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Video Game / Master of Magic

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Master of Magic is a 1993 4X game for DOS PCs from the makers of Master of Orion. It enriches the usual world domination schtick with a spellcasting system, tactical combat and various details such as hero units and Item Crafting.

The players picks or customizes a wizard, founds a city with one of the Standard Fantasy Races, and goes on to crush all competing wizards in the coterminous worlds of Arcanus and Myrror. Options are military force and researching and casting the Spell of Mastery. Mage or no mage, it's as necessary as usual to found cities, levy taxes and build armies. Moreso, in fact, as here the wandering monsters might breathe fire and the goody huts are dungeons.

Magic is divided neatly into Life, Nature, Sorcery, Chaos and Death (white, green, blue, red, black). A Technology Tree is replaced by researching spells in a wizard's chosen field or fields, which can range from sparklers in three or four to planet-crackers in one. Mana, generated from some city buildings and constantly contested mana node tiles, is used to fuel and maintain spells. There are battle spells, utility spells, unit enhancements to make scouts invisible or ships fly, caster units, summoned beings, enchanted items, city spells and terraforming, world spells that can control the winds or block out the sun, etc. One of the possible win conditions is—you guessed it—casting a certain spell. It's enough to make one forget that the whole thing looks almost exactly like a fantasy version of the first Civilization.


Master of Magic only held together after patching - in the pre-WWW era - and has more GameBreakers than you can shake a stick at, but is still fresh and offers numerous things to fiddle with. The in-game help system is marvelous. The game remains appreciated and has the odd Spiritual Successor, particularly the Age of Wonders series, which is similar in having tactical combat, Item Crafting and "research from random spellbook" approach, but weaker non-linearity factors.

Stardock was in talks as of 2007 to make a sequel, Master of Magic 2, but these talks broke down. Instead, they made a Spiritual Successor, Elemental - War of Magic, which has been released in 2010. Another Spiritual Successor was released in May of 2012, this time by Paradox and Ino Co, titled Warlock: Master of the Arcane, which used a hex-grid map and combat system very similar to Civilization V, while changing the setting to the Majesty universe of Ardania. Another Spiritual Successor is in the works, called Worlds of Magic, which is more of a lawyer-friendly remake of Master of Magic instead of being "inspired". However, the critical and popular reception was not kind.


It is now available on Good Old Games, DRM-free and optimized for modern computers.note  For fan patches and mods, go here.

And if that weren't enough, in September 2020, a new official DLC pack was released, Caster of Magic by an Ascended Fanboy modder, who had to deconstruct the game to get the assembly code.

Not related to the 1985 game of the same name released for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.

This game provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Every conquered non-klackon city will have a 20% unrest rate under a klackon empire, making them the most broadly hated race in the game.
    • Drakonians don't fare better, although they mostly cause a 10% unrest rate among most of the races.
    • The Dark Elves on the other hand take the cake. Aside from Barbarians, who hate them 10% mildly, everyone else loathes them at 20% and higher.
    • Rjak is extremely hostile to every other player, to the point where some players make a custom sorcerer using Rjak's portrait so he can't be in the game.
  • After-Action Report: A couple classics of the genre were inspired by this game. View one of the best here, and another one almost as funny here.
  • All There in the Manual: The Prima Guide for Master of Magic is one of the best computer game guides ever - some people just bought the game after reading the guide.
    • It's also somewhat more difficult to play the game without the spellbook that accompanies it — without it, you can only read spell descriptions when spells become available for research, making it harder to plan your character or figure out what enemies are capable of.
  • Animate Dead: The bread and butter of Death magic.
  • Anti-Magic: Several spells and abilities ranging from specialized defensive ones (ex:Magic Immunity, True Sight), buffs dispeling, banishing and generally making it hard for others to cast anything. Also, the Nodes very often cancel out spells that are not of their element, unless one has Node Mastery trait, which lets you freely cast any spells regardless of school.
  • Apocalypse Wow: Most of the Very Rare Chaos spells are global enchantments that, as a whole, do this. One of them constantly corrupts tiles in both planes, slowly rendering the entire world outside of your borders unlivable. Another does the same thing except with volcanoes, and a third rains meteors that constantly damage every unit in the game outside the shelter of a city.
