Continuing my series on Aeramis and its worldbuilding, we come to magic. Truthfully, magic on Aeramis is not all together that different from what is presented in the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook. However, there are a few personal twists and adjustments to certain ideas, and specific details that probably don’t matter to anyone but myself. I personally love magic. In the real world I’m very much a man of science. No, I’m not an emotionless stereotype, but I value what is tangible and real and what can be seen and “proven.” So the idea of magic as this otherworldly force that allows people to bend physics and create amazing effects is one that I really enjoy, and as such I have a certain favoritism for the arcane in D&D. But in particular I like to think about how it works. Not the strict science of it, but just the general concept. So, let’s get to it.
Within the universe exists a raw cosmic force, an omnipresent energy, which is called the Weave or, sometimes, the cosmic arcane. This energy infuses everything. It is mostly imperceptible. Even in an anti-magic field the raw currents of the cosmos still flow; it is simply impossible to manipulate them. Just as gravity is the effect that a mass has on space-time, the cosmic arcane is the effect that De’em himself has on the same. Whatever its source, spellcasters can manipulate this cosmic force, and this manipulation manifests as magic. A caster uses three components in order to cast spells; verbal (words), somatic (gestures), and material items. The use of some or all three of these components allows the caster to twist and bend the subtle strands of arcana weaved throughout the world (and beyond) and shape it into a specific form or effect. The Arcane Language (based on our Latin) is not one that can be used to hold a conversation the way Elvish or Abyssal can. Rather, it is believed that proper auditory stimulation of the Weave helps to bend the strands ideally, and for most higher level spells is mandatory; this is the verbal component. Similarly, the proper somatic gestures allow the caster to physically push and bend these strands, acting as a guide and physical manifestation of the alteration of the cosmic arcane. Finally, material components act as the catalyst for the alteration of reality. Some spells can utilize a focus (which act almost like minuscule ley lines or nexus) or residuum (kept in a component pouch) to act as this catalyst, but still more require specific items to create a specific effect. Most (though not all) magic spells, whatever the effect, are visible through the release of light. This light is a product of the change in the energy of atomic and subatomic particles (both magical and benign) affected by the spell. As described later below, the color of this light varies greatly depending on the source of the magic, the exact category of spell being worked, and the individual casting it. Usually, when casting a spell, there will be a flair of color associated with the source of the magic (arcane, primal, or divine) before the nature of the spell alters the energy (and thus the color) of the spell. This initial color can be difficult to distinguish, however.
There exist three known sources of magic within the world.
Arcane magic is the rawest and most direct manipulation of the cosmic arcana, and in some circles is believed to represent the most tangible effect of De’em that mortals can perceive. Wizards spend years studying the complex science of spellcasting, learning exactly how to manipulate the cosmic arcane through hard-learned knowledge. Wizards must work off of an existing source to empower their more powerful spells, either working directly from their magic-infused texts through rituals or else fixing a number of spells into their mind at the start of their day; this arcane memorization of spell circles allows them to almost literally read the complex symbols in their mind, allowing them to cast spells. Unconscious rest for more than a few hours naturally erases these images. Sorcerers, being born with some strange natural affinity for magic, are able to manipulate the cosmic arcane intuitively and do not require the same level of study and physical understanding of the arcane to wield it that wizards do. Warlocks receive their powers through a powerful being, not terribly unlike a cleric. They are infused with magic in much the same way sorcerers are at birth; however, their source of arcane power can be easily stripped away at their patron’s will. Bards, meanwhile, take the concept of verbal components to the extreme, spending years of study (like Wizards do) to understand the flow of the cosmic arcane and manipulate it through song. And Blood Hunters utilize their own life force, their very blood, to catalyze their own spells. The exact method that they gain access to their magic is not well understood, a fervent secret, but it is presumed that (like wizards or bards) they put a large amount of study into the arcane arts. Understanding is at the core of casting spells, but especially for wizards. It is not enough to say a few magic words while holding the proper ingredients; the caster must understand to a fundamental level what is being done to create the effect. The core of Aeramis is believed to have pure arcana coursing through it, and in some places this arcana is able to leak through to the surface in ley lines and ley nexūs. This suggests that the various planes and worlds of the cosmos may be bound together by arcana, or maybe objects in space-time naturally accrue vast stores of it. Pure arcane energy carries a blue or purple (or perhaps a mixture of both) hued light.
