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Magic Is Rare, Health Is Cheap

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"It just gets me how Ethers are cheap in this game compared to like every other Final Fantasy."

Characters in Role Playing Games have it pretty easy. It doesn't matter what sort of things they endure, whether it be poisoned arrows, ogre's battleaxes, dragon fire, or even the Big Bad's ultimate spell that destroys the entire world (multiple times over during the course of the fight, although the world still seems to be standing when he's done with it). All the White Mages have to do is wave a Magic Wand, say a few magic words, and presto! But those healing spells have a limited pool of magic to draw from. What happens when the healer (or the Red or Black Mage) runs out? You can often use Healing Potions for health, but what about magic?

Oftentimes, not much. Because while it is fairly easy to recover health (either through items, spells or regeneration) in most RPGs, magic recovery items are often much more difficult to come across. While any item shop worth its salt will stock a few healing potions (and possibly some Powerup Food), magic-restoration items may not be purchasable at all, or if they are, they're only available in specialty shops that are either out-of-the-way or which flat-out don't accept normal currency. Oftentimes, they're far less effective than healing items, too — while a high-tier healing item might restore hundreds of Hit Points, magic-restoring items might barely scratch the double digitsnote . When a game has Regenerating Health, don't expect MP to regenerate by the same means.

The reasons for this are many. It might be to raise the challenge level of the game — while a player can always heal themselves after a long fight, their slowly-draining MP will mean that they can't keep it up forever, and they'll need to hurry to the next town and its Trauma Inn or play it more conservatively in battles. It might be a way of avoiding the Antidote Effect, to ensure that the player will still utilize healing potions even into the late-game. And it may also serve as a way to rein in other magic users besides the healer — the dungeons' difficulty might be smashed wide open if the Black Mage can cast his or her most powerful spells in every single battle. Whatever the case, this bit of game balance generally comes down to forcing the player to utilize their resources properly—should they use healing spells all the time, or stick to battles? Should they end things quickly with powerful spells, or try to rely on cheap physical attacks? And if they do have rare magic-restoring items, is now the time to use them?

Games which avert or outright invert this trope tend to be those in which magic restores gradually over time, or those games in which you are expected to need all of your tricks and skills in every battle. It's also commonly seen in games where the entire party shares one magic pool. And some games avert it just for fun. In some way the opposite of Healing Magic Is the Hardest, though that's usually more of a narrative device rather than a gameplay feature.


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Straight Examples:

    Action RPG 
  • Dark Souls:
    • In Dark Souls, your Estus Flask can heal a large amount of health 5-20 times and miracles can heal more, both of which refill every time you reach a bonfire, but nothing besides a bonfire restores uses of an Estus Flask or limited spell charges, while the only other thing that restores HP is Humanity (which you're better off saving for other things).
    • Dark Souls II added a larger number of expendable healing items and items that restore spell uses; the weakest of the former can be bought in infinite quantities after beating the first boss while the latter are only sold in very limited quantities. While they can be farmed from enemies, this happens to be the only game in the series where enemies will stop respawning after you kill them enough times (unless you are playing Scholar of the First Sin and join a specific Covenant that makes the game harder).

  • Shantae (2002): You can find hearts lying about everywhere. Late in the game, you can even unlock a special dance that heals you for free. However, almost all of your skills are item-based, and the only way to get more uses of those skills is to go back to the town where they're sold and purchase more charges. The sequel, however, makes magic power for skills a far more common drop, and even adds a fairly easily obtained magic recharge ability.

  • In NetHack, there are three healing potions and only one for power, meaning that healing potions are way more common by odds alone. In addition, while you automatically regain HP and Power, health recovery outstrips power recovery to the point where your ghastly wounds are stitching themselves together as you wait to build up enough power to be able to light up a room. On another note, there's the Ring of Regeneration and the Eye of the Aethiopica, which provides HP and Power regeneration every turn. The former is a regular ring that can appear anywhere in the dungeon. The later is a quest artifact that must be earned by wizards or wished for by any other class (and other classes may not even be able to use it).