  • The Archmage: In gameplay, Archmage is a special trait that lets you cast better. Trope-wise, Rulers and High-level Mage heroes are this.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Most of the high-level creatures and many of the spells, especially if acquired early game by casters who invest all in books. A Life wizard, for instance, may get the ability to summon a Unicorn from the start, which can wreak havoc in the battlefield in the early game, but takes a relatively long time to summon and has a high magic upkeep cost.
    • Cruel Unminding from the Death Realm will permanently drain up to 10% of an enemy wizard's spell casting skill, thus making them cast fewer spells in combat and take longer to cast spells globally. Repeated casts can make it effectively impossible for the enemy to cast any spells at all, but if you have the time and mana to pull it off you're probably already in a position to steamroll them.
  • Badass Normal: Elite soldiers of the weaker racesnote  who are un-empowered by magic count, particularly when led by a Warlord; with just ordinary weapons, they can fight and win against minor monsters.
  • Bad Moon Rising: Depending on the player, it is a GOOD thing. The "Bad Moon" event doubles mana income of evil temples and cuts the mana income of good temples. There's also a "Good Moon" that does the exact opposite. Your good/evil status is determined by whether you have Death or Life spellbooks.
  • Bears Are Bad News: War Bears, a bane of all early-game units.
  • The Berserker: Units with increased attack strength while sacrificing all their defense. A spell can cause this for non-berserker units.
  • Black Magic: Death and Life are, incidentally, the only two magical schools that cannot be combined: If you have death you can't cast life. Death magic is composed of necromancy and negative enchantments. This would make it less useful than Life, since in the later game it's hard to get a negative enchantment past an enemy's resistance, but Death also gets a laundry list of the best summons in the game. Shadow Demons are slow but are one of the only units available that can Plane Shift at will, while Wraiths and Death Knights are fantastically deadly, fast-moving flyers.
  • Blade on a Stick
    • The spearmen, the weakest unit of all races whose only good point is that it is so cheap that it doesn't require gold to upkeep. Made obsolete by Halberdiers, which are basically upgraded spearmen, and...
    • The Pikemen, and their skill to negate the first strike (a free attack before the enemy can retaliate) of Cavaliers.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: The best quest rewards are: extra masteries, extra spell books, rescue of an elite hero, or an elite item. If you have the maximum number of spellbooks, heroes and masteries, the game was forced to give you some crap like an Item of Lame.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • For cost-effectiveness and sheer, terrifying power the best unit in the game is the humble Halfling Slinger, which combines innate Halfling luck (+1 to all rolls) with good stats and a high number of figures per unit. Slingers at Champion experience level, with a full range of Life enchantment spells, can hit hard enough to one-shot most units even through missile immunity.
    • In general, cheap, mass-produced units often have a strategic edge over heavy summoned hordes, due to the stacking effects of experience and modifiers. Yeah, a huge Stag Beetle is terrifying, but if you give alchemical weapons and other benefits to a Stag Beetle, and the same to an equivalent army of spearmen, the spearmen will swarm over the poor bug.
    • The simple Heroism spell, which turns any normal unit into an Elite.
  • Bug War: What happens when you get involved in hostilities with the Klackons. Klackons do not do well either as rulers of other races or as their vassals, so the usual result of capturing a Klackon city (or vice versa) is to raze it.
  • Canon Immigrant: Klackons originate from Master of Orion
  • Character Customization: Customize your Wizard.
  • The Chosen One:
    • Torin is described as one, and for the good reason. Unlike other heroes, he is summoned with the Life spell "Incarnation".
    • Then you have Aureus the Golden One, who likewise is of the "chosen one" trope.
  • Colour Coded Elements: Each school of magic, and most of the assorted creatures, has its own colour, Life/White, Death/Purple, Sorcery/Blue, Chaos/Red, Nature/Green. Of course, there are a couple that break the mold. Behemoths are red, but are a high-level nature summon, and Hydras are green, but are an equally high-level Chaos summon.
