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Master of Magic is a 1993 4X game from the makers of Master of Orion that enriches the usual world domination schtick with a spellcasting system, tactical combat and various details such as hero units and Item Crafting.

The players picks or customizes a wizard, founds a city with one of the standard fantasy races, and goes on to crush all competing wizards in the coterminous worlds of Arcanus and Myrror. Options are military force and researching and casting the Spell of Mastery. Mage or no mage, it's as necessary as usual to found cities, levy taxes and build armies. Moreso, in fact, as here the wandering monsters might breathe fire and the goody huts are dungeons.

Magic is divided neatly into Life, Nature, Sorcery, Chaos and Death (white, green, blue, red, black). A Technology Tree is replaced by researching spells in a wizard's chosen field or fields, which can range from sparklers in three or four to planet-crackers in one. Mana, generated from some city buildings and constantly contested mana node tiles, is used to fuel and maintain spells. There are battle spells, utility spells, unit enhancements to make scouts invisible or ships fly, caster units, summoned beings, enchanted items, city spells and terraforming, world spells that can control the winds or block out the sun, etc. One of the possible win conditions is--you guessed it--casting a certain spell. It's enough to make one forget that the whole thing looks almost exactly like a fantasy version of the first Civilization.

Master of Magic only held together after patching - in the pre-WWW era - and has more GameBreakers than you can shake a stick at, but is still fresh and offers numerous things to fiddle with. The in-game help system is marvelous. The game remains appreciated and has the odd Spiritual Successor, particularly the Age of Wonders series, which is similar in having tactical combat, Item Crafting and "research from random spellbook" approach, but weaker non-linearity factors.

Stardock was in talks as of 2007 to make a sequel, Master of Magic 2, but these talks broke down. Instead, they made a Spiritual Successor, Elemental War of Magic, which has been released in 2010.

Another Spiritual Successor has been released in May of 2012, this time by Paradox and Ino Co, titled Warlock: Master of the Arcane, which uses a hex-grid map and combat system very similar to Civilization V.

This game provides examples of:

  • After Action Report: A couple classics of the genre were inspired by this game. View one of the best here, and another one almost as funny here.
  • Alchemy: A Special trait that allows to convert gold to mana and vice versa at 1:1 ratio. This trait and the Alchemist Guild buildings also allow your troops to wield magical weapons. The Nature spell, Transmute, allows to change certain metals to others and vice-versa.
    • Later patches made the ratio a bit worse, since Alchemy was a bit of a Game Breaker originally (especially when combined with spells that boosted your city's gold output.)
  • Animate Dead: The bread and butter of Death magic.
  • Anti-Magic
  • Apocalypse Wow: Most of the Very Rare Chaos spells are global enchantments that, as a whole, do this. One of them constantly corrupts tiles in both planes, slowly rendering the entire world outside of your borders unlivable. Another does the same thing except with volcanoes, and a third rains meteors that constantly damage every unit in the game outside the shelter of a city.
  • The Archer: Bowmen and Archer heroes.
  • The Archmage: In gameplay, Archmage is a special trait that lets you cast better. Trope-wise, Rulers and High-level Mage heroes are this.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Almost every aspect of the game's AI, unfortunately.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Most of the high-level creatures and many of the spells.
  • Bad Moon Rising: Depending on the player, it is a GOOD thing. The "Bad Moon" event doubles mana income of evil temples and cuts the mana income of good temples... Oh, there's also a "Good Moon." Your good/evil status is determined by whether you have Death or Life spellbooks.
  • The Berserker: Units with increased attack strength while sacrificing all their defense. A spell can cause this for non-berserker units.
  • Black Magic: Death and Life are, incidentally, the only two magical schools that cannot be combined: If you have death you can't cast life. Death magic is composed of necromancy and negative enchantments. This would make it less useful than Life, since in the later game it's hard to get a negative enchantment past an enemy's resistance, but Death also gets a laundry list of the best summons in the game. Shadow Demons, Wraiths, Death Knights...
