Created By: StarSword on March 16, 2013 Last Edited By: StarSword on March 19, 2013
Troped

Armor and Magic Don't Mix

Wizards are Squishy because they don't wear armor.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Prompted by a query in the Lost and Found.

Rolling Updates

Wizards are often the fantasy equivalent of heavy artillery, capable of wiping out armies by themselves from afar. And like heavy artillery, you don't want them in close combat because they're relatively easy to kill if you can get to them. So why don't they wear armor so they last longer?

Some settings justify this by having the armor apply a penalty to the mage's powers. This may be because magic requires precise Magical Gestures that are made more difficult by armor's weight. Others use the solution that magic requires such intense study that there's no time to learn how to use armor properly. In still other settings, iron is antithetical to magic by its very nature, though this still raises the question of why mages are rarely seen wearing at least some form of protective leather instead of a Robe and Wizard Hat.

In gaming the trope is most commonly used as a way to compensate for Quadratic Wizards for the purpose of game balance. It may manifest as spellcasting characters being restricted on which types of armor they can equip, if any, or apply a penalty to the potency of the spell. The trope has been around long enough for that purpose it's arguably achieved Necessary Weasel status.

Compare Armor Is Useless. Contrast Magic Knight, the most common manifestation of this trope's aversion.
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Video game examples:

[[folder:Eastern RPGs]]
  • The .hack R1 Games have 3 levels of armour, with Wavemasters only being able to wear the lightest version.
  • Fortune Summoners justifies this In-Universe. The main character, Arche, is the only one who can wear metal armour and use a sword because she doesn't rely on magic (because she can't cast it until the end, where she becomes able to do a Fusion Dance with an air elemental), which large metal objects interfere with.
  • In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Golbez wears full black armor as in his original game, but is a fully magic fighter. Gilgamesh then lampshades this trope by calling out to him that if he's a wizard, he should dress the part.
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[[folder:Hack-and-Slash]]
  • In Diablo II this happens in a roundabout way. A character's ability to wear a piece of armour (aside from level and any specific class restrictions on an item) more often than not depends on how many stat points are in STR. The result is that the 'pure' mage classes (necromancers and sorceresses) can't wear the heaviest armour because the player has likely put most of their stat points into INT. In other words, they can't wear the armour because they're squishy, and they're squishy because they train their minds more than their bodies.
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[[folder:MMORPGs]]
  • Downplayed in RuneScape. Armor imposes a damage penalty on offensive magics, to the point where a lot of spells are useless if you're wearing full plate armor. However, the penalty only applies to Hit Point damage: spells inflicting Standard Status Effects work fine.
  • In World of Warcraft Mages and Warlocks can only wear cloth armor.
  • In Rift: Mages can only wear cloth armor. Justified as follows:
    "The art of weaving magic does not favor heavy armors that distract the senses and restrict movement."
  • Guild Wars: Pure spellcaster classes (Elementalist, Mesmer, Monk, Necromancer) are restricted to lower armor ratings than fighter type classes.
  • Guild Wars 2: Scholar type professions (Elementalist, Mesmer, Necromancer) can only wear light armor.
  • Very early in Ultima Online there was no such restriction in place. This was changed with an update because it created serious balance issues.
  • In EverQuest and EverQuest II, as well as the spinoff Champions of Norrath, all the mage classes are restricted to wearing cloth armor, though EQ2's appearance armor slots have allowed for them to at least appear to be wearing full platemail while wielding giant flaming swords.
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[[folder:Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Real-Time Strategy]]
  • Played with in Bungie's Myth universe. Mages have no restriction against wearing armor. They generally still don't since they often have magical protection which would render armor redundant, but some wear armor anyway. For example, Balor The Leveler was an archmage who went full Tin Tyrant for no other reason than it made him look more intimidating. Likewise, Alric would eventually wear a custom suit of Heron Guard armor to signify his possession of the Ibis Crown and ascension to Emperor of Cath Bruig.
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[[folder:Turn-Based Strategy]]
  • This is used in the Fire Emblem series, with magicians generally drawn in robes and having a low physical defense score. The sword cuts both ways, though: armored units are frequently just as bad at fending off magical attacks.
  • Likewise, Shining Force follows this trope to a tee.
  • Downplayed in the Disgaea series. Apart from weapons there aren't any restrictions on what equipment characters can equip, so it's very possible to equip mages with armors without any hindrance to damage output. However, the effectiveness of equipment is determined by the class's Aptitudes. Mages generally have low DEF Aptitudes, and thus get less DEF bonus from equipment.
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[[folder:Western RPGs]]
  • In Knights of the Old Republic wearing any armor other than Jedi robes means that certain Force powers are unusable. The sequel adds a few types of armor specifically designed for Force users that do not have this effect.
  • Project Eternity may avert this. Information from the developers states that the setting's primitive black powder firearms are effective at piercing spellcasters' spell shields at close range, so mages have turned to bulletproof plate as a countermeasure.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion imposes a penalty on any spells cast while wearing armor, based on how skilled your character is at wearing that type of armor; spells cast while wearing an armor your character is completely untrained in will have only 80% effectiveness, while a master of armor will cast at 95% effectiveness.
    • Skyrim changes it up a little. Spells work just as well with armor as without, but the Alteration skill tree has a perk, "Mage Armor," that adds a multiplier to protective spells like Stoneflesh if the caster is unarmored.
  • In the Dragon Age series, magic and heavy armor don't mix for two reasons: heavier armor sets tend to have high requirements on Strength, which the mages generally don't develop, and also make casting spells more expensive, effectively reducing their mana pools. It is, however, possible to subvert this in Dragon Age: Origins if you manage to unlock the Arcane Warrior mage specialization, which checks Strength restrictions against your Magic score instead.
  • In Drakensang (which is based on The Dark Eye, below), magic users are able to equip anything; however they are completely blocked from casting spells if they wear only one single piece of metal armor (with exceptions).
[[/folder]]

