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Differences between witches, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards...:

 1 Zolnier, Wed, 4th May '11 10:02:01 AM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
What could they be? They're all part of the same Witch Species, and warlocks are definitely going to be jerkass witches who don't stick to their word.
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
Well, I've seen versions of each that are fairly diverse, from demon-summoners, to basically psychics, to users of "true speech" to well, anything.

It's more a matter of background than anything else.

 
 3 cityofmist, Wed, 4th May '11 11:34:23 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
The distinctions you see most often are that witches use spells/rituals, sorcerers or warlocks summon spirits/demons, and wizards (or magicians, or mages, or whatever else you're calling them) can do magic from their own power. Of course, if your Witch Species all use magic in the same way, that wouldn't apply, but it might help.

edited 4th May '11 11:34:47 AM by cityofmist

Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 4 annebeeche, Wed, 4th May '11 12:05:04 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
  • Witch —> wicca (m) wicce (f) The old english word for someone who practices witchcraft. Back in the day it was more socially acceptable for women to practice seiğr than men. Witch is actually a unisex word, and had been used as such even into the colonial age.
  • Sorcerer —> Latin via Old French, I know nothing of the Latin and French views on magic and witchcraft.
  • Warlock —> traitor, scoundrel, liar, this was used as an insult and a threat on runestones— "Anyone who defiles this stone is a warlock". Magic in the Germanic world had connotations of being sneaky, indirect and deceiving in the way it worked, and men were taught to be honest and direct with each other. I do not know if this is a natively Germanic stigma or a change instigated by Christianity to stamp out pagan practices.
  • Wizard —> From middle english, "Wise + ard". It appears that in old norse, female seiğr practitioners were also wise women and well respected. Perhaps it once applied the same to male witches? I don't know.

edited 4th May '11 12:06:33 PM by annebeeche

Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion. I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
So are we trying to come up with unique differences for you or just more standard stuff?

Here are some standard interpretations that come off the top of my head.

Witch -> Female, works with spirits or curses

Sorcerer -> Male or female, works with elemental magics, showy stuff

Warlock -> Male, works with more demonic stuff, darker magic, summoning

Wizards -> More of a prepare stuff to cast kind of guy, using scrolls and such to cast spells whereas sorcerers draw on mana

His Royal Highness
Do as I do and use etymology.

  • Wizards and Wizardesses/Vitkarls and Vitkonas practise White and or neutral magic.
  • Warlocks and Witches practise Black magic.
    • Witch have a double etymology, Either the evil meaning Sorceress, or the good meaning Knower of secret knowledge used by for eccample Wiccans.
    • Some witch-hunters doesent know that, however...
I reject your reality and substitute my own!!!
 7 Trotzky, Wed, 4th May '11 12:54:13 PM from 3 km North of Torchwood
Lord high Xecutioner
I use D & D 3rd edition with bells and whistles.

Just after the begining was Theomachia, the War of Gods v Titans. After the war, there were caches of magic weapons left over. Sorcery is based on Charisma, Wizardry is based on Intelligence, Clericy is based on Wisdom, Stage Magic is based on Dexterity, Monks apply Constitution, Paladins apply Strength.

Sorcerers find Ancient Artifacts, they apply CHA, "I wonder what THIS button does?" Wizards apply INT, they stand at a safe distance and write down the results.

Thaumomachia = Mage War and when THAT war ended, there were even more caches of Ancient Artifacts across the land.

Witchcraft is a Nature Religion which celebrates 8 Solar Festivals and 12.5 Full Moons per year. It is 1/3 as burdensome a Faith as Flamism which celebrates 52 Sundays and 2 dozen Saints' days AND 60 fast days per year.

DMG defines WITCH as a Magic-User with a specific spell list and bonus on Potions. The Church of Witchcraft is mostly organized with WITCHES as Priests and Peasants as the Congregations.

Spelling convention "WITCH" = the specific magic powers defined in DMG; "Witch" = member of the Congregation.

"Warlock" is the sectarian insult to Chaotic dark Witches from the other Churches; "Pharoah" is the insult to Lawful light Flamists from the Others; "Troll" is the insult to Lawful dark Pontiffs; "Hippy" is the insult to Neutral neutral grey Druids; "Tyrant" is the sectarian insult to the Justified Ancient Church who are Evil dark alignment.

Some WITCHES are NOT members of the Witch Church. Some DRUIDS are NOT members of the Druid Church

edited 4th May '11 2:00:29 PM by Trotzky

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!
Pink's alright, I guess.
Do you really need these differences in your work? Wouldn't it be better to let each clan/group/character to develop its own personality?

