In my world, using magic uses energy from an energy pool. Stronger spells use more energy, while weaker, simpler ones use less. If a person empties their pool, they can't cast more spells until they regain some of their energy. One could say every person capable of using magic is a walking magical battery.

Among spellcasters, there are two kinds:

  • Naturals: These regain energy slowly, without any extra notable effort. A natural can refill their entire pool in about 10 minutes of sustained combat.
  • Meditators: These can regain energy faster than naturals, but only during moments of meditation or focussing. They do not gain any energy when not focussing. A meditator can refill their entire pool in about 2 to 4 minutes of focussing during combat.

Now, I want to limit the above kinds of regeneration to being available only during active combat. What reasons could be given for this regeneration to work this way?

With this limit, I would like to prevent the situation in which wizards defuse all problems peacefully and avoid combat, by making energy more precious outside of combat.


  • Magic is quite present, but not available to everyone (about half of the world population has potential for spellcasting)
  • Outside of the above regeneration-during-combat, energy can also be regained using potions (which are considered cheap and common) and sleep in my universe. Potions recharge more according to quality, the best and most expensive supplying slightly over half an entire pool. One night's rest (8 hours) refills about half of an entire pool.
  • A spellcaster's pool has a limit to itself, trying to gain more than this limit harmlessly releases the excess. The limit cannot be trained to become bigger (though some rare pieces of equipment or technology could slightly improve the limit).
  • For reference, firing one large spell (levelling a small house in one blast) will on average blow out a wizard's entire energy reserve and a small spell (shoving a grown adult back a few meters) can be cast about ten times before the average reserve is empty.
  • By combat, I assume any fight with any serious threat to either party involved. Mock fights and sparring matches will yield very little, if any energy.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's magic, does it need an explanation? $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Sep 24 '15 at 11:25
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You could say it is created (or greatly increased) by stress, maybe adrenaline working as a kind of catalyst. $\endgroup$ – Burki Sep 24 '15 at 11:52
  • 33
    $\begingroup$ How can you meditate while in combat? $\endgroup$ – rumguff Sep 24 '15 at 12:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Important question: Do you want it to only refill during combat for a specific flavor that you want magic to contribute to, or is it for some sort of balance reason? Why do you want it to only happen during combat? That would affect my answer significantly. Is there a specific reason you want your mage population mainly to be made up of combat mages? $\endgroup$ – Wolfman Joe Sep 24 '15 at 20:46
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ What counts as combat? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 24 '15 at 21:17

10 Answers 10


The body undergoes a very specific kind of stress when engaging in combat so it shouldn't be hard to link together these special conditions with magic accretion.

The human body has two nervous systems, the symphathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Combat shuts down the PNS in favor of the SNS.

Charging the magic battery is potentially dangerous so the PNS works to cap the total magic stored and the recharge rate, effectively limiting total magic energy available. The SNS wants to gather as much magic as possible, as quickly as possible. In non-combat situations, the two systems balance each other out and the wizard is okay. However, in combat, the SNS shuts down the PNS so the magic recharge cap disappears. Magic flows into the wizard and the battle begins.

The PNS does support some degree of magical recharge, just at a lower rate than what a combat-stressed induced shutdown of the PNS can achieve.

Wizards have two constant problems in combat they need to worry about:

  • The longer SNS maintains control at the expense of the PNS, the greater the body's deficit in digestion, muscle reconstruction, rehydration and other normal maintenance activities. If the wizard keeps up this state for too long they will simply collapse or die of exhaustion.
  • The longer the magic battery is allowed to charge, the greater the chance of overcharging the battery. For real life batteries, if overcharged they will explode. Wizards shouldn't be any different. Magic is energy and if the wizard concentrates more energy than they can safely store, they may explode.

Meditation wizards are limited by their mental abilities

Meditation wizards use mental focus and control to shut down the PNS to increase magic uptake into their bodies. This can be improved over time just as a yogi may slowly increase control over such things as heartbeat.