  • Combat Medic: Various Heroes and units, mostly priests and shamans, who can heal during battle.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: On higher difficulty levels, in addition to cheating otherwise, computer players get more skills and spellbooks (this translates to more bonuses and more spells). This can lead to surprises such as the Chaos specialist Tauron suddenly wiping out your superpowered hero with a Cracks Call spell... or a huge stack of heroes and summoned creatures attacking your capital after you've just built a few buildings and a couple of swordsmen. Note that the AI is so infamously terrible that it will need these bonuses against any competent player.
  • Cool Airship: Airships are a special unit constructable only by one race. However, you can "cheat" by casting Fly on a regular warship; this itself can become a Game-Breaker, especially when combined with Invisibility, due to the facts that the AI is bad at dealing with invisible units and warships, unlike pretty much every other ranged unit in the game, have essentially unlimited ammo.
    • Note that, while each warship has enough ammo for 99 turns of combat, the combat will end in a draw ("All units retreat exhausted") if one side is not victorious after 50 turns. Casting Haste on your warship will squeeze the full effectiveness out of its ammo.
  • Cool Mounts: Many of the races get fantastic mounts as their end unit. Some, like High Men and Halflings, do not.
  • Counter-Attack: All units do this, but some have "First Strike" abilities that avoid it (unless its negated or they don't kill the target), and units under the Haste Spell will counterattack twice.
  • Crapsack World: Myrror is a great source of magical power for any wizard who exploits it, but it's also a hellish place to live. The five races of Myrror are utterly inimical to one another, most of them are rather nasty and vicious in nature, raiders and wandering monsters are far more dangerous than on Arcanus, and the various places of power tend to be inhabited by some really nasty customers. Even the colors are different: Arcanus looks like your generic brightly-colored fantasy world, Myrror's terrain is mostly shades of blue and violet.
  • Curse: Various spells causing various negative status effects. Becomes less useful later in the game, since high-level units and more powerful summoned creatures generally have high enough Resistance to beat the resist checks on most of the game's spells (and a few are outright immune to magic to begin with).
  • Critical Existence Failure: Played straight with individuals (Heroes, One-man units), but subverted with multiple-person units, where with each dead person the unit fights worse.
    • Played with with the Hydra, which looks like a single creature but is treated as a unit of nine "heads" by the mechanics.
  • The Dark Arts: All of the Death magic and some of the Chaos magic.
  • Dark Is Evil / Light Is Good: AI Death Wizards are more likely to be Maniacal/Ruthless and will never be Peaceful. In contrast, AI Life Wizards are more likely to be Peaceful and will never be Maniacal.
  • Death from Above: The "Meteor Shower" global enchantment that every turn hits EVERY UNIT IN THE WORLD with fire from the skies.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils
  • Demonic Possession: One of the Death spells does this in combat.
  • Dual-World Gameplay: Arcanus and Myrror, connected by Portal Towers. Myrror is populated by races with more bonuses and innate abilities than Arcanus's "vanilla" races, and nodes on Myrror are worth double power, but it's also populated by far more dangerous beasties. You can buy the right to start the game on Myrror at character creation, but it's the most expensive pick in the game.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing the game on the lowest difficulty level (Intro) will force you to pick from one of the default wizards, and not allow you to customize your own.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chaos Spawn. It flies, but has no wings. It is a ball of... flesh?... and a bunch of eyes (yes, like a beholder). It attacks by looking at its target. It has some of the worst attack stats in the game, but the negative effects it causes with those attacks are crippling and fatal. Unfortunately, it's a Glass Cannon that can't even make ranged attacks, making it Awesome, but Impractical. Rare for abominations, really...
  • Elemental Crafting: The better the metal, the better the bonus.
  • Elemental Powers: Five schools of magic of Life, Death, Chaos, Nature and Sorcery as well as a school of "Arcane" spells that everyone can learn. Arcane is a list of "utility" spells that are important to the game, like Magic Spirits and Dispel Magic.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: Some schools tend to pick on certain others; Life has a bunch of anti-Death and anti-Chaos spells, for instance.