  • Blade on a Stick
    • The spearmen, the weakest unit of all races whose only good point is that it is so cheap that it doesn't require gold to upkeep. Made obsolete by Halberdiers, which are basically uprgraded spearmen, and...
    • The Pikemen, and their skill to negate the first strike (a free attack before the enemy can retaliate) of Cavaliers.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: The best quest rewards are: extra masteries, extra spell books, rescue of an elite hero, or an elite item. If you have the maximum number of spellbooks, heroes and masteries, the game was forced to give you some crap like an Item of Lame.
  • Boring but Practical: for cost-effectiveness and sheer, terrifying power the best unit in the game is the humble Halfling Slinger, which combines innate Halfling luck (+1 to all rolls) with good stats and a high number of figures per unit. Slingers at Champion experience level, with a full range of Life enchantment spells, can hit hard enough to one-shot most units even through missile immunity.
  • Bug War: What happens when you get involved in hostilities with the Klackons.
  • Character Customization: Customize your Wizard.
  • The Chosen One: Torin is described as one, and for the good reason.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Each school of magic, and most of the assorted creatures, has its own colour, Life/White, Death/Purple, Sorcery/Blue, Chaos/Red, Nature/Green. Of course, there are a couple that break the mold. Behemoths are red, but are a high-level nature summon, and Hydras are green, but are an equally high-level Chaos summon.
  • Combat Medic: Various Heroes and units, mostly priests and shamans, who can heal during battle.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: On higher difficulty levels, in addition to cheating otherwise, computer players get more skills and spellbooks (this translates to more bonuses and more spells). This can lead to surprises such as the Chaos specialist Tauron suddenly wiping out your superpowered hero with a Cracks Call spell... or a huge stack of heroes and summoned creatures attacking your capital after you've just built a few buildings and a couple of swordsmen. Note that the AI is so infamously terrible that it will need these bonuses against any competent player.
  • Cool Airship: Airships are a special unit constructable only by one race. However, you can "cheat" by casting Fly on a regular warship; this itself can become a Game Breaker, especially when combined with Invisibility, due to the facts that the AI is bad at dealing with invisible units and warships, unlike pretty much every other ranged unit in the game, have essentially unlimited ammo.
    • Note that, while each warship has enough ammo for 99 turns of combat, the combat will end in a draw ("All units retreat exhausted") if one side is not victorious after 50 turns. Casting Haste on your warship will squeeze the full effectiveness out of its ammo.
  • Counter Attack: All units do this, but some have "First Strike" abilities that avoid it (unless its negated or they don't kill the target), and units under the Haste Spell will counterattack twice.
  • Curse: Various spells causing various negative status effects. Becomes less useful later in the game, since high-level units and more powerful summoned creatures generally have high enough Resistance to beat the resist checks on most of the game's spells (and a few are outright immune to magic to begin with).
  • Critical Existence Failure: Played straight with individuals (Heroes, One-man units), but subverted with multiple-person units, where with each dead person the unit fights worse.
  • Death From Above: The "Meteor Shower" global enchantment that every turn hits EVERY UNIT IN THE WORLD with fire from the skies.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils
  • Demonic Possession: One of the Death spells does this in combat.
  • Dual World Gameplay: Arcanum and Myrror, connected by Portal Towers.
    • Myrror is populated by races with more bonuses and innate abilities than Arcanum's "vanilla" races, and nodes on Myrror are worth double power, but it's also populated by far more dangerous beasties. You can buy the right to start the game on Myrror at character creation, but it's the most expensive pick in the game.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chaos Spawn. It flies, but has no wings. It is a ball of... flesh?... and a bunch of eyes (yes, like a beholder). It attacks by looking at its target. It has some of the worst attack stats in the game, but the negative effects it causes with those attacks are crippling and fatal. Unfortunately, it's a Glass Cannon that can't even make ranged attacks, making it Awesome but Impractical. Rare for abominations, really...
