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Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards

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If by "war gods" you mean "flame-spewing apocalypse in human form," then yeah.

"A 20th-level Fighter is Achilles, but a 20th-level Magic-User is Zeus."

Melee classes gain power at a linear rate as they level up. Magic users gain power quadratically as they level up.

A quirk some Video Game and especially Tabletop RPG game systems share is that melee classes are more powerful, versatile or useful at lower levels than casters or magic-using classes. However, the trend reverses at higher levels, when the magic users gain a breadth of both versatility and pure power over simplistic hack and slash heroes.

The divide is usually exacerbated by the ease with which a young warrior can go wading into combat compared to a novice mage. The fighter just needs decent armor and a weapon, and with their marvelous Hit Points, they can get into the thick of things and do reasonably well. Magical weapons aren't required but can (usually) be used immediately and give amazing bonuses. Wizards, on the other hand (especially young/low level ones), have no such easy shortcuts to massive magical power; they have to study, find or invent spells, and discover magic items that aren't so powerful they cause them to go into a Superpower Meltdown. In the meantime, they are nearly defenseless in a fight.

Yet the trend reverses at higher levels. As the trope name says, the power of a warrior is linear. It grows at a steady pace whose increase can be predicted by simple arithmetic. But a wizard's power is quadratic or even exponential: as it grows, the rate of growth also multiplies. Learning something such as a spell leads to multiple, often unpredictable, varieties of more things to learn, in a manner similar to how a single infected person can infect multiple people unpredictably, or how a Wiki Walk on TV Tropes or The Other Wiki forces you to follow more links which lead to discovery of more varieties of knowledge and tropes which have lots of interesting links themselves that lead to more countless instances of discovering tropes, and so on. Thus, in the end wizards must at some point become the more powerful class. For example, while warriors are still stuck at physical hacking and slashing, wizards have discovered how to warp reality itself.

Whether it's the game designers intentionally "making up" for lots of frailty for many levels, or a quirk that comes up during play, the wizard simply outpaces all but the most Min-Maxed and Munchkined out warriors.

This isn't just a Sour Grapes complaint against Squishy Wizards or a lack of Competitive Balance throughout the game, but can be a deliberate thematic choice.

First off, the idea that warriors hit a development ceiling at some point. They hit the limits of human (or near-human) ability and can't bend physics any farther. Since warriors don't have magic, how is physical force supposed to beat, say, an intangible ghost or some supernatural baddie with the magical ability to ignore it? Basically, warriors can only be so fantastic, so even as they improve, those improvements mean less.

Secondly, in such a setting, there may be dozens if not hundreds of small-time mystic dabblers, but they quickly thin in numbers, only to resurface as potent adventuring wizards, culminating in the classic mystic powerhouse like Gandalf or Elminster, or the Evil Sorcerer in the Evil Tower of Ominousness. Meanwhile, the Conans and Beowulfs have the run of the place, being able to both solo and group. In essence, the mages study under the promise of a dull and complex path with great profits at the end.

Thirdly, there's more than a bit of Wish-Fulfillment here. Gamers, and by extension game designers, tend to be nerds by definition. The notion that a wizard (generally something of a brainy bookworm) may start out weaker than the Dumb Muscle, but surpass them entirely in the endgame, proving that knowledge is power that can modify the environment itself, thus making large muscles redundant in comparison? This account holds a lot of inherent appeal to them.

However, if this results from a development mistake, or enough complaints convince the author/programmer to change things, there are ways to limit the awesomeness of wizards. These include restrictions on magic itself, the two classic examples being the Mana mechanic or the even more restrictive Vancian Magic. Both of these serve to cap how often a wizard can cast spells. Preventing casting spells while wearing armour is another, though this is often partially countered by providing a range of protective magics that work much like normal armour only better, but of course for a limited time. Other restrictions also exist; a common one is simply to make the wizard Squishy. Others involve sanity and corruption systems, or making the casting of a spell a tactically debilitating act.

As you can imagine, players who specifically chose wizards and worked hard to keep them alive with the promise of great power for their effort can be...upset by this game balancing Nerfing, unless (and sometimes especially because) it also beefs up wizards at low levels. The solution is rarely to power up warriors while only slightly depowering wizards generally because, at least in the West, there's an expectation that the warrior be a Badass Normal that you can more easily imagine that you could become with enough effort.

These fixes can result in or from some pretty strange logic and situations. Sure, the wizard can do more amazing and effective stuff than the warrior can, but the warrior can do his less impressive things indefinitely! That makes up for it, right? ...Well, sometimes. A tough flurry of Random Encounters can suck a mage's supply of game breaking magic, which will force them to save a bit of juice for that final boss, and not waste their power. But in some games, wizards can recover their magic faster as they level up, and other games have infinitely available elixirs that recover magic quickly. Still other times, you end up with the opposite problem, wizards whose capacity to fight is so restricted that you wonder why the warriors even bother to bring them along (when this makes sense, it's because of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality being applied).

In games that involve both PvP and single-player vs. AI gameplay, especially the ones that require you to play both to advance on either, the base game theory and thus Metagame can be completely different from if they were separated, which makes fanbases even less pleasable.

Tropes Are Not Bad is still in effect however, and some well-thought out games encourage a party to have Warriors to pull them through the early levels and then sit back and watch the mages repay them later on and neither a all-warrior or all-mage team would have succeeded. The problem largely lies in how many times the Mage overshoots the warrior rather early on, rather than say, halfway through.

Attempts to keep warriors' capabilities "normal" are far less prevalent in works of Eastern origin which are more likely to give their warriors Charles Atlas Superpower, and so the trope has weakened slightly in the minds of the younger generation. Other character types, such as the Magic Knight, the Kung-Fu Wizard, and practitioners of Full-Contact Magic, mingle both styles of fighting to their own advantage by either using magic to augment raw strength or training their physical abilities to "power up" their magical attacks.

There are quite a few cases where this is the inverse: "Wizards don't need equipment to be more useful" turns into "Wizards can't use equipment to be more useful", and Fighters with their attack speed, critical strikes, weapons that deal higher damage, and so on, eventually outpace Wizards, whose power comes simply from the spell's level that cannot be increased any further. A curious recurring inversion that's exclusive almost entirely to JRPGs owes its existence to the concept of a damage cap: in attempt to help the Fighters overcome this trope, games sometimes (if their Agility or a similar stat is high enough) allow them to deal several attacks in one turn by pressing "Attack" once—and if every instance of damage is capped out at 999, it doesn't matter how powerful and flashy a Wizard's spell is, since it only hits once, compared to a Fighter's twenty attacks. Another reason why the inverse can occur is when the warriors and wizards are compared entirely on account of their destructive power. Rarely in a debate on the presence of warriors and wizards will the healer come up, for example. Outside of tabletop games and some video games, the warriors and wizards only really can be used to defeat monsters; abilities that circumvent obstacles, such as flying between mountain peaks, are never used or considered, meaning that the wizard's versatility, often their greatest strength, essentially means nothing when they can't apply it outside of combat.

A subtrope of Changing Gameplay Priorities. See also Magikarp Power for cases of weak things that become stronger after enough effort, like the wizard in this case. If the game itself scales alongside the quadratic wizard growth, then it can sometimes result in a Parabolic Power Curve for other classes, since they'll fall further and further behind the more levels they gain.

No Real Life Examples, Please!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Zigzagged in Jujutsu Kaisen. Technically, everyone is a mage, since in order to fight curses, you need to wield Cursed Energy (barring people like Maki and Toji who are abnormal due to lacking Cursed Energy, in exchange for superhuman bodies). How far you'll go as a sorcerer is determined by your innate potential, and no amount of training will change that. However, characters who have Cursed Techniques can get much stronger and are more versatile than those who do not.
    • Played Straight by Special Grade sorcerers, who have the ability to grow stronger on an infinite scale. They are the quadratic mages to everyone else's linear warriors.
  • Zigzagged in Naruto. Low-level ninjas (Academy Students and Genin) with a better grasp of taijutsu and weapon fighting will fare much better than their peers. Even if they possess some interesting ninjutsu or genjutsu, most techniques are too chakra-consuming or lack versatility. This is exemplified by Neji, TenTen, Sasuke, and Rock Lee, of course. An exception is Gaara, seeing he has never needed taijutsu and only relies on his sand. However, he's shown to suffer against people able to dodge his sand and punch through his defenses. Mid and high-level ninjas (Chunin, Jonin, and Kage-level ninjas) are primarily defined by their ninjutsu and, more rarely, genjutsu prowess. At such levels, their chakra reserves are large enough to allow them to consistently use powerful techniques that render most weapons moot (they are easily deflected or blocked) and often require tactical skills and equally powerful techniques to be countered. Taijutsu is still important, but not the turning point anymore. This is very clear with the titular character. At first, Naruto sucks at melee combat, his aim is lackluster at best, and has a chakra-consuming technique he can spam (the Shadow Clone technique) — he also spends a good chunk of the plot being thrashed around by superior fighters. It's only when he learns flashier ninjutsu that he's able to keep up with his peers and, eventually, surpass them. Rock Lee enforces this idea — as mentioned before, he starts as one of the strongest Genin of his generation, but as his peers cultivate their ninjutsu more and more, he's left behind. Might Guy, his teacher, is a partial exception. Near the end, he could hold off Madara Uchiha with only taijutsu but at the cost of leaving him on the verge of death and losing a leg. It doesn't help matters opponents stronger than Madara start to appear afterward, indicating that's Guy's power cap and only fighters more reliant on ninjutsu and genjutsu can keep contending against them.
  • Played straight in the Nasuverse. People who can reasonably defend themselves from supernatural threats will have supernatural and possibly divine blood, or knowledge of magecraft. In essence, if you define anyone who uses "mana" as a mage, just about every character who can fight effectively in the Nasuverse is a mage. For a Warrior to stand any chance at all, they need some Wizard skills to beef themselves up. Mundane, modern weaponry is not shown to have any effect on the supernatural unless it is also imbued with supernatural power.
    • Among the Servant classes, this is somewhat averted. The classes that fill traditional warrior roles (Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider) all have extraordinary magic resistance, meaning the warrior-types tend to flatten the magic-focused Casters in a straight battle. Assassins lack magic resistance, but they aren't meant for direct combat. Casters are the most versatile, but they tend to suck in direct fights unless they have heavy preparation.
    • Fate/Zero has the Japanese Air Self Defense Force investigate a battle between Servants with two F-15J Eagles. One of the Eagles is quickly dispatched by the Servants. The other is forcibly commandeered by another Servant, who imbues it with mana and then uses it to beat Gilgamesh in an air-to-air duel.
      • The same Servant shows several times throughout the novel what modern weapons can do when imbued with Mana. Bullets are practically harmless to Servants, but when properly enhanced, they become deadly. ufotable's anime adaptation emphasizes this by showing imbued small arms blowing cars to pieces with a single shot.
    • Across the whole Fate/ series, there's been exactly one warrior Badass Normal enough to score a Heroic Servant kill, and it came with several caveats: His victim was throttled by an inept Master, and his technique relied on its atypical forms to be unpredictable. As Rin notes after an encounter with him, the human body can only move in so many ways; he beat them once, but he no longer has any advantage.
    • As Archer points out early on in the visual novel Fate/stay night, "It's fine if you think I can only use bows ..." He actually uses a kind of magic called "Projection," which lets him create perfect replicas of objects using magic. He uses this magic to summon all kinds of weapons, including Saber's sword that fires energy blasts.
    • Terrors like Cú Chulainn who know magecraft, are divine, can move, fight, and kill faster than human eyes can track, and may have a Superpowered Evil Side could well be considered the "quadratic wizards" of the Nasuverse's mana-using "linear warrior" combat characters. That's not even considering the more powerful beings like Arcueid and ORT.
  • Inverted in Fist of the North Star: Hokuto Ryuuken is a variant style of Hokuto Shinken which heavily uses magic at the base of its style, as opposed to breath control and push-ups. And it's still stated to be explicitly inferior to Hokuto Shinken, to the point where Kenshiro doesn't even bother to copy techniques from the school.
  • Both played straight and subverted in the Slayers universe. Normal swordsmen such as Gourry and physical brawlers such as Prince Phil can only do so much in a land where magic is common knowledge and taught in schools (at least in one part of the world). Swordsman Gourry mainly gets by with supernaturally-powered swords, namely the Sword of Light for the first set of novels and throughout most of the anime, and the Blast Sword in the second half of the novels. The subversion comes in with the magic system. Humans can expand how much magic they can cast by increasing their stamina (Pool Capacity), but the actual strength of their magic (Bucket Capacity) is predetermined at birth. Zelgadis was a poor spell caster when he was a human, but thanks to the properties of the brau demon he was mixed with for his chimeric transformation, both his Pool and Bucket Capacities are higher because brau demons, according to Word of God, have a lot of magical power. In other words, the non-divine can only do so much to increase their magical output. If they happened to get lucky with Bucket Capacity, like Lina did, it's played straight to a ludicrous degree as they get more and more powerful magic. One of Lina's main challenges is using her most powerful spells without accidentally destroying the universe.
  • Possibly lampshaded in MÄR, where Kouga, one of the knights in the evil Chess Pieces, is incredibly tough, but his lack of magical power means that he's automatically the weakest of his rank. He is easily defeated and humiliated by The Lancer Alviss, whose has a high level of magical power (and competence).
  • Clear in Dragon Ball at least in terms of types of fighters: in the early adventures the main characters' power levels increase slowly only by a few hundred by the end of the original series. By the time of Dragon Ball Z, they have mastered advanced Ki techniques and their recorded power levels absolutely skyrocket by thousands and millions, leaving non-Ki fighters like Mr. Satan far out matched. (Meanwhile, the actual magic present in the series seems to be under some fairly strict rules as to what is or isn't allowed.)
    • Until Moro came around anyway...
  • In Rave Master, Sieg Hart utterly wipes the floor with Haru in the beginning of their battle. Sieg Hart says something along the lines of, "It doesn't matter how good a swordsman you are, nothing is better than magic. Don't you get it? We're not even playing the same game."
    • Even when Haru becomes superior, it is due to his very magical sword that was created by the most powerful magic in the series. Technically, still an inversion as a fighter with magical weapons are still fighters.
  • Played around with in Those Who Hunt Elves, though as this is a comic series the actual state of affairs isn't pinned down. Most relevant is the backstory of an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy who specializes (entirely) in kicking people in the knees, who after winning a tournament was challenged by "a Thin Man", an emaciated mage who used self-buffs (and expectation of the knee kick) to easily overpower him. Being too arrogant to recognize the serious flaws in his combat style, he decides this trope is clearly in effect, secretly changed his field of study, and has since been wandering around kicking people in the knees with invisible magical shielding up.
  • Medaka Box: Technically it's more "Abnormal abilities" than magic, but many of the abnormal characters end up becoming far more powerful than any of the Badass Normal characters. Zenkichi can still keep up to some degree, but Savate can only do some much against Reality Warpers.
  • In the anime of Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask does not gain new powers and abilities like his manga counterpart. He starts out as something of a Sixth Ranger who is able to get the senshi out of all their scrapes with a carefully aimed rose or fighting with his cane like a sword. But his abilities peak early while the senshi, once incapable children, become effective magical warriors who have no need for him at all.
  • It's explained in Negima! Magister Negi Magi that wizards start out powerful, but with painfully slow casting times that leave them wide open to attack, requiring them to recruit more physical fighters to buy them time to get their spells out. However, instead of wizards simply outclassing fighters after a certain point, both sides usually hit a plateau where they need to become Magic Knights in order to become stronger, with wizards learning physical combat and how to channel their magic through it, and physical fighters learning how to use magic, ki, science, or some combination of the three.
  • Although Kill la Kill has no magic per se, the trope is still in play if you substitute "magic" with "Life Fibers". At the beginning of the anime, Ryuko (who will be considered as the "wizard" since she is a Life Fiber hybrid) is overshadowed by Satsuki and her Elite Four (whose use of Life Fiber clothing makes them roughly equivalent to Magic Knights, or warriors with enchanted equipment). She is also beaten by Tsumugu, a Nudist Beach agent who uses anti-Life Fiber weaponry but no Life Fiber clothing at all (straight warrior). By the end of the series, Ryuko, after multiple unlockings of true potential, is effectively godlike. Satsuki and the Elite Four can't quite catch up but at least kinda manage to keep up until the final battle, which Ryuko fights alone. Tsumugu and Nudist Beach in general, meanwhile, are reduced to a joke.
  • In Overlord (2012):
    • First tier magic casters are pretty much useless in a fight without some other skill to compensate.
    • Third tier casters are considered superior to equivalent warriors.
    • Fluder (the strongest magic caster in the New World belonging to the fifth or sixth tier) is said to be equivalent to a small country's entire army and the only tactic a country could conceive to face him is to send waves after waves of soldiers until he is low on MP.
    • Seventh tier magic is considered a "miracle of the gods"
    • And the titular Overlord, Ainz Ooal Gown/Momonga is a tenth tier magic caster with super tier magic spells: it is so far beyond the New World inhabitants understanding that most are driven insane just by seeing it.
    • In the original game Yggdrasil, this was averted. The strongest member of Ainz's guild was Touch Me, a Warrior. Touch Me was one of the top three players in the entire game, and Word of God claims that Touch Me could fight all of the Floor Guardians at once and win. Ainz himself was by his own admission only about mid-tier in the ranks of Level 100 players, and while he did have versality fellow magic-user Ulbert Alain Odle was his superior in terms of raw destructive magic might, and even he still was inferior to Touch Me.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai: Hyunkel and Pop are a textbook version. Hyunkel starts off as an extremely powerful swordsman who gives both Dai and Pop a hard time, while Pop is a Miles Gloriosus. Later on, Hyunkel is still a powerful ally but Pop has taken so many levels of badass that he's the only one able to face Vearn head on together with Dai.
  • Fairy Tail references this trope in one of it's early chapters with a pair of Assassins against Natsu. The Assassins assume that he's a typical Squishy Wizard and plan to overwhelm him with their superior physical strength...until Natsu reveals that he's not only a powerful magical user, but is physically stronger than both Assassins. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle. Fairy Tail in general kind of averts this trope, as most of the major characters are just as capable in a physical fight as they are at using powerful magic. The only exception to this are Celestial Wizards, who have access to powerful magic, but are generally helpless without access to it. This is why Lucy Learned the Star Dress technique, so she can finally be up to par with the rest of her team.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange went from Dr. Jerk to Sorcerer Supreme. At his height, he commanded enough power to go toe-to-toe with a foe who could defeat the Hulk with a mere thought. He has fought Galactus to a draw on one occasion, and the main reason he didn't win is because he knew their fight would have leveled Manhattan.
  • In Marvel Comics, the Invisible Woman, Jean Grey, and the Scarlet Witch were initially the weakest members of their respective teams. But over the years, their powers evolved to where they became the most powerful by a wide margin; Sue became a Barrier Warrior with omnipotent control of Hard Light constructs, Jean became a world-class psychic with cosmic pyrokinesis up her sleeve, and Wanda became a full-blown Reality Warper who nearly wiped out the Mutant race after she had a really bad day. In fact, the primary reason Jean is always dying/fainting is because it's damn near impossible for writers to make a worthwhile challenge for her.
  • Wendell Vaughn and Phyla-Vell, the first and second Quasars. Both possessed the Quantum Bands which were basically the Marvel Universe's answer to the Green Lantern power ring but their approach to using these weapons was very different. While Wendell tended to be versatile and creative with his constructs, Phyla's use was mostly limited to energy blasts and forming swords. This was a reflection of their backgrounds and personalities; Wendell was S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy graduate who was deemed unfit for field work due to his refusal to use lethal force and he followed a standard operating procedure of "contain, drain and attack". Phyla by contrast was a trained Kree soldier who had no problems with lethal force but lacked Wendell's versatility.