Non-video game examples:

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • As with many tropes common in Role-Playing Games, Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Codifier.
    • Basic D&D. In the Holmes (1977), Moldvay (1981) and Mentzer (1983) Basic sets and the Rules Cyclopedia (1991), magic users could not wear armor.
    • In 1st and 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, magic users/wizards were simply forbidden to wear armor under the standard rules. There were exceptions made in later supplements, such as 2nd Edition kits which allowed a wizard with that kit to wear armor.
    • In 3.X Edition arcane casters can wear armor if they take a proficiency feat, but if they do they risk a percentage chance that the spell will fail to cast, justified as the armor interfering with the gestures involved in spellcasting. Bards and the add-on classes warmage and warlock can wear light armor without hitting this restriction, and can take a feat, "Armored Caster", to be able to wear medium armor without risking spell failure. Of course, a wizard with skill in the schools of transmutation and abjuration doesn't necessarily need armor since they can protect themselves quite well with their spells.
    • Also from 3.X Edition, druids are only allowed to wear armor (and other equipment) made from "natural" materials (wood, hides, stone, etc.) or else their powers are unusable. With just the core rulebooks (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual) this restricts druids to wearing light armor or the weakest type of medium armor, but add-on books added some esoteric materials that are classified as natural and can be forged into heavier armors.
    • In 4th Edition, there's no such thing as arcane spell failure, but wizards still have the worst armor proficiency. They simply don't care about proficiency because (as of Player's Handbook III) they can take a feat to have AC equivalent to leather and still wear those wonderful magic robes made specifically for them.
  • In The Dark Eye, forged metal interferes with the flow of magical energies (with some rare exceptions) in such a way that it makes casting spells more difficult and prohibits the regeneration of Mana if a significant amount is worn close to a magic user's body. While magic users can wear anything not made out of metal (e.g. heavy leather), this is frowned upon by the Magician's Guilds as not befitting a wizard's standing, further restricting proper certified wizards to fancy robes and such.
  • The Fantasy Trip penalizes wizards for wearing armor with a twofold justification. Ferrous metals interfere with magic, and armor itself interferes with spells' somatic components.
[[/folder]]

Indexes: Combat Tropes, Magic and Powers, Role-Playing Game, Power at a Price, Tropes in Shining Armor, Wizards and Witches

