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This is a follow up to a previous question: How can mages regard fast magic as a form of evil?

There are 2 forms of magic in this world, the first of which is performed through a series of steps. A mage sits in the center of a drawn invocation circle, surrounded by the various ingredients needed to perform the spell. The mage then utters the incantation, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours depending on the spell. The gods, being universally worshiped in the world, are morally ambiguous when it comes to magic. There are spells which require harmless ingredients like eye of newt, and there are spells that require the body parts of recently killed children. Either way, the gods are indifferent to concepts such as good and bad. The second form disregards invocation circles and the use of ingredients, simply depending on incantations to perform spells. It is therefore a quicker and more effective use of magic, saving time, resources, and expenses. however, it is regarded as evil due to the fact that it comes from devils of another plane, and ignores the rituals of the gods ( ingredients, circles, etc).

Since the first form of magic is slow, it is very inconvenient when going up against a dark wizard. The latter would wipe the floor with them in a confrontation. Therefore, evil magic will always defeat good magic. What advantage can slow magic have over fast magic that would give them a chance of winning?

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    $\begingroup$ You say that fast magic "is considered evil". Is there any downsides other than bad press ? Does it corrupts or hurt you or something ? $\endgroup$ – Echox Nov 15 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Newton, god of Newts, disagrees that eye of newt is a harmless spell ingredient. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Nov 15 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ are you guys talking about a game? what is this $\endgroup$ – Pemba Tamang Nov 16 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ Hey Incognito: this one is totally yours. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/84613/…. Why not ask the moderators to move it under your name and claim all that rep? $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 16 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ If the gods are morally indifferent, you can't call demon magic 'evil' because the gods are not 'good'. I think 'disloyal' is the word you are looking for. If you try to claim that spells requiring recently-butchered child body parts are "good", you're going to lose a significant fraction of the audience, even you did that deliberately in order to have the characters figure this out during the story, because it's a bit hard to swallow. $\endgroup$ – Dayton Williams Nov 17 at 8:45

15 Answers 15

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Mage looking at form: "So all this small print at the bottom here..."

Demon: "Boilerplate. Don't worry about it."

Mage (with magnifying glass) - "Terms and conditions - may not work during a full moon...or a new moon...may not work in the presence of black cats..."

Demon: "Look, pal, if you want reliable you gotta pay for it. If you want cheap, fast, slick, you come to us. Those other guys will take ten times as long to do half the work."

Mage: "But the gods are famously reliable. Their protection works every time; their thunderbolts never misfire. A well-prepared divine mage will win every time."

Demon: "Have you seen we're doing a special offer this week?"

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Divine magic uses divine energy, Demon magic utilises your own energy.

Sure, it's faster and easier to cast the fireball spell using Demon magic. But after you cast three in a day, you'll die of exhaustion. Using the traditional circles and ingredients however, you can keep casting them as long as you have the ingredients.

Therefore, in an all out war between two factions, each using a different form of magic, the Demon magic users would need to either sacrifice themselves to cast powerful spells (unlikely, if they're using Demon magic they're probably fairly selfish), or cast less powerful spells than the other side to keep fighting for longer.

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Power, resilience, duration.

This is a bit of a take your pick game. You could set it up like the difference between using a howitzer and using a tommy gun. The howitzer is big and slow, it takes time to move into position and set up, it's slow to fire but when it hits you know all about it. A tommy gun might fire off a lot of rounds in that time, but if you've got your sandbags in place you might not even notice.

Speaking of sandbags, a fast shield spell might be exactly that, fast, but it'll only take a couple of hits. A properly cast shield spell on a circle may be all but permanent.

Consider the hare and the tortoise. The old tortoise may be slow but he lives a lot longer and the arrows will mostly bounce off him.

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The TL;DR Version:

At the core of the matter -- slow magic favours preparation while fast magic rewards improvisation.

Thus, for slow magic to be useful, there needs to be a way that this preparation can defeat the more rapid-fire style casting of the fast mages. Or a flaw in the fast casting system that can be reasonably exploited.

