Magic is a significant component of Angband and all Angband variants. In Vanilla Angband, magic is available to the player in two main forms: book magic, where the player casts magic spells learned from spellbooks; and magical items such as potions, scrolls or devices, which trigger specific effects when used. Additional forms of magic, such as mutations, racial powers and class-specific non-book spells, exist in many variants.
Book magic is traditionally used with the 'm' Cast a Spell command; the words magic and spell are frequently applied as catch-all terms to include any game mechanics that rely on the same or similar underlying principles, especially if they also use the 'm' command. Accordingly, the prayers of Priests, the songs of Bards, ninjutsu on Ninjas and Ninja-Lawyers, and even Kendo techniques on Samurai may be glossed as spells; they are usually (but not always) indistinguishable from more traditional spells in terms of gameplay.
Many monsters use monster spells or spell-like innate powers such as breaths. In some variants, monster spells may be available to the player; for example, Possessors, Mimics and Blue-Mages all rely on them.
Book magic uses spells found in spellbooks. Approximately half of all spellbooks are town books, which can be easily purchased from shops on the surface; the rest are dungeon books, which can only be discovered in the dungeon or rarely the Black Market. Dungeon books generally contain more advanced and powerful magic, and are sometimes only found relatively late in the game.
Each spellbook belongs in a magic realm, which is a grouping of related books. Traditionally, only two realms existed in Vanilla Angband: the Magic realm, used by Mage-type classes, and the Prayer realm, used by priestly classes. Both of these realms contained nine books, four of which were town books. Angband 4.2.0 radically revamped the realms, cutting down on the number of books per realm; each class now uses its own special books, and realms contain between two to five books. Additional realms, or dramatic changes to the realm system, are also common in variants; ZAngband added a large number of new realms but limited each realm to only four books, and each book to exactly eight spells. This system remains in use in ZAngband-derived variants like Composband, FrogComposband and PosChengband.
General rules of book spellcasting include the following: each character can only cast spells from a realm appropriate to the character's class; each spell must be studied before it can be cast; spells have a level, and can only be studied and cast once the player's character level is at least equal to the spell's level; spells have a fail rate which depends on the spell's level and difficulty, the player's level and class, and the player's primary spell stat; to use spells from a book, the player must have that book in their inventory and have light to read it by; the player cannot use spells while blinded or confused; casting a spell consumes spell points (mana), and using spells without sufficient mana is either impossible or risks some penalty. These rules are universally true in Vanilla Angband, and usually true in variants but with some exceptions.
Many items produce magical or magic-like effects when used. These items roughly fall in two broad categories: magic devices (wands, rods and staves), which can be used repeatedly, require device skill to use and have a chance to fail; and consumables (potions, scrolls and mushrooms), which are consumed on use, can be used by anybody and usually have no chance to fail.
Wearable items sometimes have activations, which resemble device effects and likewise rely on device skill. In variants descended from PosChengband, scrolls also resemble devices; although they are still consumed on use, they have fail rates similar to devices, and high device skill helps lower the fail rate.
Not all magical effects are good; both devices and consumables can have bad effects, although this is fairly uncommon, especially in modern Angband and recently developed variants.
In Vanilla Angband and most variants, both devices and magical consumables are flavored items; each flavor corresponds to a particular effect, but which flavor corresponds to which effect can change between games. Devices are not flavored in FrogComposband, Composband, or Poschengband 4.0.0 and up.
Wands, rods and staves are collectively termed magic devices or simply devices. Devices are staple items in Angband and nearly all variants. Each device produces a magical effect when used; usually this is the same effect every time, although some devices such as Wands of Wonder can have unpredictable effects.
Using a device is not guaranteed to work; all devices have fail rates that depend on the player's device skill, as well as on how difficult the device is to use. Generally, more powerful devices have higher fail rates; good device users like Mages can still use them fairly easily, but brute-force characters like Warriors will struggle with them. Device fail rate formulas vary between versions and variants; high fail rates are less common in today's Vanilla Angband than in early versions of the game.
Each device has a limited number of charges, and successfully using a device consumes one charge; once the device runs out of charges, it can no longer be used, although it may be possible to recharge it.