  • Elite Tweak: Pretty much the point of the game; spells plus army composition leads to almost infinite combinations and strategies; some better than others.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Elite normal troops can be further empowered by Status Buff magic. Life armies in particular love this tactic, having few summons but a lot of buffs, many of which work especially well on naturally-weak units.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Your starting race is only important at the early-game, since by middle-game you will probably have 3-4 races in your domain.
    • It does, however, affect the loyalty rates of your conquered cities; the race of your capital city determines which other cities get an unrest penalty. In general, Halflings have the best overall racial relations, while Dark Elves and Klackons the worst. The nature spell that allows you to change your capital city can get around this, however.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: The Chaos school of magic, oriented in dishing out direct damage and has a few random-type spells.
  • Ethnic Magician: A few Wizards are these, among them are an African shamaness, an Aztec Priest, a Native American shaman and a Chinese mystic.
  • Evil Sorcerer: A few of the Wizards at least have the looks to qualify as such, with Rjak (Master of Death Magic) and Tauron (Master of Chaos Magic) going into the Obviously Evil territory.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Chaos spell "Call The Void" attempts to plunge an entire city into the Void, slaughtering its citizens and soldiers, shattering its buildings, and showering the surrounding landscape with tainted rubble.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • If your ruling race are Klackons, the civil unrest in non-klackon cities will be very, very high. Likewise, Klackons don't do well as slaves of other races.
    • With a single exception (Barbarians), Dark Elves are at least as bad as Klackons for ruling over other races (or being ruled by them), and in many cases are worse. Even the peaceful Halflings don't enjoy their reign. (Curiously, they're no worse at ruling Klackons than anyone else.)
    • None of the Myrran races like each other one bit.
  • Familiar: A Dove for Life Wizards, a Cat for Death Wizards, a Snake for Nature Wizards, a Devil for Chaos Wizards and a Beetle for Sorcery Wizards. They serve as announcers of events.
  • Fights Like a Normal:
    • Life armies. Other forms of magic often phase out normal humanoid units to a greater or lesser extent in the midgame in favor of summoned monsters, but Life has only a handful of summons and they aren't designed to be made into armies. Instead, Life magic focuses on raising and buffing Normal Units, resulting in endgame armies of normal men supported by magic (and yes, possibly with an Angel in their midst), but fighting with mail and steel instead of dragon-fire or sorcerous lightning.
    • The Warlord trait doesn't provide you with any magical benefits whatsoever. It just turns your normal units into master fighters.
  • Floating Continent: Well, it's a mobile island, but you can cast Fly on it...
    • The Floating Fortress spell will also make one of your cities float out of reach of ground-based attackers, though it doesn't let it move around.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: A good chunk of Nature magic works like that, but especially the Nature's Wrath spell, that hits an opponent wizard with an earthquake if they cast Chaos or Death spells. There's also Cracks Call, a humble, ultra-common Nature spell used in battle to destroy walls... that also has a fifty percent chance of annihilating the unit standing on the targeted tile as long as it's not flying.
  • Geo Effects: Your standard Civilization-type terrain effects.
  • Good Pays Better: Life magic has spells that increase the amount of wealth a city produces, increases its production value which can be used to produce more wealth, and can remove unrest from cities even if they are taxed into the dirt.
  • Giant Flyer: Sky Drakes and Great Drakes appear to be huge.
  • Glory Seeker: Fame affects frequency and cost of proposals from mercenaries, heroes and magic item traders. "Famous" wizard trait in addition to a starting bonus doubles these rates. "Legendary" Hero Unit bonus is added directly to Fame. Winning a battle with 4 or more units on any side gives one point of Fame, as does founding a city or conquering of a settlement larger than Village. Losing a big battle or a city takes a point.
  • Golem
  • Grim Reaper: Wraiths look like this. Any overworld casting of Death spells involves the shadow of the Grim Reaper looming over the target.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Impossible" difficulty, which isn't entirely accurate but does a good job of indicating how much the computer will cheat.
  • Hellhound: A basic Chaos summon.
  • Hero Unit: You can hire/summon maximum six of them.
