A subset of Life Energy, mana is the spiritual fuel that makes magic work. The character stores the mana somewhere on or inside his person and uses it up as he casts spells or performs other superhuman acts. The amount of mana is directly proportional to the number and strength of spells that can be cast consecutively.
Once used, it depends on the story how mana is regained. It could simply require rest or eating; or it could require more exotic means; such as Intimate Healing or feeding on the Life Energy of others. Sometimes all that's required is a good old primal scream and focusing on what's important, really, really hard with a lot of emotion.
Mana can have many names, and often Hermetic Magic and Ki Attacks will overlap in its depiction. Mana, Ki, Chi, Chakra, etc. What differentiates them is how they are drawn out and used. Ki Attacks are martial-arts based, while Hermetic Magic often requires components and rituals. But prior to leaving the body, the "stuff" used seems to be the same.
The term is actually a Melanesian/Polynesian word for the power of the elemental forces of nature, as embodied in an object or person. The current usage no doubt descends directly from Larry Niven's novel The Magic Goes Away and related stories from the 1970s, in which he used "mana" to refer to the non-renewable resource which powered magic in prehistoric times, and whose depletion ushered in the "modern" historical era.
Not to be confused with the holy sustenance (often assumed to be breadlike, though the original source describes it as being quite different) rained from heaven by God for the Israelites in The Bible. That's manna, with two N's.
Anime and Manga
- In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Michel stole Life Energy apparently to fuel his powers and make him stronger. While this is part of it, it soon turns out that the other part is just to keep himself alive through the process of altering his DNA to merge with Michal.
- Dragon Ball: "Sentô-ryoku (literally "fighting power", and actually called such in the Latin American dub)" or "Power level" is an famous use of this trope; it resembles Ki. Note that power level isn't something that can be used up like most of the other examples and is more like a Character Level than a Mana Meter. It can go down, but only if the character is really low on energy. Generally when it starts dropping, that means the fighter is on their last legs, and is fighting to stay conscious. (On one occasion, Gohan actually got his dropped to zero; he looked comatose.)
- Shaman King had "Furyoku", which is translated as "Mana" in the English manga.
- Mahou Sensei Negima outright uses RPG terminology to differentiate Chi as HP and Mana as MP. Ki Attacks are the ability to draw on one's own internal Life Energy, and Magic is the ability to manipulate and draw in elemental forces from without. Using one interferes with the other unless one somehow knows the "Kanka Technique" which fuses them. Negi's ability to share mana with his students via "Pactio" contracts is impressive.
- "Reiryoku/Spiritual Energy" in Bleach. Not to be confused with "Reiatsu/Spiritual Pressure", which is what energy is being released.
- "Chakra" in Naruto
- "Reiki," "Yoki," and "Seikoki" in Yu Yu Hakusho.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has "Linker Cores", which are ethereal organs in the bodies of mages and magical creatures that store magic power.
- In Zatch Bell, this is simply called "Power from Within."
- In A Certain Magical Index, there is natural mana produced by ley lines on the Earth, but there are also several ways to produce mana, which is why there are different schools of magic. However, mana is incompatible with AIM fields of espers, which disallow the existence of a magician-esper hybrid. AIM fields also function as the science-side equivalent of mana, produced by the Personal Realities of espers. Huge enough amounts of it can result in the creation of artificial angels. Telesma, meanwhile, is the variation used by real angels. Telesma is highly dangerous, destructive, and cannot be controlled by humans, unless there is a medium such as the Curtana in England.
- Mages (that is, pretty much everyone) in Maburaho have limited numbers of spells, and their numerical mana is extremely difficult to replenish without making a Deal with the Devil. Running out of spells causes instant death; though, fortunately, they seem to be able to measure their remaining spell counts very precisely and most people (except the protagonist) are born with hundreds or even thousands of spells.
- In Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away series, Mana is a non-renewable resource, and generations of basing entire civilizations on heavy magic use eventually drains the entire world.
- Subverted in Night Watch. Others do appear to use some internal generation of mana-like power, but it's actually the opposite. Magicians are the ones that cannot generate this "mana", but can only use what normal people generate. The higher their level, the 'less of this "mana" they generate.
