Blog #4: Magic and the Planes, Part 2

Hi apprentices,

Now, on to Part 2 of our discussion of all things magic in TAG: the otherworldly planes beyond Terryn and the fantastical inhabitants of our setting.

Buckle up, because this one’s taking us far from Freestone!

Arcana: Cosmology

The universe of The Adventurers Guild is populated by mysterious otherworldly “planes,” strange worlds that are the origins of both magic and monsters. There are seven known planes, grouped into two categories — Inner and Outer — though there may be planes that are yet undiscovered.

In Freestone, the days of the week are named after these seven planes, similarly to how ours are named after the planets: Terday, Feyday, Fieday, Luxday, Noxday, Asterday, and Morday.

Inner Planes: These planes are closest together, making it easiest to draw magic (and Dangers) from them.

Terryn, the world, where the story of the books takes place. Anima, or life force, originates in Terryn. Creatures from here are called natural and generally aren’t categorized as Dangers, even the dangerous ones.

Fey, the faerie plane, enchanted and lush, from which wizards cultivate their mana. Dangers from here are called faeries or fey, or elementals. Some believe that the elves once originated in this plane, though their time in Terryn has changed them greatly.

Fie, the infernal plane, from which fiends and djinn originate. Warlocks gain their power by forming pacts with the more powerful and intelligent of these creatures. A tumultuous and fiery place.

Outer Planes: The outer planes are more removed and mysterious. Uncanny abilities can be culled from them, but the nature of this power tends to be harder to shape than mana.

Lux, the plane of order, logic, and light. Dangers from Lux are mechanical and sometimes have angelic-looking wings. Automatons, golems, and seraphs all originate from Lux, as do the runes that are used by the dwarves. No “living” creature has ever emerged from this plane — only automatons powered by runes. Even the winged seraphs are mechanical, except for their great feathered wings.

Nox, the plane of chaos, chance, and shadows. Once, there were people who could draw uncanny luck from this place, though manipulating good fortune always came with an equal cost of bad luck. Dangers originating from here are stealthy or indistinct. Some are simply living shadows, while others are shapeshifters, chimeras, and werebeasts.

Astra, the plane of the mind. Dreams are said to originate from this cold and starry place, though little else is known of it. Ancient psions were once able to harness the forces of Astra to provide them with odd psychic gifts: telepathy and telekinesis, psychometry and memory alteration, and even mind control. Reportedly, many psions who explored the powers of Astra too deeply succumbed to madness. Monsters from Astra are often horribly jumbled and disfigured, inflicting madness on their victims — or they are psychic creatures of impenetrable intelligence that strip away the wills of their thralls.

Mort, also known as the Gray Gate, or the plane of the dead. No Dangers originate from this plane. Rather, the power that spills from it causes the dead in Terryn to rise, and can be harnessed by necromancers to force them into service. Ghosts, skeletons, zombies, and vampires are the results of the Gray Gate’s opening.

Arcana: The Fantasy Races of Terryn

Humans, elves, and dwarves are the races we most commonly meet in Terryn, but the world once flourished with a diversity of fantastical peoples, inspired by Nick and my favorite fantasy stories and games. We hope to someday explore the other surviving cities beyond Freestone, and learn a bit more about these folk.

One of the questions Nick and I sometimes get on school visits is whether children like Zed — who is half-human and half-elf — can be born from pairs of other ancestries, like humans and dwarves or even dwarves and elves. While rare, the answer to this is a resounding yes! The child of a human and a dwarf would be called a halfling in this setting, or dwarf-blooded among the humans of Freestone. Halflings generally present as small humans — they have the dwarven height, but not their robust constitutions. Once, whole communities of them lived in underground homes carved into sprawling hills, broken into governments called shires. They were renowned for their kindness, curiosity, and hospitality.

The child of an elf and a dwarf would be a gnome: a small, thin, spritely person inheriting both the elves’ knack for magic and the dwarves’ keen ingenuity. Though even rarer than elf-blooded and dwarf-blooded peoples, the gnomes of history were often regarded as geniuses of enchantment, mixing magical and material talents into wondrous inventions.

That ends our lesson! Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about this setting. We can't promise we'll answer — some of these might reveal secrets or spoilers — but we're always happy to talk about the world of TAG!


Blog #3: Magic and the Planes, Part 1

Hi apprentices,

It’s been a long time coming, but finally it's time to discuss the magical workings of The Adventurers Guild. Here I’ll dive a bit deeper into all things magic in our series: wizards, witches, healers, and the mysterious planes beyond the world of Terryn.

