There is innate and hereditary aptitude to tap into the mystical forces and shape them to your will that has come to be known as the Glow. Not all who possesses the Glow become wizards, but the glow is recognisable. The occasional golden sparks in the eyes when agitated, a silver aura when joyful. Its manifestations and are subtle and unpredictable and vary from person to person, but they are there. Everyone has their own distinct signature, that shines with family semblance of its bloodline. The glow flows in the blood and is only ever passed by ancestry. Only a child of two glowing ones will have the glow. Otherwise, it can be passed on dormant for many generations of the first blood until a second glow is added to the blood.
In the earliest times of human civilisation, families of the Glow rose to power and established noble and royal bloodlines across the world, raising other glowing ones and outcasting those without it. In this world, the right to rule is not a divine one, but a magical one.
Consequently, magical knowledge exists only among the nobility, it is their privilege, blood and mandate to rule. Not all nobles becomes wizards, some simply don’t have the inclination for anything more than cantrips, but many do and the measure of one’s status is in no large part one’s magical prowess. A king without the power to reflect his royal bloodline would not last long and a duke mastering only minor conjurations would soon find himself marginalised in high society.
Of course, there are ways to compensate. More than one past king of bastardly blood has shielded his utter lack of magical aptitude by simply adorning himself with magical items of sufficient power to hide the fact from others. And wealth, land and armies speak a language of their own even in this world.
Naturally, there are forms of etiquette and protocol to be observed even in a magical society of nobles. Although it happens in the odd generation here and there, nobles would never resort to such crude measures as actual magical combat between each other or rain demons upon rival houses and the like. Subtlety and finesse are considered great virtues of magical mastery. Battle magic is as crude as warfare. Of course, it can be necessary at times, but to muddy one’s own hands in such toil is hardly refined.
And besides, what could be more delightfully humiliating than for an enemy noble than to be assassinated by entirely mundane, albeit well executed, means?
Occasionally, the glow is discovered among the common folk. Even noble men have needs and they are not always satisfied in noble company. And sometimes by chance, common people of such dormant bloodlines come together and awaken the glow in their offspring, many generations after such dalliances. If they cannot be be dealt with quietly and swiftly (in some cases, the scandal would be too obvious), such people are sometimes taken in and given proper education, working as councilors and lifeguards of the nobility and royalty, eventually given minor titles for their service. They are after all, undeniably of noble blood, even if it has been tainted by generations of common heritage.
And some believe great bloodlines thought extinct lie hidden among the common people.
The duchies of Gentea have been without a royal bloodline for 400 years since the great coup. But since that time, the rumour that the crown princess survived and hid in some remote village, living out the rest of her days in anonymity has persisted. The royal guard disappeared to the last man on the day of the great coup and some speculate they went underground to guard the secret of the royal line as a secret order.
Even today the grand dukes worry that some day, that bloodline might reawaken and the True King of Gentea will come again. Of course, they will not readily surrender power, but they know that with proper tutelage any such heir would quickly be one of the greatest wizards of this age, such is the strength of the bloodline, even more so if there is only one left. And with the unmistakable signature glow of the blue hawk that marks the kings of Gentea, he will soon find armies gathering to his side, ready to fight for their true liege, the blood of the land.
Some minor houses no doubt would love for nothing more than to find this lost and dormant heir and marry into the family, to have the king born from their house. Of course, that would mean finding the lineage before a child is born in it with the glow. Easier said than done. For 400 years, not a trace of it has been found.
Playing noble characters is an often overlooked opportunity for some good role playing and this gives a different twist to it. The errant knight in shining armour might well literally have shining armour due to the defensive magics he can cast on it and will certainly have an edge in battle over common warriors. He is a noble after all.
Playing without any noble characters in such a world would not be very different from normal campaigns except there is no hedge wizard in the local village (he lives in the nearby manor) and magic is perhaps a bit more removed from the world of common people. It is something *they* use. Or perhaps the group wizard is not a noble, but someone who has discovered his knowledge on his own, taking pains to conceal his true nature, lest he risk being dealt with in a most convenient manner, or at best a pawn of some noble family. For him, the only option is to seek out knowledge where it has been abandoned and forgotten, hoping to become powerful enough to assert himself before he is uncovered. Even in this world, there are and have been wizards who have abandoned the follies of society to dedicate themselves only to the art of magic in secluded towers and catacombs. Ruins can be found and knowledge uncovered. And perhaps, somewhere in the wilderness, even a mentor.