The MWoT Version

On Action and Reaction

First thing, slow magic might be slow to cast, but that does not mean that people are necessarily slow to react. In fact, I would think that they would actually be a bit proactive at sniffing out the evil mages since the more time they have to prepare, the better their chances of victory are. This would not necessarily be an inquisition or zealous crusade, but can take the form of a more observant guard or court mage using a detection ritual.

Magic detection spells to detect the traces of demon magic might be a developed thing, creating pockets of land where evil mages will almost certainly be detected fast.

Special Weapons and Tactics

In terms of actual combat, I can see two main categories where slow magic will be a favoured tactic

  • Pre-combat enhancement of the mage-killer strike force
  • Tactical pre-emptive bombing of the area that an evil mage is found in

Second, as written, there will almost never be a pure caster fight -- the slow caster would almost certainly lose every time in an impromptu fight to all but the most inept evil mages. That or the evil mages that don't realize that they are actually evil mages.

Instead, the more likely thing will be fighters enhanced by slow magic rituals to be able to combat an evil mage -- these can be two different people or one single eldritch knight slash kung fu wizard. Slow magic might also be used to set up a zone that favours their side and/or hinders the evil mage.

Magic Differences

There is much in the question about how the casting of slow and fast magics work, but there is nothing about what each branch of magic is particularly good at. Those differences in specialty could be crucial to how a combat goes.

Slow magic can possess the advantage of versatility in function -- the runes and geometries and materials of the ritual become essentially a language and with it, a large amount of spellcraft can be written and brought to bear when needed. This will likely mean that given enough time and study, there is a spell for every situation, though it might take time to find that spell.

In contrast, fast magic might be really good at a couple of things depending on its caster, but not be really adept at much else outside of that. These things can even vary from caster to caster, giving every fast caster a specialty but also lacking the versatility that slow casters enjoy. Given the possible lack of a formal education for fast casting, learning new spells in the fast system might be inconsistent and patchy.

As one example, slow magic might have a myriad of spells to handle fire all with slightly different parameters that require different spell circles. Fast magic might only have one to three spells to do the same based on power, but it relies on the will of the caster for everything else.

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    $\begingroup$ One thing that could be noted explicitly: since good magic is supported by society, while evil magic is detested, the good magic can be used for more specific roles. The evil wizard need to prepare spells for magic-magic combat, as well as spells for fighting against spellswords, and also has to get the day-to-day stuff done, assuming he doesn't have the support of a society. A good spellsword just preps for fighting wizards -- he has guards to fight ruffians. So he prepares his anti-magic shell and attacks frail old demonic wizard with the ever-popular "stab" spell. $\endgroup$ – Zwuwdz Nov 15 at 19:46
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Lots of magic users. One person, on their own, cannot defeat a demon magic user, as stated above, with the speeds of their magics. However, lots of magic users, although slow, could form a rapid chain of magical discharges, as there are many of them performing at once.

They would be screwed if there are more demon magic users, though...

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    $\begingroup$ There is no potential synergy in cooperation for the demon magic users. Their power is additive and maybe not even that; they drain power from each other. Each works best alone. Cadres of good magic users will always beat evil ones because their power builds exponentially as they cooperate. $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 16 at 3:39
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Traditional wizards are protected by many layers of magical wards.

Traditional magic is indeed slow. As an old-school-wizards you cannot simply cast a fireball when attacked by a rogue Demon user on the street. But you can spend half an hour every morning/week/year-and-a-day (depending on power level of course) to cast Ludwig's Reactive Firespray on yourself. Once cast the spell remains on the user and when in danger summons a half-dozen globules of flame that can then be directed as desired. Other popular spells include Fernandidio's Detect Magic which lets you see the traces of magic that linger on any magic users, and spot Demon users and distinguish them from traditional users. Amelia's port-away gives you a one-time teleport to the circle where you cast it. Bertrand's Aegis will absorb a certain amount of projected energy before dispelling and Stoneskin's Stoneskin is useful against more traditional weapons.