This is a long one, so I'll be splitting it into two parts for easy digestion. Hope you brought an appetite for the arcane.

Arcana: Magic

Magic can mean different things, depending on the fantasy property you’re reading, but in our world it refers to spells that are crafted using a resource called mana. Mana is a personal, invisible energy that allows the weilder to direct powerful forces through spells. Most mana comes from establishing a connection to either Fey or Fie, the Inner Planes (more on these in the next post), though sorcerers are born with an innate reservoir of mana that derives from neither.

There are multiple ways of tapping into the planes to gain access to magic and magic-like abilities, but the only socially acceptable mages in Freestone are wizards, and to a lesser degree, sorcerers. The abilities of healers, necromancers, and druids are not actually considered magic by official mages, since they don’t use mana, even though they have magical qualities. To most laypeople in Freestone, however, if it looks like magic, and it quacks like magic, then it’s magic.

Wizards: Wizards use the mana of Fey to power their spells. They learn magic through study and meditation. Wizard spellcasting is extremely organized. Each spell’s complicated formula must be memorized and then given shape with signs — words, gestures, symbols, or approved items — and mana. If performed right, the effects of each spell are ordered and distinct. All wizard spells have names and are categorized into “levels”, depending on their difficulty. Particularly useful spells tend to be named after their creators.

It’s commonly believed that wizards develop mana for casting spells through their meditation. In truth, every apprentice must successfully perform a ritual to summon a sprite — the weakest of known Fey creatures — and have it unlock a small font of mana for the aspiring mage to then build upon by meditating. Any further attempts to summon creatures from the other planes is forbidden, however.

A sorcerer who can sense wizard magic would experience it as smelling faintly of mint.

Warlocks / Witches: These spellcasters gain their abilities through pacts made with the creatures of Fie, usually on purpose, though sometimes accidentally. Mana culled from fiends, djinn, and other warlocks tends to be much more volatile, and even addictive. A warlock can’t build upon mana with meditation like wizards can — only by making more and more dangerous pacts. Their spells are perhaps the least understood of any magical tradition. Knowledge of their workings is outlawed, and even so, the beings who impart such secrets only ever do so at a cost. A witch’s magic is imprecise, but can reach levels of power unknown to wizards. Warlocks typically employ fewer spells than wizards, but the ones they use are brutal.

Ever since Foster tried his world-destroying ritual to broker for more power, all but destroying Terryn in the process, witches and warlocks have been banned from Freestone. Anyone convicted of being one is put to death.

It's worth noting here that mana of Fey and Fie are magically immiscible — meaning they don’t work well together, sort of like oil and water. A spellcaster cannot use both at the same time. So a wizard who wishes to become a witch or warlock has their Fey-based mana emptied as a result of any pacts. It's still possible for them to cast wizard spells using fiendish mana, but the effects are often more erratic — and more powerful. History is full of lackluster wizards who were accused of witchcraft when their usually mediocre spellwork gained sudden potency.

Warlock mana has a sulphurous odor to the magically sensitive, rather than the usual minty smell of wizard magic.

Sorcerers: Sorcerers and sorceresses are rare individuals born with an innate font of mana, which they develop with practice. Once, all elves were sorcerers, although this is no longer true. These spellcasters treat magic like an art form rather than a field of study, relying on talent and practice rather than memorization and meditation.

The scope of their spells is also more specialized than wizards. Many sorcerers experience a natural disposition toward one particular “element” like fire or lightning, or a magical “theme” such as illusion, teleportation, or augury. The effects of their magic often don’t have formal spell names.

Some sorcerers, like Zed, can sense both wizard and warlock spells, and their inborn mana makes them capable of interacting with both kinds (as much as talent and opportunity allow).

Dwarven resistance: Dwarves, for unknown reasons, are resistant (but not immune) to magical effects. Dwarven wizards and warlocks have existed, but are extremely rare — about as rare as human sorcerers. There has never been a dwarven sorcerer.

Runes: But the dwarves do have an ancient and storied tradition with runes. Unlike wizardry and witchcraft, runes are believed to draw their power from the plane of Lux. In fact, the dwarves first learned of runework by studying the symbols that were drawn onto the Dangers from that plane. (See: Cosmology.) They can use these runes to enchant inanimate objects, creating magical effects on weapons and armor that never fade, or even in creating golems and other lifelike automatons.

