Making Magic Work (or throwing out ideas for Magic)

hey look zora rants for a few minutes of your time

i love using these spaces as dividers between thoughts because i can’t organize to save my life

sorry if this is a bit long winded and nonsensical, I’ve wanted to ask about this for a while now and just had no idea where to start

Magic holds a dear place in my heart, as a nerd who loves overcomplicating how I play Fire Emblem. (usually through using awful characters like Dorothy or Lot, using bad weapons like getting Dorcas to A rank Bows or getting Hector to S rank Swords during a draft race, or just the thought of actually using Caspar in 3H lmao)

But Magic has this problem for me - I both love how it’s implemented and absolutely hate it.

intro comments on why i like/hate magic

Magic is incredible because it provides a way of handling the vastly more common physical units with terrible Resistance without worrying about a weapon triangle interfering with hit rates, and units tend to be good in spite of frequently having some rather glaring flaws like absolute lack of bulk or poor speed. Sophia might be absolutely awful, but she still uses Flux to hit low enemy Res and can get some kills; the late game FE6 Stave users in Yoder and Niime don’t demonstrate outstanding offensive potential or bulk, respectively, but can use every status staff you could possibly want to great effect; Lugh and Lute, in spite of their awful bulk, can reliably do good damage against everything and don’t worry about anything without counting Javelins or Hand Axes.

However, here is no real reason to ‘vary’ your Magic users, or at least no need to differentiate between which one. An Anima and Dark caster in FE8, were we to give them the exact same stats, wouldn’t really be notable apart from each other, although Luna and Nosferatu tend to beat out easier access to generic stronger tomes like Fimbulvertr or Elfire. This goes in contrast to what I feel is the case for the main physical trinity, where a Fighter tends to help out a ton if your army is full of Sword users. Both of them will annihilate anything short of an enemy Bishop with nearly maxed Resistance late-game.

I just completed my first and only FE6 run, an Iron Man, where I wound up using Lugh and Sophia (Raigh and Niime died.) The two felt fairly interchangable, with the only real difference being the long wind-up for Sophia to catch up followed by the two of them either one shotting or leaving enemies at sub 10 HP for the entire second half of the game. The only ‘unique’ thing about my time with Niime and Yoder once he joined was the fact they could use the Berserk and Hammerne staves upon recruitment. Both just didn’t feel… unique?
Wherareas using someone like Lot and Ogier had real personality between the two, both thanks to Ogier having actual hit rates and Lot being at least semi-consistent with a Hand Axe at two range; both started to one round everything about chapter 16, which continued until the final chapters where both sort of fell off a cliff without using Durandal/Armads.

ways I came up with to fix my problems with magic

Is there any way to fix that?
Is there a way to actually make it worth to vary up which magic users you should pick and choose, or at least to incentivize a player to bring one type of magic to counter a specific enemy lineup?

I really like the Path of Radiance/Radiant Dawn approach, with Anima tomes having effective damage against specific enemy types based on the type of magic, although I can imagine the dangers in doing that if we set it to anything actually common like Cavalry or Armors.

I also wonder if a strong Weapon Triangle would incentivise, at the very least, having Magic users who can bring multiple weapon types to actually care about bringing them.

But I also know that making an emphasis on Magic can completely warp the game, since that can involve adding a ton of enemy Mages to make the weapon triangle even worth considering. Or, it can make 1-2 range that’s physical become mandatory on physical classes if it’s REALLY overkill.

As for me, I would want to see a really strong weapon triangle tied to just having Anima magic in a project (Have the Holy and Dark magic be plot points or PRF locked, outside of the weapon triangle.) Add onto this certain chapters where the enemy roster is mostly or entirely mages, ex. fighting an entire mage school in a training ground or just having a large sect. of an army led by a Sage to be all Mages. While I do like the RD approach of weapon effectiveness, unless a project specifically has a ton of Wyvern Riders and Manaketes everywhere, AND you have an excuse to throw a third effectiveness on top.

That, or I could just be entirely wrong and Anima-Light-Dark is the best way and it needs incentives idk honestly, I’m a shite game designer for a reason lmao

One of y’all that actually knows how to balance things, please tell me your thoughts so I can either feel vindicated that my opinion is correct or give me the ability to understand others opinions better; especially if I ever decide to do a project myself again. If ever.