Chaotic New Troll
Here are my ideas:

Witch = mind/illusion magic - These mages (who could be mostly female, or maybe just matriarchal) specialize in mind-control magic and illusion spells to trick targets. Their weakness is that they are really really ugly, but their spells can temporarily offset that.

Sorcerer = destruction/creation magic - These mages have the power to take apart and reconstruct matter (sort of like the alchemists from FMA), but often suffer from Power Incontinence.

Warlock = summoning/"forbidden" magic - These mages (who could be mostly male, or patriarchal) specialize in summoning things to fight for them. Other powers include various Squicky tortures and Mind Rape, hence why they are forbidden. (Perhaps, if this takes place in a world with The Masquerade, only warlocks can summon, but any muggle who walks by can bargain for powers and become lesser warlocks themselves. This always ends badly for them, because muggles just don't know how to innately control their magic.) Their weakness is that they gain their powers through contracts, which often involves a very painful bargain on their end.

Wizard = enchantments/technology magic - Wizards can enchant objects and other things with powers that benefit them or make them dangerous. Enchantment might sound like a stupid power at first, but think of the uses: Enchant one enemy and make him explosive, cause the ground beneath them to fly when stepped on... etc.
 10 Zolnier, Wed, 4th May '11 9:08:57 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
[up]I like your thoughts, although witch (and kinda the default) is a gender neutral term in the stories, and all of these magic users have to be the same species. So witches being especially ugly will have to go, I guess they'd all have to be schools of magic rather than bloodlines.

edited 5th May '11 12:01:47 AM by Zolnier

Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Sorcery would be the neutral term, I think.

A witch/wizard strikes me as the standard hedge mage that could live in a small town or village. Little formal training, lotsa trickery.

As for warlocks, it's a loaded term. It suggests either treachery or forbidden magic. Either it's applied to particularly evil/Deal with the Devil magic users, or it might work as a slur against mages.

You've forgot the term "mage", that could apply to magic users that DO have formal training. tongue.

In my setting I have Magi (jack of all trades, formal study of magic), Shamans (primal magics), Wizards/Witches (folk magic), Druids (often overlap with witches), Priests and Sorcerers (ritual magic: blessings, curses and summonings). The term warlock is used as a slur against Magi specifically, suggesting dirty deals with demons (which is somewhat accurate).

edited 5th May '11 10:19:42 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 12 Dragon 573, Thu, 5th May '11 4:29:36 PM from The line between despair and serenity Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
Everyone yearns for the faith of a psychopath
Here's how I think of it. I formed my oppinions based on D&D and MMORPG's.

Witch: Support- Mainly uses his/her powers to curse/hex enemies and empower her friends. Is more in tune with Nature than the others, using the animals, the weather, etc.

Wizard: Multipurpose- Flashy spells, some AoE, some single target. Can empower his/her allies, but not to the extent of the witch.

Warlock: Blaster- My favorite. Focuses his power on blasting his/her enemies to hell (sometimes literally). Obtains power through means other than study(wizards) or being born with such a gift(sorcerers, although being born with a gift for the arcane doesn't preclude the possibility of becoming a warlock.), usually through bargaining with some extraplanar being, be it a Fey, an infernal, an Eldritch Abomination, or a Deity (Though the Deity in question must have the ability to grant arcane power in adition to the Divine power they more commonly grant their followers). I, however, like to extend this definition to those who gain their powers through some ancient relic, though those that do could just as easily be

Sorcerer: Multipurpose/On the spot support- Doesn't have the same mastery of arcana as wizard. Instead, uses magic as a poet writes his works. He is the arcane, and the arcane lives in him. Baiscally, can cast spells that are more like raw magic than the fine-tuned spells of the wizard, and doesn't need to prepare his spells ahead of time.

edited 5th May '11 4:30:05 PM by Dragon573

Keep calm and drink Estus.
 13 thelittleman 66, Sun, 29th May '11 3:51:25 PM from Deep in Chris-Chan's ego
gobblygoop
Witches call upon spirits from the next world to do their dark bidding. They practice a dark ritualistic form of voodoo that relies on spirits of the dead and demons rather than nature spirits. Tend to be trolls, goblins, and some humans and dwarves.

Sorcerers are similar to wizards. They practice similar arcane magic, however their intent, execution, and control can be in question. Tend to be Elves, Humans, Gnomes and other similar races.

