'O mad and greedy waters, rise up and storm the very heavens... Tidal Wave!'
The venerable incantation for the great spell Tidal Wave
Rita: Blah blah blah... Tidal Wave!A lot of the time, Functional Magic is bound by formulas, parameters, and in-universe consistency and limitations. In a narrative context, the most common of these is having to perform a specific action to achieve a specific effect. Maybe a long chant is required to cast the spell, maybe you have to draw a circle in the ground, maybe you need to make some sort of gesture or hand sign. These are all potential openings, so you'd better hope Talking Is a Free Action. And then a character shows up that seems to, at first glance, ignore the established system by being capable of Simplified Spellcasting. They can simplify the process to produce an immediate effect with little or no Spell Construction. This ability is generally the product of either years of experience, a rare talent, resourcefulness, being a Badass Abnormal, having learned the magical arts under very unusual circumstances, or being in possession of rare equipment that can assist spellcasting. In any case, expect the caster's opponent to call him out for cheating. Sometimes, however, this advantage carries a price or drawbacks inherent in the method, such as making the spell weaker than it would be with proper Spell Construction, carrying higher risks, or substituting the cost of opportunity for something else such as rare reagents or the user's own life force. It can add an element of unpredictability by allowing the spell to be cast without Calling Your Attacks. It can also lead to I Am Not Left-Handed, when an opponent assumes that the caster has been neutralized because the usual methods have been suppressed. Note that if casting spells without any prerequisite is normal in-universe, it does not count as this trope. However, the normal requirements do not have to be completely foregone, merely reduced. Also, this is a fantasy trope. A subtrope of Thought-Controlled Power when no Spell Construction is required. Limited-Use Magical Device is a subtrope for when it's done through an item.
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Anime and Manga
- In Bleach, casting a Hadou or Bakudou spell without an incantation is considered a sign of skill, though the spell is also weakened significantly if performed as such. Still, it's useful since the incantations are so absurdly long.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, "normal" transmutation is achieved by manually drawing a complex circular figure around whatever raw material is being transmuted. Various characters initially appear to violate this rule by acheiving greater levels of enlightenment regarding the principles involved.
- The lowest degree involves drawing out the formula, which in theory anyone can do with enough reference material.
- Highly skilled alchemists don't need to re-draw formulae they've mastered each time and can 're-use' a circle: Roy Mustang and Alex Louis Armstrong have gloves equipped with alchemy circles, and Solf J. Kimblee and Scar have them tattooed directly onto their bodies
- Alchemist who has attempted human transmutation, which involves seeing the Gate of Truth (essentially a gnostic revelation) understand the fundamentals of the process to a much greater degree, to the point that 'drawing' is a simple matter of forming a circle with their hands (by clapping and drawing the hands apart) then pointing it at the target to be transmuted. Convenient, but it can literally cost them an arm and a leg, or worse.
- Possessing a Philosopher's Stone, essentially the essence of alchemical truth distilled into a physical circle (well, sphere) can bump the caster "up a level" of mastery, as seen with Kimblee and Alphonse.
- Father, after absorbing Truth, was able to perform transmutations without moving at all. This is symbolically implied to use whatever circle is convenient and repurpose the associated 'formula' at will without having to symbolically 're-draw' it.
- Nanoha from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha learned to enter Magical Girl mode without going through the full chant on her second try, a feat that astonished Yuuno.
- Reinforce inverts this trope, even adding incantations to spells she copied from others... and also increasing their power exponentially. This leads to an Oh, Crap! moment when she starts chanting something that's clearly a description of Nanoha's Finishing Move. After Hayate receives Reinforce's powers she uses them similarly.
- Negi from Mahou Sensei Negima! masterfully uses "delayed spells" by uttering the chant beforehand and activating them later in the battle. He can't have an entire arsenal of spells at the ready constantly, but his ability to chant now and cast later allows him to have his spells ready when he needs them the most.
- Jack Rakan actually inverts this trope by adding unnecessary chants and poses to moves when they're not needed. Why? Because it's cool!
- After deciding to be a Magic Knight Negi focuses on Simplified Spellcasting, and no longer needs to prepare spells in advance. At least for a few simple spells.