Wizards and warlocks are capable of casting a spell upon a weapon to enchant it, but the mana will eventually fade unless continuously fed. The effects of runes never fade, as long as the runes themselves are kept intact. For this reason, dwarven runes are considered the very best enchantments in the world, and the secrets of their creation are closely guarded.

Enchantments / Focuses: A focus is a physical object that can be used to heighten and sustain a powerful or long-term spell effect, as long as mana is continuously added to it. Many focuses are crystals, as the ordered nature of the crystal’s structure lends itself well to capturing and directing mana.

Technically, however, any item enchanted with non-runic magic is considered a focus. Weapons and armor so enchanted are very valuable, not just for their magical properties, but also for their durability. (When mana is present inside an item, it becomes extremely difficult to damage.) Once drained, however — or if filled with two conflicting types of mana from Fey and Fie — the item is once again made fragile enough to destroy. Runic enchantment has the same effect, but the runes themselves must be preserved. If a rune is scratched out, the effect fades.

Certain materials (such a mythril, wood, bone, and crystal) are more receptive to magical enchantment, and some (such as iron and silver) are resistant to it. Steel is of medium receptiveness (the carbon helps offset the iron), and orichalcum (also known as “dwarven steel”) is entirely impervious to conventional magic, though very receptive to runic enchantments.

Healers, druids, and anima: Healers use a force separate from mana to power their abilities: anima. Anima is life force, and exists within all living creatures, though most will never develop it enough to wield its power. Before the Dangers, different cultures called this force different things: spirit, ki, prana, and other names now lost.

In Freestone, the brothers and sisters of the Golden Way are the only people capable of using anima, developing it through a strictly disciplined life of poverty and training. These monks and nuns can use their own anima on living tissue — healing wounds, granting strength and endurance, helping to cure diseases, and even purging the body of harmful magic. Anima can be dangerous to use in this way, however, and overexerting it can result in exhaustion and even death. When used, anima gives off a warm golden light.

Druids were once capable of calling upon anima, though they used it differently. Through a connection to Terryn, druids could use the anima in other living things — such as the plants and animals around them — to create wondrous effects that usually involved nature and the elements. The particulars of this art have been lost to time, however.

Necromancers: Necromancers once harnessed the energies of the plane Mort to raise and control the dead. Necromancy was among the most reviled of arts, not only for its gruesome results, but because of the destructive nature of Mort’s power. Those who used too much of it found that they themselves began to fester and rot, slowly transforming into undead creatures known as liches.

Liches were ruthlessly intelligent monsters, obsessed with mortality. Their sole motivation was adding the living to the ranks of the dead.

That's it for the magic portion of our discussion. Next up: the mysterious, otherworldy planes!


The Adventurers Guild blog tour

Hi adventurers!

Starting next week, TAG is venturing out beyond the walls to begin a two-week blog tour through Rockstar Book Tours. You can see the full schedule on the Rockstar landing page, or check out the list below. There will be spotlights, reviews, excerpts, and someone even agreed to let Nick and Zack do a guest post on our pub day! We've fooled them all!

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Week One:
9/25/2017 - YA Book Madness - Spotlight
9/26/2017 - Don't Judge, Read - Excerpt
9/27/2017 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review
9/28/2017 - Word Spelunking - Review
9/29/2017 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review

Week Two:
10/2/2017 - The Life of a Booknerd Addict - Review
10/3/2017 - BookHounds YA - Guest Post
10/4/2017 - Bibliobakes - Review
10/5/2017 - Mundie Kids - Excerpt
10/6/2017 - Book Briefs - Review

Stay safe out there, and watch for monsters.

Nick & Zack

Blog #2 - Life in Freestone

Hi apprentices,

Here we begin our second deep-dive into the world of The Adventurers Guild, this time focusing on Freestone, and how the city functions after the end of the world.

Freestone’s protective magical wards and high walls encircle a pretty wide area (see the map at the bottom of this post). Even before the Day of Dangers, however, Freestone was a resource-rich mining center and merchant hub. With careful planning, there’s enough land protected by the walls that the city can farm to feed its citizens, and enough natural resources that it’s able to mine for ore and draw water from plentiful underground aquifers.

But even with all these assets, keeping a city alive requires structure: and that brings us to the Guild System.

