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Friday, November 19, 2010
A Life in Sorcery
In the City and the New World in general, thaumaturgical practice and education are not as finely developed as they were in Ealderde, the Old World, prior to the Great War. There are no equivalents to the grand, old thaumaturgical academies like Hoagworts (tragically destroyed by prismatic-bombs from Staarkish zeppelins) or Germelshausen (closed to new students after its previously periodic synchronicity with this plane became unpredictable).
The New World does have a few small, private academies which vary greatly in quality. Most were started by wealthy practitioners with a particular theoretical model they wished to promote. Such training leads to students highly skilled in illusions, for instance, but with little facility in other areas; or graduates all pledged by blood oath to some extraplanar power.
Most thaumaturgists are trained by means of an apprentice system. Old practitioners take on students and train them to a point they are able to safely (supposedly) carry on their own independent study. Just as with the academies, this tends to lead to students with highly varied skill-bases and theoretical orientations.
The upshot of this is that many thaumaturgist lead short careers---and possibly lives. Some die or are disabled in magical experimentation. Others become the plaything of malign entities. Most just find the extent of their talents really isn’t all that far, and wind up trying to eke out a livings as hedge-sorcerers in small towns, or find work as shabby carnival mentalists, or laboratory workers for unscrupulous, or fly-by-night alchemical companies.
Thaumaturgical societies, common in most large cities, have tried to ameliorate these problems by providing standards of proficiency, and a ranking system. Critics charge that such societies are at best trusts attempting to drive out competition, and at first cabals seeking to gain political power.
It’s these factors that lead to the common man’s frequent skepticism and distrust in regard to magical practice and practitioners. Lurid confessionals have stories of depraved, sex magic cults and newspapers carry reports of charlatan grifters.
Still, public opinion is schizophrenic when it comes to magic. Newspapers and newsreels are full of stories of celebrity sorcerers, and pulp magazines, radio dramas, and movie serials fictionalize their exploits. Confidence is also stronger in alchemistry and other sorts of applied thaumaturgical sciences.
Most sorcerers take the public’s love-hate in stride. For most, learning secrets beyond the kin of most mortals, and wielding, in whatever limited way, the primal forces of reality, tend to heady enough thrills to push other concerns aside, at least for a while.