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Mana is an South Pacific word for what Americans would call "The Force". The word shows up in a bunch of languages, so we're pretty sure the word comes from some Oceanic ur-language that predates the invention of boats.

When Larry Niven wrote his short story Not Long Before the End in 1969, he used the word "mana" for the limited resource that was the fuel for magical effects. He did it again in his novel The Magic Goes Away, and gamers have been using the term ever since to describe the contents of a limited pool of magic power.

Some Games That Use Mana[edit]

  • Magic: The Gathering players must drain territory they control ("tap") to fuel the magical effects described on the cards in their hands. In early editions of the game, any excess mana tapped caused damage to the controlling wizard.
  • Microlite20 spellcasters must use their hit points to cast spells, alluding to them draining their own life force to create magical effects.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, in any version that has psionics, has "Power Points" that are spent to create psychic supernatural effects.
    • There's also an optional rule in Unearthed Arcana to ditch the Vancian magic and use spell points instead, but nobody uses it because it just turns wizards and sorcerers into psions.
  • World of Darkness uses it, but they call it different things for each of their games:
Game old WoD new WoD
Vampire Blood
Werewolf Gnosis Essence
Mage Quintessence Mana
Promethean N/A Pyros
Wraith Pathos Plasm
Changeling Glamour
Hunter Conviction Differs
Mummy N/A N/A
Demon Faith Aether
  • Palladium games (Fantasy, TMNT, Rifts, Heroes Unlimited) would use Inner Strength Points, or I.S.P. for paying the costs of psychic powers, and Potential Psychic Energy, or P.P.E. for paying the costs of spells in all of their various games.