[insert end to post that i dont know how to end]


I agree that this is generally a problem. For my project (And I stole this from The Lion Throne) the three magic types have a lot of additional effects that are unique to that scool of magic. I am also not using the staves category and staves are instead tomes spread out over the three magic types (I’m still on the fence about that). So light mages also heal and buff others. Anima mages get stat buffs from some of their own magic, and get AOE spells. Dark mages get a lot of hexing and debuffing enemies.

Not saying this is THE approach but I am relatively happy with it for the moment.

There’s your problem.

But I think the point is that the same is not true for say, an axe user and a sword user, had they the exact same stats, because in practice, swords and axes differ more than say, light and dark magic.


I guess in that case you could change the tome’s mt, hit, wt, etc.

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I made magic always 2 range, melee 1 range, and debuffs that deal low dmg as 1-2 range. I think this works nicely. That said, my project revamps everything, so it is far-removed from fe magic, I think.

You could make a magic type debuff enemy stats.

AoE is also a good suggestion no bias


You absolutely can! There is still the problem though of the magic triangle not coming into play as often as the weapon triangle, unless you completely reimagine the enemy makeup, and I believe this was part of ZoramineFae’s initial point?

My hack has a huge focus on magic, with all of the main characters being mages. Every playable mage has a unique spell list, with spells not being interchangeable between characters. And spell uses are restored between chapters.

The distinction between each is as follows:

Anima deals effective damage to different units depending on the element. Anima is the uncommon type mostly reserved for main characters.
Water-No effective bonus but ignores defense (because the target is suffocating).

Light has high range and/or crit.

Dark has defensive utility through either equip bonuses or health stealing.

And each type faces a weapon disadvantage when being attacked by (but not when attacking) a sword, lance, or axe in order to represent the difficulty of casting in melee combat. Light is -20, Anima is -10, and Dark is -5.

In terms of vanilla, I think the magic triangle had the most impact in FE4 because in the early FE games, even most magic users didn’t have much RES. Nowadays, magic users often can’t do much damage to each other because of nearly universal high or at least above average RES for magic users. So it winds up being like two armors fighting each other without effective weapons. In FE4, having a mage with fire fight a mage with wind was a bit more of a dangerous position to be in. I once even had those mage sisters from Freege kill Forseti Arthur with their triangle attack.

So I think part of the problem is how homogenized stats for magic users became around the Tellius era, where we rarely get fast mages with middling magic stats anymore. Pretty much all mages are on the slowish side with high MAG and RES growths. But FE7 is probably when IS started trying to nerf magic by giving bosses inflated RES stats where in previous FEs mages were often some of the most viable boss killers. FE9 and FE10 gave Tomes very little base power so having high MAG became a lot more important. So I think IS generally struggles with balancing magic because a lot of the games’ systems are designed more with the idea of melee units fighting each other.


The big problem with magic in Vanilla FE is that they don’t feel different from physical weapons that just target the weaker defensive stats.

It’s why i love what Echoes and Three Houeses did. Magic actually feels like Magic in there games (even if it comes with it’s own balance problems). But it was still not enough imo, but a step in the right direction.

What Magic needs imo is more interactions with the field and more effects. For example, what if Fire magic burned down forest terrain? What if Wind magic gave flying movement while Earth magic nullified desert Terrain effect and/or dealt effective damage to units on desert? What if we had a magic that could create illusions of units?

Stuff like that


First, I want to say: yes these line breaks are nice

On to the actual point, I like how Shining Force 2 handled its magic. You have the average magic that’s an AoE that deals the same amount of damage to all targets, regardless of how many there are, then you have summons that are also AoE, but they split damage across all targets, so it’s normally better to try to hit just one target.

Fire Emblem’s magic is really just a “attack a different defense type” sort of thing. There isn’t really much to set it apart from other means of attack other than attacking resistance. I think it could do with having a bigger impact on your thought process other than just hitting low res enemies.

In my perfect magic world, I’d keep how vanilla magic works, but add things like a few AoE spells, and make certain spells change the environment. Making it snow/rain, turning targeted tiles into damaging floors, and increasing the move of nearby allies for a turn at a cost (maybe one cast per map) to name a few.

TLDR: I like how magic is now, but it needs to be more than just the attack to avoid high defense. Extra stuff like AoE, or changing the environment would go a long way imo

I hope that made sense

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If the wizards are too strong, increase the res of the enemies.
I think the problem with GBAFE is that the only non-wizard unit with high res is the Falcon Knight.

