Magical schools are the vehicle through which characters learn how to exploit the loopholes and oddities in probability that allow for the casting of spells. Each school represents a blending of science and philosophy, a combination of practices which defines how reality functions to an extent, and thus, how to bypass the normal limits of cause and effect which prevents magic from manifesting in the multiverse.
About half of known spells are readily available to be mastered by a sorcerer, regardless of what mystic school they belong to. What a school does is reveal to its adherents how to bring about the actualization of these common spell effects, which means that there are technically as many ways to do so as there are mystic schools. This applies whether dealing with either personal, universal, dimensional, or even group spells.
School spells, on the other hand, are those which are almost entirely exclusive to a singular wizard school. The casting of this sorcery is a further extension of the obscure knowledge inherent to the school in which it was crafted, and separating a school spell from the mystic school within which it was developed is a supremely difficult feat. These spells don't merely provide the schools their unique flavor, after all!
As is always the case with magic, however, there's no such thing as impossible. For one thing, each school of magic has at least one other school that is relatively close to it, either in outlook, history, or theory. This means that wizards of a given school can actually access a minimum of two school spell rosters: their own and another. Finding someone to teach them spells from another school may take some doing, though.
Furthermore, characters can research a school spell they normally lack access to, if desired. Doing so requires a considerable amount of digging, generally equal to a number of days equal to the spell's initial, intended rank value. Furthermore, mastering an off-brand school spell typically requires a special task be undertaken, whether it takes the form of field research or some kind of quest!
Schools of Sorcery
There are thirteen known methods by which characters can wield magic, each of which is codified into a school of magic - or a specific lack of such, as the case may be. The following is a quick and dirty description of each, coupled with a description of the general theme its school spells take, as well as the school or schools that are complementary enough to share their spell rosters with its adherents:
Alchemy: an art which has persisted as long as civilization itself, alchemy is the magic of material things. It focuses upon the manipulation of mundane matter, imbuing it with mystical energies which give it power, even if that power is transient at best. This is because most spells an alchemist makes use of are grounded within seemingly ordinary objects and substances.
All save for alchemical school spells, that is. While an alchemist could also craft consumables which produce the effects of their school spells, they are just as likely to master such capabilities as distinct, conventional spells. This is because an alchemist's school spells focus upon the direct manipulation of matter towards some end, ostensibly to bolster one's work with the materials at hand.
One benefit alchemists have is that their school has several commonalities with technomancy. Both consider themselves practitioners of a science, however unorthodox their methods may seem to conventional men and women of learning, after all. Thus, an alchemist may choose, when adding a school spell to their mystic roster, from either their own school's roster or from that belonging to technomancers.
Clericism: a form of magic that isn't directly learned or mastered by those who wield it, the knowledge to cast clerical spells is input directly into the minds of a deity's followers. This is done using the power of faith, which immortal beings cherish above all else, and clerical spells are a reinvestment of that spectral energy intended to generate even more of this power down the line.
A majority of the spells specific to the school of clericism, regardless of which deity is being venerated, focus upon maintaining the health and well-being of others. This helps an immortal to avoid losing followers, and thus the founts of faith that they, or their clerics at least, worked so hard to create. Clerical spells come in handy when working to oppose the enemies of one's deity, mortal or divine, as well.
Faith is a powerful tool, but it is precious and finite. This is why deities also exploit the power of belief to augment the effects of their efforts. To this end, immortals often allow their clerics access to spells which work to bolster a given moralistic outlook. In other words, clerics may choose from either their own spell roster, or from that belonging to philosophical magic, when learning school spells.
Eclecticism: the exact opposite of a school of magic, eclecticism is the process by which characters go it alone, eschewing the doctrines of mystic schools, and sort out how to wield magic all on their own. This is ideal for those of a fiercely independent bent, those who wish to forge their very own schools, or even those who find schools unavailable to them for some reason or another.
Those spells that eclectic mages have adopted over the ages are a seeming hodge podge of utilities that, on the surface, don't mesh together very well. However, all thirteen known eclectic spells are keyed to that brand of magic, helping an eclecticist to function in a mystic landscape bereft of guidance. In other words, eclectic spells were designed and chosen with furthering the goals of unsupported mages.