Natural wizards are limited by their magical physiology

Natural wizards use the adrenaline and stress of combat to shutdown the PNS for magic uptake. This is limited by the body's ability to respond to combat situations. While the magic uptake by inexperienced/untrained may be high, the natural limits may be much lower than those of a meditating wizard (the OP says that they are, so they are. I think it could be argued either way.)

Long term consequences

Are you sure you want to do it this way? Only gaining magic while fighting or sleeping provides a very powerful incentive for the wizards to fight all the time or sleep most of the time. Since about 1% of the population are psychopaths, you're going to have to guard against a small but increasingly powerful group of wizards who do not care about the lives of those around them and do not hesitate to kill for their own gain. Further, if wizard combat is always to the death, then rather quickly the field of magic users will shrink to those with very low level, undeveloped abilities (those who choose life) and a very small group of hyper-wizards, who are basically gods.

Also, you'll need to deal with non-psychopath wizards who get addicted to the combat high and fight even more than they would otherwise.

Unaddressed Questions

What happens when the battle is over? Where does the extra magic energy go? Does it stay in the wizard so they can use it later or slowly drain off over a period of hours or days?

  • $\begingroup$ I think the OP is suggesting "mana" only recharges during combat and sleep. They don't become more powerful by seeking out combat, they just have more mana to spend (most likely to a certain cap) $\endgroup$ – Theik Sep 24 '15 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ How does having more energy to spend make you less powerful? With more energy you can pull off bigger spells in greater numbers than someone with less energy. If you only get significant increases in energy levels while fighting or sleeping, those wizards who fight or sleep more than the other wizards will have an advantage over those who don't. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 24 '15 at 14:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I imagine wizards quickly figuring out how to fake fight to gain energy without killing things (which is the most maintainable aspect). I imagine people would look on them like they do someone min-maxing a character in a video game. Why does she keep shooting an arrow at the wall from 1 ft away? Oh it levels her up. Or going out with your shield and letting a goblin hit you for over an hour, never doing damage to level your block skill. In fact, in Starcraft, there's creatures that gain damage rating the more damage they do, so good players have them attack their own buildings before fighting. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Sep 24 '15 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @corsiKa, I thought of the min-maxing thing too. Also, from an evolutionary perspective, the wizards who fight all the time have better survival traits than those that don't. Getting a magical recharge from fighting isn't the only benefit to combat. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 24 '15 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ True, but the wizards who are minmaxing aren't actually fighting. Like in a game where you make 10,000,000 bronze boots and suddenly you can smith a max level relic armor set. It's also found in the real world in martial arts - people know all the moves but never use them in a competitive setting. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Sep 24 '15 at 15:17

Simply alter the way your magic is provided.

Your magic is provided by helpful spirits, who happen to be drawn to combat, as they find it extremely exciting to watch (and possibly even participate if a spellcaster allows them to.)

Reliving such combat in your dreams is also enough to draw in the spirits, as they are perfectly capable of enjoying your dreams as much as the real thing.

And while the magical version of PETA still objects heavily, drinking condensed magical spirits is still a common way of quickly regaining energy.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I would think PETS would be more opposed than PETA to the drinking of spirits. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 24 '15 at 12:03
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I think MADD would be more opposed "drinking condensed magical spirits" $\endgroup$ – ryanyuyu Sep 24 '15 at 19:30
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I leave the name of the organization who opposes drinking spirits up to viewer discretion. My personal recommendation is "METS", Mages for the Ethical Treatment of Spirits. They also play baseball. $\endgroup$ – Theik Sep 24 '15 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea. I was thinking the way you recharge from sleep could have a completely different mechanism from fighting. That doesn't help tie the magic system together, though. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Sep 24 '15 at 23:27

My suggestion is similar to some of the others, but with a subtle twist.

The wizard doesn't generate energy out of nowhere, instead he actually feeds on the life energy of other people. In combat he drains the life energy of the people he's fighting so can recharge.