  • Horse of a Different Color
  • Human Sacrifice: The Dark Rituals spell turns the town's religious building into a center of this, reducing pop growth and increasing unrest in exchange for mana.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Finishing the Spell of Mastery ends the game, which is why the moment a wizard starts casting it, every other wizard will focus their attention on them.
  • Isometric Projection: During the battle.
  • Item Crafting: Costs an absurd amount of mana and takes a lot of time... but a hero with a pile of extremely powerful gear becomes a walking monstrosity capable of taking down almost anything in the game. The Artificier trait makes this cheaper.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats:
    • You can customize the wizard to have more than two schools of magic, and doing it so unlocks a Node Mastery trait that only takes the double mana from nodes buff from other School Mastery traits.
    • Racially, Orcs and High Men fill this niche. Orcs are something of a Master of None, though, since the differences between their races (Halberdiers vs. Pikemen, Wyvern Riders vs. Paladins, and Shamans vs. Priests) normally favor the High Men.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Several Life and a few Nature spells only work against Chaos or Death magics and creatures. On the upside, those spells are on the whole far more cost-effective than attack spells from other magic schools.
  • Lethal Joke Race:
    • Most of the races that can't research effectively get a lot of flak for it from players. Those who swear by such races expect to make up for it by using their race in an early Zerg Rush and conquering themselves an empire that can research. (This would also apply to Trolls, but Trolls are simply so powerful that anyone can use them well.)
    • Klackons not only have the research skills of Trolls, but they can't even effectively conquer research cities; Klackon empires simply don't synergize well with having other races in the mix, requiring any non-Klackon cities in the empire to be heavily garrisoned to avoid mass unrest. Playing Klackons requires a completely different mindset from other races, relying on economic and industrial production rather than magical might and accepting that you'll be behind the research curve.
    • To a certain extent, the lowly spearmen as well. Their base stats are pathetic beyond reason, but they require zero gold upkeep (only eating one food per turn), and having just one in a city is enough to allow you to defend the city yourself with magic. Finally, spearmen units come with more figures than most other unit types, so they get more benefit from attack enhancements than an equivalent unit of swordsmen. Dark Elf spearmen are the epitome of the "lethal joke" part, being one of the most powerful normal units in the game through their magical power.
    • Halflings are small and weak, no mistaking it, and they lack access to university research and its infrastructural fruits. But they produce massive quantities of food, their slingers are deceptively lethal, and because they're so nice, they're actually the best possible administrators for a multiracial empire. Very few races would object to being governed by halfling governors, who don't oppress conquered races and who make sure that the food always reaches the table.
  • Life Drain: A death spell that drains hitpoints and transfers to the spellcaster (The ruler Wizards themselves, who are unable to participate directly in combat and thus lacking hitpoints, will get extra mana instead), and those who die from this become undead.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Units with Large Shield have defense bonus vs. ranged attacks. Heroes with proper slots can use shield items—the same effect plus any enchantments allowed for armor.
  • Magic Knight: Some of the heroes.
  • Magikarp Power: Fresh heroes will probably lose against even baseline swordsmen, but at max-level and fully-equipped can contend with just about anything.
  • Mage Tower: It's where you live. If the city where it stands gets taken over, you're Banished and can't cast spells until you cast the Spell of Return, which lets you return with a new tower in one of your other cities.
  • Magic Enhancement: All of the schools of magic have a few unit enhancements, but Life and Nature are the big ones.
  • Magical Native American: Raven, whose starting "specialty" is having one more extra book for the total of 11, the maximum one can have at the start of the game.
  • The Magocracy: The player's realm, and heck, everyone except the neutrals.
  • Mana: Powers your spellcasting and is drawn both from temples and magical nodes. Some races generate it naturally, as well. In a pinch can be produced from Gold via Alchemy, but the rate is 1:2 in either direction unless the wizard picked Alchemy at the start. Mana Short random event blocks all sources, even temples.
  • Mana Drain: A couple of effects can do this, but they're fairly rare. Can also appear in spell form: If you have mana leak, and can launch several combats against a target in a row, see Game-Breaker.
  • Massive Race Selection: 14 main 'races' not counting associated creatures (especially Beastmen).
