A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Mages’ Guilds

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.  It’s out late this fall but you can find out about the world now . . .

Mage’s Guilds

Mage’s Guilds are part of the culture of Telvaren and the human worlds that are so historical, so commonplace, that no one remarks on them. They’re a part of life, like rain, if rain wore funny outfits and threw spells around

Historically, there have been Mage’s Guilds since various witches, wizards, sorcerers, and alchemists decided it was time to get organized, support each other, and outrun the occasional mob. Some Guilds trace their history back for thousands of years, though as the term “Guild” is a catch-all term for magely organizations, the modern Guilds are often removed from their historical counterparts. Except for historians, this is often of little concern in day-to-day life.

Mages usually enter guilds after formal education, usually the university level. Though there is often some experimentation in career, the majority stay with their Guild, and after five years some ninety percent stay with the Guild they are part of at the time – if that guild is still in business. Choosing a guild is obviously important, and modern career counselors do their best to keep up on them.

Guilds all have their own uniform, color scheme, and logo or badge to make them stand out. As there are a huge number of Guilds, this means that except for truly noteable ones (or stylish ones) people can mix up mages between guilds. It also means any hopeful new guilds will inevitably make style decisions that either conflict with known guilds, or look horrible.

The Guilds provide a large amount of services to their members that, if they choose to, cover almost all of their life needs. There is housing assistance, dining, job placement, training, and retirement benefits. Once a mage is in a Guild, barring any extreme behaivor (well, extreme for a mage), their life is defined if they so wish.

This is unfortunately not just due to convenience or social consciousness, but because to not belabor the point, most magical practitioners are a bit “off” or eccentric. They have radically different life experiences, they wield great forces, and they have to twist their minds into convoluted shapes to bend reality. The Guild ensures full support, and in a few cases, just makes sure no one does anything dumb and destructive.

By ancient agreement and modern politics, all teachers of magic and related professions are approved by a Guild – which of course provides various Universities with a reliable certification program. Some guilds with a teaching or investigative focus, like Phoenix Ascendant, certify non-mages in various historical and technical practices related to magic.

All mages are required to wear their guild colors and badge at all times to identify themselves. This allows people to know when a magic-user walks among them, and to respond accordingly. Though this has meant mages are now fully recognizable as a class of uniformed professionals, this casualness was hard-won over the last few hundred years. Because mages are seen as everyday citizens, Guilds go to great lengths to make sure no one upsets their golden apple cart.

Due to politics, personal preference, and the occasional collapse of Guilds, some mages loose their Guild status. These mages are required to register at a local University magic department. They dress in gray and are known as “unguilded.”

A mage that repeatedly does not identify themselves can be subjected to various sanctions, from expulsion to Guildmarking or Branding – magical tatoos on the face to make their magical nature unhideable. Some mages do this anyway to look impressive since they get to choose the style.
In some cases, Mages may belong to more than one guild; there are a slew of minor specialist guilds. Other guilds also sponsor spinoff or new guilds, often to expand their own power or deal with divisions in their own ranks.

Guilds are regulated by a council where each Guild of a certain size is represented. In theory guild population and seniority decide the votes each Guild has. It’s not that easy, and Mage politics are often quite underhanded and border on the bizarre.

The following is a list of noteworthy guilds:

Abiding Herald

The Guild of diviners, researchers, seekers, analyzers. Abiding Herald is a small but powerful and respected guild known for it’s knowledge and high standards. Despite these standard (or because of them) It’s a surprisingly relaxed guild – getting in is a mark of honor and the guild is mostly free of politics if only for its small size. If you’re in, you’re family.

Abiding Herald’s members wear black and silver. Their logo is a stylized eye, and because of it’s simplicity other guilds are jealous.

Celestial Foundation

The largest Magician’s Guild by a hair, and respected member of the Guild Council. Celestial Foundation has a well-earned reputation, but is very bureaucratic This is because many members end up managing its interests which include property, money, and more. It does produce and attract talented mages, but is riven with internal politics which has caused it not just to stagnate, but to slowly begin a decline.

Members of Celestial Foundation wear blue with gold details as well as blue hats or caps. They tend to wear blue jackets. Their logo is a four-pointed star on a horizon. They are always impeccably dressed and polite, and in “higher society” have a reputation for being charming.

Cerulean Compass

Cerulean Compass is a generalist guid of mages that is also one of the oldest – but not as old as Celestial Foundation. They have an emphasis on developing skills outside of straight-up magic and thus have an educated (and surprisingly functional) group of members.