  • Elemental Crafting: The better the metal, the better the bonus.
  • Elemental Powers: Five schools of magic of Life, Death, Chaos, Nature and Sorcery as well as a school of "Arcane" spells that everyone can learn. Arcane is a list of "utility" spells that are important to the game, like Magic Spirits and Dispel Magic.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Some schools tend to pick on certain others; Life has a bunch of anti-Death and anti-Chaos spells, for instance.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Your starting race is only important at the early-game, since by middle-game you will probably have 3-4 races in your domain.
    • It does, however, effect the loyalty rates of your conquered cities; your capital race inflicts an unrest penalty on all "foreign" cities under your control, with Dark Elves and Klackon getting the worst.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: The Chaos school of magic, oriented in dishing out direct damage and has a few random-type spells.
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: War Bears, a bane of all early-game units.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Chaos spell "Call The Void" attempts to plunge an entire city into the Void, slaughtering its citizens and soldiers, shattering its buildings, and showering the surrounding landscape with tainted rubble.
  • Fantastic Racism: If your ruling race are Klackons, the civil unrest in non-klackon cities will be very, very high.
  • Familiar: A Dove for Life Wizards, a Cat for Death Wizards, a Snake for Nature Wizards, a Devil for Chaos Wizards and a Beetle for Sorcery Wizards. They serve as announcers of events.
  • Floating Continent: Well, it's a mobile island, but you can cast Fly on it...
    • The Floating Fortress spell will also make one of your cities float out of reach of ground-based attackers, though it doesn't let it move around.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: A good chunk of Nature magic works like that, but especially the Nature's Wrath spell, that hits an opponent wizard with an earthquake if they cast Chaos or Death spells. There's also Cracks Call, a humble, ultra-common Nature spell used in battle to destroy walls... that also has a fifty percent chance of annihilating the unit standing on the targeted tile as long as it's not flying.
  • Geo Effects: Your standard Civilization-type terrain effects.
  • Giant Flyer: Sky Drakes and Great Drakes appear to be huge.
  • Golem
  • Good Bad Bug: Occasionally Galley units would gain numerous properties and powers, becoming more powerful than any hero.
  • Grim Reaper: Wraiths look like this. Any overworld casting of Death spells involves the shadow of the Grim Reaper looming over the target.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Impossible" difficulty, which isn't entirely accurate but does a good job of indicating how much the computer will cheat.
  • Hell Hound: A basic Chaos summon.
  • Hero Unit
  • Horse of a Different Color
  • Isometric Projection: During the battle.
  • Item Crafting: Costs an absurd amount of mana and takes a lot of time... but a hero with a pile of extremely powerful gear becomes a walking monstrosity capable of taking down almost anything in the game.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Several Life and a few Nature spells only work against Chaos or Death magics and creatures. On the upside, those spells are on the whole far more cost-effective than attack spells from other magic schools.
  • Lethal Joke Race: Most of the races that can't research effectively get a lot of flak for it from players. Those who swear by such races expect to make up for it by using their race in an early Zerg Rush and conquering themselves an empire that can research.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: 14 main 'races' not counting associated creatures (especially Beastmen).
  • Lizard Folk: The Lizardmen.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Units with Large Shield have defense bonus vs. ranged attacks. Heroes with proper slots can use shield items--the same effect plus any enchantments allowed for armor.
  • Magic Knight: Some of the heroes.
  • Mage Tower: It's where you live. If the city where it stands gets taken over, you're Banished and can't cast spells until you cast the Spell of Return, which lets you return with a new tower in one of your other cities.
  • Magic Enhancement: All of the schools of magic have a few unit enhancements, but Life and Nature are the big ones.
  • The Magocracy: The player's realm, and heck, everyone except the neutrals.
  • Mana: Powers your spellcasting and is drawn both from temples and magical nodes. Some races generate it naturally, as well.
  • Mana Drain: A couple of effects can do this, but they're fairly rare. Can also appear in spell form: If you have mana leak, and can launch several combats against a target in a row, see Game Breaker.
