Okay, you're designing an RPG, and you've got your Fighter, Mage, Thief, but something's missing. The magic adds a lot of strategic elements to the combat system, and you don't want to have just one magic user. You want to add more variety. But you can't just create a copy of the mage; it has to be different somehow. So how to make the two mages distinct? Simple. Have one attack and the other heal!
Black and White Magic is a common way of having more than one magician character or class while having them remain distinct. One of the mages specializes in offensive magic which causes damage, negative status, or otherwise harms the enemy, while the other specializes in defensive magic to cure their allies, remove negative status, or increase their own stats. They are often referred to as "wizard" and "cleric" (or some variation) respectively.
Not to be confused with Black Magic and White Magic, which are distinct tropes and don't usually overlap with this. If a character can do both, then he's The Red Mage. Characters who use offensive magic are Black Mages, characters who use defensive & healing magic are White Mages.
- Perfect World has the Wizard (full on squishy) and the Cleric (healer, but also specializes in Metal magic).
- The newer Psychic class actually has spells called Black Voodoo (increases attack but decreases defense) and White Voodoo (increases defense but decreases attack).
- In DC Universe Online, the Celestial power uses both Cursed and Blessed attacks. Cursed moves are black, Blessed are white. It's generally agreed that Cursed Celestial is better for DPS, while Blessed is better for the healing role.
- Final Fantasy XIV has the Thaumaturge/Black Mage and Conjurer/White Mage. Black Mage is purely offensively oriented, with Fire, Ice, Thunder, and Shadow spells making up their main repertoire. White Mage focuses almost exclusively on healing, buffing, and cleansing negative effects, with wind and earth elemental spells to provide some minor offensive capability.
- Ogre Battle is one case where this does overlap with Black Magic and White Magic. In that series, you need to have a low Karma Meter to class change into the attack magic using Wizard or Sorceress, and a high Karma Meter to change into the Cleric class.
- War Craft II: Humans got White Magic in the form of Paladins. Their counterpart used Black Magic, but both also had offensive casters. In Warcraft III, all races except the undead have an offensive caster and a defensive/healer, though the Nightelven Druid of the Claw could also transform into a bear, the heaviest ground unit on their side until the expansion. Said expansion also added a third spellcaster into the mix which specialized in Anti-Magic.
- Final Fantasy uses this a lot. Since the first game (and intermittently thereafter), it has divided its magic into "Black" and "White" categories, with black mages getting elemental attacks, white mages getting healing spells, and red mages got both at weaker levels. Later games have added other varieties of magic, such as Summon Magic and time magic, but every game with a class system (and many without) has had its Black Mage and White Mage.
- Funny enough, the original Black Mage wasn't just about hurting people, he could also cause many Status Effects. Due to damage progression, his endgame role was to buff the physical attackers who could deal far more damage that way than the mage himself. Later games gave these spells to White Mages before budding all the status magic off into its own sub-category (Green Magic).
- Only true in regards to stand-alone boss battles where spell resistance and lack of multi-effect spells meant that a Knight hitting 32 times or so was more effective than nuking the boss with Flare. Due to lack of attack spread by physical classes, the Black Mage was still useful in later dungeons because the high-level damage spells targeted the entire battlefield, allowing the player to clear every enemy at once, rather than whittling away at the enemies one by one.
- Dragon Quest:
- The series uses this as well, starting with its third installment. It's unusual in that "clerics" not only specialize in healing but also wind magic. It's also unusual in that most Cleric-type characters in this series also tend to learn instant-kill spells that don't hit often enough in most cases to warrant using them often anyways.
- In Dragon Quest III, Mages wield destructive, offensive spells and Priests curative and state-raising magic. Sages get both.
- Ultima III: Exodus divides its spells into Wizard and Cleric, and has several classes which can use one or both to various extents. It gets a bit strange since Wizard magic includes a spell that lets the caster use Cleric magic. Note also that this is the only game in the Ultima series which does this; all the others have only a single spell list which all spellcasting classes use.
- Fire Emblem has two varieties of spellcasting equipment: books, which act as weapons, and staves, which generate healing and support effects.
- In this case, the divide is extreme; Clerics and Priests can't attack at all until promoting. On the flip side, Monks (a male-only class associated with Light magic) cannot heal at all until they promote (except in Awakening, where they're in the same boat as Clerics). In order attack and heal, they have to promote to a Sage (using staves and Anima magic), a Bishop (staves and Light magic) or (in Awakening) a War Cleric/War Monk (An Axe to Grind).
