FATE of Thedas
The Control Skill and Specialties
Only mages may take the Control skill. Any effect possible with magic can be attempted with even one rank in Control, and regardless of learned spells or specialty ranks; much the same way anything possible with a sword can be attempted with a single rank in Melee. Dueling a yeti with a giant sword on a perilous ice bridge in nearly hurricane force winds would be suicide for the amateur swordsman, and quite possibly fatal for even the greatest swordsmen to ever live. This is what it is to cast spells, even the simplest attempt to shape reality by drawing upon the mutability the Fade is both difficult and perilous.
To deal with this mages master two things; schools of magical discipline and rote spells. By learning rigorously proven mana theory and spell formulas, the mage stands on the shoulders of those who warped reality before them. For every rank in the Control skill, mages also gain a rank on a Specialties tree, limited by their Control skill (no Specialty can outrank the mage’s Control). For every rank in Lore that a mage takes, they gain a proportionate number of ranks (the first rank gives one, the second two, etc) on the Specialties tree. Unlike Skills, Specialty ranks do not require the same breadth (one can be a true specialist) and do not ‘rest’ on lower ranked Specialties on the chart. When casting a rote spell, the appropriate specialty (Primal for a fireball, Creation for healing, etc) rating is added to the mage’s Control to cast the spell. Specialties also limit the level of rote spells the mage can learn.
Primal: Primal spells allow mages to harness the power of the elements, mostly to damage their enemies. Rote primal spells divide into the Fire, Earth, Cold, and Lightning paths.
Creation: Creation spells give mages the ability to draw life force into the world, generally for healing but it has offensive uses. Rote creation spells divide into the Heal, Heroic Offense, Glyph, and Spell Wisp paths.
Spirit: Spirit spells affect the body, minds, and magic of their targets directly. Rote spirit spells divide into the Anti-Magic, Mana Drain, Death, and Telekinesis paths.
Entropy: Entropy spells enable a mage to cripple their enemies by attacking their life force. Rote entropy spells divide into the Weakness, Hex, Disorient, and Drain Life paths.
More esoteric schools of magic exist, but they are not studied as part of a mage’s standard education, and must be pursued independently.
The other method of controlling non-trivial magic, and with even higher theoretical power than spells, is Ritual Magic. This magic is performed by one or more mages, according to a rigorously pre-scripted ritual, often drawing on specially designed, sympathetic power sources (regularly sacrifice). Most commonly used rituals are ancient, but mages do still experiment and attempt to create rituals. The price of failure is commensurately higher than normal spellcasting, and this discourages most new ritual theories from ever being attempted. These rituals can take hours or even days (the quickest takes at least minutes, making them generally unusable in combat).