    Fan Works 
  • A curious example exists among ghost type Pokémon in Challenger. Gastly's line are known as "hurried ghosts" who quickly left the Distortion World without significantly building up their power and rely on the miasma between worlds to supplement their strength. While they grow strong in the living world quickly, they have less overall power at their disposal. "True ghosts" are ones like Duskull's line that spent years building up their power in the Distortion World before crossing over. They have less power in the living world due to most of their power still being in the Distortion World until they can forge a proper gateway to access it; upon doing so, they become more powerful than any "hurried ghosts" like Gengar.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's take on the Discworld, the Wizard/fighter combination is represented by Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes and her boyfriend, wizard Ponder Stibbons. For most of the time Johanna does the fighting and is a Violently Protective Girlfriend to Ponder. However, the moment comes when she—and her Assassin colleague Miss Alice Band—are virtually defenceless in the face of powerful magic. The tables turn, and it is Ponder's role to save both their lives.note 

  • In Bloodsword, the Warrior class really got hosed especially when played solo. Lacking the Trickster's cunning and supernatural abilities of the Enchanter and Sage, during the adventure the Warrior has by far the fewest options in dealing with hazards, including ones that results in The Many Deaths of You. The early books also screwed the Warrior as he was only slightly better than a Trickster in a fight while the Enchanter had many spells to use in battle and the Enchanter's fighting skill can eventually reach a point where he'll almost always land a hit (where the other classes will always be hit unaided) without any magic items. The Warrior starts shining though after Book 4, when the writer realized this discrepancy and gave the Warrior a number of special powers.
  • Lone Wolf is a Magic Knight who eventually got all his ever-improving abilities, but in the earliest books he had only a few skill slots to choose his skills from. Besides the Boring, but Practical generalist skills like Hunting and Healing, the more supernatural and spiritual abilities such as Mind Over Matter and Sixth Sense gave him a lot more survivability than the mundane Weapon Skill. Since Lone Wolf gets a new discipline every book, eventually he'll have all the abilities and graduate to new power levels like Magnakai and Kai Lord disciplines and have to relearn these upgraded disciplines.
  • In Wizards, Warriors and You, the Warrior was limited to carrying 3 weapons in addition to his ever-present Sword of the Golden Lion though there were book entries that allowed the Warrior to go to the castle arsenal and change his choices. Meanwhile the Wizard always had access to his large repetoire of spells. Furthermore, every so often the Warrior's arsenal changed and it seemed that there were always a few cursed weapons in that list which ended up occasionally killing the Warrior. The Wizard's spells were so good and solid that they never changed and always were relevant.

  • Conan the Barbarian subverts this by having the title barbarian outwit the wizards he faces ... some might say mostly by act of author-induced Villain Ball on the part of the wizards. Magic in that universe also relies heavily on ceremony and preparation; a wizard might work a huge spell over months to raise an army of undead, but if attacked he's just a guy in a robe.
    • Also played straight in that Conan's status as "master of Xanatos Speed Chess who isn't himself a sorcerer of some kind" is unique. In any situation where a spellcaster wanted something and Conan himself isn't there to ruin his day, the wizard gets what he wants from the otherwise helpless mortals with little effort, and mundane warriors provide no obstacle.
  • The Legend of Drizzt: Drizzt Do'Urden, R.A. Salvatore's famous character, both subverts this and falls victim to it. Frequently, he or one of his companions completely thrashes a powerful but unprepared wizard, but there are rare occasions where Drizzt is nearly dispatched by wizards who have, as yet, posed no threat to him, exemplified by his being duped into stumbling into a realm populated entirely by demon lords by a Quadratic Wizard in The Pirate King.
    • One of the best is when Artemis Entreri, Drizzt's Evil Counterpart and one of the deadliest assassins in the world, is put up against a battle wizard he doesn't manage to catch off guard. The wizard proceeds to utterly school him without using a spell above fourth level. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons versions of Stoneskin (have to be hit a certain number of times before you take damage) and Flame Shield (when you hit someone, the attack hits you) is pretty hard to beat. This event, among others, inspires Entreri to seek out an Anti-Magic artifact to get more of an edge against wizards.
  • Discworld: The series makes it clear that the reason wizards don't rule the world is not that their magic doesn't give them the power to do so, but that wizards naturally fight among themselves (Sourcery claims that the collective noun for wizard is "a war"), and magical conflict is incredibly destructive. The widespread abuse of magic would quickly make the world stop making sense. It's analogized to nuclear weaponry, with talks about avoiding a "first use of magic" in war, and the ancient mage wars leaving behind high levels of residual magic (i.e. nuclear fallout) in the present day. The entire organizational structure of modern wizardry exists to keep them all in one place and encourage them to waste their energies either plotting against each other, immersing themselves in research, or enjoying their cushy academic position.
  • Played straight in Steven Brusts's Dragaera series, where the single most powerful non-god is the well-beyond-legendary undead mage Sethra Lavode, who is notorious for being able to wipe out armies. She's also probably nothing like what reading that sentence will make you assume her to be like. For instance, her favorite method of wiping out armies is with another army, but with better logistics.
  • Also subverted in Stephen Brusts's Jhereg series with some degree of regularity, as demonstrated by the signature quote: "No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style."
  • The Dresden Files: Zig-zagged. While Harry Dresden's more mundane allies are valuable and important, it's often pointed out how much more destructive his magic is, and it can be used to do things much faster than mundane means. One inner monologue by Karrin Murphy, generally considered to be one of the toughest mortals Harry knows, says that it's terrifying on a primal level to see Harry sling fire and lightning around like his personal playthings, and during that story she laments that while she has to play smart, use every investigative and combat trick she knows, and be very lucky to track down and stop the villains, Harry could've found them much faster and leveled the building they were in with much less effort. That said, a running theme of the series is that mortals are catching up via technology (specifically, bigger and more powerful guns), and as powerful as a wizard might be, with the right tools a mortal can get much the same results. One character considered among the most dangerous people Harry's ever met has yet to be seen using anything but guns and mundane arms, even if he is half-supernatural himself. In most cases, bringing magical problems to the attention of normal humans is a big no-no and would be a sign that the kid gloves are coming off and now you're playing for keeps.
  • A weird Gamebook example: Goosebumps. One special edition played more like a gamebook and required to keep track of items. The hunter sounds rather easy because you can fight off obstacles a lot better, but in practice, the spellcaster was the easiest. On the spellcaster path, you were able to avoid almost every single obstacle until you met the Final Boss unless you made one choice. The hunter, meanwhile, had more "useless" items.
  • Fitting the Serial Escalation of the scale of events in The Wheel of Time: Any non-channeling (the magic of the setting) character either has to be pitted solely against other non-channelers, have some other form of magic at their disposal, or both. Case in point: the Trollocs and Myrddraal are considered a universally serious threat to all of the main characters early in the series, and quickly become nearly-worthless Mooks to those who can channel, but remain, if not quite a threat, at least a source of annoyance to those who cannot (they often have armies at their disposal, after all). note  Non-combatants, side-characters, or children are generally held to standards closer to those the protagonists were in the first book, averting Villain Decay.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show is a near-perfect demonstration of this trope in action. In the early seasons, the focus was firmly on Buffy, the warrior; Willow, the wizard, was limited to the occasional ritual spell cast from the safety of her own home. In a fight she was no more help than Xander, and sometimes less. As the seasons progressed, however, the balance of power began to shift. This shift became clear at the end of season five, when Buffy described Willow as her "big gun"—pointing out that while she, Buffy, had been unable to even slow Glory down, Willow had actually managed to inflict some damage. In season six, their relative status was no longer in question; Willow was the stronger of the two, and when it came to a showdown between Willow and Buffy in the season finale, Willow threw Buffy around like a rag doll and is shown to be one of the most powerful witches on earth. (The writers made her less willing to use her power for season seven, bringing her back to the point where Buffy was at least relevant; but Willow was still solidly in the Quadratic camp.) And the Series Finale has Buffy declaring that Willow is more powerful all of the "Shadow Men" (the ancient wizards who created the very concept of the Slayers) combined, which Willow promptly proves to be correct by simultaneously activating the powers of every potential Slayer on Earth.
    • Buffy finally caught up in Season Eight by temporarily becoming a Flying Brick. The trope then resumes the following seasons. Buffy has improved since her TV days while Willow is significantly more potent in a fight than in the show (a lack of budget restrictions is thanks to that).
  • The spirit of this is invoked in the That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch "Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit". In every sketch, the BMX Bandit suggests some way of defeating the bad guys utilizing his BMX skills, only for the Angel Summoner to point out as nicely as he can manage that a horde of angels could resolve the situation much more quickly and with less risk.
  • Merlin and Arthur both follow this trope pretty well in Merlin. Arthur starts out the series as the best knight in Camelot, and most of his leveling up is him learning how to fight outside the tournament arena. Meanwhile, Merlin has gone from no magical training at all (the only thing he can do is telekinesis), to causing earthquakes, summoning gods, commanding freakin' dragons to do whatever he wants, and in the finale, he beats the entire Saxon army, a dragon, and a High Priestess almost casually with lots and lots of lightning.
  • Season 8 of Supernatural introduces the Men of Letters, a Masonic-esque order of humans who possess vast amounts of supernatural lore and are fluent in rune magic (a novice Man of Letters can time travel), in counterpoint to the Hunters, a loose organisation of blue-collar monster hunters.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard: The show's Second Rider, Beast, fills the role of the Warrior since he lacks Wizard's extensive arsenal of magic and mostly relies on his Cool Sword and lesser abilities granted by his magical mantles. Compared to the other Wizards in the setting, even the Mages can mop the floor with him in terms of power, and it shows as later in the story, Beast gets floored by monsters while Wizard, can kick the monster's ass with his extensive assortment of Magic Rings and later on, his Super Mode. However, in the endgame Beast becomes the Spanner in the Works; because his powers come from a different source of magic, he's not incapacitated when the White Wizard starts up the Sabbat, and he manages to stop it outright by destroying his own Transformation Trinket and releasing his Bond Creature Chimera, who devours the incoming Mana the White Wizard was looking to gain from the ritual.
  • Kamen Rider Build: The Transteam Gun users start with much higher Hazard Levels and stronger abilities than the Build Driver users, but the Transteam Gun forces the user to stay locked at that fixed level, which makes it useless in the long term except to deliberately serve as a Starter Villain. Blood Stalk manages to subvert the normal limitations of the system owing to his already being on top of the heap and using the suit as a Power Limiter.
    • The Sclash Driver In comparison to the Build Driver. Riders that use the Sclash Driver start much more powerful than even experienced Build Driver users. As the series goes on the Riders that use the Build Driver gain more and more modifications that drastically improve their performance while the more rigid Sclash Driver can only grow slowly with the users’ Hazard Level. By the latter part of the series, the remaining Sclash Driver users have to resort to increasingly drastic and dangerous measures just to have a chance of remaining relevant while their Build Driver using teammates have long surpassed them. In the end, the strongest forms of all four heroic Riders use modded Build Drivers.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Most mythology avoids the whole problem by making everyone magic; heroes like Hercules, Gilgamesh and Cuchulainn would have either supernatural origins, supernatural backing, or both. While they do exist, very, very few mythological heroes are genuine Badass Normals, and it was common (though frequently omitted or downplayed in later Christianized versions) for them to use what we could call "magic" in one fashion or another. Greek heroes would routinely attempt to divine the future or call upon supernatural patrons, for instance. The modern conception of magic as something a few specific people go into a tower and learn is newer than you might think; by definition, the thinking of most mythological ages was that nearly everything was magical, with Hercules no less magical than most of the monsters he kills.
  • One of the best examples is in the Poetic Edda, the ancient and very much valor-oriented compilation of Viking oral traditions. During the Svipdagsmal, the hero Svipdag receives enchantments from his mother, Groa, one of which protects him from magic to the extent that "Yet never the curse of a Christian woman/From the dead shall do thee harm." From the perspective of the poem's original audience, a dead Christian woman was a Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot combination of all the attributes that would have made up the deadliest possible spellcaster (to the Vikings who feared Christians like Christians today fear Satanists!) (Also it should be pointed out that Groa herself was dead when she gave him this magic, so it's not like this was all a theoretical situation.)