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The Final Fantasy series. While this does vary from game to game, magic-restoring items are very rare as a general rule. The few games that do sell them in stores tend to be incredibly expensive, and you're only ever going to find around a dozen of them in chests throughout the game. That's to say nothing of the Elixirs, which completely restore HP and MP, which are even harder to find, and full-on Too Awesome to Use. On the other hand, some games have the Osmose spell which is practically free to cast and steals MP from enemies. Once you learn that one your MP store becomes effectively infinite.
  • The Dragon Quest series. Although it can vary from game to game, magic-restoring items are generally far less common than HP-restoring ones.
    • In the very first game, there were no MP-restoring items, and the only way to recover magic was to either sleep at an inn or to visit the wizard at the castle. This could be especially difficult, as a great many of the spells in the game provided utilities outside of their battle uses.
    • In the first Dragon Quest Monsters game, you won't be able to buy MP-restoring items until late game.
  • The Mother series, as well:
    • In EarthBound, PP-restoring items and skills tend to be very weak, only restoring around 10 PP (when the skills you'll most want to cast cost around 50 PP). Only two vendors in the game sell them, and you'll outright have to teleport to one of them. The best of these items, the Magic Truffle, can only be found hidden in out-of-the-way places in the Bubblegloop Swamp area by using a specialized item. Poo can use the Brain Food Lunch as a full HP and PP restore, but his max PP isn't much to write home about anyway.
    • Mother 3 mitigates this somewhat in that a number of characters in the game can use PP-less skills. Permanent party member Duster can even inflict a wide range of Status Effects whenever he wants, for no cost, and several of the guest stars have their own free skills. So the rarity of these items makes it less of an issue.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei series adds to this in that there are two kinds of skills—those that use magic, and those that Cast from Hit Points. MP-based spells tend to be more powerful, but due to the ease of recovery (as long as you have MP to fall back on), HP-based skills are easier to use repeatedly.
  • Persona 3 Reload: Smashing the glowing things in the Tartarus dungeon will sometimes yield Life Stones, which restore 30% of HP, and more rarely yield Soul Drops, which restore 10 Stamina Points (this game's equivalent of MP). 10 SP is not very much.
  • In Persona 4, the rare "Soul" items that restore SP can only be found from monsters and in treasure chests. The only SP-restoring items you can buy are cans of soda, and the vending machine that sells them can run out. Even then, they only restore 5 SP. Luckily, Yu can fuse Personas with the "Skill Drain" abilities, which allow him to leech a very reasonable 30-60 SP off enemies. The fox in the Hub World is happy to heal your party's SP back to a ridiculous price. Unless you're in a hurry to finish the dungeon, you're better off just retiring for the day.
  • Persona Q makes it a balancing act. SP can only be restored with rare items or by going to the Nurse's office, the price of which directly increases with each level your main character gains. However, characters equipped with Sub-Personas get an amount of bonus SP that they begin every fight with. In addition, getting a critical or hitting an elemental weakness puts a character in Boost mode, which allows them a round of cost free special attacks. However, the game still favours physical attacks, due to spells quickly getting incredibly expensive, the inclusion of elemental physical attacks which allow for your physical attackers to also hit elemental weaknesses, and the fact that leader commands exist to provide healing without consuming any SP.
