As is the custom of previous Final Fantasy games, Squaresoft released an all-new magic and abilities system in Final Fantasy IX. It was classes, espers, and store-bought magic in the past, but now your characters gain their abilities, magic, and skills by equipping both unique and generic armor, weapons, and accessories. Once they have equipped that particular piece of equipment, they must keep it equipped until they master the skill(s) that the one particular piece of equipment teaches them, or they will not retain the skill once that equipment is unequipped from them. They gain AP (Ability Points) at the end of battles that go towards the mastering of their skills. Sometimes, though, a “special battle” can occur where you give a certain item to a creature and it will give you a lot of AP without needing to fight it.
The AP required for skills varies from a very little to a substantial amount of AP required. In Final Fantasy IX, abilities are different than magic. Abilities are equipped to each individual character through the menu and (most) abilities act as passive skills that you don’t really need to use (such as doing more damage to bugs, dragons, etc.), while magical abilities are the ones that are used mainly by Vivi, Garnet, and Eiko. Steiner has basic magical skills which he requires Vivi to use called “Sword Skills”, which are basically strong versions of elemental magics.