I always thought that if we bring magic-like throwing fireballs to the enemy to this world, a mage would be pretty over power, especially in the medieval era.

So I was thinking after reading this question...

Wizards in numerous fantasy realities tend to use elements to fight, maybe variating water into ice, but it's really the same concept. They create fireballs, ice lances, use lightning, move earth, etc. when in combat to defeat their enemies.

So let's bring this magic into a medieval era, like when they generally are placed, wouldn't magic be too powerful?

A normal warrior with a sword, shield, and armor would be in disadvantage by a lot, especially if the wizard can cast fire. So, how can a normal medieval soldier defeat a mage?

Is it possible to imprison a mage by normal means? Of course, you always have the fight fire with fire in the case of magic, but making a magic prison may not be in everybody possibility.

Is there any way to balance magic to make it fair to fight a wizard without being one?

I mean, a powerful wizard would still be a powerful wizard, but not a god-like person who just can annihilate everybody because nobody can defeat him.

Magic rules

  • Mages are just like regular people, they can get tired. So a healthy mage would last more than a lazy one in a fight
  • Magic works by schools (like in games), where you would have fire, water, earth, lighting, telekinesis, holy school.
  • Wizards normally focus on one school, but they may use other schools in a much much weaker way than somebody who has focused on that school.
  • Fire, water, earth, and lighting would use it element to manipulate and use that element into battle. Examples: creating fireballs, ice lances, moving earth make a lighting bolt fall onto the battlefield.
  • Telekinesis would be moving objects that a strong man would normally be able to move with his hands. Pushing people is very difficult as they can prevent it just like a regular push.
  • Holy school involves healing, protection. You may heal a small wound on yourself, wound on another depend on your powers. You may create a barrier that may hold one or two hit from a sword.
  • There's also the arcane school which all mages manipulate, being the school of breaking the laws of this world and the access to other schools.
  • Arcane magic also allows mages to teleport. They cannot teleport something without teleporting themselves, and they cannot teleport too much weight.
  • $\begingroup$ I think you misplaced the first link ;) $\endgroup$
    – Daniel M.
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:44
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Magic questions are notoriously difficult to ask. In this case you might be able to get it on-topic by adding some significant constraints and adding more details on how your magic system works, even then it will be tough. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related (NOT duplicate) question on limiting magical power levels: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/46279/… $\endgroup$
    – Ghotir
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @James I'll try it, but the question linked above is what I tried to look in this site before asking this question so... I really don't know how to proceed $\endgroup$
    – Yacomini
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ Let me add in that your magic shouldn't create materials. Say casting earth spike, it should pull the earth to cause that phenomenon instead of creating the earth make that phenomenon(If that were the case then what's stopping the mage from making hamburgers). This way, your magic would be much less overpowered. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Sep 28, 2016 at 14:00

3 Answers 3


Balancing such a universe is easy, and you'll find countless examples of it in literature, as well as in other questions right here on Worldbuilding SE.

Sure, a mage may be able to cast a fireball, incinerating anything within a 10m^2 area. But how often can he do it? How quickly? How much effort must he expend, how much "fuel" (mana)?

Wouldn't an enemy mage be able to protect said soldiers? Wouldn't a knight be able to obtain enchanted armor which might defend him against the effects of some of these magic attacks?

Last but not least, while slinging fireballs around is that mage immune to being turned into a pin cushion by a volley of arrows?

As you can see, there are many ways in which to give your non-magical characters a chance against a magic user.

As for imprisoning him, can he cast a spell if you cut off his tongue? How about his hands? If, however, you have the resources, why not forge some magical manacles in order to stop him from casting spells? Or maybe just remove his source of power?

Again, the sky is your limit, you just need to decide what everyone is capable of, and what the limits of those powers are.


I find the terms "balancing" and "reality check" contradictory. Wait, this is a constructive post, not blind criticism.

I think you do not need to balance magic vs the rest of the world. That is something you do in computer games, not in world building. Magic breaks the laws of physics. It cannot and will never be balanced so it's "fair". A magician will in most universes be more powerful than John Doe of Normalshire. And that's what makes magic interesting in the first place. It offers opportunities for story telling, for "what ifs" and for "oh, yes we can despite all odds". Don't try to balance it. Don't artificially weaken your mages so the guy with the sword has a chance. That also takes the fun away from having a mage in your story.

Instead, make it possible to pulverize half the enemy army, tear down castles, wash away bridges and burn down farms. Make a mage powerful.

And then, there are several concepts that limit the power, but in a way that ADDs to the story, and doesn’t take away from it. Example: a mage can cast a fireball that burns down half a square mile of whatever is unlucky enough to be in the way. You might rule that this only works when you burn one billion dollars worth of rubies. Or only when the sun, moon and Venus are aligned perfectly on a second Sunday of February. But that seriously takes the fun out of the story, because it's an arbitrary, random limitation. Unless your magic is completely dependent on stars or gems.

Instead, try to work with your idea of how magic works, and build limitations in based on that concept. For example, magic might be from the demonic plane, and channeling it causes the magician to suffer from demonic decay. Maybe not much when he only channels "minor" spells, but over the years he might age unnaturally fast, his teeth might go black, his hair turns white faster. And if he decides to burn a town to ashes he'll have nosebleed, teeth might fall out, his eyesight might become damaged permanently, or he might even suffer mutations (or terminal demonic cancer)... or he might suffer the risk of being possessed. This way a magical CAN be powerful, and there won't be much to stop him, but he will have a natural limit to his powers. And he will not use them without thinking if it's really necessary.

better is not to limit the power at all, but to balance it via in-world-logic:

Or you limit the power by the reaction of their environment. I'm thinking Warhammer here, where mages are powerful, but strictly kept in place by the guilds and the inquisition, instantly killing any mage who might step out of line or who might not follow orders 100%.

Or the people might start focusing their fears and hate on the magicians. Mage enters battlefield - everyone will aim at him and try to kill him outright, before he can cast his spells. Makes a mage wonder if he WANTS to go to war. Yes, he will take hundreds with him, but they will get and kill him eventually... and since you can't stop him from casting, there is only one sure way to end his doing....

Overall, i want to say: don't limit or balance a mage in their power, but try to balance the natural reaction of their environment. if you still want a limit to your magicians, make it so it fits your world's magic logic.

  • $\begingroup$ As for the impossibility of balance, one of Rick Cook's books had a magician create a metal ball full of water and then magically shrink the ball (squeezing the water) until a fusion reaction created a nuclear explosion... $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2018 at 23:25

I think some RPG (such as D&D) give you some hints for how to make it balanced; Chosing some of the following would make them way less god-like, while keeping it interesting:

  • Need of magic words (cutting one's tonge finishes the problem)
  • Need of magical movements (tying someone finishes the problem, also could make the wizard unable to use weapons nor shields)
  • Limited use of magic per day
  • Impossibility to wear armor (if the wizard can't wear any kind of armor due to weight or freedom of movement, he's an easy target in battle)
  • Need of components or a staff (taking them away finishes the problem)

This handicaps, or similar ones would solve the problem of wizards being too powerful. You still have to worry about a fireball, but you also know that you can take him away if he begins fireballing everything he sees.


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