Created By: Koveras on August 23, 2012 Last Edited By: Koveras on October 26, 2012
Troped

Spell Levels

Functional Magic spells are classified into tiers according to their power.

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Trope
An attribute of Functional Magic, where each known spell is assigned to a category roughly reflecting its power. Particularly popular in RPGs, where it is used in conjunction with a Character Level system to restrict the usage of powerful spells (as in, a level N mage can only use spells up to level M, etc.).

A common component of Vancian Magic. May be subject to Rank Inflation.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Lyrical Nanoha, spells are ranked by power output: D is pretty much a parlor trick, S is a tactical nuke.
  • The Justsu techniques in Naruto are ranked E to S.

Literature
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, the Plain Magic spells are categorized into 234 levels (the highest tiers mostly include just one well-known spell). All levels above the 4th are considered a breach of the Ban on Magic and punishable by law--but then again, most people cannot go above the 20th. The world's greatest mage has once almost pulled off a 235 level spell.

Tabletop Games
  • The Trope Codifier is probably Dungeons & Dragons, where both arcane (wizard) and divine (cleric) spells were split into nine and seven tiers, respectively, with characters of certain level getting only so many spells of certain levels to memorize.
    • In 3rd Edition clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards had ten spell levels (0-9); bards had six, and paladins and rangers had four.
    • 4th Edition did away with the concept, instead simply listing the minimum class level to gain a "power" in the description.
  • In Rolemaster spells were arranged by level within spell lists. In order to cast a spell, a character's skill rank for that spell's spell list had to be greater than or equal to the spell's level.
  • Exalted has sorcery and necromancy spells divided into three levels each. Generally, the higher the spell's level (or circle), the more time it takes to cast it and the more motes and willpower it requires, as well as the more powerful the spell is. The main exceptions are the countermagic and banishment spells, which are quick and relatively inexpensive for their circle.

Video Games
  • In the Mother series, the tiers for PSI powers are given by the Greek letters alpha, beta, gamma, and omega.
  • Some Final Fantasy games have tiers of spells that even have their own set of spell uses. It's a staple to have some more advanced spells under the naming format "[spell]", "[spell]a", "[spell]aga", and "[spell]aja", though the English translations only began to use it since Final Fantasy VIII (before, spells were simply named "[spell] 1", "[spell] 2", etc. due to limited characters).
  • Grandia games have three tiers of magic, each with their own sets of magic points.
  • In the Disgaea series, elemental spells and the heal spell have the more advanced levels given prefixes: "mega", "giga", "omega", "tera", and so on.
  • The World Ends with You makes no distinction between physical and magical attacks with its "Pin" system, but each pin has an assigned "rank" which places some limits on how many can be equipped simultaneously. Namely, you can't equip more than one of the same A-rank pin (or more than one of any star-rank pin) at the same time.
  • The Elements system Chrono Cross assigns each element a level from 1 to 8 indicating what area of a character's element grid they can occupy. Most elements also have a 'margin' that allows them to be equipped higher or lower than the intended level (with matching effect on its actual power).
  • The Fire Emblem series does this with both spells and weapons, by dividing them up into Weapon Levels dictating when a character is skilled to use stronger weapons. Ranks E-S or in some games E-SS. The typical progression for weapons is Iron, Steel, Silver. Magic was further standardized in Radiant Dawn giving basic magic, 'El' magic, 'Arc' magic, a named long range attack, named high level, and then 'Rex' for the ultimate (e.g. Wind, Elwind, Arcwind, Blizzard, Tornado, Rexcalibur).
  • Glory of Heracles has three levels of spells in each set. For instance, the single heal spell is Pow, Powra and Powtes. For offensive spells, the effects changes the higher the level: the level I spell (the base) targets a single enemy, the level II spell targets a row of enemy, and the level III spell targets all enemies. Each spell also has three upgradable levels based on a minigame event in the touch screen, but that is extra and not really relevent to this trope.
  • While the system varies from game to game, Shin Megami Tensei and particularly the Persona series have four main elements - agi for fire, bufu for ice, zio for lightning, and zan for wind - that get more powerful with prefixes or suffixes: e.g. maragi hits all enemies with fire, zionga is a stronger lightning attack, diarama heals all allies instead of just one.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had all spells divided into five difficulty levels (Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, Expert, and Master), and you could only learn higher-level spells after raising your skill in the corresponding magical school to a certain level.

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • August 23, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    • In The Mother series, the tiers for PSI powers are given by the Greek letters alpha, beta, gamma, and omega.

    (EDIT: I tried pasting the Greek letters but they looked messed up)

