Metaphysics of Valenor
There is one rule for magic which all participants should be aware of. If a magic user casts an effect at you, they will clearly indicate you are the target and state the effect preceded by the word 'Veritas' (Latin for 'truth'). For example, if a magic user says to you: 'Veritas fear me until sunset', you should respond appropriately in your characterisation.
Note that this statement of the effect is in-game as well as off-game. Anyone standing nearby will hear and understand the effect which is stated and know that magic has been used.
This document describes the world of Valenor as it is commonly understood by people who live there. Bear in mind that opinions and depth of knowledge vary. The knowledge of many is clouded in folklore and legend. Even the greatest wizards still debate on the true nature of the world.
If you are playing an adept or a witch, you should read this material carefully. If not, you may scan it through or skip it, depending on how knowledgeable of such things you feel your character should be.
This document deliberately focuses on the metaphysics relevant to Dragonbane, only touching on other material in passing. More information can be found in the Age of the Storm.
The world is composed of various realms, some of which are:
The Plane of Earth, also called Valenor and the Plane of Men. This is the where people live.
The Plane of Fire, the Abyss, home of the pyras ('demons of Valenor')
The Plane of Water, where spirits and gods reside.
The Plane of Air, also called the Plane of Magic
The Plane of Light, where the elves originate from
Some also claim there is a Plane of Darkness, though this may be same as the Plane of Light.
The barriers between the planes however are not solid. Raw magic leaks out of the Plane of Air (and other planes) into the plane of earth. This invisible magic wind flows everywhere. In areas close to where it trickles into the world, magic is stronger and easier to use. However, in such areas the reality is also prone to being warped in strange ways.
What is magic?
Magic is reshaping the world using the energy of the winds of Magic. The power can only be channelled by those with an awakened Gift of power. Consider the magic user to be acting like a windmill. They derive power from the passing flow of magical wind, and use that power to change the reality. What they can do with this power is shaped by their training and magical tradition.
Dragons are said to be inherently magical creatures. Their hearts are actually a constant entry point for energy from the Plane of Magic, which causes a strong flow of magic to the area around them. That allows them to fly - they are actually flying upon magical winds, not merely mundane air. A dragon's presence also taints (or blesses, depending on your point of view) the surrounding area with magical energy. This taint causes many people who have lesser magical gifts that would normally remain dormant to awaken. This results in seemingly more magic users in areas where dragons reside.
Humans with supernatural powers
At conception of any human in Valenor, there is a chance that the power of one of the other realms will influence the person-to-be and take root within them. Such people are of that realm, and as such never fully human.
One in ten of all people in Valenor are born with the 'Gift of Magic' as described in the Age of the Storm. From birth these people are creatures of the Plane of Magic, constantly aware of both realities. Once the gift fully awakens they become able to actively channel and use magic. For those who have stronger gifts it awakens naturally. For those with lesser talent it remains dormant, unless an encounter with magic forces it to awaken.
Some people have special powers blessed upon them by gods or powerful spirits, often the power to heal or talk with spirits. The names for such people vary, but they are normally treated with awe. Many become priests. These powers are completely different to magic, since they draw upon the Plane of Water, not the Plane of Air.
Equally there are those 'blessed' by the pyras who are called pyratongues. They are widely despised for having such 'evil' powers (even if they have used them to help people) and are driven out of their communities.
There are some people born touched by the Plane of Light, where the elves come from. They are called Lightsouls. Such people are born more charismatic and attractive, and have the potential to train to be Trodai, sword wielding warriors who protected the royal family of Nathar before the rise of the Emperor. Often charismatic people may be casually referred to as lightsouls, even if this is technically not the case.
Those touched by the planes of water, fire, and light are not present in Dragonbane and so are not dealt with further here. More information can be found in the Age of the Storm.
Lifecycle of magic users
Once someone has an awakened gift, they are able to work magic, and are called magicians (or perhaps witches or conjurers by others).
A newly awakened magician is able to use magic to some extent. However, they lack any experience or training or indeed true understanding of what it is that they do. They run the risk of being overwhelmed by the energy they called up and turned into Lisks, ghosts trapped within undead bodies. For this reason untrained magicians represent a danger to everyone around them.
Some of these are sent to the Exalted tower and train to become wizards, those who spend their lives in pursuit of magical understanding. After years of training, they learn how to work magic safely. The craft of the wizards is by far the most powerful expression of magic - at least the wizards themselves claim so. The wizards hunt down any magicians they can find. A few are sent to the tower to train and the rest either have their gifts burnt out or are simply killed. There are also some other magical traditions, but the ways of their few practitioners are unfamiliar to most people.
Magic in theory could be worked by will alone. The gift allows the magic user to tap into the power of the wind, nothing else is needed. However, in practise this doesn't actually work, any more than having eyes is enough to allow one to read. Various magical traditions use various techniques and tools to allow them to work magic. These allow the magical user to mentally focus what they are doing. Without tools, a magic user is as powerless as a woodworker without tools to work with is.
Limits of Magic
Various things are impossible for a particular tradition of magic to achieve. A number of things are completely impossible with magic of any tradition.
One of these is achieving immortality, even through there seems no reason why it should be impossible. As noted in Age of the Storm, the wizards of the Tower call this 'the Greatest Spell' and have tried and so far failed to achieve this. Another impossibility is raising dead. Even though many have tried, no one has been able to revive a person already deceased.