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Mages hierarchy and role. need advice and suggestions.


I originally intended for there to be schools where one could go to learn magic in six mid sized cities. Each region would have their own council and administer over that region with regards to the magi, such as finding prospective students, or renewing wards in villages or simply acting as village healers or teachers. Then there was going to be a high council that administered over all aspects of the magi including the running of the schools.

My problem is sorta complicated so I will start with this.
First I cannot figure out what the role of the magi are in the word, they don't govern over anything save themselves. Having them simply going around helping people seems too altruistic, plus it doesn't go well with the idea of class of magi geared towards battle. Also why wouldn't a mage simply go and get really rich selling their services to some wealthy lord? So basically I am having a hard time figuring out what it is they do? What I thought about doing was having certain mages who run the schools and other ones who reside as advisers to each realm, but other than that I got nothing, oh and teaching.

Another thing I wanted was to have each realm have groups of magi who are trained in battle, for reasons of defense warding, and warfare but this conflicts with the altruistic idea.

Or I could have the six schools where they will take anyone, while the realms only train those who can pay. But then the problem arises that why would they allow those from the schools to meddle in the affairs of that realm?

This is what I want. I want them to teach magic, train battlemagi for warfare (they could be geared towards demon hunting too i guess), I also want the to be a very powerful group with a lot of influence, along with going to villages and renewing wards, healing, and other what not (this is done mostly so novices can gain experience).
What I don't want is a completely altruistic group that is set to help those less fortunate, they do that too but I don't want that to define them. I am taking organized religions as a template but having trouble figuring out how, and what power the could wield.

Ok confused? I am. This is what I need. The magi need a purpose for existing as a group. What is it that they can offer those in power? What prevents those after being trained from simply leaving and getting their weight in gold for the knowledge the have, or even taking apprentices and getting more. What are the benefits of raising through the ranks of the magi. Also what would be the check on that power, If the magi can muster 200 battle magi and another 300 magi and pay 1000 mercenaries what stops them from taking land, or simply wiping out any who oppose their ideas. So what would be the dynamics between such a group and the other realms?

As an example take the Vatican, get rid of any religious aspect and replace it with magic. How would things be different how would they be the same.

I don't know if this makes any sense, I think it all boils down to what do the magi do in relation to the big picture of war, politics, society, and even amongst themselves.


These are questions no one other than you can answer I’m afraid.
We know hardly anything about your nations‘ cultures, ethical or religious beliefs, relationships to other cultures and among each other etc. We also don’t know enough about your personal beliefs, likes and dislikes and so on which will affect what you’re going to be comfortable with. All of those will influence how your magic users will interact with the rest of society.

Modelling the position of your mages after organised religion can work of course, but there are important differences you have to take into account. Religions have religious laws that are believed to be given by their god and guide the behaviour of the believers at least to a certain part, they often offer punishment or reward after death which can be an important motivation too and many other things I’ve forgotten to mention here.
Simply replacing that with magic isn’t easy because magic doesn’t offer guidelines for the behavior of ist practicers, quite the opposite, it’s in need of those.

Another thing I wanted was to have each realm have groups of magi who are trained in battle, for reasons of defense warding, and warfare but this conflicts with the altruistic idea.
Members of a group working to help other people doesn’t have to mean that they’re pacifists. Defending their country against others or approving its position can be counted as that too. Soldiers who also help in case of natural disasters and similar situations are quite common place in many countries.
If your magical organization is supposed to span across national borders this is a bit different of course. You could still have them defend their realms against outside attackers be they human or something else.

The answers to your other questions depend on your setting and on the things I’ve mentioned enough. Maybe looking at the dynamics of military and state can be helpful too. The military could take over a nation of people less-trained in the use of weapons and less well-equipped as they are themselves. Still, in most working states, this doesn’t happen.
Wanting to help other people is a motivation for many people if usually not the only one. Why do people choose to become physicians or firefighters in real life? Helping others, gainining respect, a sense of duty, getting paid well for it can be reasons among others.

