Friday, 11 January 2019

Wizardly orders and why they're being watched

Still detailing my Belswick * campaign, which is a bit more medieval than my regular games. That means wizards are an issue. Arcane magic is powerful and what's maybe even worse from a feudal view, anyone can learn it. There's no need for initiation in Holy Orders by the Church, or getting a title from a Duke - really everything a misguided peasant needs to do is to cram sigils, collect eye of this or shit if that, and demons answer the wizard's call. No wonder that the First and Second Estate take a very dim view.

And yet, and yet - a wizard can be so very useful, if managed well. So wizardly orders are allowed to exist, as a way to control the commoners they take on as students. Innovation is hardly a goal. Here's an overview of chartered and unchartered orders. More details on each Order to follow in separate posts.

* Belswick is the name of just one province in one kingdom, but "the world" seems a bit generic.


What many think you're up to with your stinking spellbook
A wizard's time is not their own. Great expense (1d10 x 5000 pieces of gold) went into teaching an illiterate peasant the runes and sigils, and that expense has to be repaid. Monthly debt payments to the College run from 10 to 100 pieces of gold (1/500 the debt), missing six payments means trouble. And a wizard earns maybe half a gold piece a month from their labours. But as long as the mage works diligently, their debt will be covered by their lord, who gains status and spectacular options from having a wizard at their beck and call.

There are a thousand jobs waiting for graduated wizards. Learn war spells and support the baron's troops. Harness the winds around the mill, help the fishers, control the smith's furnace, spy for smugglers - the work never ends. For most wizards, the steady work is a god sent. It's better than a peasant's life for sure. Clever lords make sure that the wizard's debt is never fully forgiven. The wizard lives in relative comfort but has no opportunity to strike out, clear their debt and learn advanced spells. Few are chosen for advanced positions in the Colleges, and they need to curry favor hard to get that opportunity.

A war wizard provides support in battle or even acts as artillery. They may be loaned from lord to lord and are expected to perform odd jobs like a personal wizard in peacetime. A hedge wizard uses magic to ease mundane jobs at the mill, boat, smithy etc. Personal wizards are employed at a noble's court as minor trouble shooters. The demands they face are vastly outside the scope of their powers - smoothtalking and lateral problem solving to smooth the lord's feathers is a wise choice. Graduate wizards are eternal students and have a shot at tenure, even professorship in their Order. Even wizards in an Order are beholden to the Lord of the land and do well to hear his requests.



Wizards without an order
("country wizards")

It is possible to learn wizardry without going to a formal college or becoming part of a sinister network. Maybe your family guards the secrets of a couple of spells in a moldy book. Maybe the Cloister is keeping a disappeared wizard's effects for their return, and you have been studying them. In any case, the self-taught wizard starts out without a support network, without credentials, and without a ready source of new spells or specialisation lore. They'd have to apply to a proper order for that, but who would have them?

  • arcane implement: wand or staff
  • cannot be a specialist wizard without joining a College or finding another source
  • start with your regular level 1 spells and one spell of level 2 in your spellbook
  • if you have a secret master who taught you spells, you have sworn service and loyalty to them

The Ancient and Orthodox Order of the Unbroken Circle
("The Unbroken Circle, the Circle") - detailed here

Traditionalist, generalist, oldest wizard orders, pious and proud. Broadest spell access.
  • arcane implement: a wand or staff
  • can get training as specialists in Abjuration
  • receive proficiency in one of Arcana or Religion
  • receive one spell for their spellbook for every level they gain
  • The library of the Unbroken Circle contains spells (also for sale) from all schools except Necromancy. Spells of Illusion, Enchantment and Conjuration are kept in the Proscribed Collection and can only be accessed with the express permission of a professor

The Exquisite Lodge of Augurs and Diviners
("the Diviners, the Lodge") - detailed here

Offshoot from the Unbroken Circle; values information and insight over raw power. Sponsored by noble houses and merchant guilds.
  • arcane implement: an orb
  • train exclusively as Divination specialists
  • Students may take proficiency in one extra wizard skill or one of these toolkits: Cartographer, Glassblower, Navigator
  • A member in good standing (and not behind on their payments) receives access to all divinations they can cast. The library of the Lodge also contains spells (for sale) from the schools of Abjuration, Illusion and Enchantment. Transmutation and Evocation spells can be sourced at 50% markup through contacts in the Order of the Unbroken Circle

The Fraternity of the Comet
("the fire hurlers") - detailed here

War wizards with an unsurprising focus on the evocation school.
  • arcane implement: an oak rod
  • exclusively Evocation specialists
  • Students start with an explorer's pack
  • A member in good standing (and not behind on their payments) receives access to one evocation spell they can cast per level. In addition to levels 1-6 of Evocation, the Fraternity library also contains spells from the schools of Abjuration (levels 1-3), Conjuration (levels 1-2), Divination (levels 1-2) and Transmutation (levels 1-3)

The Enlightened Order of the Silver Rose

("Order of the Rose, the Silver Rose, Rose Wizards, alchemists, the hedge school") - detailed here

Transmuters and alchemists with a wide range of magic for use in daily life.
  • arcane implement: a wand or cup
  • exclusively Transmutation specialists
  • Students start with an alchemist's kit
  • A member in good standing (and not behind on their payments) receives access to one transmutation spell they can cast per level. In addition to levels 1-6 of Transmutation, the Order's library also contains spells from the schools of Abjuration (levels 1-2), Divination (levels 1-2) and Evocation (levels 1-2). Higher level spells can be obtained from the Unbroken Circle on an individual basis and at 50% higher prices

The Brotherhood of the Violet Cloud 
("the Brotherhood, the Violet Cloud") - detailed here

Criminal network with a core of illusionist, enchanter and conjurer wizards. Members masquerade as other professions, classes, Estates.