  • In Embers in the Dusk, while Rotbart never grows insignificant by any measure with his commanding skills, Ridcully, with his near-godlike divination, eventually becomes a far more significant figure on a galactic scale.
  • There's been active attempts to avert this in The Gungan Council and keep the essentially magic using Force-sensitives on the same plane as equally skilled non-Force-users. For those that attempt to reverse these attempts, they forgot about the many instances in the Star Wars movies and expanded universe where those without the Force can easily pummel Jedi and Sith.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One thing that applies to a lot of games is the differences between player wizard survivability and what happens in the "real" world. Most DMs are not out to kill players unless they do something borderline idiotic or suicidal and often fudge things so the player characters survive and/or enable reasonable ways to get even low level characters back from the dead. Realistically if you took a hundred starting NPC parties with a wizard, very few should survive their first few adventures without player Plot Armor. So the trope can be justified in that high-level wizards should be very rare, but the nature of the game means the players wizard is always likely to survive skewing the survival/power ratio.
  • Ars Magica plays with this. On the one hand, magical progression is definitely quadratic and warrior progression is definitely linear—but firstly player character magi normally start play after a 15 year apprenticeship so they're already way ahead of even the most hardened warrior rather than starting weaker and having to catch up; and secondly each player normally controls two characters, playing both a mage and a Muggle, so there is no direct competition between the power levels of different types of characters.
  • Averted with The Dark Eye.
    • Not really played straight in the first edition—elves had access to a one-digit amount of spells and were somewhat limited when it came to arms and armor; mages were really pansy, could only use the worst armor and weapons, and had only a couple of more spells in addition to the Elven ones. The spells as such still were reasonably powerful, though.
    • While it was played straight-ish in 2nd and 3rd editions (casters got spell skill raises per level in addition to mundane skill raises and usually had enough of them to max all the spells they considered necessary), the mana system still limited the amount of magic a caster could do. The best direct-damage spell could potentially instagib a same level opponent, but such a feat would cost 50-100% of your maximal mana, depending on how much you had. The same goes for some other really usefull spells, like f.ex. instant teleportation for more or telekinesis with a very heavy object.
    • Also played straight-ish in the 4th edition: Even though the TDE system of limiting the power of casters (when compared to other settings) persists and a point buy system at least tried to promote to creation of characters which were on par on paper; mages still had so many open and hidden bonuses and could upgrade their spells so easily that they still outclassed everyone else (magic or mundane), who had a much harder time leveling their skills. And even though a single hit by an arrow or a powerful swing of a melee weapon would cause them to lie on the floor moaning in pain or at the very least make casting spells quite difficult, an even somewhat prepared mage was the king of the game.
    • The 5th edition tried to do away with these imbalances as good as possible by removing all those hidden bonuses and also by bringing spells more on par with mundane skills. This means that casters have to raise their magic and mundane stats from the same pool for the same costs as mundanes, which makes them far less competent in either area at the start of the game. In the endgame they still have an advantage simply by virtue of them having access to magic and mundane skills, while mundane characters are restricted to one set of them.
    • Played straight in civilian settings through the variety of magical spells. A wizards, who focusses on it, can easily outmatch a thief, diplomat or sugar baker on their own ground.
  • Drakar och Demoner, a tabletop RPG from Sweden, has mages that can become unimaginably powerful later into the game, once they've spent a large amount of experience points in magic. The way magic works, they have few direct damage spells, but the effects and usefulness of the spells more than makes up for it. That warrior who specced enough to one-hit a smaller dragon is giving you trouble? Mind-flay him to death, scare him to madness or maybe turn him into a plant and then set it on fire? Easily done. In fact, since the amount of magic is determined by a dice-roll with a set chance for an extra roll, you can in theory have a mage with an arbitrary amount of magic.
  • The Dresden Files RPG can run into this.
    • "Quick-and-dirty" evocation magic, which notably most combat spells will be, is relatively easy to boost by feeding it extra shifts of power as long as its user doesn't mind taking extra mental stress and consequences and has the skill to control the result without having it blow up in their face. Doing so can make attack spells in particular more powerful than any mundane weapon fairly quickly. This is balanced by the fact that any evocation, no matter its power level and purpose, will ding the caster's mental stress track (which is capped at four boxes at most before having to take consequences to stay in the action and is also used to soak up mental attacks as well as unwelcome side effects of using the Sight), limiting how much mojo any one practitioner can sling about in this way in any one scene—but of course that only matters if the first one or two spells don't already solve everything.
    • Thaumaturgy (ritual magic) is slower and takes more prep work than evocations, but is also incredibly flexible and usually safer to use. Even if it only serves as an alternate approach to solving problems that a mundane expert could probably also deal with in a similar timespan, it means that with their three spellcasting skills (Conviction, Discipline, Lore) a proper wizard or similar "general" practitioner can act as a reasonable substitute for a wide variety of such experts and expect to do just about as well—and that's without dipping into things magic can do that mundane approaches would have trouble matching in the first place.
    • The main balancing factor is of course intended to be the refresh cost of all this power. Being a proper full and probably White Council trained wizard costs 7 refresh plus giving up the +2 bonus pure mortals get just for the basic power set, which at low campaign starting levels isn't even an option yet and in any event represents the equivalent of a fair chunk of potential mortal-level stunts or other superhuman powers that the character didn't take. (Lower-powered or more narrowly specialized practitioners can come by their magic more cheaply, but also are, well, lower-powered and/or more narrowly specialized.) It also means that breaking the Laws of Magic runs a real risk of suddenly turning into an NPC, because the stunts one gets for that must be taken and likewise cost refresh, potentially pushing it below the 1-point minimum required for PC status. On the other hand, most of what a character could get instead of magic is rather more use-specific (being a White Court vampire for example also has its perks, but the power set is rather more firmly "locked in") and over a sufficiently long-running campaign characters PCs will earn additional refresh over time, which can then either be used to compensate for this or else put into Refinements to make the wizard even more powerful at magic...
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In the standard setting, spellcasting classes are weak and don't have many abilities to use in the first few levels, but quickly gain access to more powerful spells and the ability to cast all of their spells more often, not only making them do more damage but allowing them to do all sorts of other things that other classes simply can't do, like teleport, fly and see the future. Specific editions and settings include:
    • First Edition has a basic premise where a common man is a fighter and would be more powerful at low levels, but someone who performed magic (a cleric or a magic-user) would make sacrifices at low levels to become more powerful at high levels. This was further balanced by fighters getting the best followers at high levels (and at the time, henchmen were quite valuable even if they were low-level), and by fighters being the only ones who could use magic swords, which were often very powerful. Fighting Men also progressed at a faster rate than Magic Users.
    • Second Edition included many of the same balancing factors as the last one. Less powerful classes progressed through levels faster, and fighters enjoyed benefits such as Exceptional Strength, more hit points for high Constitution, and more followers at high levels, but still wind up getting seriously outpaced in power at higher levels. All of this depends on one's attributes, though: a fighter needs STR 18 and CON at least 17 in order to benefit from those specific perks. And even though wizards and clerics need high INT and WIS respectively to be able to utilize their best spells, they're still a lot better with their main stat being lower than 16.
    • Third Edition took more steps to give non-spellcasting classes more special abilities to make up for a lack of spells, mostly in the form of Feats and other class and prestige class abilities. Many of these abilities are quite powerful, and it's possible for Min-Maxers to create special builds of fighting classes that have ridiculous damage outputs. However, many spellcasting limits were removed and spellcasters still generally outperform non-spellcasting classes. A wizard's singlemost important drawback—needing very high INT in order to gain access to the best spells—was essentially nullified by stat bonuses being available every 4 levels (i.e. you only needed INT 15 in the beginning in order to have the INT 19 required for best spells at level 16); and the priest classes were upgraded from a spell table that ended at level 7 to one that had 9 levels as well, just like the wizard. Also, special mention goes to the 3.0 spell Haste, which literally doubles a wizard's spells per turn. Unified leveling also let the casters catch up much more quickly. Also, divine magic was buffed up, and the decent fighting skill of the divine casters meant that they barely started behind the fighter anyway.
    • Fourth Edition took a dramatic effort to homogenize classes by giving all classes at-will, per-encounter and per-day abilities. These abilities are much more on-par across classes than the collective abilities of classes in previous editions. However, by making the classes all mechanically very similar, this strategy proved fairly unpopular. The fact that this trope was diminished also made the edition "feel less like D&D" for many players. And the ritual casting system, which was where all the non-combat problem-solving magic ended up, still meant that the spellcasting classes had access to a degree and breadth of problem solving no non-caster could match (though feats at least made it easy to poach).
    • Fifth Edition took steps to get warriors and wizards closer in terms of combat ability. The edition raised the floor on wizards by adding cantrip spells, which wizards can cast as many times a day as they want. The Concentration mechanic also lowered the ceiling by preventing the most powerful spells from being used simultaneously, and forcing those spells end early if the wizard failed a saving throw after taking damage. Meanwhile, warriors got buffs to the number of attacks per round, made Critical Hits easier and/or stronger, and let warriors bypass enemy resistances while also gaining some of their own. Finally, the advantage-disadvantage mechanic simplifies buffs quite a bit. Spells still allow for a greater deal of narrative agency, but stacking multiple area-of-effect spells and gigantic buffs on top of each other is no longer possible. So while this trope is still present in 5e, warriors and wizards are much closer in power than before.
    • The Dark Sun setting eases the trope in that high-level warriors' followers are easier to use in an adventure, while wizards are feared and hated by just about everybody thanks to the fact that arcane magic in Dark Sun sucks the life out of everything around the spellcaster. Widespread psionics doesn't quite replace wizardry, as it's more useful against one tough opponent rather than many weaker ones. Most area effects are taxing, unreliable, centered on psionicist and indiscriminate: either plunge into crowd of foes alone for 3 rounds and risk fainting there or knock out your bodyguard(s) with Ultrablast just like everyone else in 50’.
  • Exalted, is at least an aversion, but could arguably count as an inversion—the three levels of Sorcery are largely capped, in terms of sheer power, at the level of Essence at which they become available (3, 4 and 5, respectively), and one cannot learn Sorcery more advanced than your type of Exaltation note . You can however learn martial arts more powerful than your own Exaltation, and martial artists become exponentially more powerful as they combine more styles. Not to mention that high-end martial art styles are ridiculous in and of themselves—creating and curing spiritual diseases, becoming a proto-Primordial, dragging your enemies into your own mind where you literally cannot lose... As described in the Scroll of the Monk;
    A mundane martial arts master can split a brick and jump over a hedge.
    A Terrestrial martial arts master can split a boulder and jump over a house.
    A Celestial martial arts master can split a city wall and jump over a mountain.
    A Sidereal martial arts master can split a soul and jump to Heaven.
    • Exalted tends to handle the issue by giving all Exalted access to some form of magic and making it dependent on skills or attributes, so the Dawn-caste warrior will tend to have all the sword and armor magic, the Night-caste thief will have all the stealth and thieving magic, etc. Twilights and other caster-type castes tend towards knowledge magic such as Lore and Investigation, and Sorcery tends not to overlap with or compete with other charms so much as they either supplement them or do weird things that don't fall into any other skill set, such as summoning demons. The developers have noted that this setup is a deliberate effort to avoid turning caster castes into D&D's "do everything" wizard.
  • Hack Master (based around the older AD&D 2nd Edition rules) subverts this by pointing out that looking at the abilities of high level characters and comparing them to those offered in other classes was rather pointless, as there was a pretty good chance you'd be stone dead long before you got that far.
  • Iron Kingdoms averts this by making both linear, the fact that the setting is full of Anti-Magic, Magitek and Steampunk helps too.
  • In the Legend of the Five Rings, this trope falls in slightly murky waters. Wizards (shugenja) are most decidedly quadratic—a rank 2 shugenja is immensely better than a rank 1 shugenja, and a rank 1 bushi is extremely likely to be able to carve either one of them into cat food. Among bushi (warriors), however, rank doesn't mean a whole lot—a higher rank means you have higher skills and stats, since rank is derived from skills and stats, but the only thing a bushi gets from rank-up is a new School Technique, which, while nice, is generally not as big of a power step as it is for shugenja. Why does the trope still apply? Because that same shugenja who didn't stand much of a chance before at rank 1 can now have elemental spirits char you into a skeleton by asking nicely, that's why.
    • Magic in Legend of the Five Rings isn't quite that simple, and warriors can easily surpass them without doing anything. The spells shugenja cast are actually prayers that ask the kami (nature spirits) to perform a specific miracle. Kami are more receptive to a mysterious combination of bloodline preference and ritual procedure, that get results to occur exactly as planned (deviation from them can become disastrous). Even then it's entirely possible for kami to ignore or subvert a shugenja's request, for example cast a harmful spell on the Emperor, because the kami don't want to or find the idea boring. In addition, outside of the Far East analogue region, the type of kami that shugenja beseech do not exist, and thus they are powerless. Indeed one does not even have to leave the region for kami to become powerless. The Roman Empire analogue of the world setting, has magic resistance against shugenja kami, because their own version (ancestor spirits) create an anti-magic field around their warriors. Weapons from the Colonial Europe analogue of the world setting (cannons and gunpowder), are so alien and confusing to the kami, they're unable to heal or protect from them. Bushi may not be able to melt faces, but are mostly restricted from using their skills because of personal honor and social expectations. Shugenja have the same limitations, but also the whims and abilities of the kami. GM's are encouraged to use this factor on shugenja players... partly to limit the damage they can do, but also because it's totally in spirit of how the universe works.
  • The Legend System was specifically designed to avert this—warriors and wizards alike are equally Quadratic.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • In a metagame sense, this is present in with regards to the color system. For casual players, the five colors are more or less equally good. At the competitive level, blue (the color most associated with magic and "wizards") is typically viewed as the best color while green (the color most associated with creatures and hence, "warriors") is typically viewed as the worst. This is hotly contested, though, and the game is constantly being updated with an eye toward balance.
    • Played relatively straight in terms of creature cards themselves. "Warrior" creatures typically cost less mana to summon than "wizard" creatures of relative power and toughness. However, the "wizards" often have abilities or effects beyond simply power/toughness which make them more powerful. "Warriors" are much more likely to have limited abilities, or may not have them at all. Compare, for instance, Grizzly Bears, a staple two mana green 2/2 "warrior", and Academy Journeymage, a five mana 3/2 "wizard" with the added ability to return a creature to their controller's hand.
  • Numenera: A Glaive (warrior) at the peak of his power can learn to one-shot any enemy up to level 3, and a Nano (wizard) at the peak of his power can learn to literally move mountains. This isn't about damage per round or whether one class can beat the other; it's about Nanos having ever-expanding arrays of different abilities whereas Glaives mostly get numerical upgrades to what they're already good at. It is possible for any class to use the titular Applied Phlebotinum for overtly "magical" effects, but due to the way stats work, a Magic Knight will be gimped both ways. Oh, and Glaives Cast from Hit Points, so they have to choose between offense and defense.
  • Pathfinder raised issues of its own while attempting to correct the problems in 3rd edition D&D. Concentration checks were made more difficult and harder to avoid. Every class and most monsters were made more powerful and tougher aside from the wizard (whose spells were not changed and were thus weaker relative to newly buffed monsters and other PC classes). Clerics were stripped of their proficiency with the heaviest armors (and those armors became tougher), the druid's broken shapeshifting abilities were reined in with stricter mechanics defining the abilities that shifting granted. Non magic-using classes gained access to learn to craft magic items if they wanted to (fighters in particular can spare the feats for it). And fighters finally gained unique class abilities (in 3rd edition, they got lots of bonus feats—but most of those feats were available to other classes, if less frequently), boosting their effectiveness with weapons and armor above other warrior classes.
  • The original RuneQuest subverted this trope through healthy realism. Magic in this game was very weak, and you had to spend magic points to cast spells, and characters only had a very small number of magic points. Thus, sword-swingers with the ability to use physical attacks indefinitely could have had a huge advantage over spell-casters. However, if you think about it, nobody can swing a sword all day long: the more you use your muscles, the more tired you get, and sooner or later your arms feel so numb and heavy you can't even lift your weapon anymore. This is why, in the name of realism, the RuneQuest designers made it so that swinging your sword required that you spend stamina points, of which you had only a small number too. A warrior with no stamina points left, like a wizard out of mana, became exhausted and unable to fight. Also, just about everyone in a typical RQ game will have some minor magic spells. Dedicated priests or Rune Lords (servants of their gods, like D&D's Paladins) have access to significantly more powerful divine magic, without the usual limitations most people have on them. To balance it, they have to spend most of their time on religious duties, severely cutting into their adventuring time.
  • Shadowrun: Non-Awakened (i.e. not magical) characters increase their power one skill at a time using karma or by buying better equipment. Awakened get initiation levels that boost their magic and thus increase all their magical powers at the same time, powers that give them way more flexibility than any non-awakened can ever get. And unlike equipment, magic has no upper limit. Which is why this trope usually gets subverted before it fully comes into play, because everyone is aware of this trope and geeks the mage first.
  • The Spheres of Power book's alternate magic system does its best to avert this; spells are replaced with at-will abilities and a limited spell point pool in which to augment them. It also helps that it works hard to make characters from other media more feasible to create (Indeed, its example on how to use the rules to define your settings was an obvious expy of Avatar: The Last Airbender).
  • There was a reason Stormbringer had sorcery nerfed hard in the follow-up remake game Elric!. In Stormbringer, sorcerers could bind demons and this is the only form of real magic in the game (no traditional spells). However these demons had no limit how powerful their abilities were provided the sorcerer had the power to summon it. Interestingly the "wizard vs. warrior" issue doesn't really apply as there wasn't a specialist sorcerer class, anyone can be a sorcerer provided they had a high enough power stat (including warriors like Elric and his cousin Yrkoon), a bit of intelligence and had access to at least one grimoire. In Elric!, the demons's abilities were limited (often to very low ranks which made them weaker than a sword slash) but sorcerers now had weak spells that they can cast instead of being stuck summoning and binding demons all the time.
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies: Kolduns, especially in the hands of gregarious players. See, non-kolduns can buy a magical Gift using their Forte (skill) ranks. Normally you're limited to one. A koldun can buy multiple Gifts as Techniques chained to their Koldun Forte (a Technique being some condition that gives you a bonus to that Forte when its requirements are met). As such, the koldun's repertoire expands very rapidly compared to anyone else—someone with a Fencer Forte can only take Techniques to make herself a better fencer, while a koldun can get the ability to throw fire and lightning, heal, fly, teleport, read minds, and so on. A koldun gets a lot more value for points spent on their Koldun Forte, compared to any other Forte. Kolduns can even "hex" people (including themselves) with permanent effects, for good or ill. However, hexes and other fancy uses of Gifts will cost a koldun lots of Style Dice... but the Game Master is supposed to reward Style Dice for entertaining behavior. Act out a lot and take the lead, and you're better able to dominate the game both in and out of character, and leave everyone else — especially the fencers — in the dust.
  • In the Tales of Xadia tabletop game, this trope is somewhat downplayed at the lower level. At the beginning of the game, mages can only learn two spells, and specializing in magic means there are fewer skillsets that a mage can learn than a non-magic playable character. But there really isn’t that significant of a gap between the mages and the melee fighters depending on how the player chooses to set up their characters. Indeed, as far as rune mages are concerned, mechanically there *is* no difference; rune mages use the same attributes to attack as do warriors (i.e. Strength and/or Agility), and no prep-time or range is required. If a mage wants to attack, they can just attack immediately. The real difference is in latitude of abilities, as mages have a greater variety of tasks they can accomplish beyond just fighting. However at the higher level, this trope is in full play: not only can mages use more spells, they can be equipped with special artifacts, armor and weapons that only they can use, and which significantly boost their combat superiority. Mages can even be set up to be just magically enhanced warriors that supplant the actual warriors of the game.
  • Warhammer:
    • Warhammer Fantasy plays this straight with a few armies. Lizardmen are a particularly drastic example. Hero Level Sarus are hard fighting warriors and while Skink Priests are solid casters, their lack of access to different Lores (and the Lore of Heaven isn't the greatest lore in the world) and the fact that they're made of tissue paper means that they're often not worth it (at least without an Engine of the Gods). On the other hand, Lord Level Sarus are merely really good fighters whereas Slaan's access to all the lores, the different abilities you can give them and the sheer power of their casting abilities means they can often devastate entire units all on their own.
    • Warhammer 40,000 averts this with psykers often having limited and support abilities, whereas combat leaders can often be much more powerful. In the stories it's played dead straight; weak psykers can barely function as humans, let alone soldiers, while medium psykers can balance things out and strong psykers are nigh-untouchable. In the pencil-and-paper adaptations, however, this is played straight.
      • This can be played straight when it comes to points however. Players won't balk spending 50 points on a good fighting hero, but might on a weak psyker, since their ability to help out the army will generally be limited. At the middle point, say 100-150 points, you won't be surprised to see either: An 150 point close combat hero can be used to do something important, and a 125-point psyker will usually not disappoint. But, at 200 point, people tend to balk a bit at spending so much on a close combat hero, since they probably won't see enough action to justify their points, whereas a 200-point psyker can usually support huge chunks of your army at the same time.
    • Dark Heresy: Played straight, as generally until 4th level a psyker gets spells such as Cheat at Poker and Summon Local Vermin. Once a psyker gets to Psychic level 3 (available at 4th level) such as Punch Through a Tank with Your Bare Hands, Warp Reality So That You Can Ricochet Your Bullet Off of a Random Frying Pan and Kill the Enemy General from 5 km Away and Telekinetically Pull the Pins Out of Other People's Grenades While Still Attached to Them. Only subverted in that in casting those spells you have a greater chance of getting you soul eaten by daemons and killing the rest of your party because you got turned into a daemonhost. Or worse. Not many quadratic wizards have to worry about being sucked into the Warp because they botched their roll.
    • Black Crusade was even worse, as a bad roll could end with a player or enemy psyker becoming the host to a Greater Daemon, a minor demigod single-handedly capable of sending entire sectors to their knees and causing planet-wide manifestation signs... Until they grew in experience and got talents such as Favored By The Warp and Warp Lock (plus things such as Bastion Of Iron Will in case they ever do get targeted by possession...)
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Played slightly less straight than other related worlds. Wizards get quite a lot of useful utility spells, but none that can break campaigns, and you need a very high-level wizard indeed to get the ability to reliably deal more damage with spells than the party warrior. Becoming a high-level wizard basically requires DM intervention due to the steep trappings costs (required possessions before you can become one) and the required roleplaying aspects. In addition, wizards in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay suffer from pretty much the exact same problems as psykers in Dark Heresy, to say nothing of the fact that all the filthy peasants the party interacts with hates you because the Empire's official religion teaches that wizards must be burned on bonfires, and most of them are illiterate and can't read your 'please do not burn by order of the Emperor' papers.
      • Averted in 1st Edition WFRP, where magic has been translated directly from WFB with inches changed to meters and figures changed to targets. In WFB, a spell that kills 3 figures at 48 inches could rout the small unit half a mile away. In WFRP, killing three people at 48 meters is flashy, but nowhere near "war god" level. Also, with bad rolls, a wizard can end up with Magic Points score barely enough for one or two high-level spells per day. And we're speaking about the best of the best here. Roleplaying potential is another thing, but noblemen, clerics, engineers and witch-hunters still get the upper hand.
      • Downplayed from 2nd Edition onwards. Magical Lores have some great gems in the top tiers, like a firestorm that kills everything inside it, healing spells that reverse all of a character's physical and mental wounds, and instant-death effects. However most magic powers never grow in potency, all of them threaten Magic Misfires, and each spellcaster is limited in the breadth of spells they can learn. Low-level magic users will be of some use, but they certainly won't be overshadowing a skilled physical fighter or a halfway-decent crackshot with an arquebus or crossbow.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Old World of Darkness has this relation between the characters in its three major settings, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension. Werewolves are by far the most physically powerful character when first starting play, while Mages are the weakest. A werewolf can turn into a raging murder-monster with the strength and claws to rip apart most other starting characters. As they progress in power, however, they only gain a scant few magical abilities, and their physical abilities rise in a linear fashion. Starting Mages lack much raw power and are physically squishy. As they gain experience, however, their magick can affect more things and at greater severity, until they're basically rewriting reality limited only by their imagination. Vampires are somewhere in the middle. They have better physical powers than Mages and better magical powers than Werewolves, while having a lower power cap than Mages and a higher cap than Werewolves.
    • The New World of Darkness follows the same system as the Old, with werewolves being the most powerful at the starting level and mages being the most powerful at max. Sin-Eaters are also very literally quadratic. Each Key opens up new ways to use all of your existing Manifestations. (Also, Keys are cheap and have linear XP cost, unlike all other splats' power boosts.) Completely turned on its head by mummies, who start each "Descent" (what they call the temporary return to life) with Sekhem 10, making them unbeatable, civilization wiping, apocalyptic gods... and slowly get weaker as they go, until they eventually run out and return to being dead for another few years or so.

