Opinion: Magic in RPGs.

A little background: I love RPG games. But there’s a thing about me: I hate guns. I mean, I think handguns are sexy in a hot character’s hands but unless I can dual wield two beautiful, sleek handguns, no thank you. So, fantasy and medieval games and especially RPGs are the tall order for me. Some titles, as reference: The Elder Scrolls (III and IV), World of Warcraft, Fable I, Dragon Age: Origins. You get a pretty good idea this way, I think.


A common theme in these is magic. Magic is present in almost any medieval style RPG, usually following the main elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Sure, sometimes there’s Electricity and such but usually you’ll find those four main elements. Personally, I’m more of a Rogue and occasionally Warrior archetype, but I can see the lure of the mage. Changing the world with a thought, a word, is very, very appealing.



Fire is a destructive magic, used to kill, destroy, break, eliminate. Only in WoW I did see fire as being something else, with the red Dragonflight using it not only as a weapon, but also for creation. Indeed, whenever their fire touches the ground, grass and flowers grow. Life through death. Kinda poetic. General rule, though, fire magic never strays much from its destructive power, with mages specializing in this type of magic being rude, arrogant, brash, hot-headed (no pun intended) and reckless.



Well…is there anything you can call “water magic”? Not really, from what I recall. This element of magic is usually referred to as a state of water: Ice. Ice magic is pretty much a defensive magic, used to freeze enemies in place, create defences, stop floods and such. It can also be an utility school, creating bridges and objects. Occasionally, it is offensive with things such as ice shards that make a pin cushion out of any enemy. Ice mages are usually calm, collected, a bit emotionless, calculating.



Earth or Nature magic is usually associated with the arts of healing, druids and shamans. Restoring forests as well as flesh, it is both a healing school as well as defensive one, calling on the power of nature and plants to confuse, slow or even kill enemies. Users of Earth magic are usually kind, calm, quiet, fun and perhaps a bit childish, philosophical and non-violent. This school is also associated with a more feral variety of users, the Shapeshifters, especially those that turn into animals, their minds gaining a bit of the animal instincts.



Air magic is virtually unheard of, at least I can’t find any example of humanoid mages. Only recently I have found, in WoW, creatures using air magic, though most of it is still Electricity. Still, the wind can be used to kill opponents, creating sandstorms for example, or hurricanes. Or tornadoes. Seriously, there’s destructive potential here. I’d imagine a user of air magic to be at least prone to sudden mood swings.


All the kinds of magic users I described above are pretty standard fantasy fodder and usually don’t make for very interesting characters. This is where more complex magic starts kicking in, such as the multiple schools of Elder Scrolls, or Arcane of WoW or even the nameless magic practised in Fable (the Will). Truth is, magic has so much potential it should be tapped more in games. And I’m not talking about more “Dark arts” such as Blood magic and Necromancy either. This is a short post where I’d like comments and other gamers’ opinion on magic in RPGs.



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