Understanding the Differences and Similarities Between Arcane and Divine Power

"Corth K'Ven speaks often of the Silver Skies and the glorious afterlife he hopes I will take with him. He must think me a fool. The Valley of Bloodstone is my home, my throne, and my dominion. Why would I leave? Magic might drive him, but even he knows his magic is limited. The Silver Skies are endless because Tiamat is endless. When I take my place at Her side, I will stand tall with my sister Dar Tania. Corth knows I will stand taller and stronger than his quaint magic tricks could ever place me. Still, there is something handsome about the Lord of Wyverns. Oh no, Crimson, I would never leave without you."
- Dar Ana

Magic abounds in Tehra. Pha Rann built creation, self-determination, and excellence in design into all of his many creations. As the Gates solidified and then separated, the flow of Time created Magic.

Though discussed elsewhere, Tehra is a high magic world but considers itself weak compared to the mighty magics of the civilizations, like Merakor, that came before it. Normal citizens of the Forsaken Isles take rune magic, as an example, for granted. Testing and vetting of children through basic education in Tania identify those with potential for magic early and routes them for more testing.

This is where an understanding of the difference between Sorcerous Powers and Divine Faith Powers becomes important. Most priests would make decent mages, up to a point. Most mages would make decent clerics, up to a point. There is a gap between the two where:

  • Faith draws from a god's dominion.
  • Magic draws from a mage's sentience.

This is why it is very rare to find cross-over specialists powerful in both faith and magic-based powers.

When Merakor's refugees exited Galthrest's gate and stepped onto the Forsaken Isles, they brought with them Merakor's way of learning and teaching magic. They instituted this in Taysor's culture. In this society, magical talent is a random lottery event striking rare and gifted people. These then apprentice to a master and slowly acquire spellcraft.

In contrast, Tania encourages magical ability wherever encountered. While not all people have what it takes to cast complicated spells, those with aptitude can often cast a simple spell. In this way, Tania has learned to harness even weak magical talent and fortify it with faith in Tiamat. Over generations, it has created a unique Tanian way of things. There are powerful mages who are devoutly faithful to Tiamat. There are citizens so weak in magic that one could not term them magic-users, yet their one spell allows them to make a living, thrive, and empower their communities. Sure, the Grow Vegetable spell might not be as splashy as Fireball, but it has a role. And, they thank Tiamat for the gift.

Moreover, Alerius was a Merakoran archmage. As such, he captured and mastered all of Merakor's magics, except for the secrets of the other archmagi themselves, now lost forever. Having this, and through his early apprentices like Corth K'Ven, Bomoki and Cystoran, Alerius learned and instituted some guiding principles, which are:

  • All low level spells are freely available to those inclined to study and master them.
  • The price for access is community service to Tania, such as binding elementals into the empire's infrastructure.
  • Higher level spells are restricted.
  • Some spells are so restricted that only the Mages Guildmaster even knows they exist, like Wish and Slaying spells.

Thinking about magic, suppose a mage developed a spell that instantly killed its target. While such a thing is possible in a fantasy world, I wonder how other mages would feel about this type of magic. Using most tabletop RPGs as a base, there are Slaying spells. Wish is only creatively bounded. The question a fantasy society should ask itself is: Do we want to have such things? They're the nuclear bombs of fantasy.

  • A good society would consider it dark magic. While they might be tempted to create a Slaying Magic vs their enemy, the realization that a similar thing could be created for any one of them becomes too sobering a thought
  • An evil society would embrace it at higher levels with the delusion that they could control it so it would not be used against themselves. The drow in my world and their Assassin's Guild function on this principle. The Assassins are rumored to have vast stockpiles of Slaying Magic attuned to every single powerful entity that is allowed to operate at the Great House or Imperial level.

Either way, that kind of magic becomes either so taboo that anyone accessing it has armies raised against them, or it is never developed successfully. Divine power is similar. There are certain dominions, like the Magic Dominion already discussed that would be so all-encompassing that it would require a response from all gods. This happened with Set. So, why didn't the gods kill Set? Remember that there is an opposition principle to all dominions. The Gate of Creation's opposition is the Gate of Chaos. Pha Rann designed and infused it with purpose to enhance and destroy rather than let an anti-creation dominion exist... however, it became Set. Killing Set would so weaken the Gate of Creation that Heaven itself would fall. So, Set is bound in sleep. There is no single god of Magic, or Time. There is no Dominion God.