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • March 16, 2013
    Elbruno
    I think that the description should also mention times where they are restricted to "weaker" light armor, unlike more combat-focused characters that can use heavy armor.
  • March 16, 2013
    Astaroth
    The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion imposes a penalty on any spells cast while wearing armor, based on how skilled your character is at wearing that type of armor; spells cast while wearing an armor your character is completely untrained in will have only 80% effectiveness, while a master of armor will cast at 95% effectiveness. (Not sure if this penalty is found in earlier Elder Scrolls games, but it was dropped from Skyrim)
  • March 16, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
  • March 16, 2013
    Irrisia
    The first .Hack games have 3 levels of armour, with Wavemasters only being able to wear the lightest version.
  • March 16, 2013
    AinSophAur33
    Might I suggest a less clunky name -- Wizards Can't Wear Armor
  • March 17, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • In 1st and 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, magic users/wizards were simply forbidden to wear armor under the standard rules. There were exceptions made in later supplements, such as 2nd Edition kits which allowed a wizard with that kit to wear armor.
  • March 17, 2013
    Astaroth
    Ammendment to my last post: Skyrim does utilise this trope, but as a reward for not wearing armor rather than a penalty for wearing it. Wizards can cast just as effectively in armor as in regular clothing, but they can also take a perk which gives a duration bonus to their defensive spells if they cast them while unarmored.
  • March 17, 2013
    Koveras
    Project Eternity is Not A Subversion. It's an aversion.

    • In the Dragon Age series, magic and heavy armor don't mix for two reasons: heavier armor sets tend to have high requirements on Strength, which the mages generally don't develop, and also make casting spells more expensive, effectively reducing their mana pools. It is, however, possible to subvert this in Dragon Age Origins if you manage to unlock the Arcane Warrior mage specialization, which checks Strength restrictions against your Magic score instead.
  • March 17, 2013
    StarSword
    @Arivne: Thanks!

    @Koveras: Ok, thanks for that. I'm still not always clear on the Playing With distinctions.
  • March 17, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Basically, Subversion is when the trope is played straight up to a certain point, after which its use abruptly stops, usually with an in-story explanation. The "subversion" is that exact moment where it goes from being used to being a no-no.

    In PE, the use of armor by mages is an established fact from the onset, so this trope is simply averted. If the mages started off without armor but started widely using it in the course of the game, then it would be a subversion. Or, as in my DAO example, if most mages don't use armor but a select few eventually learn to do just that, it's also a subversion.
  • March 17, 2013
    StarSword
    I rewrote the description to make armor interfering with spells the justification rather than the trope itself, since that seems to be where the discussion is headed.

    Anyone know of any non-gaming examples?
  • March 17, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Fortune Summoners justifies this In Universe. The main character, Arche, is the only one who can wear metal armour and use a sword because she doesn't rely on magic (because she can't cast it until the end, where she becomes able to do a Fusion Dance with an air elemental), which large metal objects interfere with.
  • March 17, 2013
    eightyfour
    • In The Dark Eye, forged metal interferes with the flow of magical energies (with some rare exceptions) in such a way that it makes casting spells more difficult and prohibits the regeneration of Mana if a significant amount is worn close to a magic user's body. While magic users can wear anything not made out of metal (e.g. heavy leather), this is frowned upon by the Magician's Guilds as not befitting a wizard's standing, further restricting proper certified wizards to fancy robes and such.

    • Drakensang: (Which is based on The Dark Eye) Magic users are able to equip anything, however they are completely blocked from casting spells if they wear only one single piece of metal armor (again, with exceptions).

    • World Of Warcraft Mages and Warlocks can only wear cloth armor.
    • Rift: Mages can only wear cloth armor.
      "The art of weaving magic does not favor heavy armors that distract the senses and restrict movement."
    • Guild Wars: Pure spellcaster classes (Elementalist, Mesmer, Monk, Necromancer) are restricted to lower armor ratings than fighter type classes.
    • Guild Wars 2: Scholar type professions (Elementalist, Mesmer, Necromancer) can only wear light armor.
  • March 17, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    "Some settings justify this by having the armor apply a penalty to the mage's powers. Other use the solution that magic requires such intense study that there's no time to learn how to use armor properly. "

    This is only half the issue. Alot of their magic uses somatic (hand) motions, meaning waving hands in peculiar patterns is either stifled by stiff armor or actively weighed down by the fact that their armor is much heavier than cloth.

    In other settings, certain aspects of metal (it being made of cold iron or silver, or maybe the fact that it's crafted by technology) disrupts the energies of magic.
  • March 17, 2013
    DrakeClawfang
    A note for the Video Game examples

    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, Golbez wears full black armor as in his original game, but is a fully magic fighter. Gilgamesh then lampshades this trope by calling out to him that if he's a wizard, he should dress the part.
  • March 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • Ever Quest and Ever Quest II, as well as Champions Of Norrath, all the mage classes are restricted to wearing cloth armor, though EQ2's appearance armor slots have allowed for them to at least appear to be wearing full platemail while wielding giant flaming swords.
  • March 17, 2013
    FearlessSon
    Are we listing aversions too? Because I have one for Real Time Strategy examples:

