Thieves & Kings
The Shek-Pvar and Arcane Lore
The origins of the “Ancient and Esoteric Orders of the Shek-Pvar” (often simply known through it’s legal entity, “The Guild of Arcane Lore” ) are lost in the pre-historic past, but it is almost certain that the human understanding of arcane lore is a legacy of the Earthmasters. Some believe that the first mages were themselves Earthmasters left behind, when that enigmatic civilizatiuon departed nearly sixteen millenia previous, but most think the first wizards merely solved clues in the artifacts, architecture, and writings of the ancient Earthmasters. All of the eight basic convocations (also known as “Schools” ) of magic seem to predate the founding of the Kingdom of Phaedra by at least a thousand years.
Individual wizards employed Pvaric principles long before the convocations were formally organized, and some still continue to practice their hidden arts independently. Most mages hold that the elements and processes of Pvaric philosophy are things to be discovered, rather than invented. Only the most arrogant of wizards would promote their personal philosophy as the only valid world view, but the set of beliefs known as Pvarism is the most widely held by Lythian arcanists and mages.
Pvaric philosophy is essentially a way of perceiving Kelestia, the cosmic all, in terms of key elemental principles. The various schools of arcane lore place different stress on those elements, and exploit different principles. Nevertheless, throughout Lythia, nearly all organized mystic arts are unified, to one degree or another, by a shared belief in Pvaric principles.
Pvarism requires a trans-intellectual link with Kelestia, or a “feel” for the way of things. While it involves logic and physical law, it is more a style of enlightenment that must be embraced by the whole being. Therefore, not all people can learn to be mages, just as not all people can learn to be priests; it requires a state of mind and being that transcends simply reading a book and agreeing with its contents.
Outside of the Shek-Pvar are some independent mages, trained away from the chantries, and possessing a status separate from “main-stream” wizards. Most do not possess any form of specialty, but some have been independently trained in the convocational arts. These scattered few usually join the local Mage’s Guild or chantry upon attaining sufficient experience for sponsorship, and enter through ample gifts of magicks and proof of skills to the guild’s Viran or Master Mages.
Pvarism is divided into eight sub-orders called Convocations. Each employs its own elements/principles to achieve its unique brand of magic. The convocation in which a mage may specialize allows that mage to obtain greater power quicker in the chosen school, but finds it more difficult to learn spells outside his convocation. It is virtually impossible to master spells of diametric convocations, once specialization is begun.
Most mages, however, do not specialize and remain neutral in their studies. Such generic mages make up the bulk of the wizards who practice Pvarism, who in avoiding the deeper knowledge of the convocations, improve their general utility of magic. There are rumors of “Gray Mages”, or true masters of all the Pvaric principles, but obtaining such power and understanding would require impressive experience and ability.
Abjuration – “Shielded by Sorcery” : Spells of this school focus magical energies to provide protection. This protection can take any number of forms, including warding off specific types of weapons or creatures, and discouraging or dispelling enemies. The school also includes a variety of spells involving avoidance or repellent action. Abjuration spells concentrate on eliminating or hindering potential sources of harm rather than repairing damage.
Alteration – “Against its Nature” : Spells of this school enable the caster to channel magical energies causing direct and specific change in an existing object, creature, or condition. Alterations can affect a subject’s form (Polymorph), mass (Feather Fall), abilities (Bull’s Strength), location (Teleport), or even their physical well-being (Death Fog).
Conjuration/(Summoning) – “By Bell, Book and Candle” : This school includes two different terms, but both involve bringing matter from another place. Conjuration spells produce various non-living forms of matter; Summoning spells entice or compel creatures to come to the caster, as well as channeling forces from other planes and dimensions. The line between the two is fine enough that they are considered in the same school.
Enchantment/(Charm) – “Fire in the Mind” : Similar to the school of Conjuration, this school encompasses two general types of spells, close enough in form to be one school. Enchantments imbue their subjects with specific effects. Charm spells induce change in their subjects with specific effects. Charm spells induce change or influence in the behavior of creatures, usually altering their subjects mental or emotional states. Enchantment spells invest non-living objects with magical powers. Neither has a direct effect on their targets physical forms.