    Video Games 
  • The original Diablo. Although spells could be learned by anyone with sufficient magic stat points, Warriors and Rogues often found themselves limited in learning capability without high magic-boosting equipment. A few of the game's most useful and powerful bread-and-butter spells often hit the required magic stat requirements way before maximum spell level, forcing non-sorcerers to rely on Enchanted Shrines that are difficult to come by. Additionally, spell damage were also frequently dependent on actual magic stat values. In a game that pretty much taught you to either kill overwhelming odds before they touched you or handle them one at a time (which required you to rely heavily on environment), spell-casting, and consequently the character with inherently superior spell-casting qualities, becomes the staple of endgame strategy.
    • However as a counterpart, monsters in last levels were highly resistant to some elements. In Hell difficulty, Advocates had a 100% resistance to all elements! [1]
  • Zigzagged in Diablo II during its lifetime.
    • Before the expansion, caster classes shot ahead of fighters early on and then hit a hard cap at about level 50 after their main offensive spell was maxed, at which point fighter classes only got started. The sheer amount of elemental resistances compared to physical resistances was not helping, notably the fact that pretty much the entire final Act in Hell difficulty was 75% fire resistant. The only viable endgame caster builds involved merciless exploitation of percentage based damage (Static Field, Corpse Explosion, Iron Maiden) or bugs (Blessed Hammer) while flat damage spells were only used to finish off enemies reduced to a sliver by Static Field or to kill a handful of enemies at the start of a run so you could get some revived minions up.
    • The expansion aimed to fix this by introducing large numbers of +skill level items, previously a very rare modifier that tended to come mostly on bad items. The game tilted in favour of casters, at first because it was easy enough to promote area of effect abilities, then because later patches made the game much harder to the point where melee builds without godly items stood no chance. Meanwhile new items solved the early game struggles of caster classes and provided ways around elemental immunities, enabling them to dominate pretty much the entire game from start to finish.
    • The necromancer before the expansion had spells with awful scaling effects. His poison spells did not gain damage per second when you spent skill points into them, only duration, meaning you could kill anything ... over the course of 30 seconds. In an action RPG. The worst of the worst were poison skeletal mages which ended up doing 1 damage per second for 3 minutes.
  • Diablo III plays with this trope. Spells no longer gain power as they level up, each ability gets specific runes that change the spell, and builds can be changed at any time. That said, the wizards still deal more DPS than the melee classes on average, with the Wizard doing more direct DPS and the Witch Doctor using summons and status effects. It's nowhere near as bad as the other entries in the franchise, but it's still there.
  • Played straight in the BioShock franchise, but only for NPCs. The gun-toting and club-wielding enemies (the Splicers) can give the player some trouble in the beginning, whereas the teleporting, fireball-throwing ones are merely annoyances. In the late game, however, once the player gets crazy powerful enough the teleporters are the only enemies capable of surviving the player's barrage of attacks for more than a few seconds, since they can't be targeted while invisible. This does not apply to the player, however: at the start, Plasmids (the game's equivalent of magic) are amazingly effective, and a few of them are capable of killing enemies in a single cast. The weapons, on the other hand, start out as rusty, noisy things, and their basic ammunition is nowhere near as effective as the game's damaging Plasmids early on. However, as the player gains access to ludicrously powerful weapon upgrades, alternate ammunition and passive bonuses (known in-game as Gene Tonics) Plasmids start to take a back seat, especially as there's a weapon capable of replicating the effects of the three main ones, only better. In fact, with the right combination of Gene Tonics melee combat becomes the most deadly, as even the game's strongest enemies, the diving-suited Big Daddies, can no longer hold up against the player's trusty Wrench. The sequel tried to balance things out by removing the Plasmid-imitating weapon, making the powers both more accessible and more interesting and generally nerfing the quadratic effectiveness of melee combat. It doesn't help that a fully-upgraded Grenade Launcher, one of the last weapons the player acquires, is capable of clearing an entire room in a single shot.
  • Incursion has a mixed version of this trope—pure warriors and mages are linear, rogues, priests and druids are quadratic.
  • Luminous Arc 2 has a rather notable trait about this. While the first one is actually more balanced, the second one seems to use this, giving highest MAG Fatima and Sadie (who graces the bottom page picture, compared to Mighty Glacier Rasche) very high AO (turn frequency) and Movement. Their strongest spells? They hit 5 spaces up to 7 panels away.
    • This is eventually justified. From a gameplay perspective, that is. It's a plot point that late-game enemies tend to be very resistant, if not immune to magic.
  • Many Roguelikes such as Angband and the original Moria (and their many variants) play this straight. Mages are hard classes to keep alive at first, but they become major death dealers by the endgame. Warrior-like classes are fairly easy to keep alive but don't deal as much damage in the endgame.
  • The text-based RPG Grendel's Revenge had a rather interesting relationship with this trope through it's history. At first it was inverted, magical monsters were fairly balanced with young fighter monster for the first 50 or so levels, but the fighter monsters could get a host of passive, always on Status Buffs as well as timed ones from Leader monsters, whereas magical monsters had very few ways to get a status buffs at all. This got progressively worse since fighter monsters could wear better armor, get skills to boost their weapon skills (and the weapons gotten improves) while magical monsters could only wear a small selection of non-armor magical gear.
    • At the 200+ level mark, fights between equal level solo magical and fighter monsters would be very hard for the magical monster's player since their attacks could not penetrate and they had no defense. Only by using sneak tactics like stunning, teleporting enemies into traps (which Builder clan mates had to prepare for the magical monster) and other means could they hold their own...all of which were not that effective against the fighter player to begin with, which still had very good resistances to these tactics. To make it worse, the maximum number of skills/powers/abilities was capped at 7, so magical characters could not get nearly as diverse a power set compared to fighters, and only Level Grinding to 700 could get you that far. Magical player outcries got so loud and exceedingly deconstructive (the game forum was for many months full of dissertations and long arguments on exactly how and why magical monsters had the raw end of the class system) that the designers made a series of wide ranging nerfs, buffs, and rebalances to fix the issue...which sometimes snowballed into creating other imbalances. It's worked, mostly, but the current state of game balance is unknown at this time.
    • And don't get us started on game balance issues involving the non-combat classes!
  • Played straight and later inverted in RuneScape. Melee combat is the cheapest to use (requiring no equipment at first), while magic is extremely expensive. Once you've leveled up magic, however, it starts hitting harder and more consistently than melee. Past about level 50, however, melee takes over again as doing the most damage thanks to better weapons. The best magic spells (which allow freezing and leeching hitpoints) allow really good mages to still have the upper hand over warriors, but it takes a lot of skill. Of course, this is in PvP combat. When fighting NPCs, melee is the best 90% of the time due to the lower cost (cost is much less of a consideration in PvP as opposed to PvM) and faster speed, though magic does have its niches. Ranged combat falls somewhere in the middle, able to dish out a large amount of power without costing quite as much as magic. Its progression is much more linear, however.
  • MapleStory inverts this, if only for the main stretch of first job through fourth job promotion, for the Explorers. Magicians start extremely powerful while Archers, Warriors, Pirates, and to a certain extent Thieves are scrambling for kills at early levels. As everyone hits third job promotion, Magicians stop gaining power so quickly while everyone else catches up. Then fourth job is reached and Magicians are left in the dust, except for Bishops, who are needed for their extremely powerful buffs.
  • The skill-based Rune Factory series zig-zags this trope, depending on the version.
    • In the original Rune Factory, magic is basically useless in terms of damage dealing, since it does less damage than a medium-level weapon and quickly burns through RP (that series version of Mana, but used for every skill including watering your crops)
    • In Rune Factory 2 and Rune Factory 3, magic is as powerful as weapons use, reliably dealing good amounts of damage at a distance, once that skill is leveled up, and especially once your character has a more powerful magic staff.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning plays this trope straight for the most part. The Might discipline, i.e. the warrior class, starts out tougher than than the others and deals more damage than the other disciplines, which at low levels are either excessively hard to play (the Finesse discipline, or rogue class) or just plain weak (the Sorcery discipline, i.e. mages). However, at top levels Archmages have a meteor spell that kills everyone in the area, whereas Warlords just get tougher. Rogues scale in-between the two, and are generally a lot more situational. A unique quality to Kingdoms of Amalur is that it allows the player to mix classes, and thus allows for warrior/mage hybrids which have their own scaling. Any discipline that incorporates Sorcery still turns out the most powerful in the end, though.
  • Sacred has its quadratic equation begin at level 1. Low-level mages are utter gods compared to fighters, with spells such as Gust of Wind, which propels multiple targets miles away for ungodly amounts of damage, and poisons them. Firebolt, the starting spell, is akin to a sniper-rifle, easily reaching 1000 points of damage very early on. Fire Spiral is even worse, having no break between damage calculations, meaning anything that wanders into it will take damage every single second it remains in it. Even 30.000-HP dragons can die from a single Fire Spiral if they are lured through it at their slow pace.
  • In the Kingdom Hearts series:
    • In the first half of Kingdom Hearts, Donald Duck, the party mage, is all but useless because of his squishiness and the relative weakness of his spells (except Heal, everyone loves Heal), while Goofy, the party bruiser, is great at bashing stuff from the get go. Because of this, many players will just switch the duck out in favor of the Guest-Star Party Member of whatever world you're on. Later in the game, though, because of Leaked Experience and the new spells you acquire, Donald becomes a force to be reckoned with, and becomes the preferred party member to keep on while Goofy winds up dying a lot. (But he still does have MP Gift).
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, choosing the Staff during Dive to the Heart. The Staff gives Sora more MP to start with and a higher MP cap than the other two. Magical power is based purely on max MP, and the extra points also exponentially increase the number of spell uses. This means a high-level Sora can wipe out hordes of endgame enemies with almost zero-cost Blizzagas or cast Gravigas that deal 100% of the opponent's maximum health. Final Mix added a new Ripple Drive finisher, which strikes a wide area with damage that is based on MP but doesn't expend it, meaning Staff-users who give up the Sword don't even feel the pain of low physical damage. Primarily physical-based users have another benefit: starting with the Staff gives the largest amount of starting Ability Points, while having high MP allows you to essentially spam the extremely powerful Sonic Blade, Strike Raid, and Ars Arcanum. Early Game Hell is a factor, but the Staff's advantages start to show as soon as Wonderland (very early in the game), and by the end of the first ring of worlds it has already left the Sword and Shield far behind.
    • Somewhat averted in 358/2 Days. While magic strength is also dependent on weapons (gear) equipped, and unlike most Square-Enix games where "Fira" is simply an upgraded "Fire" and so on, the spells scale with levels and have different effects, (Cure heals you, Cura regenerates health over time, Curaga creates a field that heals everyone within it over time) the mage characters may often wind up attacking during Mission mode because there is no limitation on how many times you can do that and enemies resist magic. But there are still heartless who have massive weaknesses to certain spells, and guess who you'll want with you during the missions where they show up?
    • Played relatively straight in Kingdom Hearts II. Picking the Magic-based build during the introduction segments will be a disadvantage early on (especially since you start with absolutely no spells), but sticking with it will make your magic noticeably more powerful toward the end of the game. Conversely, choosing the offense or defense builds don't make a huge difference in the damage you give/take in the long run. If you DO pick Magic as your main focus, you'll be able to shave off multiple health bars from endgame Nobodies in a magic combo, your Explosion finisher (which bases damage on Magic) becomes even more of a Game-Breaker than it is with a physical build, and Reflega turns anything foolish enough to challenge you into Swiss cheese in a single cast. Should you use Magic while in Final form with a Magic build, you'll see this trope at its prime.
    • In Birth by Sleep, it's played straight, but not in the way that you would expect. Terra, Ventus, and Aqua are arguably equally powerful given their unique skills. The characters differ not just in power levels but in leveling up and learning curve. Terra is the easiest to learn due to having higher HP quicker and being more melee oriented, something that most people familiar with the Kingdom Hearts series would know. Ventus meanwhile is also primarily a melee, but is faster and has a steeper learning curve than Terra, but not by much. Aqua, meanwhile is primarily ranged fighting (something people who aren't magic enthusiasts or fans of Xigbar in Days probably aren't used to) and has a steeper learning curve, but she levels up faster than Terra and Ventus do at parts of their respective campaigns. So not only has Tetsuya Nomura stated his recommendation to play through with the Terra -> Ventus -> Aqua order will make sense story-wise, but also, gameplay wise. Some fans have said that Terra is easy mode, Ventus is standard, and Aqua is Proud/Hard mode (however, there is a critical mode being added into the international release).
      • Aqua also gets some of the most flexible unique commands, which take her until around halfway through the game to learn with normal play even assuming the player knows the correct sequence of command melds. Upon gaining these, Aqua becomes able to curbstomp entire waves of enemies with single spells and can demolish bosses with much less fear of reprisal than Terra or Ventus. However, until she learns at least third-level magic she will generally have a much harder time of combat than either of the others, as the low-level spells lack the area of effect or base power to take advantage of her high Magic stat.
    • Kingdom Hearts III adds Grand Magic, situation commands that can be cast after using several spells sequentially. Grand Magics will always cast a spell one level higher than the spell used to access it. Due to this grand Magics start powerful and become ridiculous, making magic by far the most powerful route to take through most of the game and a speedrunner favourite.
  • Zig-Zagged in the Tales Series:
    • Tales of Destiny 2 and Tales of Eternia feature extremely powerful magic. In Tales of Destiny 2 in particular, attacks have to pass an evasion/accuracy check in order to score clean hits. Spells usually bypass that check and cause humongous amounts of damage while serving as good crowd control. Your melee fighters are responsible for keeping your casters alive while spells dish out damage.
    • Tales of Rebirth: Casters in this game have different utilities. Mao focuses on mobility and crowd control while Hilda bombards enemies with powerful, multi-hitting spells. However, since the game allows your melee characters to get Damage x 32 if you manipulate the Enhance systems, you would expect your melee characters to be able to outclass your casters in terms of damage. You would be wrong. Freeze Lancer is the arte with the potential for the most damage due to its 8.0x multiplier on the first hit...and it's a spell. Overall, magic is extremely powerful in this game.
    • Tales of the Abyss: Magic is usually the preferred option in Unknown mode since enemies have ridiculously scaled physical defense, allowing your casters to shine.
    • Tales of Legendia and Tales of Vesperia, on the other hand, invert this. Legendia's magic damage output is very poor compared to what physical fighters are capable of. Meanwhile, magic starts off very powerful in Vesperia but the damage scaling is disadvantageous by the end. Physical fighters will cause a lot more damage, relegating magic to crowd control and stunlocking utilities.
  • The Fire Emblem series averts this, because everyone's growth is technically linear. Because magic works almost identically to the way weapons work, the variety that any particular class has partially depends on what weapons it's allowed to use (along with stat caps, movement, and class skills). The advantage of Mages is they're versatile in that they can attack from close-up or at range. However, most are standard Squishy Wizards, especially females (as males are more often the Jack of All Stats). This is even more notable on later games where both enemies and allies get decent resistance. For example...
    • Radiant Dawn, and to a lesser extent Path of Radiance, averts this. Most enemies, even Knights, have decent resistance and mages have been further nerfed from their already weak Path of Radiance selves by losing their good speed. The extra damage they deal to Laguz becomes a borderline Useless Item as they rarely face any. To top it off, they retain their downsides, such as weapons with low Might and having less Movement that regular physical classes. Even worse, few enemies are mages, making their high resistance worthless. (For what little it matters, several physical units on your team have good resistance but nothing to use it against.)
    • Played straight in Thracia 776, for a lot of reasons:
      • In this game, the Magic stat is used for both Magical Offense and Defense, in a game where most physical units have a little bit of Magic. Although most enemies in the game are physical combatants, this change also affect items such as M Up/Barrier Staff and Holy Water, which increases Magic by 7.
      • The importance of 1-2 Range attack is relatively higher than every other game in the series, thanks to the relative lack of common and reliable 1~2 range weapons outside of tomes, with magic swords being extremely rare (there are only about 7 of them in the entire game—and two of them, the Light and Earth swords, can only be used by Lief and Nanna respectively), Javelins—though somewhat common—are impractical to use indoors due to the extremely limited number of indoor lance users (and many of the chapters are indoors), and lastly—the inaccurate and relatively rare Hand Axe. Low ranked tomes can be acquired by stealing it from enemy mages or taking it from captured enemy mages, and are relatively easier to steal with your thieves.
      • Sages have a ridiculous Promotion Bonus that increases Magic by 5, Skill by 5, Speed by 6, and Defense by 4. This is a very sizable boost in this game due to the lower overall stat Caps in comparison to the other games in the series (Just 20 in Thracia 776—compared to 25~30 in other titles). In fact, because of these boosts, players often recommend promoting any and all Sage-capable units as soon as you're able to.
      • Staves are poorly balanced. Status staves have infinite range, are very accurate, and last throughout the entire stage (or until they are cured with a Restore Staff), Physic can heal any allied unit in the map, Fortify heals every allied unit in the map, and the flexibility of Warp, Rewarp, and Rescue more than makes up for the fact that they can miss. There was a saying that "there are only two kinds of units in FE5 lategame: those that can use staves and have high magic, and those that can't".
    • Played straight in Fire Emblem: Awakening due to the Nosferatu tome and the pair up system. While this tome can still be overpowered in all games that have it, they were limited in availability and mages could still be destroyed by the higher Speed capped fighters. In Awakening though, the infinite amount of Nosferatu tomes, the player-only pair-up system, and the fact that tomes have a range of 1-2 made Dark Mages complete gamebreakers.
  • In NetHack, wizards arguably starting out the worst class at level one and quickly becoming the most powerful as it gains spells and all kinds of magical items. For example: most classes must rely on what they find, buy, salvage or wish for in order to proceed for success. Wizards can take random junk, put it in piles, and zap it with a polymorph spell until it turns into something they need. Other classes will likely have to use limited-charge wands of polymorph to do this reliably.
  • Because of it takes a good deal of inspiration from NetHack, ADOM is just as bad. A good mage will be able to fire elemental blasts of all kinds, death rays, summon minions (which you can eat, meaning infinite food), teleport at will, carry hundreds of thousands of pounds, replicate any number of rare tools at will, and so on. And because they're pretty much guaranteed to become a Magic Knight anyway, they're great at melee also.
  • Played straight in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. At early levels you really wanna play the Guardian and max up their feats, as Sentinels and Consulars die easily, but at high levels a character will take out an entire room with just one or two Force Storms. But the Jedi Weapon Master can still learn force storm, and can take out a room by jumping back and forth from enemy-to-enemy after cleaning up the trash with Force Storm.
  • Star Ocean, at least the first two games (and the PSP Enhanced Remakes, which are based off of the PSX version of Second Evolution), averts this because the melee characters are able to surround a boss and stun-lock them, killing them faster than the mages can fire off most of their spells. A powerful party would often consist of three melees and one healbot, or two melees, one healbot, and one ranged fighter. Despite this, offensive-mage-type characters have their uses...they can initiate a stun-lock sequence since the spells cause an enemy to stagger. Plenty of time to surround a tough boss and just beat them up.
  • The Valkyrie Profile series goes back and forth with this trope:
    • In the first game probably plays this trope straight to the greatest extent. Not too far into the game (round about Chapter 2-3) you can pick up Ether Staffs, which allow for Great Magic, but also boost magical power well into the quadruple digits, so without using Great Magic, you'll be out-doing the whole rest of the party for damage by a ludicrous factor; the lion's share of standard encounters will go down with one round of Lightning Bolt to the whole enemy group. With Great Magic, well, even bosses are going to go down in a hurry.
    • Averted, though, in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, where mages are nerfed considerably compared to the other installments. There are still occasions, however, where the right spell will make certain enemies much easier.
    • Finally, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume brings it back with a vengeance: The mages are alright at first, but are mainly best for building up the charge meter...until that is you get a staff that will push a mage's spell power into the quadruple digits, and gives Great Magic. Immediate game-breaker when you consider your physical attack power unbuffed may be around 5-700 by the end of the game.
  • In most Shin Megami Tensei games, magic attacks almost always outweigh melee attacks by the endgame. The Devil Summoner games, however, do a decent job of averting this—Raidou's sword will always be one of your best friends.
    • The Persona games vary. While the guns can be very powerful in the first Persona game and other weapons can sometimes be useful, the magic attacks often outclass them, depending on the user and their compatibility with their Persona. Persona 2 embodies this trope, especially with how much team attacks were rewarded in both games. Persona 3, however, can actually wind up with physical attacks being more powerful than special attacks with enough work. Persona 4, meanwhile...players often don't even buy any weapon upgrades to their characters to save money, and what would be the point of telling them to attack? Just use your Persona to buff your characters and do special attacks. It's better.
    • Completely inverted in Nocturne though, as there, magic attacks actually get weaker the higher your level is, whilst physical attacks get stronger with level. Along with this, physical skills are the only types of skills you can charge up (This game only has Focus and not Concentrate). Plus, if you're going for the True Demon Ending, physical skills along with Pierce blow through the entirety of the endgame up to and including the True Final Boss, and this strategy is the only way you can do reliable damage against the boss.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne inverts this, at least for the protagonist. A magic-oriented Demi-Fiend is stronger early on, due to frequently elemental-weak enemies allowing for extra turns, a decent number of physical-resistant enemies, and magic raising MP which also helps fuel powerful buff and debuff skills. At higher levels, Magatama start teaching the Demi-Fiend exclusive skills, almost all of which are physical, and completing the Bonus Dungeon and unlocking the True Final Boss gives them the Pierce passive skill, which lets physical attacks bypass resistances. Including the massive passive resistance to all damage the True Final Boss has. Physical attacks also benefit from Focus, while there's no equivalent for magic in Nocturne. Due to this, many players focus on the Demi-Fiend's magic early on, and pivot to putting their level-up gains into Strength past the halfway point.
    • Newer games, notably Devil Survivor, seem to either subvert this or invert it completely. Sure, magic is useful at the start to get some extra turns, and can be brutally powerful when dealing raw damage, but later on physical-based Skills and normal attacks can be greatly improved by passive Skills, ending up on skills that hits hard all enemies multiple times, debuffing them with many Status Effects, breaking the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors with extremely high Critical chance while not consuming your precious MP. Though they do Cast from Hit Points instead... unless you take the skill that absorbs a percentage of all physical damage dealt as health for yourself. Unfortunately the last day features several enemies that are completely immune to physical attacks even with Pierce, bringing this trope back as the player reaches for Almighty magic to kill them off.
    • Devil Survivor 2 zigzags the trope even more than Devil Survivor does. Initially, magic attacks can hit a variety of weaknesses while physical skills get stonewalled by physical resistance, then by the time the player accesses Pierce, they can start scoring good damaging critical hits on enemies with no weaknesses. Then physical-repelling enemies happen, which is the one thing Pierce can't bypass, prompting the player to use Almighty magic to bypass this... and then when the player picks up Holy Strike, an Almighty physical attack, Pierce's one flaw vanishes. Then, at the very end of the line, the presence of the Anti-Almighty skill tips the odds back in favour of physical skills, when Holy Strike and Holy Dance barely scratch those enemies.
    • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth makes an effort to make physical and magic attacks equal by giving you elemental physical attacks, which means that your bruisers will have a much easier time hitting weaknesses. However, HP is a much more easily replenished resource, meaning that physical attacks are just that much more spammable than spells. Combined with the fact that bosses often have no weaknesses to exploit (which prevents you from using skills for free), magic users often get relegated to support roles as a result. Late-game physical skills also tend to be considerably stronger than their magical equivalents, often hitting everything on the field multiple times with an upwards 50% critical rate on each hit (and when even one critical makes your next turn's skills free, that's a big deal), whereas late-game magic is mostly Almighty and so can never cause Boost due to magic being unable to critical. Played straight by the Hama/Mudo lines of spells, which tend to end Random Encounters instantly.
    • The Co-Op mechanic of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, which becomes your main source of damage against bosses with weaknesses, makes magic attackers more versatile and useful than physical attackers. Critical hits don't give any advantage other than just bonus damage on hit. Not all is lost, though, for while weakness to physical attacks are quite rare, weaknesses to Gun attacks aren't, and are free for strength-based demons to abuse. The Redux Updated Re-release levels the playing field by adding a Sub-App that lets critical hits trigger Co-Op attacks.
  • Defense of the Ancients and Dota 2: In general inverted:
    • The contribution of most Intelligence heroes (mages) come from nukes, which more often than not deal a fixed amount of damage, while their right-click attacks are fairly weak. As a result, they are powerful in the early-mid game when enemies do not have much HP yet, peak at level 16 when their skills are maxed, and from that point start to fall off as enemies become durable enough to shrug off their nukes (and their weak right-clicks), or get Black King Bars, which allow them to become temporarily immune to magic.
    • Compare to physical damage dealers, who rely on right-click attacks and/or scaling passive abilities. They are usually weak early on, only able to throw their right-clicks (which aren't even powerful yet) and in some cases a single nuke or disable. However, since these very right-clicks tend to be complemented by scaling 'steroids', their damage scale very well with items and levels, and in the late game it's not uncommon to see a fully farmed level 25 hard carry soloing the entire enemy team by him/herself.
    • Zigzagged in a couple cases: scaling nukers whose damage output continue to scale after their skills are maxed (Tinker, Timbersaw, Skywrath Mage, Necrophos,...), initiators and disablers who are more valued for their ability to open a fight or disable heroes than their damage (Tidehunter, Enigma, Silencer, Dark Seer,...), and certain mid-game carries who are strong all game because of both nukes and scaling right-clicks (Gyrocopter, Shadow Fiend, Slark,...).
    • Dota's cousin, Heroes of Newerth, has more heroes that directly subvert this rule. Parallax and Oogie don't rely on autoattacks to deal damage, but have scaling, spammable abilities that are restricted mainly by their mana pool, so they need to farm items to fix their issue. On the other side, heroes like Deadwood and Grinex are gankers that deal primarily physical damage with autoattack-enhancing abilities, but their low stat growths and cooldown-based damage output makes them less effective late game.
  • Peglin introduced the Molten Mantle (Boss Relic) shortly after the Shop update. In exchange for no longer being able to collect gold from pegs, for every second gold picked up, the current damage of the orb on the board is dealt to the currently targeted enemy, allowing the player to blitz through battles in seconds. Most other relics in the game, Boss or otherwise, only give flat damage bonuses to your various attacks, making this Relic an exceptionally powerful example of the trope.
    • When it was first introduced, it would deal damage for every gold picked up, making it even more overpowered than its current iteration.
  • In League of Legends, linear- and quadratic-ness depend entirely on the champion you are playing: unlike DotA, spellcasters DO scale with items. As a general rule of thumb, carries are moderately strong early and mid and dominate late, but tend to be very squishy to compensate, casters (including physical casters) are strong early and mid game, but fall off late and assassins are weak early, but dominate mid game and are still a threat late. Played straight with bruisers, who are generally strong in early and mid game, but lose effectiveness as enemy champions gain the means to actually take them down.
    • This is also zig-zagged with a couple cases. Veigar isn't very strong early and mid-game ... but once he gets his AP up and gets a lot of good items, he's unstoppable to compensate for a weak early game dependent on farming. LeBlanc meanwhile can take people out before they can even blink in the early-mid game; but once people get more health, she starts to lag behind a bit. Basically; if you have Veigar, you're going to want the match to last longer and if you have LeBlanc, you want push them so hard they surrender. Another example of a late-game mage is Malzahar, who goes from being a good lane pusher to being someone capable of killing any other character in a 1 v 1 fight in an incredibly short period of time. If Malzahar wins the middle lane team fights can rapidly become extremely lopsided thanks to his power curve and the area of effect, damage over time nature of his spells.
    • Perhaps the most extreme example is Ryze, a mage whose early game is among the weakest of any champion (even ad carries can beat him) and whose mid game is quite mediocre. However, because his damage scales with both mana and ability power, he gets a combination of what are (effectively for him) the most absurdly undercosted/power-concentrated items in the game, this combined with an inherently spam-based spell repertoire and an ultimate ability that makes all of it AoE makes late-game Ryze the scariest AP carry in the game.
    • Some bruisers are considered to be the "hardest scaling" champions in the game: Jax does moderately well early-mid game and utterly dominates the lategame due to gap-close, AoE stun, and most of all his absurd damage output and tankiness due to a combination of items and natural passives from his ultimate ability. Singed seems almost cute, as his only real damage output is a poison trail that he can activate, however, this seems a lot less funny in the lategame when he buys items that cause the entire poison trail to slow while applying magical, percentage based burn damage.
    • Added to the fact that his health scales with mana as well as health items, you get someone who can basically walk around a teamfight, doing huge damage through AoE, while being essentially untargetable due to extreme tankiness (targeting a Singed instead of a squishy damage-dealing carry is tantamount to suicide).
    • It should also be noted that how hard a characters "scales" isn't necessarily reliant on their damage output. Feared characters like Amumu and Sona, for example, are considered to "scale hard" in games simply because of their disruptive abilities (AoE stuns, binds, slows, buffs), which are extremely valuable in the lategame.
    • All characters technically have exponential scaling (due to item interactions), but some have higher powers of scaling than others (AD Carries have quintic scaling (Attack damage, attack speed, critical strike chance, critical strike damage, and armor penetration), AP Carries only have cubic scaling (Ability power, cooldown reduction, magic penetration), Bruisers tend to vary, and Supports tend to be quadratic (cooldown reduction, levels/utility effects).)
    • Some champions have abilities which give them a potentially infinite degree of linear scaling (Veigar and Nasus being the most notorious examples of this), meaning they will EVENTUALLY eclipse any other character (who flatline after reaching their full 6-item build). Others scale with the opponent's defenses, making them strong at any level (like the aforementioned Malzahar)
  • Being based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.0, Neverwinter Nights featured a lot of this, and the lack of a full party and the focus on combat made it incredibly apparent. When one class' ability is to be a Mighty Glacier and hack at people, while the other is capable of summoning a creature, making it a better meat shield than the fighter with a few spells, (spells which work just as well on them) then blasting away for much more damage on all enemies than a fighter can hope for on a single target, the lack of balance becomes rather intrusive.
    • Since the expansions and the introduction of Epic levels, this balance has shifted a little. With the proper equipment, a warrior is all but immune to magic, while a wizard still has precious little HP.
    • In both, the NWN and NWN2 Original Campaigns the trope is even more accurate than in Pen&Paper D&D, simply because of absolutely no resting restrictions. A wizard can exhaust all spells in a fight, then retreat a few steps, rest for about 10 seconds, and continue with fresh spells as often as he wants, even if it means resting every minute or so. This inherent flaw was corrected in add-ons and lots of custom content via restricting resting to safe areas, adding random encounters while resting, or even restricting resting to no more frequent than every 5 minutes.
    • The second game adds the warlock class. It takes some effort to play as a warlock, as it tends to be fairly disappointing for a rather longer time than a wizard or sorcerer, but get them to a high level and they become almost unstoppable.
  • It's tough to start as a wizard in Gothic 2. You don't even get any spells for the first third of the game, so get ready to use light swords and run very fast. But, if you stick with it, the later bosses become ridiculously easy. A properly built wizard can kill the last dragon in three shots, before he can even attack you.
  • Normally used in the Avernum series, where priests and mages tend to become demigods in the second half in the games, vastly overshadowing the warriors' usefulness. Averted, however, in Avernum 6, by having quadratic wizards and quadratic warriors. With the introduction of dual-wielding, a properly built fighter is the best source of single-target damage in the game, though appropriately they don't really come into their own until they've gained a few levels. The prequel series, Exile, mostly averted the trope. Spellcasters could start the game with mass-damage abilities that rendered many encounters trivial, while the fighters just sat there playing meat shield and occasionally dealing a little damage. By the endgame, casters were still very important, but mostly for their ability to buff fighters into unstoppable killing machines that could actually damage the ridiculous piles of elemental resistances and immunities that were late game enemies.
  • Planescape: Torment does this the same way as the typical D&D game. Of course, high-level mage spells are incredibly powerful. Your ability to get the best possible of the Multiple Endings is directly linked to your Wisdom stats, which would be highly useful for a cleric, which you cannot become in the game. Luckily, the game provides a couple of Chekhov's Guns which, if you remembered to bring them, can help you get that ending anyway.
    • You can also get the best ending if you have very high charisma... which is extremely easy for mages since they have a spell that greatly increases their charisma. Planescape also gives an additional advantage for spellcasters by being much more dialogue-oriented than most RPGs. There's only 4 mandatory fights in the entire game; everything else can either be bypassed or solved through diplomacy. Because of this, intelligence, wisdom and charisma are extremely useful stats, as they allow you to get the best dialogue options. Mages will by definition have high intelligence, should have enough character building points left over to also boost their wisdom, and can learn the aforementioned spell to boost their charisma.
    • Plansecape is, however, full of monsters who can laugh-off the mage's best spells due to Magic Resistance, or a flat percentile chance the character has to laugh-off any spell, regardless of the caster. (It works differently than Neverwinter Nights or D&D 3.X's Spell Resistance.) Nothing can out-damage a fighter Nameless One, and since he keeps all of his fighter abilities even when acting as a mage, and because the mage can wear items that boost AC very high, a Nameless One who is classed mage, has fighter levels, and uses mage buffs with the Infinity +1 Sword,—er, dagger—to turn his fighter abilities up to 11 is a death-dealing god on legs who can solo even the superboss and still get the golden ending thanks to Wisdom.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic series embraces this trope. Might-oriented heroes are good in short games or as scouts or garrison leaders, but heroes with a lot of Spell Power throwing level 5 spells tend to dominate the late game. This is reflected in the different types of town: Those associated with Mighty heroes like the Barbarian build up fast, but those associated with extreme magic users tend to take longer to build up but get the most powerful creatures like Titans or Black Dragons.
    • But at an even later stage, the balance shifts again: despite mage being able to wipe out a small army with one spell, it will be merely a drop in a bucket for the endgame legions, while Might heroes empower each and every creature on their side. Though of course, buffing them with spells is quite viable too. Since both classes can learn every skill except for the faction-specific ones, the split is more about the types of magic schools (Light and Darkness focus on buffing and debuffing which are useful with any army size, while Destruction and Summoning don't scale well at all).
    • This makes for a sweet moment of Fridge Brilliance—after all it's Heroes of Might AND Magic. No wonder a hero who knows how to use both strong combat ability and spells to augment and support the army will win over almost anyone that specializes in only one of them.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect: A tip from the Bioware staff: "Tip 52. Adepts and Biotics start slow. There is no denying this. It may seem frustrating, but if you work at it, it is beneficial to play a character who can constantly juggle any enemy. No one, not even a high-class soldier, can touch a master adept."
      • The real problem (or benefit, depending on your point of view...) was that biotics bypassed shields in the first game (and armor/barriers didn't exist); virtually any enemy could therefore be affected by biotics... up to and including the final boss, who becomes a cakewalk when immobilized by biotics. In the later games, the most powerful biotic powers only affect enemies with no shields/armor/barriers, to ensure this would not happen again.
      • While quadratic wizards are in fact, part of the game, Warriors, rather than stay linear, have evidently decided to go vertically upwards once they reach higher levels and gain a God Mode button, whose cooldown can later be reduced to be shorter than it's duration, even further cakewalking the game.
    • In Mass Effect 2 it depends on the difficulty.
      • At easier difficulties, mages (Adepts) rule, when you can take down hordes of space zombies without firing a single shot.
      • At harder difficulties, everything is pretty much immune to those abilities until their primary defense is stripped, making the direct damage classes (Infiltrator and Soldier) the best. That said, leveling the Warp power, by taking Energy Drain as your secondary power and picking the Assault or Sniper Rifle on the Collector ship, it is possible to build an Adept that can deal death at all levels.
    • Mass Effect 3 introduces the weapon weight system, where carrying more/heavier weapons introduces a power recharge penalty. Savvy power-based classes equip their character with a light pistol (that may never get used at all) so they can use their powers more frequently. A Linear Soldier will take the heaviest and most powerful weapons they can at the expense of infrequently activating Adrenaline Rush, while a Quadratic Adept (or Engineer) will forego all but one weapon to spam powers/combos.
      • Furthermore, the number of ways a Biotic explosion can be set up has greatly increased a Biotic's damage output such that even if no single biotic power can strip shields, a combo can take care of that.
      • Exacerbating this even further, it is possible for an Adept to mod and upgrade the basic pistol to the extent that they can carry it and still have a +200% power recharge time, allowing them to use Throw almost once a second and Warp every three. This results in a massive amount of biotic attacks, only counteracted by the fact that assigning points in a way that allows this means little can be used for Fitness, making your Adept VERY squishy, which is a problem, as the entire series employs We Cannot Go On Without You—if Shephard dies, your game is over, so a squishy Shephard is always a liability, at least to some extent.
      • Furthermore, and compounding We Cannot Go On Without You above—the player has constant access to the abilities of their teammates. A player with a soldier Shephard can still throw biotic powers around at will, as if they were Shephard's abilities, provided they have a biotic on their team.
  • In full force in La Tale, should the wizard in question have appropriate equipment. Access to an armor set that gives an absurd Max HP boost, two separate items that can be enchanted with minimum and maximum damage, and the fact that magic is so hard to actually defend against both in terms of damage reduction and evasion give it incredible potential. The only problem is that early on, you won't have many spells to cast at all.
  • The World of Mana has a love/hate relationship with this trope, depending on what game you're playing.
    • Final Fantasy Adventure, despite its single character focus, did its best to keep weapons and magic in separate worlds—some creatures were best defeated with spells, some were best defeated with brute force, and rarely did one overpower the other.
    • Secret of Mana embraces this trope to its fullest; while the magicless Boy is easily the strongest damage dealer early on, he falls to the wayside as soon as the Girl and Sprite gain their various elemental spells. The MP cap of 99 plus the limited inventory forces you to be judicious in using their magic, but one can easily just go through a dungeon using it sparingly, and then waste the boss in under half a minute with a barrage of spells.
    • Trials of Mana:
      • The game eliminates the problem by allowing everybody to become Magic Knights; while Duran and Angela follow this trope to a T, the other characters are mostly on an even playing field. However, late in the game, offensive spellcasting tends to provoke high-damage, often multi-target counter-attacks.
      • The trope is also used in-universe with Duran. He seeks out the Sword of Mana to defeat an especially powerful mage known as the Crimson Wizard. In Duran's prologue, his reputation as Valsena's best swordsman doesn't help him against the Crimson Wizard; Duran is on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle, which prompts his journey to gain magical power.
      • In the remake, the trope is played straight with Angela, the Squishy Wizard. Early on, magic is expensive, and you don't have much variety for it. Even when you start getting some variety, you hit the point in the game where all the enemies catch up to the heroes, and can start really tanking what you're throwing out. This affects warriors less than wizards, because the warriors can just keep hitting the damage sponges until they die. However, once you hit mid-game and the party heads to the first story-specific dungeon, things start to shift. Angela's light classes can prey on elemental vulnerabilities to deal increased damage, her dark classes hit hard in general, and Angela will have access to skills that allow you to regain MP without wasting Faerie Walnuts. Once you start hitting the Benevodons, all bets are off — Angela's spells hit hard, and often multiple times to groups of enemies for way more damage than any melee specialist is capable of on their own. Additionally, Angela gets skills that increase how hard her spells hurt that are far more powerful than the warrior equivalent. It will take Angela a while to get there, but eventually the rest of the party just can't compare to her damage output, turning her into a Glass Cannon (and even that's not as bad as the original since she's forced to put some points into Strength and Stamina to get some of her skills and spells, thus not making them complete Dump Stats).
    • Sword of Mana, a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure, plays it straight unintentionally, mostly through the introduction of a slew of Good Bad Bugs.
    • Legend of Mana and Children of Mana both invert the formula hard. In the former, abuse of the crafting system can create a ridiculously powerful Infinity +1 Sword, but no equivalent exists for crafting the magic instruments used for spells. In the latter, least you have the capability of healing magic.
  • Inverted in the Golden Sun series. Psynergy (the magic equivalent of the series) is great to crush mooks early on, but later in the game physical attacks are just stronger overall thanks to the super-powerful Unleashes. The only good attack Psynergies are the ones that factor the caster's attack into the damage. It's also inverted in that while physical damage scales with level, Psynergy scales with the number of Djinn attached to your characters, of which there a finite number, and therefore, a finite amount of power increase. Yes, you get stronger Psynergies, but more powerful weapons outweigh them. (The developers went even more physical-friendly in the sequels by letting an attack directed at a now-dead enemy to be used on another instead of the character defending.)
    • This is largely due to the way they handled powering up the stats Psynergy depends on. Physical stats improve with every level, but to improve elemental affinity and resistance, you need to use Summon Magic. Since most non-boss battles can be handled by pressing A repeatedly, summons and Psynergy both end up neglected. The most useful Psynergy powers are the ones that factor the attack stat into the damage, stat buffs, and heals (and even then, a djinni can cast a party-wide buff with double the spell's effect at no PP cost). Golden Sun: Dark Dawn tried to mitigate this by adding stronger attack powers, but even Reigning Dragon just isn't worth it by endgame.
    • The most painfully obvious example is Sveta in Dark Dawn, a wolf-girl who has, in her beast form, a standard physical attack that affects every enemy at once. The only downside is that it uses her djinn to fuel the transformation, so she can't use Summon Magic in this mode.
    • Healing powers ironically tend to follow this trope straight. Venus Adepts (which until late in Dark Dawn were all warriors) get the Cure series of powers which increase at a linear rate. Mercury Adepts (which bar Piers are all primarily casters) get the Ply and Wish series of powers which increase at a quadratic rate. Dark Dawn also shook things up by throwing Jupiter healing into the mix, with effects somewhere between the two.
  • Played almost painfully straight in Majesty. When your wizards are low-level, expect to hear their "I'm melting!" death cry very often. However, as the occasional lucky wizard survives a little longer (or keeps getting resurrected), and if you keep the library well-stocked with new spells, they quickly turn into apocalyptic forces that are only stymied by the rare magic-resistant enemy. About the only thing faster for clearing a group of enemies is to set a high bounty and then spam the barbarian god's berserk spell on your units, which gets very expensive very fast.
  • Inverted in Vindictus. Mage character Evie is easily the most powerful character at low levels, due to her strong magic shields and powerful ranged magic attacks. Her quick evasion skills also helps compensate for her lack of defensive ability, since all low-level bosses being Mighty Glacier types. As the game progresses and strong Lightning Bruiser bosses become more common, Evie's defenses do not scale as quickly, thus it becomes progressively harder to solo. By comparison, the other characters get heavier armour and develop powerful defense and attack skills that make them far more survivable against later bosses, with Tank Fiona and Scrapper Karok becoming the predominant solo characters.
  • Inverted in Xenogears. Physical combat has 3 different types of attack (light, medium, and heavy), and characters who specialize in fighting can later learn dozens of new ways to link those attacks into powerful combos, some of which even have elemental effects. Magic, on the other hand, mostly consists of either defensive spells or fire-and-forget elemental attacks, and outside of certain conditions, spells typically don't do any more damage than combos do, even into the late game.
    • Even worse, pure-magic type characters are saddled with combat limitations. Elly's ether spells have a 1 in 5 chance of failing, and Maria and Chu-Chu have no Deathblows (and extremely limited ether lists to boot.) The best magic-user by far is Emeralda, who has similar ethers to Elly but no chance of failure...but she's also one of the top 3 physical fighters.
    • But this certain conditions is exactly what makes Xenogears play this trope straight until the very end of the game. Once you get this certain item at early-mid game, Elly will completely break the game. The only reason why it stops at end-game is because Elly is no longer available, as she could still had done max damage per turn if she was.
  • E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy averts this in a special way in that Endurance is just as important as PSI-Force because while PSI-Force increases the potency of your powers and your resistance to others', Endurance increases lowers stamina drain used for sprinting, leaping, and most of all...your powers, and before claiming that this is played straight in a way because you can just be a sort of tanking wizard...other characters have access to Cybernetics that don't get stronger on PSI-Force to use, while each "class" DOES have their own specialty; balancing your stats properly is highly recommended since going for a Dump Stat can produce an overall weak character.
  • Global Agenda has the Assault class, an absurd tank and a good destroyer, depending on build, but is nearly useless at low levels. The most sought-after teammate class (exceeding even the medic!) at higher levels.
  • In the X-Men Legends games at first the tank characters can deal impressive damage with or without energy. Late on the ranged characters can attack almost indefinetly and bring up boosts that heavily reduce damage.
    • Particularly pronounced with Storm and Jean Grey in the first game. They both start out with sort of okay single target attacks. Level them up, and just spam Psionic Scream and Chain Lightning and watch the combo bonuses go crazy and clear entire rooms in seconds. It doesn't hurt that they both have puzzle solving abilities (Storm can weld, Jean can manipulate switches from a distance and make bridges) and they both have some of the best buffs in the game. They were nerfed heavily in the sequels, however, with Storm becoming an area damage specialist and Jean shifting into a more supportive role.
  • Inverted in Warcraft III: Since all spells deal fixed damage while heroes gain hit points as they level, high-level melee heroes will almost always win against ranged casters of same level. Many custom maps address this problem by having spells that deal damage depending on stats (Strength/Intelligence/Agility), which keeps them useful at all levels.
    • However, played straight in Warcraft II, where once their spells are researched, Mages become the most destructive unit on the battlefield.
  • Lucent Heart plays this straight. While wizards get very little means of damage (aside from their Solar Storm area spell, but that costs a lot of MP), after their second promotion at Level 36, they are strong powerhouses that can keep up or even exceed the gunner-sided Comet Marksman, regardless of which side of the wizard promotion you picked.
    • Doesn't matter how long their spells take to cast, they do an upwards of at least 700% of their spellpower, and even if it does cost a lot of MP, at this point they're able to use a skill that converts a portion of their HP into MP, as opposed to healers healing HP at the expense of MP. Some spells are Channelling, hence they hit multiple times over one long cast and nothing will hasten or slow down their casting.
      • The Galaxy Sage side of the wizard promotion is able to use their MP-healing power on allies, which can potentially result in fights lasting hours with a well-balanced team.
  • Averted in main campaign of Shadowrun Returns when you compare an assault rifle wielding Street Samurai to a Mage or Shaman. This is due to the fact the Street Samurai's weapons (guns in particular) and weapon skills will always out damage the Mage's spells (some of the Mage's spells have at least a turn for cooldown).
    • Second, Quickness is pretty much the One Stat to Rule Them All especially if you're using firearms as your main weapon. Quickness governs both your shooting accuracy and invasion chance against physical attacks while Willpower helps Mage's increase spell accuracy and magic evasion. There are way more gun-toting enemies than are Mages in the Dead Man's Switch campaign and even the hard-to-kill True Form Bugs attacks are all physical. Since there is a very limited amount of Karma points you get in the campaign, many players found it smart to put all their Karma points into the Quickness tree which not only turns their characters into expert marksmen, but also into a potential physical evasion tank.
      • And lastly, players have to ability to upgrade their body parts with cyberware which helps enhance their physical combat abilities at the cost of making them a less useful spellcasters. There are no magical tattoo options for Mages or Shamans.
    • It is worth remembering though Mages are the kings of battlefield control. In both campaigns, spells like Blind and Confusion can completely shut down dangerous enemies. This even includes the final bosses.
  • In Civilization, Civs with lots of military bonuses such as the Huns, the Aztecs and Japan tend to be much more powerful in the early eras and gradually fade out in later eras, while Civs with bonuses to science, commerce or culture (such as Holland, France and Polynesia) start off much weaker but their bonuses and special units stay useful for much longer. The ultimate quadratic Civ would be the Iroquois in V, as they are crippled early on as clearing forests to build improvements deprives them of their late-game production and their "roads", but once they unlock lumber mills and longhouses, their production sky-rockets and few Civs can match them.
  • In the Mega Man X games, unarmored X is a kid with a pea-shooter compared to Zero. But once he gets all his armor pieces and weapons, he always comes out the much better option, while Zero doesn't see any significant improvement. This trend reached its apex in the fifth and sixth games, where X gets not one but FOUR armors including the infamous Ultimate Armor. When Zero said X had "limitless potential," he wasn't kidding.
  • The Gallian militia in Valkyria Chronicles is hopelessly outclassed against the invading Imperial forces in the early game, to the point that the first half is an Early Game Hell and you'll be lucky just to finish most missions within the turn limit with all your soldiers still standing. Once you've upgraded your equipment and leveled your troops up enough, though, the game balance snaps in half, and with some tactical know-how you'll be steamrolling over most of the late-game missions even as your opponents get stronger at a slower rate.
  • In the acclaimed mod "Long War" for XCOM, some class builds are quadratic wizards. One example is the battle medic, which is generally crippled and with limited usefulness unless trained to higher levels, when the soldier becomes a truly defensive power, capable of taking down many enemies on overwatch. Similarly, the bullet wizard gunner (nomen omen) is decent but not outstanding until the very last rank is leveled up, then it becomes a force of nature. Instead, the stormtrooper assault is not limited by rank, but comes in line after researching gauss weapons, which make this soldier shine and multiply its power.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077 Quickhacks (the game's equivalent of "spells") can trivialize any encounter since with sufficient upgrades you can effectively neutralize entire enemy encampments without lifting a finger simply by using Ping to see everyone and electrocuting them/setting them all on fire, with the effects possibly chaining to other enemies. Since your abilities are simply reliant on cooldowns it's only a matter of time and patience for you to deal with everyone.