One advantage of being a traditional wizard is there are a million variations of all the possible wards. So when the Demon users figure out Bertrand's Aegis can be circumvented by creating a vacuum around the target to suffocate them, you just swap out that ward for a different one.

In general Demon users are very slow to adapt. While they can throw fireballs at a moment's notice, they are not really wizards. They got their power for free without studying, so they don't know much theory and are bad at the twelve-dimensional game of rock-paper-scissors-ward-spell-counterspell that happens when duelling an experienced wizard.

A duel between Demon users involves a lot of running and jumping. A duel between Traditional wizards involves the two staring at each other for an extended period. It is a race to suss out your opponent's many layers of magical defences, and how to most efficiently expend your own in order to counter them. Then one of them (the loser) suddenly implodes.

Now a user of Demon AND Traditional magic would be almost unstoppable.

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There's an old saying in the software industry:

Fast. Good. Cheap. Pick two.

Similarly, there are tradeoffs in traditional magic versus demon magic.

Traditional magic is slow, reliable, trustworthy, safe. It's the Volvo of magic.

Demon magic is fast, sexy, flashy. It seems so much more powerful, but when it goes wrong, it really goes wrong. You. Are. Trusting. A. Demon. Yeah, demons are lawful, but you're a good customer, not a true partner, and you'll be thrown under the succu-bus as soon as you stop being useful to the demon.

(Did you count your fingers after you shook the demon's hand?)

That power has to come from somewhere, and when the bill comes due you'd better hope it's more like an overdue utility bill than catastrophic climate change.

(Sorry if I sound preachy, but I've seen too many young hotheaded mages make the same mistake... And funny how you never see old users of demon magic.)

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The "good" kind of magic sounds like the type of magic that would need a well organized community in order to actually be useful. A lone mage having to do the rituals, gather the ingredients and find time to study/experiment with new spells would be highly inefficient. By its very nature this type of magic would probably lead mages to gather in groups, get apprentices to do all the gathering & circle drawing for them and fairly quickly lead to an established order of mages. The magic itself also would probably help mages trust each other more since it can't easily be used for surprise attacks.

The "bad" kind on the other hand gives mages plenty of free time and no real use for apprentices (other than maybe target practice). While I imagine some of them would seek out apprentices, spells might end up being closely guarded secrets since any apprentice could very quickly use one against their master if caught off guard. Likewise powerful mages wouldn't probably trust each other too much since magic that's so easy & fast to cast would give them plenty of opportunities to stab each other in the back.

If you prefer not to make the two types of magic differ in power or energy consumption (as suggested in other answers) you could simply have the "good" magic users be much better organized and prepared than the "bad". Cities hosting good mages could have circles and ingredients constantly delivered to spots all around the walls in preparation for an attack. You could even take it a step further and have the apprentice mages do shifts along the walls, constantly casting shield spells around the city, each new shift picking up where the last one left off. They could maybe have attack spells constantly being cast and then "interrupted" just before completion, thus dissuading possible attackers because the retaliation wouldn't take long at all.

Cities would probably pay "good" mage guilds/groups quite well for these sort of protections, lending prestige and status to these mages, and leading many willing volunteers to the mages for training.

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Artillery

Slow magic allows you to make long-range strikes that nobody knows are coming. Fast magic cannot defend against it, while a slow magic shield dome defends perfectly fine against Fast magic.

Buffs

Slow magic makes you physically so much more powerful that you can avoid/no-sell the fast magic.

Economic advantages

Perhaps you can make your own farms much more fertile while withering enemy fields. That gives an economic edge, which translates to a military one.

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All the demons I've ever met lied. They lied like rugs.

Mage (to demon): And this spell will make BeautifulMaidenX fall in love with me?
Demon says: Heck yeah, bud! Like totally!
Demon thinks: this sucks the soul out of her and replaces it with a succubus who will then suck your soul out.

or for defensive spells...

