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In many movies and animations, magic is overpowered. Most of the time, magicians could only be countered by other magicians.

I'm building a medieval fantasy world where magic exists. In this world, magic isn't the only efficient tool in combat. Sword fighters and archers have a fair chance of winning in combat with a magician. Some people might even choose to use average medieval weapons depending on their physical abilities or lack of magical abilities.

There are many different types of magic, three of the most hard-to-balance being:

  1. Elemental magic - In the media, elemental magic is often portrayed quite powerfully (for example, Elsa's ice powers in Frozen). In my world, elemental magic is basic magic that people could learn at a young age. It could only be powerful when the magician has skill (obtained through practice and talent).
  2. Healing magic - Healers aren't a necessity to win a battle, but having a healer on a team or in an army gives a good advantage.
  3. Transformation - Transforming to animals. But it shouldn't be that transformers could never be caught; They shouldn't be able to just turn into small animals and escape.

Can there be any rules or limitations to these types of magics, or just magic in general, to make it balanced?

The requirements are:

  1. The rules or limitations have to be simple and should be able to be summarized in just one or two sentences.
  2. They don't have to be creative or original, but they should allow the creative use of magic. I don't want game-like magic where people just use a set of skills and summon fireballs. The magician should be able to use their magic differently depending on the immediate situation.
  3. Even the few exceptionally skilled magicians shouldn't be able to destroy armies or do insane things.
  4. Magic is useful enough to be used during wars, but armies without magic should be able to fight armies with magic with a fair chance. They simply are less likely to win.
  5. Some people still would prefer using only medieval weapons. There are people that can't use magic at all (absolute lack of talent), and they should be able to fight magicians.

One example I was thinking of is that elemental magic can't create elements, only "bend" existing ones (for example, in order to use water magic, there has to be a body of water nearby). But the flaw is that some elemental magic is impossible or impractical; electric magic is only possible during lightning storms, and fire magicians will have to carry around torches.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the question, but we're required to give a list. That's unfortunately not a 'best answer'. In addition, it would be better to split up the question into one for healing, one for elemental and one for transformation, as each could be answered 'best' in a different way. Also welcome to the site. Use the tour for more information and check the help center if things are still unclear. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ My recommendation is to look up Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic, and his lecture on Youtube regarding magic in fantasy. Sanderson is the master of hard magic, of giving limitations to his magic systems. Perhaps you are already familiar with it, but if you are not, I can't encourage it enough. The guidelines the three laws of magic provide (and the zeroeth law of magic) are unbelievably helpful in structuring magic systems. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ Magic isn't all that overpowered in movies and games, if we think about it realistically. There are no health points in real life, so even if a magic spell would do "more damage", a single bullet or arrow can put anyone out of the fight. And if you need magic wands and/or incantations and fancy hand motions to cast a spell, a gun or even a bow would be both faster and more accurate than a spell... "Avada Ke-" BANG BANG BANG $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as partly opinion-based, partly not worldbuilding. There's a hundred ways of nerfing magic and it's your responsability as an author to pick one (and then, if you need it, ask us about possible shortcomings). This is not a site oriented to brainstorming ideas - and as the current 10 different answers you already have - this is the kind of question you're making. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane Thanks for the welcome :) I'll make sure to phrase my future questions differently. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 11:07

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1: artillery magic. By adding a relatively long time to "fire" a magic spell they become artillery rather than direct combat murder vehicles.

2: limited power storage. Sure you can kill that guy with a fireball, but what about the next guy? You'd better save your magical power for when you really need it and rely on more normal combat until then.

3: mechanical magic. Ties in with number two somewhat. Magic is about manipulating mechanics, the more you manipulate the more energy and skill it takes. Throwing a fireball takes a lot of energy, lighting candle oil on fire and launching that instead is far more efficient and less cumbersome.

4: no perfect spells. Casting a spell requires skill and concentration, and mistakes alter the spell in some way. It can be less powerful, lack the range, go off-target etc.

