Spell Levels

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.).

Compare Whatevermancy and Elemental Tiers. A common component of Vancian Magic. May be subject to Rank Inflation.


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    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 Jutsu techniques in Naruto are ranked E (basic illusions and such) all the way to to S (often a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, in that some jutsu of this caliber require a literal sacrifice, either from yourself or a hapless somebody else.
  • Kido in Bleach is ranked from 1-99, and the higher the level, the more difficult (and powerful) a kido is to perform.
  • Spells in Zatch Bell! often contain prefixes outlining their power, with the most consistent prefixes from weakest to strongest being Gigano, Dioga, and Shin. Other strengthening prefixes like Teo, Go, and Ma also exist, but it's more ambiguous where their power levels align in the hierarchy when compared to the main three. There's also the Baou prefix, used only by the eponymous hero, which is in a league of its own, even above Shin.

  • 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. There are still instances of 'Lesser' and 'Greater' which were lesser and greater powered version of the spell, respectively.
    • The 5th Edition is similar to the 3rd; while spells have ten levels (0-9), most classes have no access to spells beyond a certain level.
  • 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.
  • In Ponies And Parasprites, Arcane skills are split into 'Magic' and 'Rituals'. Magic is inherent to Unicorns and doesn't follow a leveling system, growing as the Unicorn does. Rituals are divided based on their power: Common > Uncommon > Protected > Arcane > Lost.

    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)ra", "[spell](a)ga", and "[spell](a)ja", 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). For example, the fire spells in FFX are Fire, Fira, and Firaga. Interestingly enough, some games replace Curaja with Curaga and rename Curaga as Curada as per their original names: exactly why this specific spell is different from the others is anyone's guess.
    • Besides the "Fire/Fira/Firaga" distinction, Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy Dimensions have spells sorted into tiers in a very Dungeons & Dragons-esque fashion. This is understandable, since the former borrows heavily from D&D, the middle two expand on the first's formula, and the latter is a throwback. Naturally, the more recent Spiritual Successor Bravely Default follows suit.
    • Final Fantasy XII decided to have both "[spell]aga" and "[spell]aja," at least for the Cure line. The order was Cure/Cura/Curaga/Curaja/Renew, with Cure/Curaga being single-target, Cura/Curaja being multi-target, and Renew being a Full-Restore for the entire team. No "[spell]ada", however, and the Fire/Fira/Firaga stayed the same, with "[spell]aja" only used as super powered attacks for Espers when the party fights them.
    • Final Fantasy XIII introduced the spell Curasa into the Cure line.
    • Kingdom Hearts borrows the naming system, though the Ja tier is replaced by -agun/-za depending on the translation.
  • 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 relevant 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 or Garu for wind and other key words such as Dia, healing - that get more powerful with prefixes or suffixes: e.g. Maragi hits all enemies with fire, Zionga is a stronger lightning attack, Mediarama heals all allies instead of just one for more health. The franchise's folder explains in more detail.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has all spells divided into five difficulty levels (Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, Expert, and Master), and you can only learn higher-level spells after raising your skill in the corresponding magical school to a certain level.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim keeps the tiers (although Journeyman is renamed to Adept), but the magic system is slightly different. Since skills are no longer tiered, theoretically, any character can cast any spell at any time. In practice, your spells are still limited by several factors:
    • If you're low-level and/or haven't bothered to level up your magicka, you simply won't have enough magicka to cast the spell. Yeah, that 298 MP Expert-level fire spell may be cool, but it's not going to do you any good if your max magicka is 100.
    • You may find spell tomes in random loot, but they're level-locked; for example, Apprentice-level spell tomes only begin to show up at level 11, and Adept-level tomes show up at level 23. This applies to your character level, not your skill levels; you can play a warrior who has a skill level of 15 (the minimum) in every school of magic and you'll still find high-level spell tomes as you advance in overall level.
    • Merchants who sell spell tomes will only sell Adept- and Expert-level tomes when the PC's skill level in the relevant school of magic is above a certain level (40 and 65, respectively).
    • In order to use Master-level magic, you first have to level up your skill in the relevant school of magic to 100 (the cap) and then complete a sidequest for that school's trainer at the College of Winterhold. You'll get one Master-level spell tome free for completing the quest, and then you'll be able to buy the other Master-level tomes at the College. No other merchants sell them, and they don't appear in loot.
  • Breath of Fire IV in a couple of the dragon forms had the Korean versions of these spells which added more syllables to denote how much more powerful the spell was. Usually these were just restricted with the elemental attack magics.
  • In the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban games, most spells have a "Duos" or "Trio" variant that is stronger than the base version, which doesn't appear to be the case in the source material.
  • Similar to the Final Fantasy example (and actually predating its translated use in America by a large margin), Phantasy Star introduced technique tiers in the second game. They were grouped as "[technique]", "Gi[technique]", and "Na[technique]", with the additional "Sa[technique]" if you wanted multiple targets. For the former, examples would be Foi, Gifoi and Nafoi; for the latter, there is Ner and Saner.note 
  • World of Warcraft used to have ranks for most spells and abilities, with higher ranks becoming available for training for players as they leveled up. For the most part, there was no real reason to go back to a lower rank after that, and this was eventually replaced with abilities simply becoming stronger with each Character Level. In addition, most healing spells initially came in three strenghts: Lesser, (Normal) and Greater. The latter were the most efficient, but also took the longest to cast and were rarely used because of that. The general concept still exists for healers, if with different spells. For example, Priests use Flash Heal as the quick but costly healing spell, Greater Heal (with a much shorter casting time) for the slow but effective healing and while the normal version Heal still exists, no one really uses it and its slated for removal in the next expansion.