One of the primary advantages held by an eclectic sorcerer is that they can master any school spell. Sure, they have to put up with a terrible penalty when learning new magic, and often have no one to lean on when going about whatever it is that motivates them, but eclecticists have access to every single spell described in the Book of Magic. Mind you, finding someone to teach them these spells may be tricky.
Elementalism: this school of magic focuses upon acquiring power over the thirteen facets of existence that it recognizes. Wielding any one of these elements grants a wizard considerable influence over their environment, with each additional element amplifying that influence. Ultimately, an elemental sorcerer who can wield all the elements may control all of creation, to some extent.
Spells belonging to the elemental school of magic revolve around the manipulation of those elements it recognizes. A few such manipulations are direct influences on a singular element, but most involve the interaction between two or more elements to achieve a specific effect. This is the case whether the elementalist wielding them intends to create, destroy, or simply change a given element somehow.
While the elemental roster of school spells is already quite robust, especially when used in concert with the common magic available to all mages, there's always room for more. Bearing that in mind, an elementalist spellcaster may choose from their own school's roster or that of the geomancer when adding school spells to their bag of tricks, as that school is something of a forebear of this one.
Entreatism: those sorcerers who ply the trade of eclecticism specialize in making pacts with beings, places, and things of power, to bolster the might of their own magic. While any slob of a mage can entreat these sources of power to augment their spells, entreatists share a special relationship with them, the two working together for mutual benefit, and the advancement of both's ultimate goals.
To this end, entreatists benefit from a range of school spells that allow them to meddle with the affairs of deific beings. This is because, in the process of working to further one entity's goals, an entreatist often comes into conflict with another - whether directly or otherwise. As such, it behooves entreatists to have as many antideonic tools in their belt as they can manage, if only to save their skins.
Entreatists walk a fine line between working with powerful entities and serving them. Those who cross that line may very well become clerics of a given source of power, and may wield spells belonging to that school of magic. On the other hand, entreatists who deal with entities of power in support of a specific ethos may instead make use of the thirteen spells belonging to the philosophical school of magic.
Faerie Magics: the Faerie are an ancient race of extraplanar beings with no consistent appearance. Faerie are consummate shape shifters, and almost exclusively take the form of others. Furthermore, thanks to their highly invasive physiology, they can interbreed with almost any living creature. This has has resulted in the creation of countless Fae hybrid species, which can be found throught reality.
What's worse, the Faerie and many of their crossbred offshoots tend to think better of themselves than those without a Fae background. Thus, the magic they have developed over countless eons tends to be as insidious as their physiology. It generally takes the form of spells that allow Fae beings to get a leg up on others, or to otherwise manipulate events to come out in their favor. Essentially, it is debuffing magic.
Depending on their outlook, wielders of Faerie magic can expand their school in one of two fashions. The first involves mastering magic inverted from that of their own school, bolstering either their mind or body with spells from the rosters of the physiomancy or thaumentalism schools. Alternately, those who wish to further manipulate the world in their favor may instead dip their toes in the school spells of geomancy.
Geomancy: numerous ancient cultures determined that the world that birthed them was comprised of several basic mystical building blocks. It was in ancient Greece that the most prominent of these was developed, however, based upon the basic concept of stoicheion, or elements. Since then, hard working mystical researchers refined this theory into the seven elements recognized by geomancers today.
Those thirteen spells that are unique to to the mystic school of geomancy are designed to directly interact with the elements of nature, whether in whole or in part. This can simply involve direct control over the raw nature of the world's stoicheion, absorbing such elements into one's body, becoming such elements in part or in full, or even changing something's very composition from one element to another.
Spells the geomancer has access to via their wizard school are quite robust, but they're not the only kind of such magic such casters have access to. Being that geomancy is something of a prototype of elemental magic, geomancers can also make use of elemental school spells. Furthermore, should they be nature worshipers, geomancers may add the use of clerical spells to their available roster of sorcery.
Paraprobabilitism: a deep dive into the very heart of magic and what makes it tick, paraprobabilitism allows its adherents to improvise almost any spell effect imaginable. But then, the whole idea of this practice is to take that twisting of probabilities that makes magic possible in the first place, and push it to its logical conclusion. This makes other spellcasters wary of paraprobabilitists.