5: no "thought" magic but "think" magic instead. Most magic is what I classify as "thought" magic. A healingspell will simply heal any seen and unseen injuries for a certain amount without any further intervention of the caster. A thrown magic missile or fireball will always hit the exact perfect spot the mage intended (unless the target tried to dodge). If the mage has to aim the spell himself then shooting a straight-flying fireball across a battlefield has a high inaccuracy unless the mage is also highly trained in said accuracy. Think magic means you need to know what you are doing to some extend. To heal a wound you need to know its there and have some idea what needs to be done to heal it. To launch a fireball you need the knowledge to light the very air on fire and cause this fiery disturbance to move and stay together until it reaches the target, which could in turn mean there are a dozen different fireballs simply because the understanding and techniques are different.

6: use "low power" magic instead of epic magic. Wolverine's magic lets him heal in seconds, but a superpower that lets you heal in a day is already a ludicrously powerful magic ability. Instead of throwing fireballs you might be able to throw a candleflame, but applied right that is still immensely useful in combat. Similarly the ability to for 1kg telekinesis close to your body and halving in power every meter away would seem insignificant compared to the force, but used the right way it can be an immensely useful tool without making othets obsolete (even when limiting it to outside of the body of your opponents).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the detailed answer! I especially like 4; this also makes mages with experience of actual battle more powerful, which I like. I'll definitely apply some of these. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ (6) is similar to my own system, though I'm not especially trying to "balance" my system. The reason it doesn't necessarily work is... can you use that through obstructions? If yes, well... it doesn't take much force to pinch closed a jugular, or sever a spinal cord, or any number of other horrible ways someone with sufficient medical knowledge can injure, incapacitate or kill someone else. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew you could combine that with (5) to add the complication of trying to aim and having the medical knowledge to "grab" the right spot, and then combine with (4) to say that maybe it's not quite as reliable, and you could always add some rules about it being a lot harder if you couldn't see exactly right where you were going $\endgroup$
    – Cullub
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew its why I specifically mention that its still useful when limiting it to outside the body. Otherwise its too easy, a sheer force and cut/rip away in the brain or anywhere else. Its why I also limit it to not penetrating any non-fluid/gaseous bodies. A glass pane can block the ability unless you break it first for example, allowing more creative problems to overcome rather than trivialising situations which overpowered abilities usually do. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 21:12
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In the same way a warrior cannot possibly swing his sword on the battlefield for hours straight while continuously chopping enemies in half or a horse cannot gallop 12 hours in a row, the amount of power involved in the effect of the spell, intended as energy per unit time, cannot exceed what the caster can actually produce with their body at every moment.

To make an example, if a fit wizard can produce an output of 500 W, each spell he casts cannot exceed that amount of power, so for example no melting 1 ton of iron by snapping a finger. And casting several of those spells in a row will inevitably lead to fatigue and tiredness.

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    – L.Dutch
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 5:22
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Time

By increasing casting times you can decrease the usefulness. Transformation needs to be deliberated beforehand. (Elemental) magic needs to be tactically prepared and can't be done 'on the fly'. Healing can take a long time, depending on the wound. Healing a dozen kinds of tissue, replenishing blood of the right kind and all those can be incredibly difficult and time consuming, making it a long 'after battle' magic.

Concentration

To successfully do magic, you need concentration. That can already be difficult in normal situations. Now imagine they are tired, exhausted or drugged. Even if that is the case, natural instincts can seriously decrease the ability to concentrate. In a fight body is set in a fight or flight response. In a real battle, with someone trying to kill or maim you, it'll be hard for nearly all people to stay calm and concentrate.

Small but potentially powerful

Small things can, in the right situation, be incredibly powerful. A beam of normal light to blind, a slippery surface to lose footing or a tiny distracting magical tap on the forehead. All can be used to distract, confuse or unbalance the opponent. That gives a mage the chance to strike back with normal weapons.

It can also be lethal. If you can get close enough and put a tiny force for a short moment in the main artery of the neck, the opponent can lose consciousness. Interfere with the ballance in the inner ear tube and cause them to feel like they're spinning. Use their own momentum to cause damage, or cool their blood for a minute or so to cause them to collapse. The options for difficult, potentially effective methods are there in spades. You need creativity, varying knowledge and concentration to pull it off. Some are completely harmless when you fail, others can still have some effect.

Fireballs, earthquakes and beams of light are often seen as staples of magic. Yet you can do with so much less.

Indirect effects

Indirect effects can be powerful. Boost the mood of armies, make your leader look energetic and fresh, make the motivational speach reach far with power. They can do a lot while never touching an enemy.