- It's usually called Essence in the Whateley Universe, and what makes a mutant a 'wizard' type is the natural ability to call it up.
- In Warbreaker, BioChroma is fuelled by an energy called "Breath", which is an aspect of the human soul. People are born with one Breath, but can give it away fairly easily to someone else (which doesn't kill them, though it does dampen their ability to percieve the world), and many wealthy and powerful individuals stockpile thousands of Breaths. The more Breaths one has, the more spectacular magical effects one can produce.
- The Banned and the Banished: Mages of the Chiric and Choric styles store mana in their hands, which turn a dark red shade that lightens as the power is slowly used up. Both types can recharge from sunlight, and Choric "wit'ches" can also use moonlight or the glow from a ghost (gaining access to different types of spells when they do so.) However, they can't recharge a hand unless it's completely empty of power, which can be problematic if a Chiric mage is running out of mana near sundown.
- New Mana: Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures book edited by Matt Tomlinson and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan explores the history of the term. The last part being How Mana Left the Pacific and Became a Video Game Mechanic by Alex Golub and Jon Peterson.
- Aversion: One of the eccentricities of Dungeons & Dragons is that it does not have the concept of Mana, but instead uses Vancian Magic revolving around the limited capacity to prepare spells beforehand.
- Psionics, interestingly, uses this instead with a pool of Power Points. You can also spend more power points on early-learned powers to put them on par with their higher-level counterparts.
- Net Wizard's Handbook fan supplement has several non-Vancian magic options, involving spell-points and/or skill checks. Some of the spell-point systems have recovery rate dependent on into account "magic rich"/"magic dead" areas and magic items acting as "reservoirs", i.e. treated as a measure of accumulated mana rather than magical fatigue.
- Netheril: Empire of Magic Forgotten Realms Arcane Age expansion used spell points (called "arcs" and "winds" respectively) both for arcane and divine magic.
- Player’s Option: Spells & Magic introduced an optional Spell Point System for major and minor spellcasting classes, which allows to combine fixed (Vancian) and free magic (the latter eats twice as many spell points, and it's up to the player how much efficiency to trade off for flexibility) and even cast spells somewhat above one's normal level (it's more wasteful still), with various mitigating factors.
- D&D 3 revisited the concept, as a variant rule presented in an official D&D book called Unearthed Arcana, where Spell Points take over from the "spells per day" rule, in which spells of each level have a set base requirement cost, and spells which grow in power based on the level of the caster need more mana dumped into the spell (Fireball, being the best example, costs a base amount of 5 spell points for a Lv3 spell, dealing 5d6 damage, plus 1 spell point for each 1d6 added onto that, to a max of a possible 10d6 being thrown, and thus 10 spell points being spent). The result, however, is that Mages end up working almost identically to Psions. Go figure.
- In the 4th edition, spells are simply another instance of class-specific special powers that can typically be used once per encounter or per day each. (There are a very few at-will powers for each class, and some specific ones that can be used more than once in a given span of time.) Of the core classes, only wizards still prepare spells in advance, and even then that only affects their daily ones (because they have a wider selection of those than other classes, but can only use the same number as everybody else in a given day). Still no explicit mana, though.
- Now that 4e has Psionics, they work like a variant of this. Instead of Encounter powers they have extra at-will powers, but their at-will powers can optionally be enhanced by consuming power points, of which they have only a limited supply.
- In Magic the Gathering, mana is drawn from the land, though some creatures (both humanoid and not) can provide it as well. In addition, mana is divided into five colors, and each color can only fuel certain kinds of spells.
- Every The World of Darkness game has its own version of Mana, conveniently broken down into points:
- Both Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem use Vitae (mystically-enhanced blood) to fuel Disciplines. Vitae is measured in blood points.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse used Gnosis (the ambient power of Gaia), while Werewolf: The Forsaken uses Essence (the stuff of the spirit world).
- Mage: The Ascension used Quintessence, the "free" version of the energy that, when bound up, made all of creation. Mage: The Awakening uses Mana, the essence of the Supernal Realms filtered down into the Fallen World. Both systems are unusual in that mages don't need to spend Mana to cast spells—they can optionally spend it to keep their magic from screwing up in the worst possible moment.