After all, the Probability Fallout that results from paraprobabilitic failures, and even some successes, have a deleterious effect on just about all of creation. This is why so many of the school spells written for paraprobabilitism involve Probability Fallout in some manner, most often to counter or neuter the chaotic effects of such, though there are a few which actually work to directly inflict it upon others!
While it is a school in and of itself, paraprobabilitism is rather closely aligned with eclectism, of all things. This is because sorcerers who follow both paths of power tend to be fierce individualists, and as often as not lack backup when going about the things that they do. As such, paraprobabilitists may choose from their own school spell roster or that of eclecticists when adopting new school spells.
Philosophy: the magic of ethos, philosophical thaumaturgy has been a concern for sentient beings for as long as beings have been sentient. It mainly focuses on the furtherance of one ethical force above all others, which is generally chosen long before a character actually begins studying such sorcery. In fact, that choice often encourages the adoption of this school of magic!
Waged throughout creation, the moralistic conflict between the forces of balance, chaos, evil, good, and order, not to mention the eight secondary energies that consist of a mix of two primary forces, can flare up anywhere. As such, philosohpical magic tends to focus on either piercing planar boundaries in some fashion or another, or the direct manipulation of the psychoturgical energies of ethos.
Philosophical magic dovetails with numerous other paths of power, and a sorcerer utilizing this form of magic may make use of additional school spell rosters, depending on their goals and outlook. Those who engage in ethical warfare based on faith in some deity or another may utilize clerical spells, while those who aggressively battle moralistic proponents may make use of the entreatist spell roster.
Physiomancy: a school of magic with unknown origins, phyiomancy is the art of self-perfection. Turning their sorcery inwards, physiomancers can greatly augment their physical prowess with the casting of a single spell, even if such augmentations only last for a single use. Their school of magic lends itself to an adventuring lifestyle, which only helps such wizards to improve over time.
The specific spells that belong to the mystic school of physiomancy are those which vastly improve the physical capabilities of their caster, adding traits that nature couldn't dream of. Heightened resistance and/or invulnerability to injury, the temporary addition of numerous additional organs and/or personal weaponry, and flexibility in both movement and/or capability are but a few benefits physiomantic spells offer.
While the exclusive focus of physiomancy is enhancing the physical prowess of one's body, whether using the school's inherent capability or the spells that comprise its unique roster of magic, some physiomancers want more. Thinking that their mind is just as potent a tool as their body, and wanting to improve the capabilities of both, these wizards can also draw magic from the roster of thaumentalism spells.
Technomancy: concerning itself with the products of humanity's knowledge, technomancy involves the intermingling of technology and sorcery in various fashions, to various ends. The ultimate goal of technomancy is the combination of its two components into something greater than the sum of its parts, though there are numerous useful, intermediate steps on the way to that prize.
Technomantic school spells generally involve the direct manipulation of physical devices, whether they be mundane or ensorcelled to some extent. With one notable exception, these are generally the only spells a technomancer directly wield, with any other magic they know being focused through a technological item to function - or the kind of spell they can only imbue within some implement or another.
While technomancers tend to concern themselves with the end result of humanity's craftiness, some physical device or another, they have the ability to manipulate the component parts, pieces, and substances used in their manufacture. As such, technomancers may generate school spells that draw from either their own school roster, or that belonging to alchemists, since members of each school generally think similarly.
Thaumentalism: for those who wish to wield psionics, yet are disenfranchised with the conventional means by which one acquires them, thaumentalism serves as a second option to do so. But then, thaumentalism is something of a mystical analysis of thought itself, which allows its wielders to greatly enhance the capabilities of their minds, no matter what spells they can cast.
Spells inherent to the thaumentalist school of magic are those which expand one's consciousness, to some extent. They provide numerous capabilities that let one manipulate the mind of themselves and others. Furthermore, several thamuentalist spells focus upon psionics, whether blocking them, detecting their use, or even awakening them in the minds of sentient beings - both themselves and other folks!
The thing with psionics, though, is that they aren't just mental powers. Psionics bring the mind, body, and soul to work together as a singular, harmonious entity. As such, in keeping with thaumentalism's theme, those sorcerers who practice it may master spells which improve their bodies as well as their minds. Or, in other words, thaumentalists may also study physiomancy school spells, in addition to their own.
Voodoo: a practice that has evolved in numerous fashions since its adherents were forcibly relocated to the Americas, Voodoo is an art that persists to this very day. It primarily involves interactions between the living and the dead, whether amicably or otherwise, usually with the ultimate goal of keeping the worlds of the two separate from each other - for the most part.