  • August 23, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Addendum to D&D:
    • In 3rd Edition clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards had ten spell levels (0-9); bards had six, and paladins and rangers had four.
    • 4th Edition did away with the concept, instead simply listing the minimum class level to gain a "power" in the description.
  • August 23, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    • Some Final Fantasy games have tiers of spells that even have their own set of spell uses. And it's a staple to have some more advanced spells under the naming format "[spell]", "[spell]a", "[spell]aga", and "[spell]aja".
    • Grandia games have three tiers of magic, each with their own sets of magic points.
    • In the Disgaea series, elemental spells and the heal spell have the more advanced levels given prefixes: "mega", "giga", "omega", "terra", and so on.
  • August 24, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ That naming convention was introduced in Final Fantasy 8; before then, spells were simply named "[spell] 1", "[spell] 2", etc.
    • The World Ends With You makes no distinction between physical and magical attacks with its "Pin" system, but each pin has an assigned "rank" which places some limits on how many can be equipped simultaneously. Namely, you can't equip more than one of the same A-rank pin (or more than one of any star-rank pin) at the same time.
    • The Elements system Chrono Cross assigns each element a level from 1 to 8 indicating what area of a character's element grid they can occupy. Most elements also have a 'margin' that allows them to be equipped higher or lower than the intended level (with matching effect on its actual power).
  • August 24, 2012
    azul120
  • August 25, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Related trope, not the same.
  • August 25, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ More like this is a component of Vancian Magic that is just as often used on its own.
  • August 25, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • In Rolemaster spells were arranged by level within spell lists. In order to cast a spell, a character's skill rank for that spell's spell list had to be greater than or equal to the spell's level.
  • August 25, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    The Final Fantasy games did not start that naming convention with VIII. It was just the first time translations used that.
  • August 25, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Ah, interesting.
  • August 26, 2012
    azul120
    Oh yeah. Derp.

    Just rephrase it to say that FF 8 was the first localization to adapt the -a/-aga/-aja convention.
  • August 27, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Done.
  • August 27, 2012
    acrobox
    • The Naruto Series distinguishes their Justsu by ranks E to S. This is also how they classify their missions.
    • The Pokemon Series to some extent. Most types will have three iconic moves that almost everyone of that type can learn. Usually the first move is reliable but weak (in the 35-50 power range) the second move is reliable and strong (in the 80-95 range, or weaker but with a high Crit ratio) the third move is unreliable but strong (in the 100-120 range but may be inaccurate, require two turns, significantly less PP)
      • Ember, Flamethrower, Fireblast; Water Gun, Surf, Hydro Pump; Vine Whip, Razor Leaf, Solarbeam; Thundershock, Thunderbolt, Thunder;
  • August 27, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Pokemon is Not An Example. In order to qualify as a 'spell level' the divions must be official, either in function (e.g. Dungeons And Dragons series) or at least in name (e.g. Final Fantasy series). Simply observing how several moves are similar to each other and differing only by power and/or elemental type is not enough.
  • August 27, 2012
    acrobox
    • The Fire Emblem Series does this with both spells and weapons, by dividing them up into Weapon Levels dictating when a character is skilled to use stronger weapons. Ranks E-S or in some games E-SS.
      • The typical progression for weapons is Iron, Steel, Silver
      • Magic was further standardized in Radiant Dawn giving basic magic, 'El' magic, 'Arc' magic, a named long range attack, named high level, and then 'Rex' for the ultimate
        • ex. Wind, Elwind, Arcwind, Blizzard, Tornado, Rexcalibur
  • August 28, 2012
    Rognik
    • Glory Of Heracles has three levels of spells in each set. For instance, the single heal spell is Pow, Powra and Powtes. For offensive spells, the effects changes the higher the level: the level I spell (the base) targets a single enemy, the level II spell targets a row of enemy, and the level III spell targets all enemies. Each spell also has three upgradable levels based on a minigame event in the touch screen, but that is extra and not really relevent to this trope.
  • August 28, 2012
    Medinoc
    Note that in Disgaea, it's "Tera", not "Terra".
  • August 28, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Fix'd.
  • September 3, 2012
    Rognik
    I just remembered that the Shin Megami Tensei system does this. It might vary a little from game to game, but in the Persona series there are four main elements - agi for fire, bufu for ice, zio for lightning, and zan for wind - that get more powerful with prefixes or suffixes: ie, maragi hits all enemies with fire, zionga is a stronger lightning attack, diarama heals all allies instead of just one. Now, I'm playing Devil Survivor from the SMT series, and instead of maragi, it has a spell called Fire Dance, which sort of does the same thing, so I really don't know how varied the spell system is, but the base spells are all the same.
  • September 5, 2012
    ScanVisor
  • September 5, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Agree. The US release of FF 1 is a great example with all spell names limited to 4 characters: So instead of "Firaga" or even "Fire 3" it was "FIR 3".
  • September 5, 2012
    Koveras
    ^^ & ^ Added.

    Hats, perhaps?
  • October 11, 2012
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • October 25, 2012
    Khantalas
    • Exalted has sorcery and necromancy spells divided into three levels each. Generally, the higher the spell's level (or circle), the more time it takes to cast it and the more motes and willpower it requires, as well as the more powerful the spell is. The main exceptions are the countermagic and banishment spells, which are quick and relatively inexpensive for their circle.
  • October 26, 2012
    LimitRemoval
    Video Game
    • The Shin Megami Tensei series has a recurring naming convention for their magical skills, namely, for the five basic elements, and add suffixes as the skill got stronger. For example, Agi is the basic fire spell, then in increasing order of strength, we have Agilao and Agidyne. Ma- prefix is attached if the skill hits every target on field. There's also higher level spells that have distinct names (like Meltdown and Maralagidyne).

    Anime & Manga
    • Negima has Western spells chanted in surprisingly accurate Latin. Usually, their power increases in direct proportion to how long the incantation is. The Eastern spells are in single-word ancient Japanese language. The big guns use either Ancient Greek or Sanskrit. If anyone mentions 'Ancient Spells', you'll be watching huge fireworks soon after.
  • October 26, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Negima doesn't sound like an example to me.
  • October 26, 2012
    Koveras
    Yes, unless there is a direct numeric correlation between the number of words in an incantation and its power, it's not an example...

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7vci1v5jh1tobd7jd35trdoz&trope=SpellLevels