- Negi's father Nagi was able to skip over most of the incantation for the Thousand Bolts spell, only saying the final few lines and achieving the full effect. Negi completely outclasses him by the end of the series, though, able to double-layer the Thousand Bolts and absorb both using Magia Erebea just by sneezing. Even if that was a case where he'd prepared before, he does the same thing during his 'graduation' fight with Eva using just ten words.
- Haku, one of the earliest villains, manages to make signs with only one hand, an unheard of skill that proves useful in his fight against Sasuke. Just to emphasize how unique this is, the next character to perform this feat is the Fourth Hokage's Edo Tensei zombie—and even then, only after getting his other arm blown off.
- The multi-Shadow Clone Jutsu normally consists of three Zodiac hand signs and one special hand sign. Naruto performs this technique with just one sign.
- The Rasengan is also almost unique among ninjutsu for requiring no hand seals to form, which was a major component of the Fourth Hokage's Speed Blitz combat style.
- In Scrapped Princess, usually the more powerful a spell is, the longer and more complicated the vocals needed to cast it become. Raquel, a very powerful sorceress, can skip most of that and cast using a single short sentence that doesn't even have to rhyme. According to the light novels, spellcasting is actually triggering specific computer programs in the world; Raquel is constantly running an emulator, so she just has to "double-click" her spells.
- Claudia Dodge in Coffin Princess Chaika is able to use her gundr much more quickly and efficiently than Chaika can as her incantations are only a few syllables long instead of numerous words. This series was also written by the same guy who wrote Scrapped Princess.
- Slayers actually lampshades this:
"Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows... I'll skip the rest. DRAGON SLAVE!!!"
- The point being that a full incantation is needed to use the spell's full power, but powerful masters can do with only the name. And only a few masters can skip even it, even for low-grade magic (and thus may misrepresent a spell, like Lina did in the first season). The most powerful sorcerers can actually just say the name mentally to cast the spell.
- In Bastard!! humans and other mortal races need to chant encantations for spells, but angels and demons (who were the ones who taught magic to humans and other races in the first place) don't need to, as they create magic as a natural consequence of their movements. The series' protagonist, Dark Schneider, eventually becomes a being on par with the angels and demons and gains this ability too
- In Fairy Tail when fighting Grey, Lyon uses unusual one-handed seals. While using only one hand is a tad faster, Lyon's ice constructs are less stable and can't stand-up to power of two-handed ice-makes.
- James Stark has a knack for bluffing his way through magic, a talent that (combined with his personality) eventually annoy his "friends" enough to send him to hell.
- In The Chronicles of Amber, most magic is either card-based (for communication/transportation) or incantation based. However, Merlin has a way of "priming" spells for use. He basically gives the incantation, but keeps the spell from resolving, allowing for use later. The spells only have a short shelf-life though, which makes this somewhat Awesome, but Impractical.
- In Discworld:
- The complete Rite of AshkEnte (which summons Death into a circle) is ludicrously long and convoluted, so they almost always skip most of it. It turns out to be a comedic Inverted Trope: anyone with magic ability can perform the complete rite in five minutes with three bits of wood and 4 cc of mouse blood. Since wizards are inveterate showoffs to a man they find this fact extremely distasteful, and unless pressed for time will add in lots of pointless chanting and dribbly candles to make themselves feel better.
- Beneath all the showmanship, demon Summoning Rituals are powered by force of will, so Granny Weatherwax, Heroic Willpower incarnate, calls up a demon in a wash house with the materials at hand. When the demon sneers that her ceremonial "Sword of Art" looks more like a washing stick, she uses it to shear a sawhorse in two. It gets much more cooperative after that, albeit complaining about the indignity of the whole affair.
- In Harry Potter, it is considered a sign of talent and experience to be able to cast spells nonverbally. So even if you hit an opponent with a Silencing Charm, you can't feel too safe as long as they have a wand in their hand.
- Averted in that young witches and wizards sometimes use magic accidentally, but it's implied that most forms of controlled magic are impossible without a wand, possibly even to Dumbledore and Voldemort.
- In the first movie, Dumbledore changes the banners in the Great Hall, and in the third movie he is implied to save Harry from falling to his death without his wand, but these are movie-specific exceptions.
