You shall not pass! No, actually the guy with the sigil over his head is one of the three Sages, and he is trying to teach her better spellcasting. Training with the Sages is the safest way to level up and builds friendship with them, so they will teach you a new spell and a new potion each, once a day. Do this early in your career, because one day they will have nothing more to teach you, and you will be the one mentoring other sims.
Despite the streaks of Harry Potter flavor here and there in the new Sims 4 expansion Realm of Magic, there is no overarching plot of good versus evil. The plot, such as it is, tells us that the Magical Realm is threatened by a metaphysical vortex and can only be defended by the cooperation of the three “Schools” of magic, represented by three Sages, who teach either Mischief Magic, Untamed Magic, or Practical Magic.
Given my previous entry about the excessive time spent on basic needs in Sims 4, it should surprise no one that I made a beeline for Practical Magic. Indeed, as I write this, I just had an elderly Simeon Silversweater, Sage of Practical Magic, teach me his ultimate spell, which allows me to bestow the power of magic upon a normal human. The disciple has not become quite like his master yet, though: He still has many alchemy recipes to teach me. But I know the most important one: Potion of Plentiful Needs.
Before we get too far ahead, let me explain the basics of sim magic, although it is fairly well explained in the game.
Spellcaster is the new life state in this expansion. As such, you can not access this magic if you are already an Alien, a Vampire or a Mermaid. You can either create your sim as Spellcaster, or find one of the three Sages in the Magic Realm and ask them to turn you into one. They will cast a temporary spell on you that lets you see “motes” (glowing orbs of magical energy) and collect a bunch of them. After having shown your magical aptitude, you get to join their ranks. As a Spellcaster, you have access to all three Schools of magic, and can mix and match them as you want, along with Alchemy.
A feature not well explained in the game (as far as I can see) is that magic accumulates over generations. A child of a Spellcaster will have more aptitude for magic than either of its parents.You go from Weak Bloodline to Strong Bloodline to Ancient Bloodline. The third generation of genetic Spellcaster will accumulate magical experience 30% faster and suffer less danger from overload.
In contrast to most role-playing magic, you don’t start your day with a supply of mana that is spent with each spell. On the contrary, each spell leaves a residue in your aura, called Charge. As you build Charge, your spells become more powerful, but the risk of backfire increases. If a spell backfires because you cast too many in too short a time, you will suffer an uncontrolled discharge of magic that burns you to death. To avoid this, you need to cast fewer spells, or have perks that let you discharge the residue or keep it from building up too fast in the first place.
Perks are bought with talent points, which you get when leveling up. You can eventually get them all if you keep at it long enough, but it may be smart to first pick those that let you gain more experience, and then those that let you control the aforementioned Charge. Hereditary Spellcasters also get more talent points, and having a familiar active supposedly gives more too. I have not tested this, as I try to always have a familiar around when casting spells.
Familiars have two functions: They give you bonuses to your advancement, and they protect you from death. If you accidentally set off a deadly discharge, the familiar will absorb part of the blast and you will both survive, although the familiar will not be able to do so again in a while (I am told a week). Luckily you can have more than one familiar, although only one can be active at any one time. But definitely prudent to have a backup familiar in case of accident. You may want to get one for each of your children too, as familiars protect from all causes of death, not just from magic.
Familiars can be bought, found, received as a gift, or won through duels. Magical duels are a big part of the game. You can challenge other sims or they can challenge you. Most duels are friendly and may even improve your relationship, in addition to giving magical experience and building Charge (don’t accept one when you are supercharged please). But you can also have more competitive duels for knowledge, ingredients and artifacts. Familiars are artifacts. Ingredients are needed for potions, but you can buy those in a shop or find at least many of them in the wild. Knowledge gives you a new spell or recipe, but there are other ways to get those.
The easiest way is to befriend a Sage. The Practical Sage is probably the easiest to befriend. The Mischief Sage (at least the one the game starts with) is on the evil side so can be harder to befriend. The Untamed Sage is also fairly personable. Once you’re a bit more than strangers, you can start asking them for training. This is a way to gain experience fairly quickly without building Charge, so don’t be shy to use it early on when you don’t have Charge-reducing perks. While improving your skills, you also improve your relationship with your teacher. Once you are friends, you can stop by and ask them for a new spell each day until you know them all. You can also ask them for potion recipes, but only one of the recipes is really worth knowing early on: Potion of Plentiful Needs.
