"Well that's just what you think, Gray Karl. The imperials think a whole different thing, and they're wrong, too. That's what happens when you think you know things that are unknowable. Now look, I don't claim to know unknowable things either, but Old Karl told me some guesses that he had about unknowable things one time, and a lot of other people there nodded their heads, so I guess he must have been right. And you know what they say about old people and babies, Gray Karl? Well, sure. They smell funny. Everybody knows that. I meant the thing about old people and babies speaking truth when other people can't or won't. Babies do it because they don't know any better and most people don't understand them anyway. Old people are going to die soon and just don't give two tugs of a dead dog's you-know-what.
[Five uninterrupted minutes of giggling]
"I heard someone say that in the Minotaur the other day, but he didn't say 'you-know-what.' But what he said was that you should think of it like Fate and Destiny are storytellers, but the story they're telling is about everything. Now Destiny, he's like a travelling bard, so he's just doing this for a living. He wants to tell a good enough story that his host will feed him or give him a few pieces of silver to get him to the next town. Sure, he'll make it exciting and throw in a little local color to keep the audience interested, but there's not a lot of variation. If he gives a guy a sword and a cause, the guy's either going to die for the cause of bravely defend the cause and live happily ever after, depending on Destiny's read of the room. Does that make sense to you, Gray Karl?
"Do you want some more cheese, Gray Karl? I thought you might. You've got that 'I want some more cheese look' that people get when they want cheese. You know that look? Sure, everyone knows that look. Now Fate, she's an artist. For her, it's not the destination--hey, that sounds like destiny, isn't that weird?--it's about the journey. She likes stories that kind of ramble through a bunch of interesting and entertaining tangents and subplots. But she can't tell new stories, she has to just punch up the boring old stories that Destiny told. Well I don't know why, Gray Karl. It's another one of those unknowables, like day destroying the night and night dividing the day. But Fate wants everybody to have a more interesting story, so he adds little extra bits to the outline that Destiny had prepared for everyone, and she lets people like me nudge things a little bit, too, because she trusts our artistic sensibilities. I mean, she didn't tell me that or anything, because she's not real, but sometimes things things that are realer than real things. You know what I mean, Gray Karl? Gray Karl?"
--Mad Ndolya, to a rat (apparently named "Gray Karl")
The rudiments of fatespinning can be learned just like any magical discipline--in fact, most luck spells are a very basic form of the art--but few who learn fatespinning through study or training ever really excel at it. Using powerful fatespinner magic requires the ability to understand how an inconceivable number of factors--many of them seemingly irrelevant--will interact, and then intuiting how a change to any of those events will alter the outcome of a situation. Doing this effectively requires a natural gift for understanding this chaotic complexity in an instinctual way. While many people believe that this gift is related to insanity, the existence of seemingly sane "natural" fatespinners seems to disprove the theory. It may be more accurate to posit that madness is the unavoidable result of staring into the inner workings of the machinery of existence and trying to make sense of them.
For most fatespinners, their magic comes naturally. The first signs of the gift are an innate ability to sense whether someone is in for good or bad luck in the immediate future. Attempts to communicate this sense to others are often written off as oddness or childhood imagination, which can cause fatespinner children to remain quiet about their intuitions. As they grow older, they begin to sense more intricate patterns of possibility within a person, and may even begin to construct their own fate-swapping rituals without even realizing that they are working magic. Since fatespiners are a rarity who aren't well-known in most places, those who speak openly about their abilities are often written off as mad, or at best believed to have the gift of second sight. For this reason, the vast majority of fatespinners never really develop their gifts beyond the point of very basic luck magic and simple fate-swapping.
Fatespinners lucky enough to come into contact with or be discovered by a coven receive instruction that helps them understand and develop their gift. This relatively brief training culminates with the fatespinner learning the secrets of Fate's Hand, as well as the signs to look for so they know when to initiate a game. While the covens view themselves as agents of Fate, their initiation includes almost no dogma regarding Fate's specific intentions. Each fatespinner is left to decide on their own what course of actions they should take to fulfil Fate's design.
Fatespinners literally trade in fates, and often take their payment in the form of marketable fates (both good and bad) extracted from their customers. However, they must also eat, so they often take some or all of their payment in coin, especially for routine divinations and other services that don't involves fate transference.