    Video Games — RPGs 
  • FromSoftware's Souls-like RPGs have an interesting relationship with this trope. Broadly speaking, everyone uses magic because Character Level is increased and equipment upgraded through supernatural means. The games' Point Build System mean there is no hard division between "Warrior" and "Wizard", and it's generally advisable to become a Magic Knight from either direction, using Status Buffs or enchanted weapons to supplement fighting physically. But the games are Action RPGs, so purely physically builds remain viable. All that said, offensive magic does broadly have more offensive growth potential than weapons, though that doesn't necessarily mean they come out on top—or start at the bottom. Magic is also better in Player Versus Environment than Player Versus Player, as computer-controlled enemies generally aren't good a dodging.
    • Demon's Souls lets you increase the power of weapon attacks through stat scaling and upgrades. Magic is empowered by stat scaling, better spells, and various magic-boosting equipment. Spells also increase in power much more than upgraded weaponsnote , and the higher mana cost is irrelevant when spice is so cheap. This is on top of magic being ridiculously powerful from the start because most enemies are weak to magic damage and poorly balanced to react to ranged attacks. Since spells lack stat requirements, even physically-oriented builds greatly benefit from small point investments in Intelligence and Faith—to the point the most powerful melee builds use Cursed Weapon to magnify their attack power.
    • Dark Souls: Sorceries are bit slow to get started, but the Soul Arrow and Homing Soulmass lines are quite damaging even in the early game. With good stat placement and gear, it's not uncommon to kill bosses in few castings. Dark magic is introduced in the DLC, with Dark Bead and Pursuers being the most brokenly powerful abilities in the entire game, able to insta-kill bosses up through NG+, primarily due to the way the game's coding interprets Dark damage (Dark magic does both equal Physical and Magic damage - literally nothing in the game has resistance to both damage types at once). Miracles are slower to get started than a sorcery build due to the stronger spells not being available until later in the game, but still quite strong. Wrath of the Gods performs the same as its Demons Souls and has a very quick cast time. The Lightning Spear line have great reach and do a ton of damage, especially to vulnerable enemies. Pyromancies are an aversion in the sense that they start out as a Disc-One Nuke and don't require materials or a stat investment other than attunement, which allows even an otherwise-melee focused character to keep some spells in their back pocket for utility and range without having to invest in casting stats. Physical builds do have one major advantage in that the damage reduction and Poise heavy armor provides is highly valuable, whereas spells' sky-high damage can be overkill.
    • Dark Souls II: The addition of multiple varieties of Soul Arrows available early on, not to mention the added utility of buff spells in the Sorcery category, makes them really powerful for PvE, almost surpassing the first game in that regard. Like in the first Dark Souls, a fully kitted out mage obliterates bosses with ease, but you'll breeze through a lot of troublesome enemies early on as a sorcerer as well since it's easy to find the stronger Soul Arrow types early if you know where to look. Miracles were never the same after their big nerf, but with enough Faith and the right gear they still pack quite a punch. Thunderstorm can easily melt bosses, and the Miracle category has a ton of useful utility spells that makes it very useful for PvE. Like Miracles, post-nerf Hexes aren't as good as the used to be, but having access to strong hexing gear like the Sunset Staff very early on keeps it relevant for the early game, and endgame spells like Climax are boss-destroyers in the late game. Pyromancies are a slightly more difficult to access category than the others and take a while to get going, but the addition of insanely powerful spells like Forbidden Sun and Flame Swathe in particular means that it scales very well against endgame bosses.
    • Bloodborne is by far the straightest example. The Arcane stat starts as the only hint there even is an equivalent to spellcasting, but only able to increase item drop rates and the damage done by torches and Molotov Cocktails. Eventually, you'll acquire weapons with Arcane scaling, either innately or thanks to equipped Bloodgems. Where things really get nuts are the Hunter's Tools, which unlike any weapon or spells in the other games scale off Arcane without any Diminishing Returns for Balance (gaining extra damage at the same rate all the way to 99 Arcane), giving us "Linear Wizards, Asymptotic Warriors". Though there are fewer Hunter's Tools than classical spells, all of them are extremely powerful (with the strongest ones such as A Call Beyond able to oneshot Defiled Chalice bosses at max Arcane), and can be spammed at will for a minor Stamina cost.
    • Dark Souls III: Although nerfed heavily overall compared to the first two games, Sorcery builds still have an easy time because they can kill standard foes with basic and advanced magic. It takes much longer to get up to speed compared to the first two games, but eventually Sorcery builds can destroy bosses just as easily as before. On the other hand, Pyromancers become overpowered incredibly fast because you only have to kill two bosses to get one of their best spells and tools in the game. Miracles were weak when the game launched, but now do massive damage, with Lightning Stake being an early game boss melter with the right faith investment.
    • Elden Ring also has a slightly downplayed relationship with this trope. At the beginning-to-roughly halfway through the game, both melee builds and Sorcery/Incantation builds are fairly balanced (barring Sequence Breaking of course); Sorcery builds are strong but limited by their lack of spells and low Intelligence, Faith is slightly stronger thanks to several very useful utility spells that can be found early, and Strength/Dex builds are quite strong even without upgrades. This slightly flips later on as Sorcery builds get some incredibly broken spells than can flat-out oneshot bosses when combined with certain Physick traits, and that's not to mention the sheer variety of powerful lategame Sorceries that can be mixed and matched with each other. However, the Ashes of War system (essentially the Weapon Arts mechanic from Dark Souls III but customizable), combined with some extremely powerful melee weapon options such as Rivers of Blood or Blasphemous Blade, helps keep both Strength and Dex builds very viable throughout the endgame unliked in previous FromSoftware titles. The return of the Power Stancing mechanic from Dark Souls II helps especially for Strength builds, giving a massive boost to both damage and Poise breaking when dual-wielding.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • It varies from game to game. Yeah, MP doesn't always get restored whereas you can attack or use some special abilities all day, but at the same time, mages often get the wonderful Be Dragon spell, which hits for quite a lot, and if you manage to get the right equipment, they can cast magic twice in one round and out-damage the warrior. Mages also have the benefit of being able to attack enemies in groups, whereas melees can only do that with whips or boomerangs. However, really, it depends on the game.
    • Dragon Quest I and Dragon Quest II avert this, since magic isn't that useful in the first; it's mostly used for healing and support. And the player character (who fights alone) is a Magic Knight, equally proficient with both swords and magic. In the second game, The Prince of Lorasia is the best tank and melee character, while the princess of Moonbrooke sits back and wastes groups of enemies with her magic. The Prince of Cannock can do either, though of course not as well as the dedicated characters.
    • Dragon Quest III: Early on, warriors can deal heavy damage to enemies while mages are hard pressed to beat Slimes without burning into their relatively small mana pool. Later on, though, wizards get multi-target spells and single target one-shots, while warriors are stuck mashing A. This is especially poignant because of a distinct lack of bosses in the game. There are certainly boss fights, but not nearly as many as you'd expect in an RPG, meaning that the warrior classes, which can normally outdamage mages against singular targets, don't get many opportunities to show this off.
    • It's not good being a mage in Dragon Quest VI and Dragon Quest VII. Wizards can learn abilities that do damage to multiple enemies, cause status effects, and restore health...and warriors can learn abilities that do all of that without MP cost and scale with Strength (as magic damage in the Dragon Quest series isn't affected by stats until DQVIII), and can also be made more powerful with sap. The magic-focused characters and vocations also tend to be on the Squishy Wizard side, which typically means a character with low natural HP and Defense is going to have those stats reduced further in a magic vocation.
    • Worse still, in VI you keep the spells you learned across all classes. Cue the self-healing, self-buffing, self-reviving team of physical fighters who just won't die.
    • Once you've leveled up the Paladin class enough, you get the Thin Air spell and will likely continue spamming that spell for a very long time: it does decent damage, hits all enemies (not group of enemies- all enemies)... and costs zero mana.
    • The 3DS version of VII deserves some special mention for completely inverting the trope—early on, having Maribel cast "Bang" is a great panic button for some early game Demonic Spiders while Frizz will allow her to hold up to the other two party members. However, by the endgame, mages can only hit for a couple hundred damage whereas a warrior can hit for up to a thousand damage with a good Knuckle Sandwich. The game's class system, however, allows a mage to learn some good support and offensive skills as well.
    • Averted in Dragon Quest VIII, in which the characters are a lot more flexible. Jessica and Angelo's magic are pretty much best used for healing, support, or debuffing, but that doesn't mean they become weak at higher levels. Who just hit the final boss with Twin Dragon Lash for 1.5k damage? Jessica. Psyche up Angelo all the way, have him use Falcon Strike with the Über Falcon Blade, or Needle Rain, then watch the damage stack up. Typically, tension guarantees overpoweredness. Much like with VI and VII, some characters gain fighting abilities that cost little to no MP at all.
    • Building on its predecessor, Dragon Quest IX inverts this trope. Low level attack spells don’t do considerably more damage than any properly equipped physical class, and it only gets worse from there—by the end of the game, a gladiator with an axe can do more damage to a single target or a group at no MP cost than an equivalent caster using expensive spells. The best strategy for most bosses looks like an episode of Dragon Ball Znote , with physical characters boosting Tension for several turns then unleashing hell. (Oddly enough, the game gives your main character an exclusive skill that boosts another character’s Tension, meaning the best possible support character is you.) Multi-target attack spells can soften up multiple enemies, but that generally only saves you a turn or two, and your physical characters can get multi-hit weapons that do roughly the same amount of damage, though they better spend their time dropping one enemy per round each.
    • The single-target support spells rarely do enough good to spend a turn casting them. Most support classes only get party-wide buffs that increase agility and different types of defense, and those matter in very few battles. When you beat the story boss and start facing the real challenges, you don’t even bother with most support spells as bosses frequently Disrupt all positive status effects off you, and their bigger nukes will bypass defense/resistance/reflect buffs anyway. You only care about healing and resurrection.
    • As a matter of fact, Magic, particularly Kafrizzle, is still effective as a Legacy Boss killer as anything else- and in fact can be even better than the Gladiator Falcon Blade and Falcon Slash strategy... That is, if you disregard the ridiculous amount of set-up time it requires to make the strategy viable. You need four Mages, which have pitiful defenses unless their stats are ground up to the maximum by seed farming. Then you need to waste four turns casting Twocus Pocus on each character. Finally, if you get the attack off- Every Mage using Kafrizzle- you've got to hope that all of your attacks hit one after the another- if the boss goes in the middle, the combo chain is disrupted. Way too much to hope for, it still exists.
    • Dragon Quest XI keeps magic and melee roughly competitive throughout the majority of the game, but the Hero, Erik, and Jade all gradually learn abilities that vastly outstrip the damage potential of the spellcasters. Then Veronica learns Magic Burst, which melts even the most powerful of bosses when augmented by Channel Anger, and the trope is played straight again for the first time in a long while.
    • Dragon Quest Monsters Caravan Heart plays this straight, as the early spells (Blaze, Fireball) can be inferior to a monster's raw attacking power, and you only have six spell slots per monster. However, those six spells carry over for every reformation, including being powered up, so once a monster has Thordain or Explodet (which hits all enemies), Heal All, and Revive, they're set.
  • Varies throughout the Final Fantasy series:
    • A preface to this: In many games in the series (Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy X, to name three), any character can get more or less any ability, and the most powerful characters can cherry-pick a build from combat ''and'' magical skills.
    • Oddly enough, reversed in the original Final Fantasy. Black Mages are indeed capable of casting high-level magic to quickly wipe out the non-boss enemies, but Fighters, Black Belts, and Thieves can hit single enemies much harder in the late/end-game. In addition, because most bosses (read: Fiends and the Big Bad Chaos) have very high magic defense, Black Mages are generally reduced to casting Haste and Temper on the physical damage dealers, and then standing back while they have at it. Meanwhile, White Mages are actually better tanks than fighters. They have the Ruse spell, which raises evade by 80. Cast it a couple of times and almost no enemy can hit you. With careful leveling, they can do damage comparable to fighters.
      • If anything, the original Final Fantasy is Linear Fighter/Quadratic Black Belt. Black Belts start out substantially weaker than fighters, typically achieve parity somewhere around the volcano stage, and go on to become spicy kung-fu death on a stick in the endgame.
      • Played more or less straight in the GBA remake, though. Unless you get the Ultima Weapon, at which point Warriors become gods.
      • Even more reversed in the PSP and iPhone remake, where Warriors get Barbarian Swords...which is ALWAYS even MORE powerful then the Ultima Weapon, while the best the Black Mage gets is...a shiny new dagger. However, the lack of new effective offense spells makes Mages incredibly useless as anything besides support, especially since endgame Red Mages can do anything the Black Mage can, and more.
    • It's both played straight and reversed in Final Fantasy II:
      • In terms of raw damage, warriors and wizards both gain skill levels and stats from using physical attacks or magic respectively. However, warriors get weapon upgrades for the quadratic element. Wizards can still hit elemental weaknesses for massive damage and pierce high defense, but in terms of base damage a warrior will usually outperform a wizard.
      • However, with enough effort, a wizard can cast buffs that hugely increase your warriors' damage output, make the entire party nigh-invulnerable, or simply One-Hit Kill multiple enemies with a single cast. Since Contractual Boss Immunity is frequently averted in regards to Matter-element spells like Teleport and Toad, a wizard with a high-level spell won't need to worry about MP...because every single battle will end with a single spell.
    • Final Fantasy III has a rather tiered class system, with everyone pretty much evening out in the end with Ninjas and Sages being the most powerful classes overall; although ninjas can attack all day long, Sages and Summoners only have a finite amount of spells. Of course, the Sages are Nerfed considerably in the DS remake, and they're rather generous with how much spells you can one can dual-wield staves.
      • This may have been referenced in Dissidia Final Fantasy, where Onion Knight's limit break is "Class Change," turning him into a sage when using magic attacks and a ninja while using physical attacks.
      • Oddly enough though, one of the most powerful classes mid-game (at least in the DS version) is actually a Geomancer... Despite how they were often a little unpredictable and worthless in most games, and frequently tossed aside as either a joke character or only used for a few semi-decent abilities, then ignored. Despite that they attack with, of all things, BELLS, they actually can deal nice physical damage when being dual-wielded (mostly due to the fact that Dual-Wielding is utterly broken in that game) and their special attack (which has absolutely NO limits to how much you can use it) may be somewhat unpredictable, but they actually deal consistent magic damage and bypass magic defenses, along with not getting as much worthless status-inducing effects. It may actually not be that uncommon for a Geomancer to get lucky and be the first person to hit for damage in the Vegeta Level.
    • Final Fantasy V plays this straight. Mage-type characters will eventually be able to turn the party immune to physical attacks, give everyone reflect, reset the battle, take double turns, double cast, and so on. Physically oriented characters get maybe four abilities that don't suck, and to rub it in, one of them (Spell Blade) depends on use of magic.
      • But one of the best abilities (considering how little one has to work to obtain it) is obtained by a melee class, the Samurai. It hits every enemy for damage near 7.5k damage, and considering you get it at a point where enemies may have a couple thousand...ouch. Expensive to use, but the game throws Gil at you like candy on Halloween and you can just spam it without any thought of finances near the end of the game; they throw thousands of Gil at you and there's nowhere to spend it.
      • As things go, by endgame the three active physical skills that don't suck (RapidFire, Finisher, and Jump) pretty much become your bread and butter due to the sheer damage you can do with them, especially since you can only use two skills at a time anyways (unless you're a mime).
      • It's actually an inversion more than anything. Mages were useful for utility early on but by the later game, you get access to ridiculously powerful physical abilities like X-fight/RapidFire (which attacks 8 times with dual wield), making mages near useless as all needed buffs can be gained through equipment. Even in the superboss fights, it becomes more of a damage race, rendering the need to heal or use magic useless.
    • Final Fantasy VI both averts and plays this straight at the end of the game. Magic is amazingly powerful, but the vast number of ways to break the game still makes fighter characters very useful. A favorite is the Genji Glove + Offering combo, which allows characters to attack eight times a turn while wielding such high-damage weapons as the Atma Weapon, the Valiant Knife, and Setzer's dice, which can easily do over 30,000 damage in a single turn. Add to that a Quick spell and you've got a physical attack that can destroy almost any boss in the game. The Magic Box + Quick + Ultima combination works well too.note  Not dead yet? Just use Mimic with Gogo now...
    • Played straight and inverted in Final Fantasy X. In the early to mid-game, Lulu's black magic is the most powerful offense in the party and this continues as long as she's learning new spells. However, warriors gain more attack power per stat point than magic-users do; Lulu remains strong because of new spells. By the end game, the warriors have caught up in terms of damage, and they have better speed, hit points, skills, etc. On a graph, the warrior power line would rise faster, but the magic power line starts higher and has periodic boosts until around 2/3 of the way through.
      • And played dead straight with Yuna. She starts off weak, serving only as the party's healer, with about as much offensive power as an overcooked sausage (Barring her summons, of course). But if you build her right, she can rapidly outclass Lulu in terms of sheer black magic casting ability and the relative ease of getting her ultimate weapon makes her laughably overpowered, even compared to hard-hitters like Auron. In fact, there's a very strong chance that she's the first one who'll hit the damage cap.
      • Averted in the fact that in endgame, everyone will learn everyone else's abilities and (if you're that dedicated to grinding) you'll have a party of perfect stats on everyone, at which point the real deciding factor are Overdrives (which by then you should prioritize ones that simply hit more times).
    • Final Fantasy XI made a lot of effort to avert this to the point where elemental casters are nearly useless in a lot of fights. Also, due to the limiting nature of MP, partying with Black Mages fell out of style in favor of "TP Burn" parties where heavy melees simply unleash their awesome all over innocent (and not-so-innocent) monsters.
      • Case in point: black mages received a serious Nerf when "Manaburn" parties became popular at high levels. These parties, consisting of five black mages and one miscellaneous class (typically a bard or red mage for mana regen), would have the non-mage member pull something and then all the mages would rain holy hell down upon the monster before it could say "broken".
      • Red Mages play with this trope in several ways. Early on, they were basically a weaker version of a Paladin with a couple debuffs, since the early damage spells just weren't MP efficient even for a mediocre melee character. They couldn't really compete well with White Mages or Black Mages early on because of the slightly slower spell gain and significantly lower MP pool. Late game, they are one of the most indestructible classes, capable of doing decent melee damage, the best debuffers, the best buffers, and more than capable of competing with White Mages and Black Mages (the Red Mage spell list is much smaller, but they do get the most commonly used spells from both classes).