And GBAFE is not a game about getting attacked and cutting each other, it’s a game about avoiding attacks with spd and luck.
Therefore, wizard units, which tend to have higher spd and luck, have a greater advantage.
As a countermeasure, try increasing the hit rate of all weapons by 10-20, so that enemy attacks will hit you more often.

In addition, try to increase the hit and evade values of the Weapon Triangle and introduce capture.
This will make the Weapon Triangle more valuable.
For example, if you want to capture a unit with Dark, the chances of success are much higher if you can challenge it with a unit using Light.

The solutions, in order of priority, are as follows

  1. increase the res of the enemy
  2. increase weapon hit rate by 10-20
  3. increase the WeaponTrianle value a bit and introduce a Capture system

I’m not sure about the AoE.
However, it seems to me that if the enemy uses it, it would be a terrible weapon because it would break the phalanx.
Since the weak point of a crowded formation is artillery fire, it seems to me that AoE has an anti-phalanx effect.

If it’s an attack that only the player can use (which seems like a cowardly thing to do), it seems to me that it would have the effect of collectively weakening enemy stacks before a decisive battle, like the stone throwers and fighters in Civ.
How that changes the game, I’m not sure.
Maybe it would be a similar approach to the modern tactic of thoroughly bombing the enemy with AoE and then deploying ground troops in the weakened areas.

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There are so many threads and thoughts running through my mind in attempting to craft a reply to this. I guess the easiest way is to just dive into how I would do things?

To start, I do appreciate SoV and 3H’s Per Character Magic Lists, though I don’t agree with either implementation of them at the end of the day. I think that every character should be able to cast magic, regardless of whether they’re in a magic-using class or not (ideally, I would have a Class-less system entirely, but I am not opposed to simply having something like a General having a hampered number of casts of Magic compared to a Sage). Personally, I would use some kind of pseudo “MP” system to determine maximum casts instead of how 3H did it, letting the player determine how to make the most of their non-weapon casts instead of saying that Spell A can be used X times and Spell B can be used Z times. If the player wants to use Spell B Z+1 times at the expense of casts of Spell A (maybe X-2 for example), that gives them more flexibility and freedom in how they play a map.

I also don’t like only having magic through what a unit has learned since it does inherently stratify who can be bettet than others with what they learn - I feel like units should either be able to learn things through being attacked by them or being adjacent to a unit using them OR Tomes or a generic equivalent should be usable too, with the Spell Lists potentially giving you access to something earlier like Linde having access to Aura at E and not having to consume durability on what might be a limited resource, depending on the magic.

Of course, the big thing is that it’s really not enough to just have only GBA Anima/Light-style variances between tomes. There are already less tomes available per type than physical weapons and the fact that, outside of Dark, none of them really do anything beyond damage is almost criminal. But, honestly, even just doing Killer/Brave/Effective/Devil/Reaver/etc. effects really isn’t doing enough. Have tomes grant skills (a high level Light tome granting Astra or a weak Fire tome granting something like a Seal skill), give them wide-ranging Ranges, pack in other new effects (little tougher for hacking, but), and add in some of the series staples too. Have a Fire spell deal damage to adjacent targets after combat. Make Rewarp a non-damaging Wind Spell that boosts the unit’s evasion until their next turn but prevents them from counterattacking.

There are plenty of things that magic could be doing to diversify the series’ gameplay, but those things haven’t really been embraced. Luckily, there are other engines to allow us to express ourselves as well as new ASM innovations to help bring other things into hacking.

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First thing I’d like to mention is how little Tellius’ effective damage on magic types actually comes into play. In FE9, being able to use the effective damage is more common, but x2 effectiveness on top of the tiny might stats makes it meaningless. In FE10, it’s 3x effectiveness, but you’re likely to not make use of it even once. When fighting beat laguz, none of the dawn brigade can use fire magic, there are almost never enemy pegasi or birds to use wind against, same goes for thunder, barely any wyverns/dragons. Even when you can make use of it, you’ll likely have a better unit to attack with than a mage because their stats suck, and tome might is still very low.

