“Orcs are human beings who can be slaughtered without conscience or apology.” This damning assessment of one of fantasy’s most ubiquitous villains comes from N. K. Jemisin, titan of modern fantasy and slayer of outdated genre tropes. As “kinda-sorta-people,” she writes, orcs are “fruit of the poison vine that is human fear of ‘the Other.’” The only way to respond to their existence is to control them or remove them.
What is an orc? To their creator, J. R. R. Tolkien, they are “squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.” More than half a century after Tolkien wrote that description in a letter, here is how Dungeons & Dragons describes the orc in the latest Monster Manual, where all such demi-humans are relegated: “Orcs are savage raiders and pillagers with stooped postures, low foreheads, and piggish faces.” Half-orcs, which are half-human and therefore playable according to Player’s Handbook rules, are “not evil by nature, but evil does work within them.” Some venture into the human-dominated world to “prove their worth” among “other more civilized races.”
Genetic determinism is a fantasy tradition. Dwarves are miners and forgers. Half-orcs are rampageous. Elves have otherworldly grace and enjoy poetry. Dark elves, known as Drow, have skin that “resembles charcoal” and are associated with the evil spider queen Lolth. As both a ruleset and a fantasy backdrop, D&D is in the business of translating these racial differences into numerical scores: Dwarves get extra points when they try to hit something with a battleaxe. Elves get plus two dexterity. Half-orcs’ “savage attack” lets players reap extra damage off a critical hit. All because of their race.
D&D has mostly shunned the same approach when it comes to gender. The original version, from 1974, had no special rules for women player characters, but a Dragon magazine column from 1976, with the header “Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D,” gave some women’s strength scores a nerf compared to men’s, and replaced their charisma scores with one for “beauty.” Those rules didn’t stick, and the latest Players’ Handbook reminds gamers that they “don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender.”
Over the years, however, D&D has made only trivial movements away from racial essentialism. Sure, publisher Wizards of the Coast has removed, for example, half-orcs’ –2 debuff to intelligence. One faction of orcs has more complex, even humanizing qualities in a recent book. Yet the stereotyping remains.
The game’s designers know they have a problem, too. In June 2020, when Black Lives Matter protests swept the country, the D&D development team posted a blog titled “Diversity and Dungeons & Dragons.” In no uncertain terms, this explained how D&D’s 50-year history of characterizing orcs and Drow as monstrous and evil is “painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.” To make things right, they said, D&D would offer new descriptions and possible rule changes for races in supplementary books, and correct some past errors.
Removing fantasy racism from D&D would take more than a pore vacuum; think somewhere between a chemical peel and reconstructive surgery.
You can only get so far with a couple of rule changes and a $30 book. D&D is a fantasy game, and fantasy has this unfortunate obsession with an anti-intellectual sort of ethnography. These people live in this place and behave like so, by nature. These other people don’t get along with them, simply because they are civilized and they are uncivilized. D&D cocreator Gary Gygax’s nods toward fantasy forefather Tolkien—including elves, dwarves, halflings (hobbits), and orcs—were so obvious that Tolkien Enterprises threatened to take copyright action. Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian series and H. P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction—the latter focused on the immeasurably horrible “other”—also served as inspiration for the first D&D rulebooks.
Fantasy worlds are, definitionally, made up. There doesn’t have to be racism, yet in some of fantasy’s most cherished texts it is almost always present. Helen Young, author of Race and Popular Fantasy Literature, has cataloged the prevalence of fantasy racism across countless fantasy media. “I ended up finding that it’s rare for a fantasy world not to have an idea of race or racism built into it,” says Young, particularly in the way that fantasy heroes and beauties are often coded as white. For Howard, desirable women were “lily-white.” Elves, considered a superior race, were fair-skinned and light-eyed. In his work and Tolkien’s, she says, “pretty much all of their own evil races—and even evil individuals, for the most part—are based on anti-black, anti-Semitic or Orientalist stereotypes.” University of California, Irvine informatics professor Aaron Trammell has written about this at length as well.