  • Persona 5: Outside of the game's designated medical clinic, nearly every one of the dozen odd in-game item shops sells HP / Health recovery items. Meanwhile, you can only get SP / Magic restoring items from vending machines, each of which only has 1 or 2 per week, and even then only at a rate of 5 SP a pop. Making Coffee or Curry, much better SP restoring items, consumes an evening time slot (in a game where time management is crucial).
  • Pokémon:
  • Rune Factory has almost no recovery items that restore RP, and with barely any item description text, it's a total crapshoot as to which ones they are.
  • In the Suikoden series, rune skills have a limited number of charges available to them. The only way to recover these is at an inn or a rune "healer"—no items will recover them. It's often better to use items to heal because of this, and save healing skills for the big boss fights.
  • In The Denpa Men, the Antenna items that restore AP can only be found either in chests or as monster drops. They're always uncommon-level drops, too, meaning that the Always Treasure skill that forces monsters to drop items can't make them appear. They don't become buyable in shops until the Playable Epilogue, and even then, only the lowest-level recovery item is available. And they're also quite pricey. The second game makes Antennas slightly more common, both by making them drop from more enemies and by having respawning treasure chests that commonly contain them. Some shops do start selling them early on, but they're still plenty expensive.
  • Zigzagged in the Golden Sun series:
    • There are copious numbers of both HP-restoring items and HP-restoring skills. There are even pieces of equipment with unlimited healing effects (they can break, but they're easy to repair), to say nothing of the healing Djinn. However, PP-restoring Djinn are much rarer, as are the portable Psynergy Crystals that restore PP. However, there are also regenerating, single-use Psynergy restoring crystals scattered around.
    • Subverted, however, in that merely walking around restores PP, and every main character starts out with a cheap healing spell.
  • In Opoona, of the items that restore FP, two can only be used in battle and those same items can also only purchased through the game's shop point system. They're only available in treasure chests or from monsters otherwise. This is the biggest issue for Opoona himself, as he gets several extremely powerful melee-based skills that, even during the latest levels, he'll only be able to use three or four times before running out of FP.
  • In Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, you automatically jump up to full health at the end of each battle. You magic also goes up after battle, but only by a small amount based on how fast you completed the battle. Inns replenish your magic, and thankfully they're 100% free.
  • In Breath of Fire III, Wisdom Seeds are rare note , and the stronger variant, Wisdom Fruits, even moreso. This is to balance out the main character's dragon transformations, since, aside from using AP to transform, he also needs to shave a set amount of AP per round to maintain a form. In contrast, Breath of Fire IV is considered better in this regard, because Wisdom Seeds can be bought from the Fairy Shop for a finite supply, enough for the transformations to last longer in battle. Additionally, party members resting in the back row will restore spent AP depending on a stat exclusive to that installment, CP (Concentration).
  • Lunarosse goes with Regenerating Mana. When MP-restoring items do show up, they're pretty uncommon. You can recruit a member for the base to purchase them from, but they'll cost a pretty penny.
  • Etrian Odyssey makes TP restoration items some combination of expensive, hard to find, and/or not very effective. Some characters can learn skills to restore TP, but the gains are very small and, in the case of active skills, cost more TP than the amount that will be restored. At any rate the most reliable way to recharge TP is simply to go to the Trauma Inn.
  • Workshop In The Ironwood Grove: Mana recovering Vis is dropped from Oily Oozes, which are around the fourth room of monsters that are accessible, while Hit Points can be recovered by Tonics, dropped from the very first enemies, Drowned.