    • All Trolls Are Different: Tall, regenerating brutes. Trolls are also descended from corrupted nature spirits, and while stupid, they are suprisingly spiritual beings whose shamans can build great Cathedrals.
    • Beast Man:
      • Beastmen, an innately-magical Myrran race (though "collection of related races" might be more accurate) of demi-animals. They serve as the Myrran equivalent to Orcs: a highly technologically-advanced and civilized Jack-of-All-Stats.
      • Gnolls, large dog-men from Arcanus. Not very advanced, but their low-tech basic units make for excellent conquerors in the early-game rush.
    • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Klackons, an incomprehensible hive race that swarm freely over the two worlds.
    • Hobbits: Halflings fit the standard model: peaceful, low-tech farmers who are surprisingly capable with their slings. Their main quirk for this game is that not only are the little guys okay with almost any other race ruling over them, almost no other races mind being ruled by a halfling empire.
    • Humans Are Divided: There are actually three human races that play rather differently.
    • Lizard Folk: The Lizardmen, who are uncivilized, low-tech brutes from the swamps and waters of Arcanus, and the Draconians, an ancient, civilized and winged race of dragon-men from Myrror.
    • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Their only distinct feature is that one of their units, the hammerhands, have hammers instead of hands. Also, they manage to be a high-tech species without actually being good researchers or scientists; their knowledge of steam and machinery is a part of their racial tradition, and they disdain science in favor of "practical knowledge."
    • Our Elves Are Different: High Elves are the only Arcanus race whose population naturally generates mana, and their longbowmen are absolute terrors against anyone not built up to fight them. Dark Elves are the most powerful magical race in the game; even their spearmen are powerful magical combatants, their warlocks have magical attacks on par with the player mage's powers, and their population generates more mana than any other race in the game.
    • Our Orcs Are Different: Instead of being The Horde-like, they are a fully civilized race with access to engineers, universities and cathedrals (among other things) - in other words, these are classic Tolkien Orcs, though their morality (also like Tolkien Orcs) is a function of their master rather than being Always Chaotic Evil. They can build every building in the game and have no particular specialty, and their normal units are the baseline from which other races' units vary.
  • Master of Illusion: Quite a few spells of Sorcery revolve around illusions. Illusion-based attacks are nasty, completely bypassing defenses... but on the other hand, some units, particularly the undead, are completely immune.
  • Master of None:
    • Orcs are a downplayed example. They are the purest of vanilla races with no real weaknesses and no real strengths, but what this means is that their military is nearly always inferior to High Men, while their economy is essentially identical. However, they make excellent slaves for less-advanced races, and they're also excellent garrison troops, producers and researchers for a wizard with summoned armies.
    • Aureus the Golden One is a high-tier hero, with even stats across the board (6 in melee, ranged, resistance, defense and HP). In order for him to do some real damage, he needs powerful artifacts; his ranged attack is magical, but not special so magic resistant enemies will be unaffected.
  • Merlin: Here he is a Sage Master (25% bonus to Research) and uses Life and Nature magic.
  • Mirror Universe: Literally called Myrror. Magic is more powerful here, and the races are different. And all roads act as enchanted (unlimited movement).
  • Morale Mechanic: Morale translates into loyalty of the populace and thus improves productivity of cities.
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: Life and Death schools are not compatible.
  • National Geographic Nudity: Sharee, the African voodoo priestess.
  • Ninja: One hero is this, and several others skirt it.
  • Non-Elemental: The Arcane spells.
  • No Ontological Inertia: All enchantments and summoned creatures will disappear if the Wizard runs out of mana.
  • No Saving Throw: Doom Gaze ability, Doom Bolt spell.
  • Obviously Evil: Rjak.
  • One-Hit Kill: A few variations:
    • The Death school naturally has several variations, the biggest of which is a global spell that tries to kill every enemy unit in the world.
    • Getting rid of summoned units via severing their link to their owner's mana or banishing them outright.
    • And of course, any sufficiently powerful unit can do this to all but the most powerful of units.
  • One-Man Army: Torin, a Great Drake, or any high-leveled, well equipped, advanced hero can easily take a moderately defended empire all on their lonesome.
