Magic in Practice
To this point, this chapter has examined magic and its practitioners from the viewpoints of other groups, cultures, and races. The chapter has also provided a brief overview of the primary sources of magic, including arcane, blight, divine, primal, and psionic, as well as the lesser forms of magic known as alchemy and runecasting. The next important step is to reveal how magic is viewed and appreciated by its actual users: wizards, clerics, and others. How do these various practitioners understand magic, and what approaches to the magical arts do they observe? How is magic taught or passed along from one person to the next?
The Study of Wizardry
In the realms of magic, every spellcaster requires both a source and a focus in order to cast spells. With arcane magic, it originates with the Five Founts. How arcane practitioners focus that magic, however, varies widely. A warlock observes a pact with an outside power or agency (often with an implement as a secondary focus). A sorcerer uses the magical essence within his blood as a focus. The wizard, however, relies on rote memorization, precise physical gestures, and often an implement as a secondary focus (such as a wand or staff).
Wizards rely on specialized and formalized training in order to learn the art of magic. Where a sorcerer casts magic through inborn talent, nothing comes naturally or easily for the wizard. Before a wizard learns how to properly cast a cantrip, let alone a powerful spell, he must first spend years immersed in study and practice. In this regard, wizards follow a career path with several similarities to members of other professions: they start with an apprenticeship, progress to the journeyman stage, and – with hard work and time – become masters of the craft.
The majority of wizards, especially in these dark and perilous times, learn their trade from a single master. Often, one master teaches two or even three apprentices at a time. The lessons involved are less formal, and both apprentices and master must often make due with limited resources. This model of apprenticeship is most prevalent in smaller communities and isolated regions.
In large towns or cities, an individual interested in wizardry must gain admission to an academy of arcane magic. A number of academies and universities of this sort exist throughout Stormfell; some are legendary in their fame, while others are quiet and little known beyond the local area. In the academy system, a number of students (i.e., apprentices) belong to a single unified class. An arcane faculty teaches various classes and disciplines, and the students typically live on campus or near the school proper. The school possesses considerably greater resources compared to the one master/multiple apprentice model. On the benefit side, this system usually produces more well rounded, better prepared wizards. On the downside, however, the single master system is often more likely to allow for innovation and greater independence amongst apprentices. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the greatest disadvantages of the academy system include cost of attendance and exclusivity.
In terms of cost, a solid arcane education demands considerable expenditures of gold and time; a standard arcane education at a small academy often demands six to eight years at a cost of thousands of gold pieces. If at any time during that course the student fails to pay his bill, he must leave and abandon his studies.
In regards to exclusivity, there are relatively few academies of arcane arts in existence, even considering how few individuals pursue these studies. As a result, competition for acceptance to a particular school can prove fierce; personal connections and a deep pocketbook are definite advantages to the would-be student. The more prestigious the academy, the more difficult it becomes to gain acceptance.
As expected, a sense of rivalry often develops between academy-trained wizards and “apprentice” wizards. Those taught in schools consider their education superior, and they have nothing but disdain for those poor fools educated by some backwoods hedge mage. On the other side, apprenticed wizards ridicule academy-trained wizards for their rigid thinking habits and inability to think outside their formal training.
Hedge Mages & Witches
Given the time, discipline, and expense involved with acquiring even a rudimentary wizardly education, it is unsurprising that many magically gifted individuals pursue other routes when possible. This is especially true for those with arcane talents, but no potential master or teacher. An individual born with arcane talent will, sooner or later, manifest that talent. If he has received proper training, his magic manifests in a controlled way. If, however, that person never receives any guidance, his arcane talents are likely to appear in unpredictable and dangerous ways. Such individuals are often referred to as hedge mages or witches.
A hedge mage is a derogatory term used to describe any individual with untrained and unfocused arcane talents. In most cases, a hedge mage is an individual with innate arcane talent who never receives any education of instruction. Over time, his magical talents come to the fore, often with surprising results. A hedge mage might enjoy some influence with a nearby community, but he is just as likely to be a hermit or an outcast. Most hedge mages slowly go insane, never able to understand where their abilities originate. A few lucky hedge mages develop their skill through trial and error over many years. Finally, some hedge mages simply disappear or run afoul of local laws and customs. As a rule, hedge mages never achieve much power, although a few become dangerous to themselves or others.
