Spells in this world is broken down into several categories, each designed to fill a certain niche:

Enchantment Spells

  • These are spells designed to capture cosmic power within a crafted item, so that its power can be called upon in times of need.

Protection Spells

  • These are spells designed to ward a user, object, or location against a variety of possible harms

Transmogrifcation Spells

  • These are spells designed to fundamentally alter or control another living being or creature.

Transmutation Spells

  • Changing the makeup of different materials or combining them with others to make new forms of matter.

Divination Spells

  • These are spells designed to allow a user to perceive in ways that go beyond his five senses.

There are two kinds of magic systems: sorcery and druyadism. Sorcery involves using the individual's own finite mana (life energy) in order to create effects in the physical world, and must be replenished after long periods of use. This form of magic requires circles, various materials, and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. Druyadism doesn't use the person's mana, but involves the mana of nature itself, which is infinite. This form of magic is more ritualistic, requiring hours to setup, and requires certain steps in order to work.

I need for both of these systems to be able to perform the kinds of spells I mentioned. However, I need them to be used for different purposes for different reasons. People should need to choose between one of these forms depending on the situation. How do I design rules that that revolve around balancing these systems, so that they are capable of doing the same things but used for different needs?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ "She's channeling the power of a god, you dolt. I'm wrestling arcane energies from the very fabric of the universe; it's completely different." - Raistlin, commenting on the differences between mages and clerics. In your world I'm not sure who is who. It's not for different reasons, it's simply because the other is likely unavailable to you; there aren't that many mage/clerics. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Apr 24, 2019 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder, do the people of your world really have five senses? We don't. $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    Apr 25, 2019 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ Btw, to answer to question on the title "How would I use different systems of magic when they are capable of the same effects?" they can emulate each other, in particular enchantment can emulate them all. Protection could do transmutation, and trasmutation could do Enchantment and Transmogrifcation. Divination... ern... how could divination be capable of the same effects as the others? I am rolling a blank there. $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    Apr 25, 2019 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Theraot Well, we also don't have the four humors (well, we do have blood, bile etc., but you know what I mean :)). Outdated science (or "science", in this case) is outdated :) $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Apr 25, 2019 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ There is a series of books by Andrew Rowe called Sufficiently Advance Magic which have a similar balancing issue. It solves it by making your magic type assigned (you have no choice) so wouldn't work in this case but the combinations and "off-the-label" usage people find for their "weak" magic might help as well as the descriptions given of each in the appendix $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2019 at 11:53

7 Answers 7


Sorcery doesn't work well in areas where the world's magic is strong.

Kind of like trying to connect to WiFi near a microwave oven, sorcery can't be used reliably in areas where the world's mana interferes with a person's internal mana.

This unreliability can be accounted for in a few ways. If you have enough people casting the spell together, it will work if their combined mana can overcome the mana of the surrounding area. You can also cast simpler spells fairly well, since there isn't much room for error. In either case, you'll use much more mana than you would otherwise. Very complex and powerful spells are almost never going to work correctly and can't be cast without extreme risk.

This also helps you explain the difference in casting times and methods between your two systems. A person has control over the flow of their own mana, but the complex patterns of the world's mana can't be controlled or predicted by people. Thus, your caster has to spend extra time attuning themselves to the world's mana flows. Since the flow can't be directed the way the spell typically demands, druyadism casters have to modify the spellcasting technique to utilize what's available. Changing up the recipe like this means that natural mana influences the spell in subtle ways, but the caster can still achieve the exact effect they want.

This also means that druyadism has issues in areas where the world's mana is weaker. Amassing more casters won't help here like it does with sorcery. Instead, the caster needs to expand his ritual area, and spells might require even more extra steps to compensate.


Different methods take different time or effort.

Lighting a fire to cook your dinner might take an hour of chanting with druyadism, or 3 seconds to snap off a quick fireball via sorcery. Harvesting apples from a tree may require targeting every fruit individually using sorcery, but druyadism lets you ask the tree for sustenance, and run around catching the produce as it all falls down.

People who know how to use both sorcery and druyadism will look not just at the end result (which would be almost the same for both spells) but for the time, effort, energy and complexity required to get there. The cost-benefit may vary based on which of those you currently value the most (e.g. a long-but-easy spell is fine if you have a lazy afternoon free, but if you are rushed for time then the faster hard-and-draining spell is better)


Imagine you want to boil some water to brew some tea. How can you achieve it?

  • You can put the water on some fire to supply energy
  • You can use an electric resistance to supply energy
  • You can dissipate mechanical work to supply energy
  • You can drop some radioactive element to supply energy
  • [...]

