You mean magic isn't for free?
"All power demands sacrifice."
Power. The ability to influence, create, change, and even destroy. Things, places, people.
It is by nature highly contentious: Some want it and would kill for it, others do not want it, or would gladly give away such a burden. Therein lies the rub. For all its force, blessings, or ability to change, power is not free... of responsibility, consequence, or cost. Some people think the exchange has to be "fair."
Drama derives vigor from the quandary of how power, seemingly free of any strings, has inherent costs. Whether they are hideous mutations, social alienation, or even death varies by story, genre, and kind of power. But the underlying basis is the same: Power at a Price.
Video Games and Tabletop Games
- Equivalent Exchange — Everything does not come free; it has a (sometimes terrible) cost.
- Black Magic — Very powerful magic, at a moral and material price.
- Eye of Newt — Magic requires magical components.
- Fantastic Fragility — Building in weaknesses to boost power.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards — Wizards take longer to gain power, but gain more power in the end.
- Magic Knight — Can fight well physically, but usually isn't as powerful at magic as a pure wizard.
- The Red Mage — Can use all kinds of magic, but isn't the best at any of them.
- Squishy Wizard — Can cast powerful spells, but can't take a punch. Basically, magical power at a physical price.
- Cast from Hit Points — Magic fueled by sacrificing your current health (i.e., causing your body damage), your life force or your lifespan, which brings us to...
- Cast From Lifespan — Magic which shortens the user's lifespan.
- White Magic — Not as powerful as Black Magic, but less noxious.
- Magic Is a Monster Magnet — Using magic draws the wrong sort of attention.