Magic is the ability possessed by some individuals to manipulate the ambient energies of the world to produce desired results. In Realms, arcane magic is commonly referred to as "the Art", while divine magic is referred to as "the Power".
The goddess Mystra controls the Weave which is what powers the arcane energies of Abeir-Toril. The goddess Shar has control of the Shadow Weave which flows in-between the normal weave and enables the use of Shadow Magic.
Divine magic is drawn from specific deities, or from nature itself and is not influenced by either Mystra or Shar as evidenced by the fact it continues to work when arcane magic ceases to function. Historically this makes it the most reliable form of magic.
- Main article: History of magic
Lord Ao created the universe. At first it was nothing but energy, with neither light nor dark, heat nor cold. Eventually the energy created two deities – Selûne and Shar. Together they created heavens and Chauntea, the embodiment of the world of Toril. Chauntea begged for light and warmth so that she could create life on the new world, but Shar opposed this vehemently. The subsequent war between the sisters created new deities – war, murder, and destruction among them. When Selûne lit one of the nearby heavenly bodies on fire to provide the light and warmth needed, Shar became enraged, trying to extinguish light everywhere. Selûne tore the energy from her own body and flung it at Shar, where it joined with Shar's energy and passed from both of them, thus creating the goddess of magic, Mystryl. The birth of Mystryl not only brought a truce to Selûne and Shar, but created the Weave. In the newly created Toril, magic abounded in everything, but in its raw state it was too dangerous for mortals to use. The Weave is a like a fabric, consisting of many threads, all woven together to create an intricate design. Spellcasting and the use of magic items pulls individual threads and reweaves them, creating a new design. Now both mortals and deities could use magic through this fabric that was both the embodiment of Mystryl and a conduit to raw magic.
When the Phaerimm, a race dwelling under the surface of the earth, began to cast spells draining the empire of Netheril of its magic, a powerful mage named Karsus created a link to Mystryl in an attempt to steal her power, become a god and save his empire. This caused a great rift in the Weave, and Mystryl was so weakened that she sacrificed herself to save the world. Since she was the Weave, magic immediately ceased all across Toril. A new goddess of magic named Mystra was born, and she was able to repair the weave in a way that such powerful spells could never be used against it again.
Types of MagicEdit
Magic that originates from a spell-granting deity, usually through prayer, is divine in nature and is called the Power by the common folk. Clerics, druids, paladins, rangers and many prestige classes all derive their spells and spell-like abilities from a deity. A practitioner of the Power has no affinity with the Art, as their spells are planted in their minds directly by their patron deity, and they do not tap the Weave. Casting divine spells is more like an exclamation of faith that brings about a sensation appropriate to the patron deity to whom the faith was devoted.
Any magic that doesn't originate from a deity is defined as arcane magic. (Note, while all magic is accessed through the Weave, which is maintained by a deity, this does not make all magic divine magic.) The use of arcane magic is referred to in day-to-day speech as the Art, and a wide variety of people (and character classes) are able to practice the Art to a smaller or larger extent, though the way in which they access the Weave can differ dramatically. Most wizards spend long years researching their art, gathering spells to their personal book, and each day they can only memorise a small fraction of these. The memory of the spell is wiped from his or her mind as it is cast. The wizard has to re-study the spell before he or she can cast it again, unless more than one casting of the spell in question was prepared. Sorcerers, also known as innanoths (for their innate mastery of the Weave) are not required to research spells. They tap the Weave in a more direct manner, but because of this, the selection of spells available to a sorcerer is more limited than that available to a wizard. Bards, assassins and many other prestige classes access the Weave to use certain magical abilities.
- Main article: Schools of magic
Schools of magic are categories of spells organizing by general function. Spells are created by wizards with these schools in mind, though divine spells also fall within these preset categories as well. Still, there are also plenty of spells that defy categorization within a school. Some spellcasters (especially wizards) decide to specialize in spells from a certain school. They focus more effort into these spells than any other at the expense of all spells from one or two other schools. These schools of magic have been in existence for longer than anyone cares to remember and no one seems to know who originally came up with them. They also show no signs of being abandoned.