Divination – “The All-Seeing Eye” : This convocation includes a variety of spells that reveal information that would otherwise remain hidden or secret. Divination spells reveal the existence of specific items, creatures, or conditions, as well as information about the past, present, or future. This school also includes spells that contact creatures from other planes of existence, but do not induce direct action from those creatures.
Illusion – “Smoke and Mirrors” : Spells from the school of Illusions bend reality to create apparent changes in the environment, in the caster, or in other persons or creatures. These spells do not cause real changes as Alteration magic does, but rather alter the way creatures and people perceive reality. This school includes both illusions and phantasms (the difference being that the former simulates reality, while the latter directly manipulates the perception of its victims).
Evocation/(Invocation) – “Force of Energy” : This school includes those spells which focus magical energies to create specific magical effects through the shaping constructs of such energy into new forms or matter. Evocation spells use the natural and magical forces of the planar realms, while Invocation spells call on the intervention of powerful extra-dimensional beings or forces.
Necromancy – “Beyond the Grave” : This powerful school involves spells dealing with death and the dead. Necromancy drains vitality from the living and restores life functions to the non-living. Bones, blood, spirits, and apparitions are all associated with the magical energies shaped and controlled by the specialists of this school.
Chantries are places of learning where members can study, learn, and practice. When mages remember (or are politely reminded) they make donations to support their chantries, though some have more formal regular dues. The chantry is administered by a Seneschal and a serving staff. The Seneschal is usually a Shenava of minimal accomplishments, but does not need to be a mage at all. The staff is generally comprised of apprentices or failed mages, but all lack the superstitions of magic. Most chantries have a combination of transient and permanent residents.
The Guild of Arcane Lore
The orders of magecraft are united by the Guild of Arcane Lore, the loose association of practitioners of the esoteric arts. Many independent mages of no particular convocation or chantry, tend to find association through the Guild, and as a result, its membership is wide-ranging in skill, experience, and wields great power in the politics of its local governments. Individually, the organization is weak, but when its esoteric membership is roused to action, even the gods take notice.
Membership in the Guild supersedes that of convocational or chantry magicks; there are both good and evil members in every convocation and chantry. They are unified only by a common belief in Pvarism and the practice of magic. Permanent members of chantries tend to share similar codes of behavior, since like most folk, they are most comfortable with people of their own kind. Membership in the Guild is much the same, having its own code of ethics known as “The Five Fingers of the Law”. The Guild is a sanctuary for all its members, and as such, personal conflict may not be resolved within the confines of a meeting. Any member who violates this Oath of Peace, is declared a renegade, and their life is virtually forfeit (see Renegade below).
Also, should any member achieve too much prominence, or take excessive advantage of his arts, some of the brotherhood of the Guild will likely oppose him, either because they are ethically hostile, or because they believe the mages of the Guild are threatened by too much visibility. Hence, the mages of the Guild are self-policing. Anyone who exploits his lore to manipulate society will inevitably be opposed.
The Five Fingers of the Law
The Guild has a set of rules, that apply to all its members, which are rigidly enforced :
I. “Bring not the scorn of the ordinary folk upon thy brothers, nor make with thyne art a place for thyself above them.”
II. “Spread not thy lore, even among thy brothers, without the sanction of thy peers.”
III. “Keep sacred and free from harm, thy house of lore.”
IV. “Succor not a renegade of the art, but strike him down with thy power, else summon brothers to thyne aid.”
V. “Make tithe to the Guild and thy Chantry a portion of thyne arcane treasure to thyne brothers benefit.”
Violation of any of the Five Fingers will cause a member of the Guild to be declared renegade. In addition, any member who (in the opinion of six or more Masters of the Guild ) opposes the general interests of the Guild can be declared renegade. A renegade forfeits membership and rank in the Guild, and it is the duty of all members to oppose him. In “opposing” the renegade, one is not expected to commit suicide. If one encounters a renegade against whom one could not hope to prevail, it is enough to report the encounter to the nearest member of superior power.
An infringement of the basic laws or interests of the Guild may prompt a warning from a master, or group of masters. Regardless of whether the renegade heeds the warning given and recants, or is destroyed, the member usually tries to rectify his renegade actions. Sometimes this is an extremely complex process, involving the entire local Guild.
While it is true that most accomplished wizards are members of the Guild, it is certainly not necessary for a member to be in the Guild to practice magic, nor does membership indicate expertise.
