Magic (game terminology)

Last updated
A mana bar or magic bar, used to keep track of a character's magic points (MP) in a video game Mana bar.PNG
A mana bar or magic bar, used to keep track of a character's magic points (MP) in a video game

Magic or mana is an attribute assigned to characters within a role-playing or video game that indicates their power to use special magical abilities or "spells". Magic is usually measured in magic points or mana points, shortened as MP. Different abilities will use up different amounts of MP. [1] When the MP of a character reaches zero, the character will not be able to use special abilities until some of their MP is recovered. [2]


Much like health, magic might be displayed as a numeric value, such as "50/100". Here, the first number indicates the current amount of MP a character has whereas the second number indicates the character's maximum MP. In video games, magic can also be displayed visually, such as with a gauge that empties itself as a character uses their abilities. [3] [ self-published source? ]


The magic system in tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons is largely based on patterns established in the Dying Earth novels of author Jack Vance. In this system, the player character can only memorize a fixed number of spells from a list of spells. Once this spell is used once, the character forgets it and becomes unable to use it again. [1] [4] [5] [6]

"Mana" is a word that comes from Polynesian languages meaning something along the lines of "supernatural power". The concept of mana was introduced in Europe by missionary Robert Henry Codrington in 1891 and was popularized by Mircea Eliade in the 1950s. It was first introduced as a magical fuel used to cast spells in the 1969 short story, "Not Long Before the End", by Larry Niven, which is part of and later popularized by his The Magic Goes Away setting. It has since become a common staple in both role-playing and video games. [1]


Because skills and abilities are not usually lost, a game designer might decide to limit the use of such an ability by linking its use to magic points. This way, after using an ability, the player is required to rest or use an item to replenish their character's MP. This is done for balancing, so that each skill does not have an infinite casting ability with equal results every time. [7]

"Magic" may be substituted with psychic powers, spiritual power, advanced technology or other concepts that would allow a character to influence the world around them that is not available in real life. Magic is often restricted to a specific class of character, such as a "mage" or "spellcaster", while other character classes have to rely on melee combat or physical projectiles. [8] Other character classes, such as those that rely on melee attacks, may also have a "magic" bar that limits their special abilities, although they are usually called something different, such as the Barbarian's "Fury" in Diablo 3 .

In video games, MP can often be restored by consuming magic potions or it may regenerate over time. Status effects are temporary modification to a game character's original set of stats. A character may cast a spell that inflicts a positive or negative status effect on another character. [8]

In role-playing games

In both tabletop role-playing games and role-playing video games, magic is most usually used to cast spells during battles. However, in tabletop RPGs, unlike in video games, magic has many uses outside of combat situations, such as using love spells on NPCs to gain information. [8] [9] Some games base the strength and amount of a character's magic on stats such as "wisdom" or "intelligence". These stats are used because they are easy to keep track of and develop in pen-and-paper RPGs. [2]

Some games introduce a separate point system per skill. For example, in the Pokémon games, each skill of each fighting character has its own "Power Points" (PP). If the PP of only one of its skills are depleted, that specific Pokémon still has three other skills to choose from. [10]

In god games

In god games, the player's power is usually called mana and grows along with the number and prosperity of the player's worshipers. Here, the population size influences the maximum amount of mana the player has and the rate at which their mana restores itself when it is below that maximum. Using "godly powers" consumes mana, but such actions are necessary to increase the number and prosperity of the population. [8]

Related Research Articles

<i>GURPS</i> Tabletop role-playing game system

The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting. It was created by Steve Jackson Games and first published in 1986 at a time when most such systems were story- or genre-specific.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Role-playing game</span> Game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting

A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making regarding character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.


DragonQuest is a fantasy role-playing game originally published by Simulations Publications (SPI) in 1980. Where first generation fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons restricted players to particular character classes, DragonQuest was one of the first games to utilize a system that emphasized skills, allowing more individual customization and a wider range of options.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mewtwo</span> Fictional Pokémon species

Mewtwo is a Pokémon, a fictional creature from Nintendo and Game Freak. Created by Ken Sugimori, it debuted in the video games Pokémon Red and Blue, and later appeared in subsequent sequels and spin-off titles, such as Pokken Tournament. In the video games, the player can fight and capture Mewtwo in order to subsequently pit it against other Pokémon. The player first learns of Mewtwo late in Pokémon Red and Blue by reading research documents left in a ruined laboratory on Cinnabar Island. Mewtwo is regarded as one of the series' strongest Pokémon, and was the strongest in the original games in terms of base statistic distribution. It is known as the "Genetic Pokémon" and is a Legendary Pokémon, a special group of Pokémon that are very rare and usually very powerful. Mewtwo has also appeared in various animated adaptations of the franchise.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Experience point</span> Role-playing game unit for measuring a characters progress

An experience point is a unit of measurement used in some tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's life experience and progression through the game. Experience points are generally awarded for the completion of missions, overcoming obstacles and opponents, and successful role-playing.

<i>Secret of Mana</i> 1993 video game

Secret of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2, is a 1993 action role-playing game developed and published by Square for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the sequel to the 1991 game Seiken Densetsu, released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest, and it was the first Seiken Densetsu title to be marketed as part of the Mana series rather than the Final Fantasy series. Set in a high fantasy universe, the game follows three heroes as they attempt to prevent an empire from conquering the world with the power of an ancient flying fortress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Role-playing video game</span> Video game genre

A role-playing video game, commonly referred to as a role-playing game (RPG) or computer role-playing game (CRPG), is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world, usually involving some form of character development by way of recording statistics. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replay value and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

In tabletop games and video games, a character class is a job or profession commonly used to differentiate the abilities of different game characters.