Sorry for not being more help, but me making a complete suggestion for this probably wouldn’t make you happy because it would be my take on it and not yours.


Good morning - confused is not the word.

I think I get what you mean, but let´s start at the beginning:
First, what do your mages do? If they are born with magic, you simply have the problem of lads running around doing damage because they never learned how to use their power for good - or at least with some sense. These young boys and girls need a place to go to. A place to learn. It is just like going to school or university perhaps. The not so talented ones could come home after a few years, becoming witches and wizards paid by the townsfolk for curing illnesses or even defending them from minor threats as probably some supernatural creature as ghosts or what-so-ever.

If your people aren´t born with magic and everyone can simply learn how to use the power, it makes a huge business. Try to imagine: everyone, even the lowest farmer, could learn how to throw fireballs or how to make the clouds rain acid instead of water. The schools would be overrun by willing students.
This leads to a few conclusions: first of all, the schools would be enormously rich. If everyone wants to learn from you, you can demand any price you wish and some people will pay it.
Second, you can be very sure that only the most talented ones will make it to the upper grades. (And if you add some very powerful mage-to-be but born low, you have a second plot line.)

Now, anyway, your mages will be trained for battle. Makes sense. I can hardly imagine something scarier for a simple soldier than to encounter someone able to call lightning or to let the earth burn in emerald flames.
And now I´m starting simply to think aloud. Your mages could be nonpartisan for most of the time - probably they are more like mercenaries? That would allow them to help the common folk as well as to take part in wars or defending. As long as the coin comes in at the end of the day, of course.

Why would they stick together, that´s a good question. Probably they swore an oath? Or they are bound to the circle in some way? Probably it is very risky for a mage to travel alone, because everyone with common sense fears them for their power? Or probably it´s just the chance of being rich and famous that makes them stay with the group? Perhaps there are very high ranks such as teachers or advisers to the nobles? Probably even the king? Or maybe something is out in your world strong enough and fond of taking mages down? A kind of demon, a kind of devil or shades? Perhaps it drains their power?

When I´m reading through your text I end up thinking about Dragon Age (computergame, perhaps you know it). In the game templars controll mages and keep them under arrest. Probably your mages controll themselves because they don´t want to end up in a cell. Their most valued domain is strict neutrality. They could could even have forces to hunt down those trying to conquer land.

Anyway, I hope I could help or at least boost your ideas a little. If you need further help, send a PN or write a little more about your world and we´ll figure something out! :happy:


I think what your magi are missing is a solid code of conduct/honour/whatever. If the magi were akin to a religion with all the "rules from the Gods" trappings there in, they would have reason for recruiting (re: converting), civilians would have reason for wanting to join, the magi would have reason for travelling around renewing wards ("we do this for you and you swear loyalty to the code")... I could go on but I think by now you might have the idea.

This could also work in your favour concerning Battlemagi. Now what ever our beliefs we can all I think agree with religion being a major source of conflict right? Well there's your reason for the battle geared mages to exist along side those who go around helping people. It could be, spreading the word of God by any means necessary.

The schools? Taking this religion idea to its logical ends, the schools might act a bit like monks, abbeys, and all that. People join to become educated, to learn the magi ways of course, but most of all because the altruistic travelling magi have converted them to the idea.

Of course, none of this may fit with your setting. I'm simply trying to help you find connections. Alternatively, ignore me if I'm saying stuff that seems obvious to you, may have misunderstood the question ahah.
Maybe another tack. If you equate magic in your world with science in our world, you have a framework. Science has a core set of beliefs--the scientific method, peer review, etc.--like a code of honor. Depending on what they study, though, they apply science in different ways. A doctor behaves altruistically by helping others, while a weapons designer behaves selfishly by taking money to kill others more efficiently. In both cases they want to learn more about their craft and do their jobs better. That's where the schools and the common ground come in.