    • Wraiths are a complete game-buster - an all-Black caster can rustle up a single troop of these that can fly, steal life, and raise defeated enemies as undead. You can not only take out poorly-defended cities (that's just about everywhere in the early game) but staff them with unpaid undead garrisons in the process.
  • Our Monsters Are Different:
  • The Paladin: The Mounted Elite Unit of High Men.
  • Pegasus
  • Physical God: Torin the Chosen is not a mere hero, he is the avatar of Life magic itself. The "Incarnation" spell is what summons him to the world, and his upkeep, unlike the other heroes, is paid with Mana, not Gold.
  • Place of Power: The Nodes of Nature, Chaos and Sorcery types generate mana and counteract all other types of magic in vicinity. Masters of these schools get double the amount of mana from them. Node Mastery gives double mana for all three types and bypasses the suppressive aura.
  • Point Build System: The custom wizard creator is using one (no negatives for more points, though), and it is the precursor of custom race creation for future 4X games.
    • And as not all abilities are equal in value, it's possible to build very powerful, or rather inferior wizards.
      • The fans naturally set about to try and concoct the worst possible wizard. The results were spectacularly bad.
  • Portal Network: the "Towers of Wizardry". Each one represents a stable portal between the two planes, and the only way to travel without one is to use fairly advanced Life magic or to summon one of the handful of non-Life creatures with innate planeshifting. They can get blocked off...
  • Power at a Price: Black Channels increases a mundane unit's physical strength stronger by making its members undead (incidentally preventing them from gaining experience). Chaos Channels infuses a mundane unit or hero with chaotic energies, randomly giving them either wings, demonically tough skin, or fiery breath. Both spells leave the affected unit ineligible for a few "normal unit" enhancements and vulnerable to Life magic's attack spells.
  • Power Nullifier: The Nodes nullifies magic not of its type. Some spells can do this too.
  • Random Event: Tons of these. From opportunities to blow your gold on a hero / mercenary unit / magic items from a wandering merchant, to Diplomatic Marriage (if you agree, the neutral town instantly becomes your vassal), Baby Boom, Plague, discovery of depletion of minerals, and to...
    • Divine Intervention: "The Gift. An ancient god has returned, bearing the relic of (random artifact) to aid your cause". May require shrines anywhere or everywhere.
    • Pirate: They raid and take 30% - 50% of the gold reserve. May require access to water or a Ship Wrights Guild.
    • When the Planets Align: Astrological status. Conjunctions double mana output of one Node type and halve others. Under Good Moon and Bad Moon respectively temples of Life and Death wizards give 1.5x more mana and the opposing force is halved.
  • Regenerating Health: A few units continuously regenerate during combat, including hydras, werewolves, and every Troll unit. An expensive and high-level nature spell can grant the same power to any unit.
  • Religion Is Magic: Temples, Cathedrals, Shrines and Parthenons provide you with Mana. Temples of Life/Death wizards are affected by Good Moon/Bad Moon and have improved mana output and calming effect if the owner has Divine Power/Infernal Power.
  • Sand Worm: The Great Wyrms, whose first action in combat is to get behind enemy lines and chew on the weak archers/magic/support units.
  • Shoulders of Doom: The armor of the mighty War Trolls consists of spiked shoulder pads.
  • Shout-Out: One of the artifacts is named "The Idspispopd", referring to a Classic Cheat Code from Doom.
  • Sorcerous Overlord
  • Spell Book: You pick them up at the start of the game, at a cost of one "pick" each, and the more you have in a given school, the better you are at that magic. More books give you more spells at the start of the game and more of the high-end spells. You can find more of them in dungeons, but there is limit on how many you can have in all.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, functional magic, pseudo-medieval flavour.
  • Status Buff: Many spells, especially Life and Nature ones.
  • Status-Buff Dispel: Disenchant, Dispel Magic, and the more-powerful Sorcery variants will purge beneficial effects from a unit. The Sorcery spell Spell Lock is a unit enchantment that protects other enchantments from being removed.