Training and 'normal' circumstances

An experienced man with a dagger can defeat an amateur with a sword. Like everything, it takes long hours of regular practice to become good. Having this power can be an addition to your arsenal, or your sole way to attack. Only with creativity, skill and concentration you can beat an opponent.

Soldiers were quite often tired from marching and feed isn't easy to get. If you need to be rested and well fed for magic, you need to put a lot more resources in them to be effective. That means even if they're powerful, the army that can be sustained is much smaller if you want effective magic users. That way an opposing army with identical resources can have a numerical advantage if they do with less or no mages, or possibly have better material like horses.

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/The rules or limitations have to be simple and should be able to be summarized in just one or two sentences./

Magicians are freaking weak.

Fire magicians can make their hands be on fire, and slap you with them. Preferably on your head so your hair catches fire. Earth magicians can throw rocks without the hassle of being a good rock thrower. Healers can make bleeding stop and that is it. Animal transformers transform into random animals, and playing the odds the animal often turns out to be a bug.

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Give and take

To summarize the rule of magic:

That which which you give must be taken from elsewhere.

I'll be using a few examples for each kind of magic to explain. For each example a mage's area of influence would be limited to a range like that of the vitruvian man. I'll have you decide how quick or how tiring the whole process is.

enter image description here

Elemental:

Fire. In order to produce fire you have to take the heat from somewhere else and bring it together to perform what you require. Setting a log on fire would require you to take the heat from the environment or from living things, making things colder or freezing in them process if too much is taken. This could be done in reverse to cause the opposite effect, taking heat away, causing the intended object to freeze but making the air hotter or whatever you've chosen to dump your heat into.

Electricity. You don't need a storm for this. The earth's magnetism provides everything you need. Simply coil a bunch of copper wire around your mage's arms, have them swing that stuff around like madmen, and the magnetic field should interact with the coils in a sufficient enough level, however small, for the mage to collect the electromagnetism into their hands or something for use as an eventual shock. Alternatively, a staff coiled up in copper wire, or have a bunch of mages do this at the same time and have each of them hand over the electric potential to a single mage who will then be the one to fire off the lightning bolt.

Mages should be careful to not burn/freeze/electrocute themselves when taking/giving the various energies.

Healing:

Healing can be done in one of two ways. Using one's own flesh to heal someone, or using someone/something else's flesh to heal. You can also heal yourself by taking the biological matter from someone/something else. Healing magic requires medical knowledge to perform effectively, otherwise the healer may very well eventually kill someone due to blood clots forming or incompatible biomatter not agreeing with the person's immune system or veins or organs simply not working like they should. This is also why simply healing yourself or others on the battlefield tends not to be done, because you've no way to really confirm whether the flesh would be accepted or if you've done the healing correctly in the destination body in the heat of battle and as such it is only done in severe emergencies, where at camp you can use the flesh of relatives or those most likely to be compatible to perform the healing and have the time to confirm that the healing won't eventually kill them. You don't need the flesh or bone or organ to come from a still living person, you can simply use that which has been harvested beforehand though needless to say the matter still needs to be somewhat alive, which is where elemental magic and healing magic can work together in order to freeze or keep cold biomatter for later healing use.

Transformation:

Transformation magic throws the laws and practices of healing magic out the window, by intently taking in incompatible flesh from another species to give yourself or someone superhuman abilities, strength of a bear or the protection from the scales of a crocodile, or the night sight of the eyes of a cat. Transformations kill the animal the mage takes their newfound abilities from and eventually kills the mage or person that has taken on the bodyparts/form, and requires an exceptional healer to put everything back together in the right way which may still eventually kill the person who transformed due to the healer missing something.

Greater medical/veterinary knowledge will increase the effectives of both healing and transformation magic(and the survival rate of the patients/affected) while greater thermodynamic or otherwise scientific knowledge on the laws of the universe will increase the effectiveness of elemental magic.

Considering your setting is medieval, both of those will sadly be lacking and as such using magic has inherent risks and limits imparted by how much the mage knows.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an amazing and creative explanation! Thanks for explaining how the "give and take" thing would work for elemental magic. The copper wire also would allow some cool weapon/character design. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 11:18
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Every action has a negative reaction. Every spell interacts with its predecessor and successor.

If you cast a fireball, somewhere in the world a freezing cloud destroys the harvest, if you cast heal, somewhere somebody is cursed with sores. What good is survival, if the village you come to next, hates wizzards and wants to hang you, for the incidents. What if magic, by its very nature always results in evil.

