Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Organizing Magic in Arunia

Last week, the Hounds managed to bring back the Tome of Dreaming to the elvish city of Silversong. When they arrived they discovered that the Silver Wizards had erupted into chaos after their departure. Vast spellworks had been flung and the Silver Manse was in a terrific state of disrepair, but in the end Naur's master Tholindinar had come out on top.

While most of the session was spent investigating work, arranging treasure, recording xp, and discussing a new party charter (which, at the time of writing, is still being discussed), there was a little in there about joining up with the Silver Wizards, which Naur eventually decided to do. This led me to flesh out their organizational page on the OP wiki a good deal but also to start thinking about the nature of wizardly organizations in the 10th Age.

It's a well known Arunian adage that "wizards build towers," or in other words are prone to isolation for a variety of reasons. A cornerstone of this behavior rests on the fact that wizards are generally highly arrogant. After all, they're capable of controlling the elemental forces of the universe using their own hands, minds, and breath. I'm sure I've said this before, so at the risk of repeating myself the single-mage-single-tower is the most common magical paradigm in the 10th Age.

That being said, there are and have been magical organizations in Arunia in the past. The most famous of these were the ancient Scholae of the First and Second Empire, but these were wiped out at the end of glory days of the empire. Schools of magi are inherently unstable, as it's the equivalent of giving a group of very belligerent Oxford dons who all disagree about fine points of academia hand-mounted flamethrowers and lightning guns.

Elves are inherently less prone to dramatic violence then men, however. While the elves of Arunia are moved by powerful emotions and can easily tip from extreme happiness to extreme sadness, they are more inclined to restrain themselves when the situation calls for it. Magic, certainly, is one of those situations. The great lusty emotions of the elves lead, almost counter-intuitively, to less magical conflict rather than more. The calmer nature of elvish society leads to more harmonious spellcraft and less hording and violence between wizards.

This has found its ultimate expression in the surviving circles of elvish magic. While the cabals of mannish wizards are few and far between (and in this day and age generally limited to small numbers), organizations such as the Silver Wizards and the Cloudsea Sorcerers can have hundreds of members.

While I'm staunchly against associating level with rank (there are plenty of kings and knights who are level 0-3 warriors), magic is hierarchically divided into categories of ability. These scale perfectly with level, so the magical organizations of the 10th Age tend to divide their practitioners by level (as evinced when spells of a certain spell-level become available). IN addition, though Arunia is by no means a magic-saturated world, most elvish magical organizations have recourse to a number of magical items. In this case, enough so that they can outfit the limited number of incoming magi with robes that have minor enchantments woven into them.

Organizations do something else as well, something powerful and strange, regardless of wether they're magically inclined: they tie the players to a certain place, a certain mindset, and certain acceptable sets of goals that PCs aren't necessarily bounded with. This is one of the reasons why I purposefully chose to have elvish magical organizations kick out their apprentices until level 3—it fits perfectly with the elvish ideal of self-determination, the wizardly ideal of throwing out your apprentice, and the meta-game concern of making sure the player is READY for his character to become part of something larger.

The greater sense of obligation, the ties it engenders, and the way these things can be woven into adventures and the overall adventuring scene are topics I will hopefully explore in more detail in later posts.

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