By the Weave

Magic in Saleh'Alire

It is a source of irony that the discovery for which I am most likely to be remembered are the Salanti Ruins. I spent that year in the Niesen Mountains with a group of natives who lived much like Priests; older members insisted on an elaborate name in their mother tongue, which the younger members simplified in common as "Star-Gazers". Regardless of what they called themselves, it was clear to my more educated eye that they were dedicated to the knowledge and observation of planar movement- which they mistook for Stars.
— Arcane Anthropologist Dhinha Vudir, The Star-Gazers of Southern Martova
  Viewed as just another form of technology by Aliran denizens, wherever you look in Saleh'Alire, and wherever you go, magic is not far behind. Indeed, it is everywhere- from the basic postal service between average settlements, to the very light which lights one's home at night. Magic is so plentiful and commonplace, in fact, that there are few people in Saleh'Alire (or any of the various Planes of existence, for that matter) who do not use it in any form, for one reason or another. Some even dedicate their entire lives to studying and mastering it- sometimes with deadly results. Outside of acknowledging that it exists, and understanding that anyone can tap into it, however, few Alirans honestly care what it is or how it came to be.   Colloquially called The Weave by many, what it is, and how it works, is a question that has baffled Arcanists until roughly the last few centuries- especially since historical books on the subject have deliberately falsified information in an attempt to limit knowledge of more advanced spellcasting, for which an inherent understanding of The Weave is fundamental. Significant study by Arcanists over the centuries has verified the belief, however, that it's an invisible energetic force which surrounds and permeates everything. But recent headway in research has greatly expanded knowledge of it, and all it contains.  

The Universal Model

  The answer to how magic works and where it comes from, surprisingly, lays with the various Planes of existence themselves; the major discovery of how the Planes of existence are organized in the first place, and the fact that they exist in a constant state of rotation around one another, has forever changed the understanding of The Weave among inhabitants of the Planes.  
The Weave is the fabric within which all existence is possible- the maker of all things. In one respect, it is like the sea, forever undulating- producing and consuming energy and matter alike as the Spheres rotate.   In spaces where calmness abounds there is very little magic, while spaces of higher energy are hotbeds of it. But we have observed that the densest areas are other planes of existence entirely... And just as individual drops can be pulled from the water, so can individual effects be born of the Weave. And just as each drop that falls back to the sea loses itself, so too does all magic rejoin the Weave eventually.
— High Arcanist Duragon Vasiliri,
On the Nature of Reality
  Sitting stationary at the center of this new model is the Material Realm. Around it orbit the Inner Planes: The Shadowfell and Feywild, and their sister planes, the Elemental and Astral. This is known as the Formulative Sphere. Orbiting the Formulative Sphere are the Outer Planes, which are divided into two additional Spheres. The Liminal and Ethereal Planes are in direct orbit of the Inner Planes, and make up the Energetic Sphere. This is, in turn, orbited by the Lucent Sphere, comprised of the Celestial and Abyssal Planes.   The Material Realm, despite existing at the center of this model, is where The Weave is at its weakest and most difficult to access- but also where it's the most stable and likely to produce exact results. Instead Magic, and the unpredictability of its affects, increases as one moves outwards towards the Celestial or Abyss. Perhaps more interesting, however, is that while magic increases as one moves out, the tangibility of the realm and its inhabitants decreases in corresponding measures.   The rotation of the Planes of existence around one another acts as a sort of extraplanar generator; an energy field of sorts which surrounds and permeates the very planes whose orbit creates it. It is the harnessing, condensation, and manipulation of this force which Alirans and other planar denizens call ""magic", "spellcasting", and "arancum"- among other names.

Null Zones

  Despite the fact that The Weave permeates everything, there are areas where magic is highly unpredictable- as well as areas where it seems that magic has either been significantly corrupted, or doesn't exist at all. Arcanists are unsure what exactly it is that leads to the creation of such areas, but have taken to calling them "Null Zones", because the typical operation of The Weave has somehow been suppressed or nullified.  

