Class Primer- Bards, Wizards, Warlocks and Sorcerers
That sword and shield of yours are very impressive and you seem rather talented with them, I must admit. Yet, it's not steel and strength that built this world, it's magic! History doesn't remember the short-sighted idiots like you who thought sharp sticks and slabs of metal were a defense against the very building blocks of reality! Heinreich Klamp
The nature of magic is intrinsic to the core tones, themes, and foundation of the Tairos Setting. More specifically, the loss of magic and the risks that now come with daring to practice it. Any player wishing to create a magic user in this setting needs understand that this is a place where magic is thought to be long dead and its reckless use at the heart of Tairos' ravaged state.
While there's a wealth of history for a player to explore the foundation of any effort to create a magic user should begin by looking at the dreadful impact of The Queen's Rebuke. Even if a player isn't interested in the war with the Fae and The Autumn Queen's harvests of mana they'll at least be educated in the consequences of magic use in modern Tairos. The only means of safely casting spells of any kind is Manacite, a resource that has dwindled almost to the point of exhaustion and who's value is worth almost any price.
Once familiar with the way magic works it's worth considering how you're able to use it? For almost any caster in Tairos the answer to that question is a supply of Manacite which you'll need to carefully ration and refill. Other options do exist as well and the player is welcome to consult with the Game Master and get creative but the core theme should remain the same, depletion. The energies that would naturally fuel the casting of spells are choked off and what remains is toxic to use. Anyone casting spells is doing so with an alternate source of mana. Necromancers might be using the stolen life essence of living victims. Casters with a strong connection to nature may have some magic seeds, leaves or bark that powers their spells. A bard might rely on a magic drug or elixir. A sorcerer could be tied to a family heirloom who's dwindling power is of constant concern. Be it manacite or some other unique resource that the player's character uses all spells need something to act as their foundation.
Lastly, where did you learn magic and who knows about your talents? The rarity of magic makes finding and learning it very difficult, if not impossible. In the days before the Queen's War there was the College of Magic. An organization with branches in every major city and whose storehouses dotted the open roads of the wilderness. After the Rebuke the colleges closed, the storehouses were pilfered and the initiates abandoned their arcane pursuits to adopt more mundane careers. If you happen to find a way to use magic, where did you find? Information handed down through the generations? Stumbling upon an old College of Magic storehouse? A tutor of some kind looking to relive his spell casting you vicariously through you? A pact with an alien entity, demon or fae? Who've you shared this secret with? Magic users are in high demand by those with the money or muscle to acquire them. Most commoners fear the idea of magic use, believing it can bring about even more disaster than it's already caused.
Wizards would have been the most common kind of spell caster before the Queen's Rebuke. Formal institutions of magic existed all across the land. Not just the College of Magic but other equally prestigious or infamous organizations too. Balmoral and the Stormlands both trained Battlemages for their armies. Balmorals specialized in bolstering defenses and warding the innocent against the ravages of war. The Stormwardens, as they were known, explored the harnessing of weather to cover the advance of coastal raids. Noble houses like those in Melanthris and Baradrad preferred to keep the teachings of magic confined to bloodlines and peerage rather than liberal, open door views held by the College of Magic.
Today, only one formal organization exists for the teaching of magic and it is not one any mage would willingly enroll. The Kaspidian Institute in Lockland. The xenophobic, zealous and hateful leaders of that city use spellcasters of all kinds as slaves pressganged into their army and injected with addictive manacite elixirs to allow them to use magic... somewhat safely. Outside of that, some wizardly traditions are still carried out in the houses of Melanthris and Baradrad where spellcasting is still possible, though rare. Other than this an aspiring wizard will rely entirely on tutelage from someone willing to teach them.
A wizard in Tairos is generally one of two things, an eccentric from a big city who likely uses careers in herbalism, medicine, history, or similar to conceal their arcane talents or they are a reclusive hermit who lives far from those who would beg or kill for their magic. The only city where magicians gather in large number is Tengu Town due to its ability to produce manacite and the lax opinion the Tengu have toward magic. That being said they must still operate in the shadows because the Ghal Ankharan dwarves that "protect" the Tengu and their city are far less liberal in their mindsets.
Even during the golden age of Tairos, bards were a rare thing. While a hopeful initiate to the bardic ways might find a teacher in some of the larger branches of the College of Magic it was still a very neglected path compared to wizardry. In truth, the bard was more likely to come from the humble beginnings of a folk hero to a local community where generations of trial and error, improvisation and experimentation evolved into hedge wizard circles and bardic traditions. Each community might have their own style of bard and each bard might have learned their craft entirely different from another. These informal casters became less and less popular as the influence of the College of Magic spread and small communities could rely more on local branches instead of wandering bards.
The only place in Tairos where bards of a sort were truly honored was in Frostmere. The Frostmerites had their Skalds, a sort of magical warrior-poet, that would march into battle alongside the soldiers and Gothi. While these were equally as rare as their counterparts in the rest of Tairos they did enjoy a deep respect from the people. Their particular brand of battle hymns and ancestral chants isn't really recognizable to commoners elsewhere as being "bardic" but rather just another in a long list of grim traditions carried out by the Frostmerites.
