I'm creating two character classes:

  • Physics warrior - Just like an ordinary warrior
  • Magic warrior - Like a physical warrior but using magic. (not a mage or magician).They can attack by firing magic bullets, can create magic shields, etc... Generally speaking spells that serve the ability to fight, in any way. However since it's magic, I'm aiming for it to be easier for people with low physical strength. (Example: Magic swords or magic shields wouldn't need to be lifted so hard.)

The magic warrior is being built to be a kind of soldier whose strength is comparable to that of a physical warrior in a 1 vs 1 match and in a war. (Imagine that a student who is good at only physics and a student who is only good at chemistry will have the same scholarship value. Magic warrior just a warrior, not a mage or magician.) What troubled me was the specification of the magic, which proved too flexible, too powerful, and far superior to physics. If you limit it too much, it won't look like magic anymore. I also can't power up physical weapons because the my world is in medieval, when science wasn't developed enough.

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    $\begingroup$ This appears to be a "discussion" question, which isn't a good fit for this site. I can understand what a "physics/physical warrior" is, as they are real world thing. I don't know what you mean by a "magic warrior just a warrior, not a mage or magician" are they increasing their strength by magic briefly, or are they throwing fire bolts or have enhanced healing - what? At a minimum you need to define what a magic warrior is in order for balancing suggestions to be made. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ "Magic swords ... wouldn't need to be lifted so hard." FYI, the average medieval sword weighed about 2-3lbs and was balanced close to the hilt making them require only marginally more strength to wield than large kitchen knife. Swords are far more about technique than strength. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I dunno have you ever held a 2 lb weight in your outstretched arm for any length of time? It gets tiring very quickly. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron So is holding an empty hand outstretched. What makes swinging a sword exhausting is not moving 2lb of sword, but the 150lb or more that is your body. A proper strike means planting your feet, tightening your core, turning your body and swinging you arm. Even with nothing in your hands, that same action is pretty tiring (just ask a boxer). That said, polearms were typically over 10lb and armor could weigh up to 70lb; so, a magic warrior would see a lot of benefit from removing these weights. I'm just saying that for swords specifically, you would not see much difference. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ I liked how the Eragon series treated it -- magic required energy, and to do something by magic would take the same amount of energy as doing it physically. You could do something that'd be physically impossible like levitate a 'clump' of water from a well, but it'd take as much effort as lifting it manually. $\endgroup$
    – Ken Zein
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 19:10

11 Answers 11


Muscle Memory (fast) vs Conscious Decisions (slow)

Physical warriors perform by fitness and muscle memory. When properly trained a physical warrior fights by instinct. For example they lock swords with the opponent, detect a change in the pressure of their opponent's blade, and their arm knows how to pivot around and strike their opponent without exposing themselves.

Magical Warriors on the other hand do not have this sort of haptic feedback with their weapons -- presuming the weapon is some sort of materialized melee weapon, either attached to their arm or floating nearby. That means they are slower to react and make the kind of split-second decisions needed to win the fight. They must instead physically watch the fight, judge their opponent's actions, and make conscious decisions how to move their weapon in response. This is all done while someone else is trying to kill you, and is extremely mentally taxing on the magical warrior.

Magic warriors are more versatile in terms of weapons and armor, since they can materialise different shapes and sizes. For example they can materialize armor with no holes in the armpits, or suddenly extend their sword to 12 foot long and catch their opponent off guard. They try to win by this sort of "broad strokes" strategy to trick their opponent's conscious mind.

Physical Warriors are limited by the physical constraints of their equipment. A 12 foot sword is too long and heavy to wield, and even the best armor has weak points. They try to win by closing to short range as soon as possible and overpowering their opponent's untrained unconscious mind.

  • $\begingroup$ Especially love the comparison of haptic feedback vs. adaptive arsenal. Additional comparisons: disarmed through combat vs. distraction, physical- vs. mental- exhaustion; $\endgroup$
    – OhBeWise
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe this is completely accurate. All people develop instincts for activities they perform often enough. Magical warriors will have instincts for fighting with their magic, just as physical warriors will have instincts for fighting with their swords. And since the style of combat will be different between each type of warrior, they will each need to train against both types in order to develop successful instincts against them. The winner in any given fight will tend to be whichever warrior has done that better. $\endgroup$
    – aleppke
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @aleppke They'll develop instincts about the right move to make in a given situation, yes. I believe this answer is positing that magic just doesn't respond to instinctive unconscious thought; it requires some sort of conscious deliberate thought to make anything happen, unlike your body's muscles which can respond to some things before you're consciously aware of them. So the magical warrior will need to train and develop instincts to react as fast as possible, but "as fast as possible" is still often slower because the decision might be made pre-consciously but acting on it can't be. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. You might also combine the "magic is hostile" idea. It's got ideas of its own, it does not willingly do that which is dictated by a magic wielder so he tires, and it will betray him if he gives it enough of a chance to do so. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Note that whilst a 12 foot sword would be too heavy to use effectively, medieval foot soldiers have been known to make effective use of pikes, which can vary from 10 to 25 feet long. $\endgroup$
    – James_pic
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 16:02

