This is a largely experimental post, inspired totally by Red Kangaroo's very interesting one on the nature of Wizards and magic. I probably won't be incorporating any of this into my current games, but it's still something that might be useful to think about and could serve to inspire others.
Terms to Know:
MD: Stands for Mana Dice. Unless stated otherwise, you have MD equal to your CON modifier + your COG (or INT) modifier. These are used to power spells and are comparable to the usable amount of life force a living creature has. NPCs generally have a number of MD equal to their HD. MD burn out on a 5 or 6 and return after a long rest.
Spells: Small spiritual creatures, similar to insects in our world. Most are harmless or mere pests, but some, when fed mana, produce useful or interesting effects. All spellcasting is done through using these small creatures. These creatures are either symbiotically bonded to a larger creature's soul, in the case of innate magicks, or are placed there and when not in use, are stored in spellbooks, scrolls or other magical items that function as cages/zoos/wildlife preserves for them. In the latter case, creatures can hold a number of spells in their minds equal to their open Memory Slots.
|"You misspelled 'Prismatic'."
Wizards: Almost all Wizards are assigned a Familiar. This Familiar is there to monitor a Wizard and ensure that the Wizard is using the spells given to him by the order wisely, or in a way that is in the interest of the Order. Familiars are also there to spy on their Wizards and report to the leadership of the Order.
The Familiar also function as tutors to novices or aides to more experienced Wizards, able to hold onto excess spells or provide additional MD, should the Wizard's well run dry.
Wizards gain more spells by faithfully serving the Order and being granted access to more exclusive spells that only the higher-ranked members are allowed to possess.
All Familiars want to advance as well, as they have their own parallel hierarchy, so this keeps the relationship between Wizard and Familiar cooperative and civil. Most of the time.
Sorcerers: Sorcerers are descended from some kind of magical beast, whose blood flowed with magical power. This blood was passed down to the descendents, who possess innate magical powers of their own, stemming from their venerate ancestor. For example, Sorcerers descended from a Dragon possess the power to command flames while the Sorcerers descended from a Deep Janeen sing to the Earth and reshape it with their words.
Sorcerers know a certain of spells. These spells count as always prepared and cannot be forgotten or taken. Sorcerers also possess additional MD on top of their base supply- this is a mark of their special birth. Sorcerers also do not trigger Chaos or Corruption when they cast, and do not have Dooms.
Sorcerers cannot learn new spells, unless they approach other spirits as a common mortal. However, this is often dangerous, as Sorcerers represent a prime opportunity that cannot be resisted, so they are often targeted by malicious or selfish spirits when this occurs. Sorcerers who attempt to gain more power thus often end up as sacrifices to thirsting Gods, the slaves of demons or the chew-toys of monsters. For this reason, as well as others, most families imbued with such gifts teach their children to do such a thing is dishonorable or disgraceful, so few will ever do it.
Random Sorcerer Bloodlines:
1- The Duayevi. Descended from an Aasimir warrior who is now venerated as an ancient folk hero. His descendents start with +1d4 MD and know the spells Aid, Bless, Call to Heroic Death, Circle of Power, Fear, Foresight, Geas, Guardian Angel and Sunbeam.
2- The Brascupes. Descended from Brass Cups, the Dragon of Stars and Apples. His descendants start with +1d3 MD and know the spells Anti-Gravity, Move Earth, Wall of Stone, Chains of Earth, Entomb, Flesh to Stone, Steel Intangibility, I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise and Finger Gun.
3- The Iluvo. Descended from an unknown predecessor, but one said to be a great scholar. An ill-omened, strange bunch. It's descendants start with +2 MD and know the spells Force of Personality, Charm Person, Feeblemind, Mental Dominion, Dissonant Whispers, Tasha's Hideous Laughter, Suggestion, Sleep and Mirror Image.
Priests/Prophets: Gods are very busy, very active creatures. They oversee the world, ensuring seeds germinate at the right time, the right dreams are sent to the right people, the harvest arrives on time, the storms travel the correct way and etc. They are divine party planners, constantly micro-managing and skipping endlessly from task to task. Additionally, they are consumed with their own brand of divine politics, endlessly arguing and jockeying for the best territories. Every War God wants to be in charge of the Conquest of Narizi, no one wants to handle the fifth Frogling civil war, especially since it's barely been a century since the last one.
