The Wizard hails from the Arcane Mysterium—it says so in the archetype’s very first distinction. But what is this fascinating place? Why, it’s only the finest, grandest, most gruelling research institution on the continent. Also it teaches young wizards, but really that’s only to guarantee that there’s always a fresh crop of research assistants available. (Existing research assistants tend to go missing).
Yes, in other words: it’s Magic Grad School.
I designed the Arcane Mysterium both as a place to be from as well as a destination to visit. (I also sometimes dream of a whole game set within the school.) It’s chock full of experts that can be consulted or hired, and it’s a nexus of activity that’s always in need of strong backs and steady hands. Not to mention they’d love to have a look at that eldritch item you picked up that might be cursed…
Let’s have a little textual visit, shall we?
The premiere intitution for the study of wizardry on the continent, the Arcane Mysterium operates a rangy campus that covers the entirety of Kecil island in Mergather Gulf. While most outsiders think of it as a school, the Mysterium is primarily a research institution, plumbing the depths of the arcane and esoteric. New students receive enough formalized instruction to make them competent research assistants, after which they are used to fuel the faculty’s varied inquiries. After years of learning at the right hand of the masters of the Mysterium, students may become certified as adepts and travel the world as working wizards.
The Mysterium was founded by a cabal of renowned wizards, each constantly petitioned by crowns and cities for their expertise as well as their loyalties. In the words of Endelbraid the Younger, “To submit to a king’s narrow interests was to reject the whole and varied world of possibility beyond.” The wizards longed for a place to pursue their studies without interference of the outside world and resolved to build their own paradise. So profound was their desire that the cabal included three Lorathans and two Kharzani at a time when their peoples were at war. The cabal identified Kecil, uninhabited at the time, as a building site, and summoned erdgeists to construct the campus. The neighboring island Besar was home to a small fishing village, to which the cabal extended their protection in exchange for food and menial domestic labor.
A year of living in Kecil and pursuing their studies unhindered, however, revealed to the learned wizards that research was costly. Thus the wizards reluctantly began answering select petitions from the outside world, travelling to fix whatever sorcerous problem was cited, and charging for their learned consultation. As students began to flock to the Mysterium, requests for help were often answered by a junior scholar sent to handle the problem. As the generations passed, petitions were sent, not to individual faculty, but to the Mysterium at large. Today the Mysterium dispatches its faculty and students, formally named Delegates, to solve thorny and interesting arcane problems, with the associated fees going to the institution’s endowment.
Petitioners to the Mysterium never stay on campus; they find shelter and hospitality on Besar, which has become a thriving city that serves as the gateway to the Mysterium. While some islanders complain at their unequal arrangement with the wizards, it’s hard to deny that Besar has clearly benefited. Nowhere else has healthier citizens or loftier and sturdier architecture, and all the streets are lit with bound will-o-wisps. Even Besar’s fisheries have benefited: they are the only source in the world for glimmerfish, the happy result of an old Mysterium experiment gone awry.
Students are admitted to the Mysterium as novices if they show promise and facility with the arcane arts. There is no formalized fee or tuition, although the Mysterium is happy to collect ‘gifts’ from applicants. Novices spend three to five years in the Lower School, receiving foundational instruction in wizardry. Upon completion of these studies, they are named initiates. They are tasked with assisting faculty with their studies as well as teaching in the Lower School. After some five to ten years, an initiate may pass a rigorous examination to be recognized as an adept. Adepts usually travel or take positions off the island. They may return, years or decades later, to be recognized as a master and take up a position on the campus.
The Arcane Mysterium is administered by a seven-member Council of Mages who authorize access to materials and funds for research, certify adepts and masters, oversee admissions, and organize courses of study. Councilmages perform few of these things personally and delegate liberally to both faculty and trusted students. The Council also elects from its number an archmage who serves as a figurehead for the body and the Mysterium in general. Most faculty consider a term on the Council an unfortunate necessity that interferes with their personal studies. When a Councilmage’s term ends, the rest of the council appoints a replacement member from the masters of the faculty.
Since the Mysterium has never owed allegience to any crown, it is itself the governing body of Kecil island as well as neighboring Besar and Padi (tiny, uninhabited, and primarily used as a testing ground). Technically the Council governs the islands, but few of these wizards want anything to do with mundane management issues. One Councilmage is named the Island Steward, a role which concerns itself with two things: handling the day-to-day operations of the islands and finding an excuse to end their term and foist the responsibilities onto a different Councilmage.
The Dread Tyrant never conquered the Arcane Mysterium—but not because the wizards fought him off. Instead, the Tryant negotiated what amounts to a non-aggression pact with the wizards. Citing their long history of neither bowing to nor interfering in the affairs of crowns, he argued that their interference with his conquest could be avoided… as well as his bloody assault on their islands. The Council debated the issue for days and ended in a stalemate that was only broken by the Archmage, in favor of the agreement. While many understand and sympathize with the Mysterium’s situation, many others accuse the school, and its graduates throughout the world, of being sympathizers with the Dread Tyrant.
And if that’s not enough magical magic ness for you, here’s some magical entries that we can check out next week. Pick your poison!