The term witch is used by many different people in a number of different ways. In some cultures, a witch is also known as a wise woman, green witch, herbalist, or crone. Such an individual serves as the local healer for a small community. The local witch also may brew healing poultices, love potions, or fever cures. An isolated village may depend on its witch to get them through plague or other problems, and are likely to hold the local witch in high esteem.
In other connotations, a witch is the term applied to an individual steeped in Blight magic. In such cases, a witch is a dangerous and wicked person to be feared. The Lightbringers, for example, refer to anyone involved with the Blight as a witch (sometimes, “witch” refers to a female, while “warlock” refers to a male). This difference of word usage has caused many problems and tragedies, especially when Lightbringer units arrive in a small village or community on the frontier. The locals speak proudly of the witch, which the Lightbringers take to mean a villain in need of purifying flame.
Whereas a “hedge mage” almost always refers to an untrained arcane practitioner, a “witch” carries no such specific relationship. Some witches practice arcane magic, while others use primal (and in a few cases, divine).
Other Arcane Spellcasters
A number of other professional paths exist for those interested in practicing arcane magic, including bard, sorcerer, and warlock. These individuals use arcane magic, but with a different focus compared to the wizard. In the case of the bard, a formal education may or may not be involved; sorcerers and warlocks rarely enjoy a formal education.
Only true students of arcane magic know to classify bards as arcane practitioners. Most people – bards included – have little to no clue where bards acquire their unique magical talents. A bard draws arcane magic from the Five Founts. To focus the energies, he uses music, rhythmic words and phrases, and even musical instruments. As a result, the bard displays a unique style of magic. To the untrained eye, it may not even appear a bard is casting a spell. There are occasions where a bard casts a spell, but no one knows the culprit responsible. Not surprisingly, many bards take full advantage of this fact.
Most bardic magic relies on misdirection, confusion, charms, and minor illusions. Bardic magic also involves a fair amount of bolstering magic designed to aid allies and companions.
Overall, other arcane spellcasters often scoff at bards and consider them lesser magicians. For their part, bards give little care to the words of pontificating wizards or arrogant sorcerers.
Of all the arcane arts, sorcery stands as the least understood, and the most often misunderstood. This is true primarily because even the most accomplished sorcerer has little or no idea about why his magic works – he only knows it works. Sorcery is a form of magic devoid of memorization, ritual, and formulae. There are no master sorcerers teaching the art to their apprentices; every sorcerer must learn the fundamentals of magic individually, typically through trial and error. Likewise, there exist precious few books about sorcery theories. Scholars have found sorcery notoriously difficult to research and quantify. By either design or practice, sorcery is a fundamentally solitary field of magic.
Long ago, sorcerers held a sinister reputation. Although wizards did not necessarily enjoy the love of the people, everyone looked upon sorcerers as vile monsters worthy of nothing but fiery death. Lord Lightbringer, rarely a supporter of wizards, considered sorcerers (and by extension, warlocks) a stain on the world on par with the Blighted.
The realm of sorcery includes a number of special types. Each type of sorcery features different spells, different effects, and each type connects to a different focus. The most commonly known practices of sorcery include chaos, cosmic, dragon, and storm, although it is likely other practices exist throughout the world.
Chaos sorcery, despite the name, has nothing to do with the Blight. A chaos sorcerer’s blood contains trace elements of the Elemental Chaos, and he uses those elements to focus his magic. Often, the chaos sorcerer’s spells are somewhat variable and unpredictable. Indeed, the chaos sorcerer himself is usually variable and unpredictable as well.
Cosmic sorcery draws on elements of the forces of creation contained within the sorcerer’s bones. This type of sorcery seems connected in some way to a warlock pact known as the star pact. Draconic sorcery (also known as dragon sorcery) ties into small quantities of dragon’s blood flowing through the sorcerer’s veins. Such sorcery often involves the element most closely associated with the original dragon type, i.e., fire, ice, etc.