The differences between the three types of device vary somewhat between variants. In general, wands are susceptible to electricity, have effects that need to be aimed, and have a fairly high number of charges; staves are susceptible to acid and fire, have effects that do not need to be aimed, and have a fairly high number of charges; rods may be susceptible to electricity, can have either effects that require aim or effects that do not, and have only one charge (or very few charges) but are the only devices capable of recharging themselves without outside help. PosChengband and FrogComposband allow all devices to recharge on their own, but rods still recharge much faster than staves or wands do.
Unlike scrolls and book spells, devices can be used while blinded or confused, although the chance of failure may be increased. Staves, especially Staves of Teleportation or staves with healing effects, are frequently used in such situations; wands and rods are less likely to be used this way, as blindness complicates aiming and confusion makes it completely unreliable.
Potions are carefully prepared magical tonics which any character can use at any time; quaffing a potion requires no particular skill. Potions may have permanent effects such as stat gain or an experience bonus, give temporary benefits such as increased speed or the ability to see invisible monsters, or have an immediate effect that heals or restores the player. Potions are generally intended to affect the player, but if thrown or shattered they can in some cases also affect monsters. Since potions have no fail rates and can be reliably used even while blinded, confused or stunned, a healing potion is often the safest option in an emergency.
Potions with bad effects are rare in today's Vanilla Angband; most of the original bad potions were removed in Angband 3.1.0, and the practical necessity of identifying potions by use-ID in Angband 4.1.0 and up makes it very unlikely that new bad potions will be added. (Sangband manages to accommodate both bad potions and use-ID by modifying the effects of potions when they're drunk unidentified.) Bad potions were fairly common in earlier versions of Angband, especially during the early game, and many variants retain more of them than Vanilla Angband does.
Potions are consumables; with rare exceptions in some variants, a potion is fully consumed when quaffed and will disappear from the inventory.
Scrolls are magical parchments that produce a spell effect when read; in Vanilla Angband they can be read by any character and have no chance to fail, but this is not the case in all variants. Scroll effects vary widely; they can affect the player (like Scrolls of Protection from Evil), affect objects or terrain features (like Scrolls of Identify and Scrolls of Light), affect monsters (like Scrolls of Genocide and Mass Genocide), summon monsters, or give information.
As with bad potions, there are very few bad scrolls in today's Vanilla Angband and their effects are relatively mild; the two worst scrolls, Curse Armour and Curse Weapon, were commented out in Angband 3.5.0. However, normally useful scrolls can be bad when used in the wrong situation; for example, a Scroll of *Destruction*, Teleport Level or Deep Descent might cause the player to miss out on hard-won loot.
Scrolls, like potions, are consumables; with rare exceptions in some variants, they magically disintegrate when read and disappear from the inventory.
In many variants, characters of specific classes often gain access to a range of class-specific non-book spells, or to special techniques which resemble spells; Ninjas, for example, learn ninjutsu as they level up. Class magic, like book magic, is used with the 'm' command; it is rare for this to cause conflicts, as most classes get either class spells or a book realm but not both. (Force-Trainers and Ninja-Lawyers can use both class magic and book magic in FrogComposband; the interface is slightly modified for them to allow access to both.)
In ZAngband-derived variants, where class spells are prominent, they greatly resemble book spells; like book spells, they have a minimum level, a similarly calculated fail rate, and usually a mana cost, although they are more likely than book spells to consume no mana or to consume something other than mana. Unlike book spells, they do not need to be studied, give no first-use experience, and involve no spell proficiency in variants where it exists. Rules for class magic may also be more relaxed than the rules for book magic; many classes can use their spells while blind (since there is no need to read a book), and some forms of class magic are not blocked by anti-magic.
In variants descended from ZAngband, many characters have racial powers, class powers, mutation powers or other additional spell-like abilities. These powers are used with the 'U' command in the original keyset and 'O' in the roguelike keyset.
Special powers resemble book spells and especially class spells, but differ from them in some key ways. The most important difference between powers and spells is that while all book spells and class spells use the same class-dependent spell stat for fail-rate calculations, each special power has its own individual spell stat; a character often has multiple powers, each of which depends on a different stat. Another difference is that powers are considered innate to the character, and so are never blocked by anti-magic. Unlike spells, powers can consume either hit points or mana; if mana is available they will consume it first, but there are no penalties for using hit points when necessary.