  • Master of Illusion: Quite a few spells of Sorcery revolve around illusions. Illusion-based attacks are nasty, completely bypassing defenses... but on the other hand, some units, particularly the undead, are completely immune.
  • Merlin: Here he is a Sage Master (25% bonus to Research) and uses Life and Nature magic.
  • Mirror Universe: Literally called Myrror. Magic is more powerful here, and the races are different. And all roads act as enchanted (unlimited movement).
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: Life and Death schools are not compatible.
  • National Geographic Nudity: Sharee, the African voodoo priestess.
  • Ninja: One hero is this, and several others skirt it.
  • Non-Elemental: The Arcane spells.
  • No Ontological Inertia: All enchantments and summoned creatures will disappear if the Wizard runs out of mana.
  • One-Man Army: Torin, a Great Drake, or any high-leveled, well equipped, advanced hero can easily take a moderately defended empire all on their lonesome.
    • Wraiths are a complete game-buster - an all-Black caster can rustle up a single troop of these that can fly, steal life, and raise defeated enemies as undead. You can not only take out poorly-defended cities (that's just about everywhere in the early game) but staff them with unpaid undead garrisons in the process.
  • Our Monsters Are Different:
    • All Trolls Are Different: Tall, regenerating brutes.
    • Our Angels Are Different: Angels and Archangels, which you can summon.
    • Our Demons Are Different
    • Our Dragons Are Different: A variety of trainable and summoning dragons, plus a race.
    • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Their only distinct feature is that one of their units, the hammerhands, have hammers instead of hands.
    • Our Elves Are Better: Yes, they really are. High Elves are the only Arcanus race whose population naturally generates mana, and their longbowmen are absolute terrors against anyone not built up to fight them. Dark Elves, meanwhile, have warlocks with immensely powerful magic attacks, and their population generates more mana than any other race in the game.
    • Our Fairies Are Different: And very annoying.
    • Our Genies Are Different: No bottles, but two types of genies. Efreet (Chaos) are fireball-slinging units and Djinni (Sorcery) can use Wind Walking to ferry units across the overworld, both can cast spells of their own type.
    • Our Giants Are Bigger: Fire Giants are the weakest, with a thrown rock attack and decent stats. Stone Giants are more powerful, with much better stats and bigger thrown rocks. Storm Giants are here, as well; instead of rocks, they launch powerful, armor-piercing lightning bolts.
    • Our Gryphons Are Different: High-end Nomad unit.
    • Our Orcs Are Different: Instead of being The Horde-like, they are basically no different than other civilized races. They are the only race who can build all types of buildings and have no specialty. That makes this game one of the rare exceptions where humans are not the Jack of All Stats.
  • The Paladin: The Mounted Elite Unit of High Men.
  • Pegasus
  • Place of Power: The Nodes of Nature, Chaos and Sorcery types generate mana and counteract all other types of magic in vicinity. Masters of these schools get double the amount of mana from them. Node Mastery gives double mana for all three types and bypasses the suppressive aura.
  • Portal Network: the "Towers of Wizardry". Each one represents a stable portal between the two planes, and the only way to travel without one is to use fairly advanced Life magic or to summon one of the handful of non-Life creatures with innate planeshifting. They can get blocked off...
  • Power At a Price: Black Channels increases a mundane unit's physical strength stronger by making its members undead (incidentally preventing them from gaining experience). Chaos Channels infuses a mundane unit or hero with chaotic energies, randomly giving them either wings, demonically tough skin, or fiery breath. Both spells leave the affected unit vulnerable to Life magic's specialist attack spells.
  • Power Nullifier: The Nodes nullifies magic not of its type. Some spells can do this too.
  • Regenerating Health: One of the nature spells does this. During the battle they recover lost health, and if they won the battle all lost units will come back to life. Every single Troll unit has this.