- Spells are the most basic way anyone can use magic.
A simple and obvious reason that arcane spellcasters are so powerful is that they have unlimited, unrestricted access to every spell in the multiverse. It does not need to be this way.
Spells have two additional categories. The spells rarity and the spells complexity.
All spells start with a basic Spell Availability, then it is modified by region, societal or miscellaneous factors. Not all factors will apply to all spells. It IS possible that the wizards of the island of Lantan have the spell Water Breathing as a Rare Spell.
- Spell Availability--There are five categories of spell availability: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very Rare and Unique. When a single spellcaster creates a spell that is known only to them, that spell is unique. Once the spellcaster shares the spell with a small number of others (less then five) the spell becomes Very Rare. Once the spell is known to over twenty spellcasters, it becomes Rare. An Uncommon spell is known to roughly half of the spellcasters in the world. And a common spell is known to almost everyone.
- Regional Rarity-Where a spellcaster is has an effect on how rare a spell will be to casters. Water Breathing is often a Common spell in any coastal port city, but will be very rare in a desert. A region is not necessarily a political boundary, all of the cities of several coastal kingdoms will often share the same spell rarities. A region must have intelligent spellcasting beings.
- Societal Rarity-The society of a region has an effect on spell rarity. Most good societies frown upon or even outlaw necromancy magic, making such magic rare. A very militaristic society full of battle mages will have combative spells very common.
- Knowing a spell
Not every spellcaster knows every spell. In order to know about a spell a character must roll a Knowledge(Arcana) check. This can only be done once per caster level, per spell, and if failed the character must wait until the next level to try again. A spellcaster must roll 10 plus the spell level to know about a common spell, 15 for a uncommon spell, 20 for a rare spell and 25 for a very rare spell. A unique spell can not be known by this method. This roll represents the continuous extermination, research, and communication with spellcasting beings and others. As such the single check represents several weeks of game time. This means that the roll must be unmodified, except for continuous effects that would have been active the whole time. A stone of good luck will modify this check, but a spell with a duration of less then thirty days will not.
Note that simply having knowledge of a spell does not give the spellcaster that spell. It must be gained in other ways.
A spellcaster can still learn about a spells existence from other ways, such as a knowledge(history) check or a tale or a story or another character. But only a successful knowledge(arcana) check gives a spellcaster the proper information to truly know the spell. Should a character hear about a spell by other means, such as from a bard's story, they must still make the knowledge(arcana) check to get the spell details.
Example:The player wishes for the wizard character of Verna to know the spell, shroud of flame. As an uncommon spell they must roll a 20 knowledge(arcana) to both know of the spells existence and know the basics of the magic needed for the spell. Should Verna join the brotherhood of the true flame, she maybe told of the existence of the spell, should of flame, but will still need to make the knowledge(arcana) roll to get the basic ideas down.
- Spell complexity--There are five categories of spell complexity: Simple, Easy, Difficult, Hard and Impossible. A simple spell is a basic fire and forget type spell, where the caster tosses a spell out there with no effort or control. A easy spell takes a slight amount of effort and control. A difficult spell takes a fair amount of effort and control. Hard is even more then that, and impossible is almost near impossible.
In order for a spellcaster to be able to use a spell, they need to understand it. This is a Spellcraft roll. A spellcaster must roll 10 plus the spell level to know about a simple spell, 15 for a easy spell, 20 for a difficult spell, 25 for a hard spell and 30 for an impossible spell. A character can only attempt to know a spell once per level. Again, single check represents several weeks of game time. This means that the roll must be unmodified, except for continuous effects that would have been active the whole time. A stone of good luck will modify this check, but a spell with a duration of less then thirty days will not.
A character can attempt to understand a spell anytime they encounter the spell in written spell formula, such as a scroll or a spellbook. They can still only attempt this once per spell and only one time at each character level.