    • This is averted in Bungie's Myth universe, mages have no restriction on wearing armor. They do not as a general rule since they often have magical protection which would render armor redundant, but some wear armor anyway. For example, Balor The Leveler was an archmage who went full Tin Tyrant for no other reason than it made him look more intimidating. Likewise, Alric would eventually wear a custom suit of Heron Guard armor to signify his possession of the Ibis Crown and ascension to Emperor of Cath Bruig.
  • March 17, 2013
    Megaptera
    Video Games
    • In Diablo II this happens in a roundabout way. A character's ability to wear a piece of armour (aside from level and any specific class restrictions on an item) more often than not depends on how many stat points are in STR. The result is that the 'pure' mage classes (necromancers and sorceresses) can't wear the heaviest armour because the player has likely put most of their stat points into INT. In other words, they can't wear the armour because they're squishy, and they're squishy because they train their minds more than their bodies.

    Folklore
    • There's an old belief that iron can be used to repel witches. Bury an iron knife under the floor or hang an iron horseshoe over the door, and witches won't be able to enter your house. This shows up in Fairy Tales and could be an influence on the idea that magic-users avoid metal.
  • March 18, 2013
    Surenity
    • This also applies in the Fire Emblem series, though armored units in turn are vulnerable against magic attacks.
    • Likewise, Shining Force follows this trope to a tee.
  • March 18, 2013
    eightyfour
    • Very early in Ultima Online there was no such restriction in place. This was changed with an update because it created serious balance issues.

    As for folklore/non-gaming examples, fairies traditionally also have a problem with iron; touching it can be harmful to them. I'm not sure this has anything to do here, though, as I don't remember any armor being mentioned in this context in original folklore (not that I'm an expert). Also, that's a property exclusive to iron, not metal in general. I'm fairly certain remembering to read that Merlin wore proper armor at some point (again, don't quote me on that - maybe someone remembers details?). I do remember reading some trashy fantasy novel ages ago where the fair folk was vulnerable to iron, so they used other metals like silver and bronze for armor and weaponry instead.

    I believe this trope exists pretty much exclusively in gaming and the only reason it exists is game balance. It seems to have become so widespread that it probably can be considered a Necessary Weasel.
  • March 18, 2013
    StarSword
    @Megaptera: The folklore one isn't an example, unfortunately. That's covered by the Cold Iron trope bluelinked in the description and doesn't mention armor.

    @Fearless Son: Aversions generally go on Magic Knight, but that one seems more like a case of playing with the trope.
  • March 18, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • Downplayed in Disgaea series. In the games, everyone can equip any equipments, with the exception of weapons. It's very possible to equip mages with armors without any hindrance to damage output, but in this series, the effectiveness of equipments are determined by the class' Aptitudes. Mages generally have low DEF Aptitudes, and thus get less DEF bonus from Equipments.
  • March 18, 2013
    StarSword
    Discovered another trope to bluelink in the description, Magical Gesture, and along with it an additional tabletop example.

    Also, name thoughts? Ain Soph Aur 33 already suggested Wizards Cant Wear Armor.
  • March 18, 2013
    ikeepcrawlingback
    What, you mentioned the Trope Codifier and didn't go all the way?
    • In 4th Edition, there's no such thing as arcane spell failure, but wizards still have the worst armor proficiency. They simply don't care about proficiency because they can take a feat to have AC equivalent to leather and still wear those wonderful magic robes made specifically for them.
  • March 18, 2013
    StarSword
    ^I'm a 3.5 guy. Don't know much about other editions. Thanks!

    And for the full story, is there any difference between how AD&D 1 and basic D&D handled it (if anyone's old enough to know)?
  • March 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • Basic D&D. In the Holmes (1977), Moldvay (1981) and Mentzer (1983) Basic sets and the Rules Cyclopedia (1991), magic users could not wear armor.
  • March 19, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Ask and ye shall receive, apparently. *thumbs up*

    We've hit five hats. I'm gonna leave this up through this evening and launch after I get back from school.
  • March 19, 2013
    eightyfour
    Might I suggest linking to Glass Cannon from the words "heavy artillery"?

    Another related trope that we could link to from the description is Robe And Wizard Hat.
  • March 19, 2013
    Koveras
    Obligatory Just Launch It Already message. ;)
  • March 19, 2013
    StarSword
    Ok, here we go.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=l25g0ffszg52t7hih4nkslhd