An Overview of Elanthian Magic
Submitted to the Library Aies for use by Scholar Initiates,
Basic knowledge and exposure to magic is central to all but
the most backwards civilizations. Children grow up with stories
of powerful spellcasters and often have the opportunity to
watch them defend their town from the creatures of the wilds.
However, few are the citizens who truly understand the forces
at work in these effects. As a Scholar, one must understand
the role that magic plays in our lives.
For the purposes of this document, the word 'mage' will be
used as a general term for one who casts magic, without any
implication of that magic being elemental in nature.
Magic, on its own, is nothing. Magic cannot create, and it
does not destroy, despite appearances to the contrary. At
its core, magic is the art of taking what is already there
and bending and twisting it until it serves the function one
would like. The Wizard does not create a flame any more than
the act of striking a match does, it simply coalesces and
frees the ambient flame in the area. Thus, the basis of magic
is taking a desired pattern and coercing the local forces
Rote Magic versus Flow Magic
In much the same way as technology can be roughly segregated
into the mundane and the magical, so can magic be segregated
into rote magic and flow magic. The basic difference in the
two is that the creativity and skill required to harness flow
magic is far beyond that required for rote magic, to the point
where all manner of creatures from ogres to moulis have been
witnessed performing rote magic incantations.
Rote magic is magic that has been codified and formalized
to the point where its use comes far more naturally than flow
magic. It is believed that the ease of use of rote magic is
due, in fact, to its common use. Much like a path through
a field, the difficulty of rote magic seems to be eased by
consistent use, as if the world's forces become accustomed
to taking particular patterns. This effect, combined with
the influx of those trained in the magical arts in modern
times, may account for the increasing trend of the monster
races utilizing these spells for their own purposes.
It is important to note that, aside from the original spells
given to us by the Arkati, all current rote magic began its
life as flow magic, and it is only through the dedicated pursuits
of magical researchers that we have our modern wealth of rote
The known spells are organized into a series of spell circles,
to assist with the planning of courses. As a general rule,
the contents of a spell circle are decided upon by consensus
of a council of mages skilled in that circle, and those contents
are reviewed periodically in order to keep the circle consistent
with the needs of its users. They are organized into several
ranks, and students of the circle are encouraged to learn
the ranks in order. In many cases this ordering is enforced
by various means.
It was once said, "If you would know the changes of
power 50 years ago, look to the changes in spell circles today."
An excellent example of this is the year 5103 modifications
of the Major Elemental spell circle which included, among
other things, a replacement of the millennia-old Blur spell
with the new spell Thurfel's Ward, a spell created by a halfling
Wizard. The two spells, despite using very different mechanics,
provide a similar result: increased protection against physical
attacks. The explanation for this change, seen through an
unclouded eye, can be linked to the rise in influence of the
Paradis halflings and the influx of talented Wizards from
The council paradigm does not apply in all cases, of course.
The control of several circles is vested in a single individual.
As well, there are some unique systems used. Two common circles
serve to exemplify this fact particularly well.
The first is the Sorcerer Base circle of magic. There are
actually two versions of the Sorcerer Base circle of magic,
one used by the Faendryl, and a second that is released to
Sorcerers all over the continent. While in theory, the general
council which guides the Sorcerer Base circle controls content
in the universal version, and the Faendryl control their internal
circle, it is generally known that the Faendryl have a hand
in all decisions related to Sorcery, whether through respect
or intimidation. As a result, the two circles are almost always
synchronized with each other, with the exception of those
spells which the Faendryl keep to themselves.
The second is the Cleric Base circle of magic. The Clerics
have a council which nominally controls the layout of the
spell circle, but through use of the Prayer of Communion,
their decisions are always heavily influenced by the Arkati
themselves. Though their meetings are not open to the public,
the information available suggests that the presence of the
Arkati serves to temper the religious arguments that are inevitable
when opposing fanatics convene. Some sources even report that,
often, debates are held and decisions made by the Arkati while
their followers bicker.
In essence, flow magic is rote magic that has not yet been
codified. Do not be led to believe that because someone is
practicing flow magic, the basic operation of magic changes.
Flow magic is less restricted and contained in its effects,
but it is still magic and is governed by the same rules.
Almost all early mages were flow mages to an extent. While
the spells delivered from the Arkati were useful, they did
not provide us with a full range of spells to fit all our
needs, so we were required to experiment to fill the gaps.
As well, at that time, flow magic was easier. The forces of
the world in those days were more fluid and accepted manipulation
more readily. Thus, the mages of those days were generally
much more versatile, if not more powerful, than those of today.