Cerulean Compass openly sponsors new guilds as a way of cultivating power and keeping the world of magic shaken up.

Cerulean Compass outfits are blue and their logo – unsurprisingly – is a compass.

Crystal Tapestry

The guild of Illusionists. Crystal Tapestry has a long history, but is relatively small and thus has little say in the Council. They are big on ethics, proper practice – and kind of need to be considering what they do.

The guild itself is more a professional association like a union – focusing more on activism and training as illusionists easily find employment. Most work in the military/intelligence, entertainment, law enforcement – some are secondary guildsmenbers in other guilds.

Crystal Tapestry members wear white robes. Their badge is a black point radiating red, yellow, blue, and green lines.

Crimson Cornerstone

Crimson Cornerstone are construction-mages, specializing in working stone and metal and the like for buildings, repair, and recovery. They take great pride in their work, and have developed a strong presence on Gellitar as well as Telvaren.

They employ a large amount of specialty mages – those using only one form of magic. Many guilds look down on “level one” mages, but this GUild prefers specialists for some areas of work.

Members wear black and red, and shoulderpads fit prominently into guild robe designs. Their logo is a black cube on red.

Mirror Mountain

A relatively new and fast-growing Guild, Mirror Mountain is a generalist guild that openly challenges many of the older ones – mostly Celestial Foundation. Because of their willingness to do so, other guilds back them at least temporarily.

Mirror Mountain members wear vibrant purple robes with black highlights, their logo is a triangle-and-eye logo.

Obsidian Moon

Obsidian Moon is a Guild of Necromancers operating in the east of Telvaren, usually among Grand Ivar, Brightguard, Allanax and Kalstaff. They are a straightforward guild, focused on practice of their craft, and have little time for politics.

As they often have little time for social skills, they have taken to outsourcing certain delicate tasks to other guilds.

Members of Obsidian Moon wear black and purple. Their logo is a three-faced skull.

Phoenix Ascendant

Phoenix Ascendant is the guild of Reclimators and Reliquers, those that seek old technology, unusual technology, and reclaim it or defuse it. It is a respected, if workmanlike guild that attracts mostly practical mages and some suicidlaly weird ones the former keep in line. It is not a glamorous guild, but it is respected – and often wealthier than people expect.

Phoenix Ascendant keeps a large selection of scientists, historians, technics, and more on hand and certifies them as well. They are extended full Guild benefits upon becoming full members, aka a Signed Technic or Member.

Members of Phoenix Ascendant wear red wraps or robes with some gold trim, but usually its sober. A flame logo like a wing is their mark.

Radiant Visage

Radiant Visage is a guild that deals with rogue mages, magical dangers, and unusual monstrosities. They are the Telvaren branch of Silent Mask, when the guild split apart centuries ago.

Members of Radiant Visage wear light gray and gold, and wear masks that cover their upper faces when on the field.

Silent Mask

Silent Mask is a guild of exorcists, Demon Fighters, monster-fighters and at times trackers of rogue mages and magical experiments. Silent masc split from Radiant Visage some 2-300 years ago, and they are only found on the worlds of Gellitar and Telvaren.

They are known as a ruthless and at times fanatical guild, and they have an unpleasant rivalry with Radiant Visage. They also cross paths with Phoenix Ascendant.

Their outfits are always white and a mask is always involved, with various faces drawn in black – the faces tell something of their ranks. High-ranking members may have additional details in red and gold, while truly high ranking ones have blank masks.

Splendid Sunset

Splendid Sunset is a very “modern” Necromancer Guild operating out of Grand Ivar and Allanax. They specialize in raising the dead and contacting the dead for forensic and personal reasons.
They were founded by several other guilds some hundred years ago as a way to develop a team of Necromantic professionals with actual social skills, and to settle conflicts over “proper” use of Necromancy. It was easy to shut off people who seemed a bit too sensitive about the whole dealing-with-the-dead thing at the time.

Splendid Sunset’s members are trained in therapy, in speaking, and in etiquette as well as necromancy. Depending on your situation they are thus welcome and comforting or terrifyingly friendly. Other Guilds have found themselves outsourcing important tasks requiring a human touch as well as death-magic to them because they’re just so good at handling it.

Splendid Sunset members wear yellow and their logo – unsurprisingly – is a sunset. They also are known for fashionable hair and dress and use of makeup.