So, let's discuss mages. There are many who can use magic, like "Grow Vegetables." There are many who can use magic items. There are powerful mages who spend their lives in laboratories. They research or specialize the way Tech is specialized in our world. They are powerful for their knowledge and ability to bend and shape magic at a level that would be baffling to a normal "mage." They cast spells from specially prepared scrolls with the detail and focus of a 777's pilot getting ready for a flight. Even simple spells take a long time to cast because the focus is flawless magic use.

Then, there are mages who travel the world. They use their magic for entertainment, adventure, and to make a living. These mages, like their lab-based ilk, tend to specialize into a few spells that is their bread and butter. They can cast other spells, but find them uncomfortable... just like a Car Mechanic today would have reservations about working on a home generator system. These mages appreciate the researcher's care but it's too much for them. They pick a few spells, get really good at them, and then evolve shortcuts that make it easier and faster to use. Prestidigitation and flair become important principles for these types of mages.

An even rarer breed is the battle mage. Where most mages specialize by spell, battle mages specialize for war and train themselves to ignore distractions, even pain, and complete their magics. These tend to be adventurers as their quick thinking and short term memory training allows them to use powerful magic in the heat of battle and other stressful situations. Initial study of a spell is conducted with the rigid focus of a researcher. Once understood, the battle mage begins shortening its casting, simplifying memorization, and learning how to align their own understanding of magic with the spell. This allows them to use mnenomics to hold a spell in their short term memory and quickly cast it, in seconds, during combat. They know that the longer they have to cast it, the more likely they are to become distracted or make a mistake. As such, the entire casting is shortcut. The Tanian school of thought here is predominant. A mnemonic glyph is created that the mage memorizes. It helps them remember the shortcuts and rush through the spell against adrenalin, dodging attacks, and fear of life. Every spell is weaponized, or not studied at all. Battle mages can cast from their spellbooks, but they find it difficult and time-wasting. Some mages become so good at these shortcuts that they can bend the spells and create new and devastating effects. There is a story of a mage named Berenstor, who became so good at the Teleportation spell that he could selectively teleport parts of bodies, to lethal effect.

These are four types of mage: Normal magic-using citizens, researchers, professionals, and battle mages.


Against Magic power stands Divine power. The divine is a gift from the god that magnifies and demonstrates the miracle of its dominion to others whether they believe or not. Just like mages, clerics fall into certain categories. Normal citizens, through their faith, can tap into the divine when consecrated to a god. This allows them to witness miracles in alignment with their faith and god.

Above personal level of faith is the priesthood. Each priesthood is unique to the god served and differ by symbols, genesis, structure, and are augmented by the dominion. Because of this, clerics of the good pantheon tend to be more powerful since no dominion is owned, but shared. The priesthood might codify prayers of power into songs, verse, or other formal structures like a ritual. However, because clerics serve the god, and no god is served by ritual in the face of failure and death, a cleric is not limited by formality; they are limited only by their faith. Most RPGs reflect clerics as being level-bound and this is not true. While a level might represent a certain understanding and insight into the god's power, faith and inspiration allow clerics to operate at higher levels of power in times of crisis... because the point of Divine Power is to show the god's dominion to the faithful.

Like mages, clerics within a priesthood then move into certain archetypes, such as healers, scriptorians, and diviners. In my writing, there are two powerful Tanian types that are worth noting:

  • Augmentor. This is a cleric, like Tembri and Shara, who are able to wield their faith in nonconventional forms. Tembri dividing his flamestrike and precision targeting it, or "throwing" his healing spells are examples of what an Augmentor can do. Tania tests extensively for this type as healing at range is a powerful boon to paladins.
  • Necromantic. Not to be confused with a necromancer, a necromantic cleric specializes in the give and take of life force. Dar Ana is the single greatest Necromantic Tania has ever seen. She is able to harvest life force and redistribute it completely outside of normal divine healing. She does this several different times and uses Crimson as her "tank." By harvesting his lifeforce necromantically, and then healing him clerically, he stays at full health and Ana is able to then send healing power to those in need. During the battle against Orcus, she took Orcus' lifeforce and used it to heal no fewer than seven dread lords.

Both Augmentors and Necromantics are fast-tracked into advanced training and front-line battle roles. Because this has worked for Tania, the empires around them have adopted the practice of screening and testing for it as well, though the good gods shy away from the Necromantics. Final note... clerics fight by the hand of their god. They are the literal avatars of that god in the world. Therefore, it is their faith that limits them, not their physical attributes. While it is true that faithfulness, study, meditation, and the like matter in a religion, in the quiet moments that truly matter, one's personal relationship and faith matter the most. Every god, regardless of Gate, will intervene when their worshipper's faith makes it possible. This is very powerful for the god and the sentient mortal consecrated to and serving each god. Tehran worshippers are precious to the gods... though they each show it differently.