  • Religion Is Magic: Temples, Cathedrals, Shrines and Parthenons provide you with Mana. Temples of Life/Death wizards are affected by Good Moon/Bad Moon and have improved mana output and calming effect if the owner has Divine Power/Infernal Power.
  • Sand Worm: The Great Wyrms, whose first action in combat is to get behind enemy lines and chew on the weak archers/magic/support units.
  • Shout-Out: One of the artifacts is named "The Idspispopd", referring to a Classic Cheat Code from Doom.
  • Snake People: The Nagas.
  • Sorcerous Overlord
  • Spell Book: You pick them up at the start of the game, at a cost of one "pick" each, and the more you have in a given school, the better you are at that magic. More books give you more spells at the start of the game and more of the high-end spells. You can find more of them in dungeons, but there is limit on how many you can have in all.
  • Status Buff: Many spells, especially Life and Nature ones.
  • Status Buff Dispel: Disenchant, Dispel Magic, and the more-powerful Sorcery variants will purge beneficial effects from a unit. The Sorcery spell Spell Lock is a unit enchantment that protects other enchantments from being removed.
  • Staying Alive: As long as any Wizard had a spare city and enough mana, he/she automatically casts the Spell of Return.
  • Squishy Wizard: Caster units, you and your enemies.
  • Suffer the Slings: Beware the Halfling slingers.
  • Summon Magic: Two types, "permanent" summons (which create a creature that lasts until destroyed or you stop paying its maintenance cost) and combat summons, such as Air Elementals, that last only as long as the combat and can be called up for free reinforcements.
  • Taken for Granite: The Nature Rare Spell Petrify, plus some monsters like the Gorgons can do this. In effect, it instakills a unit that fails its resist roll.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Several variants of teleportation spells, most of which are life magic. Also, a few units like Unicorns and Djinn can teleport naturally.
  • Time Stands Still: The most expensive spell in the game, Time Stop.
  • Unicorn: Life magic associated teleporting unicorns.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Averted. As long as a unit's Resistance score is low enough to be affected by a spell, your status-effect attacks are just as powerful as the AI's, and once you get your own units' Resistance at or above ten, you're all but immune to anything but Cracks Call (which has a flat 25% chance of annihilating any ground unit) and special spells that give resistance penalties to their saves.
  • Veteran Unit:
    • Normal units can level up to Elite rank. If you have a Warlord trait or a Crusade spell, you can upgrade them to Ultra-Elite rank. If you have both, you get Champion-ranked death machines.
    • Heroes have more levels, ending with Demi-God.
  • War Elephants: War Mammoths, used by Trolls.
  • Weapon of Choice: Different heroes with their own preferences. You can find them or craft them.
    • An Axe to Grind: Less variety in enchantments, but a higher limit to its +attack score. In addition, heroes with an axe throw attack add the attack bonus of their axe to the Thrown score, allowing extremely powerful heroes to wipe out enemies before even engaging in melee.
    • Cool Sword
    • Drop the Hammer / Epic Flail (They are under the same catetory)
    • Magic Wand: Wands and Staves can be wielded only by mage heroes, but the items can carry spell charges of their own, letting the hero cast magic without resorting to their personal mana pool. And can make the wielder's spells harder to resist.
  • When the Planets Align: Astrological events matters. Conjunctions double mana output of one Node type and halve others. Under Good Moon and Bad Moon respectively temples of Life and Death wizards give 1.5x more mana and the opposing force is halved.
  • White Magic: Life is chock full of beneficial enchantments, healing spells, and the like.
  • Wizard Beard: Merlin and some Mage heroes have these.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Illusionary attacks, deadly because they completely ignore all defenses unless a unit has immunity to illusions.
  • Zerg Rush: Vital for any race that can't build a University. Since they can't build their own technological infrastructure, they'll have to use their early-game units to quickly conquer a more builder-oriented race. Several races, however, prefer the Tank Rush variant instead; War Trolls, Klackon Stag Beetles and High Elven Longbowmen are all devastatingly effective if you building-blitz for them in the early game.

See more on Abandonia.