In the modern era, the development of flow magic is a long
and arduous process undertaken by few. Researchers will sometimes
spend hundreds of years developing a single spell, forming
it until it is just right. Much of the difficulty is a result
of the pervasiveness of rote magic. The existence of many
patterns that are common hinders the development of new ones,
as the forces will tend to fall into their comfortable forms
rather than go where the mage would like.
When developing flow magic, there is also the ever-present
threat of a backlash, where the forces one is attempting to
manipulate break free of their natural forms. While sometimes
these backlashes are harmless, more often than not they are
a serious threat to the mage. While there are techniques that
reduce the risk, it is not a task one undertakes lightly.
The progression from pure flow magic to a codified rote spell
is a long one. A researcher first has to develop an effect
that he finds useful, and coerce the forces into taking that
pattern and holding it again and again until their resistance
to doing so eases. At that point, the researcher then proceeds
in the drawn out process of refining the spell, which involves
attempts to alter the pattern slightly to achieve better results,
reduce the mana expenditure required to achieve it, and ease
the difficulty. In general, these steps are the much lengthier
part of the process of developing a spell.
Such steps, however, do not bind talented flow mages if they
do not feel their spells require codification. True flow mages
decide on a spell effect they wish, and impose that effect
on the forces nearby. While their efforts do not result in
the difficulty of performing the effect decreasing, rendering
them useless to the magic-using world as a whole, the range
of options available to them is staggering.
As in rote magic, flow magic of a religious nature takes
a slightly different course. Being very talented flow mages
themselves, the Arkati are able to direct the course of development
for Clerical magic, apparently having an agreed-upon level
of power they wish their followers to control. A "flow
mage" who studies Clerical spells, therefore, is more
a conduit through which his controller can perform magic.
Magic in Everyday Life
The most well-known and visible users of magic are of course
those engaged in battle, as can be seen by spell circle names
such as Major Spiritual and Minor Spiritual, ignoring the
fact that there are at least thirty circles of magic engaged
in the manipulation of spiritual forces. Due to both the many
opportunities for research in this area and the importance
and glamour of the field, much of the most advanced magical
research is done in this area. It is assumed that the student
is familiar with the workings of this area of magic, however,
so further detail shall be withheld.
To the layman, this is generally where the presence of magic
ends. It is a subject for those engaged in battle, and one
that he need not concern himself with. He does not realize
that the spells of the Agriculture Base circle assist in bringing
him his food, that the Civilization Base circle of magic helps
light his streets at night, or that the Construction Base
circle of magic has been used to fortify his house. The use
of magic does dwindle once one leaves the Nations, but even
in backwater towns the privileged are likely to have some
manner of magical assistance in their daily lives, though
generally the common folk are not provided such benefits.
While there are countless circles of magic, enough that efforts
to catalog their contents are often out of date before publication,
the details of each are unimportant to our discussion. Rather,
it is more important to learn the general ideas of magic and
the areas to which it is applicable.
It should be noted that, in general, the industries of the
Nations are able to proceed without the benefit of magic and
fare acceptably. However, when available, the magical support
often results in a much better product. Recently, especially
with the increase in trade with the Dwarves, humans, and others,
the demand for such products has increased, causing more mages
to eschew traditional combat training in favor of such commercial
roles, which carry lower potential profits but higher reliability
and markedly better prospects for survival.
Though historically construction has involved the application
of onerous amounts of mundane strength and endurance, except
in the case of the nobility or royalty, the increase in the
availability of magical training over the last thousand years
has resulted in additional mages concentrating on the field
of construction. Thus, this is a key application of magic
that will likely continue to grow in coming centuries, and
the effects of this are not entirely known.
The use of magic in construction concentrates itself in two
places. First, much of construction involves the transportation
and erection of heavy pieces of material. Though rare, magical
support in this area tends to provide either a temporary lightening
of such pieces to allow them to be transported more easily
by hand, or actual magical support in transportation. The
latter can be riskier, as an unskilled mage may end up doing
damage to the construction materials through mishandling or
magical mishap, but generally provides a larger reduction
in required manpower, and thus cost savings. In the Dwarven
realms, a large increase in magical tunneling efforts has
sprung up recently as well, due to several new tunneling spells
which are much more reliable than previous ones, causing far
fewer cave-ins and much better longevity. In some circles,
such efforts are met with a healthy distrust, however.
