Magic in Society
From the smoking foundries of Luskan to the wondrous Cities of Halruaa, Faerûnians live in a world populated by practitioners of magic both arcane and divine. Magic has changed the world more than once in the past - the deserts of Raurin and Anauroch now mark the places where the highly magical empires of Imaskar and Netheril once stood. The great river of history is directed and redirected by magically powerful people acting out of both malice and benevolence. Even so, magic still rarely touches the life of the common Faerûnian.
Wielders of arcane magic - also known as the Art - are rare in most Heartlands societies. No more than one person in a hundred or so is likely to have any ability as a wizard or sorcerer. Half of those are dilettantes and dabblers - a merchant who's studied a little wizardry to protect himself on the road, or a noble who received an unusual education. In some lands and among some races, of course, the incidence of arcane magic use is much higher. Everyone is reputed (incorrectly) to be a wizard in mythical lands such as Halruaa or Nimbral. Sun elves, moon elves, and rock gnomes take to the Art with such ease that mages might be more than ten times as common in their lands as elsewhere.
Wizards and Sorcerers
Wizards and sorcerers are both known as mages in many places. Most people in the Heartlands simply don't know the difference. Both sorcerers and wizards have mysterious powers, strange demeanors, frighteningly intelligent pets, and frequently do things such as turn invisible, fly through the air, and blast lightning out of their fingertips. After that, any differences are purely cosmetic to the common folk.
In some cities or lands, the rivalry between wizard and sorcerer becomes deadly. In Thay, for instance, sorcery is regarded as corruption of the Art, while wizardry is respected as a studious and academic pursuit - largely due to the reactionary leaders of that land.
If it's possible to accomplish a task without magic, then in most places and in most circumstances the mundane methods are employed. Even powerful wizards easily capable of flying or teleporting are inclined to walk on their own two legs from one town to the next. The reason for this is simple: It's prudent to reserve one's magic for when it's really needed. A wizard who expends a portion of his magical strength flying everywhere he goes might one day be short a lightning bolt or a dispel magic when it might save his life.
Common Folk and Mages
Mages are regarded with suspicion, fear, and respect wherever they go. In any land, the affairs of wizards and sorcerers are the topic of endless gossip and. speculation. Over tankards of ales, locals compare stories of the deeds of this mage or that, and wonder aloud which might win in a duel of magic.
Any mage not well known by the local people is regarded as a dangerous unknown quantity until he shows by action, word, and manner that he means no harm. The local people are careful not to give offense, and the local authorities quietly observe any such person with as much discretion as possible.
A mage who settles downs somewhere, or who visits an area often enough to become well known, almost always becomes an important and respected member of the community. If trouble breaks out, especially magical trouble, the nearest good-hearted spellcaster is one of the first sources of help for the locals. Even a reclusive or downright malevolent mage might be approached for help in extreme cases, if the locals placate their dangerous neighbor with gifts and shows of respect.
Any town or city with a population of more than a dozen wizards and sorcerers is likely to host an annual mage fair. These gatherings offer an opportunity for business, bluster, and socializing between otherwise reclusive magicians. Business usually consists of territorial agreements, research pacts, and sales of spells, items, and information. Bluster follows close upon business's heels as rival mages show off for their peers or challenge each other to duels. Socializing takes all forms, from wizards who seek new apprentices to spellcasters playing semi-friendly pranks upon each other to magically empowered drinking games.
Mage fairs are usually held in out-of-the-way places, no more than a day or two from a big city. The occasional exceptions to that rule tend to be remembered forever. Sorcerers are welcome to attend, but may be treated with some condescension if they are not considered powerful practitioners.
Masters and Apprentices
Wizards who have already mastered high magic can further their own powers by experimentation, though this is a slow and painstaking road compared, to searching out spells crafted by earlier mages. Novice wizards, however, don't know how to direct their experimentation to have the slightest hope of success, or even to avoid poisoning themselves or perishing in explosions they cause. For the inexperienced wizard, there's truly no substitute for a teacher in the ways of magic.
This means apprenticeship - a term of service during which the novice serves a master under whatever conditions the two of them agree upon in return for being taught magic. Usually the terms are stipulated in a contract made before a local ruler, mage guild, or temple of Mystra or Azuth.
Being an apprentice often involves a lot of drudgery and humiliation - from doing the master's laundry to cooking and mending and even serving as the master's stand-in, body-slave, or guard in dangerous situations. Many apprentices grow to hate their masters, and some masters use either spells or physical restraints (literal chains, or confinement in towers or dungeon cells) to prevent apprentices from slaying them, stealing from them, or betraying them during battles with rival mages, monster attacks, or business dealings.
On the other hand, some apprentices grow to love their masters, serving them life-long and continuing their work after they die. Some spend years seeking to rescue or avenge their masters, while others willingly house the minds of their masters in their own bodies when the old wizards lose their own bodies or desire to escape dying, diseased, ot crippled forms.