Civics: Guilds and the Guildculling

Every child in Freestone eventually gets assigned to a guild in a special yearly ceremony called the Guildculling. Nobles usually belong to the Stewards Guild, serving the city as administrators, judges, and magistrates. (The King of Freestone is the official guildmaster of this guild.) Occasionally a noble who shows a special aptitude might be placed into one of the more prestigious High Guilds, however, like the Knights Guild or the Mages Guild.

If a family (even a noble family) has more than two children, the third and on are usually claimed by the Healers Guild. Once claimed, they must renounce their titles, family names, and never take a family of their own. One way to avoid this fate is to be chosen by the Knights Guild or the Mages Guild, who have precedence. The Healers Guild has a limited capacity, however, so even a spot there isn’t a guarantee.

The Merchants Guild oversees trade in Freestone and collects taxes for the royal family. Its members are usually very wealthy. In this way, guild members are sort of a caste all their own: most are not nobles, but not too far down, and are sometimes called merchant lords or ladies. Not all traders are in the Merchants Guild — in fact most are artisans who belong to other guilds — but all traders must operate through the merchants.

The merchants also have a hidden arm called the Shadows, who are shrouded in secret. . . .

If a child somehow slips through the cracks and is claimed by no guild, a rare occurrence, then they become guildless. The guildless are the untouchables of Freestone — beggars and criminals who are reviled by the rest of the city. The only way to escape the extreme poverty of being guildless is to join the Adventurers Guild.

The Sea of Stars, also called the Adventurers Guild, is the most dangerous occupation in all of Freestone. They are the only citizens of Freestone who regularly leave the safety of the city’s walls. Their guild has the highest mortality rate of any, and is usually made up of those children the other guilds don’t choose, or criminals who were booted from their previous ones.

However, because the Adventurers Guild is vital to the life of Freestone, they have a power that none of the other guilds, even the High Guilds, possess: the draft. Once a year, the guild may choose any first-year apprentice they want and claim them for their own, regardless of the claims of the other guilds. This way the guild ensures it doesn’t suffer from a lack of talent. They don’t have to use the draft during the Guildculling — they may do it at any time within the first year, after which they must choose from the new batch of first year apprentices. For this reason, many guilds are very secretive about their most promising apprentices.

Civics: Guild Hierarchies

There are four tiers of advancement within a guild: apprentice, journey, master, and guildmaster.

Apprentice: Apprenticeships last no fewer than five years. During this period the apprentice is unpaid, but has their room, lodging, and education provided for them by their guild. Some guilds have different names for the apprentice rank. The Knights Guild, for instance, call theirs squires, and the Healers refer to theirs as novices.

Journey: After five years, an apprentice may — after passing a test of requisite skill, and with the approval of their guildmaster — graduate to the rank journeywoman or journeyman. Then they begin their “journey years,” a period of no fewer than three years in which they are paid for their services by their guild and are expected to contribute to the life of Freestone. (Once, before the Day of Dangers, guild members actually journeyed from city to city to hone their crafts during this period, thus the name.)

Master: After this three-year period, a journeywoman or journeyman may be considered for master rank. This rank requires a difficult test or project to be completed, usually at the guild member’s own expense, along with a majority vote from all the guild’s current masters and mistresses. Not all guild members will move from journey to master rank. Masters make up a rare tier of the most excellent members in their field.

Guildmaster: Different guilds will have different administrative positions as befitting their needs and size — but every guild has one guildmaster who leads them. Typically, this is a lifelong position. Candidates are chosen by the masters of a particular guild (a 2/3 majority is needed here) and submitted to the king’s council for approval. If a majority can’t be reached, the king and his council may appoint a guildmaster. If a guildmaster misuses their power, or becomes ineffective and refuses to step down, then the council may be called on to depose them. This is a very rare occurrence.

Civics: Titles of Freestone

Readers will come across a LOT of titles in our books. Here’s an overview of the more prominent ones, and what exactly they mean.

Ser: given to knights who have passed beyond their squirehood (in Freestone only men may be knights, though there are tales of female warriors who took the title Dame).

Magus: given to wizards and sorcerers of the Mages Guild (Archmagus is given to the guildmaster).

Brother/Sister: given to novices, monks, and nuns of the Golden Way (Mother/Father to master rank, Luminous Father/Mother to the guildmaster) Note: novices permanently lose their family name when taking this title, even if they eventually renounce their vows.

Lord/Lady: given to nobles, though any of the previous titles would supercede this one. Sometimes merchants are also addressed with this title.

Guildmaster/Guildmistress: Only ever used to address the head of a guild.

Messere: a deferential way of addressing someone; genderless.