Now you have a theme you can take in several directions. Such as people tend to fear what they don't understand. Such as science is a tool that can do good or evil. Such as knowledge is something to be valued, guarded, and passed on. Such as learning is possible with innate talent but also with hard work.

If you're really serious about pursuing this, you might read Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It's set in an alternate world where science is practiced like religion. It's a long, dense book, so make sure you're really serious.


Recommend you do two things: assess their values and find their flaws.

Values: As ShortHair mentions modern scientists are a good approximation. Some do it [science or scientific study] because they can make a boatload of money doing it, even teaching it. Have you seen what a tenured professor makes? Some do it because they're simply fascinated by the science itself and the self-fulfillment that comes from their practice.

Flaws: What happens after you become a magician? Once you start the magick - uh, flowing, let's say - can you turn it off? What are the dangers: physical, mental, spiritual and/or social? Can you control it alone or must you continually advance it somehow?

Edit: Whatever the case, I don't think any organization - social, religious or otherwise - has ever been invented that didn't have outliers. No matter what, you're going to have some folks who don't play by the rules, don't conform to the norms, and don't subject themselves to the notional standard.
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Myth Weaver
In one of Eddings novels, there was a character who clearly *could* have become a sorcerer but chose not to. When asked 'why?' his response was along the lines of 'because there isn't anything I want to do that badly.'

Andre' Norton in her 'Witch World' series came up with a set of motivations for learning magic based on ethical bent:

'Good', morally decent people learned magic because they want to help others. Postive magic, spells of healing and protection and building.

'Evil' people learned magic as a means of getting ahead AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. They learned magic was actively hurtful and destructive because it benefited them directly.

Most of the spell casters in her world belonged to one of those two schools of thought. There were some exceptions, the largest of which being those who studied magic for knowledge alone. They could 'dabble' just small bit in the beneficial or destructive magics, but their primary goal was knowledge.

As far as ethos, that is pretty much what I go with, though I also allow for combinations of those three motivations.

As to what mages actually do...

...in antiquity, the biggie was divination - telling the future. Healing was also a biggie - read the gospels closely, and you'll see where a lot of the people who came to Jesus did so in the hope of being healed. Selling love potions, curses (particularly curse tablets), and amulets/potions of various sorts were also biggies.

Jess A

Hm. Mine are connected to my world's religion, because magic apparently comes from the gods. They are in the service of the country's ruler. They have a set of morals/honour codes/values. Some are trained for battle (other nations in my story likewise have mages) but others are trained for other things - as mentioned above, there are those who use 'peaceful' magic out of choice, or study magic.

That said, mages don't play a huge role in my story, but I have a character who has magic and in her country, all who show signs of magic are forced into service for the King and the King has powerful mages who would enforce this. It is much like conscription and only comes into play when lots of mages are needed. The King himself might be a mage. I haven't gotten that far yet. The King would have to use force and naturally he will have rebellion. The other kingdom works differently.

As for schools (in the other kingdom), they all have a religious basis. In my world, it is almost unheard of not to be religious. But being born with magical ability is not common. It isn't incredibly rare either, but some are certainly stronger in magic than others. My female character is average strength-wise. In your world, battle-trained mages might be drilled as soldiers are to refine their technique. In doing this, they could be instilled with a sense of honour and companionship, loyalty and obedience and an opportunity to rise in the ranks and serve their country.

I hope my musings have given you some ideas.
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Thanks for the help everyone.

This is what I have come up with.
The mages are individuals dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.
They will teach anyone who has aptitude for magic, but they only teach them to a certain extent and certain knowledge. After passing a final test the individual can join the mages or leave, I'll get back to them leaving. If they decide to stay they will apprentice under a mage in a feild of their choosing, unless there is some reason the mages oppose this. This can involve leaving and traveling with a mage helping villages and towns, or learning the arts of battle, or some other mage profession. As their skills, not just magic but a wide variety, reach a certain point they are give more and more responsibility and rise through the ranks. At a certain point they can branch out and act as contractors or peruse their own interests but they are still under the rules of the mages.

