Magic is a key component of Dominions. It is one of the main articles of differentiation between nations, and is crucial to success beyond the early game. It is powerful, varied, and pervasive.
Dominions 5 and its predecessors have eight paths of magic, subdivided into the four Elemental paths (the first four) and the four paths of Sorcery (the last four):
Mages will have certain levels of skill in one or more paths; for instance, a Marignon Witch Hunter has Fire 2 Astral 1, while a lich has Death 4. To cast a spell, a mage must have sufficient skill in all of its required paths to cast it. Thus the Marignon Witch Hunter could cast Fireball (requiring Fire 2), but not Astral Fires (requiring Fire 1 Astral 3).
Each path contains many spells, divided into seven schools of magic:
Each school has nine levels; mages set to research will allocate their research points to the schools you choose, and eventually unlock higher levels of magic.
For instance, the spell Blade Wind is an Evocation 4 spell that requires Earth 3 to cast. Once your nation has reached Evocation 4 research, any mage with at least 3 levels in the Earth path can cast Blade Wind.
Gems are the magical currency required for performing rituals and forging magic items. They can also be used to perform more potent combat magic, as well as reduce spellcasting fatigue in combat and cast spells with a higher path requirement than a mage might normally be able to. In practice, they are a critical resource for leveraging research into actual progress in a game.
Magic is the heart of Dominions 5, and the player who uses their nation's mages most effectively has a large advantage. Mages are required to research higher-level spells and to cast spells in combat, so mage count determines both a nation's current and future power. Typically in any successful Dominions game a player will:
Since a nation's pretender will likely be a very powerful mage in its own right, a high-path pretender can often cast spells unavailable to a nation's mages. (Consider that the strongest spells require 6 to 9 levels in a path, but no nation can reasonably recruit mages with more than 4 in a path, and most nations don't even have these). Typically the most powerful spells and the most versatile booster items are cast and forged by pretenders, with a few exceptions.
Additionally, empowerment is an option to increase a single mage's paths, however due to its high gem cost it is generally an inferior option to forging or trading for booster items.
When designing a pretender, it is often useful to ask yourself "What rituals would I really like to cast, but I can't with my national mages alone?" For instance, MA Agartha would really like to cast Earth Blood Deep Well, requiring E6, but its national mages only have E4 access. There are three reasonably accessible booster items that boost Earth: Earth Boots (requires Earth 2), Blood Stone (requires Earth 2 Blood 3), and Staff of the Elements (requires Earth 4 Air 4, or Water 4 Fire 4). Agartha can forge Earth Boots, but has no Blood or Air, and no way to get to Water 4 Fire 4.
In order to cast Earth Blood Deep Well, an Agartha player can either take a pretender with Earth 5 or better (who will wear Earth Boots to get to E6), or one capable of forging a Blood Stone or a Staff of the Elements (which can take one of its E4 national mages up to E6 along with Earth Boots).
An individual mage's access to magic depends on his paths. He will have one or more paths each at a given level, and all spells require a certain level in at least one path.
Having a path which exceeds the one required by the spell will decrease the fatigue necessary to cast a spell in combat, and may cause other aspects of the spell to increase, depending on the spell in question.
Indirect Magic represents the arcane knowledge a mage possesses about any magic path in which he has skill, which lets him gain side effects just from being knowledgable in that type of magic. Each path has a small effect on the stats of the unit in addition to access to magic.
Some of these matter more than others. Of particular note, the undead provided by death magic is a key component of undead armies, and the protection provided by earth magic can be used to create an awake expander.
Max age changes are done in 50% increments of the default max age, and depend on the type of creature: undead are affected by Death magic, inanimate creatures by Earth magic, demons by Blood magic and all others by Nature magic, in that order of priority. If your age is affected by Nature magic, every point in fire magic reduces your max age by 5%.
Note that while most of these give a bonus per level, there are exceptions. Elemental resistances give no benefit for the first two levels, regardless of how many levels are present. Protection applies to all levels, but only if there are at least three levels, or else it doesn't apply. Fear functions similarly to protection, kicking in all at once at level 5, with the exception that it will always add to fear if the unit already has fear.
A breakdown of the magical paths available to each nation, and the number of nations with access in a magical path (in parenthesis a number of nations with a maximum access of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
These lists do not account for summonable units or include random paths with a 10% chance of occurring.
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