Civics: The People of Freestone

While its populace is mostly human, with a much smaller community of dwarves, Freestone once drew in merchants and noble dignitaries from across the world, and the city still retains that diversity. Without a world to continuously draw immigrants from, however, Freestone is more racially diverse than it is culturally. Noble houses may have some well-preserved relics and histories of their origins, but for the vast majority, distinctions like countries have ceased to exist. (This even includes the name of whatever nation Freestone once belonged to.) Over two centuries of isolation, as the various human communities who populated the city were assimilated into the larger culture, some of the rich and distinct customs they’d brought with them began to fade — often to the great sadness of the older generations.

Now all humans in Freestone speak a single language, called the trade tongue, which is represented by English in our books. Freestone’s dwarven population has kept alive a small tradition of dwarven language, though most aren’t fluent.

OK, that’s all for now. Our next post will be of a more mystical bent, discussing the world beyond Freestone, the planes beyond Terryn, and of course my favorite topic of all . . . yesMAGIC!!!!!!&%$($&@($*&^(@


Blog #1 - The End of the World

Hi apprentices,

With the book out in less than a month, I wanted to take this opportunity for readers like me who get a little . . . obsessive about the world-building behind their favorite fantasy settings. I’ve always loved diving deep into my favorite properties, so this series is meant to explore some of the aspects of Freestone and beyond that maybe didn’t make it into the books, but which acted as our framework when writing them. Not everyone loves to pause the action for a civics lesson, or a treatise on the various magical planes, but for those who are curious, these posts will hopefully be a useful source of info!

The Adventurers Guild takes place in Terryn, a fantasy world that was more or less destroyed by monsters long before the books begin. Think Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons, except the monsters have already won. There’s still a lot going on in the surviving cities, but first off . . . what happened to this world??

History: The Day of Dangers

Two centuries ago, a warlock named Foster Pendleton opened the gates between Terryn and the other planes of existence (more on these planes in another post). According to history, Foster was hoping to increase his magical power, but by thinning the barriers between planes, he inadvertently flooded the world with horrific monsters. These supernatural creatures — called Dangers by the people of Freestone— swept across the entire world, and the people of Terryn were unprepared for the onslaught. Civilization was effectively destroyed in a single day, now known in Freestone as the Day of Dangers. Only a handful of cities survived, because they were able to protect themselves with physical and magical barriers in time.

History: The Champions of Freestone, founders of the four High Guilds

Four champions are credited with protecting Freestone during the Day of Dangers. Afterwards, they formed the guild system that the city uses to keep order. Each champion founded one of the four High Guilds which — together with Freestone’s reigning monarch — oversee the whole system. These champions were . . .

Mother Aedra of the Golden Way, the Priestess: a benevolent practitioner of the healing arts, Mother Aedra founded the Golden Way, or Healers Guild, a monastic guild made up of monks and nuns who cannot take titles or have families.

Ser Jerra Freestone, the Paladin: founder of the Knights Guild (informally called the Stone Sons) which protects the city and the castle. The Stone Sons act as a police force for Freestone. The guild doesn’t allow women, which is condemned as unfair by Freestone’s more progressive citizens.

Archmagus Zahira Silverglow, the Enchantress: founder of the Mages Guild, also known as the Silverglows, a very small but powerful guild made up mostly of wizards and the odd sorcerer. The Mages Guild’s chief charge is to maintain the magical wards that protect the city from the Dangers. They also provide arcane support and advisement, and keep a watchful eye for dark magic like Foster’s.

Dox Eural, the Assassin: founder of the Merchants Guild, which governs trade and collects taxes. Dox was once a spy and scoundrel, but mended his ways after the Day of Dangers to bring lawful commerce to a city on the brink. Still, some have heard whispers of a darker aspect to the guild . . . a group who call themselves the Shadows.

Foster the Warlock, aka Foster the Traitor: once a friend and companion to the champions, Foster was a powerful warlock—a practitioner of fiendish magic. Foster and Dox were especially good friends, but when Foster’s calamitous ritual brought the world to ruin, Dox was forced to end it any way he could. With a heavy heart, he slayed his wayward friend. Foster was elf-blooded: a half-human and half-elf hybrid. Ever since his betrayal, the elf-blooded have been treated with suspicion, if not outright scorn.


OK, that’s all for history. The next post will cover the society of Freestone, and how they’ve managed to keep civilization alive through the end of the world. We’re talking guilds, guilds, guilds!