The use of magic remains rare throughout Stormfell. Most people live their entire lives never seeing a cleric heal a wound or a wizard cast a cantrip. Relatively few people truly benefit from magic, or enjoy its benefits. In the same vein, most magic practitioners – especially those using arcane magic – tend towards secrecy about their knowledge and talents. Clerics primarily use their magic to aid fellow worshippers or against enemies of the faith. As expected, there are precious few spellcasters providing free services to the public.
Overall, users of arcane or divine magic fall into three general professional categories: freelancers, guild/organization members, and contracted. For the most part, spellcasters of primal magic work alone or as part of small groups (such as a tribe or village). Practitioners of other types of magic (such as psionic) remain too few in number to make such generalizations.
Freelance spellcasters work when they want, where they want. This category includes casters working for-hire, such as adventurers. Wizards, clerics, and other spellcasters in this category pursue a specific personal agenda and have limited desire to work for someone else. There are, for example, wizards living in isolation and conducting independent research. Most sorcerers and warlocks also belong to this category; they rarely choose to work for someone else, and most employers are reluctant to hire these kinds of magic-users. Relatively few clerical or other divine spellcasters consider themselves freelancers, and most of these individuals belong to adventuring companies.
Not surprisingly, local authorities and nobles view these freelancers with a degree of suspicion, uncertainty, and caution. Having a spellcaster work for you is one thing, but having one “loose” and independent often raises considerable concern, especially in isolated or remote communities. Put another way, a wielder of magic represents an unpredictable and potentially dangerous element.
Many freelancers work with or belong to adventuring companies, even in areas still under the sway of the Lightbringer Edicts. Although adventuring stands as one of the most dangerous of all professions, it offers tremendous reward and plentiful opportunities to perfect one’s magical skills. In addition, adventuring often allows a magic practitioner to explore ancient ruins, uncover forgotten knowledge, recover lost relics, and discover secret magical lore.
The second category of professional spellcaster includes members of guilds, universities, secret societies, and other affiliations – such as different religions or major cults. These spellcasters belong to an organization of peers, most of whom work towards common goals. Examples include a mages’ guild, the arcane staff of a university, clerics of a specific temple, or servants of a mysterious magical cabal. Most spellcasters (or arcane or divine magic) fall into this professional category, especially in towns, cities, and similar communities. There are several important reasons for this fact.
First, shared membership imparts security, i.e., “strength in numbers.” A guild or academy of wizards or cathedral of clerics boasts greater influence and overall power compared to an individual or small group.
These organizations, especially amongst arcane practitioners, developed out of simple necessity at first. During the efforts of the Lightbringers to imprison or control spellcasters, many arcane magic-users sought safety in numbers; their persecution forced them to cooperate and form affiliations. Professional organizations also provide pooled resources and skills that magic practitioners so often find invaluable. Because the study and practice of magic includes so many different areas of knowledge, it often helps to work with an organization rather in small groups or alone. Researching magic thrives best in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. As a result of this fact, a number of great libraries and schools exist throughout Stormfell. These institutions exist only through the pooling of resources and knowledge.
Finally, organizations help members in other ways, such as providing social influence or political power. A lone wizard in his tower may frighten the nearby town, but he has almost no direct effect on local politics. A wizards’ guild, on the other hand, may come to dominate local politics either directly or indirectly. Community churches of the larger faiths prove this point to an even greater degree; the high priest or archbishop of a diocese often holds tremendous sway over the local leadership, even if she possesses no secular titles.
The third and final professional category includes contracted spellcasters. These individuals work for an employer and operate under a formal or informal contract. For example, many nobles hire a wizard or priest as an adviser. A number of larger communities likewise keep a few spellcasters on retainer in the event of public emergencies or disasters. These individuals are well paid and enjoy considerable influence locally, even if they must remain behind the scenes.
Not surprisingly, many other spellcasters take a dim view towards these “bought” spellcasters. They despise the idea of working under a contract, or serving for a “master” of any sort, even one that pays for services.
At the same time, contracted spellcasters are among the most trusted and respected by local rulers and the common people. Over time, these people come to see the spellcaster as an accepted member of the community, and someone they appreciate having on their “side.”
Although the Lightbringer Edicts attempted to control spellcasters (especially arcane magic-users), the Edicts made allowances and exceptions for practitioners willing to work under contract. Lord Lightbringer first established a special academy for “approved” spellcasters – the Primarch Academy. He also put together the mechanisms for bonded spellcasters. A bonded spellcaster undergoes a ritual and takes an oath to serve his employer or community. As part of the bonding process, the Potential (as they are called before completing the ceremony) receives a magical brand or tattoo that helps hold him to his oath.
Given the overall rarity of spellcasters and their jealous control of magic, how is most magic used or revealed in the world? Magic may remain rare and mysterious, but it exists and some people come into contact with it eventually.
