The%20Numberless%20Islands
The schools of magic


Note: The campaign has stopped running. The whole site is here simply for reference.

As I said somewhere else, my rules for magic specialization are slightly different from the standard ones. The main differences are in the schools themselves, their oppositional schools and which spells belong to which school. The list in this page includes the "definition" of each school of magic, which should give you a good idea of what kinds of spells belong to it. Most spells, of course, belong to the same schools as they do in the official rules.

Another difference from the standard rules is that specialist wizards don't get an extra spell per spell level, but instead have to use at least one of their "spell slots" per level for a spell from their school. First level wizards are an exception, and they do start out with two spells a day, one of which must be from their specialization.

Spells belonging to more than one school are treated as follows with regard to bonuses and restrictions for specialists, bards etc.
Restrictions: A spell cannot be learned/cast if it belongs to a forbidden school, and this applies even if it also belongs to the specialist's school.
Bonuses: Specialist bonuses apply to any spell which belongs to the specialist's school, even if it belongs to other schools as well; provided, of course, that it does not belong to a forbidden school (see above).

These are the schools used in the campaign:


Abjuration

Oppositional schools: Alteration, Illusion, Divination

Definition: Abjuration includes those spells which are specifically for protection (of an individual, item, area or group). They may involve creation (and hence also belong to another school), and they may even do damage.

The school of abjurers is not one of the largest schools. Low level abjurers are something of a luxury and likely to be found only in large well-equipped parties, in more "civilized" churches or in relatively major courts. Most abjurers will cultivate a second line of interest in a school such as evocation. High level abjurers are sought-after professionals, either as bodyguards for rulers or as specialized support for parties. Some may be independent and may well use apprentices or employ other wizards for activities they're barred from.


Alteration

Oppositional schools: Abjuration, Necromancy, Conjuration

Definition: Alteration changes the physical laws of the universe in a limited area in a limited way; thus dimensions (including time), inertia and kinetic energy, forces (gravity, electricity etc.) can be altered. This can affect creatures, items, areas and pretty much anything.

Alterers are "action wizards". By far the highest proportion of them are found in adventuring bands of one kind or another, but given their versatility they can be found almost anywhere. Since they can't use abjuration spells, they have a slightly higher turnover rate than others, but a high level alterer is awesomely powerful.

Really high level alterers don't need to be employed by anybody. If they feel like adventuring, they can simply outfit a band of adventurers to come along with them. At slightly lower levels, they may well be tempted to hire themselves out in return for protection items.

Imagination and inventiveness are highly prized by alterers. There's not much scope for alterers who can't come up with interesting uses for well known spells or interesting solutions to difficult problems.


Charm

Oppositional schools: Evocation, Summoning, Divination

Definition: Charm spells are all those spells that influence the mind to produce effects other than the illusion of non-existing objects or creatures.

The charmer's skills are most useful in an interactive setting: a city or a court are ideal environments. In these situations, a charmer is likely to be working for someone else: charmers placed in courts are likely to be working on long-term contracts to further the interests of major players, while other urban charmers may well hire out for shorter periods (an ideal introduction to a charmer character could be very similar to the movie cliché of the private detective: a meeting in a seedy tavern, a depressed cynic slumped into a drink....) Other charmers, equipped with appropriate language and directional skills, may hire out as guides to adventuring parties or to merchant caravans. Some charmers, however, may strike out as merchants on their own - or as con artists. Finally, knowledge of charm spells may be part of the education of some noble youths with magical pretensions.

It is absolutely fundamental to the charmer's success that their "victims" do not know who they're dealing with; one implication of this is that charmers are likely to develop a "cover personality". This could be simply as another kind of mage, or it could be as a noble, merchant, bard etc.


Conjuration

Oppositional schools: Divination, Evocation, Alteration

Definition: Conjuration spells conjure up non-living matter (re-shaping it if necessary), without limitation of plane. It doesn't include conjuration of forces or living creatures.

The conjurer's main role in life is as a skilled tactician. Their spells are often fairly subtle interventions into the local environment, but which can have a devastating effect if calculated exactly. This has a number of implications. Firstly, conjurers will need to devote a fair amount of time to planning spell use - well in advance of actual combat. This might often be combined with the general tactical planning of the party or military unit. Secondly, the conjurer needs to have a very good idea of what is going on at all times: in combat situations, they're likely to place themselves high up and to the rear. This makes it possible for them either to act as combat directors or simply to alert party members to hidden threats. (A secondary interest in protection and visualization spells is likely to help in this second role). Lastly, the conjurer needs to be part of a strong party, which is not reliant on their contributing a predictable amount of devastation in all situations.

As a group, conjurers are strongly oriented towards "research" of various kinds. At its most basic, this is simply the kind of alternative combat training and planning outlined above. However, the limitations on what can be conjured up at lower levels, and the consequent challenge posed by combat situations, are no longer relevant past a certain level of power. Hence older and more powerful conjurers often devote their considerable mental energies to the more strictly magical problems of materialisation of whatever they feel is needed. A minority get trapped in the dead end of alchemical research of various kinds, but most prefer less mundane challenges. In general, conjurers are extremely keen to meet each other and exchange ideas, often without more than a token consideration of gain (such as the normal gift-giving that accompanies so many social relations in this society).