Traditionally, the apprenticeship arrangement is rarely more complicated than "Well, you'll help me in my work, and learn by seeing and doing alongside me - and the spells you get will be those you pick up as we go." Apprentices of some personal wealth or station in society may be able to exact a formal promise of teaching and bestowal of agreed-upon spells, although penniless aspirants must accept whatever they can get.
There are few rules of thumb regarding length and conditions of service versus spells taught, because wizards are highly secretive. Generally, teaching the casting (and providing a copy) of a 1st-level spell or lesser magic might involve a month of service during which at least one important task is successfully completed, or at least three months of drudge service. Spells of higher levels require greater tasks and payments. Once apprentices know enough magic not to kill themselves in their first battle, many of these tasks take the form of missions or ventures to further the master's goals and research by retrieving lost bits of lore or rare spell components.
Assuming a novice wizard has the wits to wield magic at all and the master has sufficient components and spell writings and the like at hand, the teaching of a spell shouldn't require more than three or four days of intensive casting, practice, observation of effects, and more practice. If the nature of the spell is such that its use doesn't require a lot of practice, or the mage hasn't the time for niceties but has a pressing need to blast something, learning a new spell can take mere hours.
No wizard is obligated to teach except by local law, guild rule, or personal decree of Azuth, Mystra, or another divine power. Many mages dislike teaching, which involves giving up their time and surrendering their personal safety and privacy: Willing teachers are apt to be few, and many who do tutor are lazy, less than capable, or very frail and elderly.
Across all of Toril, people respect and fear the divine powers. The deities of Faerûn take an active role in the world, promoting the causes they favor, watching over the domains for which they are responsible, and constantly seeking to increase (or at least defend) their temporal power by protecting their worshipers and encouraging the active expansion of their faiths.
Mortals who deny the deities who made the world and govern its basic forces are rare indeed, although a few powerful beings such as the enigmatic sharns and phaerimms acknowledge no entity as their superior. Human (and humanoid) souls who refuse the gods come to a bad end after death, lacking a deity to speak for them upon the Fugue Plane. What befalls primal creatures such as the sharns, no one can say.
Some Faerûnians zealously follow one deity. Others make sacrifices to many deities, while upholding one as their personal patron. Still others sacrifice to as many deities as possible, shifting allegiances as their circumstances and needs warrant. It's a rare Faerûnian who hasn't occasionally hoped to avert the baleful influence of an evil deity with a propitious gift, or thanked a good power for an unexpected blessing. The belief system of most Faerûnians generally centers on a particular deity whose interests and influences are most likely to affect them, but acknowledges other gods as significant and important, too.
Divine magic can play a significant role in society, but not always through the direct intercession of a cleric or druid wielding divine spells. Deities of prosperity and plenty such as Chauntea answer their worshipers' prayers with abundant harvests and fair weather. Gods of plague and famine - Talona primarily - demand placation and send all manner of blights and epidemics against those foolish enough to deny their power. These supernatural influences tend to balance each other, with the extremes of bounty and famine generally unlikely to occur. Chauntea finds a way to bring forth some sustenance in even the worst blights, and Talona manages to mar even the most plentiful harvest in some small way.
Temples and Clerics
All of the clerics, soldiers, shrines, churches, abbeys, temples, and holy sites dedicated to a particular deity are collectively referred to as the Temple, or Faith, of that power. Neither term is exactly accurate, since the Temple of Tyr includes many temples to Tyr, and the Faith of Tyr refers both to that deity's followers and the system of beliefs they hold.
The Temples of the great powers - Bane. Chauntea, Tyr, and a handful of others - are as powerful as small kingdoms. A dozen major temples in great cities across Faerûn house hundreds of clerics and soldiers dedicated to the deity. Hundreds of small temples and shrines in the towns and villages of countless lands serve thousands upon thousands of worshipers. A militant faith can gather an army of crusaders, while a mercantile faith holds lands and properties of staggering expanse. Almost all faiths sponsor high-level clerics, champions, devotees, and secular agents who look after the faith's interests and defend it against those who resent its power.
Most of a Temple's clergy are not clerics. They're experts, aristocrats, even commoners who serve as advisors and counselors to the faithful and officiate at routine observances. A cleric usually leads any particular temple, shrine, or order, judiciously using her spells to aid sick or injured followers and assist the local authorities in maintaining law and order in the community as it suits the deity in question.
Temples and shrines to some number of deities stand in virtually every thorp and hamlet of Faerûn. Most of these are under the supervision of a low- to mid-level cleric of the appropriate deity. Frequently, these parish priests and shrine-keepers possess healing abilities unavailable to low-level adventurers.
The degree to which a local cleric may make her healing spells available to adventurers in the town varies greatly with the tenets of her faith, the demands of the town, and her own best judgment. Clerics obviously prefer to aid fellow followers of their patron deity, and if healing resources are limited, the faithful will be aided before people devoted to other gods. Naturally, the followers of deities antithetical to the clerics' own deity are extremely unlikely to be helped in any circumstance.
Same Patron Deity: If the character or characters requiring healing follow the same patron deity as the local cleric, they stand the best chance of receiving help.