It’s something Graeme Barber, who runs the POCGamer blog, noticed when he read through the Dragonlance novels, published initially by D&D’s first publisher, TSR. One character bothered him: the underdog hero Tanis Half-Elven. As a half-human, half-elf, Tanis felt perennially alone. “According to humans, half an elf is but part of a whole being,” Tanis said in one of the books. “Half a man is a cripple.” Barber wasn’t a fan. “I’m biracial myself. The animosity [Tanis] got from everywhere really sort of rubbed me the wrong way,” he says. Lately, rereading Dragonlance has been painful for him, and not just because of the depiction of biraciality. He points to the Gully Dwarves, written as unintelligent sub-humanoids. They’re portrayed “as being profoundly mentally disabled to the point of not really even having a language,” says Barber.
When he began playing D&D, Barber noticed that this sort of lore-sanctioned stereotyping bled out into the game’s ruleset as hard-and-fast “racial bonuses,” but also in the way people role-played their characters. For example, gnomes get +2 to intelligence, priming them for a life in wizardry. So if players chose to play wizards, they’d often designate their race as “gnome” and role-play holier-than-thou attitudes. Half-orcs, who get bonuses to strength and constitution, make great barbarians. So friends role-played them as aggro, uncontained. When Barber chose to play race and class combinations that strayed from stereotypes, he was looked at askew. “There was always pressure from the outside for me to make my characters conform to narrow boxes,” he says. And even in the absence of such pressure, he would be falling into another trap: exceptionalism. Half-orc scholars, gnome barbarians. Exceptional in a world that remains the same.
Removing fantasy racism from D&D would take more than a pore vacuum; think somewhere between a chemical peel and reconstructive surgery. What isn’t laid out in source material has been codified in the game’s culture, as Stanford University professor Antero Garcia observed while doing research at gaming cafés in the Midwest for his upcoming ethnography of D&D players. He recalled how, in one group, partymates acted distrustful of a player-character whose race was tiefling—humanoids with infernal heritage who canonically live in ghettos in human cities. “They were all friends, but they knew the expectation was to be suspicious,” says Garcia. “That relationship is racism.”
Wizards of the Coast did take one small step in mid-November, putting out a new sourcebook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, that acknowledges these concerns. According to its rules, players can increase any of their characters’ ability scores—strength, constitution, dexterity, etc.—to better reflect their capabilities regardless of race. So traditionally, dwarves at base get two extra points in “constitution” because, in D&D-land, they’re sturdy. “That reinforcement is appropriate if you want to lean into the archetype, but it’s unhelpful if your character doesn’t conform to the archetype,” reads Tasha’s Cauldron. “If you’d like your character to follow their own path, you may ignore your Ability Score Increase trait and assign ability score increases tailored to your character.” Mix and match.
Days after the supplement was released, Barber penned a blog titled “Tasha’s Cauldron Of No Change.” “I think a lot of people were really disappointed with it because they were expecting something concrete,” says Barber. “It didn’t address anything. It just made these minor, superficial changes. Meanwhile, a whole bunch of stuff in the game remains.” Optional rules are optional, he says. Lots of D&D groups were already offering the opportunity to be exceptional within a flawed system. It didn’t address the game’s deep-rooted racial essentialism.
Wizards of the Coast says they’re trying to hire more diverse talent and be more attentive to insights from sensitivity readers. In two new books, they’re presenting orcs and Drow differently. The company has also begun updating older books. In D&D’s upcoming book Candlekeep Mysteries, Barber has a byline. Over email, the company declined to comment to WIRED on what next steps beyond Tasha’s Cauldron will look like.
Meanwhile, as WIRED has reported, players are taking matters into their own hands and providing alternative systems for race in D&D. Eugene Marshall, a player and philosophy professor at Florida International University, put out a zine in July called Ancestry and Culture. It replaces race with two more nuanced concepts: ancestry and culture. Ancestry is stuff a hero might inherit from biological parents, like walking speed, lifespan, and acid breath. If her parents are both halflings, she’s likely hovering around 3 feet tall. Culture, on the other hand, is broader, and includes languages, skill training, and education. So while dwarven culture encourages learning to use a handax, that knowledge isn’t a given if you’re a dwarf growing up in a human-majority city. No humanoid is naturally stupid or naturally evil.
For a genre about imagining new worlds, fantasy’s fans can lean conservative.