Divination

Oppositional schools: Conjuration, Abjuration

Definition: Divination includes those spells which give the wizard information, regardless of the means used.

Despite what many adventurers think, ordinary peasants who think of magic are more likely to think of divination than of fireballs. In a hundred different contexts - predicting the future, finding lost items, identifying culprits, keeping tabs on spouses, and so on - divination is the poor person's answer to the uncertainties and risks of their everyday world. Any diviner who makes themselves available to callers can assure themselves of at least a subsistence income; diviners with a reputation for success or unusual specialities can easily become rich and famous. Unscrupulous diviners can make quick money by "identifying culprits to order" (in other words, confirming people's prejudices or giving people an excuse for a lawsuit or a challenge). High level diviners, of course, are always in demand as advisors for rulers and other nobles.

Given the overlap in spell capabilities, there is often a good deal of rivalry between diviners and priests with divination abilities; this, far more than polymorphing or invisibility, is the main source of religious objections to magic - that it threatens the temples' own lucrative businesses in soothsaying, administering oaths, and law. This animosity can easily turn to persecution in those cases where diviners begin to prophesize, which may also call the wrath of the civil authorities down on their heads, since prophecies and the movements they incite are often subversive not just of the religious but also of the political order. As against this, some rulers - or would-be rulers - may attempt to get well-known prophets to produce oracles to order.

Diviners are unlikely to be sought after by adventurers solely on the basis of their speciality, which is, after all, shared by priests; however, in wilderness or dungeon environments the diviner's skill at information gathering is certainly a valuable addition to their basic magical abilities.

(The role of the diviner has to be seen within a context, not only of extreme uncertainty, but also of a basic lack of information. The past - other than the previous generation - for most people is a closed book, as is anything that's going on more than ten miles from home. Even within local contexts, the sheer variety of cultures, languages, religions and social classes means that any extra information that can be gathered is enormously valuable.)


Enchantment

Oppositional schools: Summoning, Necromancy, Evocation

Definition: Enchantment spells imbue items or creatures with powers they wouldn't normally possess; powers belonging to other magical schools are excluded. "Meta-spells", that is spells that increase spell ability in the abstract (e.g. Extension, Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer, etc.) also belong to this school.

The enchanter is the nearest thing to the "usual" stereotype of a wizard: they can twist the world around them in impressively "magical" ways, they are devoted to seeking out new spells for their spellbooks, and they prefer to live alone or with apprentices, in towers if possible. Those of a male persuasion grow long white beards as soon as possible. Their reputation for reliability and their air of "wizardliness" mean that they are always in demand.

Joking apart, the enchanters' capabilities make them one of the most versatile and powerful of all the wizardly schools. This means that enchanters can be found virtually anywhere, from royal courts to slime-encrusted dungeons and from far-travelling longships to towers in the depths of forests (towers on mountain heights tend to get chilly). Nevertheless, their pursuit of knowledge above all else and the high value they place on book learning means that most of them have a preference for the more urbanised and civilised areas. This does not exclude, however, other appropriate lifestyles such as the patient long-term thought and research of the elven enchanter or the windswept, battlement-pacing image of the occasional rural court wizard.

The overriding professional concern of enchanters is to broaden and improve their repertoire of spells. On the one hand, many of them tend to develop an obsessive approach to expanding and defending their "hoard" of spells at the expense of other magic-users. On the other hand, the cooler headed enchanter is likely to devote more time to developing improved versions of spells they already know. This might mean finding a way to use a more accessible material component, to simplify the ritual involved, to enhance or to alter the effect of a spell etc. There is a mix of fascination and loathing for the novelties introduced by wild mages: wild magic is seen as a fascinating development, but one which should be "brought within the fold" and developed in a more "wizardly", i.e. a more formalised way. At the same time, enchanters see some of the most promising young mages stolen from under their noses by the new upstarts.


Evocation

Oppositional schools: Enchantment, Charm, Conjuration

Definition: Evocation spells work with energies and forces (but not living creatures) from the inner planes other than the Prime Material. Though it can use forces from the Negative Plane, it doesn't allow the wizard to work with life-forces (a prerogative of the school of Necromancy).

Given the nature of their spells and the extent of their restrictions, evokers tend to specialise in battle magic: by far the most common sources of employment for evokers are military, whether as battle wizards supporting an army or as members of adventuring parties. The career of evokers tends to follow a fairly predictable pattern: at low levels, they are highly dependent on physical protection and play only a subordinate role in combat (quite often, paradoxically, devoting themselves to the elimination of enemy spellcasters or officers); once they have the powerful area effect spells, they become more generally useful as "artillery" and are somewhat less dependent on others. However, at this point it often makes more sense for the evoker to set up independently and begin to hire bodyguards, henchmen, footsoldiers etc. Naturally, many evokers never reach this third stage, given the high casualty rate among battle wizards.