- Promethean: The Created uses Pyros (a raw form of the "Divine Fire" that powers the universe).
- Wraith: The Oblivion used Pathos, emotional strength reaped from humans.
- Changeling: The Dreaming and Changeling: The Lost both use Glamour (the embodiment of dreams and emotions).
- Geist: the Sin-Eaters uses Plasm (the stuff of the dead), which can be gathered by visiting the Underworld, staying in haunted houses... or eating ghosts.
- Hunter: The Reckoning used Conviction (a measure of the inner reserves of the hunter's devotion).
- Demon: The Fallen used Faith (human faith, reaped and processed by demons through divine revelation).
- All races have Willpower (raw inner strength), which is used similarly and often in concert with the above. Mortals with special powers (such as hunters from Hunter: The Vigil) use it exclusively in place of other forms of "mana".
- Aberrant used Quantum as fuel, which apparently was generated automatically over time.
- Exalted uses rules similar to the World of Darkness Storyteller system, with "Essence" as the power stat, which affects what "Charms" (skill-based superpowers/spells) the character can take, and which is used to calculate the character's "motes" (magic points).
- In "standard" GURPS magic, casting spells uses up some of the magic user's Fatigue Points, just like any other hard work, and can only be done in an area with ambient magical force, called "Mana". GURPS borrowed as much from Niven as D&D did from Jack Vance. Supplements have varied sorts of mana, even a type that is actively malevolent.
- The Dark Eye uses "astral energy" in point form, recoverable by sleeping, meditation and extremely expensive mana potions.
- Cartoon Action Hour avoids this the following way by using Clusters. which were call Spell Clusters as wizard-type characters will be using them most.
- Averted in Eon where magicians channel mana from the surroundings to produce effects. The effects possible are only restricted by how much mana you can channel and hold at one time. Mana is not a generic concept though, there are 21 different kinds of mana that have different uses, and two of those can't even be channeled by mere mortals. When there is one kind of mana you lack you could transform a suitable type of mana into the one you want.
- In Nomine, has Essence, the energy of the universe, which is generated by most beings daily, and can be used by angels and demons, ethereal beings (beings generated by human dreams), and a few supernaturally aware humans to fuel Songs and sometimes other supernatural abilities, as well as to provide a boost to mundane actions. Ordinary humans spend their Essence unconsciously to boost themselves when they really want to succeed at something.
- Rifts and other books by Palladium Books uses P.P.E, or Potential Psychic Energy. The name comes from an in-universe book written in the 1970s about magic. It's called Potential Psychic Energy because all people are born with a large store of it, but with the exception of magic users, almost all a person's P.P.E. disappears as it is used in the creation of talents and other things that define the person as an adult. Every living creature has some P.P.E. inside them, and magic users become living batteries able to store vast amounts. Inexplicably, a person's P.P.E. doubles at the moment of death; this is the in-universe reason for the use of sacrificial victims in connection with rituals. It's also the reason young victims are preferred, as a small child has 3-5x the P.P.E. an adult has.
- In the Lunar games, all special attacks, including Ki Attacks use up the same MP. However, they do not all count as "magic" as defined by the series. This gets weird in Lunar 2, when Ronfar's healing spells are determined to be "not magic."
- The MMORPG City of Heroes uses Endurance to fuel all superpowers, whether they are magical, technological, the result of mutation or scientific experimentation, or plain ol' martial arts.
- The Zelda series generally allows Link access to a Magic Meter in order to use magic powers, although it is not present in all games (The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess being a notable example).
- The Ultima series uses a hybrid system in which casting spells does cost mana, but it also requires special ingredients called reagants to be cooked up into a usable spell. Certain spells in Dungeons and Dragons use something similar, called "material components".
- Mana is a large staple of Disgaea and later Nippon Ichi strategy RPGs as it is needed to create characters, unlock events, reincarnate, and so forth. Mana is treated in-game as a sort of currency. It also has SP for special moves and casting spells.
- Makai Kingdom: Many of the characters are often mentioning how they can often feel might mana powers, and how much mana power any characters have.
- All player characters in Kingdom of Loathing have "MP" and it all works the same way. The twist is that what MP stands for is different for different classes. Mysticality (spellcaster) classes have mana points, but Muscle (warrior) classes have muscularity and Moxie (rogue) classes have mojo points.