“They say, ‘Here’s some more choices.’ That’s not what this was about. No one was ever complaining because they don’t give us enough choices,” says Marshall. “I would like them to say something like, ‘Any sentient creature from the material plane is like a human, in that they can be anything they want to be—good, bad, smart, or not so smart.’ And so races might dictate certain things like whether you have dark vision or a breath weapon, but they just don’t dictate your behavior.”
The designers of other fantasy role-playing games have chosen to remove race entirely, making everyone play human characters, or limiting them to different factions of, say, elves. Anthropos Games describes its Early Dark as taking place in “a world of magick, yes, but not a world of high fantasy,” where in-game cultures are inspired by “respectful and researched” mashups of real-world mythic traditions. Players can fill in spaces on their character sheets for “culture,” “milieu,” and “heritage.”
In D&D, the ugliness runs deep, through the gilded tomes that inspired it and their stalwart protectors. After releasing his zine, Marshall says he received harassment from gamers who didn’t like his perspective. Garcia, too, says that after he published an article for a niche academic journal about race in D&D, he received emails signed with fantasy names telling him to have a stroke, signed, level 32 sorcerer. For a genre about imagining new worlds, fantasy’s fans can lean conservative.
They’re attached to something more deeply ingrained than a –2 intelligence modifier. After all, this is how 1978’s Advanced D&D rulebook reads: “Races are given advantages or limits mainly because the whole character of the game would be drastically altered if it were otherwise.” That bears repeating: To undo the racial essentialism of D&D would drastically alter the character of the game. Not the mechanics. Not the aesthetics. The character.
As we’ve seen, though, the character of a distributed, rules-optional game isn’t made of paper and ink, stony tropes or immovable stereotypes. First and foremost, it reflects the character of its players.
6:00 PM ET 1/25/20: This article has been updated to note UC Irvine informatics professor Aaron Trammell's scholarship.
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Wizards of the Coast's Fan Content Policy
Last Updated: November 15, 2017
We (that’s Wizards of the Coast) are continuously amazed at our Community’s creativity and engagement. We love that you enjoy creating and sharing Fan Content (that’s the stuff you make) and we want to encourage you to continue to create and share your stuff!
You probably have a lot of questions about what you can and can’t do with Wizards’ intellectual property (IP), so we summoned our law mages to put together this Fan Content Policy and FAQ. We hope that you understand that any restrictions in this Fan Content Policy are intended to protect Wizards and its games. We’ve got to protect our IP if we want to keep the lights on!
In short, your use of Wizards’ IP in your Fan Content is governed by the same rules you learned on the playground: share freely, keep it clean, and don’t hurt others.
That means we ask you follow these rules:
- One word: F-R-E-E. You can use Wizards’ IP (except for the restrictions listed in #3) to make Fan Content that you share with the community for free. Free means FREE:
- You can’t require payments, surveys, downloads, subscriptions, or email registration to access your Fan Content;
- You can’t sell or license your Fan Content to any third parties for any type of compensation; and
- Your Fan Content must be free for others (including Wizards) to view, access, share, and use without paying you anything, obtaining your approval, or giving you credit.
You can, however, subsidize your Fan Content by taking advantage of sponsorships, ad revenue, and donations—so long as it doesn’t interfere with the Community’s access to your Fan Content.
- Tell the Community it’s unofficial. Make it clear that your Fan Content is not endorsed or sponsored by Wizards—i.e., unofficial. Please include a note with your Fan Content explaining that:
“[Title of your Fan Content] is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.”
Don’t hurt others. Please respect other people’s IP. If you don’t have the rights to use another person’s stuff in your Fan Content—don’t. If we learn that your Fan Content also includes other people’s IP (e.g., crossovers/mashups) without their permission, we may ask you to take it down.
Don’t hurt Wizards. We ask that you refrain from doing any of the following:
- Don’t use Wizards’ logos and trademarks. We’ve included a list of our most frequently asked-about trademarks in the FAQ;
- Don’t mess with the legal notices in our stuff. If the Wizards IP you are incorporating into your Fan Content already has copyright notices, logos, trademarks, or other notices existing within it, don’t remove them;
- Don’t use Wizards’ IP in other games. This includes your own or other people’s games or game components (e.g., rule books, tokens, figures), regardless of whether it is distributed for free;
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No bad stuff.We have the right to stop or restrict your use of Wizards’ IP at any time—for any reason or no reason—including when we think your use is inappropriate, offensive, damaging, or disparaging (and we’ll make that call in our sole discretion). If this happens, you must immediately take down your Fan Content or face the Demogorgon (yeah, the big bad is back from being on loan).