In all the above cases the effect is the same (the water boils), but the mean is different. If one has wood, it makes sense to use fire. If one has electricity, it makes sense to use electric resistance.

Use a similar approach with your magic systems.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I understand the wood/electricity method, but I'd love an explanation for nuclear tea! $\endgroup$
    – Martijn
    Apr 24, 2019 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Martijn, if I remember correctly, one of the first nuclear scientist got burned by the heat produced by a sample of purified radioactive element he put in his pocket. For further reference, in the Martian a RTG is used to warm up the inside of a vehicle. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 24, 2019 at 14:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think that's the option that would technically work to boil water, but you wouldn't pick it for your specific goal (to make tea). :P Or alternately, making British super heros. $\endgroup$
    – Meg
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Meg, never heard of the awesome radioactive toothpaste? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, Which of these does Microwave fall under? That is the only way I know* how to boil water. (*am able to because I'm lazy) $\endgroup$
    – Tezra
    Apr 24, 2019 at 19:14

The less symmetry the better.

For any kind of real, robust balance, you basically need things that one kind of magic is compeletely incompetent at, that the other isn't. And the set of such areas needs to be broad and important.

If there isn't a lot of symmetry, then one of the two will turn out to be more useful. If you then add in any kind of iterative improvement/investment possibilities, investment in the more useful one is going to make it blow the other one out of the park.

As an example, the rotary or Wankel car engine. It has a number of fundamental advantages over the cylinder engine we use for cars, and for a long time it competed. But the advantages where not asymmetrical enough, resulting in far more investment into optimizing the cylinder engine. Even in areas where the Wankel engine is theoretically better, the heavily optimized cylinder engine can match or exceed actual Wankel engine performance.

Find some split in the set of problems. Maybe Sorcery magic doesn't work on "organic" matter (including plastics) directly, while Druyadism doesn't work on metals directly.

So a Sorcery protection charm would work on Chainmail, while Druyadism could protect a human directly, or work on relatively normal clothing.

Sorcerers would harvest apples by enchanting scissors and metal baskets. Druids might directly enchant the trees and some plastic bags.


If energy is energy, you should be able to convert one into the other, or at least use them for the same purposes. So, we take as a given that both sorcerers and druids can do all of the kinds of magic.

On the other hand, why would one prefer one or the other? Sure, they have some symmetry, they need a bias. In particular, we know that druids has access to a larger pool of energy (Nature mana). Plus you handicap sorcery in that it requires down time. That gives a remarkable advantage to druids. Why would one want to use sorcery?

I have some ideas:

  • Individual mana is limited, but it is readily available. On the other hand, Nature's mana is limitless, yet it flows much slower. This means that you can accumulate large quantities of Nature mana over time for a huge spell. However, if you need to cast on a pinch, you will be using Individual mana.

  • Using Individual mana hurts the caster, it might kill them. It would be foolish to use carelessly. Thus, anything done with good setup will probably use Nature mana unless there is reason to do otherwise.

  • The caster has much better control over Individual mana. Using Nature mana could result in worst precision. Meaning that anything that needs to be done carefully is probably done with Individual mana.

I want to note that we can workaround these limitations. On one hand we can have Nature mana stored for later use, and on the other we can have many magicians giving some of thier individual mana to be able to make a huge spell. Yet, executing these workarounds requires prep time and coordination. Thus, these are not the common case.

We can also argue that with training a magician could become better at controlling Nature mana, or increase their pool of Individual mana (or both). In fact, having these be two distinct paths of progression for an individual would mean that magicians would not be switching on a whim.

Which kind of spell would be done with Individual mana or Nature mana? all of them. The difference is not on the categories you have. Instead it is on their scope. However one will be more common than the other for each one.


Given that Enchantment is something done in preparation for later use, we can expect that most enchantment is done with Nature mana. (Heck, you say they use "cosmic power", I don't know what you mean by that, but I would bet it is not Individual mana).

On the other hand, complex enchantment might require finer control, meaning that magicians would have to use Individual mana to do it. Which also means that those are enchantments that are not done often.

I would also assume that there is improvised ad-hoc enchantment, something that a magician could do to get by in a dire situation where there are not many resources or time avaiblable. That could be done with Individual mana. Again, not a common occurence.


When we do a protection spell, does it last forever? I would expect protection spells to decay. That suggest that a strong protection spell is done with Nature mana (so you can put a lot on it, and perhaps keep adding).

Yet, on a pinch, the magician could draw some Individual mana for an ad-hoc protection spell. It comes at a trade off, of course, yet if it protected the user from a particulary nasty spell that took'em by surpose it might be worth it.