Using the Paper, Rock, Scissors Approach

But wait... you only have two options here, right? Not necessarily. The Early-to-High Medieval period was absolutely dominated by knights. Knights were men who were wealthy and could afford weapons of the highest quality, nearly impenetrable armor head to toe armor, and powerful warhorses that could move them quickly around the battlefield. Survivability on the battlefield was a thing that could be bought making a small number of knights more powerful than a large army of infantry.

But then in the Late Medieval period, things began to shift. Crossbows, longbows, and firearms got good enough to pierce armor. Spears got long enough to decimate a cavalry charge, and knights started to become obsolete since wealth could no longer purchase a distinct advantage on the battlefield. Knights became secondary to good old fashioned infantry armed with much cheaper weapons.

Now enter the magic warrior. These guys are a lot like common infantry in that they don't necessarily have a lot of money, but their magic makes them individually powerful warriors. Like the knights of old, it would only take a small squad of magic warriors to wipe out whole formation of cheap infantry, but thier magic would make them effective against pikes, archers, etc in a way that knights could no longer keep up... but they have one major short coming. They are helpless against knights. You see, the knights can no longer just buy invulnerability against common infantry weapons, but invulnerability against magic is totally a thing that is for sale.

Take something really expensive to make armor out of, like gold, and make it so magic is dissipated or absorbed by gold. So, now your knights with thier gilded armor are practically untouchable by magic and thier gilded weapons can cut right through mage shields. So, to a knight who can afford to dip all of his stuff in gold, a magic warrior is basically the same as an unarmed peasant.

So, your fantasy battlefield becomes a big complex game of paper-rock-scissors because Knight beats Mage, Mage beats infantry, and Infantry beats Knight, and the balancing factor is that you can not go to war without all 3 classes of troops because only having two would make you defenseless against the 3rd.

What should gilded armor be like?

Gold in the medieval period was very expensive. The price of gold generally fell somewhere between 4.4 and 32 grams to the £1. The average knight would spend £25-150 on his warhorse, weapons and armor whereas most professional foot solders (mercenaries and the sort) spent no more than £5 on thier kits, and levees rarely owned more than £1 of gear. So, it stands to reason that if you keep the cost of gilding yourself somewhere in the £20-100 range that the resulting armor would still be affordable enough for most knights to own, while putting it well out of the cost point of commoners and mercenaries. This means that we need to assume the suit of armor needs to be gilded with about 100-1500g of gold.

Most medieval full-body steel armor weighed an average ~20,000g and was ~2mm thick. Gold is also about 2.5 times as dense as steel; so, to hit this price point, it means you need to coat your armor in gold leaf that is in the 0.004-0.123mm thickness range. While this sounds way too thin to achieve without modern technology, medieval gold smiths were actually very good at making gold leaf thin. The some medieval gold leaf was as thin as 0.016mm; so, if you just used the gold leaf they were already making in a time period where gold was on the more expensive end of the spectrum (which it will be if everyone wants to make armor out of it) it would place the cost of gilded armor squarely in the category of things that knights and only knights could afford.

Also, being this thin means that it would not significantly impact the weight of are armor; so, knights could continue to armor themselves as before, but now with the added bonus of magic resistance.