Practice safe sponsorship. We understand that great Fan Content can sometimes require special equipment (e.g., videos, podcasts, prop fabrication). We are OK with you using third-party sponsors to subsidize costs if you follow a few rules:
- Don’t use a sponsor that would be harmful to Wizards. Please don’t promote our competitors or endorse inappropriate or offensive sponsors;
- Make it clear (verbally or visually) that they are acting as a sponsor only;
- Keep any shout-outs, mentions, and credits to a reasonable length; and
- Do not associate Wizards with your sponsor in any way.
One last thing—Please don’t pull us into any legal battles! Our lawyers are busy enough. If Wizards of the Coast, our partners, affiliates, or employees get hit with any legal claims, fees, or expenses related to your Fan Content, you’re responsible for paying all of our costs (including attorney’s fees) and any resulting judgment or settlement.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What kind of stuff does “Fan Content” cover?
Pretty much anything you create based on or incorporating our IP. Fan Content includes fan art, videos, podcasts, blogs, websites, streaming content, tattoos, altars to your cleric’s deity, etc.
The key is that it is your creation. It should go without saying, but Fan Content does not include the verbatim copying and reposting of Wizards’ IP (e.g., freely distributing D&D® rules content or books, creating counterfeit/proxy _Magic: The Gathering_® cards, etc.), regardless of whether that content is distributed for free.
So, what exactly is Wizards IP?
Wizards IP includes the cards, creatures, books, games, gameplay, pictures, stories, logos, animations, artwork, plots, locations, histories, characters, graphics, files, text, and other materials published by Wizards of the Coast.
Can I use all of Wizards’ IP?
Unfortunately, no. You cannot incorporate Wizards patents, game mechanics (unless your Fan Content is created under the D&D Open Game License), logos, or trademarks into your Fan Content without our prior written permission.
Below is a list of Wizards’ most frequently asked about trademarks and logos that you may not include in your Fan Content:
Please note, if a trademark or logo does not appear on the list above, this doesn’t mean Wizards waives any rights that Wizards has established in any of its products, features, service names or logos.
Q: Can I create a fan page about your games? And use Wizards’ art?
A: Yes! We love it! Just follow the policies outlined above.
Q: If I’m using art on my fan page that includes one of the above trademarks and logos, should I remove it?
A: No.If the Wizards’ IP you are incorporating into your Fan Content already has logos or trademarks existing within it, don’t remove them (see above). You can use those in your Fan Content as long as they aren’t changed in any way.
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Q: You said I can’t license my content to third parties for money. Aren’t partner programs with YouTube or Twitch technically licenses that I earn money on? Is this allowed?
A: . . . who let the rules lawyers into the FAQ? Yes, you don’t need prior written permission from us to participate in these type of partner programs. For any other licensing of Fan Content that earns you compensation, you’ll need our advance written permission.
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A: Uh . . . sure. Actually, we get this question a lot. You’re free to tattoo as you please, but Wizards won’t be responsible for future tattoo removal costs (or your life choices).
Q: How does this Policy affect other content policies, like the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guild?
A: This Policy applies to Fan Content generally. If Wizards’ or its partners have provided specific guidelines for your type of Fan Content (e.g., DM’s Guild; D&D Adventurer’s League), please follow those policies.
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A: No. We are fine with you producing Fan Content for your own enjoyment, to give away as a gift, or to post pictures of online. But we don’t allow anyone to sell Wizards-related content without our permission.
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A: Yes! This Policy is dedicated to removing barriers to sharing. By making Fan Content, you agreed to let everyone (including Wizards) share and use your stuff without asking your permission. This includes Wizards. We don’t want to get sued for spotlighting your awesome Fan Content on our media channels or making something that may resemble someone’s Fan Content.
Q: Can I tag or share with Wizards of the Coast my Fan Content?
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Q: What constitutes “inappropriate, offensive, damaging, or disparaging” Fan Content that you’ll take down?
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A: Yes. You can require a login/sign up to play a private group game. That doesn’t violate our condition that you let the Community freely access Fan Content.
