Friday, December 16, 2011

Wizardly Trade Union



It’s traditional in fantasy for thieves to have guilds (probably not like the Lollipop Guild above), but wizards may or may not have professional organizations. For every Mages or Sorcerers Guild in literature there are a number of lone wolves, like Merlin, or members of very select crews, like Gandalf and Saruman.

Magic-user organizations are actually somewhat attested to historically. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s Argenteum Astrum are two examples. The line between coven, cabal, and cult admittedly gets blurry when looking at the real world; theurgy and thaumaturgy are not so cleanly separated as they are in games.

Fantasy literature gives some good examples. The Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time where sort of Lensmen/Green Lantern Corps of a previous age, but by the time of the main story are more like a church or monastic order. The vengeful Bondsmagi of Lynch’s Locke Lamorra series are a like a mercenary company, protectionist guild--and criminal organization. The various Schools of Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and Aspect-Emperor series are practitioners/protectors of specific paradigms of sorcery and feel certain sociopolitical niches.

All of these could be good models for rpg wizardly organizations, but is there any reason to stop at just one? Mages in different cultures/locales might take on very different roles: anointed-by-the-gods rulers in one nation and mercenary hoarders of knowledge in another.

So are there magic-user organizations in your setting? What role do they take?

5 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

The Wheel of Time reference is good and their fear of men who use magic...

Jeremy Duncan said...

Galbaruc's M-Us consist of a confused tangle of rival cults, orders, and secret societies. A few solitary practitioners exist, but they generally live in isolated manses and lonely fortresses in the countryside and wilderness.

This is in addition to wandering mountebanks, soothsayers, petty conjurers and snake-oil salesmen.

Trey said...

@Angry Lurker - Indeed.

@Jeremy - I like that approach. Ecletic, we might say. As an aside, your post reminds of something (which I've try to allude to in stuff on the City) that I think is important to remember: worlds where magic exist will still have their share of fakes and charlatans.

Nakia Pope said...

Nice post! I am kicking around the idea of there only being X number of "high" level wizards (where "high" is a level to be determined) in a game world. All these magic users know each other, even if they hate each other, and they meet every so often at a magic user "summit".

Come to think of it, that's the model of the magic users in the Dragonlance books, with the Towers of High Sorcery and whatnot.

Trey said...

I like this. A wizardly conclave could be sort of like an academic symposium--complete with an the egos and pettiness. ;)