Characters of the same faith brought before the cleric in a dying state (hit points between 0 and -10) will be stabilized, often without any expectation of compensation. Any person who is not dying is not likely to find free healing. After all, people heal with time, and most clerics prefer to retain their spell power rather than give it away.
Adventurers can purchase routine healing spells at the normal prices for purchasing spellcasting. Some clerics may be moved to heal a follower of the same faith at no cost, but only if it is clearly an immediate need of the faith to get the injured person back into top form as soon as possible.
Disease, level loss, blindness, or other conditions besides hit point loss are more complicated. The adventurer may be healed at no cost if he has served his faith well. Otherwise, he might be healed in exchange for a special donation (20% to 50% of the normal spell-casting cost) or a special service for the temple.
Raising or resurrecting the dead is never undertaken lightly. In general, the friends off a dead character should expect to pay the normal spellcasting cost. In some very rare instances, a dead character might be raised by clerics of his own faith regardless of whether he or his comrades can meet the spellcasting cost. This only happens when the deceased has been an exemplary servant of the faith, and the cleric in question has cause to believe that it is absolutely imperative to the faith to restore the dead character to life. Even then, the raised character might be charged with a geas/quest to serve the faith in a specific task to justify the effort and expense of his resurrection. A local cleric devoted to a deity allied to the adventurer's patron deity, or a local cleric who simply wishes to support like-minded adventurers who advance his own cause by advancing theirs, is the next best thing to a cleric of a hero's own faith. Again, characters of the allied faith who arrive in a dying state will be stabilized, often without any expectation of compensation. Adventurers can purchase routine healing spells at the normal prices for purchasing spellcasting. Some allied clerics may heal an adventurer at a reduced cost (20% to 50% of the normal spellcasting cost), but only if it is clearly advantageous to get the adventurer back on his feet fast.
The adventurer may be healed of disease or other conditions for the normal spellcasting cost. Again, if it is clearly a good idea for the local cleric to aid the adventurer, he might be healed in exchange for a special donation (20% to 50% of the normal spellcasting cost) or a special service for the temple.
Neutral Patron Deity: If the local cleric's patron deity is not particularly friendly or hostile to the patron deities of the adventurers, the decision to aid them or not is much more mercenary and situational. Any good-aligned cleric is likely to stabilize a dying character brought before her unless that character is clearly an agent of evil. Other than that, any healing spells are available at the normal spellcasting costs, but only if the neutral cleric has reason to believe that aiding the adventurer in question won't cause any harm or risk to followers of the cleric's faith.
Magic is not technology. Wizards and clerics do not manufacture levitating elevators or mass-produce magic portals for simple convenience or crude commerce. These things do exist, but they are almost always built somewhere for a very good reason, since they take a great deal of time and money for a highly skilled and uncommonly gifted spellcaster to create.
Most magic items fall into one of two broad categories - gimmicks and adventuring magic. Gimmicks are commonplace because they're not hard to make and not very expensive. They amuse, delight, and entertain, and on occasion do something useful in a small way. Adventuring magic is not anywhere near as commonplace, and it is useful for increasing one's personal power and capabilities to deal with the sorts of problems adventurers often face.
Nearly all Faerûnians, no matter how humble or removed from the adventuring lifestyle, have seen minor magic gimmicks at some point in their lives. Fewer actually own such treasures, but it's not unheard of for well-off merchants or low nobles to save their money for minor trinkets such as a pot that can make itself hot, or a broom that can sweep itself. Real magic - wands and rings, magic arms, and wondrous devices - is relegated to the wealthy, the powerful, and those adventurers who stumble across such items in the course of their journeys and battles.
In Faerûn, magic items come from one of four principal sources. The first is the distant past. Ruined cities, forgotten treasure vaults, the hoards of dragons, and similar dangerous places often hold powerful items lost, buried, or stolen long ago. On occasion, adventurers have discovered to their chagrin that legal heirs to some of these old heirlooms still live and expect the return of their ancestors' property. More commonly, news of a valuable item recovered from some particularly dangerous spot invites the attention of rogues or mages more inclined to steal than to negotiate.
The second source is the powerful temples of Faerûn. Clerical hierarchies are wealthy, well organized, and inclined-to invest in producing magic devices to assist their chosen agents in their duties. Many magic weapons and armors are created at the forges of Moradin, Tempus, and Tyr.
Independent wizards working for whatever mysterious purpose happens to move them are the third major source of magic items. Mercantile wizards (or wizards in the employ of merchants) create much of the gimmick-type magic for specific purposes or markets.
Finally, the last major source is the Red Wizards of Thay. The Red Wizards have always been magical artificers of great skill. In walled enclaves throughout the Inner Sea, mercantile Red Wizards sell their goods with whispered urgings and overly generous lines of credit - which entice the foolish to buy more than they can afford. It is a very bad thing to be indebted to the Red Wizards, and the fate of those who seek to cheat the Thayans is rumored to be horrible beyond imagining.