A Matter of Britain
Everyone in the world of Pendragon knows that magic exists, and all wise and good folk fear it. To knights, magic is unknown in every way. Its effects are known through story and rumor, but only a wizard or a witch knows how it is done. The magic of Britain is extremely potent, partially because of its very mystery. Magic is also dangerous because it is hidden and subtle: Your character knows that it is more likely to drive him mad or age him a century in a day than it is to roast him with a bolt of lightning.
Fate and luck are important components of magic, not just spells. Further, the fundamental laws of society, such as loyalty and hospitality, are enforced by the decrees of fate, and thus enter into the realm of magic. People accept the world of magic as a normal part of the great unknowable reality, and the wise among them know to live by its rules, not to tamper with them.
Magic in this game is for purposes of roleplaying, not for cartoon violence. Pendragon magic imitates the traditional magical effects found in Arthurian literature rather than comic-book explosions. Nonetheless, even without bursts of hellfire and bolts of eldritch energy, it is a factor of great mystery, uncertainty, and danger.
Men will not be able to explain how Merlin marched an army over 165 miles in a few days, even if they remember being part of the army. Similarly, all people know that some druids can change their form, that magical ladies live beneath enchanted lakes, and that an invisible world exists with its own populace of frightful beings. They have heard about, and perhaps seen, magical objects like the sword Excalibur and the Holy Grail. But most honorable men do not hope to understand these things, and in fact tend to distrust magic immensely.
Magicians, like magic itself, are not to be trusted. Everyone knows reasons for this, though the reasons vary depending on the point of view of the observer. Some mistrust them because they can alter reality, or because they talk to the dead, or because they can tell what the weather is going to be and change it if they don’t like it. Other people dislike magicians because they believe that all occult powers come from Satan. Most simply don’t like anyone who is strange; magicians, by their very nature, have access to the unknowable, and what is not known cannot be trusted.
Types of Magic
Different types of magic are recognized: In general, these are druidic magic, Christian miracles, native Old Heathen magic, and Saxon battle magic.
The primary types are the druidic (pagan) and Christian magics. The main difference between Christian and pagan magic is that the latter is immediate and demonstrative, while Christian magic is subtle and assertive. Curses, blessing and healing are common to both types of magic. Spirits are acknowledged, and can be summoned, banished or exorcised by both types. Both, however, are still to be feared and avoided.
Pagan druidic magic stems from mastery of the power of glamour, which is the ability to create a temporary reality. Often this temporary magic has a permanent or longlasting effect, however. A fountain that was once blessed may last for generations. A healing potion fixes wounds and they stay healed.
Knowledge and wisdom are two of the best-known applications of Christian magic. Magical healing is done by the laying on of hands and channeling the power of God rather than using physical components.
Old Heathen magic is the integral magic of the land that predates all humanity. It can be sensed in the rocks, in the earth and tides, and in the glimpses of the old gods’ minds that can be caught on unholy, moon-bright nights. It is the power of the forest, of the moor, or of the ever-changing river that exists with or without mankind.
Saxon magic makes its users mad in battle. It is gained from the blessing of Wotan, the Saxon war god. Practitioners of this magic can cut mystical runes into bone, wood, or stone to carry their unearthly powers against foes.
Demonic magic, the most difficult and thus least common type, uses magic which is gained from making deals with the truly evil forces of Satan, the Christian prince of evil.
The distribution of these different types of magic depends upon the different nations of people. Not everyone knows about the differences between these forces. For instance, among 6th-century Christians, the belief in Satan was not universal. Some or all of these forces, in the eyes of certain groups or individuals, may be totally false. Part of the adventure is to figure out what scheme the Gamemaster has adopted for magic in his or her campaign.
Some accomplished individuals pursue magic for its own sake, others for personal gain. They may profess to be pagan or Christian, but the powers used are invariably pagan.
Enchanter/Enchantress: This is a generic term that indicates someone who uses magical powers. Priests, druids, and witches are all referred to in this way, especially if they use the power of Glamour. Recently, the term enchanter has come to refer specifically to the British druidic organization, which is separate from its Irish counterpart.
Sorcerer: A sorcerer is a general term for a magician who gains his magical power via knowledge culled from books, not from the sacred knowledge of a deity passed down through generations of practitioners. The type of book can vary widely, perhaps being a tome of ceremonial holy magic, an exposition of mystical philosophy, an alchemical dissertation, or a vile book of black magic.
Necromancer: Necromancers gain their magical power from dealing with the dead. They usually summon spirits and question them to gain lore normally hidden from mortals. These spirits are usually hostile and may volunteer additional bad news or advice that the necromancers (or their employers) would rather not know.
Here are listed some of the best-known magicians and enchanters living during the early years of the campaign.
Blaise: This ancient teacher is a recluse living hidden in the wilderness. He has taught many students, though Merlin is undoubtedly the most famous.
Brisen: This young woman at Castle Carbonek will become “one of the greatest enchantresses… in the world living.” She works for the dynasty of the Grail Kings, hidden away someplace in Listeneisse. She does not indulge in the ways of the world, except to aid her lord to fulfi ll the prophecies of the Grail.
Camille: The Saxon enchantress lives in the Castle La Roche and aids the Saxons in their wars against the Britons.
Merlin: Merlin is the greatest practitioner of magic alive, and also the Archdruid of Britain. Though aging, he is still vigorous and works for the good of the land.
Nineve: The current High Priestess of the Ladies of the Lake, Nineve lives at Avalon, training the sisterhood of priestesses and enchantresses there. She travels about the country relatively often, though, and visits courts as needed.