One spell interacting with the next, amplifying it, prevents magic usages, simply because overdoing it in short time, might lead to some sort of magic tschernobyl. Your whole party is engulfed in a everlasting fireball, that heals them while roasting them and melts theire items into slack.

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Something that we hit on was the use of materials. Various materials help/hurt various magic. For example, iron/steel help TK (telekinesis), but block other forms (including healing!). A combat mage was that.

Crystals help some other forms. Smoke and mist helped both summoning and illusions.

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Think of magic like it's fuel just floating in the atmosphere. In order to cast spells, you draw or channel some amount of that fuel. More powerful spells use more of the fuel. Eventually, you deplete what's in your immediate vicinity, and your only options for casting spells is to wait for more from the surrounding area to slowly fill in the void you created, or to shift locations. It's kind of like oxygen in a room with a flame. A candle uses just a little bit that you will never run out, but a fire in the fireplace will eventually suffocate itself if there is no fresh air to replenish what is in the room. Since it's a temporarily limited resource in intense situations like battles, it creates an interesting scenario where mages might be forced into choosing the tradeoffs between damage, defense, and healing.

It also creates the potential for interesting story elements where some areas have high quantities of magic and others have none. It could be natural and related to whatever the source of magic is in your world. It could be a sign of powerful magical users in the area. Or it could be related to plants/animals that interact with magic. Etc.

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Only a single Great Mage in 1500 years

As ancient myths confirm, really powerful mages are very rare. Once in 1500 years or so you have one skillful Great Mage like Merlin, turning wars upside down. This person will have pupils, who are going to be strong mages, but not as powerful as their master. There's a limited number of kings to serve, so after a while, many generations of mages will occupy themselves with arts, medicin and astrology, traveling around to please folks, predict weather and farmers crops. By the time the next Great Mage is expected to arrive, mages have become magicians and jugglers in circuses. Real magic has disappeared: people don't even believe it can exist. When the next Great Mage becomes manifest, a cycle will start again.

Assuming Merlin was the last pinnacle of magic, to reduce magic in a story, put it at some point after ca 1500 AD. Magic is not relevant anymore in post medieval times. Of course after 5 Juli 2027 AD it will all change.. She is already born.

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Magic has layers of difficulty/sophistication

1. Elemental magic

Every mage start with bending basic elements. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume these basic elements are Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.

There are limitations to these elements. Able to do Fire-bending does not make you automatically able to manipulate, say, Plasma or Electricity. You have to acquire certain knowledge/prowess. Same goes for Water-bending that does not automatically enable someone to manipulate Ice or Saltwater. Air-bending limited to common air Nitrogen+Oxygen gases before Hydrogen/Methane, etc. Mages have to "unlock" the more sophisticated elements.

(I imagine the Earth-benders have the final ability to unlock Uranium, Plutonium, and whatnot materials of radioactive destruction.. wink wink ;) )

2. Healing magic

Healers have to acquire knowledge to heal. Not just by uttering "I want you to be recovered entirely from any imperfections, puff!"

Think of doctors, surgeons, but with metaphysical diagnostics and scalpels instead. The healers must know how to heal specific parts of body. Basic healer may start with identifying and alleviating common sickness or lacerations. For more complicated stuffs (think: multiple organ failure, coma/unconscious subject, severe haemorrhaging) they have to "unlock" the skill by studying/practicing/becoming proficient one way or another.

3. Transformation/shapeshifting magic

We can use evolutionary biology to help giving the sense "layers of difficulty". Simply put, it's easier to transform into genetically more similar beings.

Basic shapeshifters can transform into, say, Neanderthals, or Homo erectus, or apes. Beings that relatively close genetically to the shapeshifters' original form. Intermediate shapeshifters can transform into mammals. Advanced ones may be able to transform into anything within Animalia Kingdom. Only very rare, selected, can shapeshift into other forms of life e.g. Plantae or Fungi.


By giving magic this kind of layers, it makes sense for magic to still be commonplace (or at least, not that rare) within civilization, yet not so overpowered. Because just like there are levels of proficiency in anything, likewise in magic.