- Gaining spells when leveling up: When a character levels up, they gain spells as per their class. But first a character must know a spell exists and have made a successful knowledge Arcana roll to know the spell. Once a character knows a spell they may add it to their spells known as per the normal rules of their class. But to cast the spell, they must first understand it by making a successful Spellcraft check. If the character fails to understand the workings of the spell, it can still be taken as one of the character's picks, they simply can't cast it. As soon as the character gains another level of experience they can attempt to understand the spell again.
Example:David's character, Elrod the Wizard, gains enough experience to become 5th level. As per the wizard class feature(PH pg.57) gains two spells of any level he can cast. The first spell David picks is Dispel Magic. This spell is well known to all users of magic, so the DM rules that Elrod already has the common knowledge of the spell. Next David must roll to see if Elrod knows the magical basics of the spell. The DM sets Dispel Magic as a common spell, giving it a To Know DC for the Knowledge Arcana of 13(10 for common spell plus 3 for the spell level). David rolls an 11 with a +12 from ranks and other modifiers that last at least a month. With a total of 23, Elrod knows the magical details of Dispel Magic. Next David must roll to see if Elrod understands the spell. The DM has ruled Dispel Magic is a difficult spell as it deals with the fundamentals of magic. This makes the Spellcraft roll to know the spell 23(20 for a difficult spell plus 3 for the spell level). David rolls a 15 with a +12 from ranks another other modifiers that last a month. With a total of 27, Elrod understands Dispel Magic and can add it to his spellbook and cast it. For his second choice, David picks the spell, False Life. The Dm has ruled this is a rare spell, putting it's To Know DC at 22. David rolls a 5 with a +12 for a total of 17. So Elrod does not know about this spell at all.
FAQ Woah, this system looks like a lot of work. It is, in some ways. The DM needs to assign a spell rarity and complexity for each spell in the game. And that is a lot of spells. But a single DM need not do all 1000+ spells in one day. Most groups won't have more then a couple spellcasters, so the DM only needs to decide on a couple spells to start. then as the characters gain levels, they only need to do a couple spells per level.
How should a DM decide spell rarity and complexity? Well, complexity is the easy one. Obliviously as spell that manipulates time and space, alters matter or effects fundamental forces is more complex then a spell that shines light like a torch. Rarity is more of an individual DM's call. A Dm can make a spell as rare as they wish for their campaign.
What is to stop a DM from simply making all spells a player wants very rare and impossible? Nothing. But A DM could also make rocks fall on a character can kill them.
How does spell level effect complexity? Are higher level spells automatically more complex then lower level ones? No, not necessarily. You need to go spell by spell. Polar Ray, for example, is 8th level, but it's an Easy spell. It's an instantaneous point and shoot spell. On the other hand, Alter Self is only 2nd level, but is a Hard spell.
How does spell level effect rarity? Are higher level spells automatically more rare then lower level ones? No, not necessarily. While a high level spell is more rare in the sense that there would be less spellcasters that could cast it, that is not what spell rarity measures. Spell rarity measures how rare the spell is within the spellcasting community. And it does not really take into effect the number of spellcasters.
What if a character fails their rolls to understand a spell? Is it not unfair to deny the character spells they can use as they level up? As any spellcaster can gain spells in ways other then leveling up, the system is fair. Should a character try for a Very Rare Impossible spell, they they are less likely to succeed then if they picked a Common Easy spell. A character should take this into account.
But it's not fair that a spellcaster might have a spell they want, but be unable to use it as they don't understand it? It's possible that might happen, but it's hardly unfair. The system scales with levels. So eventually a higher level character should be able to get even a Rare Hard low level spell.
- Many spells require the caster to speak certain words, or, in the case of a bard, create music, to cast a spell. Being prevented from speaking, such as a gag, or effects that remove sounds, such as certain magical effects, makes it impossible for a caster to cast such a spell. A deafened caster may fail when casting a spell, by misspeaking, which causes the spell to be lost.
- Many spells require the caster to make a motion to cast the spell. If the caster is unable to make the correct motion, the spell cannot be cast. Wearing armor or using a shield interferes with the somatic components of arcane spells, creating a risk of spell failure. Bards and some other arcane classes can cast spells in light armor without this risk.
