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Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson introduced the term "magic-user" in the original Dungeons & Dragons as a generic term for a practitioner of magic (in order to avoid the connotations of terms such as wizard or warlock); this lasted until the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, where it was replaced with mage (later to become wizard). The wizard or mage, as a character class, is distinguished by the ability to cast certain kinds of magic but being weak in combat; subclasses are distinguished by strengths in some areas of magic and weakness in others.
Warlocks are distinguished from wizards as creating forbidden "pacts" with powerful creatures to harness their innate magical gifts.
This depiction predates the modern fantasy genre, being derived from the traditional image of wizards such as Merlin. The magician expends power to fuel his spells, but does not replenish that power naturally; therefore, he must make sacrifices to generate more magical power.
Other forms of magic are limited by consequences that, while not inherently dangerous, are at least undesirable.
In worlds where magic is not an innate trait, the scarcity of these strange books may be a facet of the story; in Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Prince Rupert seeks out the books of the magician Prospero to learn magic.
In A Wizard of Earthsea, every act of magic distorts the equilibrium of the world, which in turn has far-reaching consequences that can affect the entire world and everything in it.
As a result, competent wizards do not use their magic frivolously.
Historically, many self-proclaimed magicians have required rare and precious materials, such as crystal balls, rare herbs (often picked by prescribed rituals), and chemicals such as mercury. Many magicians require no materials at all; those that do may require only simple and easily obtained materials.
Role-playing games are more likely to require such materials for at least some spells to prevent characters from casting them too easily.
in the Regency fantasies, she and Caroline Stevermer depict magicians as identical to wizards, though inferior in skill and training.