Notable exceptions:

    Action RPG 
  • Dark Souls III has a Mana system where Estus Flask charges to restore health and magic have a fixed total, which you restore and allocate by resting at a bonfire. It's hardly skimpy with FP restoration; you have to spend dozens of level to raise you max high enough to use a full drink's worth. The same system carries over into Elden Ring.
  • Demon's Souls makes Mana restoratives immediately available at the first vendor, at a cost that starts out manageable and eventually becomes completely trivial. You can also farm them from an (admittedly dangerous) type of enemy after defeating the first boss. Several pieces of equipment even regenerate mana over time for free, including a ring one of the starting class has from the beginning.

    Action-Adventure Games 
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link inverts the trope: Magic jars are plentiful in the game, while there's no item that restores health. At one point, Link can learn the Life spell, which restores three bars worth of energy (out of the default four, and out of eight at most; so if Link is badly damaged you'll need to use the spell twice). The other means of recovering are in a town, or collecting a Heart Container; this is one of the many aspects that factors in the game's Nintendo Hard nature. In the subsequent The Legend of Zelda games that use a magic meter, magic is usually a common drop; in fact, those games base what pickups you find based on what you're lacking, so if you're low on magic, than magic becomes more common. Magic-restoring potions are also quite cheap.

    Platform Games 

  • Rogue Legacy gives far more opportunities to restore or even augment mana than health. Mana potions are more frequent than roast chickens, some classes can restore mana by killing enemies or even just scoring hits, others can expend maximum hit-points to increase mana capacity and your character can even have a trait that makes them restore mana by clearing the house.
  • Unlike the main series in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Max Elixiers can be found regularly in Dungeons. Normal Elixiers didn't even get added to the game until Super Mystery Dungeon.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In Ni no Kuni, your healer and supporter, Drippy, throws out plenty of magic-restoring pickups. Although MP-restoring items do cost slightly more, they're not absurdly expensive, either. This is probably because Oliver and all of his Familiars draw from the same MP pool, and Oliver himself more or less requires MP to do any real damage.
  • The Paper Mario series is an inversion. Healing skills tend to be extremely weak and/or prohibitively expensive. Most HP-healing items tend to only restore 5-10 HP (or too much to the point of overkill), unless you cook your own. FP-restoring items, on the other hand, are easily bought, frequently found, and are almost more common when cooking than HP-restoring items are. This is because not only do Mario and his partners all use the same FP pool, you're also expected to know how to defend wisely against your opponent's attacks, and use your skills to keep Mario and his partners safe. It is, however, played straight with the Mario-only Super Meter that allows him to use the star skills gained from completing each level. Only sleeping and doing attacks can fill this meter. Only one item, available in the second game, can fill it up, but it comes at a terrible price...*
  • Inverted in Path of the Midnight Sun. Your mana steadily refills with every turn, while enemies frequently deal huge chunks of your total health in a single hit. Indeed, mana will always reset to your default lowest value in every battle, while your HP is only gradually replenished when resting on the map. This effect's only compounded by the steep prices for food in towns. This often leads to scenarios where it's better to have your party members heal, take lots of damage, and use the MP next turn to tear apart enemies in bursts. Incidentally, this strategy makes the usual Defend Command very useful.
  • While the first game is a straight example, later games in the Rune Factory series increased both the penalty for trying to do things without RP and the availability of RP-restoration items. Fried food is explicitly noted as not restoring RP, which is necessary because almost every other craftable meal does.
  • 7th Dragon III: Code VFD offers myriad ways to restore MN (Mana): the Agent's Hack + scapegoat.exe damages one enemy and gives a generous amount of MN to each party member, Rune Knights can recharge their own MN with the zero-cost Aspir Sword skill, Fortuners have the Mana Poetry skill which regenerates the party's MN every turn for a few turns, and upgrading the shop gives access to the Mana Water series of items, which restore Mana and are stupidly cheap, the only catch being the Cap of 15 per item that is applied to all other consumable items anyway. Failing these, touching a green Save Point or resting in the Dormitory will fully restore everyone, MN included, for free.
  • Tales Series:
    • MP-restoring items do tend to be slightly more expensive than HP-restoring ones, but they are by no means uncommon. Almost every store sells them, and it's easy to burn through them from dungeon to dungeon. Many of the games also restore a small amount of MP at the end of battle to prevent burning through the items. Finally, most games have characters recover one MP per hit with a regular attack. And since most magic users in the series fall under Magic Knight or Combat Medic, expect them to have a way to recharge it.
    • Tales of Graces and Tales of Berseria have no MP system at all, letting you fight at full power at all times (and you'll need to). As such, MP-restoring items never show up. Graces has a "fatigue" system where your characters use stamina for each attack, but it recharges by either using basic attacks or just standing still, so running out is just a matter of playing defense for a few moments. Berseria uses a similar system with "souls" that are granted when a party member stuns an enemy or exploits a weakness.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, MP restoring items can be bought from halfway through the first disc onward, though Moon Serenade, which restores the MP of the entire party, can't be bought and is only dropped by certain boss fights.