Practical magic is useful from the start. Your first spell should be one that lets you repair broken things. Home reparations are time-consuming and sometimes dangerous, but on the flip side non-magical repairs builds mechanical skill and gives you spare parts you can use to upgrade your household items. Mechanical skill may also be required in some jobs. So there is a downside to using this spell, but it saves a lot of time when you need it.
The next spell cleans things, including sims, including you. No more scrubbing toilets, no more showers unless you need a specific type of shower to put you in the right mood.
The third spell creates a random item of food, either a single portion or a family-sized quantity depending on your choice. This saves time and there is no risk of burning down the house (only the Spellcaster – save early, save often, keep your familiar out).
The fourth spell weeds, waters and removes pests on a garden plant. Another time-consuming but skill-building activity avoided.
The fifth spell lets you teleport to any point of your choosing in the neighborhood. Faster than using your broomstick, let alone anything else. Broomsticks don’t make you explode, though, and they also build wizard experience, like the spell.
The sixth spell is kind of game-breaking: It lets you make an instant copy of small objects. This happens to include the rare and expensive ingredients that limited alchemy. Now you only need to buy one of each, and you can multiply them beyond necessity. This is a good time to take up alchemy. Before that, it is kind of expensive.
Next comes another gardening spell, which lets you grow a plant to full size instantly.
The penultimate spell is rather trivial: It lets you teleport to the Magic Realm from anywhere without going through the portal at the top of the waterfall in Glimmerbrook. But there is also a crystal (Glimmerstone) that does the same thing, although it has a cooldown.
The ultimate spell, as mentioned, lets you convert a normie to a Spellcaster. It is not really something you need since the Sages have it already and besides, your kids will inherit your magic and surpass it.
I’ve mentioned potions. Some of them are for very specific situations and require rare ingredients. One of them (Potion of the Nimble Mind) is quite useful but not game-breaking, letting you learn skill faster but not instantly. And one is probably the main reason why professional reviewers recoil in horror. The “Potion of Plentiful Needs” resets all the need bars to full, as if you had just fulfilled all your physical and mental needs at once. If you have a stack of these, you could basically stop eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, playing or socializing. I agree that this would destroy the tenuous link between the game an real life. And that is not how I use them. I have a stack of them around for emergencies.
Say you’re about to go to bed and a friend you like invites you to an impromptu party. In real life you would probably be able to stay up a few hours even though you would regret it, but in the game you quickly grind to a halt and fall asleep on a bench. This is where I whip out my extra strong energy drink, Potion of Plentiful Needs, and dance the night away before going to work.
Or you’re coming home from work, hungry and dirty, and you get a message that the spirit of an old friend is about to pass from this realm. You don’t spend an hour making an egg on toast, another hour eating it, and an hour and a half in the shower before you go see them. In the Sims 4, there was no way to not do things slooowly, that I am aware of at least, until now. So that’s how I use the potion: To do the things I should do or would do rather than the things I must do.
There is also a Potion of Rejuvenation, but you can get that from fulfilling whims and living up to your aspirations as well. I believe it still only resets you to the beginning of your current life phase (so you can’t go from old to young, for instance). The new part is that you can mass produce it, not that this should be needed. The Potion of Immortality, harking back to an old fable, does not make you eternally young. It just keeps you from dying from old age. You are still old. Or that’s how the text presents it, I have not tried it yet. There is also a Potion of Prompt Resurrection. If you die while this is active, you return to life soon after. Probably nice to have if you are planning to do something remarkably risky, but as a Spellcaster you can get a familiar and skip the whole dying part. Maybe you can use it on other sims or something?
The Untamed Magic has a spell to let you summon a ghost and another that lets you restore a ghost to life, which of course is not realistic. (Nor are ghosts realistic in the first place.) I have not used it yet, but I can see it being valuable for those cases where things went more wrong than expected. The drawback with this is that another sim must cast the spell, so it is mostly useful in a family situation, I guess, or a friend that passes away unexpectedly. You could also use an ice spell to put out a fire instead of a fire extinguisher. Finally there is a spell to remove curses (or you could use the corresponding potion.) The rest of the spells, and the whole School of Mischief, seem useless to me. Which is good, because this is already too long.