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 impure 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 creation of magic items is sometimes known as thaumaturgy, 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.
Mentioned above is residuum, literally magic dust, a glittering blue/purple/white substance that resembles a fine powder. Residuum is pure arcana, crystallized through various processes into a physical state. It can be used in spellcasting as well as the creation of magic items and writing magic spells. Some spells have a gold cost associated with their casting; money is inherently imbued with magical power. Some arcanists believe this is due to money’s perceived value in civilized society, granting it such ability. Others hold that an ancient and powerful transmuter permanently imbued the very concept of money with magical power. And of course, there is the ever present belief that De’em simply made it so. Regardless, real money can be broken down and used in spell-work and for copying spells, the coins breaking down easily into impure residuum when exposed to the twists of arcana accompanying a spell. Some mages keep impure residuum on their person in a component pouch, allowing them to use the magical substance as the material component for some spells. As such, residuum is measured in its gold cost, and it can be used in place of any monetary component in spellwork (provided there is enough residuum to “front the cost”). Wizards can mix residuum with any available viscous liquid (often dirt and water, non-magic ink, plant extract, or even blood) to create the fine and subtly magical inks needed to properly copy spells into a spell book. Pure residuum is usually harder to come by than impure residuum, requiring the individual to “disenchant” or break down a magic item (though other sources exist). Pure residuum can be used like impure residuum, but is considered twice as potent; one only requires half as much pure residuum to cast a spell, create a magic item, or copy a spell into a spell book. As an example, a spell that consumes 1000GP when cast can either use 1000 gold pieces, 1000GP worth of (impure) residuum, or 500GP worth of (pure) residuum. These three components can be mixed if needed, though the full cost must still be met. So one could cast this spell with 250GP worth of pure residuum (equivalent to 500GP), 250GP worth of impure residuum, and 250 gold pieces for a total of 1000GP. Gold cost references impure residuum rather than pure residuum due to the rarity of the later. Magic items are often broken down to create residuum, much like money, the item’s rarity determining just how much residuum can be collected. In most situations an item gives half its cost in residuum (an uncommon item, for example, would cost 500GP to make and thus produce 250GP when broken down).
Transmuting objects with permanent or semi-permanent enchantments is a complicated process that takes time and money or, again, residuum (and be warned; there is a lot of math involved in these next few paragraphs). When crafting a magic item, the caster (for only those with the ability to wield magic can craft magic items) imbues the item with magic, using the residuum as a catalyst for the process. The more complex the enchantment the more rare it is to find such an item, and the more time and residuum it takes to bond the magic to the physical container. For gameplay purposes, this time is counted in gold payed, where the enchanter (or transmuter) pays a certain gold cost for every 8 hours they spend working on the item. The amount of gold payed is equal to 25GP times the individual’s caster level (see page 164 of the Player’s Handbook; caster level is determined in the same way that spell slots are determined for multiclassing), but the caster must also make an Arcana check for every 8 hours that they spend working on the item; failing this check means that the residuum expended that day has been wasted and does not count toward the cost of the magic item. Spell slots must also be expended for every 8 hours if the item is designed to cast a spell itself; the spell slot and normal components for that spell are expended, even if the Arcana check is failed. Failing by 15 or more completely negates any magic already imbued into the item. (However, the transmuter’s casting level can make this number higher, requiring the Arcana check to be even worse in order to lose the magic in the item; the transmuter adds 1/3 of his or her casting level to this number, rounded down, so a 10th lvl caster would need to fail their check by 18 or more) but leaves the item intact. Rolling a Natural 1 on the d20 destroys the magic tied to it, regardless of by how much the roll was failed, and in such a situation the transmuter must roll the d20 again; on a second Natural 1 the item itself is completely destroyed.) The DC for the Arcana check is equal to the rarity of the item being crafted; 5 for a common item, 10 for uncommon, 15 for rare, 20 for very rare, and 25 for legendary items. The DC increases for every extra effect upon the item; the base DC equal to the highest DC among effects, and each subsequent effect increasing the DC by an amount equal to the rarity DC divided by 5. (So if that same 10th level caster was enchanting a sword to be a +1 sword with the flame tongue enchantment, the DC would be equal to 20 (Flame Tongue is a rare enchantment) + (15/5) (which is 3, 15 being the DC of an uncommon enchantment like the “+1”) for a total of 23. And if that caster rolled a total of a 5 during his work the magic and money he had used up to that point would be lost (23 – 18 = 5). Making an item sentient also increases the DC by an extra 5; 8 if the item can speak, and 10 if the item can telepathically communicate with its wielder. Exactly what kind of magic items can be created by an individual is bound by their knowledge. Working off an arcane schematic or blueprint may grant advantage to the check, but overall a character working from scratch must have reasonable knowledge of the item they are trying to create. I would rule that the flame tongue enchantment from the above example would require the chaster to have some knowledge of fire magic, perhaps by knowing the Fire Bolt cantrip or Fireball spell. A wand of magic missiles would be impossible for a warlock to craft, because warlocks cannot learn the Magic Missile spell and thus do not have the knowledge needed to imbue a wand with that magic.
Once the full cost is payed and the final Arcana check is passed (this cost being detailed on page 129 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide) the item is created; the magic has bonded properly. When crafting an item, an enchanter can spend more than one 8-hour increment a day, choosing to work for 16 hours if they have the time, or even a full 24 hours if they have the stamina, and potentially even longer. An Arcana check must be made after each increment as normal, but working overtime like this may allow the enchanter to complete a magic item more quickly than normal. Higher-level casters have the skill and knowledge to craft magic items more quickly, and in some cases do not need a full 8 hours to work; in such a situation, the time spent crafting is of equal percentage to what percentage of the caster’s max gold-per-crafting-session value was spent, rounded up to the nearest half-hour. So, that 10th level spellcaster can spend a maximum of 250GP during an 8 hour crafting session, but only needs 100GP to craft a common item like a Potion of Climbing. 100GP is 40% of 250GP, and so the time needed to craft such a potion is 40% of 8 hours (or 3.2 hours) rounded up to 3.5 hours. That same caster could also make two Potions of Climbing in one crafting session, which would be equal to 6.4 hours of work (3.2 hours + 3.2 hours), totaling 6.5 hours of work to make two potions after rounding up. The final rounding is always done at the end of crafting sessions. Extremely powerful items take a long time to properly craft; a legendary sword, for example, would take even an extremely powerful wizard of 20th level almost 3 years to craft (that’s 1,000 days) and just over 11 months at minimum if she were somehow able to work straight for 24 hours without any sleep for the entire duration. As such, multiple spellcasters working together are sometimes needed to create very powerful artifacts in more reasonable time frames; each spellcaster is able to add their gold-per-crafting-session amount to the enchanting process, the gold going towards the full cost of the item.
And with that we have the basic idea of how magic functions on Aeramis. Again, much of it is a carbon copy of the existing DnD logic and explanations with some fluffy differences. But I’ve house-ruled my own magic item creation system, seeing as I rather dislike how impossibly difficult it is and how long it takes to craft magic items by RAW.