- Voldemort is able to control his magic to some extent as a kid (he uses it to abuse the other kids and explore normally inaccessible caves), but it isn't clear how effective this is.
- Lupin manages what is apparently a simple light spell (Lumos) both nonverbally and without a wand. It's unknown whether he's capable of anything more complicated.
- Averted in that young witches and wizards sometimes use magic accidentally, but it's implied that most forms of controlled magic are impossible without a wand, possibly even to Dumbledore and Voldemort.
- In Inheritance Cycle, magic is usually cast via the Ancient Language, but a sufficiently trained magic user can cast spells mentally. However, this comes at the cost of control; the caster runs a higher risk of the spell going wrong or backfiring.
- Kelley Armstrong's The Otherworld series contains necromancers, who use relics of the dead to invoke their more impressive abilities. In No Humans Involved, Jamie Vegas raises the dead without using such a relic.
- In The Elenium (and its sequel series, The Tamuli), magic is usually accomplished through an intricate, ritualistic invocation, including somatic components. This can take a while, and is very hard to do when you're in the middle of a battle — not to mention requiring you to think and talk in at least passingly decent Styric, which is apparently a very, very difficult language. However, there are a few who have found alternate sources of divine power, and they can usually whip up some serious magic just with a quick word or gesture. Those that have attained a close, personal relationship with a Styric God are able to simply send a mental plea for help. The god in question still gets annoyed if they 'shortcut' too much, and insists that they go through the motions if there's time.
- Within Rick Cook's Wiz Biz novels, the protagonist finds a way to employ his programming skills to store and retrieve complex spells using counting daemons.
- In the Young Wizards series there are a few spells whose spell circle can be pulled up off the ground, stored away, and then put back down on the ground for later use without having to reconstruct the circle.
- A spell can be almost completely cast and then stored in a wizard's mind, to later be released by saying the last word in the spell. However, only a limited number of spells can be stored this way.
- For combat purposes, wizards will sometimes build a weapon made from words of a spell written in Hard Light and use the last word as a verbal trigger (or, in some cases, a fuse).
- Nita has a special magical construct which she created under special circumstances, which can hold up to nine completed spells. The construct tangibly manifests as a charm bracelet, with each charm being a stored spell.
- Played with in The Courtship of Princess Leia: to the Witches of Dathomir, being able to command the Force without specific incantations is a sign of great power. To Luke and the Jedi, it's the normal way of doing things, and the Witches' spells are just a Magic Feather to help them conceptualize their Force sensitivity.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, spells usually have various components which include verbal (spoken magical words), material (essentially magical substances that are consumed by the spell), somatic (gestures) and the like which are needed to cast them. However, the metamagic feats can allow the "rules" of the spell to be ignored. These feats usually come at the cost of an increase in spell level, requiring the caster to use up his/her more limited high-level slots.
- An example is the Silent Spell feat. If a wizard with the feat prepares the spell silently, it takes up a one level higher level but can be cast even in a Silence field (otherwise a great way of stopping a wizard). A sorcerer doesn't (and can't) prepare spells, but if they have Silent Spell, by spending a higher level spell slot and taking a full-round action can pull off the same trick. Quicken Spell costs four spell levels, and allows a spell to be cast very quickly (in the same round as another spell). Metamagic rods let a caster pull this off without spending the feat or spell levels, but only a few times per day and with other limits instead.
- There are also inversions of this trope such as the Snowcasting and Primitive Spellcaster feats, which add more components to a spell to increase its power.
- This is the main mechanical point of the 3.5 Shadowcaster class: When they start out, their fundamentals (their simplest spells, the equivalents of cantrips and orisons for other casters) are cast as supernatural abilities, while their mysteries (the equivalent of spells) are cast as spells. When they get access to the next tier of mysteries, their initial tier of mysteries begin to be cast as spell-like abilities, and when they get access to the tier after that the initial tier works as supernatural abilities and the second tier as spell-like abilities. Spell-like abilitiesnote lack somatic components, and supernatural abilities are instinctual enough to use that it does not distract enough to allow others to get in opportunity attacks. They'd lose the need to use material components, verbal components and foci as well, but none of the mysteries have them in the first place.