Wild Magic Zones

  Wild Magic Zones are areas where the usual stability of The Weave has been eroded, leading to incredible levels of magical unpredictability. Large moving occurrences of such areas are called Ethereal Storms, while smaller short lived ones are called Wild Magic Surges. In all cases, within their bounds a spell could do anything from backfire on the caster, target the wrong location, or have any number of other effects.   There are those, however, who have learned to work with the chaotic nature of these zones- or for whom magic itself naturally comes unpredictably by default. Called Wild Arcanists or Wild Magic Sorcerers (depending on whether it's innate, or mastered through study), they have the unique ability to bring order to the chaos. Still, the danger of losing control over their magic is never fully reduced, leading to similar effects as those within Wild Magic zones.

Dead Magic Zones

  By contrast, Dead Magic Zones are places where The Weave seems to no longer exist at all- or has been suppressed to a point it might as well not exist. Spellcasting is impossible within such an area, as there is no Weave to draw upon- suppressing magical abilities and preventing all spellcasting. Enchantments, however, seem to continue functioning- if at a reduced level.   In 6034, however, an Arcanist by the name of Dalspar Caorth theorized that these effects may extend to plants and animals residing in such zones. And while working in Masa- a known Dead Magic Zone in the Martovan north- between 6120 and 6128, he proved his hypothesis; plants grown within a Dead Magic Zones do have magic resistant properties, though no one has been able to ascertain why this is the case- nor why metals such as Demiterium produce a similar effect regardless of location.

The Cataclysm

Spellfire is a physical manifestation of the raw energy of the Weave, highly coveted among the Sa'avi for its use as a power source for the advanced magical technology that their society relied on. Unfortunately, Spellfire easily becomes corrupted and unstable if not properly maintained- and even with proper maintenance, it still corrodes over time. The results are disasterous.   The first documented destruction was at the Mai-Ben'hat Palace in the Nisaba Pass. Unearthed in 6393, it was the foremost Sa'avian royal site before Spellfire led to its destruction- forcing the royal family to relocate to the western Kuai’ain Palace. Ongoing corruptions eventually resulted in the collapse of the entire Weave itself.   Thankfully most results of the collapse were isolated to the destruction of the southern section of Tolara, now called Aki'Vao. Unfortunately, however, the Sa'avi were themselves also lost during the disaster.   In the modern day, the event is now known as The Cataclysm; while it appears The Weave was almost fully repaired by the 4000's, it's theorized that both Wild Magic and Dead Magic Zones are vestiges of the event.
Information about and the fall of the Sa'avian Empire is limited to Wizards who have completed training at one of the five esteemed Arcane Universities and have procifiency with either the Arcana or History skills (and / or) have the Scholar, Anthropologist, or Archaeologist background.   Knowledge of Null Zones is limited to Wizards, Sorcerers, Druids, and Rangers by default, unless a character has proficiency with the Arcana skill (or) has taken the Scholar or Archaeologist background; the exception is those who were raised within close proximity of such a zone, or who have previously traveled through one.