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If conscious participation in some godly "passion" creates the possibility of a divine being, then logically, the practice and use of magic, even magic by itself, would be the most powerful dominion of all. This is true except for one key point... magic is not conscious. It is a consequence of the Gates' separations and the streaming of the ethereal plane into oblivion. At no point did the eldar say, "Let us create magic." It just happened. Before Time, there was no magic; only will existed. Before Time, the eldar shaped and changed things as a focus of will and their inherent alignment with one of the 3 gates: Creation, Chaos, and Warp. When a dragon imagined a world and shaped a tree upon its surface, that was not magic. That was the expression of the eldar dragon's will.

In the Forsaken Isle books, there are many examples of the Tanian dragons doing magical things without casting a spell. The clearest examples are their shapeshifting, Alerius' interactions with Bomoki, Ynt'taris freezing Time to speak to Marcello, and others. There are just as many examples of them using actual magic. When doing actual magic, they are in human form. They are not detached. They use components and follow forms required to harness what they consider "mortal magic." In Merakor, Alerius apprenticed himself to some of the early archmages to better learn magic. He became so masterful at magic that he was named Aler Alerest (the Merakorans did not know he was a dragon) and was considered a sage of high order magic.

The flow of Time has interesting ramifications for gods that either do or do not acknowledge it. The Jade God of Necromancy wanted to freeze it. In fact, undeath was considered defiance of Time. Had he ever succeeded, Time and magic would have stopped... the same way it did in the Endless Worlds of that god's dominion. Tiamat understands Time and carefully stays back allowing avatars and the patriarchs to handle mortal affairs. Pha Rann also understands it and similarly allows avatars to interact for him. There are gods that are completely ignorant of Time... and the Jade God was another example of an eldar that knew about it, but was ignorant of it.

Now, there are self-proclaimed gods of magic... mortals who Ascended and became gods in their own right. These gods, like Corth K'Ven with Scrying, tend to master a principle of magic and derive Tehran worship when other mages use that power. In the Dungeons & Dragons realms, I would consider Mordenkainen and other named Mages of this immortal type, i.e. Leomund, Otto, Tasha, Tenser, and so forth. There is another truth here and that is that pure magic users shun worshipping other magic users. Regardless of dogma or world belief, the notion that any single entity could ever control all of magic, is a frightening one.

In Morbatten, a god of magic is known and named as Cystoran. A more apt title would be God of Runes. Cystoran empowers the magical falcons Ora and Malcor use to keep in touch and manage the Klennan forge. Cystoran empowered Sai R'Dar and the golems seen throughout my writings. The foundational structure of these golems is the rune magic that Morbatten uses so casually in its everyday life. Remembering that Alerius is an arch mage, Alerius eventually found an apprentice and built him up with these magics. A worshipper of Tiamat, Cystoran ascended to Tiamat and added to her dominion. Like Corth, he is revered as part of Tiamat's pantheon. Tanian mages therefore worship Cystoran if they are inclined to be faithful. Not to be outdone, a contemporary "good" mage ascended to the Gate of Creation as the "God of the Written Word."

Other fantasy confuses divine power with magical powers. I wanted the Forsaken Isles to be free of this confusion. David Eddings and The Belgariad approach this from the divine side of clerics who become so powerful they may as well be gods. Raymond E. Feist and the Pug books follow a mage who becomes so powerful he may as well be a god. The Dragonlance/Forgotten Realm Chronicles had Raistlin/Fistandantilus go up against Tiamat and take her place for a time. Liches are a trope here of a mortal wishing to claim god-like immortality through undeath. Arthur C. Clarke once said that advanced technology would look like magic to a primitive civilization. Extending this to fantasy, a mage would have powers indistinguishable from a god's. The Forsaken Isles certainly have mages who aspire to godhood, but are not gods.

There is a difference between a mage, tapping the flow of Time to shape magical effects and a cleric tapping their god's dominion to achieve a similar outcome. The mage's power might manifest as a fireball exploding near enemies. The cleric's flamestrike has the same heat, the same burning effect but for others watching and those being attacked... they know the difference between the magical and the divine attack. One manifests as the will of a mortal. The other as a miracle sent for purposeful divine reasons: 1) reward the faith of the faithful; 2) manifest the god's power to unbelievers or the unworthy; and 3) as an answer to prayer. Those being attacked may not know the god, but they feel the difference in their souls. Following the attack, the mage feels drained and exhausted. The cleric feels elevated, not drained... the power came from the god, not the cleric after all.

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