Mage (to demon): How does this spell protect me?
Demon says: It makes your skin hard, so that when the other guy tries to stab you, the blade breaks.
Demon thinks: this spell paralyzes you, so when the other guy stabs you, you die and I get your soul by dinner time.
Mage: Why is it different than the previous one?
Demon says: The new guy studied what you did last time and prepared a counter-spell.
Demon thinks: the previous one was the real spell, which happened because I wanted to fool you into believing me. Now, I'm tired of dealing with you whiny, sniveling human.

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A couple things can differentiate:

Range:

  1. Mages derive magic from indifferent gods - but they are gods. They see and know everything. Mages can perform spells which ignore range or your own perceptions. For example, a mage's "Turn Bob into a newt" spell - Bob can be on vacation in Cancun and suddenly becomes a newt. Because gods, you know?

  2. Demons derive magic from demons - who are not gods. Not omniscient and not all-seeing. A demon says, I want to turn Bob into a newt. He buys a plane ticket, tracks Bob down in Cancun, then says "You are a newt!" Bob is now a newt. But only because the demon knew where Bob was and could see him. Because no gods.

This somewhat throws the balance the other way, but demons have artifacts and relics linked to trapped souls commanded by demons to enhance their powers. Like a crystal ball, which the demon can find Bob, look at him through the ball, and Bob is now a newt. But demon looses his artifact, Demon can't turn Bob into a newt.

Timing:

  1. Mages cast a spell which is essentially a request to the gods, who have very good memories. A mage can put runes for example which tell the gods, "If anyone named Bob uses this toilet, they shall become a newt!" Gods remember this sort of thing and forevermore the latrine is cursed to anyone named Bob. They are good at this kind of cast-and-forget magic. A mage wants it to rain popcorn on his newborn son's 18th birthday, he casts the spell and is done. Even if the mage dies, the kid will be treated to a popcorn shower on his 18th birthday.

  2. Demons again can only affect things in their own sphere of influence - things they can see and touch and hear. If they curse a latrine to turn Bobs into newts, they pretty much have to live in the bathroom. They transport back to their dimension and the curse goes away. Of course, again, Demons can capture and enslave souls to do their dirty work. They can curse a latrine by making a captured soul take up residence in it, then empower the poor slave to turn Bobs into newts. Unfortunately, the demon has to capture a soul first, while a mage just needs eye of newt and draw the happy poo emoticon with some sidewalk chalk to make the gods happy. In short, Demon magic is gone when the demon is gone, unless he enslaves a soul to "enforce" it. If a demon wants it to rain popcorn on someone's 18th birthday he better tell Siri to set a reminder, because he has to be there.

Different combat strategies

Because of these different effects the way demons and mages do combat will be very different, Mages will rely on the protection of cover, allowing their greater range and influence to work for them. They can set very low maintenance ambush traps that can hurt demons even when the mage is not there. Demons rely heavily on strength in numbers, as well as the element of surprise. When a demon ambushes, they have to be present. Demons naturally extend their power by enslaved souls, so they try hard to capture as many as they can. It's very competitive among them, each tricks the other for possession of a fresh soul because souls = slaves = power. Demons also tend to be found around artifacts and relics, which extend their power and are not so easy to keep in their pocket. So altars and worship chambers are a great place for them to be powerful and collect souls. Thus demons prefer combat in these chambers where they are strongest, so their strategy uses bait and deception to lure mages into these traps. They tend to avoid open combat outside "cursed" areas and will run away (toward a trap) if outnumbered or overpowered.

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  • $\begingroup$ these divine casters are so OP $\endgroup$ – beppe9000 Nov 16 at 15:09
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The Problem with Slow Casting

Many of the answers to the prior question, mine included, suggest some sort of cost for using fast casting (a.k.a demonic magic). However, as the OP rightly points out, dark wizards would wipe the floor with mages in a direct confrontation; to win, the wizards simply need the initiative and comparable numbers.