- Pathfinder's psychic magic loses non-expensive material components and put things askew by exchanging verbal and somatic components for other, less externally visible, components (emotion — can't be affected by non-harmless emotion or fear effects, meaning they literally can be scared into being unable to cast some spells — and thought — requires building up a mental image, which means it is requires more concentration unless they take a moment to center themselves first). The practical effect is that it looks like this to someone unfamiliar with psychic magic, but if you are familiar it is just as complicated as an arcane spellcaster with the Eschew Materials featnote — just more difficult to shut down indefinitely without resorting to anti-magic effects.
- A Hero System mage can build his spells with "Variable Limitations", letting him change the requirements for spellcasting. The example in the 6th Edition rulebook is a mage who normally chants and gestures to cast a Teleport spell, but when he's captured (and bound) by brigands he changes the spell Limitation and teleports away.
- In Mage: The Ascension, this is the measure of a mage's enlightment. Most mages need some sort of focus, depending on how they learned their magic (anything from tarot to mad science) However, as they advance in power, they learn to skip the rituals more. The most powerful ones can perform Reality Warping by will alone.
- 3E GURPS Technomancer. Mages start out needing to use words and actions in order to achieve the proper mental state, but experienced casters just need to concentrate.
- In Ars Magica, a skilled mage can forego the usual incantations and hand gestures, but this makes spells considerably harder to cast. They can also invert this by casting a spell as a lengthy, convoluted Ritual for extra power and precision.
- Caster from Fate/stay night, due to her High Speed Divine Language Skill. Rin was able to do this as well, but only because she was using magic jewels with contained high quantities of magic energy; once that source was exhausted, she had to recite her spells.
- Spell Incantations in the Nasuverse are actually a form of self-hypnosis, and the actual words are not important so much as the MEANING behind them is to the user. Hence it's possible for a skilled or experience spellcaster to easily shortened their incantation time and why most of Rin's spell sound like horrible German.
- In Tales of Vesperia, while in Overlimit mode, magic users will simply recite a short generic phase instead of a lengthy incantation and cast the spell almost instantly. Rita, for instance, simply says "Blah blah blah, *insert spell name*!".
- Originally done in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World by Marta: "Blah, blah, blah, PHOTON!"
- In general, when humanoid bosses in this series have spells that are also available to player characters, they'll have a reduced casting time and a shorter incantation to go with it, or be able to skip the incantation entirely.
- In the Megami Tensei series of games, the long complex process of summoning and contracting with demons is simplified and shortened by programming the processes into computers and running the resultant Demon Summoning Program.
- We never see it done the long way but in DmC Devil May Cry, Kat has studied wiccan rituals and spells, which has taught her that these sorts of things can take extensive preparation, possibly on the order of several days. So, instead of simply mixing ingredients and drawing seals when they're needed, Kat put pre-mixed spellcasting ingredients into spray cans and traced out her magic seals onto stencils, allowing her to instantaneously set up a spellcasting ritual without needing any preparation.
- InUnsounded, spellcasting consists of precise verbal instructions in the Language of Magic, although Duane is one of a rare group of "tacit casters" born with the ability to cast without speaking out loud. Although it lets him cast spells quickly and covertly, he clarifies that he still has to think the exact same words he would otherwise be speaking — an important restriction, since magic works in very literal terms and tends to kill casters who are careless in their spellwork.
- Phaeton has both long form (more syllables, more power, longer to cast) and short form (less syllables, less power, shorter to cast) magic.
- Also using words and getures are not neccessary to use powers sometimes but always make it easier.
- Spell scribes generally write on a piece of paper but can also cast by writing in the air.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, bending powers are typically accompanied by large, flashy martial-arts-like movements. The more powerful the bender, the less movement they need to gain the effect. Members of the Fire Nation royal family are sometimes seen to shoot jets of flame from their palms or mouth with little or no movement required, and King Bumi can perform impressive feats of Earthbending just by wiggling his nose or chin. We later see an assassin who can firebend with his mind, no movement required. As did an opponent in the third season of The Legend of Korra. Amon, the first villain in Legend of Korra, is capable of bloodbending without any movement at all, as was his father Yakone.