I’ve seen people “take inspiration” from the tellius system before, and it’s a dangerous thing to design around, especially if you decide to include cavalry and armors in the effectiveness. It’s very easy to make classes that are weak to a magic type comparably useless to basic foot units that are weak to nothing. The tome stats need to be adjusted carefully.

also don’t combine low res armors with thunder weakness

As for the lack of uniqueness among the 3 magic types, you could take measures to differentiate them, but I’ve really never played an FE where it’s valuable to have multiple magic types, and I’ve played a lot of games and hacks. When someone does figure out a system to make very unique magic types, I usually find looking at the differences to be dizzying. Others likely won’t agree with this take, but I’d prefer to get rid of the different magic types, and just have magic be magic. Nosferatu doesn’t need to be a dark tome to be Nosferatu, Aura doesn’t need to be a light tome to be Aura, etc.

this also frees up two spaces for cool new weapon types


While i think we may need to look outside of fire emblem to see how other games/franchises balance and diferentiate magic types, the problem that often comes with giving more identity to weapons/magic in these games is that fire emblem is a series where most units die in one or two hits, which limits the viablity of things like debuffs. (Why lower a boss’s strength by 10 when he dies before the end of this phase?) This aspect of how these games are designed means that the only differences that truly matter in most circunstances are the one which take effect immediately upon use, weapon effectiveness, ignoring defense/resistance or just good old stats being different, this greatly limits the design options developers can have. To this day the fire emblem game that had the highest chance at making magic feel special was echoes/gaiden due to how tanky units can be in that game, but even then most of the time the only difference between two spells is damage, hit, range and hp cost.
I think a fire emblem game that slows down its pace would be a massive gamechanger in terms of creative weapons, maps, gameplay in general since it would allow for more niche ideas to shine.

It could take inspiration from other games.

As has been mentioned before an mp system could change things a lot, if we go all the way back to Romancing saga1 on the snes, where every school of magic had it’s own mp pool,(lets say we fuse staffs and light magic for example) players could be forced to decide between killing an enemy with their light mage that no other unit can kill this turnor save their mp to heal, maybe even have them decide between using warp early to get chests you cant get otherwise but as a result you only can have one or two heals for the entire chapter.
In a situation like that a mage with hybrid light/anima has a massive advantage, being able to remain useful for much longer, even if they have much lower stats.

We could even have dark magic that lowers the durability of enemy weapons, in a slower paced game using two or three dark tomes to break the boss’ killer weapon could save a lot of trouble since just killing them wouldn’t be as easy.

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I think the way FE does offensive magic is fundamentally difficult to differentiate between different types and any mention of a magic triangle is completely pointless outside of flavour.

I do think that incorporating more of the FE3H gambits as magic spells is the right way to go (and let’s face it - gambits are just magic) and making some spells character or class specific is probably a step in the right direction. I also mostly liked FE3H’s magic system, although I wish they would have just given infinite uses of the basic spells.

So basically, some form of basic, unlimited attack plus utility or “stuff that doesn’t necessarily kill but maims the enemy” seems about right.


I think that the approach to magic is dependent on the story of the game or hack, more so than other weapons meaning that many designers have to essentially reinvent the wheel whenever they want to do something new, making it hard to come up with a concise answer for fixing magic.

( I need to use these more)
I personally like the approach of magic being a somewhat rare occurrence and a powerful enemy, with most units having rock bottom resistance (Most of the early FEs did this). This makes both high res and high magic units stand out more.

I also think that magic weapons need to be more experimental, for example the fire tome in my hack has around 60 hit but high might for a cheap tome, with thunder being more accurate but also weaker in comparison.

There also needs to be more differences between magic types.
I made dark magic very rare for lore reasons but also have around 100 hit on each tome with special effects, making it something that needs to be worked around rather than just dashed through.
As I said before Anima magic has a mix between low hit and high might, and high hit and low might.
Finally Light magic is the most balanced type of magic, making it reliable, albeit uninteresting.

I also believe that the playable magic users themselves are important, the same glass cannon magic archetype won’t feel unique, it’ll just feel like another magic user, doing something unique with their stats will greatly help.

just as an example, make one of your mages high in defense, we rarely see that in a magic user and it would give them a unique purpose compared to any other mage.

You can go a lot of different ways when reworking magic, it’s not something as simple as axe have low hit high might, sword have high hit low might, and lance have mid hit mid might.

No matter where you want to go with magic it won’t be easy to balance or make it feel unique, it’ll always be a balancing act, however, I could argue that not having balance is part of the fun with Fire Emblem, so I say people should experiment more with magic.