Clearly, for slow casting to not be supplanted by fast casting, it must have some benefit. This benefit would not only have to mitigate the speed difference, but also make slow casting viable enough that mages could rely on it exclusively.

Why Bother with Slow Casting?

Both mages and wizards use incantations to bring magic to life. The words of the spells are used to define the effects the spell caster wishes to create.

But why do mages draw magic circles? Because they serve as a magical conduit, providing a steady stream of the kind of magic power needed for a particular spell to work effectively.

Also, why do mages rely on expensive materials? Because properly prepared materials allow the magic energies of a spell to bind to the physical world. This creates more potent and permanent effects.

By contrast, dark wizards simply pull magical energies out of the ether. This has a number of drawbacks, including the fact that the energy is unstable and will dissipate as quickly.

The Power of Creation versus The Forces of Chaos

Given the universes' inherent tendency towards entropy, destruction is far easier than creation. Any experienced spell caster can summon the magic needed to bust down a door, but only the methodical approach of the mage will work to put the door back onto its hinges. In other words, dark wizards revel in destruction while mages prefer creation.

Because the incantations are the same, a wizard's fast casting and a mage's slow casting can be used for the same general purposes, but the effects will differ dramatically.

  • When a wizard uses fire, flames erupt in an unpredictable fashion, but when a mage uses fire, it only strikes the intended target(s).
  • Wizards can create illusions that confuse, disorient, or distract, but only mages can create an illusion with enough substance and detail to be convincing.
  • Mages can properly mend wounds whereas wizards simply cauterize them; if you care about your long term health, you'll want a mage as your doctor.
  • If a wizard summons a creature to aid them, there is a constant battle of wills to keep that creature subservient, limiting the wizard's power; if a mage summons a creature, though, the creature acts in good faith, allowing the mage to dedicate his full attention to his next spell.
  • Mages can create excellent golems and other constructs with considerable endurance and autonomy; anything created by a wizard will be nothing more than a fragile puppet.
  • Likewise, mages can imbue items with permanent magical properties. Anything a wizard makes will, at best, become inert and useless after a few hours; wizards with less patients or less experience may well create something that blows up after a minute or two. That's great for a bomb, but terrible if you want to equip a soldier with a magical sword.

The last bullet point is a mage's greatest strength. Artificing would enable smart mages to prepare for combat by creating a magical arsenal. Wands could serve as weapons to incapacitate wizards while amulets provide protection against wizard attacks. Rings might store precast spells or serve as miniature invocation circles for common spells. Materials may be condensed and stored within small capsules. There's a lot of possibilities. The key take-away, though, is that a wizard is unlikely to win a head-on battle with a properly prepared mage; instead, they need to rely on stealth, deceit, or treachery to gain the upper hand.

TL;DR

Dark wizards destroy and mages create. Wizards may be able to cast extremely lethal spells at moment's notice, but any sensible mage of means will create items so they are prepared; to succeed, wizards will have to use underhanded methods.

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Performing a demon incantation requires being able to read/speak/chant the demon language.

This could be difficult to learn due to being socially unnacceptable but may also require physical alterations to be able to speak correctly. Correct intonation may only be possible to learn from a demon tutor; they may not make patient tutors.

This would keep numbers of 'evil' magic users down, especially if the 'good' magic users are able to 'pre-charge' long lasting low-level magic spells and smother inexperienced users with numbers. It may require a number of trained adherants to push back.

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The source.