Voodoo school spells mainly focus upon Loa, whether these spirits are those of the freshly dead or ancient deities who have have shuffled beyond this immortal coil. They can be used to speak with, ward off, or even temporarily merge with such spectral entities. Other Voodoo spells of note are those which allow a practitioner of this mystic school to improve their reputation in the community, for good or for ill.
Initially, Voodoo spellcasters cannot utilize other schools' spell rosters. They can specialize in one of three ways, however, thus having a choice which additional magic they will have access to. Depending on their focus, a Voodoo wizard may have access to either alchemy (if specializing in material magic), entreatism (if specializing in the knowledge of Loa), or clericism (if they venerate the spirits of the dead).
Developing New Mystic Schools
The design of the thirteen (well, twelve) schools of magic was intended to provide players the ability to cast magic in most conceivable fashions. Whether using a school 'out of the box' or limiting it in some fashion, the idea was that these would cover most mystical eventualities. As is the case with the power roster, however, players are highly inventive people, and often want to do something completely different.
And that's okay! The trick when building new schools, whether as a player or the Gamemaster, is to produce something that doesn't directly ape another school. As most possibilities were built into the extant system, this is sometimes easier said than done. Whether in its character, special school ability, or even potential school spells, a new mystic school should be distinct enough to justify its existence.
After all, even schools that essentially use the same mechanic for their special ability, like physiomancy and thaumentalism, are different enough that the practice of either is a disparate experience. Similarly, schools which have the same character, like elementalism and geomancy, can be different enough through their focus (controlling reality versus a reverence for nature) to make both viable choices in the same game.
When designing a new school of magic, first think why anyone should bother to study it in the first place. What's the underlying philosophy behind its use, the concept that it relies upon to defy conventional physics and manifest reality-bending effects? Is it an offshoot of an extant school, or an entirely new creation? What special capability, if any, do would-be practitioners of this mystic school possess to bolster its usage?
If the answers to these questions do not leave one wanting, a viable mystic school may be in the offing. And there's no reason one couldn't supplement their game with one or more such practices. Those described in the Book are intended to be the major schools one can utilize, after all. Who's to say there aren't any number of obscure traditions practicing sorcery whose existence aren't common knowledge?
Examples of Potential New Magic Schools
Bearing the above suggestions in mind, here are five examples of what, in relation to the rest of the Book of Magic, might work for new mystic schools. Only the slightest of bare bones descriptions of these concepts are provided, based loosely on sorcerous forms portrayed in various works and myths over the centuries, but hopefully they can convey the basic idea behind crafting mystic schools. They include:
* Demonology: sort of like Faerie magic in concept, but with demons, instead! Could also be based on a clerical magic, entreatism, philosophical magic, or any other template that seems to fit, truth be told. May involve those whose genome has been tainted by a diabolical lineage, or might just be pursued by those who feel these powerful alien entities must be dealt with, for good or ill.
* Imitative Magic: this is the notion that most things are mystically tied to others with similar properties, and since like produces like, one can affect something vicariously by acting upon a similar object. Spells are weakly limited in that they require a supply of props to function on their targets, though harder to produce and/or procure components of this type naturally upgrade the limitation bonus.
* Mathemagic: based on numerological principles, this school of magic posits that math is the guiding hand behind reality, and that no feat is too great as long as one knows the proper mathematical formula to explain its function. An extremely theoretical variation on technomancy, possibly reliant on enchanted calculators or smartphones to perform the necessary, eldritch calculations required as a proof on each casting.
* Sanguinurgy: this magical tradition draws the power to function from blood, which it considers intrinsic to life. Can be a derivative of philosophical (likely evil) magic, and requires one Health point of blood for each rank value of each spell to function. Provides successive +1 RS bonuses when using fresh blood of any species, human blood, blood of one's intimate friends or enemies, or one's own blood.
* Thaumastrology: thirty thousand years in the making, this school's sorcery draws power from the movements of celestial bodies. Derivative of clerical or entreatist magic, it equates said bodies and their activities with deities or entities of various stripes. The power of one's wizardry will wax and wane depending on astronomical events, cycles, and alignments, applying bonuses or penalties based on their significance.
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