  • arcane implement: anything, preferably something which can be disguised
  • can train as Conjuration, Enchantment or Illusion specialists
  • the Brotherhood can source any spell from its specialty schools of levels 1-6, and spell levels 1-2 from other schools. Access is always at a price of money or favors
  • like the Criminal background, Brothers of the Violet Cloud can find contacts for their illegal deeds in most villages and towns with a few day's effort

Not this easy to spot. From
The Hollow Tree
("those damned necromancers, the ghouls") - detailed here

Speakers with the dead, animators, curse givers and disease bringers. Loose network of master-apprentice ties united by a fascination for the grave. Regarded universally as vile warlocks and heretics.
  • arcane implement: anything from rod, staff and wand to dagger or orb, but hide it well
  • can get training as a Necromancy specialist
  • can learn the Speak with Dead spell (normally only for Bards and Clerics - you still have to find it first!)
  • your instructor can teach you one necromancy spell per spell level (not character level) you can cast.
  • the Hollow Tree can source spells from other schools of level 1-3 at +50% the normal cost, and level 4-6 spells at +100% the normal cost. Access is always at a price of money or favors


The libraries of Belswick's wizardly orders are far from complete. Mages know of six circles of arcane magic (plus cantrips). Apprentices can fantasize all they want about the power to Wish or erect a Gate, but no spells of level 7 or higher are available to wizardry. That kind of power seems reserved for clerics.

Here's why.

On a clear day, and with an only mildly blasphemous set of lenses from the lens grinders guild, you can see the lower clouds of Heaven. Most people never wonder why it so close to the earth. Or why the place is so small and its entry requirements so very, very strict.

Players: feel free to highlight and read the text below if you want, but it may spoil the fun of discovering this in game. What follows is not known outside the higher orders of the Monks of St. Gustau, the books in their Censured Library, and whispers from Archpriest to Archpriest.

Wizards would sneak into Heaven and find out all its secrets if they could. They're like that. Wizards would even travel to the ruins of True Heaven in the astral plane if they knew it existed. But wizards lack the shattering magics they would need for such a trip. Because wizards got us all into this mess, Before, and we're still cleaning up after the last time one of them got access to the higher circles, so we'll all go to hell and play pin the tail on the heretic with white hot barbed pokers before we'll allow any of that nonsense again, is that clear?


Only scraps remain of the Empire Before, but it is known that the Du'Vanku employed wizardry freely and even elected high mages as their leaders. Fools, but ingenious ones. They erected towers on clouds, tamed fiery mountains, built prosperous cities from the poles to the deserts and freely conversed with angels and godlings.

It truly was a great time to be alive. The higher ranks of the Order of St. Gustau are very clear on that when they instruct new initiates.

None were poor, lives were long and healthy and full of art and joy. Their ways were wild and they worshiped whomever they wanted. Many godlings were venerated by the Du'Vanku, all fragments of the Creator who dwelt in True Heaven. There was a godling for almost anything, and many achieved Heaven when they died. But not everyone. And so the empire decided to achieve Heaven on its own terms.

It is unclear what happened after the mages breached the golden gates and poured into the eternal city, but the surviving accounts say that Creation shook. Earthquakes ripped the ground, the stars wheeled and fell in rains of poison, an eon passed in a night and a day. The Du'Vanku cities were ruined but its befuddled people lived. In a sense.

First Dawn came, the start of the age of the Authority. Survivors of the fall of Empire woke with their minds raw, memories shattered without access to the great library-webs. Urbanized specialists used to food and heat and work from automata suddenly found themselves savages. A third of the people broke away from all that had come before and took up the druid ways - the worst of them even swear off speach entirely and live as beasts. That's what would have happened to all of us without the Authority.

It is unknown what happened to the Creator. Grim Vorn in the northern reaches is one of the godlings that survived the fall of Empire. The Authority is another, and he took up control of the crippled forces of heaven. His Church binds minor spirits to feed their god, who uses their power to bring order to Creation. True Heaven was wrecked beyond his skills to repair, so he opened a temporary refuge to handle mortal souls, close to the surface so that the surviving lower ranks of angels could make out what the mortals were up to. Space is limited in heaven. It is much harder to get into now. In a flash of innovation, a full legion of angels was tasked to tempt mortals into sin and ultimately hell.

It was the Authority who inspired the first Prophet that brought order to the starving masses. They were taught agriculture, hunting, minor crafts and above all piety. The Church shepherds privileged illiterates who in turn control the workers. Feudalism was born. We think it is 700 years since we lost Heaven. We have wizards to thank for it.

And now you know why we cannot ever let wizards get their hands on the high spells again.

No comments:

Post a Comment