- Somewhat subverted in Star Ocean, where MP equates more to mental strength. In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, when you run out of MP, you get incapacitated (adding more to the mental strength fact) and that only Runology (magic) consumes MP. Killer moves consumes HP instead.
- Geneforge has essence, which functions in the same way, but is semi-living goo that can (and often is) stored outside of people's bodies.
- Also energy, which is used up faster by spellcasting but rapidly regenerates, and is not needed to make Mons.
- Paladin's Quest, a RPG for the SNES, has no MP. All magic use is tied to Hit Points. Healing, for obvious reasons, is not available as magic, and instead is in "bottles" which provide a character with a specific number of uses until they are refilled.
- In the GBA Golden Sun series, the heroes are masters of "Psynergy", a type of magic/Psychic Power. They encounter a martial arts school, and the head of the dojo comments on how their powers differ from Ki Attacks. "Psynergy comes from the mind, while Chi comes from the body." It's commented that Psynergy is genetic, while "anyone" can eventually learn to use Chi, however nobody in the party does. However, there are Ki techniques (not Chi) from a different temple/dojo, with Psynergy substitutes that the heroes can learn.
- The Mana (Seiken Densetsu) series, naturally, uses it as the source of magic (and all life in general), with assorted spirits overseeing each of the elements, coming from The World Tree. How much is available depends on how active the heroes have been at breaking said tree.
- The plasmids from BioShock (series) are powered by "Eve," which is mechanistically identical to mana.
- Prana in the Nasuverse are separated between Odic force and Mana; the first is generated from the magus (small pool), and Mana is the energy in the environment (big pool). The two are essentially interchangeable, except for those rare occurences where only Mana supply is affected. Higher Elementals are essentially made of Mana, similar to Energy Beings. How mana is gained and used are plot points of Fate/stay night. Life Energy theft and Intimate Healing, primarily.
- The Atelier Iris sub-series does the same thing. Most alchemists are required to befriend mana spirits to improve the success rate of the items they create. The older Atelier games avoid this completely however; the alchemists simply make things like bombs without any outside "mystical" assistance, keeping with the Low Fantasy feel of the setting.
- Licensed Star Wars games which feature Force use generally model it in a very RPG-ish fashion, with "Force powers" (spells) powered by "Force points" (mana).
- Tales of Symphonia. The characters spend a majority of the game trying to restore the mana flow to both worlds. In Symphonia life can't even exist without mana.
- Many Final Fantasy games have mana, but there also are many exceptions. I, III, and VIII use a mana pool. The games mentioned use a Dungeons & Dragons-style "uses per day" system, with VIII having some twists on the idea. The first game had its system converted to a mana pool in later remakes for ease of use. Final Fantasy XIII's battle system is another exception, there is no MP in this game, either. Magic functions as it does in Valkyrie Profile, essentially: An alternate form of attack with some charge times tacked on. III's system is labeled as MP though (atleast in the DS version) and can be restored by an elixir as mana often can be.
- World of Warcraft: All classes except rogues, warriors, death knights, and hunters use mana. The previously mentioned classes tend to forget this fact and rush into battle before the mana users are ready.
- The aforementioned classes use resources similar to mana (rage, energy, runic power, focus), but with two main differences: First, the maximum amount you can have and the rate of regeneration don't scale with level and gear. Second, whereas mana regenerates more slowly if at all during combat, energy and focus regenerate at the same rate in and out of combat, and rage and runic power actually drain when you're not in combat.
- Energy and Focus regenerate during combat, with Focus having an attack to replenish it faster (Steady Shot and Cobra Shot). Rage and Runic Power are gained by either hitting mobs or letting mobs beat on you.
- EVE Online has a capacitor for ships, which is used to activate all the equipment on a ship with the exception of projectile weapons. The capacitor is drained by a certain amount with each activation, and has a base regeneration rate, which can be enhanced with a multitude of skills and ship fittings. As in World of Warcraft, one of the most important duties for any pilot is to find a balance that won't completely drain the capacitor, leaving the ship helpless while it regenerates.