  • Staying Alive: As long as any Wizard had a spare city and enough mana, he/she automatically casts the Spell of Return.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Nothing's stopping you from taking any combination of race and wizard. Halfling Death Warlord? Sure. Dark Elven master of Life? Go nuts. A master of Sorcery ruling over Trolls? If you want. Many unthematic combinations are actually pretty powerful (like the Dark Elves of Life above).
  • Squishy Wizard: Caster units, you and your enemies.
  • Suffer the Slings: Beware the Halfling slingers.
  • Summon Magic: Two types, "permanent" summons (which create a creature that lasts until destroyed or you stop paying its maintenance cost) and combat summons, such as Air Elementals, that last only as long as the combat and can be called up for free reinforcements. Several units have the ability to summon other units, which result in Enemy Summoner. The Conjurer trait is decreases research, mana and maintenance costs while making it harder for enemy wizards to dispel the summons.
  • Summoning Ritual: Used for summoning units, naturally.
  • Taken for Granite: The Nature Rare Spell Petrify, plus some monsters like the Gorgons can do this. In effect, it instakills a unit that fails its resist roll.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Several variants of teleportation spells, most of which are life magic. Also, a few units like Unicorns and Djinn can teleport naturally in combat.
  • Time Stands Still: The most expensive spell in the game, Time Stop.
  • Title Drop: Used at the end of the game.
  • Turtle Power: The Lizardmen' Dragon Turtle.
  • Unicorn: Life magic associated teleporting unicorns.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Averted. As long as a unit's Resistance score is low enough to be affected by a spell, your status-effect attacks are just as powerful as the AI's, and once you get your own units' Resistance at or above ten, you're all but immune to anything but Cracks Call (which has a flat 25% chance of annihilating any ground unit) and special spells that give resistance penalties to their saves.
  • Veteran Unit:
    • Normal units can level up to Elite rank. If you have a Warlord trait or a Crusade spell, you can upgrade them to Ultra-Elite rank. If you have both, you get Champion-ranked death machines.
    • Heroes have more levels, ending with Demi-God.
  • Vindicated by History: invoked Master of Magic was originally released a buggy, imbalanced mess. However, the aforementioned Guide was released for the 1.3 version, and since then it became known as a classic 4X title.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Unlike many 4X games there are only two victory conditions. Either you expand, loot, and conquer your way to world domination, or you expand, loot, and conquer your way to casting the Spell of Mastery.
  • War Elephants: War Mammoths, used by Trolls.
  • Weapon of Choice: Different heroes with their own preferences. You can find them or craft them.
    • An Axe to Grind: Less variety in enchantments, but a higher limit to its +attack score. In addition, heroes with an axe throw attack add the attack bonus of their axe to the Thrown score, allowing extremely powerful heroes to wipe out enemies before even engaging in melee.
    • Cool Sword
    • Drop the Hammer / Epic Flail (They are under the same catetory)
    • Magic Wand: Wands and Staves can be wielded only by mage heroes, but the items can carry spell charges of their own, letting the hero cast magic without resorting to their personal mana pool. And can make the wielder's spells harder to resist.
  • Wutai: Mostly averted, with only one wizard (Lo Pan) and some heroes (the Ninja, the War Monk) being of wutai-ish flavour. No race or mass-produced unit corresponds to this trope.
  • White Magic: Life is chock full of beneficial enchantments, healing spells, and the like.
  • Wizard Beard: Merlin and some Mage heroes have these.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Illusionary attacks, deadly because they completely ignore all defenses unless a unit has immunity to illusions.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Mana, Food. Less fluid resources include population, spell research and Fame.
  • Zerg Rush: Vital for any race that can't build a University. Since they can't build their own technological infrastructure, they'll have to use their early-game units to quickly conquer a more builder-oriented race. Several races, however, prefer the Tank Rush variant instead; War Trolls, Klackon Stag Beetles and High Elven Longbowmen are all devastatingly effective if you building-blitz for them in the early game.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Zombie Mastery spell raises all dead normal units in a battle as zombies for your army, creating an endless shambling horde of the dead with no maintenance cost (beyond that for Zombie Mastery in the first place).


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