Arcane Magic
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Arcane Magic is the ability to harness and control supernatural powers via known formulas called "spells". In general, no innate ability is required (as with Psionics), and neither is an act of faith - just knowledge and the intelligence and will to apply it. It is the discipline of magic that lends itself the most towards scientific study, and thus it is the most common one in the Known Lands in this day and age.

There are several known subdivisions:

Scholastic Magic

Also commonly known as "wizardry", this is what most people think of when they think of magic at all. Wizards tend to obtain their powers after lengthy and rigorous studies in which they gradually come to understand the mysteries of the supernatural world. In the Feudal Ages, new wizards were usually taught in a master-apprentice relationship, but in these days most wizards learn their trades at one of the many colleges and universities offering such courses. As wizards play a vital role in both the economy and defense of most city-states, highly intelligent students will usually have few problems attaining a stipend for their studies, though these usually demand several years of service to the sponsoring organization once they have attained their degrees.

Aural Magic

The only recently established scientific field of "Aural Magic" has confirmed what bards have known throughout the ages - sounds in general and voices in particular have power. Someone sufficiently skilled in using his voice or music instruments is actually able to harness supernatural abilities, ranging to subtly manipulating the listeners to actually damaging objects and living beings. Long ignored by scholastic traditions in favor of wizardry, this field is now seeing a resurgence and the race is on to find the surviving masters of old bardic traditions and convince them to share their secrets. The more rigorous scientific approach now being applied to this field has already yielded a number of new applications - for instance, a public speaker skilled in the arts of aural magic can easily become a powerful and subtle demagogue.

Pact Magic

Pact Magic has some overlap with Divine Magic, and some scholars have argued for its reclassification, or perhaps establishing it as a field of its own. The varieties of Pact Magic are numerous, but the the common elements of these:

  • The Pact Mage (often referred to as "Warlock" or "Witch", though rarely in polite company) enters some sort of agreement with an extradimensional, self-aware entity or force.
  • As long as the agreement is fulfilled by the Pact Mage, he can draw upon the power of said entity to cast spells. This can not be prevented by said entity, though some try to trick the Pack Mage into breaking this agreement when it suits them.

The key difference to Divine Magic is that unlike with divine spellcasters, no actual faith is required. Divine spellcasters who make a deal with Lesser Gods in order to cast Divine Magic without requiring actual faith are a borderline case. However in that case the deity in question can usually break the agreement on its own, unlike the entities that make deals with Pact Mages.

One enormous advantage of Pact Magic is that it allows the mage to use his powers immediately after sealing the deal - unlike the long, arduous studies of the wizard. This tempts many to seek out opportunities for Pact Magic, despite the risks involved.

Superstition holds that far more women than men become Pact Mages (which has frequently led to "witch hunts" in the past), as their brains are not able to grasp the intricacies of scholastic magic. The latter is prejudice, but as most schools of wizardry prohibit female students it is perhaps not surprising that many women who were denied such studies would seek out arcane power by other means.

The following types of Pact Mages are commonly known:


Infernal Pact Magic derives from devils. Given the throughly evil nature of devils, this is already enough to give such Pact Mages a bad reputation, but classical stories often tell in lurid detail what depraved deeds warlocks and witches have to commit in order to uphold their part of the bargain - causing a priest to fall from grace each year, sacrificing virgins on every New Moon, and worse. How serious the conditions are depends on the bargaining skill of the Pact Mage. The foolish ones sign away their souls immediately (which is what the bargaining devil really craves), while the clever ones will get away with only having to do something like stealing a minor trinket from someone who trusted them once per month or beating a child every week. Nevertheless, even apparently "light" conditions gradually stain the soul of the Pact Mage, and the more powerful and influential devils will do their best to trick the Pact Mage into breaking their deal - so that when the Pact Mage's powers fail at the worst possible moment, he will be ready to bargain away far more than he had intended.

However, there is another method of attaining infernal powers which avoids the problems of such pact conditions - at a greater risk to the Pact Mage's soul. With this method, the would-be warlock deliberately commits specific types of sins to attract a Lesser Devil, transgressing against society's norms in the process. Once the devil has been attracted, the two enter a ritual contest of wills - with the winner absorbing the soul of the loser. If the devil wins, the end result is a body possessed by the devil which is left as a soulless husk if the devil is driven out. However, if the mortal wins, he absorbs the devil into himself and gains the power of a Pact Mage without having to uphold any conditions. This does not mean that the devil is entirely gone - from time to time, it will whisper suggestions into the warlock's subconscious (usually encouraging him to commit more sins), and if the warlock gives in to temptation too often, the devil might get another chance to break free. But other than that, the two are bound until the soul of the warlock passes into the Great Beyond (which means that temporary death will not separate the souls, although an extended death might weaken the will of the warlock enough to give the devil another chance of escape).

Organizations exist which train would-be warlocks for the latter method of attaining their powers. These are called "Hellfire Clubs" and arrange for the new member to be able to commit the ritual transgressions in private. They also keep an eye on the members undergoing the battle of wills, and will try to quickly dispose of the body in case the member fails to control the devil. In exchange, they expect support and favors from their members, and usually get it. Their organized approach - and arcane power they wield - have made these clubs and their warlock members a legal part of society in many city-states (if not a particularly respected one). The largest number of Hellfire Clubs can be found in Nimdenthal, where they represent a significant political power block. But even where they are illegal they still thrive - their powers are just too useful to many, and as long as there are people wishing for a quick route to power they will remain in business.


Fey Pact Mages usually come into being from deals with powerful fey entities, although the powers themselves seem to be drawn from the plane of Faerie itself - there have been instances when the powers of the Pact Mage have outlasted the sponsoring entity.

Usually the sponsoring entity demands one or more strictures of behavior from the Pact Mage, which are known as geasa (singular "geas"). "Never break your promises" is common (as the fey are incapable of doing this themselves. In general, most geasa are fairly whimsical and not particularly onerous, but the Pact Mage will lose his powers upon breaking them (whether it was actually his fault or not) until he goes to the plane of Faerie and makes some kinds of amends for his transgression. For obvious reasons, most Fey Pact Mages will try to keep their own geasa secret.

Furthermore, the sponsoring entity can and will expect further favors in return (sometimes even outright obedience). Refusing to honor this will not cause the pact to be broken, but it is considered very bad form in Faerie and will usually make the mages much more difficult as all sorts of faeries begin to harass him.

Other Pacts

Infernal and Fey pacts are just the most common forms of pacts, but far from the only ones. There have also been instances when mortals have gained pact magic powers via contact with strange powerful entities from other planets (either when such an entity came to Rothea or when the mortal himself visited another world). In some cases, a pact was entered deliberately, while in others the mortal isn't even aware of the existence of such a pact and gained the powers merely through contact with the entity - there have even been a few cases when his mind was wiped of all knowledge of the encounter, and the "Pact Mage" suddenly learned of his ability to use strange powers. The documented cases are too few to spot clear trends of such pacts, but the Astromantic Society tries to collect all information it can on such encounters - and, if possible keep such individuals under observation (in some case simply by giving them a job with the Society).

Other Arcane Traditions

Adventure Ideas

Designer's Notes & Resources


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