What Priests do is essentially draw the attention of their God to a specific thing they believe their God might be interested in. For example, Ankou, Shepherd of Souls, would probably hate these Undead, as they are souls trapped against their will in corpses. If Ankou does decide he cares about this, he will act in a way that is explosive and powerful. For example, he might flood the cavern with sunlight and burn the Undead to ash, or free the Undead so they can turn their necrotizing hands to the task of strangling the Necromancer, as they so desire to do. That's not to say that Ankou couldn't act in a more subtle manner, should he choose. He could simply provide his priest an escape route- it all depends on his ineffable will.
However, Ankou might decide that such a matter is beneath his notice and ignore the Undead, leaving this problem to mortal hands. A sacrifice will usually go a long way towards convincing a God to care about an issue.
Additionally, when a Priest calls on a God, the God's attention might fall on the Priest instead, and when that happens, the God might, at best, demand the Priest do something to retain the privilege of remaining a priest. At worst, the God might decide that something the Priest is doing, or not doing, upsets the Deity. For example, your Goddess of War might be wondering why you are not agitating and trying to start a revolt in your home country, to free it from the occupying peoples, or your God of Family might wonder why you haven't gotten married yet. Until such problems are rectified, expect little to no response from your God.
At Level 1, when you wish to petition your God, roll on the table below:
1-5: Your God hears you and responds favorably.
6: Your God hears you, but won't dispense any power until you swear to do something, make a sufficient offering or correct a failing. The God might still intervene if you swear to do as it wants, but this is not guaranteed.
7-20: You are ignored. Why has thou forsaken me?
The range of success increases by +1 per level, up to 13 at level 9. For example, a Level 5 Priest's table looks like...
1-9: God's Favor
10: God's Judgment
11-20: Why has thou forsaken me?
Also, you can only call down a maximum of 1 miracle a day. After the first, any additional requests will just be viewed as pushing your luck.
Evangelists/Paladins: The students of long-dead Saints, Martyrs and Angels. They possess great and terrible power, usually related to something personal. A Priest's magic can cause a river to flood and sweep away an invading army or inflict a plague on an unfaithful people. A Paladin's magic is to cover themselves with armor of light, fly and give their limbs the power to pulverize stone and bend metal.
Paladins increase in strength by taking on more and more onerous restrictions. A young Paladin may have sworn an oath of celibacy, while an elder Paladin might have sworn to help anyone who asks. The more oaths the Paladin takes, the more powerful they become and the more abilities (spells) they learn; but the greater they become, the worse the penalties for failing to keep their oaths become. A young Paladin may only lose his powers after breaking his oath, while an elder Paladin might have his blood to turn to fire and die in agony.
Mediums: Mediums allow spirits to possess them in exchange for power. When a Spirit enters their body it alters it, increasing the Medium's attributes to align more closely with the Spirit's nature, as well as lending any of the Spirit's innate abilities to the Medium.
There are two types of Mediums. One bonds with a strong spirit and cultivates a relationship with it. This comes with its own ups and downs- on one hand, the Medium only has to be aware of the feelings of one Spirit at a time. On the other hand, it also limits the Medium's options. If the Spirit has no solution to this current problem, you'll have to get creative. However, this approach is dangerous in that it is comparable to riding a tiger. It is doable, but should the tiger decide this current arrangement is unsuitable, you're in for a world of hurt.
Strong Spirits the Medium could host:
1- The Tiger King. The First of his kind and Father of all Tigers (or so he claims). Grants enhanced stealth capabilities, the ability to grow claws, cover oneself in ethereal armor and speak with animals. While you host him, you have slit pupil eyes and faint stripes across your back and torso.
2- Aqualana, Mother of Royuno. The Patron Spirit of a long dead civilization, once revered as a God, but now must make due with the babbled prayers of the Royunan's degenerate descendents. Grants gills, the ability to control limited amounts of water, create and control currents, create fog and the ability to speak to and command crocodiles. While you host her, you will have blue-green hair and your skin will begin breaking out into patches of scales.
3- Reyna Redtail. A Kitsune and a Goddess of the Foxes (a race that might not have ever existed). Gives you the ability to cover yourself in illusions to look like someone else, the ability to wipe away traces of your presence, turn invisible and conjure balls of cold, blue fire. While you host her, you will have yellow eyes, fox ears and a fluffy tail.
