Magic Is Rare; Health Is Cheap
Characters in Role Playing Games
have it pretty easy. It doesn't matter what sort of things they endure, whether it be poisoned arrows
, ogre's battleaxes
, dragon fire
, or even the Big Bad
's ultimate spell that destroys the entire world (multiple times over during the course of the fight, although the world still seems to be standing when he's done with it
). All the White Mages
have to do is wave a Magic Wand
, say a few magic words, and presto!
But those healing spells have a limited pool of magic to draw from. What happens when the healer (or the Red
or Black Mage
) runs out? You can often use Healing Potions
for health, but what about magic?
Oftentimes, not much. Because while it is fairly easy to recover health (either through items or spells) in most RPGs, magic recovery items are often much more difficult to come across. While any item shop worth its salt will stock a few healing potions (and possibly some Powerup Food
), magic-restoration items may not be purchasable at all,
or if they are, they're only available in specialty shops that are either out-of-the-way or which flat-out don't accept normal currency. Oftentimes, they're far less effective than healing items, too — while a high-tier healing item might restore hundreds of Hit Points
, magic-restoring items might barely scratch the double digits.
The reasons for this are many. It might be to raise the challenge level of the game — while a player can always heal themselves after a long fight, their slowly-draining MP will mean that they can't keep it up forever, and they'll need to hurry to the next town and its Trauma Inn
or play it more conservatively in battles. It might be a way of avoiding the Antidote Effect
, to ensure that the player will still utilize healing potions even into the late-game. And it may also serve as a way to rein in other magic users besides
the healer — the dungeons' difficulty might be smashed wide open if the Black Mage
can cast his or her most powerful spells in every single battle. Whatever the case, this bit of game balance generally comes down to forcing the player to utilize their resources properly—should they use healing spells all the time, or stick to battles? Should they end things quickly with powerful spells, or try to rely on cheap physical attacks? And if they do
have rare magic-restoring items, is now the time to use them?
Games which avert
this trope tend to be those in which magic restores gradually over time
, or those games in which you are expected
to need all of your tricks and skills in every battle
. It's also commonly seen in games where the entire party shares one magic pool
. And some games avert it just for fun.
- In Dark Souls, your Estus Flask can heal a large amount of health 5-20 time and miracles can heal more, both of which refill every time you reach a bonfire, but nothing besides a bonfire restores uses of an Estus Flask or spell. Dark Souls II added a larger number of expendable healing items and items that restore spell uses; the weakest of the former can be bought in infinite quantities after beating the first boss while the later is only sold in very limited quantities.
- In the first Shantae game, you could find hearts lying about everywhere. Late in the game, you could even unlock a special dance that could heal you for free. However, almost all of your skills were item-based, and the only way to get more uses of those skills was to go back to the town where they were sold and purchase more charges. (The sequel, however, made magic power for skills a far more common drop, and even added a fairly easily obtained magic recharge ability.)
- The Final Fantasy series. While this does vary from game to game, magic-restoring items are very rare as a general rule. The few games that do sell them in stores tend to be incredibly expensive, and you're only ever going to find around a dozen of them in chests throughout the game. That's to say nothing of the Elixirs, which completely restore HP and MP, which are even harder to find, and full-on Too Awesome to Use.
- The Dragon Quest series. Although, like Final Fantasy it can vary from game to game, magic-restoring items are generally far less common than HP-restoring ones.
- In the very first game, there were no MP-restoring items, and the only way to recover magic was to either sleep at an inn or to visit the wizard at the castle. This could be especially difficult, as a great many of the spells in the game provided utilities outside of their battle uses.
- In the first Dragon Quest Monsters game, you won't be able to buy MP-restoring items until late game.
- The Mother series, as well:
- In EarthBound, PP-restoring items and skills tend to be very weak, only restoring around 10 PP (when the skills you'll most want to cast cost around 50 PP). Only two vendors in the game sell them, and you'll outright have to teleport to one of them. The best of these items, the Magic Truffle, can only be found hidden in out-of-the-way places in the Bubblegloop Swamp area by using a specialized item. Poo can use the Brain Food Lunch as a full HP and PP restore, but his max PP isn't much to write home about anyway.
- Mother 3 mitigates this somewhat in that a number of characters in the game can use PP-less skills. Permanent party member Duster can even inflict a wide range of Standard Status Effects whenever he wants, for no cost, and several of the guest stars have their own free skills. So the rarity of these items makes it less of an issue.
- The Shin Megami Tensei series adds to this in that there are two kinds of skills—those that use magic, and those that Cast from Hit Points. MP-based spells tend to be more powerful, but due to the ease of recovery (as long as you have MP to fall back on), HP-based skills are easier to use repeatedly.