Divine magic, used by Clerics and Paladins, is channeled through the wielder from the power of a god. These beings act as mediators for the cleric and paladin, manipulating the cosmic arcane on their behalf. Thus clerics and paladins do not require the same level of understanding needed by wizards or sorcerers. Some people and societies do not even consider it a true form of magic because the caster in question does not actually utilize the cosmic arcane directly. Regardless, even a novice spellcaster can easily tell the difference between divine magic and arcane magic. Usually, though not always, divine magic carries a golden (or yellow), silver (or white), or even blue-hued glow. Clerics of evil gods, however, usually wield divine spells that are black or purple in color.
Primal magic is the magic of nature, and is utilized mostly by Druids and Rangers, though some Barbarians find themselves able to twist it as well. Primal spells manipulate the Weave through the power inherent in living things and the very earth itself. It is believed to be created and stored through the very existence of life, mostly through the trees and other plant matter of the world. Creatures such as treants, fey, and possibly even lycanthropes pull their powers and existences from this store of primal magic, and in some ways primal magic can be described as the natural alteration of arcane magic through life-processes, much in the same way that sunlight is taken in by chloroplasts and converted into sugars. A primal caster accesses the Weave in a similar way that clerics and paladins do; life processes grant them access to the cosmic arcane, meaning that like clerics they do not require the same level of understanding that wizards do. However, there is no divine being actively bending the strands of the Weave on their behalf, and so scholars continue to be divided on its exact classification. Primal magic most often manifests with a green energy, though yellow is not terribly uncommon.
Practitioners of magic are universally called casters or spellcasters. Those who wield the arcane, namely wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks, are commonly called mages or magi as blanket terms, especially when it is not known exactly how they acquired their art. Arcanist is a term that describes arcane spellcasters but also those who study the history of magic. Those who wield primal magic are sometimes called primal mages, nature mages, or wild mages, and divine spellcasters are simply called divine mages. Even so, unique terminology does exist; to the layman all primal mages are druids, and shaman is similarly not an uncommon title. Many divine casters are called clerics (even if they are oath-bearing paladins), and priest can be used as another term; in reality, though, most priests are relatively ordinary individuals who can only sparsely create holy water, never mind call down their god’s judgement. Some creatures and monsters are naturally magical, most commonly infused with primal magic, and such anatomical magic usually subsists through death, depending on the creature and the body-part in question.
No matter what the source, all spells carry an inherent purpose, and the nature of this purpose categorizes spells into eight schools. Arcanists use schools mostly as a descriptor, providing understanding as to what a spell is likely to do. It is also common for mages to focus on a favored school of magic in their studies, with those individuals sometimes going by titles unique to the school they study.
The school of abjuration refers to spells most commonly used in a protective sense. Wards, shields, protective enchantments, banishments, and the like all tend to fall within this sphere. A mage who practices abjuration spells is an abjurer. Abjuration spells are often blue-white, blue, indigo, or any mixture of these.
Spells in the school of conjuration are, simply enough, designed to transport objects in some way. A conjurer (also sometimes called a summoner) can summon beings from another plane or even create them from nothing. Teleportation spells are also common in this school. The energy associated with them is often purple or violet.
Arcanists often refer to the school of divination as the “magic of truth.” Diviners are those mages who use magic to gather knowledge or information, gleaming it through either sight, sound, or some other method. Powerful divination magic can allow the caster to see the future or glimpse into the past. Divination magic leans toward silvery-white or light blue in color, though a bluish-pink is also common.
