Legends in Isaldor
Arcane Magic and You (The Guide to How it Works)
If you are already familiar with what magic is and why it works the way it does in a fantasy setting, you probably won’t have to read this. I’m sure that if you already do know and you want to read this anyways, you will learn something about how magic works in Isaldor. It’s also fairly entertaining.
From the beginning, magic has always been a driving force in Isaldor. When Astral gave access of magic freely to mortals, she chose to do so on a basis of randomness. It is random who in a family line will have the ability to use magic, but their bloodline traits would be easily connected. She realized that not everyone needed or deserved to be able to use magic, but that she was not perfect enough to judge who or why someone would have magic.
Arcane magic isn’t earned through merit, and as such, needs to be regulated by the Academy, the scholarly group responsible for magical licenses in Isaldor. Why? Because Magister Joe Mcsplodeyface needs to not be so trigger-happy with those fireballs in unsuspecting villages. When unlicensed magic use is reported by the guards, soon the Academy will send a group of wizards and construct guardians through portals to subdue the assailant. You do not pass go. You do not collect 200 gold sovereigns.
Magic has some scientific-seeming components to it. Most arcane magic is composed of three parts. A verbal, somatic, and physical component. The verbal component forms the words that make the spell specific to the task. The somatic component is the action, be it wiggling your fingers, playing an instrument, or waving your arms about like an arbitrated Dragonball Z character. With extra training, these two components can be changed and some can be overlooked… at a cost. This is typically called metamagic.
The physical component is not that easy to bypass, though. That’s the eyes of newts and bat wings part of the magic. Wizards and even certain divine magic users always need objects that contain various magical qualities in order to cast a spell. Sometimes these components are very expensive and/or rare. This makes wizards kind of rough to play sometimes. Sorcerers, due to their innate powers, can sometimes ignore these physical components, since those magical natures course through them. Some spells even need rituals to perform that could take minutes or hours.
Wizards study magic in greater depth than any other caster. They look into the very natures of spells and because of this, become potentially the most powerful of spell casters. Sorcerers focus their minds and search to create more expressive forms of power. This is how they develop new spells. Wizards originally studied this in order to understand how the natures behind the magic worked. Jealous of the innate power of sorcerers, those wizards further honed what the magic could do. Sorcerers simply don’t need this kind of study, becoming avatars of their bloodline magic. Take this into account when deciding which kind of caster you are and how you want that to develop if you decide to multi-class or specialize in a certain method of casting, like the arcane archer.
More about wizards…
In order to study the arcane arts, a student must be able to tap into the raw essence of magic that flows through the universe and force it to express. Usually, this expression comes at a young age as a single minor power. Most have been cataloged and are considered the easiest spells to perform. Those beginner spells are called cantrips. Using this power allows some of the magical energy that permeates everything to start seeping into the body of the magic user as “mana,” or in other words magical essence made readily available for exhaustion via spell.
When a wizard runs out of mana, they are no longer able to cast spells until that mana is replenished with good sleep. Most new wizards are not aware of this problem; at least not until they reach much higher levels of magical training. Some wizards are powerful enough to not realize their limits until they are much older. Mana seems to be inseparably connected with focus and concentration.
You know those times when you stand up and walk into the kitchen, but forget why you went in there? This is what happens to wizards trying to cast spells when they run out of mana. They remain in this stupor until they rest long enough to regain some mana. It is very frustrating. In order to combat this, wizards developed a trick with their casting. They would use material components that hold associated power related to the spell. These material components gave them the ability to cast spells much faster. Sorcerers were not far behind in also learning this method, but because of their nature, they don’t often need material components unless the magic cannot be unlocked without them.
Another trick of wizard’s studies was specialization. All they needed to do was study spells in categories that best fit their learning style. This way, they would learn spells faster and make themselves more specialized. Specialist wizards like this have quite a few benefits that universalists who do not specialize, don’t. They call these specialized group of spells, spell schools. The only problem is that a specialist wizard has such great difficulty understanding spells of opposition, that it is quite fruitless trying to do so. In this, wizards finally lose their edge over sorcerers in their ability to cast nearly any kind of spell.
Another class of arcane casters is the bard. They don’t have nearly as many benefits in magic as wizards or sorcerers, but they do have an interesting method of casting. Instead of having somatic and verbal components, a bard uses sound or dance, which are more expressive components. By doing so, bards eschew the same type of magical study, just the songs and the meaning of those magical songs. Unfortunately, studying magic this way is slightly less practical. Only by learning certain songs can a bard cast those spells. So bardic spells are divided into category by memorized songs. Bards technically have spell books, but those are generally for learning new spell songs. Almost all of bardic magic is memory-dependent.
The final type of arcane caster is a specialist of a different sort. It is the arcane archer. Arcane archery was first developed (no surprise) by the elves, specifically the elves who followed the teachings of Astra, the goddess who brought arcane magic to the world. Technically arcane archery is a form of runic magic, bringing it into the realm of the followers of Wotan, the dwarven patron deity. These archers use their focus and will to express their spells, which are bound to arrows and to their bows. These spells are usually simple, but have devastating effect. These are the front line battle mages of the elves. Other runic casters are in the same way bound to this devastating form of combat.
(Note: The most effective arcane archers spend most of their time as a bow-specializing fighter, not simply studying how to make their arrows deadlier. Go ahead and take the maximum Arcane archer levels, which in Pathfinder, is 10, but spend the rest of your levels as a fighter, making yourself awesome at turning enemies into pincushions. Another route is being a zen archer, which uses the monk’s flurry of blows to allow you to shoot more arrows than that elf from Lord of the Rings, Legolas.)
Rune masters should specialize in a ranged weapon or thrown weapon as well. The most basic rune is the rune of returning, allowing a weapon to return to the hand of the thrower. Dwarves typically use hand axes or throwing hammers. Humans and other races typically use javelins or throwing daggers.