– Steve

A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Magic

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.


Magic has three definitions to the humans whose worlds orbit the star Avenoth:

  1. Magic is the potential for a person or being to alter beyond its nature and/or the liklihood of probability.
  2. The alteration of something by a person whose mind is able to, via various disciplines, call upon the potential in themselves or a target to alter it’s nature and/or bring about an otherwise improbably event.
  3. The results of the alteration in #2.

When mages don’t want to mess around with semantics they usually put it simply “people can both instinctively and in practice change reality because people and reality are malleable.”  However, as magic is common (and indeed, everyday), most of humanity gives it little thought.

Reality has the potential to be altered, it is alive with probabilities.  Humans have over the aeons developed disciplines to allow them to use their own mental effort to “align” with new potentials and bring them about.  This is akin to a conversation, a dialogue where reality is rewritten, though in modern magic it happens extremely quickly.

It is akin to a dialogue as this change is created by visualizing various symbols in one’s mind that align a person’s mind with the potential in reality.  These symbols and methods have been hard-won over the ages, crafted and improved to create the most efficient ways to invoke magic, and to do so in the most efficient and least painful way possible.  Combined with practiced meditations, the understanding of other relevant sciences such as chemistry and physics, and guiding physical actions, mages can create powerful changes in their environment.

There are still disciplines and individuals that require such things as magical circles, runes, and diagrams created to help visualization.  These may be used by less practiced mages, but also by those who have to invoke complex forces such as Necromancers or those creating powerful warding magics.  Sometimes having a map is just easier.

Many mages discover an aptitude for magic without training, and there are some disciplines (such as Shadowing and Divination) that develop instinctively during a person’s life and experiences.  A surprisingly large amount of people do low-level magic instinctively with no training or detection, such as luck manipulation.

Modern mages tend to train in specific disciplines and elements, such as manipulating stone or calling upon fire.  Specializing in a few forms of magic means they learn quicker as similar lessons play into each other – to try and manipulate many elements or forms over time requires extensive learning and practice, as well as unpleasant potential accidents.  The more elements or forms one can master, the higher ranked a mage is considered by their various Guilds and organizations, though certain complex specializations (Necromancy, Illusionism, and some forms of Divination) have their own ranking systems.

Magic is taught in large schools and universities, and is carefully regulated because of it’s nature.  A mage, as respected as they are, as much as they are a part of society, is powerful – and with all the unpredictability of a human.  Responsibility is emphasized by schools, parents, clerics, and society.

All mages are required to either join one of the many Guilds (which provide services and employment) or register with appropriate Universities in whatever Great City they live in (which is very rare).  All mages must wear Guild colors and badges or logos at all times to identify themselves, no matter how poor the Guild’s fashion sense is.  This policy, enforced over the centuries, goes virtually unquestioned – and has helped people trust mages.

The god of magic is Ivonau, The Spellshaper, The Eye of Magic.  Ivonau is a thoughtful god who focuses on knowledge, education, responsibility.  A bit of a “wet blanket” among the gods, Ivonau isn’t exactly exciting at parties, though occasionally they get off on a tear or an odd experiment or impart some new idea to a sorcerer that is world-shaking (and probably the other gods would have wanted to know).  Ivonau as of the 250’s has decided it’s time for them to “rethink” this whole god of magic thing and has been conducting research and polling.


– Steve

Way With Worlds: The Differences Between Magic And Technology


[Way With Worlds appears at Seventh Sanctum and at MuseHack]

Last column, I looked at writing magic and technology for your setting – and noted that in many ways for the sake of world building they could be treated the same.  I still believe that, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out the differences as well.  Or perhaps  I should say “areas of variance,” as it gets complicated, but more on that shortly.

I believe it’s important to loo at differences, as in too many cases creating the magic and/or technology for a setting treats them as the same for all the wrong reason – as opposed to the right ones.  Technology easily becomes hand-woven neutron particle miracle rays, a mythology with lab tools and circuit boards.  Magic can get systematized or explained in such a way it either is technology, or is really just magic wearing technologies clothes and wandering around looking out of place.

So, having suggested that you have to look at them as similar for the sake of worldbuilding, I now want to deal with when you have to look at them differently.  Yes, this may produce writing whiplash, but who said worldbuilding was going to be boring and straightforward?  I certainly didn’t promise that.

Think of it as general and specifics.  In general, they’re the ways people change and affect the world.  In specifics, well . . .

Read more