You can slowly refill the pool from your own life energy without doing long term damage (you just have to eat a lot). Draining it from other people though is both painful and harmful to them - so it would be a major sacrifice for anyone to do it willingly.

As a result it normally only happens in a hostile situation where all the mages feed on the lifeforce of everyone they are facing. Depending on what you need for the plot purposes you can have mages either able to draw from each other, be able to block each other, or have some mages able to do it. They are drawing life force directly though - not the magic pool which is separate.

Consequences of being drained would be pain and premature aging. The aging would gradually reverse itself but repeated draining risks making it permanent.

Ironically this actually favours smaller numbers in a fight - although being outnumbered is still a disadvantage in itself.

So lets say an incredibly strong archmage gets jumped by 5 bandits including a weak wizard of their own.

He'd not visited this area in many decades but the Archmage Vesurious was enjoying the experience of walking incognito. Dressed as a humble traveler he was drawing little attention and that was his aim. The sun was bright and warm ahead, and the trail clear as it cut through the forest.

It started with a strange tingle, then a spark of pain. The knee injured so many years ago started to ache once more. The Archmage recognized the sensation instantly, although no-one had been fool enough to try and drain him for nearly a decade.

The trees around the trail suddenly parted and a five people armed with bows, and spears stepped out to surround him. Another figure dressed in robes and holding a staff stepped forwards importantly. "I am Relif of Daran", said the robed figure, "give us your valuables and I'll let you live."

The Archmage could feel the life energy of all six of them, it burnt like a flame in the back of his mind. He reached out to the flames and inhaled, pulling hard. Energy flooded into him and he used it to throw up a shield against both energy and physical weapons.

The bandits cry out with pain, one staggers and another's hair turns white instantly. "Wizard" one cries swinging a futile sword against The Archmage's shield. Not even bothering to strike out at the bandits Vesurious conjured a swarm of flaming arrows and sent them flying into the only real threat there: The bandit wizard and the hastily erected shield that surrounded him.

Vesurious walked past the bandits ignoring their futile attacks bouncing off his shields. He breathed in again, feeling the warmth of their life filling him. One of them screamed and collapsed, while another's face was instantly lined and grey. Twenty years had been sucked from his body in the span of one breath.

Gazing coldly at the mage before him Vesurious said "I do not know you, and I do not care to know you. Banditry is not a suitable career for a wizard though.". Breathing in power once more he reached out a hand, burning through the feeble shields and immolating the fool within.

Sighing at the interruption of his stroll he turned and walked away, leaving a pile of ash on the floor where the weaker wizard had stood. The bandits lay collapsed on the floor, one's heart had given out while the the four survivors all looked closer to eighty than their real twenty-something. Two had lost consciousness, one was retching and the final one was clutching at his milky-white blind eyes.

Of course most wizards would not be able to drain people anything like that strongly or that quickly, even a group of wizards working together would not work that rapidly. It would take minutes or hours of combat to bring on these effects, but this example shows exactly why it's something that generally you would only do to enemies...or prisoners!

  • $\begingroup$ No Muggle is ever ever ever going to fight alongside a wizard. There's nothing preventing their life force being sucked from their bodies. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 24 '15 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Green So you want the wizard on your side. Who said the muggles had much choice? ;) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 25 '15 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ "Ironically this actually favours smaller numbers in a fight - although being outnumbered is still a disadvantage in itself." The counterbalance represented by this approach is really appealing. Simultaneous strength and weakness. Lots of potential for nifty consequences. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 25 '15 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ Uh! I was just to write something like this. Also, great story! +1 $\endgroup$ – Ender Look Jun 28 '17 at 23:12

Magic is best thought of as ripples in reality, which skilled manipulators can form into full blown waves by carefully adding an extra ripple or three of their own. When the pool is calm, it's difficult to gain any magic to be used later, but when it's being whipped into a frenzy by practitioners working at odds to each other? It is then that true power can be achieved.

