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!