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Individuals are born with mana, which accounts for their life force and has a hand in determining the strength of their magic. Certain spells require a lot of power but little control or direction of mana. Others require less power but much more control of mana flow. The most complex require both power and control.

There are three factors that decide magical power:

  • Maximum Reserve: This describes the level of reserves that a person contains. Individuals with extremely high mana reserves represent the strongest of witches, and can access the most powerful spells in mage craft. However, they have more difficulty in controlling and directing the flow of their mana. As a result, their spells take longer to perform. They also have a slow recharge rate, lengthening the time period between spells.

  • Focus Rate: This describes the level of control a person has over their mana flow. Individuals high in this category have small reserves of mana, and can be considered weaker than average. However, they have much more control, allowing them to be more precise and direct. While those with high reserves are battering rams, they are a scalpel. They also have slow recharge rates, leading to longer intervals between spells.

  • Recharge Rate: This is the category that most people fall into. They have average reserves of mana, as well as typical levels of control over it. They have a higher rate of recovery, allowing them to recharge their mana quicker than the other categories.

The goal is to create a certain equilibrium between people with different abilities, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This is to prevent one class from dominating the others. However, it seems that the last category gets the short end of the stick, as the ones who excel at it don't fit into the system well. Is there anyway to make this system more balanced?

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    $\begingroup$ ... I dunno why you think so, but it seems to me that the last category should dominate, especially as there are more of them. If all I can cast is itching powder, but I can cast it faster than you can recover from, I can just walk up an seriously cramp your style with a knife between the shoulder blades. Otherwise, it feels like you're describing a classic RTS/Tactics rock-paper-scissors triangle: Cavalry, Archer, Footman | Artillery, Sniper, Infantry $\endgroup$ – Clockwork-Muse May 20 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ Balance is never a good thing.... I don't know why prople believe the contrary. Balance only brings stagnation to anything $\endgroup$ – Kyu May 20 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ Look at real life for example, if balance existed then we'd all be algae... Oh wait that's unfair for the single celled guys. Or what if humans still existed but with balance? No inventions would ever be made, since technology and intelligence exists for the sole purpose to cope with biological imbalances. Like no wasting years to make something that can break, instead you can build something like a mansion in a few months and it will last more than your lifetime.. Or the invention of paper so you can learn more things without having to figure them out by yourself. Balance is really spiteful. $\endgroup$ – Kyu May 20 at 23:19
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Type III can outspeed Type I and outlast Type II, and will mainly act defensively

There's not really going to be a traditional 'rock-paper-scissors' here, it's more going to be that each side has specific strategies against the other two. (So, kind of like Starcraft, I guess.)

The first type of mages you describe is the stereotypical heavy hitter - lots of power to throw around, but the power comes at the drawback of control and time. If they get to pick the time and place, then they win the fight, hands down. On the flip side, if they get caught off guard or screw up their opening attack, then they're done.

The second type, massive amounts of control, but not a lot power, seems like a finesse specialist. They live and die off their ability to read and outmaneuver opponents. Their sole goal in the fight is to use their better control of magic to counter their opponents spells using far less magic. For instance, if a Type I uses a lot of magic to summon a gargantuan fireball, a Type II might cast a simple spell to whip up a vacuum barrier to extinguish the flames.

The last type, Type IIIs, have a simple winning strategy - use the weaknesses of both parties against them. When fighting a Type II control type, they don't go for a win, they try to force their opponent to exchange even magic-for-magic, since the control will run out of magic first. Against a Type I, they can either try to beat them on the draw, or try to survive long enough for the Type I to run out.

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TL;DR: It is less about the stats of the caster, but more about their spells and strategy. Barring overwhelming differences of course.

The Longer Version

Those with a fast recharge rate have their own advantages, and will learn spells that take advantage of that greater recharge rate

  • Spells with a constant drain will not seem as bad. If the drain is less than their recharge rate, then they may be able to magically maintain the spell indefinitely.
  • Simple offensive spells that take little mana and have little power are easy to use repeatedly and may become a trademark spell.
  • Depending on their rate of recharge, they might be the first to be able to cast a decisive spell if an area of drained of magic then allowed to reflow into the area.

Yes, the first two points could be something that also applies to Focus-based and Capacity-based mages respectively. However, they will have to approach the problem from different directions.

Also notable is that they will have the edge in endurance, compared to the Power of Capacity-based mages and the Finesse of the Focus-based ones.

Unless institutionally trained for a single purpose, all three groups will have certain spells that they gravitate to that play into their personal and magical strengths.

