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.
When she developed a following by mortals because of her generosity, at first Astral didn’t want them. Ashamed at creating imperfect mortal souls, she wanted none of them to revere her. She grudgingly accepts some clerics, but most of the magic that comes because of her is free to study. She just… left the mysteries of the magic that the gods use open to mortal discovery. Not only that, but Astral did so in a way that bound mortal magic to the universe in the same way that the Gods are bound. She gave them laws.
The laws of magic sound kind of like equivalent exchange, one of the principles of alchemy. What goes in must come out. In most cases, there has to be energy in the form of willpower to be focused, components to be consumed, verbal evocation of the spell, and finally, the wiggly-fingers part called the somatic component. There are some variations, but the magic is like a science in how it is developed and exploited.
For a non-sorceric practitioner, typically meaning a wizard, one must study magic much more in depth in order to make it useful. The benefits of this study can make one well-trained wizard much more powerful of a caster than a sorcerer of the same level. Sorcerers, on the other hand have much more natural magic tied to their bloodline. Instead of study, a sorcerer can meditate and focus their magical energies, revealing to them new ways to manipulate magic. In this, they are more naturally talented than wizards and carry more magical essence that allows them to express this magic. Wizards, however, don’t have to meditate to learn a spell. They just read it from their spell books. This makes them far faster at learning new spells and exclusively gives them a far greater number of spells to choose from.
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 material components, a bard uses sound or more expressive somatic components to their spells, like dancing. By doing so, bards eschew the need for materials completely. 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. An arcane archer is one who has pretty much kiboshed the idea of staying in magic school or playing an instrument, other than their bows. The reason why a bow seems to be the only method of this form of arcane focus seems to stem from the concept of getting the magically charged bit of dangerousness away from yourself as quickly as possible. Not only that, but most arcane archers are elves, who take bow prowess to an art-form. Let me just put it this way… arcane archers may as well be bards, but instead of a harp or lyre, their stringed instrument fills their foes with arrows.
(Note: The most effective arcane archers spend most of their time as a bow-specializing fighter, not studying how to make their arrows deadlier. Go ahead and take the maximum Arcane archer levels, which is 10 by the way, but spend the rest of your levels as a fighter, making yourself awesome at turning enemies into pincushions.)
My honest opinion is that if this is your first time playing a caster, play a sorcerer. Wizards are incredibly complex, to the point that if you ascend in level as part of your playing experience with the other players, it consumes allot of that play time every time each and every time you level. It makes it so that everyone is waiting for you to finish reading, re-reading, picking, then writing down… YOUR… goddamn spells. Not only that, but picking your spells also seems to be up to the party, as well. Why? They want your spells to be most effective for them. You will have to listen well and be open to suggestions.
If for some reason you are in a session and you find yourself able to become an arcane archer, hopefully you have earned that right by getting there from a much lower level. If this is true, then for the love of the gods… keep that group! It’s hard to find a regular group that will play for long enough for things to get absolutely bad-ass like that. Arcane Archer is a prestige class for a reason. You have earned the prestige of being able to play one, at that point. Don’t get me wrong, though. Having a level 15 bow fighter is just as bad-ass as having a level 5 fighter/ level 10 arcane archer.
Okay… so here is the difference between a level 10 sorcerer and a level 10 wizard. A level 10 sorcerer has the ability to cast some pretty powerful exploding explodeyballs of explodeyness, frequently, and with fantastic results. A level 10 wizard can cast a metric fuckton of spells, has a pet that every Disney movie nerd wishes they had, and probably has a bad-ass staff of “Dumbledore’s wet dream.”
If you are still confused, please… read further.
A level 20 sorcerer absolutely glows with bad-ass power and the air crackles around them. Their footsteps emit puffs of flame, and villagers swear that they may be literally on fire and in need of a dousing with a bucket of water. Whenever this bad-ass so much as coughs, the resulting wave of destruction could be mistaken as the actual apocalypse.
An equal-level wizard IS GODDAMN MERLIN. You bristle with amazing ancient artifacts that no-one else would dare to touch, lest they be torn from the universe itself and stuffed into a pocket plane populated only by noob rogue players. Your pet is now smarter and more useful than your friends…. and, if you chose your pet well enough, almost replaces your need for a rogue. You are the pointy-hatted, Gandalf-looking, summoner of impossible ruin.
I hope this article helps you to choose how you would develop your arcane caster, were you to roll one up.