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    $\begingroup$ One correction: it's not crossbows and longbows that phased heavily armed cavalry and infantry from battlefields, it's firearms. Agincourt was an exception, not standard. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Miech I absolutely agree that that was the final nail in the coffin, but it was already a long time coming. When bodkin arrows, arbalests, and a stronger emphasis on polearms came onto the battlefield, it meant that while knights were still effective, they had to be deployed much more carefully. So they transitioned from the primary attacking force to more of a support role in most cases only attacking once the infantry had already engaged. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ "The price of gold generally fell somewhere between 4.4 and 7.3 grams to the £1." Pretty sure that this is wrong. Wasn't the value of the pound defined as being a pound of gold? That's why it was called the pound! That we've undergone a lot of inflation since then isn't relevant to the medieval prices. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 No, medieval Europe used the silver standard, gold was very rarely used in coinage between the early-to-high medieval period due to it's high cost. The British pound was based on the value of 240 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, but in gold, a pound was 1-4 coins depending on time period, place, and conversion methods used. That said, you comment did lead me to look harder for the absolute cheapest gold coin in the medieval period which was the 14th century Gold Noble at 32g per pound. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 15:24

Physical warrior is infantry, magic warrior is artillery

Both are necessary in a battle, with advantages and drawbacks.

Magic warriors can strike better from a distance and perform in the role of artillery (think early rifles with "magic bullet" type of spells and cannons with "fireball" type of spells).

For balance purposes, their abilities need some drawbacks. In your typical medieval fantasy RPGs, spellcasters cannot cast spells indefinitely, they have a certain amount of magical energy they can use before they need to rest. The more powerful the spell, the less they can use it. Another usual drawback is that they usually can't wear heavy armor, but you already addressed that. This doesn't make them any less valuable in battles, since they can do things a regular long-range weapon from medieval times can't do.

A physical warrior, on the other hand, is more durable - can fight longer and resist injuries better, and they're also physically faster by nature. Of course, while they're typically "less smart" than spellcasters in medieval fantasy settings, they should have either basic training on battle tactics or be trained on how to deal with spellcasters in the same way a foot soldier is trained on how to deal with artillery. And there is always the possibility of giving them enchanted armor and weapons

I'd expect a physical warrior to be more focused on trying to get the opportunity to strike the magic warrior at close range or sneak in a well-placed long-range attack like an arrow or a bolt, while waiting for them to run out of "mana" (or whatever you want to call it), while the magic warrior will be focused on taking the physical warrior out as soon as possible and saving their mana.



A key element of the physical, melee weapon swinging, toe-to-toe combatant is just raw fitness.

This stuff is heavy, it's exhausting to use, and the wielder is managing a combination of adrenalin, pain, and fatigue along with the mental exhaustion of fear, planning, observation, etc.

Simply, it takes a lot of work to beat the bananas out of each other, even with swords and axes.


Come up with a way to fatigue the magic users. Both mental and physical fatigue can work. A tired brain is a tired body. They all affect reaction time, planning, placement of the blow (or block), power of the blow or block, etc.

Make the magic "hurt" and wear the user out, and you'll be on the right path. This is what's happening to the melee fighter already.


Magic warrior has a high school diploma in magic.

It is the same magic the wizards use. It is just much less advanced; addition and subtraction as compared to calculus. The magic warriors did some time in magic school and they got a few skills. But magic college is tough, and expensive. Some of these folks are using their magic skills to put bread on the table, and hope to go back to school some day to learn more serious magic so they can wear purple robes and nod knowingly. Some magic warriors realize that they don't have the magic chops to play in the big leagues, or they are sick of school, and so they work with what they have. Besides magic soldiers there are some magic chefs, magic farmers and so on. People who have learned a little magic and they use it in their job. To quote the great Casten: "if you are smart, do things where your brains give you an edge". If you can learn a little magic, why not use the magic to help you make great looking pants that you can sell?

Among the magic warriors, some very few are older, and some much older. Instead of learning magic at a young age like most of them, these went back to learn magic after a life of doing something else. Nearly all of them are warriors who can no longer fight. Maybe they are too old, or maybe they have been damaged, or both - as is common for old warriors. These old magic warriors are rare because magic school takes brains, and the warrior trade is not conducive to staying smart in later life, or even achieving later life. But some do. They cannot fight like they used to even though they remember how they did. Such individuals do not know any more magic than their classmates 20 years their junior, but they are forces to be reckoned with.

Very occasionally a magic warrior spent a life doing something completely different and then late in life goes to school to become a magic warrior. These folks are wild cards, and they always have a reason, and always a good one.

  • $\begingroup$ now I wonder if there's an RPG where mage classes have to, like, solve sudokus as quickly as possible to land a hit $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 11:54

Spell times and comparable physics

You say magic bullets, shields and the like. I'm not sure how far your magic goes, but it can be curtailed quite easily to be more comparable. The resulting magic can be tempered and the spell times can be increased.