<i>Pokémon Trading Card Game</i> (video game) 1998 video game

Pokémon Trading Card Game is a video game adaptation of the Pokémon tabletop card game for the Game Boy Color. Developed by Hudson Soft and Creatures, and published by Nintendo, it was initially released in Japan in 1998, and later in the West in 2000. The game features digital versions of cards from the first three sets of the trading card game originally released in English by Wizards of the Coast between 1998 and 1999, as well as exclusive cards not available outside of the game. The game will be released as part of the Nintendo Switch Online service in 2023.

Geneforge is a series of demoware role-playing video games by Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software released for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS systems. There are five games in the series: Geneforge , Geneforge 2, Geneforge 3, Geneforge 4: Rebellion, and Geneforge 5: Overthrow. As with all Spiderweb Software titles, graphics and sound are limited because they are not the main focus of the game.

AdventureQuest is an online Flash-based single-player role-playing video game started in 2002 and currently developed by Artix Entertainment. As of March 5, 2019,, the game's hosting website, and, the game's homepage, have an Alexa rating of 54,521.

<i>Paladins Quest</i> 1992 video game

Paladin's Quest, originally released as Lennus: Kodai Kikai no Kioku in Japan, is a utopian/dystopian science fantasy role-playing video game developed by Copya System and published in Japan by Asmik Corporation on November 13, 1992, for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was published in North America by Enix in October 1993. It was different from other role-playing games at the time, because when the player casts magic, it takes away HP instead of MP.

<i>The Magic of Scheherazade</i> 1987 video game

The Magic of Scheherazade is an action-adventure/role-playing video game (RPG) developed and released by Culture Brain for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The game was released in 1987 in Japan and 1990 in North America. The plot is based on Middle Eastern folktales found in One Thousand and One Nights. It involves an amnesic hero traveling through time in an attempt to rescue the princess Scheherazade from the evil wizard Sabaron, who has summoned a horde of demons to bring chaos to the once peaceful land of Arabia. The Magic of Scheherazade is divided into chapters and incorporates elements of both action-adventure and RPG gameplay styles. In each chapter, the player character can freely explore an overworld in a top-down perspective. The player engages hostile enemies with various weapons and spells through both real-time solo action on the overhead map and random, turn-based battles fought alongside befriended allies.

<i>Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara</i> 1996 arcade game

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara is an arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1996 as a sequel to Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. The game is set in the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting of Mystara.

<i>Shadowrun</i> (1993 video game) 1993 video game

Shadowrun is a cyberpunk-fantasy action role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, adapted from the tabletop role-playing game Shadowrun by FASA. The video game was developed by Australian company Beam Software and first released in 1993 by Data East.

<i>Lufia & the Fortress of Doom</i> 1993 video game

Lufia & the Fortress of Doom, known as Estpolis Denki in Japan, is a role-playing video game developed by Neverland and published by Taito in 1993, for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the first title in the Lufia series of video games and the only game from the series released under the Taito label in North America.

Magic systems in games are the rules, limitations, abilities, and characteristics that define magic in a game.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Role-playing game terms</span> Words used in a specific sense in the context of role-playing games

Role-playing games (RPGs) have developed specialized terminology. This includes both terminology used within RPGs to describe in-game concepts and terminology used to describe RPGs. Role-playing games also have specialized slang and jargon associated with them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Attribute (role-playing games)</span> Quantified characteristic in role-playing games

An attribute is a piece of data that describes to what extent a fictional character in a role-playing game possesses a specific natural, in-born characteristic common to all characters in the game. That piece of data is usually an abstract number or, in some cases, a set of dice. Some games use different terms to refer to an attribute, such as statistic, (primary) characteristic or ability. A number of role-playing games like Fate do not use attributes at all.

<i>Duel</i> (role-playing game)

Duel is a combat-focused role-playing game published by Nightshift Games in 1992.


  1. 1 2 3 "The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic", June 17, 2014, Alex Golub, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
  2. 1 2 Perry, Jim (2009-06-23). RPG Programming with XNA Game Studio 3.0. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 404. ISBN   978-1449631505 . Retrieved 2014-12-09.
  3. Orland, Kyle; Thomas, David; Steinberg, Scott Matthew (2007). The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual. p. 51. ISBN   978-1430313052 . Retrieved 2014-12-24.[ self-published source ]
  4. "Vancian". Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
  5. DeVarque, Aardy. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2007-12-09. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
  6. Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 383. ISBN   978-1-907702-58-7.
  7. Pederson, Roger (2009-06-23). Game Design Foundations. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 153. ISBN   978-1449663926 . Retrieved 2014-12-24.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Adams, Ernest (2010-04-07). Fundamentals of Game Design. New Riders. pp. 469, 580. ISBN   978-0132104753 . Retrieved 2014-12-09.
  9. Moore, Michael (2011-03-23). Basics of Game Design. CRC Press. p. 214. ISBN   978-1439867761 . Retrieved 2014-12-09.
  10. Nintendo of America (2004). Official Nintendo Power Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Player's Guide. Nintendo of America, Incorporated. p. 18. ISBN   1930206313 . Retrieved 2014-11-20.