Now how to put the three into equilibrium? Well unlike focusing on the raw statistics of the mage types, I will instead focus on the general strategies that they are likely to employ.

To that end, I will take a triangle from a card game that I play that outlines the three primary strategies of the game. Disclaimer: This is a generality and the reality is a bit more like a spectrum than an triangle.

In text form it looks a bit like: Aggro -> Control -> Combo -> Aggro

In graphical terms:

The Rock-Paper-Scissors of Deck Strategies, outlining the three basic types of decks:  Aggro, Control, and Combo

The Aggro strategy aims to win fast and hard. By laying down a fast an powerful offense, these people aim to win before any form of meaningful countermeasures can be applied. They tend to trump the Control strategy by moving too fast for them to react.

The Control strategy aims to weather the initial onslaught and then take control of the battle, winning by generally putting the opponent in a position that they cannot get out of. They tend to trump Combo because that strategy relies on a small number of key spells to work and defeating those defeat their strategy.

The Combo strategy relies on a specific set of spells going off, either in sequence or just in general to create a victory almost immediately after achieving it, regardless of how things were going up until that point. Their entire primary strategy relies on making this sequence happen. They tend to trump the Aggro strategy by just not really caring about them so long as they are not in danger of defeat given once they go off, they just win.

Now it is my belief that all three types of mages can fit into all three strategies should they choose to, depending on the factors around the caster, such as upbringing, training, and spell knowledge. However based on their specialties, they will typically fall under two of them.

Capacity-based mages are probably going to lean towards Aggro and Control strategies depending on if they specialize in offense or defense. With bigger spells, the Recharge Mage will need to determine how to bypass those spells to stand a chance.

A common strategy would be to endure the more powerful offensive spells and strike while they are expended, or otherwise find the chink in their superior defenses. Hammering them with weaker spells is an option since you are probably faster then them on the spellcasting front.

Focus-based mages with their higher finesse are probably going to lean towards Control and Combo strategies depending on how fast they generally aim to tend fights. For the Recharge mage, victory is all about choosing your moment carefully.

The Common strategy will be to wait for an opening, then strike. You recover your power faster so you can afford to send probing spells knowing that they might not do anything. You will need to be wary for the moment that they strike as well and defend against those -- any spell that hits you from them is likely to be bad news.

Recharge Mages with their average ability are likely going to lean towards Combo and Aggro strategies. When fighting their own type, it is going to come down to who will run out of tricks and/or power first.

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As far as I understand, you worry about those who great in recharge rate but average in maximum mana and flow control. Do they excel others?

Not necessarily.

  • Need a lot of mana for really powerful spells. F.e. with average mana one could cast small fireball. He could cast them indefinitely, but for fire wall wizard need to have big mana pool, great mana pool for inferno and only dozens have enough mana to cast armageddon/firestorm. So wizard with great restoration ability but average mana pool could cast fireball indefinitely but can't create firestorm.
    Still, wizards could merge their power in magic circles, but with certain limitations.
  • Need high control for safe casting complex spells. Almost any wizard could cast and throw fireball to the target.
    • But controlling two fireballs is much harder and few could cast and throw dozen fireballs at one time.
    • But when creating firewall, she need to manage power flows very careful. Minor mistakes would cause mana overrun 10 times, major mistake cause explosion near her and could just kill. Casting firestorm is so risky that only crazy or genius (which almost same) would try.
    • But another caster could see imperfection in spell and with small efforts destroy that fireball. If he is better in magic control, of course. And yep, there are those who could better see magic flows and those who could better control magic - and those who could both are archimages.
    • But really powerful magic require magic circles. More wizards in circle - more power and much more instability. For uniform power distribution they would need years of practice or great specialist in flow control - or both for great magic.

And don't forget, young padavan, that really great wizards, whose names are sound in ages, was great in many areas. For example, Merlin had great mana pool and flow control, while Dumbledore could restore mana very fast and very precise manipulation ability.

There is only directions in your magic system. You could easily mix them and create what you want. For example, could excellent flow control substitute required pool size? If so, what limits for that?


There are some other metrics for magic. They are totally independent from your params(control, pool, restoration). You could just ignore them or add partially in order to compensate (dis)advantages is some corner cases.