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Magic can definitely be implemented better.

The first change is that different spells should have different purposes to create variety. 3H Dark Magic (not Dark Magic Users, as they have their own problems like genderlocks and being footlocked with armor knight movement) is usually a good example of this - Miasma is the starter spell, Swarm doubles as Seal Speed, Mire drops Defense, Banshee cripples Movement, Luna ignores Res, Death is a killer tome, Dark Spikes kills cavs and Hades hits like a truck. Even Bohr is an unconventional siege tome while the one use of Quake serves as a “hurry-up” warning since letting the boss cast it is very dangerous. While not all spells should be like this with after effects, variance can still happen with stats, such as a spell with very low weight but also low might to make mages dodgy, or one with high might but low accuracy. Group-hitting spells introduced by 3H Meteor would also change up the standards, letting mages serve as crowd control, especially when combined with gameplay that makes sending in a juggernaut and pressing End Turn unsafe.

Second change is to split up mage roles and diversify mage classes. We all know footlocked mages with armor mobility suck. We also know cav mages with high speed shred entire armies because of constant 1-2 range. Simply make mages different from each other. Squishiness can be a factor - if it’s the Est or Lena, then squishiness in exchange for firepower is a good balance. One mage can have theif-like speed and evasion in exchange for mediocre magic and nonexistent durability. Mage Armors with no speed but have good mixed bulk. The mounted mage may have mobility, but their stats aren’t as good as their footlocked counterparts. Just don’t make Mage Fliers with high stats - they break the game to pieces.

Do not have widespread effective damage like RD. A few spells with reaver or effective damages is fine, such as a dedicated anti-flier tome or anti-cav spell. Giving too many spells these attributes simply makes mages broken in that they have too much to play around with, being able to counter just about anything if they have the weapons to do it with.

Avoid giving hybrid units too much stats. Hybrid units already have the advantage of being able to hit either defensive stat. If their all-around stats are high, then combined with physical weapons, they become virtually impossible to survive a round against due to their insane utility. Their utility should be balanced by things such as poor mobility (Jugdral Barons), being only mediocre on one side of the spectrum (3H Trickster, Holy Knight) or having poor availability (Must train up a Trainee or Est, Gotoh unit).

Could Elemental Resistances be a good Idea? With that I mean like in RPGs where for example an enemy commonly found in the Iceland would have like 30% Wind Resistance (for this case we’ll use Wind, but Ice Resistance could also work), but also -30% Fire Resistance (in this case the elemental resistance would be counted after the atk gets divided by enemy res so for example Fire Sage has 37 Atk with a 100% Elemental Fire Tome, attacks an Enemy with 7 Res resulting in the damage being 30, then the -30% Fire Resistance multiplier gets added, resulting in the damage being 39). You could also have weapons infused with magic element to make use of the enemy’s weakness or if you want to got that far, have accessories that grant a element when using a weapon or that boost the element % even further, causing more damage since the -30% resistance would be increased further (with that I mean like 50% Fire Element then the -30% Fire Resistance would get counted as only -15% Resistance since it’s only half the original element, then 200% Fire Element which would make the -30% Fire Resistance get counted as -60% Fire Resistance since the Fire Element is doubled, thus amplifying the weakness/resistance).

Would this be a good idea? If there were Elemental Resistances/Weaknesses then the several magic types could be each worth using to make use of the enemy weakness and could also open up the floodgates to have several magic weapons since then there would be a reason have them/use them other than “oooooohhhhh, cavalry effectiveness, totally not like Zanbatos/Ridersbanes/Halberds exist”. Not only that, but you could also include several variations of a class with different elemental resistances, like for example a Desert Bandit who has a 20% Fire Resistance, but -20% Ice/Wind Resistance due to being used to the scorching heat of the desert but not being used to the cold since he most likely never experienced it in his life and a Tundra Bandit who has a 40% Ice/Wind Resistance but a -30% Fire Resistance since he’s used to the cold in the tundra but not to overexcessive heat which would melt him easily. Of course, there is the problem that FE is not completely fitting for percentage based stuff since the stats exactly mean what they say unlike other SRPGs, but as long as you don’t go too overboard with the resistances (maybe around 20-30%?) I think it would be a good idea to have them in.

AOE magic pls