Four By Five Magic

Four-By-Five magic is a system designed for FUDGE, although it has been adapted to other systems like FATE System, Microlite20 and Amber Diceless RPG. The system uses an verb-noun method to classify spells, much as Ars Magica does. It was originally written by Steffan O'Sullivan in 1999 for 5-point FUDGE. Since this is a wiki article, this article is a corruption enhancement of the original.

A magician learns words of power, spoken by the creator(s) to bring the world into being. It's not enough to duplicate the sound, the magician must also flex their spirit to pronounce the correct "sound" equivalent in the local ether. This emits an effect that local reality cannot ignore.

In FUDGE, a magician knows all the words except "Control" and "Spirit", which they only learn if they spend at least 3 points in the Magic skill group. In Microlite20 or d20/OGL, a starting wizard would know 3 words and gain another word every 3 levels, but "Control" must be the last action word and "Spirit" must be the last realm word. Ars Magica has five "techniques" and ten "forms," which combine in similar ways described here, so you could call it "Five by Ten Magic" except that making up spell effects on-the-fly is discouraged.

The effectiveness of a spell depends on how much mana is invested in the spell, or the margin of success made on a magery skill roll.

What about Vancian magic? Try this option: give the magic-user 150% as many spell-slots as normal, each which can be occupied by one word, rounding up to the closest even number. Spells need two words to be cast so this reduces the # of spells per day, but spells are much more flexible so it's meant to balance out.



There are nine words of power. Spells are usually an action (verb) and a realm (noun) together. Below are also the words in Latin in case you want to get all Harry Potter. (Don't forget that Latin puts the verb after the nouns. In Latin, object is marked with the accusative case — that is, for you neckbeards who don't care about linguistics, you can put verb and noun anywhere as long as you change the word accordingly: therefore nāvitās → nāvitātem. This, of course, is made difficult due to the translation being half-assed at best.)

The Four Actions:

  • Communicate with (dēferō): Read, Seek, Inform, Sense, Determine, Understand, etc.
  • Diminish (īnfirmō): Weaken, Damage, Injure, Reduce, Break, Dull, Deteriorate, etc.
  • Enhance (augeō): Strengthen, Heal, Enlarge, Repair, Sharpen, etc
  • Control (temperō): Shape, Hold, Command, Form, Direct, Dictate, etc.
(only after mastering the other actions can a magician learn to properly use the Control word).

The Five Realms:

  • Body (corpus): Living body of sentient beings, animals, plants.
  • Energy (navitus): Fire, wind, electricity, motion, sonic - and if the GM is willing, time.
  • Matter (materium): Solid material with no mind - stone, metal, wood, leather, paper, plastic.
  • Mind (mentus): That which normally inhabits and animates/motivates an aware creature.
  • Spirit (animus): That which motivates the living but no longer inhabits a body, or never did, or what unnaturally inhabits a body, item or location.
(only after mastering the other realms can a magician learn to properly use the Spirit word).

(Water overlaps Energy and Matter realms: vapor or liquid water would be Energy, because you're altering its motion, but ice or stagnant water would be Matter.)

These combine into twenty spell effects.


There are only 20 possible utterances with these words of power, but this doesn't limit the magical effects to only 20 possible effects; each spell is a description of the effect the magic-user wishes to create, with embellishments made by the context of the spell, pointing, gestures, ritually carved sticks or patterns on the floor, etc. Most of the time these props are not necessary, but help the wizard to concentrate and make her command clearly understood by the cosmos.

The potency of a spell's effects depends on how much mana is invested in emitting the words of power, or by the margin of success in a magery/spellcraft skill roll, or the target number/ difficulty class you're willing to risk. The original rules mentioned four levels of effectiveness for each spell (followed by their d20SRD equivalents):

  • Fair (standard) potency spells cause events that don't seem like magic to most people, but are nonetheless caused by a magician.
  • Good (extraordinary) potency spells are events that are possible but extremely unlikely.
  • Great (spell-like) potency spells are events most people will acknowledge could only be caused by magic; however, these are relatively minor, one-off effects.
  • Superb (supernatural) potency spells are events that everyone will admit could be caused only by major magic.
(In the effects, it mentions "levels", which has a different meaning in FUDGE than it would in d20 systems. FUDGE uses a bell-curve for success rolls, so +1 level for FUDGE could be +1 to +4 for d20.)

Communicate/Sense SpellsEdit

  • Sense Body: “Read” an opponent, determine skill level, diagnose, determine whereabouts, etc.
    • Fair: discover an opponent's skill level by the way he holds his sword
    • Good: diagnose the most difficult disease accurately
    • Great: look at person and know their physical skills, including levels, at +/-1 accuracy
    • Superb: sense when a specific person walks into a room in the same city
  • Sense Energy: Sense types of energy, clairvoyance, psychometry, foresee, etc.
    • Fair: sense which rooms in the inn you are at have a lit fire
    • Good: hear words spoken into the wind at the other end of the ship
    • Great: feel the personality of the last person to use an object
    • Superb: sense when magic is being used in a castle yonder
  • Sense Matter: Sense type of matter, seek out closest of a given type, determine quality, strength, etc.
    • Fair: sense the quality of a sword by touching it.
    • Good: determine how much money a person is carrying
    • Great: “imprint” your signature on an object - be aware of who touches it over the next week
    • Superb: locate the nearest quantity of gold within a mile
  • Communicate with Mind: Telepathy, both read and send, languages. May be Opposed by Willpower.
    • Fair: stare into a person's eyes and convey a two-word message without speaking or moving.
    • Good: send a silent message to someone in the same room.
    • Great: read surface thoughts of a subject
    • Superb: read a person's desires
  • Communicate with Spirit: Communicate with spirits, summon. May be Opposed by the Spirit's Willpower.
    • Fair: (no such thing as a "typical" communication with spirit)
    • Good: ask a spirit “yes” or “no” questions and understand the answers
    • Great: talk freely with any spirit
    • Superb: summon a spirit from another realm (although the spirit still has to get here...)