The best known evocation spells are of course spells such as Fireball, Lightning Bolt and the like; most evokers will prioritise these spells, and indeed many or most employers will expect evokers to be able to cast at least Fireball once they have reached an appropriate level. This has two effects: the first is that the price of these spells is unreasonably high, even by comparison with the cost of other spells; effectively, the price is whatever the market will bear. Secondly, the more advanced military formations, such as major armies, professional adventuring groups or those led by spellcasters, will have evolved a variety of tactics to counter such spells, including dispersed formations, the use of clerical spells such as Prayer, Protection from Fire etc., and in some cases perhaps even magical items, such as spellblades. This means that evokers likely to be fighting this kind of enemy tend to develop as many new and unexpected forms of attack spells as possible, and it is no coincidence that this is one of the most productive areas of spell research.


Illusion

Oppositional schools: Necromancy, Abjuration, Summoning

Definition: Illusion spells create sensory appearances by influencing the mind only. Depending on how convincing they are, these sensory appearances can have quite real effects...

The illusionist is marked above all by their versatility and their independence: on the one hand illusions can be of use in virtually any situation; on the other hand, this use is greatest when the illusionist is most independent. Successful illusions depend on the illusionist knowing as much as possible about the situation and having the greatest freedom possible to intervene. Thus an illusionist who is simply kept at the side of the commander and only unleashed in battle would be of little or no use. In fact, one of the central abilities of these specialists is being able to come up with new uses for illusion spells.

Illusionists are thus found in virtually any position which offers them an appropriate mixture of freedom and opportunity. An adventuring illusionist, for example, may equip themselves with spells of transport and protection and effectively act as a scout and harasser of enemy forces, distracting attention and diverting opponents in fruitless directions. Other illusionists may work as bards, performing magical shows in village halls or in courts; and it is no coincidence that many bards prefer spells of illusion. In city and court environments, the illusionist can be a very effective counterespionage agent, systematically misleading spies and wasting their time; and so on. All of this means that an illusionist armed with charm spells is in a particularly strong position.

Since the effectiveness of many illusion spells is greatly weakened by the mere suspicion that they are being employed, many illusionists will build up a collection of spells from a second school (like alteration, evocation or conjuration) as a means of diverting attention.


Necromancy

Oppositional schools: Illusion, Enchantment, Alteration

Definition: Necromancy include those spells that involve manipulating life forces, in the creation of life, death and undeath. For reasons of affinity, the school also includes many undead-related spells that don't directly manipulate life forces.

A necromancer's life is structured above all by the unreasoning prejudice of others. With very few exceptions, people do not want to be associated with necromancers, and most churches seek to outlaw what they see as meddling with life and death. This means that most necromancers are loners, whether they live in crypts, on secluded islands or hidden in the middle of cities. Some necromancers, however, may choose to associate with adventuring parties as a means of gaining experience: in some cases the necromancer will acquire a collection of spells from a different school to enable them to masquerade as something else, although there is always a small minority of adventuring parties who do not mind taking zombies or ghouls as companions.

Necromancers are not necessarily evil: some are simply dedicated to research into the basic processes of living and dying; most if not all, however, lack the kind of insight into other people which might explain why the prospect of seeing your dead aunt Mary staggering across the fields towards you fails to appeal. Those known to be necromancers are likely to be persecuted by the law, by local churches, by mobs of citizens and quite often by bounty hunters, or simply romantic types who appreciate the opportunity to kill objectionable people without facing lawsuits or vendettas.


Summoning

Oppositional school: Enchantment, Illusion, Charm

Definition: Summoning spells call to the caster living creatures from any plane of existence, deal with creatures from the Outer Planes, or allow physical communication between different planes.

Far more than wizards of other schools, the summoner's eyes are fixed on the high levels, which make the bulk of summoning spells available and enable the summoner to engage in their true vocation of summoning and communication across the worlds. The weakness of this school at low levels means that those who finally attain these world-transcending powers are drawn from two sources. The first are specialist summoners who have acted simply as general mages up to this point, in other words who have searched for any spell they could learn, of whatever school, and who have only turned their energies to summoning once they have reached a sufficiently high level to be economically independent and to cast the defining spells of this school. The second are specialists of other schools who have developed an interest in summoning spells and been lucky enough to learn the relevant spells: these are, naturally enough, likely to be individuals of very high intelligence (given the penalty imposed on learning spells of schools other than one's speciality school). In some cases summoners may be multi-classed elves or half-elves; with their long lifespans, they can afford to rely on their other class until such time as their wizardly power enables them to reverse the emphasis and focus on summoning instead.

Thus summoners at low levels are not particularly distinguishable from other spell-casters, and will be found in any occupation which is fitted to the other spells they have learnt and their general proficiencies and aptitudes. As a general rule, however, they are likely to seek adventure, as the surest means to rapid advancement in power. High-level summoners are likely to set themselves up with peasants to feed them and men-at-arms to defend them, and orient their attentions away from the Prime Material plane and towards the infinite realms that lie beyond. They are, naturally, subject to sudden and violent death, disappearance, long absences and so on; in other words, at this point they cease to have other than a local effect on the society around them.


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This material is copyright 1995-1999 Anna Mazzoldi and Laurence Cox.

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