- Casting a spell often requires that the caster sacrifice some sort of material component. Often, these components are virtually worthless, but some spells, such as spells to reanimate the dead, require material components costing thousands of gold pieces. If a caster is unable to access or use the correct spell component, the spell cannot be cast.
- Alternatively, casting a spell may require that the caster have access to a holy symbol or other special object, to focus on when casting the spell. This is mostly true for divine spells.
- Main article: Magic item
- Main article: Magic Tradition
- Main article: Magic Stratagems
First lets look at why spells need to be fixed.
- The Legacy-A lot of the spells were created decades ago. And other then updating the mechanics for each edition, the spells have vastly remained unchanged for decades.
- The Short-Almost all the spells were created with the idea in mind that they would be used for a weekly game, not a alternative reality simulation. As such, almost no though was give to the long term effects of spells, the effect of spells on the world, or anything else.
- The Dungeon-Furthermore, most spells were created with a dungeon adventure in mind. Again with no thought given to the rest of a campaign world.
- The Page Count-This is simple real world stuff. Every Players Handbook is already almost half full of spells. To add another paragraph to dozens of spells would at least double to size of the book, or more.
- The Gentlemen-Game Designers are gentlemen. As such, they don't see the reason to add walls of legalize-type type. Not only do they feel they don't need to do it, but often they can't even see the need to do it.
What needs to be fixed? Lots.
- Absolutes. Far too many spells have absolutes in them. A whole lot of spells have an automatic effect. The spell is cast and nothing can stop the effect from taking place.
Magic in the MultiverseEdit
The most important thing to keep in mind when out in the Multiverse is that the Prime Material Plane is unique. The Prime is the only real place in the whole Multiverse. Every other place is....something else. The vast majority of magic was created on the Prime for use on the Prime. Magic from the Prime is only made to effect things on the Prime. This has several effects.
First most of the creatures found out on the planes are not normal life, as life is known on the Prime. Animals and humanoids, common on the Prime, are rare on the planes. Spells that effect animals will be of little use on the planes as few of the creatures encountered will be animals. Even something like a rat, encountered out on the planes, will most likely be an outsider. Of course, Prime magic made to effect the right type of creature works normally.
Second, very little of anything on the planes is anything like what is found on the Prime. Magic that effects things on the Prime will not work on things on the planes. Weather on the Prime is unique, and similar effects encountered on the planes are not weather and can not be effected by Prime weather magic. On the planes it is possible to encounter things impossible on the Prime, such as a lake of glue, a mountain of glass, or a block of iron. A spell that effects only stone, such as stone shape will have no effect on a glass block. But a spell such as water walk will allow you to walk on an lake of blood.
- Where a creature was born or otherwise created determines that creatures home plane. Any creature not on their home plane, gains the extraplanual subtype.
- Abjurations-The most important thing to remember with abjurations is the home plane of creatures. Many spells can only effect creatures not on their native plane, and have no effect on that creatures home plane.
The vast majority of abjuration spells are designed to protect and defend against prime material effects. They will have on effect on many effects found on the planes.
- Conjuration/Summoning-Items, creatures and effects can only be summoned by the set planual pathways. The Inner Planes have no pathway to the Outer Planes, and the Outer Planes have no pathway to the Inner Planes. So you can not summon a demon to the Elemental plane of air and you can't summon an air elemental to the Abyss. The plane of shadow only has pathways to the Prime, Inner and Astral planes. Shadow magic does not function on the outer planes. On the first layer of any outer plane yo can conjure or summon things from that plane, the two outer planes next to it on the Great Wheel, and the Astral. On any deeper layer, you can only conjure or summon things from that outer plane.
Only the prime plane has an extra-dimensional space, so no extra-dimensional effect can exist in the rest of the multiverse.
- Divination-Many planes make divination's less useful. For example, a plane with a strong alignment trait or magic trait with show that everywhere to detection. Divinations that contact other planes don't cross planual boundaries and will contact a power on that plane.
Enchantment/charm-Both outsiders and elementals are not alive. So spells made to effect life forms that are alive will not effect them.