The resting state of sleep allows for a gentle, calm way to gather energy from the pool, by allowing your subconscious to anticipate and capture the next ripple (the meditators also use this technique), and there are many potions that temporarily pit your own magical energies against themselves, allowing you to gain a temporary boost at the expense of your own physical and mental wellbeing (if overused).

This also provides an excellent background for blood sacrifice providing additional power, for certain sites having additional power and for stone circles etc being used to 'channel' the power and make it easier to skim magical energies from the world. It also provides a foundation for why covens are powerful (two witches push against each other, the third gains power) and lays the groundwork for how groups of magicians working together and in harmony can achieve much, much bigger effects than they can alone.

Plus: Magic Surfboards.

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this effectively mean that a mage has no regeneration if he's not fighting against other mages, and that he starts regenerating magic if people cast stuff near him regardless of combat occurring? $\endgroup$ – Theik Sep 24 '15 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ The pool always ripples, and you can't catch a wave if it's headed to the shore, only if it splashes against another wave $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 24 '15 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ very Zen, this philosophy. Basically I imagine it as trying to scoop up water from a shallow puddle with a very big bucket: if two ripples splash against each other (when two mages butt heads) they temporarily rise up far higher than they would alone and become easier to 'scoop' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 24 '15 at 13:30

The techniques you mentioned for gathering magic energy could both function by collecting energy from hostile intentions/will directed at the magic user. Therefore, it wouldn't be available except when someone was sending intensely hostile energy your way, which would generally only happen during combat. If by "during active combat" you mean only at moments when a serious attack is happening, then perhaps it also requires the bodily expression and/or the mental state present when actual injury may be about to occur. Of course, some people might experiment to see if they could get this in other circumstances, such as by chaining someone up and getting them to be be hostile but not a threat, or by arranging for friends/allies to attack them, but either intentionally miss or not attack or be armed with pillow weapons or something. If you don't want that, then you could also make it that there are other conditions (perhaps which even arch-wizards haven't figured out yet) such as the hostiles might need to believe they have an actual good opportunity to injure the magic user.

As a twist, it might also be about something other than the humans per se. For instance, some scientists in the late 20th Century found that plant matter responded to human thoughts and emotions and the suffering or even threat of injury to other plants or humans they were attuned to. Maybe the collection of magic energy is channeling the stress signals sent out by the combatant's symbiotic bacteria in/on their bodies. Or, maybe it's actually the sympathetic energy of spirits riding along with people. If it's from spirits, that would go along with the way dreaming can regenerate magic energy, particularly if (as some modern dream researchers think) there are dream spirits.

If you want an explanation at the traditional metaphorical level of religion, it could be said that Xuxuxu the god of war's gaze falls on those in combat (perhaps the gaze of other gods too), and the casters bask in the light of his gaze and can gather some for themselves, and gain some of his attention, or something along those lines.


It depends a bit on what you want to do. There are 3 distinct possibilities I can imagine:

  1. The magic user has to be actively involved in the combat.
  2. The magic user has to be present where combat is happening, but not necessarily actively fighting.
  3. The magic user has to be at a scene where combat has occurred, but not necessarily when it happened.

There are a number of things that could be used, depending on which of the 3 above you want to use. Let's look at them one at a time.

Magic user has to be in active combat: You could use things like adrenaline, heart rate, etc, which might be increased slightly in normal conditions, but are far more likely to be present in combat. You could use something like impact, blood loss, or other items that are indicators of such stress. Maybe moving the arms in certain manners triggers it. With the exception of something magical, I can't come up with a system that couldn't be spoofed, but maybe the ability to spoof it could be a plot point. If adrenaline is the key factor, for instance, maybe magic users become adrenaline junkies to build up their power.

If they only have to be present in combat, there's a number of things. Maybe they feed off of suffering, or blood somehow transfers power to them. Maybe pain of others is the key factor. Again, these things could be spoofed outside of combat, but combat they are far more likely to be present. You could use spirits of some sort, or some magical essence that leaves the bodies of those who died in combat.