I suppose not all protection magic is negating casts and placing shields. In fact, I bet people who learn to make a seal learn to break it. However, bypassing the security protection of a spell probably requires finer control than setting it up. In fact, magicians might not know before hand if we are going to have to do it, so no prep time. Oh look, they are preparing a nasty spell inside, we must break in fast! Making this a good candidate for Individual mana.


Transmogrifcation could be like surgery, you need to put the right ammount of mana in the right places. And to do that you need very fine control. Also, we are acting on a living and kicking being that will not wait for the Nature mana to accumulate. I think Transmogrifcation will often be done with Individual mana.

I do not know your setting, however, I can imagine that some special creatures could require much more mana than the average individual could deliver. Making the use of Transmogrifcation on them a large project. Perhaps some try with Nature mana, accumulated for the occasion.

In fact this could be a good situation to bring up the might-go-wrong trope.


Moving stuff around or doing chemestry with magic should not be expensive. There energy is there in the matter, the magician needs to channel it. I think Individual mana makes sense.

However, when it comes to converting an element to another, are we not talking about holding a nuclear reaction with magic? To convert lead to gold the magician will probably need a lot of energy. I know there is an argument for fine control here, yet, if it were to go boom fine control is buying you nothing. You want strong containment instead. Thus, I would suggest Nature mana for that.

Oh, about it going wrong? it would mean you don't get the substance you were expecting, or not as much quantity. It is about precision. So, no it will not summon a monster or open a black hole.


I can think of a few things to fall in here:

  • Percieve what is far away
  • Percieve mana
  • Percieve the future
  • Percieve the past (psychometry or trace scrying)
  • Percieve luck? I do not know if that is a thing in your setting
  • Percieve love? I do not know if that is a thing in your setting
  • Percieve truth? I do not know if that is a thing in your setting
  • Percieve... ern... microwaves?

Those are what? eight spell? Is that all from this school?

Future, past and far away are defying space-time. I'll put those on "needs a lot of mana" and say that people probably use Nature mana for anything significant. Which could mean that things could not be seen as clear or even predictions sometimes go wrong, makes sense to me.

Percieve mana has to be something usually done with Individual mana. Because I find it hard to believe that magicians learn to control Nature mana before percieving it.

As per other odd senses, I would say they are Individual mana too, following the same ideas as in Transmogrifcation above.

For abtract:

Of course Individual and Nature mana can be used for any case, yet some are uses are more common:

  • Individual mana is often used for: complex enchantment, ad-hoc enchantment, ad-hoc protection, breaking protection, common transmogrifcation, trivial transmutation, mana perception, odd divination.
  • Nature mana is often used for: common enchantment, common protection, special transmogrifcation, deep transmutation, spacetime divination.

There is wiggle room and I have mentioned things that I have no idea if they exist in your setting, also a few of these things could made less practical by the time to prepare the rituals. And as I was saying in the answer to your prior question, some of these categories could be underdeveloped, which is another way to nerf them. So, feel free to move around what I said. It is your world.


I don't recall the system, but there was one I played years back that had a similar differentiation between magic that they called rituals and rotes. Rotes were spells that you memorized ahead of time to perform exactly the same way every time, so they were very specific. Casting a rote spell was pretty much guaranteed to succeed, and only took a moment and some mana to cast.

The second you wanted to change a detail about the spell, it had to be treated as a ritual. You would have to sit down and plan out all of its details for several minutes, hours, or even days, to be able to cast it depending on how extravagant the spell is, and how similar it is to your existing rotes.

As your mechanic stands, a person would typically be compelled to use their mana to do things faster since they could just fall back on the power of nature when they need to. But memorization takes a lot of time; so, wizards would have to be mindful of what's worth putting that much time into learning, and what's worth doing ad hoc at a disadvantage.


All systems of magic are systems of manipulating energy. - credit my (then) 6 year old son, after watching "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and "Naruto".

In your case, it's much simpler because both systems you posit are manipulating the same mana, just obtaining it from different sources.

Druyadism is the foundation of both systems. It provides the basics of tapping into mana sources and the foundational spells.

Sorcery is learning to tap into your own mana, which is decidedly more limited in scale but infinitely closer at hand than all of nature.

Sorcery is quick and dirty, and comes at higher personal cost. You can tap your own mana quickly and efficiently, like going to the pantry for a can of beans, but you can't sustain anything really demanding or prolonged, like feeding 500 people for three days. Since you can be quick and dirty about it, and it doesn't need to last, people are prone to take shortcuts and do half-way jobs "just enough to get it done so we can move on to the next problem".

Druyadism requires more preparation - like going down to the local restaurant supply shop, but allows a mortal to perform larger feats for a prolonged period of time than they could on just their own mana.


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