First off, nothing is completely comparable. If you look at MMA, you see that not one single style is the best. You see it rotates, as new techniques or disciplines are introduced. Sometimes the new king can then be beaten by a new, or even an old technique or discipline. That means your magic and your physical warriors can trade the best. On the other hand, if you do it well enough the individual variance is greater than the technique, making it still unclear who would win.

You mention a magic bullet. Regardless how fast it goes, the important part is how it imparts its energy. A gun is a prime example. The recoil of the gun should be equal to the power the bullet has. Due to the time of acceleration/deceleration and the way the gun is handled vs the arrival method of the bullet, you see that this same energy has wildly different effects. One can rip your flesh apart, the other is some strong kickback on your arms.

That is why it really matters how the bullet imparts it's energy. Maybe it goes as fast as light, but it won't matter if it only imparts a bit of heat onto the armour. Maybe it'll only impart as much energy as a rock thrown very hard. It can certainly be damaging, but it isn't an instant win.

The magic might also require aiming. That can be hard if you need to concentrate on the conjuring of the bullet or whatever at the same time. This again reduces effectiveness.

The magic swords and such can potentially be very powerful, but also detrimental. As a hypothetical situation, imagine the mage makes a magical light sabre. Who would win then? Probably the physical warrior. The warrior is likely faster, more used to the close combat and when the warrior strikes first he will win. The remainder of the sword when the mage tries to block will still go with enough force to seriously injure the mage, after which the warrior can easily finish the job. Otherwise the warrior might just dodge the first attack and quickly go in for the kill. Incredible power is quite useless if you do not have the skill to use it.

But you can limit it further. A mage could require focus for his magic. That means less attention can be given to the true fighting. If you can break the concentration, their magic can falter. The opposite is also true. They can be so engrossed in the magic, they might not handle adequately to threats.

Finally there is the time invested in a spell. It can take a moment, or much longer. During this time the mage is very vulnerable.


It really depends on what you feel is good for the magic. It seems from your question you want magic to be very powerful and versatile, but not really many drawbacks. But the drawbacks are what you can use to give it a more equal footing. Casting times, difficulty aiming or getting the right effects, concentration and inefficient magic for the job. These and more can be used to tone down magic, while still potentially incredibly powerful.


Concentration and fizzle chance. Magic warriors need to control their equipment with their minds. They do not need physical strength but it takes mental energy to keep the weapons material. Every hit disturbs their concentration. If they loose it, their weapon/armor dematerialize and they will be left vulnerable.

This also has additional benefit, while inexperienced magic warriors will be able to summon standard weapons/armor. Experienced ones can summon magic bullets, cannon balls, decimating the opponent. Of course a better physical warrior will be able dodge these and can level the playing ground with speed and precision. Though the cap for magic warriors will be higher compared to physical ones, you may simply make it more difficult for everyone to attain higher skill in magic fighting.


You should be troubled by another factor instead.

An intelligent guy that fight like a warrior is BOTH a warrior and an intelligent guy. The physical warrior is just strong, but dumb enough to not learn magic.

So, in that universe, if I had to chose a class, I'll OBVIOUSLY pick the mage warrior, sparing myself the whole fatigue of rising my strenght, as the magic fill up the gap. That will make the number of physical warriors extermely reduced and probably low society members.

The second Gygax rule of fantasy class creation: thu shall not make fair classes. Feeble people should be in danger when fighting, or there's no need for others to risk their lives at knighthood.

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    $\begingroup$ I would think folks like Lichtenauer and Fiore dei Libri would disagree about intelligence here... armed fighting is actually very intellectually stimulating! You're thinking about timing/stance/distance/style in addition to the immediate blow-by-blow action. It's a lot to process with the immediate threat of death/severe injury. In any case, the idea that there is some talent that people have for magic which doesn't always overlap with combat ability has merit. Still +1 for the fundamental idea. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 21:44

I suppose things you could do would be making magically resistant armor and weapons more common. Also if the magical enhancements for magic warriors include things like increasing their strength and speed then perhaps they could be born less physically gifted to begin with.

The problem is magic is essentially an addition to a standard physical person so the only way to keep things even is to either take something away from the magic user or give something to the non one.


You magic users have to recant a a multi word spell. That takes time which someone with a sword can use to stab you.

Also your magical items may be strong but they have short lifetimes. Thus the spell caster has to keep making new swords and shields. So they need to back out of a fight every few minutes to recast their spells. Again providing an opportunity for some with a sword to attack.


Minimum Safe Distance

Physical warriors charge into close range so as to be inside the minimum safe distance of the magical warriors spells.


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