As to the third, the options are very similar to the second, however, they stick around for longer. You could do some interesting things, like call the spirits of dead soldiers, perhaps only the losing ones, or the young, or old.

Bottom line is, you could do a lot of interesting things, try to think of exactly what the magic user must be doing as you can, and then research the types of things that are happening to him, or those around him, when this is happening.


My answer is more appropriate for regular fighters with weapons and magic than long-range mages, I don't know if it fits your world.

Your mages may have a special link with their weapons. Wearing a weapon could be like wearing a magic item, and you have to have an active contact with it to recharge the magic pool. It's a little bit restrictive, as some of your characters may fight without weapons (but they could have fighting gloves), and for long-range fighters... Magic bows are a possibility but it does not bring the same sensation as a sword or an axe.

Back to the swords.

The way your magic regenerate could depend from the kind of mage and/or the kind of weapons.

  • The first kind brings a few magic as long as the weapons are in the caster's hands.
  • The second kind brings more magic but less often: when the fighter's weapons meet, when hurting the ennemy, while being hurt, only when striking or attacking and not while fighting in defense mode... lots of possibilities here. If you really want to keep the fact that magic regenerate while focussing, it's not a problem, the spellcaster have to focus on his weapon.


The energy pool your talking about could be the casters own blood.

To regain that energy, sleeping and general restfulness could increase the amount of blood in the body, so that the caster can cast more effectively. But this is boring.


While the casters own blood is most potent for his or her spells, the blood of others works too. They need physical access to it, its your call whether they need to drink it, stand in it, whatever. The caster can use lethal quantities of other peoples blood to cast too. The more you kill, the more you cast.


Their blood is better than muggle blood. A combat caster would specifically target enemy casters, with the intent of capturing and harvesting their blood, which you go with your Universe, is probably also an integral part of the energy-recharge potions you mentioned.

Naturals vs Meditators:

This could either be hand-waved, or if its a hard requirement, then meditators have a mind-over-body way of having their body produce more blood than normal, similar the the Buddhist monks who can raise their body temperature and change their heart rates at will. It is not inconceivable that this skill or ability would appear in a world where blood was the determining factor in who lived and who died.


The Crimson King and Vampire clans and all sorts of nasty political entities would form around the need to acquire large volumes of blood to win wars. Others would band together to protect innocent people and rally the masses to their cause. For this reason, I don't really see 50% and being sustainable.

50%, but for how long?

This blood-caster trait would get pretty noticed. Maybe it would go like Dragon Age, where using other peoples blood becomes heresy and gets you killed. More likely, the muggles would rise up and hunt casters, vilifying them and calling them things like "Vampire". Or perhaps we would be something like the goofy last season of True Blood, where everyone would try and get a caster in the family, making the trait so Universal that everyone has it. Either way, I can't really see 50% holding for long. A couple hundred years, tops. That gives all the evil casters time to win large wars or all the muggles time to hunt casters to extinction.


Mages call mana the lifeblood of magic. It is the fuel that powers spells. When a mage focuses his mind he can shape this mana into whatever magic he wills, but were he to run out of his reserve of mana his spell will falter and die just as a human would if drained of their own lifeblood.

There is a good reason that Magical Scholars refer to mana as the 'lifeblood' of magic, because mana is very closely attached to one's life blood. Mana flows through our own blood. Some mages argue that without mana to fuel it human life would be impossible to sustain. Recently Magical scholars have suggested an alternative claim, that mana is not the fuel of the mind, but rather that the human mind is the fuel, or perhaps the furnace, which generates mana itself! Whatever the cause or affect it's well known that the human body has always been tightly linked to mana, and the main source of it.

A mage is able to slowly refill his reserve of mana for casting spells by siphoning off the excess mana generated from his own body, the the process is slow, taking more then 8 hours of time to refill, but ensuring they usually awake full of magical power.

More relevantly though mana that mana within one's body can be spilled just as easily as the blood. When one is cut they bleed both blood and mana. Even the smallest of wounds allows some of the mana which infuses one's body to leak out. It's been well documented that upon death a huge surge of mana is also released.