The gods, presumably, are intrinsically connected to this plane, if not all of them. A divine mage draws power from their own native realm in which they use it, but the same is not true of a demon mage, as the devils reside elsewhere. This could have all sorts of consequences:

  • Direct countermeasures against demon magic in general. Divine mages could block off demon mages' access to the other plane, either partially or entirely, and for varying durations. In any engagement, demon mages start with the upper hand, but as soon as their opponents disconnect them from the source of their power, their magic is severely weakened if they can use it at all. If defenses can be prepared against the first few spells in an attack, either through magical or mundane means, demon mages may need to be clever about how they engage if they are to accomplish anything at all.
  • Natural variations in accessibility. Some parts of the world may be "farther" from the devils' plane than others, and demon mages may be weaker there. The strength of demon magic may also vary by the time of day, phase of the moon, season, or year, predictably or unpredictably; divine mages are always close to the gods.
  • Bottlenecks. Although a demon mage can fire off an incantation far faster than a team of divine mages can prepare a circle, and in general the magic will happen just about right then, the rate at which one can channel power from another plane could be limited, so more powerful spells might still take a while to manifest, comparable to divine magic's speed if not slower in some cases. Demon mages may also have a certain level of energy they can store within themselves, but it takes time to recharge, so if they can't win a battle quickly they may not be able to win it at all, without hiding somewhere to rest for a bit. The rate limit may also not be per person but per area, so a group of demon mages would not be much more effective than only one--and if you need to draw your magic through a very large part of the world, you may find yourself impaired by spellcasting ten miles away by someone you've never heard of. Not only would that make demon magic unreliable, but it would also have the consequence that demon mages try not to have many other demon mages around--locally, there would only be a few at a time who carefully stagger their magic use if they're willing to cooperate with each other at all, and any independent demon mages would be hunted down and recruited, killed, exiled, or disabled. It could do a lot to reinforce the idea that demon magic is evil if the only demon mages who accomplish anything are the ones who slaughter their competition to guarantee power for themselves. On the contrary, divine magic is always readily available everywhere, as the gods are omnipresent.
  • The gods don't give a damn, but what about the devils? With divine magic, you can always guarantee that whatever it is you're doing, you can do it. But maybe devils have agendas of their own, and if you're not with them, you're against them. A demon mage who isn't cooperating with his patron may find himself powerless, or worse, his connection to the other plane may leave him open to being injured, tortured, or killed.
  • There's a back door for the devils, and it's wide open. In the previous bullet point, I suggest that a devil could inflict all sorts of nasty things on a demon mage. What's to stop other mages from doing that? If a squad of divine mages can withstand a barrage of fireball or whatever else for long enough, the demon mage opposition could end up dead, brainwashed, insane, or comatose, because the divine mages can reach around through the other plane for direct access to the demon mages' souls in a way nobody else is susceptible to.
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Strength, endurance, and functionality.

Strength:

Perhaps, by skipping the divine protections bestowed by the gods through use of sacrifices and magic circles, your spells are weaker. A spell that would take 1 hour for a mage to draw and incant would take 1hour and a minute for a demon mage to just incant, even upping their words per minute to auctioneer levels. This is because they have to be pretty specific to avoid the spell from missing, or draining too much energy, or rebounding, or any number of things. However, divine magic has these protections built in by pleasing the gods.

Endurance:

Casting spells with demonic magic places the burden entirely on the caster, as they feed off your spirit to grant you these abilities. This means that they can cast fewer spells per the same amount of energy, and, maybe as a side effect of their spirit being eaten away, the amount of total energy they possess will decrease over time. This means that an experienced demonic mage will be on par with a beginner divine mage, while an experienced divine mage would be on-par with a novice demon mage because their power hasn't decreased (being a demon mage is an attractive offer to young mages, since it is a quick way to get a lot of power and fame).

Functionality

I would change the functionality of demonic and divine magic entirely. The way you have the question phrased makes it seem like demonic magic uses the same incantation. However, I would change this - divine magic uses pictures and ingredients as a substitute for portions of the incantation, while demonic magic keeps the whole thing. Thus while divine magic may use separate parts, the demonic magic still has to use those parts in the incantation.

Perhaps it also becomes a lot more difficult to add functionality. Divine magic is based on the shapes, offerings, materials, and incantations used to form a solid image. This makes it a lot easier to add more effects, as simply adding another shape to your magic circle will change it. Shapes are also easier to remember than plain incantations, meaning that more diverse spells can be used when using shapes and shorter incantations.

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