        However, there's some caveats: while they are capable of soloing things other jobs can't, they cannot survive nearly as well as Paladins and Ninjas from most "Incredibly Tough" enemies. Red Mages make much better main healers in an EXP party than White Mages, but they cannot main heal nearly as well in end-game fights. They also cannot do nearly as much damage as Black Mages.
      • Scholar is another example, starting very weak and becoming much more versatile late game. Early Scholar is basically a Black Mage with almost no spells, but Cure added to the list. Late game, not only can Scholar replace Black Mages or White Mages with ease, but they have several unique spells of their own that no other class can ever get.
    • Final Fantasy XIII provides an interesting dynamic with its Commando and Ravager roles. Early on, Ravagers will have the upper-hand in damage due to hitting elemental weaknesses while Commandos provide support in extending chain duration. Later on, once your party gains more Paradigm roles and Synergist buffs, Commandos become capable of capitalizing on the chains Ravagers build for huge amounts of damage. Either way, warriors and wizards working in tandem is required for tearing down tough monsters.
  • The trope is nigh-on inverted in Bravely Default (as mentioned in the game's listing under Useless Useful Spell). At the beginning of the game, physical attackers are pretty decent and mages output at least as much damage in addition to being able to multi-target, but the farther you get through the game, the more jobs you get, and the more job levels you unlock, the more offensive magic becomes simply not worth using when there are other abilities that do more damage for a lower MP cost. In fact, it's likely that you won't even finish Chapter 1 before justifiably retiring your Black Mage if you do all of the side quests, because there you can get the Spell Fencer job and add magic to a weapon in order to use elemental-powered physical attacks, and for a heck of a lot less MP than casting the spell normally (because the effect stays active for 10 turns as opposed to being a single-use affair). Of course, healing magic remains useful throughout the game.
    • That being said, by endgame it's less inverted and more subverted; both physical and magical jobs have methods of downright breaking the game, and while the only job that is utterly foolproof about this is a physical job,(specifically the Valkyrie) it works best in tandem with another magical job (the Spiritmaster). Furthermore, when it comes to beating bosses quickly, by far the best option is the magical job Arcanist with either a Black Mage or Slow World / Hasten World around, where you can use Exterminate after poisoning bosses (and most bosses are human and thus susceptible to poison) or work with the two Arcanist abilities that deal obscene damage to everyone with BP higher or lower than 0 to utterly annihilate everything in your path.
    • The sequel, Bravely Second, plays this completely straight. Not only is MP management a concern of the past due to the Exorcist passive ability to restore your MP by 30 every turn (which means a specced out Bishop with the White Mage's Group Cast All can cast Benediction for 24, fully heal the party, and gain 6 MP for the trouble), but with most of the physical classes nerfed and the introduction of the Wizard job, things slide almost hilariously in favor of the magical side come midgame. The Wizard is supposed to be a Magikarp Power class; it has the absolute worst spells in the game in terms of damage and never gets anything better, but it can use spellcrafting abilities to give these spells interesting effects. The only problem is, spellcraft is a passive ability you can give to any character. The ways this breaks the game over its knee cannot begin to be counted, ranging from making it so enemies heal you when they hit you to being able to constantly re-deploy buffs or debuffs at the end of each turn after the enemy has worked so hard to nullify them or buff themselves, and those are just the tame uses. Two particularly unstoppable combos include the 'Rain' spellcraft; Meteor Rain and Summon Rain. What Rain does is cut the damage of a spell down to 60% of its original strength, but in return have it hit four times. The 'limiting' factor is that it's random what target Rain will hit. Of course, this doesn't matter when you're up against a singular boss. This means an easy 240% increase in damage for most boss fights, combined with two particular other magical abilities, the Summoner's Summoning Surge and the Time Mage's Meteor spell. Summoning Surge increases the damage of summon spells by 10% for each use of a Summoning Spell, up to a cumulative total of double total damage. Combined with 4 Braved Rains and any Summoning Spell of your choice, this eventually means by the third spell you're dealing 120% increased damage over 4 hits each. Bosses die quickly. Meanwhile, for Meteor Rain, the Time Mage Meteor Spell hits 4 random enemies per casting. Combined with Rain, this means that each individual use of Meteor hits 16 times. If Braved, this will chew through even the superbosses in short order. Melee classes have nothing like this.
  • Phantasy Star (excluding the MMOs, see the MMORPG folder below)
    • Inverted in Phantasy Star III. Most characters have techniques; the handful who don't, including Rhys, your PC in the first generation, start out as competent warriors but by mid-generation are dishing out the most damage, hands-down. Only healing techniques tend to be useful; combat techniques are far outclassed by standard attacks.
    • Also inverted, but to a lesser extent, in Phantasy Star IV. The first and second times he joins your party, Rune is of much higher level than the rest of your party and he can wipe out entire screens of enemies with a single spell. As the game progresses and the rest of the characters catch up to him, the difference in damage output tends to even out.
  • The Elder Scrolls plays with this trope in general. The abundance of high-level enemies with Reflect spells and/or magical resistances means that being able to bash/slash/stab things to death will always remain useful. The "wizard" types also usually come with a bad case of squishiness unless you spread your skill points around, which of course lowers the ceiling on your magical abilities (or at least makes it take longer to reach that ceiling.) Essentially, throughout the series, whatever combat style you prefer is viable if you're willing to put in a little work.
    • Arena and Daggerfall play it straight thanks to their spell-crafting systems, as spells can be created which scale up with the player's level. For example, a simple custom fire spell of (x + 1)*(x + 1), where "x" is the player's level, may be a useful but not overly powerful Fireball spell at low levels, but then become a Blazing Inferno Hellfire spell that One-Hit KOs nearly anything in the game that doesn't resist it at high levels. Both games being Nintendo Hard with Early Game Hell means that dedicated warriors will have it much easier early on, but Daggerfall gives the option of having the best of both worlds by creating a Magic Knight custom class.
    • Morrowind has a few quirks that border on Zig-Zagging. Any character build is going to have some difficulty in the very early going, but warrior types are going to have it a bit easier than magic users. Once magic users gain access to (and have the funds to pay for) custom spells, they become much more powerful. However, late in the game (and especially in the expansions,) most high level foes resist magic to some degree or outright reflect it, suddenly making things very challenging for magic users once again. And there there is the Alchemy abuse bug which, with Alchemy classed as a magic based skill, can turn the "wizard" types into walking singularities.
    • Oblivion revamps the spell-making, Alchemy, and Enchanting systems of its predecessors, severely limiting the ability to exploit them. That said, there is still plenty of opportunity to play this trope straight if you choose. As you cannot gain skill increases from casting spells unless they affect an enemy or yourself, enterprising players discovered that an easy way to Level Grind your magic skills is to create a 1-magicka self-targeted spell in the magical school of your choice. Spam it as much as you are able, and you'll be able to sling god-level spells that can kill anything short of the (admittedly-broken) high-level Level-Scaled Damage Sponge enemies, all while your "warrior" counterparts are still bludgeoning each other with low-quality weapons. However, this also leaves you very squishy, so anything you don't kill instantly will be able to kill you very quickly.
    • Skyrim:
      • Inverted. While spells can be very useful, the removal of spellcrafting and the addition of weapon forging as well as the design of the enchantment system means that properly augmented combat will leave spellcasting utterly in the dust in terms of raw power. Enchanting can lower the cost of spells to 0, but not raise their power, and leveling up your skill doesn't strengthen the spell, only alchemy and a few limited perks actually get you more power. Weapon attacks on the other hand are always free and get bonuses from smithing, gear enchantments, weapon enchantments, skills, perks, and alchemy. Combine that with the fact that alchemy and enchantments have their own perks and can make each other stronger, and the fact that smithing can be buffed by skills and enchantments and alchemy, and you can potentially kill the final boss in 10 hits by stacking enough bonuses, and kill the final boss of the final DLC so fast that it literally breaks the game because it's scripted to be a multi-stage boss fight. That being said, you can as always be a battlemage and do both.
      • Not only do mages not scale beyond getting more powerful spells, the master level spells have a tendency to be useless across the board due to their shared property of occupying both hands and requiring you to stand still for 4 seconds. If you miraculously do not take a power attack to the face during that time, you can reduce the health of nearby enemies by about 1/4 while aggroing all friendlies in a giant radius. Oh, and if you're a Nord, then one of your master spells will deal half damage because it is affected by your own cold resist. Enjoy. And that's just the Master Destruction Spells. The other Master spells are either situationally useful or are matched by a fully-perked Expert Spell (which are somewhat weaker but don't require both hands and standing vulnerable for 4 seconds).
      • The truly quadratic playstyle in Skyrim is the Thief. Low-level thieves get caught easily and aren't likely to have very impressive armor or weapon skills, but one who brings Sneak up to decent levels and has good gear becomes able to clear out entire dungeons with horrendously powerful sneak attacks, which can take all of that melee damage and multiply it by up to 30—all without aggroing a single opponent. Or go for the ranged approach and take a perk that slows down time while zoomed in (slowing time even further with a Shout is welcome but not required), letting you put between three and six arrows into some poor fool before they even know you're there, getting sneak attack damage bonuses for each of them. And unlike spells, bows and arrows can be further augmented with smithing, enchanting, and poisons (especially paralysis), making spellcasters even more redundant. There's a reason "stealth archer" is the subject of so much Complacent Gaming Syndrome.
      • With some work and playing with specific mechanics—namely, alchemy and Fortify Restoration potions—you can become a true gamebreaking monster by abusing your Shouts. Any buffs you put on your Dragonborn—including those boosted by items—are also boosted by the Restoration skill, and high-end alchemy can give you the ability to craft stupidly powerful Fortify Restoration potions. Pop one of those potions, put on an Amulet of Talos and get a Blessing of Talos from a shrine, and your Shout cooldown times will drop to very low, potentially even to zero, which will let you spray endless gouts of flame, waves of force, slow down time, speed up your attacks, rip out your foes' souls, and summon two different dragons to massacre your foes in the span of a few seconds.
  • Skies of Arcadia averts this trope and becomes far more apparent later in the game. Aika and Fina learn magic rather quickly and Fina is the most powerful spell caster out of the six main characters. However, melee weapons become more diverse in effect (i.e Status Effects, plus elemental powers depending on the color you pick for the weapon) later in the game, and melee specialists, namely Vyse and Drachma, will greatly out-power magic by the time the player reaches Dangral Island. Taken even further when more "boxes" and crystals with spells become available to buy (for low prices no less), and most of them are more powerful than any party member with high magic stats.
    • Also, Super Moves draw from a shared pool of "Spirit Points". Items with spells in them do not have this setback, making the player rely on the also-much-more-useful Super Moves. An example would be the "Curia" Silver Spell, which cures one person of any Status Effects. Fina has two Super Moves that are better than this: "Lunar Cleansing" to cure everyone of SSE, and "Lunar Light," which does the same but can also resurrect those that were knocked out.
  • In Fable II, magic attacks start off as pathetically weak, doing virtually no damage and merely knocking foes back a bit, if even that. Guns and melee weapons are much more powerful at this point, melee being just a bit stronger. By the time you learn level 5 spells though, you can nuke huge crowds of enemies with a single spell, while using physical attacks take far longer. Ranged combat ends up being the linear line in the equation, being potent but not overpowered all through the game (unless you happen to grab the Red Dragon).
  • In Fable, magic is reasonably strong at the start but due to mana costs, you'll spend at least half the time hitting things with a melee weapon anyway. Meanwhile, not only can you use melee combat forever, but farming gold is pathetically easy, allowing you to get Master level weapons before completing a single quest. Come late game when you have massive mana reserves and mana augmentations to refill them faster, you can spam overwhelmingly powerful magical attacks forever.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • The game has earned the nickname "Dragon Mage: Origins" due to the insanely overpowered mage class. It's not one that takes a lot of finesse to do right—just about any mage with any sort of offensive power will be miles ahead of the rest of their non-mage party. The developers even acknowledged this, and said that even so, mages would not be nerfed to balance the classes: they wanted them to stay badass. The mages' "overpowerness" has to do with their utility and game mechanics; in a straight damage race, a dual striking warrior or rogue do more damage.
    • If your characters are strong enough and you know what you're doing, you can actually finish fights faster with fighters than with mages, it's simply harder to pull off. They have Game-Breaker spells with awesome utility like Force Field, Crushing Prison and Cone of Cold. The fact that they can cast spells like Storm of the Century and Miasmatic Cloud and kill enemies before they even get close to the party (and in some cases before they could even think about ENGAGING with the party) certainly doesn't hurt.
    • The Arcane Warrior class lets a mage be a far better tank than any warrior. They do less damage per second than blaster mages and even less damage than regular warriors, but by the end of the game they can have something like twice the armor value of a warrior, maxed out elemental resistances, and absolutely ridiculous bonuses to resist getting knocked down/frozen/etc.
    • However, the Rogue class is a much better boss killer and tanker. While they don't have area-based damage, they have higher single-target sustained damage. Combined this with their insanely high evasion and the ability to manually evade via movement and bosses become absolute joke. This made warriors completely useless until the introduction of the incredibly powerful Spirit Warrior specialization in the Expansion.
  • Dragon Age II tries to avert this by making all the classes more balanced. Mages are a lot better at killing groups of weaker enemies, but archer Rogues are nearly as good once you get a few attack speed boosts, two-weapon Rogues are better at killing single foes, and Warriors' getting more area-of-effect attacks and getting even tougher really allows them to take over the pedestal of most powerful class. Without friendly fire mages were very overpowered, killing multiple foes at once. The ability to manually dodge attacks also makes tank warriors much less useful unless you had to fight multiple fronts and don't like switching between characters.
    • The evasion stat of the Rogue class was given a cap on the harder difficulties and enemies were also given more accuracy so Rogues could no longer tank as effectively as they could in Dragon Age I, giving more use for warrior tanks.
    • In Nightmare Mode all the melee characters become much less useful due to friendly fire, forcing the party back to a warrior for tanking, a ranged rogue for opening chests, and two wizards for stunning as many bad guys as possible while you deal with the enormous hordes of powerful enemies.
      • Or an alternative would be to just use only one mage for pretty much just freezing bosses and hindering enemies. Almost any frozen enemy, boss or not, can pretty much be one shotted by a dagger Rogue and melees can be even more effective in group killing but without the low HP/defense of the mages. The various non-damage effects of magic is too invaluable to not have at least one mage though.
  • While Baldur's Gate II does play this trope straight, with Wizards (and other such spellcasters) being much more versatile and broken than anything else in the game, it also avoids taking it as far as some examples; strong fighters at high-levels can very quickly tear most mages apart after getting through their defenses, let alone Mooks, as well as shrugging off most attacks. So a balance of both is still very helpful later on.
    • Ironically, Baldur's Gate 2 has certain features that allow a fighter/barbarian character to actually become devastating, even when solo, without violating game mechanics. One can use Imoen, a thief, and buy a master thief potion, then pick pocket the Kangaxx character, pre-lich transformation, and gain the Ring of Gaxx, a powerful ring of regeneration. Then gain the ring a second time after the defeat post-lich, and wear two of them simultaneously, for a very powerful regeneration effect. Combined with the boots of haste and the spell-rebounding cloak and a powerful armor, the figher/barbarian becomes an unstoppable juggernaut otherwise soloing through the game, even on the hardest difficulty.
    • High level barbarian dual-wielding the Flail of Ages and Defender of Easthaven with Hardiness HLA active up has 80% physical damage reduction, slows enemies on hit with no saves, by-passes most protections with several separate ticks of elemental damage, is immune to nearly every status effect except maze/imprisonment when enraged in addition to pushing their STR easily to 25, while wearing a belt that reduces all magical damage dealt by 50% and can swap their main armor for around 50% of any element, that with 2 rings of Gaxx can heal almost as fast as he's damaged.
      • Trading out the flail of ages for the upgraded foebane allows them to deal an additional 1d4 damage and gain it all as health that stacks over their max hit points for several rounds. And using Improved haste from the rings of gaxx or from GWW HLA, they can attack 10 times per 6 seconds. While mages can effectively become invinicible, they can't hold a candle to that kind of destruction. And the fighter's berserker kit is almost as op'ed.
    • In terms of raw damage, mages can't even come close to competing with hasted fighters. What made mages powerful, and a pain as enemies in modded games, were their ability to cast and dispel self-buff protection spells. This is exactly why the Kensai/Mage class combo was arguably the most popular combo, as it combined the best offense with the best defense in the game, leading to brokenness even with the challenge mods, which are significantly harder than unmodded.
    • Baldur's Gate 1 is, in the fundamentals, as straight about this as 2 (after all, they are both based on 2E), but limited it in a very simple manner—the XP cap is low enough that most of the game occurs in the early part of the curve.
    • The Kensai/Mage combo, in a way, follows this trope to the extreme and yet it does not. When you first dual-class into a mage, you will have an extremely subpar mage due to its low level but high EXP requirements. Once you get your Kensai abilities back though, you become arguably the most powerful class in the game. It does not follow this in that most of your offense is your Kensai fighter half.
      • Less extreme example is the Berserker/Mage. Berserkers don't need as much level to reach their full potential since they rely on gloves and their "Enrage" ability so you don't have to spend as long in the pure mage phase; however, they also don't have as much damage potential as a high level Kensai.
  • Might and Magic 6 & 7 plays with this trope. Warriors tend to be better in the beginning until the mages get access to their stronger spells and enough mana to be able to use it reliable, at which point magic users outshines them. However at the end game you gain access to blasters which make both equals in damage dealing but the warriors come out on top again. Clerics and Sorcerers still have a fair few Game Breakers, however.
  • Played completely straight in Might and Magic X, however. At the beginning your mages will run out of mana after one fight, but at the end of the game you'll get spells that create cyclones tracking down the enemies or can place a burning rune that deals extreme damage each turn to anyone standing on it. This becomes apparent in first DLC dungeon where you lose all your gear, which is truly important for warrior classes but mages can do without.
  • The case in Pillars of Eternity, which takes a lot of cues from Dungeons & Dragons and is something of a spiritual successor for games like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. Magic characters like Wizards, Druids and Priests start out quite weak as they have limited gear options and though they have powerful spells right off the bat, they can only cast these spells a limited number of times so early on the physical fighting classes will be doing most of the legwork. If magic users hold out until level 9 when the real game-changer spells begin to come into play, they will start leaving martials behind. Even at their most powerful however, martials can compete with magic users by using firearms (firearms ignore magical defences).
  • Monster Hunter: World provides a monster example. Nergigante, the new Mascot Elder Dragon, doesn't have the same fancy tricks and elemental powers as the other Elder Dragons, Kushala Daora, Teostra, Vaal Hazak or Kirin. What it does have though is tons of sheer power and rage; in a Turf War it will demolish Kushala Daora and Teostra in a fight by attacking them like a real predatory animal, overpowering them and biting them in the neck.
  • Shareware dungeon crawler Moraff's World has seven classes with varying magic aptitude. The in-game guide suggests beginning players start off with the Fighter, since it's simple and easy to keep alive in the early game due to their high stats and equipment options. However, they have no magical ability whatsoever, which is crippling compared to the other magic-using classes which, once fully loaded, have varied skill sets which allow them to easily jump multiple floors or teleport all over the current floor, deal consistent damage with Always Accurate Attack spells (while using Fight has a very high miss rate at deeper floors), and protect themselves from monster abilities (Resist Level Drain is mandatory for the end game). This makes it difficult to get to the end of the game with the classes that have low Spell Point growth (Monk and Sage), and almost impossible for a Fighter because they're entirely reliant on Random Drops for the Spell Papers that are mandatory to survive.'
  • Bound by Flame inverts the trope: the instant you gain the pyromancy spell Flame Sword (and Fireball, but let's not talk about that one), it becomes the most important skill in the early game, increasing your melee weapon's fire damage by 15 (and since your daggers can attack thrice in a second but deal measly damage, that is a crap-ton) and is easily upgradable. However, the most important late-game ultimate ability comes from the rogue tree, which allows you to slow time to a crawl. This, combined with your aforementioned daggers' speed, means you'll be dealing dozens of hits (enforced with fire) on your enemies before they can finish their first swing.
  • Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu encourages you to level in both, but your wizardly half will definitely be the more powerful for much of the game.
  • Might and Magic VI and VII play this dead straight, despite the name. In the former the group of pure casters is the quickest way to finish the game, expecially since there is no mastery requirement for spells, advanced magic can be accessed rather soon, and both Cleric and Sorcerer promotion quests are very easy to complete. After that, Knights just won't keep with the damage output of someone who has spell that can deal tens of damage to everything on map. VII makes attempts to balance this by restricting spells to mastery levels, giving access to only Light or Dark magic at the same time and making them available only from mid-game as well as giving physical classes new skills such as Armsmaster, but still, once advanced magic is unlocked the pure casters become essentially a demi-gods.
  • Played straight in Trails In The Sky. Early on, you only have Arts that hit single target, they take several turns to cast, and you have limited EP to cast them. Meanwhile, Crafts take no time to cast and they use the more replenishable CP. Later on, you have access to Arts that hit a large area or give massive buffs/debuffs, and you also have Quartzs that cut the EP cost of Arts by half and greatly reduce casting time, while Crafts stay more or less the same level of effectiveness. This is amplified in the second game, since everyone already starts with most of their Crafts already learned, and only learn stronger versions of them through level up.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne completely inverts this trope. In the early game, a magic Demi Fiend can take advantage of enemy weaknesses and get plenty of extra turns with their arsenal of elemental spells. Later in the game, bosses gain resistances, immunities, or even reflect elemental damage. Worse, a magic Demi Fiend will typically lack enough skill slots to cover every element. In contrast, a physical Demi Fiend starts off very weak, but eventually gains several exclusive skills, including an Almighty attack that ignores resistances. There are only two exclusive magic skills.
    • This gets further emphasized in the game's bonus content. If the Demi Fiend goes down the path that leads to the True Final Boss, they will earn the Pierce skill, which is a physical ability and the key to the final fight. Magic users are in for a slog.
    • Additionally, strength builds are virtually mandatory to completing the game's boss replay challenges in a low amount of turns. In fact, one of the boss burial chambers is locked behind a strength check door,