Q: How can I contact Wizards of the Coast about my Fan Content?
A: If your Fan Content isn’t covered by this Policy, you’ll need our prior, written approval. If you have any questions or the Fan Content you want to make isn’t covered by this Policy, contact us by logging into the Wizards Help System at https://support.wizards.com. We’ll reply back as soon as we can.
Please understand that if you don’t hear from us, it does not mean we approve of your requested use of Wizards IP; it probably just means your question is covered by the Fan Content Policy.
Magicians appearing in fantasy fiction
For other uses, see Magician (disambiguation) and Magi (disambiguation).
A magician, also known as a enchanter/enchantress, mage, magic-user, sorcerer/sorceress, spell-caster, warlock, witch, or wizard, is someone who uses or practices magic derived from supernatural, occult, or arcane sources.: 54 Magicians are common figures in works of fantasy, such as fantasy literature and role-playing games, and enjoy a rich history in mythology, legends, fiction, and folklore.
In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the King Arthur stories being a prime example.: 195 Wizards such as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter are also featured as mentors, and Merlin remains prominent as both an educative force and mentor in modern works of Arthuriana.: 637  Other magicians, such as Saruman from The Lord of the Rings or Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, can appear as hostile villains.: 193 Villainous sorcerers were so crucial to pulp fantasy that the genre in which they appeared was dubbed "sword and sorcery".: 885
Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea explored the question of how wizards learned their art, introducing to modern fantasy the role of the wizard as protagonist. This theme has been further developed in modern fantasy, often leading to wizards as heroes on their own quests. Such heroes may have their own mentor, a wizard as well.: 637
Wizards can be cast similarly to the absent-minded professor: being foolish and prone to misconjuring. They can also be capable of great magic, both good or evil.: 140–141 Even comical wizards are often capable of great feats, such as those of Miracle Max in The Princess Bride; although he is a washed-up wizard fired by the villain, he saves the dying hero.
Wizards are often depicted as old, white-haired, and with long white beards majestic enough to occasionally host lurking woodland creatures. This depiction predates the modern fantasy genre, being derived from the traditional image of wizards such as Merlin. The famous magicians who noticeably entered popular culture are Mickey Mouse, the cartoon mascot of The Walt Disney Company, and Yen Sid from the Walt Disney Pictures film Fantasia.
In the Dragonlance campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, wizards show their moral alignment by their robes.
Terry Pratchett described robes as a magician's way of establishing to those they meet that they are capable of practicing magic.
To introduce conflict, writers of fantasy fiction often place limits on the magical abilities of wizards to prevent them from solving problems too easily.: 616 In Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away, once an area's mana is exhausted, no one can use magic.: 942 A common limit invented by Jack Vance in his The Dying Earth series, and later popularized in role-playing games is that a wizard can only cast a specific number of spells in a day.: 385
Magic can also require various sacrifices or the use of certain materials, such as gemstones, blood, or a live sacrifice. Even if the magician lacks scruples, obtaining the material may be difficult. A. K. Moonfire combines these limits in his book The Aubrey Stalking Portal. The magician expends power to fuel his spells, but does not replenish that power naturally; therefore, he must make sacrifices to generate more magical power.
The extent of a wizard's knowledge is limited to which spells a wizard knows and can cast. Magic may also be limited by its danger; if a powerful spell can cause grave harm if miscast, wizards are likely to be wary of using it.: 142 Other forms of magic are limited by consequences that, while not inherently dangerous, are at least undesirable. In A Wizard of Earthsea, every act of magic distorts the equilibrium of the world, which in turn has far-reaching consequences that can affect the entire world and everything in it. As a result, competent wizards do not use their magic frivolously.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the Law of Conservation of Reality is a principle imposed by forces wanting wizards to not destroy the world, and works to limit how much power it is humanly possible to wield. Whatever your means, the effort put into reaching the ends stays the same. For example, when the wizards of Unseen University are chasing the hapless wizard Rincewind in the forest of Skund, the wizards send out search teams to go and find him on foot. The Archchancellor beats them to it by using a powerful spell from his own office, and while he gets there first by clever use of his spell, he has used no less effort than the others.