4- Baron Heartstring. A murderous Ghost and your infamous ancestor. Grants the ability to make pacts that if broken, kill the person who swore them; the ability to steal the life of others to extend your own life; to command the dead to rise and serve you; and the ability to make your flesh harder to damage. While you host him, your flesh is cold and hard as marble and your presence unnerves children and animals.
Other Mediums choose a different approach- befriending many smaller spirits to guarantee a wider range of solutions to any particular problem. This grants greater flexibility but greatly increases a Medium's headaches. Instead of one partner, the Medium must juggle the competing interests of many spirits. If being bonded to one powerful spirit is like marrying a beautiful, if occasionally unfaithful, woman then recruiting many lesser spirits is like being a King and having to appease, console and scheme against a Court of Nobles. Skillful mediums who pull it off will find themselves less powerful, but will still possess many potential solutions.
Lesser Spirits the Medium could host:
1- Quival the Carpoi. A spirit of grain and harvest- grants you the ability to make plants grow from your skin so you can effortlessly camoflague yourself in foliage or long grass. Wants: For you to help farmers, for you to assist with the harvest. While hosting him your hair takes on the appearance of the local plant life, in spring it is full of green buds, in summer it is full of leaves, in autumn your hair is russet gold and amber, in winter you are bald.
2- Yuito the Shurale. A spirit of the wild wood- grants you the ability to release clouds of spores that can charm women, but only in the sense that getting a woman drunk can "charm" her and make her more prone to suggestion. Wants: shiny objects, comely girls. While hosting him your skin takes on a greenish hue and your limbs become slightly longer.
3- Xyai the Aurore. A spirit of the clouds and the firmament- grants the ability to turn into a cloud and fly, while in cloud form. Wants: To be adored, expensive gifts. While hosting her your steps are light and your eyes turn storm-grey.
4- Veteta the Brisigar. A spirit of flame- grants the ability to turn your skin to volcanic rock, making it harder and causing you to ignite flammable items on contact. Wants: to destroy expensive things, to indulge her sadism. While hosting her you smell constantly of ash and smoke and small items randomly ignite around you when you get angry.
Shamans: Shamans are convivial sorts, Priests and wanderers of a sort who make friends with all they meet, whether human or spirit. Unlike the Priests and Paladins, who bond with the Great Lords and the inhabitants of Deep Heaven, Shamans establish relationships with the Spirits of the Land and those smaller creatures that inhabit the Shallows of the Astral Sea.
This can include spirits like those the Mediums make contract with, but also heroic ancestors, powerful ghosts, petty deities or demigods who are not permitted in the courts of Heaven, either because of some act of rudeness or lack of status. These creatures are the Shaman's allies. In exchange for favors or sacrifices, these creatures lend power and knowledge to the Shaman.
Example Shaman Pacts:
1- I will give you a sickle that cuts through wood and plant material like soft cheese, but is otherwise a normal sickle. In exchange, you will give the memories of your first love.
2- I will give you the ability to summon and use my right hand at any time in any place you can see, in exchange for your left eye.
3- I will give you the ability to use my sword, which passes through metal and stone like it isn't there. But each time you use my sword, I will take half your remaining lifespan.
4- I will allow you to summon my head and devour whatever you wish me to, in exchange for feeding me a delicious human once every 3 months.
5- I will grant you my ability to fly, in exchange for your sex drive.
6- I will give you the ability to turn invisible, in exchange for finding me a lover that fits my exact and highly specific tastes.
Or if you prefer more traditional spells...
1- I will give you the ability to cast Scrying and 3 MD. In exchange, I want you to peep on sexy ladies when they are bathing or undressing. Prostitutes don't count, by the way.
2- I will give you the ability to cast Sunburst and Light and give you 4 MD. In exchange, I want you to destroy Undead wherever you find them.
3- I will give you the ability to cast Create or Destroy Water, Divine Retribution and Liquefy, plus 4 MD. In exchange, I want you to throw throw expensive treasures into my river/lake/the ocean.
4- I will give you the ability to cast Healing Touch and Greater Restoration and 2 MD. In exchange, I want you to help the poor and downtrodden.
Diabolist: Diabolist is similar to a Shaman, but instead only bonds with one strong spirit in exchange for spells and power. A traditional warlock.
Druids are similar to Shamans except they only bond with Nature Spirits who hate civilization and generally only those in a specific area. As such, Druids are very powerful in their environment but grow weaker the further they roam. A Forest Druid in another Forest may be able to command some power, but a Forest Druid in a Desert will be very weak, as they will be too far away for their allies to hear and give them power.