    Video Games — MMORPGs 
  • Played painfully straight in EverQuest, which borrowed a lot of cues from older tabletop games. At lower levels, melee classes are capable of fairly easily soloing enemies even a few levels higher than themselves, while casters must typically focus on enemies their own level or lower (due to the heavy influence of level disparity on spell resistance). However, by mid-level, spellcasters gain a plethora of tricks to make soloing quite easy, while melee classes are almost universally forced to get groups in order to grind experience.
    • Of the intelligence-based arcane spellcasters, wizards could "kite" using snares and hard-hitting damage spells while the enemy stayed out of reach, necromancers could "fear-kite" by snaring an enemy, fearing it so it runs away slowly, and then order their summoned minion to rip it apart, magicians had tough pets capable of tanking damage directly, and enchanters could charm monsters and have them do the dirty work, while debuffing the everliving crap out of their target.
      • Of the original wisdom-based divine spellcasters, druids were reknowned for their solo ability. They used the same technique as wizards, but got their snares and direct damage spells earlier. They could also boost movement speed and heal themselves, enhancing their survivability further. Shamans were in the same boat, but exchanged snaring and direct damage with the ability to slow the enemy's attack rate and simply stand in its face and beat it down. Later on, they got a pet that only made things easier.
      • The hybrid classes, a mix of melee and spellcaster, were typically very challenging to solo. One partial exception, the Bard, was capable of literally pulling an 'entire zone' and killing it slowly and methodically. The maneuver generally took 20 minutes or more, but a single pull could result in multiple levels from hundreds of kills. Doing this, however, required high skill, a good internet connection, and a thick skin due to complaints from other players in the zone that you were stealing their kills.
      • Also, a dozen or so expansions later, clerics are now ridiculous soloists as well, capable of summoning hammers and buffing themselves so that they're melee powerhouses that not only inflict tons of extra damage and stuns with their melee attacks, but also 'heal themselves' when they hit their enemies.
      • All of these points, however, are averted by the fact that the high-end raid content still requires tanking melee classes to complete, since their one specialty is the only thing keeping the raid bosses from systematically flattening every single spellcaster in sight.
  • Final Fantasy XIV downplays this a little. While all classes are useful when used right, Thaumaturges and Black Mages, even though they start out a bit basic at first, can quickly get the skills to cast deadly spells that have massive AoE as well as having the ability to rapidly replenish their MP. Contrast this with the melee DPS classes that tend to focus on a single target. Because of this, Black Mages are the sought after DPS class for end-game level Dungeons and Raids where there are plenty of adds.
  • Similarly inverted in Lineage 2. The damage is linearly proportionate to Physical Attack stat for archers and warriors and proportionate to a square root of Magic Attack for wizards. As a result, while magic users can still provide a steady DPS during late game, they are overshadowed by top archers by a large margin.
    • The game has several late game buffs that greatly decrease incoming damage from physical attacks (namely from critical hits and ranged physical damage). As a result, competitive archer gameplay for a long time revolved over outliving or dispelling those buffs. Once they are gone, its a Curb-Stomp Battle. Parties based around Orc Warrior players however have nothing on those and tend to simply power through. Orcs being Orcsnote , it often works.
    • The game also has a very elaborate ways to increase critical damage of physical attacks. Tiat is a raid boss susceptible to debuffs with 10 million HP. Its not too strong and prepared raid takes him down in under 20 minutes. Properly abusing crit damage system, supported Orc Warrior can bring the boss down in under 15 seconds doing as much as 1 million damage per hit (roughly x50-x100 crit modifier with 40% crit chance). Magical critical hit is topped at 20% chance and x4 crit modifier.
  • Phantasy Star Online plays this straight overall, but it's a long road getting there. Forces start by being barely able to kill a room full of enemies before needing to go recharge their mana, while physical types have a far easier time of it. The Forces quickly outgrow their Hunter and Ranger counterparts, playing the trope straight, but hit a brick wall in Ultimate difficulty where the enemies' magic resistance gets a huge boost, subverting the trope.
    • However, if you keep playing that Force and level up their high level area magic, you can easily clear an entire room in seconds without suffering a single attack, while a Hunter or Ranger would be swamped by the sheer number of foes. Even better, a Force with high level Jellen and Deband can raise their defense so high and the reduce enemies' attack so low that even a Force, weak armor and all, is in no real danger.
  • Played a hundred percent straight in very early, and now defunct, MMO Sierra's Realm. Warriors at early levels could solo quest easily, dealing considerable damage and killing monsters rather speedily, whereas mages were next to worthless on their own, unable to so much as dent even the rats in the newbie zone.
    • At higher levels, Warriors could still hold their own, though they required full suits of top-tier armor and high-end weapons all sporting as many enchantments as was possible in order to keep any sort of pace with the harsher monsters and possible PvP encounters. High level mages, on the other hand, were capable of obliterating absolutely anything in their path no matter what they wore—even completely naked, a high-end mage could wipe out the game's 'Boss' in only a few choice spells. Warriors were wise to keep their PvP flags permanently turned off, lest a stark nekkid mage toddle over and utterly vaporize them before they could so much as close to melee range.
  • The MMOFPS Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa demonstrated this from the point of view of non-Receptive forces in the Army of Allied Free Sentients compared to the player characters, who are all Receptives—humans capable of receiving the necessary information to use Logos. Early on, a Receptive is a Recruit that might know a few magic tricks, but won't be a more valuable asset on the battlefield compared to the squads of non-Receptive soldiers, armored fighting vehicles, or the AFS MECHs. By the time a Receptive promotes to their Tier 3 class, however, they become walking weapons of mass destruction.
  • Intentionally invoked in Wizards And Warlords; while warlords have a few advantages early on, Wizards rapidly outpace them by design. Playing a Warlord is outright described as hard mode by the game.
  • Inverted in the early years of World of Warcraft, where physical damage dealers were level with spellcasters in normal gear, but surpassed them in high-end play. Warriors, rogues and hunters double-dipped on epic gear from Raid dungeons: the weapons gave higher base damage, while more strength and agility increased that damage further. Meanwhile casters had intellect, which gave them... more mana. The situation was eventually remedied in the Burning Crusade expansion by greatly increasing the amount of "spell damage" stat found on caster gear, and putting the stat on every caster weapon. Later the intellect stat was effectively merged with spell damage, and mana pools made almost static for each character level.
    • Warriors were more dependent on gear than any other class until Cataclysm, largely because of Rage as a resource. The more damage their auto-attacks did, the more rage they had for their active attacks. A warrior in questing gear was starved of rage, in epic gear had a full bar from a single weapon swing. This was fixed by normalising Rage to rise only in respect to one secondary stat (haste).
    • In Wrath of the Lich King, the armor penetration stat became the strongest of all because of how it scaled, and only physical damage dealers used it. Gear from Ulduar allowed players to go past 100% penetration, turning high armor into a liability. The stat was entirely removed in Cataclysm, more for its complexity than scaling issues.
  • This is averted in Wynncraft, where a Mage's utility as a Support Party Member and a Warrior's strength as a frontline fighter remain roughly even from the beginning to the end of the game.