Like any merchant, Fatespinners can use their stock to their own benefit. While Fatespinners do not have the ability to extract or insert fates into their own "web," they can transfer them to others in hopes of benefitting indirectly. Fatespinners who openly deal in fates can amass a useful arsenal of fates that they can use for their own ends.
The easiest way to understand Fatespinner magic is to think of a fate as being analogous to a card in the Czilkir card layout that Fatespinners and others use for divination. Even without doing a Czilkir reading, Fatespinners have the ability to sense the "cards" (fates) that lie in a person's path. Once they've taken a person's "reading" they have the ability to remove fates from a person's future (or "web," as they call it), trade them out for other fates, or add new fates to the web. As they become more experienced, Fatespinners gain the ability to see more and more of a person's web--as if they're seeing future Czilkir layouts as well as the current one--which allows them to better understand the impact of changing a person's fate in the longer term. This is not always helpful, since often the short-term gains a customer is seeking do not lead to positive long-term results. For instance, a bride-to-be may visit a fatespinner to have her fates "aligned" to ensure that her wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch. When the fatespinner reads the bride's web, they may discover that the marriage will be a long and unhappy one, but that a minor snag in the wedding plans could result in the wedding being called off. A flawless wedding will give the customer what she wants-- and given her ensuing unhappy marriage, may bring repeat business. If the fatespinner doesn't comply with the bride's wishes, they risk angering the customer and potentially damaging their reputation, but save the customer from a life of misery.
Many fatespinners never realize their own gifts and live out their lives as common fortune tellers. Even those lucky enough to receive training sometimes keep their true powers hidden from all but their most valued customers and trusted allies. Therefore, most people are completely unfamiliar with the trade, or have only heard stories about fatespinning. Even where fatespinners are known, not everyone believes in their powers. Since a fatespinner's craft mostly involves altering the future, it can be difficult to know for sure whether their services have truly benefitted the customer. Those who have had good experiences hold them in very high esteem for their mystical gifts; Those who have not clearly benefitted from their services tend to see them as charlatans.
While there are many stories and legends about people who seem to have possessed fatespinning abilities, these characters could have exhibited more common skills in divination and luck magic. Fatespinner covens first became known shortly after the reign of Gr'thkor the Demon King, and some stories hold that the first covens formed in the asylums established for those who went mad during the Demon King's reign. The appearance of fatespinners advertising their abilities and openly trading in fates is even more recent, dating to around the time of The Eternal Empire's annexation of Khezvaros.
Fatespinners can "read" a person using a sort of sixth sense by merely focusing on them, and often use this method when practicing their trade on unaware or unwilling targets. However, they gain much better insight from a reading with a willing participant. The vast majority of fatespinners use Czilkir cards for these readings, but a few prefer other divinatory tools like crystal balls, tea leaves, or animal entrails.
Fatespinners must store extracted fates in a specially prepared object, which they call a vessel. Any object that has been properly prepared can function as a vessel, but most fatespinners use small, cheap, and common items--especially if they plan to pass on the fate to someone without the recipient's knowledge (which requires touching the target with the vessel). Objects symbolizing chance or luck (dice, rabbits' feet, etc), or with designs incorporating those symbols, are also popular. Mad Ndolya, for instance, uses brightly-painted clay poker chips.
In addition to divination and manipulating customers' fates, most fatespinners offer the less verifiably useful service of "realigning" a person's fates, which involves repositioning a person's naturally-occurring fates into a more beneficial arrangement. Some fatespinners are also willing to "curse" or "bless" third parties without their knowledge by passing bad or good fates to them. Fatespinners also receive payment (in the form of a random fate from each player) for acting as the dealer for Fate's Hand, but this is not a service they can be contracted to perform. Instead, they simply announce the game and select the players whenever Fate compels them to do so.
Fatespinning is a very unpredictable art, where seemingly minor changes can have serious effects, and even experienced fatespinners can only glimpse a tiny portion of the web that makes up a person's life. In addition to creating angry customers, this can cause psychological stress for a fatepsinner who suspects that their interference has resulted in great pain or tragedy for a customer. This trauma, especially combined with the sheer incomprehensibility of staring into the chaos of fate's inner workings, may account for the high incidence of insanity among fatespinners.