- The Reconstruction has three stats that different abilities can be cast from, of which Mind and Soul would correspond to different types of Mana. Interesting, not only is it just as frequent to Cast From HP, Mind and Soul function as alternate HP counters, and dropping one of them to 0 will also defeat someone.
- Power Points (PP) in Pokémon function like mana.
- Kingdom Hearts I and II have MP, with every spell taking up a certain amount or fraction of the MP in the meter. This was recharged in the first game by physical attacks, and by collecting MP Orbs. The second game had an MP meter that could be refilled by MP orbs as long as it still had some MP in it, but once it was all used up, you had to wait a short time for it to refill completely before you could use any spells. This could be sped up by collecting MP Orbs. Both games also had items that refilled MP, and abilities that gave other conditions for getting MP.
- The other games employed variations on Vancian Magic, forcing you to stock the spells you thought would be most useful ahead of time.
- Pretty much all Roguelike games use some mana-type system which spell casting and psionics use, with mana regenerating over time. In the few games where the player could gain different divine powers by worshiping different gods there's a separate pool of "faith" or "piety" points which are expended to use those powers, with each religion having a different method of regaining points.
- Nono from Solatorobo is something of a combination of mana and The Force. While it can be used to produce magical effects such as barriers and levitation, being attuned to it also results in being able to sense other people or objects who are tapping in, such as the Paladins and the amulet.
- Crest Magic users from the Wild ARMs series are all Big Eaters, and they claim that casting spells uses a lot of energy. This results in the often scrawny or waiflike magic users consuming truly prodigious amounts of food (Celia in the first game at one point orders more food than should actually be able to fit in her body). The first game does use MP however, for two of the characters, and thus it might be that the fuel used for magic is perfectly normal bodily energy, as the other user uses his MP to fuel his various sword techniques. This makes a bit more sense when you realize that the only character who doesn't have MP, Rudy, is actually a Ridiculously Human Robot. Later games do away with traditional MP, but the implication that Crest Magic users burn lots of energy and eat lots of food remains.
- Lux in Tales of the Questor is a bit light on ritual, but otherwise fits the spell-casting thing pretty well. Word of God says lux is more akin to a really funky neutrino field than typical magic. Most of the populace treats it like magic, though, and it can summon lightning bolts.
- In Drowtales, drow call the substance that powers their Functional Magic "Mana". In fact the author rather objects to the term "magic". Not only is it generated by the elves' own Life Force, it is necessary to allow the fey races to remain immortal.
- Twokinds has normal Mana, which is used for mainstream magic and will crystallize into a little blue rock when concentrated, and Dark Mana, which is actually The Lifestream used in place of mana, and allows summoning and necromancy (which usually doesn't work). It causes crystals to form as well, but this is simply a side-effect. Dark Mana causes brain damage, insanity and death.
- Izzy from Adorable Desolation has the ability to map mana trails.
- In The Dragon Doctors it's possible to go into "Mana Shock" when you accumulate too much; this happens to a girl who was turned to stone and left soaking in the bottom of a leyline for 2000 years. She nearly exploded when she went into Mana Shock later.
- Mana in Arcana Magi main series, is treated as a form of energy, with two types; kinetic and potnetial, that is used by magical people to cast spells and activate magical items. Mana is common now in Arcana Magi Universe.
- Aura in Chaos Fighters and using it effectively requires charging, i.e. accumulating it into something. However, aura are atom sized particles and in-universe it is partially explained using quantum mechanics and partly using classical wave theory.
- RWBY: When asked at a convention during or just after volume one what Dust was, Miles Luna simply replied, "Mana."
- In Ben 10 we are led to believe that Gwen's powers are purely magic-based, but Ben 10 Alien Force quickly starts Doing In the Wizard by explaining that Gwen's powers originate from an alien grandmother, who states that 'magic' is caused by mana. If that wasn't enough, the granny then sheds her skin to reveal an energy being made of mana, and says that Gwen can do the same. Naturally, she refuses.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: Uncle's and Dao Long Wong's "Chi Spells" seem to be Hermetic Magic with an eastern flavour. How Chi is distributed is a major part of the plot throughout the seasons.
- Druids don't use mana when in certain forms, but they still have it.