Those that decide to leave and not join the mages can simply use what skills they have learned and help out their family or town. The majority who leave end up doing this. Others with the financial ability to do so can return to their homes and seek apprenticeship under a freemage who work for the king or some lord. However the options available is limited in this case, usually these freemages are specialists in one aspect, such a battlemages, or healing being the big two. It does occur on occasion that the sons and daughters of the very wealthy forgo the schools and simply apprentice under a mage in the kingdom to which they live. The big attraction to this is wealth, once they reach a certain status they are a very valuable commodity and are well paid.

The freemages are individuals who themselves were taught by freemages of the kingdom in which they live. or they simply left the ranks of the mages. They are independent contractors in some cases in others they are part of a king or person of powers command structure. Only the very wealth can afford to employ freemages, so less wealthy kingdoms and regions usually don't have any or one at the most.

These two groups have a tense unspoken hostility towards each other. There are always some conflicts that arise but for the most part they do not interfere with each others business.

The mages in general run the six schools, act as advisers to rulers and other individuals of power. (this is cause for tension with the freemages but since they act under the king have little choice who the king selects as for advice). They also tend to basic humanitarian needs of the smaller less established villages and towns. Usually a single mage is give a region and has duties to perform in that region such as upkeep of wards, physician, and a few other things. Thy have no authority over anyone in any foreign land aside from what their status endows.

In some cases the battle mages will go to these areas simply due to problems with demons, bandits or what not. The battlemages are strictly a defensive group that specializes in demon hunting, or the hunting of criminal rouge mages. The mages are not well known for the skill of their battlemages and are kinda like the athletic department in a high school full of nerds.

Power base. Due to having advisers in the majority of the kingdoms, along with their hands in a lot of pockets they have a large power base from which to work their influence. Only a few rare occasion have they ever taken arms against and an enemy, usually they wield their power through subtlety. On deciding a course of action they always move to do what is best for the mages as a group.

Every once in a great while a high ranking mage will break away from the mages. In this case they are strongly encouraged to not share what they have learned, nor take an apprentice. those that do usually meet a quick death. Even the freemages will not associate with them simply because it is dangerous.

What do you think. any inconsistencies? I still havent worked out what their power base is exactly.

In my view you have to think of your magi as being like everyone else first. They should have the same motivations as most people. But they also have within them magic, and presumably that gift forms a drive within them to explore it. I mean if you have a gift for painting wouldn't you want to paint, and when you weren't satisified with what was coming from your brush wouldn't you want to meet with other painters to improve your painting? That woul seem to me to be a good inception for the mage colleges. Its filled with people who simply want to be better mages.

Now to continue with the painting theme. Artists need to eat, so yes, they do have to sell their work to make money, and a surprising number of famous artworks were actually pieces sold to earn coin. Probably half of all Rembrandts were portraits of rich guys painted on commission. Plus of course they need more coin to continue their studies, college aint cheap you know! And of course the masters have to eat as well,so fees aren't cheap either!

After that they want the usual things, a house, a garden, three and a half metric black cats. All of that costs as well.

As to their warfare side. Well most painters like most people don't want to go to war. But sometimes war comes upon them, and they have little choice. There have been quite a lot of very well known war time artists, painting pictures to raise morale even if they don't fight. So your mages would like everyone else, want to do their duty, and more so if the enemy was one that particularly hated them - a horde of rabid art critics perhaps. (Or mage hating demons - take your pick).

Power in the realm - well most people like art, especially the sort known as architecture. Influential societies have grown up around this, the Free Masons for a start. (I'd use the secret hand shake now save that the computer screen doesn't have a hand so you'll just have to imagine it!). So your mage societies formed over the centuries, to teach themselves and learn, to raise future mages, and slowly grew into a power. They have agendas (secret?) such as advancing their craft, living comfortable lives, defeating their enemies (those pesky building hating demons), and a little bit of altruism to make them look good feel good. Maybe ten percent of their work is free? And of course to do all this they have to have the ear of the king (not Rembrandts!).