Names and terminology
People who work magic are called by several names in fantasy works, and terminology differs widely from one fantasy world to another. While derived from real-world vocabulary, the terms wizard, witch, warlock, enchanter/enchantress, sorcerer(ess), druid(ess), magician, mage, and magus have different meanings depending upon context and the story in question.: 619
The term archmage is used in fantasy works as a title for a powerful magician or a leader of magicians.: 1027
Reasons for distinguishing magicians
In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia Wrede depicts wizards who use magic based on their staves and magicians who practice several kinds of magic, including wizard magic;[clarification needed] in the Regency fantasies, she and Caroline Stevermer depict magicians as identical to wizards, though inferior in skill and training.
Steve Pemberton's The Times & Life of Lucifer Jones describes the distinction thus: "The difference between a wizard and a sorcerer is comparable to that between, say, a lion and a tiger, but wizards are acutely status-conscious, and to them, it's more like the difference between a lion and a dead kitten." In David Eddings's The Belgariad and The Malloreon series, several protagonists refer to their abilities powered by sheer will as "sorcery" and look down on the term "magician", which specifically refers to summoners of demonic agents.
In role-playing games, the types of magic-users are more delineated and are named so that the players and game masters can know which rules apply.: 385 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson introduced the term "magic-user" in the original Dungeons & Dragons as a generic term for a practitioner of magic (in order to avoid the connotations of terms such as wizard or warlock); this lasted until the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, where it was replaced with mage (later to become wizard). The exact rules vary from game to game. The wizard or mage, as a character class, is distinguished by the ability to cast certain kinds of magic but being weak in combat; subclasses are distinguished by strengths in some areas of magic and weakness in others.Sorcerers are distinguished from wizards as having an innate gift with magic, as well as having mystical or magical ancestry.Warlocks are distinguished from wizards as creating forbidden "pacts" with powerful creatures to harness their innate magical gifts.
Enchanters often practice a type of magic that produces no physical effects on objects or people, but rather deceives the observer or target through the use of illusions. Enchantresses in particular practice this form of magic, often to seduce.: 318 For instance, the Lady of the Green Kirtle in C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair enchants Rilian into forgetting his father and Narnia; when that enchantment is broken, she attempts further enchantments with a sweet-smelling smoke and a thrumming musical instrument to baffle him and his rescuers into forgetting them again.
The term sorcerer is more frequently used when the magician in question is evil. This may derive from its use in sword and sorcery, where the hero would be the sword-wielder, leaving the sorcery for his opponent.: 885
Witch also carries evil connotations. L. Frank Baum named Glinda the "Good Witch of the South" in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, he dubbed her "Glinda the Good," and from that point forward and in subsequent books, Baum referred to her as a sorceress rather than a witch to avoid the term that was more regarded as evil.
Wizard and warlock usually refer to a male, while witch can refer to any gender but is more often ascribed towards women.
Traits of magicians
A common motif in fiction is that the ability to use magic is innate and often rare, or gained through a large amount of study and practice.: 616 In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, it is mostly limited to non-humans, though some people gain small amounts and become known as sorcerers (wizards being powerful spirits). In many writers' works, it is reserved for a select group of humans, such as in Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels, JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels or Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy universe.
Magicians normally learn spells by reading ancient tomes called grimoires, which may have magical properties of their own.: 126 Sorcerers in Conan the Barbarian often gained powers from such books, which are demarcated by their strange bindings. In worlds where magic is not an innate trait, the scarcity of these strange books may be a facet of the story; in Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Prince Rupert seeks out the books of the magician Prospero to learn magic. The same occurs in the Dungeons and Dragons-based novel series Dragonlance Chronicles, wherein Raistlin Majere seeks out the books of the sorcerer Fistandantilus. In JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, wizards already have skills of magic but they need to practise magic in Wizarding Schools in order to be able to use it properly.
Some magicians, even after training, continue their education by learning more spells, inventing new ones (and new magical objects), or rediscovering ancient spells, beings, or objects. For example, Dr. Strange from the Marvel Universe continues to learn about magic even after being named Sorcerer Supreme. He often encounters creatures that haven't been seen for centuries or more. In the same universe, Dr. Doom continues to pursue magical knowledge after mastering it by combining magic with science. Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter invent new magical items and sell them as legitimate defense items, new spells and potions can be made in the Harry Potter Universe;Severus Snape invented a variety of jinxes and hexes as well as substantial improvements in the process of making potions; Albus Dumbledore, along with Nicolas Flamel, is credited with discovering the twelve uses of dragon's blood.