Enchanters use spells from the school of enchantment. Such magic directly acts upon the mind of a living target, taking control of them or forcing them to believe something untrue. The spells in this school are often pink or magenta, and it is not uncommon for an affected creature to have a subtle magenta sheen within their eyes.
The school of evocation is perhaps one of the more well-known among commoners. An evoker manipulates pure arcane energy into producing an effect, usually one that is disastrous or damaging such as a bolt of lightning, a blast of fire, or a torrent of water. In fact, many spells carry the power of the elements within them. However, certain healing magics also fall under this school, most often the ones designed to stitch together flesh. Evocation magic has a host of colors associated with it, depending on the element being manipulated. Healing spells, however, tend to be white in color.
In the school of illusion spells are designed to trick the senses. An illusionist can make a target see something that isn’t there, or hide something that is. Illusionary magic can also affect one’s memory. It differs from enchantments in that illusions do not force a creature to act a certain way, only to perceive things differently. Illusionary magic has no individual color associated with it, though it often produces a fog or “heat wave” effect in the air when cast.
Necromancy is a curious school, and while the other seven have various different sub-groups acknowledged within them, necromancy is the only one to have a firm line separating the school; black necromancy and white necromancy. Necromancy in general is the manipulation of the energies of life and death. Black necromancy is universally considered foul and evil, causing lasting pain or fashioning undead creatures, and is the magic discovered and experimented with by the Black King of the eladrin some 10,000 years before the present day. A skeleton or corpse risen through black necromancy will have balefire eyes, representing the unholy energy giving the corpse consciousness. This is not a soul, and there have been many discussions on what exactly this consciousness is. (Theories abound, some believe it to be a lesser demon, by others vengeful spirits on the Ethereal Plane, and by others blasphemous tearings of De’em’s own nature twisted dark by the act of ripping them away from the consciousness of the universe. Demons, for what it’s worth, do not have true souls. Instead their consciousness is a form of energy.) White necromancy, by contrast, is relatively benign and helpful, providing sudden bouts of energy or vitality or temporary communication with those who have passed on. Most organizations and civilized laws outlaw black necromancy, and indeed nature itself seems to consider it quite evil. White necromancy is either acceptable or falls under the same unlawful stance, depending on the society in question.
The last school of magic, transmutation, covers spells which change the properties or form of a creature or object, either changing what it does or changing what it is. Transmuters are also able to alter a creature or object’s properties to improve it in some way (such as increasing a creature’s running speed) or mend its form. Transmuters can also imbue items with magical properties. The creation of potions and other concoctions is further specified into alchemy, performed by alchemists. And further, the crafting of magic items is sometimes known as artiface, and those who practice it artificers. Curiously, the common term used to describe transmutation magic is often referred to as “enchanting,” and the magic upon the item or person an “enchantment.” Why this strange turn of phrase exists is unknown, but many pedantic arcanists strive to instill the proper terminology onto the common folk. One recent story persists that, in T5A 1,863, Venar the Shaper attempted a coup against the crown. After interrupting the yearly summer solstice festivities (by transmuting a nearby flock of birds into a group of wyverns) one individual called out “Look out! He’s enchanted those birds! He turned them into dragons!” Venar, always a rather technical individual, dropped his staff and started angrily gesticulating at the individual, crying out that he had “transmuted the stupid birds” and that the fact that the offending butcher “would mistake a group of eastern royal wyverns for a some pompous dragons” didn’t surprise him in the least. Venar was so distracted by his angry rant that a blacksmith and one of the guards had been able to successfully knock him out and secure him, quickly ending the coup before it could really go any further. The blacksmith went on to change the name of his trade to The Enchanter’s Bane, a triple entendre, if such a thing exists, that called to his preference for martial warfare, the right hook he sent into Venar’s nose, and further rub to Venar’s pedantry as the mage would most assuredly assert that he was a transmuter, not a prissy enchanter. Transmutation, like illusionary magic, tends not to have any particular color, but a flash of yellow light has been associated with some spells.
And with that we have the basic idea of how magic functions on Aeramis.