Some role-playing games or game systems can include a set of rules that are used to portray magic in the paranormal sense. These rules simulate the effects that magic would have within the game context, according to how the game designer intended the magic to be portrayed. The rules can also be designed to balance the game play for the players, so as to not give any one participant an unfair advantage.
Typically magic is portrayed by a set of spells, each of which consists of a listing of the game effects and limitations. The game-spells are often grouped into sub-categories by common themes, so as to limit access and to provide context. These spell themes are typically given designations such as Order, College, School, or Domain. They are often characterized by a common effect, such as Fire, Healing, or Protection.
The spells may have a set of prerequisites (usually given a name like "components" or "reagents") that must be satisfied during the course of game play before the spell can be activated. The spell listing will also include restrictions on the time, range, and target location, which are listed in the units of measurement employed within the game. Finally the spell description will list the effects upon the game state. Because the effects of magic upon the game world are systematic, predictable, repeatable and quantifiable (with the exception of a few games like), magic in games can be seen as a form of science.
Magic can also be portrayed within a game through the special capabilities of game-based objects, locations, individuals, and even mythological creatures. Each of these will have their own set of rules describing the game effects of their abilities. Usually these rules will be similar in form and function to the rules for portraying spells.
Characters within a game that includes rules for magic are commonly able to acquire the use of spells through some process. Usually this will either be a spell that the character has created; a spell gained from a book or other record; another in-game character that is willing to share the knowledge, or from a mysterious in-game source to whom the character has formed an allegiance.
There are several common approaches for balancing and restricting the use of spells within a game system.
There are also some game systems that provide greater flexibility in the use of magic. These include rules for producing spells that are made up as needed, subject to the game rules and limitations. Examples of such systems include Ars Magica, and .
Some Magics have elemental properties and therefore become oppossed to their opposite for example: Fire deals heat damage and therefore is typically opposed ice which deals cooling damage. A typical well known elemental being like Ifrit is a being that gains it strength from fire and expels fire magic, therefore he can absorb fire magic and become stronger, however ice magic will drain his health and greater than normal damage. Shiva would be Ifrit's opposite.
Many game systems include rules for simulating objects that have intrinsic magical properties. The accumulation and use of such objects can be asignificant component of games in the fantasy genre, and they serve a balancing role in long-duration games of escalating difficulty. These objects are carefully balanced by the designer, both by restricting how often they can be put into play and by limiting their capabilities.
There are several common techniques for controlling access to objects used within a game.
An object can have multiple magical properties, each of which can be limited in a different manner. Thus a magical staff could have a fixed number of charges that can be spent to create a "blinding flash of light"; be able to provide "magical illumination" for several hours each day, and possess a permanent ability to "glow in warning" whenever it comes near a poisonous plant or animal. This staff must be held in both hands for the magic to "work", thus using up the hand "slots". It may also only operate for a character that also knows how to produce certain types of spells.
A few rare magical objects possess an innate "intelligence" and personality, thus becoming a non-player character in the game. This concept is similar in some respects to an intelligent robot in a science fiction game or story, although the entity within the object is usually portrayed as more mystical in nature. The character that wants to employ the object must then interact with the intelligence and find a means to persuade it to cooperate.
Some game systems place a heavy emphasis on giving a magical object a well-developed history and unique characteristics. This is usually done to provide depth to the story being told by the game, and to make the "magic" seem less technological and more mysterious. Another technique for maintaining the mystery is to hide the abilities of the magical object from the characters that find it. The characters must then "identify" the magical abilities, either by putting the object into use or by consulting an expert in magical lore. Some game system also include spells that can be used to identify the abilities.