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Magical resistance: magic is a natural aspect of nature in your world but so is anti-magic and magical resistance. As you said, some people can't use magic but many of those are also impervious to magical mind trick, manipulations, detection or even effects if they are of pure magical nature (a "mana" bolt). Different people have different levels o this magical resistance. But also nature itself shows this quality, like animals or even vegetales. In that way the magicians are forced to get some particular knowledge of the creature they want to manipulate or even of the climate area they operate in ("it's so much harder to freeze water with so much wind, how do I keep the nanicules together?"). This might be the main reason magic is not reliable in war.

Unwanted effects: of two types, one on the spell effect, two on the caster. The spells are really dangerous because they set in motion effects that are hard to control fully. Magic tends to unwind and to everywhere instead of only to do what the caster wants it to do. If uncontrolled magic can flow around the target or even backfire on the caster. Also any spell can rather fail at is origin rather than at the end. What happens is the magical effect linger within the caster turning them more sensitive to it. With enough of this effect the magician can turn into an ethereal entity of some sort. For all these reason really mastering magic is quite difficult.

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Magic needs drugs

To perform magic you need to eat various magical herbs and creatures. This a) takes time to prepare and thus needs some forward planning for what you want to do b) limits the number and types of spell available as you need a different combination for each type of magic, c) can make powerful spells hard to perform as you need to find some super rare item from the top of that dangerous mountain along way away.

Then you may also find that people start getting addicted to these drugs so they need to consume more to perform the same magic, and they start getting addicted to the drugs. Thus magicians must either carefully limit what they do and how often (lest they get addicted) or could go out in a drug-fueled blaze of glory (for when you do want a magician to be super powerful) but that is likely to either kill the magician or they'll get so addicted they'll be useless afterwards.

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Power makes you mad

It's simple really. Every time you use magic, you fry your brain just a little bit. The more powerful the magic, the more powerful the effect. Slowly but surely, mages become insane, senile, or however you want to call it. You can decide how much each spell affects the caster, so you can put more of a penalty on e.g. offensive magic if you want.

Cautious mages would know they have an expiration date, and retire before it's too late. Those working for armies would be handsomely rewarded (or not, government pay being what it is) and monitored to track signs of degeneration. Those that push past their limit risk their mental and/or physical health, up to total brain death. Retired mages would still have valuable insight and knowledge, making them prime material for advisors or to teach the next generation.

You might disallow overpowered spells by making them break the brain of the caster before casting can be completed, thus it would fizzle and have no effect. Or you could choose to allow such spell, with the effect being such that the caster would be mentally unable to do it again, if alive at all. That gives potential for some heroic sacrifice.

One fun thing with that is you could still allow a mage to cast while insane, with the mage's state affecting how stable the magic is. It could hit the wrong target, produce the wrong effect, be cast at too high a level and cause much more damage than it should, or cast at too low a level to be useful, etc.

Legends would obviously tell stories of old, crazy mages, forewarning youngsters against overuse of magic. Maybe even of unnatural and unethical magic that can extend a mage's mental ability, perhaps in the same way liches extend their lives through dark, illegal magic.

Magic retains its usefulness, but you're incentivised to use it only when absolutely necessary, and only to use the appropriate level of power. It can be as powerful as you want, you can decide to penalise a school of magic or another. Overusing it, and pressuring your mages to overuse it, has a very high cost... which gives you plenty of opportunities for a good story.

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Chef magic, you have to eat or drink or use magically prepared items to get any effect.

I am making an effort to make it borderline useless here... if you want it more magical I guess you could imbue the things you eat with their foremost property (like eating something small makes you small), but that might be too useful?

Elemental

Eat a chili to spew a flame a few decimeters forward or something crappy like that.

Eat something foul smelling and people around you will get poisoned or nauseous from your bad breath.

Healing

Put a herbal cream on your wound and it will heal.

Eat a magic mushroom soup, this makes you more susceptible to psychosis but your ability to make up new magical recipes increases.

Transformation

Grease up some skin and wear it on you, and you will look like whatever wore the skin latest (or maybe originally?).

It is of course harder to wear skins that are smaller than you, so to do that you could collect a lot of them (for example skin from a school of fish) and put it on you (now you look like a school of fish!)

Maybe you could get inspiration from old snake oil adverts. Kindof as if the snake oil actually worked...