This nature of mana has served humanity in the past. Mages wounded by some unfortunate danger have often tapped into the mana released by their own energy to cast spells to defend themselves. In fact many natural disasters have been mitigated by mages taping into the magical energies released by those wounded in the disaster to fuel the very spells used to save those still in danger.

Still, one can't deny some unsavory tactics have resulted from the nature of mana. The infamous blood mages willing to hurt, or even kill, to fuel greater works are a horrible thought, though strict laws and harsh penalties have ensured few go down this dark path in the civilized world. But one can not ignore the escalating nature of war magics and the death toll that has resulted. Battle mages draw on the mana released by the death's during war to fuel their lethal spells, which in turn leads to more deaths and more ambient mana for both sides to draw upon. Indeed the most fearsome magics are always worked during warfare, when mana is most plentiful. For this reason magic has always been, right or wrongly, closely tied in most men's minds with war and combat. Some sadly think of magic as only useful when used to harm another, though I and my fellow Magical Scholars would hasten to stress there are many benign and beneficial uses for magic outside of combat.

After all let us not forget about the great Merlin, who's made the ultimate sacrifice by drawing on the mana that fueled his own lifeforce, sacrificing his own life to to cast the spell of binding which saved so many lives. While I prey no mage find's themselves in the situation where they must cast a their Final spell, it does show the good that magic can do for the common man!

And this is but one example. Remember common mage spells have helped protect farmer's crops from insects and encourage higher yields. From repelling dangerous creatures to speeding new construction to warding off infection of wounds magework regularly makes the life of the common man easier!

But this important magework is limited by Mana. There are far too many demands for Workings then our mages can manage from their own ambient mana. To fuel these important daily works, to improve and even save lives of you, the common man, our mages must supplement their mana reserves with Potions. Without Potions we will fail! We can not afford to allow our Potion supplies to dwindle!

And so I plead to you good folks, help support our magework! A simple quick procedure will allow us to draw upon your ambient mana to help us make potions to support the important mageworks of today! The procedure takes only 30 minutes! The process is simple and while Yes we must release a small flow of blood it is just a small pinprick, a tiny moment of discomfort to support our noble magework! You will be compensated for your time and inconvenience, and we provide free snacks afterwards to help you refill your mana supplies.

Remember you can donate once a week! One donation can fuel up to three potions! Please do your part to support magework and help save lives!

Side effects may include temporary dizziness, lower energy for the day after, and lower Mana reserves for casting and dry mouth. Do not donate if you are cursed, treating other's curses, or may be cursed in the near future. If you continue to experience difficulty Casting after a nights rest please seek magical attention from your local witchdoctor Immediately!

( Okay, I may have had a little too much fun with this idea. It's similar to the already suggested idea of blood being the source of magic, but it's a bit more general. Mana is released whenever someone is hurt or killed, but it's not directly tied to anyone's blood. In combat whenever someone is hurt, be they ally, enemy, or even yourself, some ambient mana is going to be made available, at which point anyone can draw upon it. This means conflict that involves actual harm is the time that mana is most usually available to be drawn in. Mediators manually reach out to draw the ambient mana, while naturals just sock it in.

in a totally unrelated, and certainly not at all apropo, aside everyone should consider donating blood this weekend, Your local red cross likely is open Saturdays for convenient walk in times if you just google them! ;P )


Perhaps there could be some conservation law, conservation of mana. One can only receive mana after 'knocking' the mana out of your opponent.

Another related possibility would be conservation of hp+mana that states that total hp plus total mana is always equivalent to some constant. The only way to gain mana would be if the opponent uses mana or loses life due to, of course, the attacker. (If it's suicide it is automatically converted to their own mana.)

Sleeping/meditating mages receive ambient mana from other mages that have died.

  • $\begingroup$ If some one completely dies then their hp and their mana will go to a meditator who is meditating/sleeping $\endgroup$ – tox123 Sep 25 '15 at 2:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.