The Four Manifestations

Though difficult to entice Druids to speak about the Green Pact, I've witnessed a few public examples of the Pact being made and it's clear Arcana's involved.
Atinafa Yuube, Anthropologist
Because The Weave permeates everything, anyone can easily learn to manipulate The Weave, at least on a very basic level. As a result, most people can cast at least one Cantrip, and perform basic spells up to the 1st level. Some exceptional people can even cast up to 2nd level spells.   Higher level spells, however, are less common; these frequently require more knowledge or skill than most possess- or must come from, or be augmented by, a particular external source of some sort. Because of that, there are considered to be four main (albeit simplistic) manifestations of magic.
  Admittedly, however, calling these "manifestations" is a bit of a misnomer... In reality, the four manifestations are more properly a categorization of how one goes about improving their spellcasting abilities beyond that of the average person; the various ways that Alirans can be granted additional ability, or otherwise tap into more significant sources of it. The exception, of course, is the innate classification, which is the only true "manifestation" in the list as innate casters as good by default of being born with better-than-average magical capability.  
Click any box below to read more about each of the forms of manifestation.
Natural Sources
By studying, communing, and tapping into additional natural resources, individuals such as Rangers and Druids are able to utilize magics that surpass the average individual- though these types of natural magics are often considered "Folk Magic" of an undisciplined sort.
Arcane Sources
Wizards and Bards tap into more significant sources through their knowledge of magic- obtained through rigorous study and training. But where Natural sources are considered Folk Magic, magic derived from knowledge is considered more acceptably scientific.
Divine Sources
Deities and other "Divine" beings occasionally take interest in those of the Inner Planes, bestowing great magical gifts upon their favored. These individuals frequently become Clerics and Paladins- agents meant to carry out their Divine will on the Material Plane.
Innate Abilities
Magic is so common because every inhabitant of the Planes- whether the Material or otherwise- has at least a minor innate ability to perform magic. there are those (most frequently Sorcerers and Warlocks), however, whose Inherent skill far exceeds average. As it's not directly learned or studied, though, the origins of such magic remains unclear to Arcanists.

Manipulating the Weave

  The average Cantrip is easy enough to cast- requiring little more energy as snapping a finger or blinking. From the first level onward, however, spellcasting becomes significantly more complex- requiring a greater understanding of the Weave, and greater skill.   Direct manipulation of The Weave, though, is difficult at best and dangerous at worst; doing it once or twice is unlikely to result in any significant problems (though you'll likely regret it), but doing so over extended periods of time will ultimately lead to Madness as the intense nature of the raw Weave clouds the mind and the senses, and warps the caster's attachment to reality. The pure Weave can be incredibly addictive, however, and many Arcanists throughout the centuries have met brutal ends because of it- becoming nothing more than cautionary tales for those Arcanists who come after them.
It has been suggested, without evidence or support, that one may draw power from the meeting points of ancient lines of such magic beneath the ground- no ritual or arcane knowledge necessary. This is, however, nothing more than an old Wive's Tale; modern Arcanists have discovered no evidence of such lines ever existing.
— Grand Arcanist Reginald Defactuin,
Arcane Folklore of Saleh'Alire
  For that reason, manipulation of The Weave is best done through an intermediary. This is generally achieved by filtering the raw energy through what's colloquially known as a spell focus; traditional spell foci throughout history have included various Somatic, Material, and Verbal components- such as a special herb, a word of power, or even a hand gesture, either alone or in tandem with other components. In the modern era, though, most magic has evolved past the need for these more traditional foci except during rituals. Instead single, more powerful items- such as flawless gem orbs- are more common. Still, despite their prevalence, innate casters and the lower classes remain more likely to retain the use of traditional foci.  

The Ten Schools

As faculty, you are aware I greatly favor practical pedagogy. To that end, I have now spent two seasons reviewing our curriculum and identified several issues regarding the instruction of our beginning spellcasters. After searching for a better model, I've developed the following system for your consideration as headmaster.
— Grand Arcanist Jarricka Maizelli in a letter to
Headmaster Pharas,Nibean School of Arcana, 5926
Though ultimately nothing more than a superfluous categorization established in 5926, the manipulation of The Weave has nonetheless been categorized into several different areas of specialty. Called "schools", these categorizations are based on the nature of the spells and the effects they create, and are meant to help facilitate the focused study of individual effects. Some individuals have become so focused on a particular area of study, even, that they've become complete masters of their school of interest.   Spells which fall into the Abjuration, Conjuration, Evocation schools are frequently the easiest to master for most individuals with any skill. Those in the Transmutation, Enchantment, and Illusion schools, however, are significantly more difficult. Necromantic, Dunamantic, and Chronomantic spells, however, are practiced only be a select few and incredibly talented. That being said, "easier" spells which require little skill and ability to master, do exist for most schools.
Click any box below to read more about each of the different schools of magic.
Spells of protection, blocking, and banishing which are meant to protect the caster.
Spells that are able to fetch substantive material- such as creatures, materials, or objects.
Spells that can manipulate energy in order to create something new out of nothing.
Spells that transform the target in some way- such as into another object entirely.
Spells that magically imbue a target with some trait, or give the caster power over it.
Spells that alter one's perception, or create false images perceivable to the senses.
Spells that manipulate a target's life, or life force- whether positively or negatively.
Spells that manipulate the mass of something, or the gravity of the Planes themselves.
Spells that manipulate time, and alter physical reality on a more substantive level.
Spells that reveal various forms of information to the caster- but especially future events. This category is the most difficult to use correctly and is the most easily blocked, however- and is therefore rarely used.