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    $\begingroup$ The answer shows some promise. Can you detail it a bit further than ring-o'-fire type of magic? I don't know, something from each of the elemental, healing or transformation magic. E.g. would the mage need to eat fish before transforming into one? (I know I'd prefer to eat the pelicans hunting nearby before transforming into a fish, but then... will I transform into a fish or a pelican?) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ I could probably think of some more types of magic after work hours. Maybe bad breath, eating something that smells really bad makes surrounding people nauteous when you breathe... $\endgroup$
    – Emil
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ Magic mushroom soup, makes you more susceptible to psychosis but also improves ability to make up new kinds of magic. Wear greased skin, makes you look like the previous holder of the skin. (will edit answer later) $\endgroup$
    – Emil
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 11:01
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Conservation

Elemental

Insist on conservation of energy. Yes the mage can throw a fireball, but the energy has to come from somewhere. Over eating becomes a requirement. (See Robin Hobbs' Solider Son trilogy)

Transformational

To avoid the escaping as a small animal problem you can insist on conservation of mass. Your mage can turn into a rabbit, but it's a rabbit that weighs the same as xe did originally. (Katherine Kerr's Deverry series)

Healing

Wound transfer, either the healer takes the injury themselves and are specifically tough and fast healing, but you can set your own limits. Or slightly more ghoulish they can transfer them to other ordinary people. Battlefield triage sees a solider with mortal wounds having other injuries healed upon xem to save their fellows at the cost of pain/suffering and a quicker death for themselves.

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Balancing Elemental Magic

Elemental attacks specialize at area effects but kinetic attacks specialize at focused damage.

As I recently explained in this similar question, a mundane shield can grant a traditional warrior immense protection against elemental attacks; so, a fireball that could give a whole group of peasants 2nd and 3rd degree burns could be mostly mitigated just with a shield. Add to this the grounding effect of metal armor and the insulation of the oven-mit like arming jacked underneath it, and the armor worn by a traditional knight may in fact be more effective protection against elemental magic than it even is against mundane weapons.

So, if you are fighting a group of rioting peasants, magic's ability to hit a lot of people at once makes it far superior to anything a knight can do, but a knight's armor does so much to mitigate elemental attacks that when mages see a well armored warrior approach, they know they need to get out of there quickly, because magic can not focus the whole energy of an attack into a single precise point like you can with the point of a spear or sword.

Even wizards may still carry traditional weapons and armor if they can. This is because even with their magic, they know they need those things if they plan to go toe-to-toe with a well armored adversary.

Balancing Transformation Magic

There are very few animals in the natural world that a well armed and trained human can not kill using ancient or medieval weapons and armor. Roman Venationes fought and killed every manner of animal including lions, elephants, bears, tigers, deer, wild goats, dogs, leopards, crocodiles, boars, and hippopotamuses. Just like Roman gladiators considered battling wild animals a specialty, you may find that certain warriors in your setting specialize in fighting wizards who can transform themselves. If you really think about it, turning into something big and strong is not a very helpful ability on the battlefield since it makes you such a big target and deprives you of the ability to wield some otherwise very helpful human weapons and armor. Instead your transformative wizards would benefit much more from going smaller, in which case your Venationes would keep a trained hunting dog and hawk on hand. If the shapeshifter turns into something big, the Venatio kills it with his bow or spear. If it turns into something small, the hawk swoops in and catches it. If it turns into something fast enough to get away, the dog can track its scent until the Venatio can catch up with it.

Shape shifting magic is very useful, but in the grand scheme of things, they would be much more useful as spies and assassins than they would be on a battlefield among throngs of well armed warriors.

I would probably also add guard dogs trained to sniff out shapeshifters as a common feature of high-security locations just to make sure kings and other highly important characters are not completely at their mercy.

Balancing Healing Magic

Ancient and Medieval battlefields were tightly packed massed of men fighting shoulder to shoulder. There was not much room to maneuver inside of your own battle formation meaning that even if you have healing mages, their ability to reach the front-lines would be very limited. As men are struck down, they fall to the ground often being trapped there for minutes if not hours until one side pushes the battle far enough in one direction or the other for anyone to be able to reach them. By the time this happens most casualties are already dead either from their wound or from trampling, and they can not be saved.

Healing magic is still useful because it means that what wounded you can get out can be revived and immediately sent back into battle, but as long as the army without healers can constantly press their attack, they can make sure that the enemy's wounded stay behind the battle line where they will be inaccessible to healers for revival.

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