing enchantments. Indeed, some of the more clever puzzles require a unique way to use these mundane spells.
  • King's Quest: This is the majority of spells Alexander knows how to cast. The most lethalspells he knows are how to create rainstorms. It's still proven useful for killing dragons, overthrowing evil sorcerers, escaping pirates, and even challenging Death and winning.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has tons of magical spells in about twenty trees, and most of the trees have at least one utility spell in them (typically the weakest, first-level spell) or else the whole tree will be full of nice utility effects. In fact it's rare for a tree to be solely dedicated to such prosaic things like combat. Effects could include sustained stat boosts, lockpicking/sealing, traversal spells, or so on.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV thaumaturgy can be used to fight, blasting enemies with the power of the elements... but that's actually its secondary purpose. It was originally designed for — and is still used for — ritually cleansing and preserving corpses.
  • While actual utility spells that the player characters can use is rare in the Might and Magic series (mostly limited to old-standbys like Torchlight, which gives off light like a torch), it's a recurring element in the old New World Computing setting if you take the time to read dialogues and item-descriptions, mostly in the form of Magitek (for instance, the description for one type of plate-armour in VII mentions that it is made in forges enchanted to be hotter. Another example is that VI mentions that enchantments limiting wear and tear are so basic that they are incorporated into most everything and don't block off further more complicated enchantment.
  • The Ultima series, and Ultima VII in particular, is the undisputed video game king of this trope. You can find a complete list of spells, along with some very colourful descriptions, here (part I) and here (part II). Some highlights include Ignite, which lights any flammable object, Awaken, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin, False Coin, which allows you to be a huge Jerk Ass to merchants, and Fireworks, which is bloody useless (pretty, though).
  • In The Elder Scrolls, spells which fall under the Alteration attribute are almost entirely this - Levitation (Morrowind only), opening locks, increasing the amount of weight you can carry, night eye and light spells, water walking and breathing, etc. The teleportation spells (again, Morrowind only) offered by the school of Mysticism also have some extremely utilitarian uses. (Zapping out of danger, allowing you to move while over-encumbered, etc.)

    Web Comics 
  • Magic World from the webcomic City of Reality is full of this. It looks just like modern-day Earth, in fact, they just use magic instead of electricity. So the beautician uses magic to make your hair color change, or they use magic to make cars float an inch off the ground to drive around, and so on.
  • El Goonish Shive has a lot of utility magic. Such as cosmetic shapeshifting.
  • A lot of the trappings of The Dragon Doctors resembles modern-day Earth, and magic is often used as a more-advanced equivalent of modern technology. Voluntary Shapeshifting is a faster, more-complete form of plastic surgery, Instant Sedation is due to magic sedatives, the Akashic Records are like a shamanism-internet, and so on.
  • Errant Story has the city Meji comes from. There's a door-opening spell (which doesn't work as it should because it's getting old!), routine magic facelifts, and other mundane boring stuff done by magic.
  • Kirkwall in Blindsprings has an early 1900s approach when it comes to technology because Academy Magic is everywhere, and used for things like protection or to even display the lights.

    Western Animation 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rarity's magic is mostly useful for things like sewing, and Twilight Sparkle, although she can do more impressive magic, mostly uses hers for things like turning pages and writing. In fact, it's implied that most unicorn magic works for things like this. Unicorn magic seems to be divided into basic telekinesis and actual spells. The former is mostly used when a human would use their hands, which is obviously mostly for everyday stuff. As for the latter, it has been said outright that most unicorns only learn a few spells directly connected to their Cutie Mark (i.e. destiny/special talent). Most ponies' Cutie Marks aren't connected to violence. The single example of combat magic we have seen comes from Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle's brother, but he is a Magic Knight by profession and his cutie mark is a shield, so him casting massive defensive spells (large enough to protect the whole capital from an invading army) is only in line with the above rules.
  • In The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender, bending clearly has battle purposes, but in peaceful settings is almost more useful. Earth-Bending is used to deliver mail, move trains, and buildings. When metal-bending becomes more common it helps with the construction of sky-scrapers and other machines. Fire-bending is great for warming food, welding, and powering combustion engines, while many lightning-benders get jobs at the local power-plant. Water-bending has been used for filtering dirty water, as well as healing and can create buildings in the North and South poles.
  • In Trollz, thanks to Simon stealing a lot of magic in the past, magic in the present-day Trollzopolis is mainly used for convenience and getting around. Most technology is magic-powered to some degree, including spell phones, watches, and Skoots.
  • In Winx Club magic can be used as this, even if sometimes it can verge into laziness by using magic for something they could do by themselves. Faragonda once even warned her fairy students against using magic for something such as scrambled eggs-with Griffin (a witch) suggesting instead to brainwashing someone to do it.