    Web Animation 
    • This trope applies as Linear Pokémon, Quadratic Digimon in Pokemon vs. Digimon. Digimon won despite Pokemon gaining an early lead due to the massive power increases digivolving provides, which even mega evolution wasn't able to match.
    • In "Mewtwo vs. Shadow", this was how the fight went down. Shadow at his strongest had outclassed Mewtwo in speed, durability, and strength, and then some. However, Mewtwo's Psychic Powers was unparalleled, as his ability to read Shadow's mind and thus learn about his abilities and adapt accordingly effectively meant that he won the fight before it even started. Furthermore, Shadow has been shown to be very vulnerable to memory wipe and mind control, so Mewtwo can just do a simple mind wipe to render Shadow helpless and go for the kill.
    • In "Shadow VS Ryūko", Shadow is the Quadratic Wizard this time, to Ryūko Matoi's Linear Warrior: In their base forms, Ryūko was much physically stronger and tougher than Shadow, enough to potentially kill him in one hit. However, Shadow being much faster than Ryūko as well as being able to teleport as well as slow down and stop time with Chaos Control made landing that hit unlikely. Additionally, Shadow possessed far more destructive power with his Chaos abilities through removing his Inhibitor Rings which, combined with the aforementioned speed and Chaos Control, meant that he could reliably damage Ryūko faster than her Life Fibers could heal her. What's more is that Super Shadow was vastly faster and more powerful than Ryūko while in Senketsu-Kisaragi and has the benefit of Nigh-Invulnerability.
    • In the fight between Steven Universe and Star Butterfly, this trope is played very straight on Star's end. It was outright mentioned that Steven had the physical advantages in strength, base durability, and speed, but Star's vast magic power and sheer versatility of spells helped her overcome every single one of those. Her transportation magic countered Steven's speed, her universe-busting magical power dwarfed Steven's defensive capabilities, and her own defense and barriers were noted to be comparable to said magical power. All this were crucial factors in her victory.
    • Replace "Wizard" with "Genius Inventor", and this is how the fight between Batman and Iron Man goes down. Batman had better training than Iron Man, and his Hellbat armor's power exceeded almost all of Tony Stark's suits. However, Tony had access to dozens of different suits and other technology, all of which he could pilot either remotely or through his AI F.R.I.D.A.Y., and the sheer number of abilities they possessed as a whole were more than enough to counter everything Batman could throw at him, with Batman having almost no counters to Tony's more unique abilities like phasing through matter, absorbing energy, or inserting microscopic armors into his body.
    • The mythical fight between Hercules and Sun Wukong sees this trope in full force. Hercules relies on his godlike strength, intellect and simpler weapons in battle, while Sun Wukong relies on his Telescoping Staff, wits, and plethora of magic powers/tricks such as Self-Duplication, Cloud Somersault and transformation. This gave the Monkey King far greater versatility and options to overcome the God of Strength, whose only way to kill Wukong was Hydra venom arrows shot at faster-than-light velocities — an unreliable method considering Wukong's even faster feat of somersaulting to the universe's edge in a single second. Just for added irony, Hercules' incredible strength was actually judged to be even with Wukong's due to both of them having held up the infinite universe at one point in their stories.
    • "Trunks VS Silver": While Trunks' Super Modes made him much more physically stronger than Silver's, Silver's ability to restrain and redirect the attacks of vastly stronger beings than himself with his psychokinesis along with his literally infinite speed rendered the strength gap moot. Additionally, Silver being trained in the use of Chaos Magic for years by Mammoth Mogul meant that while in his Super Form he would be capable of all the feats of less experienced Super Form users, like Sonic and Mega Man who could resist the multiverse and Chaos Force affecting Super Genesis Wave and rewrite the multiverse and other universes outside of it, and much more, meaning that Super Silver could not only resist Trunks' Keysword, he was also deemed to be much more powerful.

  • The Order of the Stick has a lot to say about this trope.
    • As if it is OUR fault that they chose a class not capable of doing everything.
    • In the commentaries to one of the books, Rich admits that Vaarsuvius is (by level 15 or so) pretty much a living god, capable of single-handedly affecting the outcome of the battle. The plot often conspires to prevent them from having too much of an impact.
      • To drive this point home even further, it's important to note that V's particular magic specialization (and as a side effect, forbidden magic schools) are pretty much universally acknowledged as the worst possible way to play a wizard. Vaarsuvius would be much, much more powerful if V didn't bar conjuration and necromancy, and specialized in something other than evocation.note 
      • Vaarsuvius complains, when fighting an enemy who seems to be randomly resistant to magic. "It's almost as if the universe is trying to force some form of arbitrary equality between those of us who can reshape matter with our thoughts, and those who cannot." Note that Vaarsuvius contributed more to the battle than the entire rest of the order together (except Belkar, who got hold of an at-will fireball attack), and V only fled after the battle was already lost and invisibility was the only spell they had left.
      • In another of the books, the Order (who are based on D&D 3.5e) meet and fight their 4e counterparts. When V realises that mages had been largely nerfed to try and balance out the classes, they were of the opinion that wizardry would quickly die out in the 4e world, as nobody would spend years or decades studying the arcane arts when they could become just as powerful by "bumming around in a bad neighbourhood"; that is to say, becoming a rogue. Cut to Harry Potter throwing away his wand in exasperation. "Bugger all this, then. I'm off to pinch a pack of smokes and sleep the rest of the day." Subverted in the same story when 3.5E V realizes the truth. It's not that 4E V's friends are as strong as he/she is, it's that he/she is now as weak as they are.
      • Oh yeah. Wizard.
    • And during the second battle against the Linear Guild, the idea of overpowered clerics and druids is explored when the gnome druid is able to take on half the Order, and only the cleric Durkon is able to match him in both physical and magical combat. Even then, Thor intervening is held against him by another god when he tried to intervene in another region. It should be noted, however, that the reason only Durkon was a match for the gnome druid was as much a problem of tactics as anything else. Earlier in the fight, Haley had attacked from well outside her sneak attack range, thereby doing fairly minor damage. A rogue of Haley's level, however, could have easily snuck closer to the target and attacked from within her sneak attack range, which, given Haley's level, probably would have killed, or very nearly killed, the target.note 
    • Later Durkon finally got to use Holy Word and deafened three members of the Linear Guild, banished another (an evil Outsider) with one spell, leaving only one high-level member to battle effectively (and he retreated to save the rest of the Guild). The only one who could have taken him on head-to-head? The guild's absent-from-that-fight cleric.
    • Hinjo also displays awareness of this trope in the Battle of Azure City, telling the Order to make a beeline for Xykon and take him out, or at the very least keep him distracted. "A sorcerer that powerful doesn't engage enemies, he alters the course of entire battlefields."
    • Later in the same battle it's invoked by Redcloak and an Azure Cleric, both squaring off against their opposite number to spare their own followers and exchanging their most powerful combat spells. Thanks to said spells being save-or-die and Cleric saves being excellent, it's the least exciting battle in the entire strip as they just take turns poking each other until one of them blows a save. (This is also in response to complaints that characters in the comic use spells "sub-optimally;" the Giant is showing why he doesn't demonstrate "optimal" strategies.)
  • Richard in the Looking for Group comics is insanely overpowered. It's less clear with the others, but most magic users do seem to have an edge on non-magic users.
  • In Sluggy Freelance both Torg and Gwynn have Taken Levels in Badass over the course of the series: Torg has gotten pretty good at sword-fighting, while Gwynn has learned witchcraft. Gwynn's power-up has clearly surpassed Torg's and is really only kept in check by the fact that Gwynn still worries that using too much magic will unleash a Superpowered Evil Side. She did learn every spell she knows from Book of E-Ville, after all.
  • Played fairly straight in Our Little Adventure with both the protagonists and the main antagonists. Many of the good things Julie's group were able to do in book 3 were facilitated by powerful friends they made in their adventures. On the other side of the coin, the evil Emperors have already come dangerously close to discovering who Julie is with their own powerful divination spells.
  • And that is why in Tower of God, anyone who is incapable of resisting Shinsu to even the slightest degree is sorted out on the second floor. Not only would the Shinsu that naturally surrounds them in the higher levels kill them, but it is one of the most versatile and powerful tools which has power unlimited if wielded correctly.
  • Michael Kappel in Collar 6 took a little while to find his feet, especially with a Sympathetic Sentient Weapon as his sidekick, but when he is rescued from a secret prison the difference is obvious. His sidekick knocks out nearly fifty people by himself; Michael, when he wakes up, instantly incapacitates the hundreds of guards who remain.

    Web Original 
  • A very similar dynamic occurs in the web serial Worm with Tinkers, Capes with "Mad Scientist" as a superpower. Since Tinkers are able to continue building new gear an improving it, essentially giving themselves new powers as they go, they have the potential to be the most versatile capes and can often defeat any threat they are able to prepare for. There are a handful of Game-Breaker capes that are more powerful than any tinker but the tinker classification is generally recognized as the best force multiplier for any super team.
  • Mainly true for mutants in the Whateley Universe: while the Flying Brick and Lightning Bruiser need no training to be a serious threat, most of the Wizard class mutants need years of schooling to learn how to collect and save Essence, how to craft spells, etc. But Fey is a good example of a Wizard mutant with years (in her case, millennia) of training, and she can crush most physical threats if she sees them coming. Funnily enough, this trope is discussed in regards to devisors and gadgeteers versus Flying Bricks. After talking down a gadgeteer with a 100% success rate on whatever she builds, the school's principal confides in one of her teachers exactly how scared she is of the gadgeteer, because while the principal might fractionally increase her strength in a year if she really tried, the gadgeteer could invent countless improvements to her own devices in the same timeframe.
  • Played with in Chaos Fighters as attacks tends to have physical-magical duality, as explained here.

    Web Videos 
  • Alluded to in Critical Role. Vax'ildan, a rogue, laments how he's not nearly as powerful or useful as his magic-using companions. The series' system of choice is Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, in which this trope is only slightly in effect — the bard and druid are indeed the most powerful members of Vox Machina, but the other members still manage to deal substantial amounts of damage. When Vex'ahlia tries to encourage Vax'ildan by pointing out how helpful he was in a previous battle, Vax's player breaks character to explain he's speaking purely from in-game perception, pointing out that even in a rules system where a rogue is just as powerful as a druid, the latter will always seem to be far more impressive.
  • Shadiversity discusses this trope in the video where he posits how knights, or any other melee combatant for that matter, can stay relevant in fantasy worlds where magic exists. One of the ways fantasy authors can tackle this problematic trope is to make magic available to anyone regardless of combat paradigm, and every job/class can channel the magic to strengthen their attacks and/or to utilize it in strategic ways.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: At the start of the show, Sokka is the most capable warrior left in the Southern Water Tribe who hasn't already gone to war. His sister Katara is a waterbender who is self-taught and only really knows two tricks. Sokka, while still no match for Prince Zuko, was still a more capable fighter than her. About halfway through season 1 Katara learns the Water Whip move which at least lets her contribute to fights. After season 1 Katara has become a waterbending master, signaling the end of an era for her poor outmatched brother. Even after he Takes a Level in Badass he still can't do anything as impressive as her... although he kinda makes up for it by being a Gadgeteer Genius, a Badass Normal, and The Strategist.
  • The Dragon Prince: At the beginning of the series, Rayla is the main fighter of the trio, and while Callum is a mage, he is still far less experienced than her, having only just discovered that he can do magic. But by the end of the third season (just a few weeks in-universe), he's completely closed the gap, able to knock down waves of soldiers and gaining the ability to fly. Canon material even suggest he'll become a Kung-Fu Wizard of sorts.
    • Mages of various levels occupy the entire spectrum. On one end, you have season one Callum capable of a handful of spells that are marginally useful. In the middle you have Viren, who is capable of massacring a team of the greatest warriors in Xadia without breaking a sweat. Then at the far end you have Aaravos, who is so feared that his potential return is treated as a ‘world-ending event’.
  • Adventure Time:
    • Finn spends most of the show being a highly proficient melee combatant, successfully fighting things to defeat or a draw, be they minuscule or mountains, mortal wizards or their world's version of Satan — and there's every indication he'll only get better at it as he gets older. Then there's Flame Princess, who can torch a dungeon's worth of melee fodder with pinpoint accuracy, or just burn down the whole dungeon if not the entire region it's located in (and is capable of destroying the planet if she's not careful). The trope is played straight in terms of sheer combat force, but and then suddenly exaggerated when you consider that Finn has years of fights-time under his belt compared to Flame Princess, who has only recently joined the game, meaning the "wizard" (Flame Princess) is outdoing the "warrior" (Finn) even while he's several levels ahead of her.
    • A recurring plot point is the fact that Jake is infinitely more powerful than Finn and could easily overcome the majority of enemies they face alone. However, Jake's laziness and lack of focus often means he almost never uses his magic to its fullest extent, and will often get caught up on comparatively trivial problems without Finn present to motivate him.

Alternative Title(s): Quadratic Wizards Linear Warriors