You are singing to the choir Ascanius. I had the same problem with my magi for a while but then I sat down with my confusions and questions on paper and got them all answered to the finest detail.

Your story sounds like it's a Sword and Sorcery. Maybe after graduating from a school the Magi must join a guild or troupe assigned with a specific mission, region or certain problems. Some groups are for battle and warfare. Others for the public welfare (keeping the orcs at bay, getting the ghost off the farm etc) serving in the King's court as defenders, supervisors and advisers. And everything has laws. There's laws for humans and for bees. There's laws for the mortals so there has to be laws for the magical.


Myth Weaver

The mages are individuals dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.

doesn't seem altogether compatable with battle wizardry. For a battle wizard, pursuit of knowledge would be secondary to something else: either a desire to protect the nation (Help others in Andre' Nortons scheme) or because battle magic brings them personal power (getting ahead at the expense of others).

Similiar reasoning applies with healing mages: they choose to become healers first and foremost because they want to help. Yes, the knowledge is fine, but it wouldn't be their primary motivation.

I would also suggest rethinking the concept of 'Free Mages', especially if they possess significant power. These would be just about the last people either the monarchs or your wizards assocation. Maybe have competing associations, each based around its own school, with its own magical specialty? A school for battle mages. A school for healers. Another for alchemists. A student mage can learn the rudiments of magic at any of these schools, but past a certain point he or she gets hit with the choice of three:

1) head out into the world knowing only the magical rudiments, becoming a tutor or hedge wizard or some such;

2) continue with the school, learning its specialty magic;

3) go to another school and learn its specialty magic.

In some cases, a master wizard at one school might opt to go to another to learn a different specialty magic.

Senior battle wizards would end up with the military. Senior healing wizards would end up at hospitals or their equivilent around the country, and so on.


doesn't seem altogether compatable with battle wizardry. For a battle wizard, pursuit of knowledge would be secondary to something else: either a desire to protect the nation (Help others in Andre' Nortons scheme) or because battle magic brings them personal power (getting ahead at the expense of others).

Similiar reasoning applies with healing mages: they choose to become healers first and foremost because they want to help. Yes, the knowledge is fine, but it wouldn't be their primary motivation.

Ok I see your point. However I meant it in a broad sense about the mages of the schools. Even if they are battlemages they are not necessarily warriors. What they do is more geared to understanding magical uses in battle. Sitll it's a good point and I will think on it.

I would also suggest rethinking the concept of 'Free Mages', especially if they possess significant power. These would be just about the last people either the monarchs or your wizards assocation. Maybe have competing associations, each based around its own school, with its own magical specialty? A school for battle mages. A school for healers. Another for alchemists. A student mage can learn the rudiments of magic at any of these schools, but past a certain point he or she gets hit with the choice of three:

That was one of the ideas I had too. The reason why I chose to do the free mages is due to how my magic system is set up.

magic follows the laws of entropy and thermodynamics. If magic is used to light a fire then the energy to light the fire has to come from somewhere. Likewise once it scales up then so to does the amount of energy needed. It also requires a lot of concentration to the extent of rendering anyone attempting to do large scale magic useless for anything else, ie avoiding being shot by arrows. There are exceptions and tricks to this. I posted the magic system here if you want the details. http://mythicscribes.com/forums/world-building/4176-my-magic-system-question.html So a single mage doesn't pose a risk to a king, alone maybe, at least not physically. all that said battlemages are still very useful leaning more towards causing chaos in the enemy ranks. The very good ones can go a step further and engage in direct combat. Also the free mages are more of independent contractors so their power base in limited in that they don't have the support of a large group of mages.
Perhaps, the fact that mages have no room in your world is the basis for your story.

Once they were revered as elite fighters, but as technology took over and the world entered a era of peace, the art of Magik slowly dwindled.... little did the world know that magik may be the only thing that will save them in the upcoming terror....