Throughout the 3rd and 4th era magic has been simplified in Tamriel.

Magic schools have been combined and spells lost, losing mysticism and levitation, mark and recall etc.

What is the in universe explanation for this, is it simply a loss of knowledge or is magic seeping from the world?

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    I just figured it was gameplay mechanics evolving, fast travel in Skyrim makes mark and recall a bit redundant and levitation in Skyrim would be kinda cheap unless they gave every enemy a bow and be honest if you could make your own spells in Skyrim you would load up a set of 100 percent reduce destruction cost armor and make a (widest radius) fireball for (highest damage) – revenant Jun 18 '17 at 9:28
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    @revenant I know the real world explanation, but has it been explain in universe ? – Doctor Two Jun 18 '17 at 9:30
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    Dont think there is an explicit one but maybe someone can find one – revenant Jun 18 '17 at 9:42
  • As far as I can tell, this loss of magic spells could be explained in game by considering that these eras are times of great unrest first with the Oblivion crisis, then the great war, then (in Skyrim) the rebellion. I guess many wizards died during those times. – Rebel-Scum Jun 18 '17 at 10:52

Magic is alive and well in Tamriel

Magic is still just as potent in Tamriel as it has always been. However, the way it has been understood and practiced has changed over time.

Schools of magic are arbitrary and only used for aiding in teaching

The in-game book Proposal: Schools of Magic, found in The Elder Scrolls Online, notes that originally the Mages Guild didn't have any schools of magic. However, they found that an academy in Morrowind found teaching to be more effective by dividing it into eight groupings called "schools".

After casting about for a model upon which to reorganize our teaching texts, I came upon the curriculum of the Shad Astula Academy in Morrowind, where they teach magic in eight different disciplines. Though the divisions between the disciplines, or "schools" of magic, are rather arbitrary, magic being an entirely mutable art, this classification of spellcasting into schools of magic has the advantage of providing students with a structure for easy comprehension of the basics of wizardry. The proof of its value is the fact that Shad Astula graduates novice mages with a practical grasp of sorcery in half the time of our own introductory program.

The eight schools were Alchemy, Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion, Mysticism, Restoration, and Thaumaturgy. These school have all existed since Daggerfall, with Thaumaturgy being removed in Morrowind and Mysticism being removed in Oblivion.

Indeed, the text even states that although the Mages Guild will initially organize magic into eight disciplines, it may consider consolidating some in the future, notably Thaumaturgy and Mysticism.

The experienced mage will immediately discern the arbitrary nature of these divisions—indeed, we may eventually find it advisable to combine one or more of these schools, assigning the spells within them to other categories. (Thaumaturgy seems a likely candidate for such amalgamation, and possibly Mysticism, as well.) However, these schools seem to be serving Shad Astula well, so I propose we tentatively adopt them as is, and refine as we go.

Levitation was outlawed

Levitation magic, found in Daggerfall and Morrowind as part of the school of Alteration, is absent in Oblivion. This is due to the Levitation Act, forbidding its use. This is referenced in Oblivion as one of the things that citizens say about Dovyn Aren.

"He's getting older, but he can still teach a bit about Alteration. He's been teaching it since before the Levitation Act of [3E] 421."

Note that this act was passed before the events of Morrowind in 3E 427. But because Morrowind is self-governed as part of the conditions of Armistice, they were not subject to this law banning Levitation. However, it was banned in the city of Mournhold (in the Tribunal expansion), so it isn't unprecedented even in Morrowind.

The novel The Infernal City* takes place in 4E 40 and shows that levitation magic, while pretty much forgotten, is not impossible. A Synod mage named Lazarum is said to know of a levitation spell and two individuals used a levitation potion brewed with the ichor of a Winged Twilight.

(Out of universe, levitation was removed because it simplified gameplay. Quests like Caught in the Hunt involve you being trapped on an island or other isolated location, and would be trivially easy to bypass if you were able to levitate away).

* In my opinion, the two Elder Scrolls novels are terrible and should never be read. You have been warned!

Mark and recall appear to just have been removed for gameplay reasons

I cannot find any in-universe reason for why Mark and Recall (and similar teleport-to-location spells like Divine Intervention or Almsivi Intervention) are absent. My guess is that they still exist, just that they are irrelevant for gameplay reasons due to fast travel and the desire to simplify quest design (again, quests like Caught in the Hunt would be trivially easy to break if you could magic your way out of an isolated area).

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  • "Magic is still just as potent in Tamriel as it has always been." I'd dispute that. The spells are weak and expensive compared to melee combat. I don't think it's even possible to win most of the quests with only magic. – Tim Jun 18 '17 at 22:24
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    @Tim True, there have been in-game differences in the potency of spells. For instance, starter spells in Morrowind are more powerful than starter spells in Oblivion, but Magicka does not regenerate without resting in the former but does in the latter. I strongly suspect it's just a gameplay detail that has as much in-universe explanation as the differing weapon damage between games (i.e. none). There is no in-universe explanation for a change in magic. – Thunderforge Jun 19 '17 at 0:52
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    @Tim Also by the games' own admission, martial classes are easier to play than magic ones. The Daggerfall readme says that the Spellsword, Warrior, Battlemage, Knight, and Ranger (all primarily martial or martial/magic mix)) are some of the easiest to play, while the Healer, Nightblade, and Bard (all primarily magic) are for players looking for a challenge. I think that has stayed consistent from Arena to Skyrim. – Thunderforge Jun 19 '17 at 3:42
  • Skyrim removed those classes and was meant to promote a more evenly mixed system, where melee and magic were roughly equal. That was way back when the game was first being advertised. But apparently they forgot about that. Shame really; Skyrim would have been more fun if there had been an improved magic system and more focus on magic-based quests. – Tim Jun 19 '17 at 3:52
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    @Tim you can play through the entire game and become very powerful without ever touching a physical weapon (except where required for some quests). Magic is an investment - it may seem weak and expensive to begin with but as you become stronger and take magic perks the spells become much more powerful and some master spells - such as Firestorm - are awesome and devastating far beyond the capabilities of any melee weapon. Also, classes were removed to allow players to create their own "class" through gameplay rather than forcing them to focus on a particular set of skills. – Kallum Tanton Jun 23 '17 at 10:29

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