Magic in the World
There is one, and perhaps only one, indisputable fact regarding magic: it exists. Magic is real. Wizards may study it, scholars may puzzle over its theories, and peasants may fear the sight of it, but magic exists and exerts tremendous influence over the world.
Magic, in all its myriad forms, affects almost every facet of life on Stormfell, often in ways beyond mortal perception. Even excluding the obvious practitioners of magic such as clerics, sorcerers, wizards, and so forth, magic remains a pervasive and dominant force. It allows for the existence of supernatural phenomenon, the existence of strange and otherwise inexplicable monsters, and it weaves its effect on everything from random chance to local weather patterns. Magic reveals its presence in dreams, nightmares, visions, sixth sense, and in numerous other ways.
The force of magic has forged empires and brought them low. Magic allowed the people of Bael Turath to challenge the draconic might of Arkhosia. Magic proved its worth in the long struggle between the Empire of Nerath and the Dominion of Shaddoth. Magic later demonstrated its catastrophic power in the death of both the Aeddon and Raal Saraat. Magic served as a key foundation for gnome ingenuity and eladrin culture.
Even today, in the absence of mighty kingdoms or majestic empires, magic pervades the world. Undead horrors stalk the land, animated by necromancy. Creatures slip through the Veil from the Shadowfell and the Feywild into this world. The force of magic maintains the barriers between these worlds, while a different sort of magic threatens to tear those barriers asunder. Clerics use magic to heal or burn, druids call upon the power of nature to grow crops or destroy invaders. Wizards craft magic items and research spells with endless possibilities, pursuing ideas both ancient and new.
Despite its vast potential, most people have barely tapped into magic to solve problems or overcome obstacles. Clerics and magic-users may command powerful spells, but the bulk of mortals have no talent in magic, and no interest in acquiring any. They do not use magic to construct homes, cut down trees, or craft tools. They do not enjoy magic coaches, trains pulled by elementals, flying skyships, or anything so fantastic.
Magic remains the purview of a select few individuals with proper training or a special gift. Less than one person out of a hundred even possesses the potential to cast so much as a simple cantrip, much less master the great spells of epic heroes. Even with the passage of millennia, magic remains rare and poorly understood. Several explanations for this exist.
First, the demise of the last great civilization, the Empire of Nerath, had a detrimental effect on education and learning, both of magic and of more mundane matters, throughout the world. As the empire faded, so too did its many universities, libraries, and academies. As peace and prosperity vanished, people became more concerned with survival.
Second, the efforts of Lord Lightbringer and his followers continue to exert influence even into modern times. During the time of Lightbringer and his famous crusades, he took a dim view of any type of magic outside that considered divine. He and his followers became adept at hunting down and imprisoning arcane practitioners. The Lightbringers also destroyed many libraries and closed several influential arcane academies. This powerful group has continued its endless crusade to control or stamp out all use of the arcane arts. For many years, it was dangerous to openly practice magic or reveal any talent for the art.
Finally, there are many dangerous creatures lurking in the shadows and dark places of the world. These monsters feel the presence of magic, and they often seek out magic with a feral hunger. Several types of undead, for example, seem compelled to pursue and devour individuals with skill in magic. Other creatures, intruders from other domains, have slipped through the Veil in search of warlocks, wizards, and sorcerers. A spellcaster puts his life at risk by flagrant or proliferate use of magic. He inevitably risks drawing the attention of creatures, witch hunters, or the Lightbringers.
Ultimately, how one perceives magic is closely related to education, training, vocation, and upbringing. The greater the level of learning, the more accepting of magic most people become, even if they never truly understand why magic works. To a farmer, laborer, soldier, or small town merchant, magic is something to be feared and avoided, no matter how enticing it appears at first glance. It should come as no surprise how many superstitious beliefs revolve around magic.