Warlocks are sorcerers who call upon demonic power to do their bidding. Somewhat similar to witches, however, their method is arcane rather than voodoo. Tend to be Humans and Orcs.

Wizards are magically skilled individuals with formal training and expertise. They use controlled, powerful magic rather than chaotic energies. Tend to be Elves and Humans.
What do ya mean I ain't kind? Just not your kind...
Why can't fantasy writers just except that there are synonyms? I mean, there are fantasy universes where "vampires" are distinct from "vampyrs" for God's sake.
 
 15 Dragon 573, Sun, 29th May '11 7:17:58 PM from The line between despair and serenity Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
Everyone yearns for the faith of a psychopath
Because some people like making distinctions. Sometimes, having distinct terms makes it easier to make things clear to readers than wordy explanations.

"I'm a warlock" is easier to say than "I'm a wizard who uses magic gained from <Insert source here>." I'd say the second one would disrupt the flow quite a bit.
Keep calm and drink Estus.
 16 Kostya, Sun, 29th May '11 7:25:59 PM from Everywhere
The Razruchityel
@Op if you mean the common traits and stereotypes of each I always saw it as:

witches: Varies. The more recent the media the more likely they're good or at least neutral. Typically need rituals, artifacts, or spells to do things though some have things like limited telepathy on their own. Most likely to use potions IMO.

sorcerers: Evil or neutral. Ones that are clearly good are rare at least in the media I'm exposed to. Usually possess arcane powers that go beyond the others. Magic is innate much of the time and they just think about doing something and it happens.

warlocks: Evil. I sometimes hear of them being the male counterpart to witches but I don't know much about them beyond that.

wizards: Seem to be neutral to good. Usually born with powers but might need a wand to focus or even gain the ability to use magic. Can do a lot of things with just a wand but more complex things require a ritual or potion.

 17 thespacephantom, Sun, 29th May '11 7:26:43 PM from standing on the razor's edge
welcome to the limit
Witches are lady wizards, sorcerers are destructive wizards, not necessarily evil, warlocks are evil sorcerers, and wizards are magic users.
don't look down, just keep your head
 18 nrjxll, Sun, 29th May '11 7:32:28 PM Relationship Status: Not war
In the fantasy world I've been thinking about, they're different cultural terms for the same thing, though "wizard" is a pejorative term after the spectacular demise of the old "Wizard Kingdoms".

edited 29th May '11 7:32:59 PM by nrjxll

The way I use the terms, witches and sorcerers are gender counterparts of each-other, terms used to define rogue magic users who operate without the blessings of the gods and who are not, therefore, bound by any governing law.

Warlocks and wizards are just fancy titles for a mage that has achieved recognition in the magical community.
This is still a signature.
This reminds me of a conversation I once had about the difference between Mad Science, Superscience, Pulp Science, and Science!
 
 21 Zolnier, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:51:45 PM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
[up]What conclusions did you come to out of curiosty?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
That Mad Science is irreproducable, Pulp Science is basically regular science that can be done rapidly on the fly with limited parts, Superscience is hyper-advanced but reproduceable, and Science! is just superscience so advanced as to sufficiently indistinguishable from Clarke's Law.

But enough ontopic: Personally I'm inclined to think of Witches as good/neutral invokers (calling upon the power of spirits), Warlocks as evil/chaotic invokers (calling upon the power of demons), Wizards as evokers (forcing the elements to do what they want), and Sorcerers as conjurers (creating stuff out of raw mana - a magical flame as opposed to forcing the universe to create fire or beseeching a fire diety).

Which would translate into divine magic, divine magic, scientific/ritual magic, natural/wild/intuitive magic slash superpowers.

 
That's the thing - everyone's definitions are so idiosyncratic because of this rather recent (D&D inspired) need to divide up magic use into a bunch of neat categories. Really, wizard, witch, sorcerer, they all mean "magic user, " with some slightly different gender-related connotations. The only one with a set moral tone is warlock, which comes from a word for "oath-breaker."
 
 24 Zolnier, Tue, 7th Jun '11 11:46:34 AM from A suspiciously dull shop
The Odd Lad
I need to blend rule magic with inherent gift in a Witch Species anyone have tips?
Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up... But Is It That Great Now?...

Also I'm Skylark2 now.
 25 nrjxll, Tue, 7th Jun '11 5:08:35 PM Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]Correct, which is why I have them all be the same thing with different names. It seems like a lot of people have trouble shaking that D&D influence sometimes.

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