The dismissive attitude Tairos had toward bards ended during the Queen's War. The magicians of the Fae were almost exclusively bards or sorcerers, traditions that the spellcasting culture has previously derided as crude and artless. Bards changed the tide of many conflicts, bolstering the invading armies of the Autumn Queen and disrupting the magics of the dogmatic College wizards. Bardic magic took on a particularly dark and feared reputation during the war and after. Fae bards became the subject of bedtime stories meant to terrify children. In some remote places in Tairos, such as Talbot, those suspected of being bards are hung, burnt or tortured.
Bards(other than Frostmerite Skalds, of course) in modern Tairos practicing their art using either the traditions passed down from the country communities or from the fae themselves. Or... in true bard fashion, a mishmash of both. By blending together the best parts of each system they're able to create something truly unique and innovative.
Of all the casters classes that the sorcerer is unique in that they did not seek out the power they posses but rather they are victims of circumstance beyond their control. The power of the sorcerer comes not from training, study or pacts but from their very blood. They are born with magic and in Tairos that has always been viewed with a deep suspicion. They were largely shunned from the ranks of the College of Magic. Some in the institution were resentful of their natural talent but most were simply afraid of whatever was imbuing these individuals with spell power.
Heritage is one of the most frequent roots of sorcerous magic and while the possibilities are endless the most commonly documented origins were tied to the divine, draconic, undeath, Infernal and the corruption of the Scorned One. When it comes to the divine a character's family might have been touched in some way by the gods. Blessed or favored in some way or in the case of gods like Galidir The Hunter, Atel The Beast, Wynte Lord of the Moon or Malyse The Libertine it might not be magical boon that blesses their bloodline but actual divine mingling. Dragons were once a dominant power in Tairos before they fled for distant shores. Though their time has long ago past some of their blood may still be found flowing inside the veins of mortal races they touched. Undeath has permeated this land and often seeped into the communities it threatened. Anything from vampires, zombies, wraiths or even the ancient power of Skyrir could give rise to a sorcerer's birth. Infernal sorcerers are most common among the Dwarves and duegar due their contact with hellish entities and even the demon god Ephias The Chain Maker. And, in recent years, the warping, twisting taint of the Scorned One has been on the rise and rumors of strange births, disfigured horrors and entire family's devoting themselves to madness are on the rise.
However, it's not just one's bloodline that can give rise to sorcerers. There are stories of magic being forced upon individuals. For example, the chemical injections applied by the Kaspidian physicians in Lockland have often resulted in sorcerers possessing wild and uncontrollable talents. The fae were known to imbue mortal servants with power using manacite-based rituals. There are rumors of experimentation and strange scientific relics created by the old Gnome empire that could grant this power as well.
Whatever the origin your Sorcerer is still by bound by two heavy obligations; the need for manacite and the temperament of society. Like all spellcasters your character will need manacite to work their craft but unlike the others the sorcerer is may not have a patron, a tutor, an organization or friendly community willing to help them find the vital source of mana. Sorcerer's by their nature are the most independent of magic users and in many cases that can be a boon but when it comes to securing manacite this trait proves to be an isolating hindrance that the player should consider. Society is the other limiting factor. The fear, anxiety and contempt that a known magic user can cause is enough to send entire townships into panic. If they were to find out that your power doesn't come from tomes and pacts but your very blood their response is likely to be even more extreme.
Sorcerers are becoming more and more common in modern Tairos. Scholars have long speculated that the Leylines are slowly beginning to repair themselves or that some other source of magic is trickling back into the land. This is having many rare but wild and unpredictable effects; one of which is the birth of those infused by this new magic. These sorcerers are may represent the last, best hope Tairos has for a future that doesn't end in ruin.
Warlocks were never a common form of caster prior to the Queen's Rebuke. In fact, most entities and divinities sought Clerics and Paladins to enforce their will on the world rather than give up a piece of their power to create a warlock. Some infernal entities, powerful Skyriran undead, and lingering servants of the Scorned One were known to grant favor to followers in exchange for service but these pacts were rare prior to modern times. However; that all changed during the war with the Fae and the waning days of magic. As more and more damage was done to the Leylines many turned to desperate alliances with dangerous outsiders in order to wrestle some control back over their fading magic. And, while healthy mana still flowed these pacts were successful in giving new warlocks an edge over their spellcasting counterparts. However, after the Queen's Rebuke, the burden of fueling a warlock's magics began difficult to bear. Outsiders were cut off from their power sources and came to rely heavily on mortals to feed their growing hungers. This has led to rather troubling new relationships between patron and servant. The patrons are reliant on mortals in a way they never have before to the point where their very survival could be at stake. And, for the mortal servants they are finding their patrons becoming more stringent with each and every spell they fuel and their demands becoming more and more frequent.
The relationships a warlock has with their patron is particularly personal now as compared to before the Rebuke. Infernal entities, celestials, undead lords and alien intellects do not have the luxury of sorting through scores of hopefuls or relying on their widespread reputations. The patrons are largely forgotten by the world and must actively seek out each and every potential warlock and sway them to their cause. This courtship of sorts can take many forms ranging from genuine personal interactions, temptations, seduction and coercion.
Unlike many other classes a warlock can come from any walk of life. Noble or peasant, warrior or scholar, it doesn't matter. The gifts offered by these patrons can be a powerful lure to just about anyone. And, while some of those bargains are mutually beneficial, the majority of warlocks eventually find they were little more than a means to an end. Once they've outlived their usefulness they may realize their patron is eager to reclaim their investment. Thus, most warlocks are eager to remain indispensable or quick to find a hiding place when the time comes.