Mages, sorcerers, and wizards are popular characters in a lot of fantasy stories—be they for movies, novels, videogames, Halloween or LARP. Mages are mighty and mystical, and once they unleash their powers, the fate of a fantasy world is often on the brink of destruction.

While every fantasy world has its very own notions about magic and spellcasters, certain principles apply to almost every universe and are considered positive and useful stereotypes for the depiction of a mage. In Europe, for instance, a wizard is associated with wearing a long coat and a pointy hat, and carrying a walking stick or a wand. Older wizards also wear a long beard. Witches, on the other hand, are usually imagined with warts on their hooked noses.

However, mages and sorceresses can be found in every culture on Earth. Just think of the nomadic people in the Near East, the voodoo practitioners in Central and South America, or the ancient rituals of African tribes—magic has always had its place in human culture, and is as multifaceted as mankind itself. And since not all the common clichés have to actually be implemented for the player to be recognized as a mage or warlock, you can blend new and extravagant elements into your own depiction as well, thus creating a new look and breaking with corny stereotypes.

Especially for mages, the costume is not the end of it, though—sometimes they need to demonstrate their magical prowess...

Portrayal of magic in theater, film, and LARP

Magic is supposed to amaze, inspire contemplation, creep people out, or even scare them. Since a magical effect usually doesn’t have a tangible form, you’ll need to depict a spell using a variety of means and methods. Emotional and physical forms of expression, which don’t require special tools to be rendered impressive, are voice and song, dance, gestures, and pantomime.

Many a great stage magician’s success has been based solely on perfectly utilized body language and detailed psychological deception, complemented with gadgets. In LARPing and movies, too, it’s great acting that provides the foundation for the compelling depiction of magic.

Aids for the display of magic can be found in a variety of sources—starting from well-known magic tricks involving cards, bent spoons, and flowers being pulled out of sleeves, all the way to coins that “dance” thanks to magnetic rings, electronic shenanigans such as light coming out of your palm, fog from your coat’s collar, or inexplicably rattling wooden chests. Provided appropriate safety precautions are taken, you can even utilize pyrotechnics. The ‘maker scene’ for instance, that utilizes micro-computers, cell phones, and 3D printing, is a valuable source of inspiration for canny modern magical gadgets. Creativity knows no bounds—the main thing is that mage and audience get to enjoy a great performance.

Combining these modern tools with mystical symbols, traditions, and ancient spells will create that kind of dramatic effect enabling a compelling display of magic. Naturally, that is terrific, but sometimes these tricks can actually scare people—so you should always use them responsibly and with reverence for the heritage of human culture. Fantasy mages, in particular, should be advised not merely to adopt existing cultural symbols, traditions, and spells, but rather to heavily modify them in accordance with the mage’s own fantasy world, which also lends it a nicely unique touch.

The mage’s task during an adventure

Since mages are quite versatile, in an adventuring party they can assume various roles according to their specializations and personalities. A combat mage will face adversaries and monsters and unleash spells onto them, a healing mage treats the party’s wounded, and a voodoo witch could foresee the success of an ambush, curse enemies, or confuse monsters.

Spellcasters are united by their desire to descry the wonders of their world and comprehend them. Some simply cannot get enough of adventures, while others prefer to serve as wise advisors—not only to kings or sovereigns—or to meddle in courtly intrigues and politics while secretly grasping for power. Others retreat to the fabled secluded tower and eschew contact to adventurers altogether in order to comb through old folios and mystical scrolls.

No matter what kind of mage you are, the most important thing is to have fun joining your friends on those heroic adventures, with tales to regale listeners for many years to come.

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