- Illusion-The plane of shadow only has pathways to the Prime, Inner and Astral planes. Shadow magic does not function on the outer planes.
- Transmutation-The vast majority of spells are designed to effect prime material creatures, items and things. The multiverse is full of vastly different creatures, items and things.
Necromancy-Both outsiders and elementals are not alive. So spells made to effect life forms that are alive will not effect them. To drain non life force from an outsider or elemental to a living creature can be harmful. For elementals 25% to 100% of the amount drained is instead pure elemental damage. Outsiders with alignment subtypes will transfer the effects of that alignment to a living being. And 25% to 100% of the amount drained is converted to pure alignment damage.
Minor distortion, these gain slight changes in manifestation without mechanical changes, and are never permanent. Each plane will cause it's own dominate traits to manifest.
I can understand why one could get that feeling from the published Realms, because there's so much emphasis on powerful mages. In the same way that New York seen in movies is always being blown up or threatened with doomsday devices or the setting of all-out gang street warfare, but the real New York is rather different. Arcane magic DOES permeate the setting (in the form of the Weave), but it is by no means "commonplace" or ordinary. I would say that perhaps one in every 290 or so people has some talent for the Art (magic), but usually this is a "wild talent," a very limited, lone minor power like an itching sensation when a powerful magic item is very close, or a mighty spell has just been cast in a locale, or is "hanging fire" awaiting activation in a spot the wild talent is standing in. Wild talents are rarely reliable, are usually kept secret, and VERY rarely can be developed, over time, into something a little stronger and more specific. Perhaps one person in every 400 or so has some limited immunity to some form of magic (lessened damage from fire or cold magic, or increased resistance to mind-contacting magic, for example); unless it's genetic and older family members tell them of it, they may never ever discover they have this immunity. Perhaps one person in every 900 or so has some ability to wield magic (i.e. become a wizard or sorcerer or other sort of arcane spellcaster). Again, they may never discover this - - and if they need training to develop it (i.e. become a wizard), they may never get the opportunity or the funds to be trained (nor might they WANT to; a lot of folk in the Realms fear magic). My estimate of how many people become wizards would be around thirty percent of those who could become wizards (i.e. 3 in 10 of those talented in the Art ever develop that talent). And of course, once you are a wizard, you are also a target. The vast majority of wizards get killed when they are low in power (such as Manshoon's "magelings," the novice Zhents he sacrificed ruthlessly in great numbers), and the great bulk of those who do survive become "hedge-wizards" (that is, they get a little training and do a little experimentation beyond that, or buy a scroll or two, and settle down in a small community to make a living casting the six or seven "everyday useful" spells they know, never wanting nor trying to either go adventuring or try ruling anyone or anywhere). And yes, aside from the risks of everyone else trying to kill you or capture you and use you as a spellhurling slave, you as a wizard face the inherent risks of magic itself; it's like playing with live electricity at the best of times, and experimentations or any situations where one active spell comes into contact with another (i.e. any duel or fight) are especially perilous. And finally, in the Realms there are many, many individuals powerful enough to rule, dominate, and even oppress wizards. If you look the root Realms products, such as the Old Gray Box, most rulers are NOT wizards. (It's just that the evil wizards' groups, such as the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards, get all the attention.) Magic is an inherent part of the Realms - - LOTS of magic. Some of it is divine, some arcane, and most of it is unharnessed, or controlled by beings we don't think of as potential Player Characters. The PC users of magic are few and far between; don't let what adventures focus on give you the wrong view of their real reach and stature. Their REPUTATIONS are huge, but even an active band of them (e.g. the War Wizards of Cormyr) can't adequately control a generally law-abiding kingdom - - and one of the few wizards who COULD rule the world, Larloch, is utterly uninterested in doing so; like many ultra-powerful archwizards, he has become obsessed with the pursuit and perfection of magic, rather than worldly power. (Though you may in future Realms fiction see him dabble a bit in the unfolding affairs of the world.) Finally, like real-world superpowers and "detente," the most powerful mages often develop feuds and rivalries, and serve as checks and balances on each other by opposing whatever rivals try to do.