None – Initiate : Someone who has received basic instruction in the esoteric arts. Generally details someone who has the Arcane Lore skill trained.
First – Mavari or Apprentice : Any full Master may adopt Mavari into his local chapter of the Guild. This involves the taking of an oath to serve and obey his local Guild Masters, enrich his local Hall with knowledge and wealth, and to conserve its secrets. Sometimes they will serve various masters, and other times, they are attached to a specific Master. If they are diligent, and pay attention, they should learn some spells.
Second – Satia-Mavari or Senior Apprentice : When a Mavari has proven their worth, and has their lore firmly in hand, they must leave the local Guild and travel into the world for a year and a day. During this time, they must work on improving their knowledge, and gathering treasures for their Guild.The custom is for them to submit three artifacts and three “new” spells, to the examination of the Masters.
Third – Shenava or Journeyman : A Shenava is an independent mage. They have the right to sit at Guild meetings, and may travel as they will, using the facilities of the local Hall for their benefit (paying reasonable rents). He may seek advice and other information form resident Viran, but generally spends his time in study and practice. Most mages rise this high and no further in the Guild.
Fourth – Viran or Master : Only the most accomplished of mages can obtain this rank. It is obtained through the respect of the Guild, and only through the sponsorship of an established Viran. With such backing, the Shenava will receive a “Petition of Excellence”, that circulates in the local Guild for all other Viran to view, stating that the Shenava has proven his skills. If six or more Viran sign the document, the Shenava is summoned to a special meeting of the Guild’s Viran, where he is presented the document in a simple, if solemn, ceremony. Copies are filed throughout all the local Guild Halls, and the new Viran keeps the original as proof of his abilities. Unless a Shenava proves themselves to the local Guild, such a petition can circulate for decades, before enough Viran are impressed to sign the document. Viran reside in the local Guild Hall without paying rents (though most do anyways, in time if not money), and are able to create Mavari, remove Guild artifacts and writings for study and are afforded a great deal of respect by the entire Guild, who acknowledge the skill and ability required to achieve this rank.
It is a rare individual indeed that has the power to shape words and the flowing patterns of energy underlying the planes into raw magicks. No more than one in a hundred has the dedication or talent to begin to study “the Art” or “the Craft” as it has been called. Even among those able to see past the fabric of reality, only half will ever dedicate themselves to its deeper mysteries, and truly be called a Mage. In some lands, magecrafts are more common, witness Phaedra or the Evael, but even in these lands, not everyone is a master mage, and although the majority of the population has some training, mundane tasks are still dominant. Indeed, even Masters of the Craft are loathe to expend valuable spells for simple tasks, since its prudent to reserve one’s own powers for when it’s truly needed.
Arcane Lore is learned through the use of one’s intellect, and the mastery of spells and metamagic feats. Most mages gain their knowledge by apprenticing to a noted master. The spread of the Shek-Pvar, and the Colleges of Magick over the past few centuries, have however leveled the field. Magecrafts can also be acquired through formal study similar to the Herald’s and Harper’s Colleges. Under the aegis of the Guild of Arcane Lore, such collections of magical studies are gaining acceptance among the common populace and although most tend to have personal agendas, the friendly rivalry between schools has given the Guild greater unity and cooperation. “Mage Fairs” and other gatherings of mages are also becoming more common-place, and any community with a dozen or more mages can expect to have regular meetings of its guild, as well as possess an increasing degree of power in local politics.
Most common folk simply do not know the difference between wizards & sorcerers, and even shade the various sub-classes and specializations, such as Necromancers or Illusionists. Indeed, most people only know of mages as mysterious individuals who have strange pets, frightening abilities, and the ability to blast their enemies into dust. After that, the common man tends to gloss over any of the particulars. Arcanists are generally regarded with suspicion, fear, and respect wherever they may go, and are often the source of many tavern tales regarding their abilities and enemies. Local authorities carefully watch unknown mages with as much discretion as possible, until they have been quantified as to their abilities and intentions. Once a mage has settled, or established a good local reputation, they almost always become important or valued members of the community. If trouble rises in the area, especially of a magical nature, the nearest mage of good reputation is often the first individual consulted. Even reclusive mages or those of a sinister nature may be approached for help in extreme cases, usually followed by gifts and new-found respect.