Storm sorcery focuses magic on a primal strength within the sorcerer’s body.
Wizards typically hold sorcery in low regard. After all, sorcery does not demand years of training and practice; some of the greatest sorcerers in history never received a day of formal training in their lives.
There exist individuals that choose to pursue the path of the arcane whether or not they truly possess natural talent. Such individuals often lack the wealth and resources necessary for a wizard’s education and they lack the innate gifts of a sorcerer. Despite their limitations, they seek arcane power. Although most eventually abandon their ambitions, a few uncover the secrets of the warlock.
A warlock draws magic, like all arcane casters, from the Five Founts. He focuses his magic through a unique contract – a pact – with an outside power or entity.
Warlocks do not spend years engaged in study and research to gain their magic. They have no need for formal teaching, spellbooks, or the other trappings associated with wizardry. Instead, a warlock forms a pact with a power, agreeing to serve that power in different ways for the rest of his life. In exchange for such an agreement, the warlock gains powers on par with those of any wizard or sorcerer.
There exist a wide variety of pacts for warlocks. A warlock usually selects a pact most likely to achieve his goals and dreams, although at times simple necessity makes the choice for him. The most frequent pacts include dark, fey, infernal, star, and vestige. Other pacts exist, but relatively little is known about them.
Dark Pact: The world beneath the surface teems with magical power. This realm, known as the Underdark, contains horrid monsters, ancient ruins, and forgotten secrets. The warlock with this pact taps into the powers of the Underdark. Not surprisingly, this pact is often favored by drow warlocks, especially males seeking to wiggle out from beneath the Spider Queen’s dominance.
Fey Pact: Ancient, inhuman powers exist within the Feywild. These powerful entities are far removed from the understanding mortals. A fey pact ties in with the most elemental powers of the Feywild, including things such as elemental spirits or ancient fey creatures.
These fey creatures sometimes ask for inexplicable or bizarre favors in return for the powers they grant. They are far beyond the attitudes, hopes, and dreams of mortals. These fey beings are neither good nor evil, although their actions may seem capricious or cruel.
Infernal Pact: This pact is the proverbial deal with the devil. The warlock forms a contract with a devil. In exchange for tremendous power during life, the warlock pledges his soul to the devil in the afterlife. Ultimately, the infernal powers cannot be trusted; the warlock must forever watch for his doom. An infernal pact is often the gambit of the truly desperate or the completely insane.
Star Pact: The distant stars hold secrets of immense age. The vast distances between stars likewise hide mysteries beyond mortal understanding. A star pact forms a mystical connection between unknown and unspeakable powers that may well be older than the oldest living deity. These powers stand far above simple concepts such as good or evil. Such eldritch entities have no concept of mortal existence; they would look upon the mightiest mortal with less interest than a human might consider a fly. When a warlock with the star pact draws magic, he does so without these entities even being aware. In their existence, all mortals are insignificant, and nothing they do or attempt is worthy of the slightest moment of notice.
Vestige Pact: A vestige represents the remnants of a once powerful being such as a god or primordial. For one reason or another, the entity has passed beyond the collective memory of most mortals. In many cases, the original entity perished, suffered banishment, or chose self-exile. A vestige no longer enjoys worshippers, minions, or any of the other trappings of being a god. Instead, the vestige communicates through dreams, nightmares, waking visions, and omens those individuals with whom it holds a pact.
Outside groups, especially the Lightbringers often view a vestige pact as equivalent to a minor cult, and deserving of similar harsh treatment. In reality, vestiges care nothing for worship or temples. A vestige is likely to seek its own agenda, and often that agenda remains too obscure or long-range for mortal comprehension.
Countless vestiges may exist, making their presence felt amongst a select group of pact-keepers. Their names, forgotten by all but the most erudite scholars, include those such as Amaan, Ilmeth, Khaeleth, and Zuriel.