Storing Arcane Power

Over the eras, several means of harnessing and storing Arcane energy for use later have been developed by Arcanists. In almost all cases, the methods invole some kind of stone- though this is much different than simply enchanting a stone receptive to magical energy, like the process used to turn Sunstone into magical lighting... Instead, these stones themselves are the byproduct of Arcane crystalization, or the process of condensing vast quantities of Arcane energy in order to produce a tangible gemstone-like material.   The process of forming such items is both time intensive and difficult. Quality and power are, therefore, often determined by the amount of time simply spent to produce the stone. As a result, some are incredibly common, such as in the case of Aubralite. Others- such as Materia- are rarer. The formation of Idreid Stones, however, remains an almost incomprehensible mystery to Archivists and Arcanists alike, and few even exist in the world to study.
I have indeed seen them with my own eyes. These so called Idreid Stones [Lit. "heaven stone"] are exceptionally large manifestations of Arcane energy not unlike the Weave Ore known to us today- taking on the appearance of deep Quartz or black Obsidian... It's possible these were used to harness the Spellfire that the Sa'avians so relied on- perhaps as a containment method, or some other such reason. But their construction is unclear.
— Arcanist Khair Ohitzi in a letter
to Ershad Ramin, Archaeologist
Click any box below to read more about each of these items.
A small opalite stone most frequently used in jewelry items such as Rings of Spell Storage.
— Read More
Large stones of condensed Arcana largely used in order to power magical technology.
— Read More
Idreid Stones
Large obsidian-like stones used by Sa'avians to power their vast empire. Few examples remain.
— Read More

Cover image: Encyclopedias by James L.W


Author's Notes

Flavor Text Credits
Read Before You Comment
I absolutely love getting feedback on my setting and its worldbuilding. I love it even more when people ask questions about the things in it. I want both. I encourage both. And it makes me incredibly giddy whenever I get either.   However, there's a time and a place for critique in particular- mostly when I've actually asked for it (which usually happens in World Anvil's discord server). And when I do ask for critique, there are two major things I politely request that you do not include in your commentary:   ➤ The first is any sort of critique on the way I've chosen to organize or format something; Saleh'Alire is not a narrative world written for reader enjoyment... It's is a living campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons. To that end, it's written and organized for my players and I, specifically for ease of use during gameplay- and our organization needs are sometimes very different than others'.   ➤ Secondly, is any critique about sentence phrasing and structure, word choice, and so on; unless you've found a typo, i've blatantly misued a word, or something is unclear because of how I've worded it? Then respectfully: Don't comment on it; as a native English speaker of the SAE dialect, language critique in particular will almost always be unwelcome unless it's absolutely necessary.   If you want to ask questions, speculate, or just ramble? Go for it! Praise, of course, is always welcome too (even if it's just a casual "this is great")- and if you love it, please don't forget to actually show that love by liking it. Because I genuinely do enjoy watching people explore and interact with my setting, and ask questions about it, and I'd definitely love to hear from you... Just be respectful about it, yeah?

Please Login in order to comment!
7 Dec, 2020 10:23

I did not expect this to be so involved. Nice!

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
7 Dec, 2020 11:25

I couldn't help myself; DnD didn't really have a good explanation of the magic system and I REALLY wanted one lol.