Second, after construction is complete, magical reinforcement
of the structure can be applied. Traditionally, this type
of magic took several years and was reserved for the most
vital structures, such as the city walls and palaces of the
Nations. In the late 4900s, a new spell was developed which
produces a poor facsimile of the traditional reinforcement,
but with a fraction of the time investment. This has proved
very popular with wealthy merchants and others who cannot
obtain a true reinforcing from royal mages, but wish their
houses and storefronts additional protection from inclement
weather or hostile forces. While such services are still out
of reach for the vast majority of citizens and not offered
outside the Nations and other large cities, the rate of increase
is such that home reinforcements may be affordable to common
elves within the next several centuries.
The production of common steel weapons is, in general, left
to those without the funds or wish for magical help. However,
simply forging weapons and armor from magical metals requires
the smith to obtain enchanted tempering oil, and many materials
need additional magical support. Glaes, for instance, must
be forged with fires hotter than are possible without magical
aid. Mithglin, as well, requires magical aid to merge its
constituent metals into the bars from which it is forged.
Once a weapon is forged, the blade can be used as is perfectly
acceptably. However, there is a large market for magical enhancements
that many types of artificers are employed to provide. Such
weapons include Feras' blades that attack their foe with lightning
but destroy themselves in the process, more standard blades
that emit intermittent blasts of elemental energy, weapons
enchanted to provide guidance to their user, and so forth.
The available enhancements to weaponry are quite varied, due
in large part to the adventuring market that is almost ravenous
in its desire to obtain them.
The military is one of the realms where magic is most heavily
integrated. The use of battle magic is of course one of the
cornerstones of combat, but it is assumed that these functions
are well known. There are many secondary functions that mages
First and foremost, the military could not survive were it
not for supplies and communications. Here, magical support
is most vital due to the long distances involved when military
units are in the field. Due to their warring tendencies, the
Turamzzyrian Empire has a quite sophisticated system to support
their campaigns. Many units are equipped with logistical officers,
and larger units have logistical mages who perform such actions
as increasing the carrying capacity of pack animals and soldiers,
providing long-distance communications, and increasing the
preservation of supplies. There is even a rumor that the humans
have a circle of magic dedicated to logistical support, though
it remains unsubstantiated.
As mentioned previously, reinforcement is also a common magical
task. The fortresses of the Nations, as well as those of other
civilizations, especially the Dwarves, are protected against
both magical and physical attacks through enchantment. The
military also requires considerable supplies of magical equipment
and tools, and keeps artificers on hand to provide such equipment.
Ever since Elvenkind settled and cultivated the land, agriculture
has been a cornerstone of our civilization, and with it a
vast array of magic has been created to help encourage it
and free those of our kind to develop our civilization. While
some amount of personal effort is still required, magic improves
the efforts of those involved.
The main effect of magic on agriculture is to encourage growth
of crops, providing better yields and more nutritious results.
The environment also has a heavy effect on agriculture, and
in normal times magic is used to adapt the crops toward the
year's rainfall and weather patterns. While such measures
are ineffective in times of severe drought, heavy flooding,
or magical instability, common years see much benefit from
These improvements result in the output of our fields exceeding
our need by a fair margin. Magic also helps us preserve the
excess, giving us a reserve of food that would supply the
Nations for many years.
In contrast to most of the industries mentioned, agriculture
and the military are two where magical support is the rule
rather than the exception. The ruler of each Nation retains
a body of mages whose role is to support these industries,
and who are paid quite well for their efforts.
Clockwork is one of the few modern technologies that is almost
exclusively utilized without the help of magic. Part of this
is due to the influence and expertise of the Gnomes, who are
the best suited of the civilized races to the task, due to
their small hands and nimble fingers. While its mention would
appear to be out of place in this document, this lack of magic
is notable both for its resistance to the trend of magical
influence and the common misconceptions about its nature.
The Gnomish advances in clockwork are quite impressive, and
are sometimes mistaken for magic when seen. Most often publicly
seen in the form of toys, some of their gadgets may spout
fire, emit steam, move about, or produce noises. Despite their
outward appearance, it is important to recognize that most
of these trinkets are simply mechanical in nature, despite
what some would claim, though there is the rare Gnome who
does imbue his gadgets with magical properties. This is quite
the contrast to the downplay and ignorance of magical influence
in common trades.
Clearly, magic is present in nearly all aspects of modern
life, but its perceived influence is often quite different
from reality. The perceptive scholar should recognize the
influence of magic, both in the course of his daily life and
in his studies in history, and be prepared for the future
evolution in magical uses.