Many spellcasters make use of brief spells or rituals designed to destroy an enemy, save a comrade, or locate vital information. The majority of magic use is, in effect, temporary and of brief duration. A fireball, for example, detonates in a flash of heat and flame. It leaves behind some scorch marks and, in all likelihood, some dead enemies. Likewise, a spell of healing removes an injury and leaves behind a faint scar or no mark at all.
More permanent or resilient magic is rare. Magic can be used to create magic items, enhance weapons, strengthen armor, and fortify buildings. Such undertakings are, however, expensive, time-consuming, and demand considerable skill on the part of the practitioner. With many projects, the benefits of employing magic are quickly outpaced by the added costs and complications. Most warriors, for example, can make perfectly due with a sturdy longsword of good steel, or a suit of well-crafted plate armor. A knight relies on his training, skill, and experience rather than magical items or tricks. Likewise, although magic can certainly enhance or strengthen a building’s foundation or walls, the effort involved is massive. On the downside, the added expense is often more than most individuals are willing to pay – and that assumes one locates a wizard or priest willing to undertake the commission at all.
With these caveats aside, magic has been used in permanent or long-standing ways, but such examples remain rare. The most famous example is the Grand Library of Ioun in the city of Cadabral. The gnomes of the city pooled their magical talent and engineering knowledge to construct the largest, most durable, and most awe-inspiring library in the world. The library has withstood twelve centuries of harsh coastal climate, as well as several hurricanes and two major earthquakes. Without its magically enhanced foundation and construction, the library would have suffered critical damage on several occasions.
For the most part, the use of permanent magic is involved in fashioning special items or tools such as weapons, armor, and the like. Over the millennia, spellcasters and artificers have produced many such unique items of incredible variety. Many magic items exist to fulfill a specific need – or a need that existed at the time of the item’s creation. During the ongoing war against Shaddoth, for example, the brave knights of Uthland relied on the potent healing items of their battle clerics. Likewise, the dwarves of Rûnehast have suffered many invasions of orcs as well as fell fey creatures. They have created many magic weapons and devices to help defeat these deadly enemies.
On a grander scale, magic was used to construct large portions of the cities of the Empire of Nerath. Under the direction of Emperor Lightbringer, many government buildings were built with the aid of powerful, long-lasting magic. A number of these buildings still stand.
The Cathedral of the Sun in Amberlyn, the Majestic Palace of the Platinum Dragon in Dunnar, and the impressive Citadel of the Black Flame in Shaddoth are all examples of structures imbued with magic. These locations have withstood the worst events of history and survived, primarily due to the magic involved in their construction. There are other similar magical structures, such as the Mithril Bridge of Kaldrel, that have been destroyed, but only because magic was used to destroy them. There are also countless structures, clearly magical in origin (such as the Bloodstone Tower of Zarian), that have long stood abandoned or forgotten due to ancient curse or catastrophe. Indeed, magical buildings often outlive the civilizations in which they were built.
A number of magically imbued items exist and have become legendary (or infamous). There are two general categories of such items: relics and artifacts.
Relics are potent magic items, often derived from divine magic (but not always), designed for specific purposes. For the most part, relics are decades or centuries old. The techniques necessary to craft these items have been lost or forgotten in many cases. A number of relics originated during one of the many conflicts that have plagued Stormfell over the millennia. Such items often belonged to epic heroes or villains and, at times, proved instrumental in winning a battle or a war. Although many relics were buried with their original owners, a number of such items have been passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms or birthrights. As might be expected, a large number of relics were lost or forgotten over time. Some relics still lie in waiting, buried in an ancient vault or abandoned fortress.
Artifacts are the most powerful magic items in existence. They have become legendary for their powers and capriciousness. Often, artifacts came into being thousands of years ago. Even the most accomplished and powerful artificers and magic practitioners have never learned how to create even the weakest artifact. Some legends suggest that artifacts originated with the gods or the primordials. These mighty items are, for the most part, lost to mortal knowledge, buried in ancient ruins, or kept hidden in secret vaults. Artifacts are dangerous, possessing powers too tempting or unpredictable for mortals. They often possess a mind all their own, and most artifacts judge the worthiness of their possessors. Artifacts have been known to annihilate cities, corrupt civilizations, and lay waste to the landscape. Some of the most legendary include the Hand and Eye of Vecna, the Sword of Kas, the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd, and the Dragonship of Luros the Mad.
A number of theories tie many such artifacts back to the Dawn War between the gods and the primordials. Perhaps such powerful devices, far beyond the comprehension of mortals, served as weapons or tools for those mighty beings, weapons since forgotten or abandoned? Some artifacts, however, originated after that conflict. The Eye and Hand of Vecna, and the Sword of Kas (and their infamous owners), to give several examples, originated in the time of the Immortals.