- In Persona 4, the rare "Soul" items that restore SP can only be found from monsters and in treasure chests. The only SP-restoring items you can buy are cans of soda, and the vending machine that sells them can run out. Even then, they only restore 5 SP. Luckily, Yu can fuse Personas with the "Skill Drain" abilities, which allow him to leech a very reasonable 30-60 SP off enemies.
- In the first generation of Pokémon games, the Elixirs and Etehrs that restore PP could only be found, and not bought. They were limited in number, and once you used them up, they were gone, simple as that. (Unless you cheated your way to more of them with Missingno.)
- In the second generation, the rare "Mysteryberry," found only in a few out-of-the-way locations, could be used to restore 5 PP to a single skill of a Pokémon. However, given that some skills only have 5 PP and the "best" still tend to hover about the 10-15 PP mark, this isn't as strict as it seems.
- From the third generation onward, Mysteryberries were replaced with Leppa berries, which have the same effects but could be grown anywhere, as much as the player wants, meaning they can always have as many as they want. Elixirs and Ethers also became buyable, but only with the special currency of the Battle Tower that must be earned through fights. The Battle Tower also tends to be unavailable until the Playable Epilogue. Interestingly, Pokémon Black and White had no in-game berry growing, leading to a situation not unlike that of the first generation.
- In the Suikoden series, rune skills have a limited number of charges available to them. The only way to recover these is at an inn or a rune "healer"—no items will recover them. It's often better to use items to heal because of this, and save healing skills for the big boss fights.
- In The Denpa Men, the Antenna items that restore AP can only be found either in chests or as monster drops. They're always uncommon-level drops, too, meaning that the Always Treasure skill that forces monsters to drop items can't make them appear. They don't become buyable in shops until the Playable Epilogue, and even then, only the lowest-level recovery item is available. And they're also quite pricey.
- The second game makes Antennas slightly more common, both by making them drop from more enemies and by having respawning treasure chests that commonly contain them. Some shops do start selling them early on, but they're still plenty expensive.
- In Golden Sun, there are copious numbers of both HP-restoring items and HP-restoring skills. There are even pieces of equipment with unlimited healing effects (they can break, but they're easy to repair), to say nothing of the healing Djinn. However, PP-restoring Djinn are much rarer, as are the portable Psynergy Crystals that restore PP. However, there are also regenerating, single-use Psynergy restoring crystals scattered around.
- In Opoona, of the items that restore FP, two can only be used in battle and those same items can also only purchased through the game's shop point system. They're only available in treasure chests or from monsters otherwise. This is the biggest issue for Opoona himself, as he gets several extremely powerful melee-based skills that, even during the latest levels, he'll only be able to use three or four times before running out of FP.
- In Cthulhu Saves the World, you automatically jump up to full health at the end of each battle. You magic also goes up after battle, but only by a small amount based on how fast you completed the battle. Inns replenish your magic, and thankfully they're 100% free.
- In Breath of Fire III, Wisdom Seeds are rare note , and the stronger variant, Wisdom Fruits, even moreso. This is to balance out the main character's dragon transformations, since, aside from using AP to transform, he also needs to shave a set amount of AP per round to maintain a form. In contrast, Breath of Fire IV is considered better in this regard, because Wisdom Seeds can be bought from the Fairy Shop for a finite supply, enough for the transformations to last longer in battle. Additionally, party members resting in the back row will restore spent AP depending on a stat exclusive to that installment, CP (Concentration).
- In The Legend of Zelda games that use a magic meter, magic is usually a common drop. In fact, many of the games base what pickups you find based on what you're lacking, so if you're low on magic, than magic becomes more common. Magic-restoring potions are also quite cheap.
- In the Tales Series, MP-restoring items do tend to be slightly more expensive than HP-restoring ones, but they are by no means uncommon. Almost every store sells them, and it's easy to burn through them from dungeon to dungeon. Many of the games also slightly restore some MP at the end of battle to prevent burning through the items, anyways.
- In Ni No Kuni, your healer and supporter, Drippy, throws out plenty of magic-restoring pickups. Although MP-restoring items do cost slightly more, they're not absurdly expensive, either. This is probably because Oliver and all of his Familiars draw from the same MP pool, and Oliver himself more or less requires MP to do any real damage.
- The Paper Mario series is a borderline inversion. Healing skills tend to be extremely weak and/or prohibitively expensive. Most HP-healing items tend to only restore 5-10 HP (or too much to the point of overkill), unless you cook your own. FP-restoring items, on the other hand, are easily bought, frequently found, and are almost more common when cooking than HP-restoring items are. This is because not only do Mario and his partners all use the same FP pool, you're also expected to know how to defend wisely against your opponent's attacks, and use your skills to keep Mario and his partners safe.
- It is, however, played more straight with the Mario-only Super Meter that allows him to use the star skills gained from completing each level. Only sleeping and doing attacks can fill this meter. Only one item, available in the second game, can fill it up, but it comes at a terrible price...