Magic. Arcana. Thaumaturgic power. The Aether. Puissant energy. Godsblood. All these names and more beside describe the field of energy that shrouds the world like an unseen ocean. An incidental byproduct of the gods themselves, it is as trivial to them as sweat is to a mortal. And yet, by manipulating this divine effluvium, mortals are able to achieve phenomenal results.
Those who use this power are most easily divided into one of three categories: magi, thaumaturgists, and thaumatechnological engineers. Each group approaches the power of magic in a different way, with different results than the others. Each tends to regard the others with distrust and suspicion, resenting the incompatibility of the other systems with their own even as some fear the theft of their secrets.
Also know as arcanists and warlocks, these people are the rare, mad fools who dare to drink directly of divine waters. Despite training for years and being steeped in occult lore, each mage’s workings are uniquely his or her own, each spell the work of a genius artist upon the canvas of the world. For all that there are those who try to categorize and define the arts of sorcery, no two spells, even cast by the same warlock for the same reason, are alike. Theorists blithely speak of fireballs and lightning bolts, of transmutations and teleportations, but all true spellcasters know that their art is beyond such entrapment.
To be an arcanist is to risk one’s life each and every time one reaches out to the aether. Even the incidental leavings of divine power are not to be lightly trifled with. Each spell is a miracle, pulled raw and shapeless into the world and given form and direction by the mage. Each time, he risks immolation by the forces he seeks to command. The reasons why a given mage risks it varies from person to person. Some seek the greatest power they can, for vengeance or tyranny or protection from some threat. Others are driven by curiosity, to explore the strangest parts of the world. Yet others are addicts, craving the rush of power that floods through them, a momentary echo of what it means to be a god. Some few seek the secrets of immortality amid the dangers of utter destruction. And a very rare few, madder than all the others, see what they do as the truest form of art, remaking the world to their vision.
Arcanists are perhaps the most powerful of those who tap into the forces of magic, but also the most unreliable; a simple spell that should be well within their reach may, by a fluke surge of aetheric energy, suddenly go out of control and immolate them.
The craftsmen of the arcane, thaumaturges are the stolid painters of houses to the mad artists of the warlock. Rigorously trained in charms, runes, alchemical formulae, and hexes, they rely on the simple procedures developed by countless generations of thaumaturges before them. No one thaumaturge understands the entire field; instead, each chooses one or two specialties, focusing on them to the exclusion of the others; a bio-thaumaturge is neither a meteromancer nor a golemist any more than a blacksmith is a cooper or a tanner.
A thaumaturge is a scientist and a craftsmen rolled into one; seeking to perfect their understanding of their chosen field, they delve into old lore and research new phenomena alike. Nothing is more pleasing to a dedicated thaumaturge than to unearth some old charm in their field and to correct the flaws in it to match modern theory, refining it into a newer and more useful tool. Repetition and reliability are the important thing in a thaumaturge’s craft, a far cry from the wild variations of a warlock’s spells.
Less potent but more reliable than the magi, thaumaturges still have the unfortunate drawback that in order to do their job, they must be present; while they can set hexes and charms to be triggered, or scribe a rune to last for a time, they cannot set up a self-perpetuating system.
Engineers to the core, those who work in the field of thaumatechnology are rarely researchers; they take the arcane lore of the thaumaturges and marry it, sometimes gracefully but more often in a crude and inelegant way, to the mundane forms of technology. Theory is all well and good, the engineers say, but it doesn’t keep the factories moving.
A thaumatechnology engineer is a figure both appreciated and reviled by the public. Without them, the wonders of the modern world would be beyond the reach of the common folk; yet their craft brings the hazards of thaumic pollution and aetheric taint with it, the noisome leavings of an industrial revolution stained with the power of magic. That their machinery works is all the engineers care about; where the power comes from and what the consequences might be are for those who pay them to worry about. They are laborers, not scientists or artists, calm and unimaginative.
Thaumatechnology is generally the most reliable form of the arcane; able to run without cease, even when no engineers are on hand to oversee it, this resilience is paid for in a weakening of the final product, and the hazards of the pollutants the machines produce, tainting the environment in ways mundane and arcane alike.