  • Cast time. Some cast fast, some slow. Really powerful spells would require amount of time (to sate spell by mana from pool, to balance flows or something else - at your choice)
  • Chinese style. (Almost) everyone could cast sparks. For fireball one need year of training. For firewall - five years of self-developing, don't saying for work and life. Thousands hours of magic practice just to try run firestorm. But it's only for ability - you should find somewhere such secret technique as firestorm. Of course, people don't born equal - and if you are Chosen One or rich - you would progress faster. Probably.
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  • $\begingroup$ This could use some more clarity, and better adherence to the aspects of the system the querent stated. it doesn't really seem to answer the question, but instead appears to be proposing different metrics. $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. May 21 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ @T.J.L.I updated answer in order to separate new metrics and ways for balancing parameters which OP described. $\endgroup$ – ADS May 22 at 13:25
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Since you are concerned about balance, I'll assume this is for a game setting, and not a movie/book/etc. How to solve this best will depend a bit on what kind of game you are working with.

If this is for something like an RTS or CCG where pre-packaged skill sets are must, then sure, classing out casters like this makes a lot of since, but since they are pre-packaged you are also deciding what spell sets each unit has. It will be the spells you assign them that determine how the system ballences, and how they focus thier mana will just be a thing to add an extra layer of strategy on how to deploy them.

For any system where each character is created on an ad hoc basis such as RPGs. I'd say the idea of classing out your mages like this is going to make your system much less interesting, not more so. People's abilities are on spectra. You can be a little specialized, very specialized, a poor generalist, or a master of many things; so, the idea of taking base stats like this and jamming them into forced classes is not all that great for someone interested in creating a character. Instead I would give casters skill points to distribute between these 3 qualities so that players can better explore the meta that best fits them. Again though, it will be the SPELLS you put into the game that make the balance. If you notice that recharge min-maxed players are dominating PvP add some new spells to help the other 2 classes out, or nerf the one spell that is being abused. Game designers often spend years giving and taking powers until they find a balance that is mostly fair, but in the end, it does not matter what you do, someone will always find something to exploit that people will find unfair, and there is a certain degree of this that you should just accept. When people start complaining about all three min-maxes having an unfair advantage, you know you've got it right.

If this is not a game, but for a story, I'd say ditch the idea of mechanically balancing it. It does not need to be balanced. If max reservists walks up and every one is like, "shit, it's one of these guys!" that is not a bad thing. Also, in a story, you have a lot of control over the perception of balance through your own narration. If you create scenes where one class wins a lot, the audience will accept that as the best meta, if you want balance, just narrate scenes where each class finds creative ways to gain the upper hand and people will believe it is fair and balanced.

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If you want a modern military analogy, your Maximum Reserve are a unit of combat engineers. Given them explosives and enough time to set things up, and they will ruin your day in one massive alpha strike. The problem is, they can only carry so much explosive and they need time to set up, which means if they can get you into the time and place of their choosing, you're toast. If you're somewhere else, or show up before they're ready, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

Your Focus Rate is a sniper or sniper team armed with single-shot or semiautomatic firearms. Brutally effective against single targets, but easily overwhelmed if the opponent gets their act together, or they try shooting from an exposed position, because they can't put out enough firepower to protect themselves.

Your Recharge Rate is a regular squad of light infantry. Their firepower won't have the single big bang the engineers can produce, and they're not going to have the long range one shot-one kill precision of the snipers, but they'll have more flexibility than either in more situations, for instance being able to set up a crossfire and being able to respond a great deal faster to an attack from an unexpected direction.

You balance is determined by the situation. For instance, snipers concealed in a building with a good field of fire and no way to approach unseen will pick off any engineers trying to get close to plant explosives to demolish the building and may have the range advantage to discourage the infantry squad from attempting to rush. On the other hand, it might be such an obvious sniper perch that the engineers already rigged it to bring it down if necessary and the infantry has taken precautions to prevent the snipers from making it there in the first place.

You can pick any kind of scenario where one particular type of unit will dominate the situation, and another where they are completely outclassed with no chance of winning. Therefore, in order to win, it's not just a matter of who they're fighting but where they're fighting. Paper might beat rock, but not if rock is sitting in a fire.

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Seems to me like your Recharge mages are endurance specialists. If we make an analogy with animals, the Recharge mage won't outrun a cheetah or out-smash a mammoth, but their stamina is what makes them the most versatile combat power, suitable for prolonged engagements, missions into enemy territory, guarding, etc. They tend to be the most reliable and adaptable to all battle and environmental conditions.

The other two are specialized forces, suitable for a certain task, but not nearly as versatile as the Rachargers.

Who will win in a 1v1v1 battle will largely depend on the way your magic system works, but there are too many confounding factors like experience, defense, lethality of spells, range, timing, etc, so it's very hard to say which one is absolutely stronger or whether the system is balanced or not.

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