A Wizard's Life - The Art of World Building
Apr 152021
 
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Height of Power

When wizards are in their prime, we should determine their options in society. Deciding on magic prevalence once against helps us decide their prospects. For example, if magic is common and accepted, they might begin to instruct others, possibly at schools. They can live openly, make people feel safe, be honored (with statues or presiding at ceremonies), and enjoy good relations with leaders, military, and anyone else. When magic is rare and wizards are feared, they may teach in secret, maybe far from others, hide their location or nature, be shunned, and have an attitude about all of it. All of this would be on someone’s mind when entering into wizardry just as we envision our prospects in any career. Don’t overlook this. Using the techniques in chapter one to invent a culture for them, and be sure to vary it by sovereign power and, to a lesser extent, within regions and settlements.

Wizards are often thought to amass powerful items and wealth, whether it’s true or not. When magic is common, there may be special vaults and banks like what we see in Harry Potter, but without this, keeping their hoard close (such as at home) is more likely. This can lead them to become a target, one who has various kinds of protection (magical or otherwise) to conceal and protect their homes, whether there’s anything valuable there or not. We need to think about where they might choose to live, based on how magic and its practitioners are viewed. They’ll want to feel safe, whether that means living openly or in secret, and with physical or supernatural protection or not, and even though they might be very powerful and inspire fear, the terrified often attack in the name of preemptively defending themselves.

All of this affects a wizard’s family life, too. They’re so often shown to be loners that we can easily overlook this. Don’t they have friends, lovers, children? Are some of them magical? Or strong in other ways, like knights? Many will be just as respectable or disrespectable. It’s tempting to see a wizard as all-powerful, but even they get sick, injured, or tired. Fantasy is prone to sorting people as good or evil, but many supposedly “evil” people just have a different viewpoint, one shared by many others, around whom they’d feel safer in weak moments.

The Waning Years

Powerful wizards have powerful enemies, but sooner or later they are going to start aging and become increasingly vulnerable. Who is going to protect them? Maybe this is a scenario where the wizard’s apprentices protect their former master, or do they prey upon him? This is part of the magical culture. This could also be one reason that there are magic guilds, with one of the benefits of joining being this protection as we age and become weaker and vulnerable to our enemies. Might not a wayward wizard in youth curb his worse tendencies as he ages so that he’ll be accepted – and protected?

Just as we imagine our prospects for a healthy career, we might think of our retirement. How is a feared wizard going to live peacefully? Move away so people don’t realize? Who wants to end their life in hiding, away from anyone they care about? It seems reasonable to find another way. Might not a wizard cultivate good relations for just this very issue? Even an evil wizard, if smart, would find at least one kingdom where they’re see as good and retire there.

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