- Three Houses does away with the Tome and Staff system in favor of learning spells (similar to the system in Gaiden/Echoes: Shadows of Valentia) as they increase their skill ranks in Reason and Faith, and characters can use both as long as they are in a magic-using class, but being in the class associated with specific magic-types increases the spells' bonuses and number of uses. Reason is tied to Black Magic, which is mostly offensive elemental magic. Also tied to Reason is Dark Magic, which is offensive magic that is technically separate from Black Magic and few characters naturally learn these spells outside of the Dark Mage class line. Faith is tied to White Magic, which is mostly healing and support magic, but comes with a few offensive spells depending on the character (the most basic one being Nosferatu, which was a Dark Magic tome spell in previous games).
- Secret of Mana has two spellcasting party members: the Girl, who uses healing and support effects, and the Sprite, who uses attack magic.
- In Trials of Mana, Charlotte and Angela fit the basic white mage / black mage archetypes, but Carlie can pick up limited attack magic if she takes the dark path while class-changing. Other possible white mages include Duran and Kevin, who can pick up healing magic on their light paths, while Hawkeye tends to be a direct damage-dealer regardless of class, even if his skills aren't quite "magic" and include some debuffs to go with them.
- Bahamut Lagoon. Not surprising, as it began life as a Final Fantasy spinoff.
- Lucca and Marle from Chrono Trigger have this dynamic even before learning magic. Lucca starts with the Flame Toss technique, which involves throwing a line of flames at an enemy, and Marle has the Aura technique which restores HP.
- The Might and Magic series has both Dark and Light magic as classes of spells that spell casting characters can learn. Light magic is mostly for improving your stats, defenses, and healing, while Dark magic is full of very powerful damage spells. In most of the games, any qualifying caster could learn both types of magic, but in Might and Magic VII you had to choose either the light or dark path, which limited you to using only one of them, while VIII limited Dark magic to necromancers and Light magic to clerics. More broadly speaking, sorcerers/necromancers used Elemental magic, which slightly trended offensive, while clerics used Self magic, which slightly trended buffing/healing.
- The Dungeon Siege series has Nature Magic and Combat Magic. Nature Mages aren't completely limited to healing and buffing though - they can cast offensive Ice Magic spells (for freezing and slowing effects) and are pretty good at summoning creatures. However, in sheer destructive power, they are no match for a skilled Combat Mage.
- The Avernum series has magic split into mage spells and priest spells, which are exactly what they sound like.
- While healing falls exclusively under priest spells, mages also do more than a bit of buffing and priests can do nuking with Divine Fire and other spells. At high levels, a priest can be more dangerous in combat than a mage, but this may be Gameplay and Story Segregation because all the most crazy-powerful characters in the setting are magi.
- Master of the Monster Lair: Kate and Owen use them, respectively. The shopkeeper calls them "naughty and nice" magic.
Non-video game examples
- In the Lone Wolf books, there is left-handed magic, practiced by the good wizards of the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star which generally focuses on healing, protection, transportation, diplomacy, and detection, and right-handed magic, practiced by the Nadziranim, evil wizards in service to the Darklords of Helgedad, which tends to focus on destruction and the infliction of destruction. That being said, left-handed magic does have at least one offensive spell of destruction, Lightning Hand, which enables the caster to shoot a lightning-bolt out of his hand. There are also other varieties of magic, such as Magi-Magic, practiced by the good Elder Magi of Dessi, as well as the Shianti magic, as practiced by Grey Star, to say nothing of the more supernatural powers of the Kai.
- Villains by Necessity: This is the contrast between Valerie and Kaylana. In the former's case, she largely uses magic to kill or destroy (aside from a couple instances). Kaylana uses hers to heal others and also speak with animals or control them largely.
- In The Dark Profit Saga Mages are split into Solamancy, a combination of life magic with fire and water elementalism, and Noctamancy, the magic of death, air, and earth. Which means that the party healer can also be the fireball-slinger (unfortunately the protagonist party's Solamancer only knows fire spells). Omnimancers can use both but channeling the two conflicting energies can easily drive them insane or kill them if they're not careful about balance.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The early editions used this a lot and were definitely the inspiration for Final Fantasy, above. It has always had the Wizard class, which specializes in blasting spells, and the Cleric class, which specializes in healing spells. The third edition furthered this split, dividing all spellcasting classes into Arcane and Divine casters.
- In addition to all this, the Divine casters themselves can be split into white and black magic. Evil-Aligned characters can take inflict spells instead of heal, which hurt people and heal undead.
- However, Wizards have always been good as a support class, albeit not healing. In fact, in 4th and 5th edition Sorcerers are better at blasting, with Wizards specializing more in buffing, debuffing, and crowd control. Clerics are also tanks, and they may be good at dealing damage too, depending on the edition.
- In Pathfinder, this is how you can spot the Church of Razmir as a Scam Religion: where every other priest in the setting uses White Magic, priests of Razmir use Black Magic since they aren't actually priests because Razmir is lying about being a god.
- In Ironclaw clerics of S'allumer use white magic to heal and smite foes, particularly the undead. While necromancers use black magic to raise the dead and curse foes but has a habit of backfiring every so often.