Diminish SpellsEdit

  • Diminish Body: Damage, shrink, weaken, make clumsy, etc. Opposed by Health.
    • Fair: an enemy strikes at you as if -1 level lower
    • Good: cause a speaker to go hoarse
    • Great: weaken a warrior so that he can't lift his sword
    • Superb: cause damage to an enemy as if struck by an invisible sword
  • Diminish Energy: Reduce fire, flow of water or air, counter a magic spell, etc.
    • Fair: extinguish a fire that would have kept burning
    • Good: reduce an attack spell to 1/2 damage
    • Great: stop a fireball from doing any damage
    • Superb: eclipse the sun to twilight over a battlefield
  • Diminish Matter: Damage, shrink, dull, break, warp, etc.
    • Fair: snap a taut rope by touching it
    • Good: snap a board with a light touch
    • Great: shrink a spear to an arrow
    • Superb: snap a sword by touching it
  • Diminish Mind: Confuse, make stupid, induce headaches, memory loss, discourage, etc. Opposed by Willpower.
    • Fair: allow your weak disguise to pass all but intense scrutiny
    • Good: make someone drunk after they've had only one small drink
    • Great: make someone forget a skill for a day
    • Superb: drive someone berserk instantly
  • Diminish Spirit: Injure, shrink, weaken, etc. Opposed by the spirit's Willpower.
    • Fair: (no such thing as a "normal" interaction with spirits)
    • Good: weaken a spirit by -1 level
    • Great: weaken a spirit to half its potency
    • Superb: exorcise a zombie, causing it to disintegrate immediately

Enhance SpellsEdit

  • Enhance Body: Physical healing, increase Strength or Agility, counter fatigue, increase movement ability, etc.
    • Fair: heal a minor wound in one-quarter of the normal time
    • Good: temporarily raise someone's Strength by two levels
    • Great: run twice as fast as otherwise possible
    • Superb: restore a missing limb
  • Enhance Energy: Increase the size of fire, a flow of water or air, aid a wizard in casting a spell, etc.
    • Fair: keep a fire going ten minutes after it should have died out
    • Good: increase a gust of wind to a blast strong enough to put people off-balance
    • Great: cause water to overflow a dam
    • Superb: create a hurricane from a normal gust of wind
  • Enhance Matter: Repair, strengthen, sharpen, increase utility or aesthetics, enlarge, etc.
    • Fair: make a chain less likely to break
    • Good: allow a wooden staff to parry a sword without damage
    • Great: grow a knife into a sword
    • Superb: make paper as hard as rock
  • Enhance Mind: Mental Healing, increase memory, temporarily raise intelligence, counter mental attacks, encourage, etc.
    • Fair: able to remember a fairly long list of items
    • Good: temporarily raise someone's Reasoning power by two levels
    • Great: teach someone one of your skills at your level just for one day
    • Superb: restore an insane person to mental health instantly
  • Enhance Spirit: Heal, increase size, encourage, counter attacks, etc.
    • Fair: (no such thing as "standard" interactions wtih spirits)
    • Good: strengthen a spirit by +1 level
    • Great: strengthen a spirit to twice its potency
    • Superb: cause a spirit to grow ten times its size

Control SpellsEdit

There are no Control spells at "Fair/standard" level, because the Control word is difficult to use, and most things in the cosmos resist control either by objecting to interference, or by adhering adamantly to the laws of physics. Control spells start at "Good/extraordinary".

  • Control Body: Shape-shift, freeze in place, cause hand to attack owner, cause to stumble, enable to fly, etc. Opposed by Health.
    • Good: cause someone to stumble as they walk
    • Great: freeze someone in place
    • Superb: shapeshift into a hawk
  • Control Energy: Fireballs, jets of water or air, magical bolt, etc.
    • Good: cause fire to leap out of the fireplace a short distance
    • Great: ride the wind
    • Superb: evoke a large, potent fireball
  • Control Matter: Shape inanimate matter, telekinesis, animation, open locks, etc.
    • Good: open a lock in a few seconds with improvised tools and an absence of lockpicking skill
    • Great: animate a pair of scissors to operate at your will from a distance
    • Superb: shape stone as if it were soft putty
  • Control Mind: Dictate actions, emotions, attitudes, loyalties, beliefs, etc. Opposed by Willpower.
    • Good: cause someone to see motion out of the corner of their eye (despite nothing being there)
    • Great: create illusions which can be seen, heard, smelt, felt
    • Superb: cause a character to attack his friends
  • Control Spirit: Dictate actions, emotions, banish from this plane, etc. Opposed by the spirit's Willpower.
    • Good: (controlling a spirit is beyond extraordinary)
    • Great: bind a spirit to specific object, or allow a spirit bound in place to roam free
    • Superb: banish a spirit from this world entirely