Historically, many self-proclaimed magicians have required rare and precious materials, such as crystal balls, rare herbs (often picked by prescribed rituals), and elements such as mercury. This is less common in fantasy. Many magicians require no materials at all;: 617 those that do may require only simple and easily obtained materials. Role-playing games are more likely to require such materials for at least some spells to prevent characters from casting them too easily.[self-published source?]
Wands and staves have long been used as requirements for the magician.: 152 The first magical wand was featured in the Odyssey, used by Circe to transform Odysseus's men into animals. Italian fairy tales put wands into the hands of powerful fairies by the late Middle Ages. Today, magical wands are widespread and are used from Witch World to Harry Potter. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf refuses to surrender his own staff, breaking Saruman's, which strips the latter of his power. This dependency on a particular magical item is common, and necessary to limit the magician's power for the story's sake – without it, the magician's powers may be weakened or absent entirely. In the Harry Potter universe, a wizard must expend much greater effort and concentration to use magic without a wand, and only a few can control magic without one; taking away a wizard's wand in battle essentially disarms him.
Use of magic
Nevertheless, many magicians live in pseudo-medieval settings in which their magic is not put to practical use in society; they may serve as mentors, act as quest companions, or even go on a quest themselves,: 1027 but their magic does not build roads or buildings, provide immunizations, construct indoor plumbing, or do any of the other functions served by machinery; their worlds remain at a medieval level of technology.
Sometimes this is justified by having the negative effects of magic outweigh the positive possibilities.: 8 In Barbara Hambley's Windrose Chronicles, wizards are precisely pledged not to interfere because of the terrible damage they can do. In Discworld, the importance of wizards is that they actively do not do magic, because when wizards have access to sufficient "thaumaturgic energy", they develop many psychotic attributes and may eventually destroy the world. This may be a direct effect or the result of a miscast spell wreaking terrible havoc.: 142
In other works, developing magic is difficult. In Rick Cook's Wizardry series, the extreme danger presented by magic and the difficulty of analyzing the magic have stymied magic and left humanity at the mercy of the dangerous elves until a wizard summons a computer programmer from a parallel world — ours — to apply the skills he learned in our world to magic.
At other times, magic and technology do develop in tandem; this is most common in the alternate history genre. Patricia Wrede's Regency fantasies include a Royal Society of Wizards and a technological level equivalent to the actual Regency; Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy series, Robert A. Heinlein's Magic, Incorporated, and Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos all depict modern societies with magic equivalent to twentieth-century technology. In Harry Potter, wizards have magical equivalents to non-magical inventions; sometimes they duplicate them, as with the Hogwarts Express train.
The powers ascribed to magicians often affect their roles in society.[original research?] In practical terms, their powers may give them authority; magicians may advise kings, such as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Belgarath and Polgara the Sorceress in David Eddings's The Belgariad. They may be rulers themselves, as in E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, where both the heroes and the villains, although kings and lords, supplement their physical power with magical knowledge, or as in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, where magicians are the governing class.: 1027 On the other hand, magicians often live like hermits, isolated in their towers and often in the wilderness, bringing no change to society. In some works, such as many of Barbara Hambly's, they are despised and outcast specifically because of their knowledge and powers.: 745
In the magic-noir world of the Dresden Files, wizards generally keep a low profile, though there is no explicit prohibition against interacting openly with non-magical humanity. The protagonist of the series, Harry Dresden, openly advertises in the Yellow Pages under the heading "Wizard" and maintains a business office, though other wizards tend to resent him for practicing his craft openly. Dresden primarily uses his magic to make a living finding lost items and people, performing exorcisms, and providing protection against the supernatural.
In the series Sorcerous Stabber Orphen human forms of life should have only been capable of acquiring divine magic powers through individual spiritual development, whereas the race of human magicians with inborn magical ability ended in conflict with pureblood human society, because this race appeared as a result of an experiment of mixing humans with non-human sentient Heavenly Beings that acquired magic powers not through spiritual development, but through deep studying of laws of nature and by falsely causing the world’s laws to react to actions of the Heavenly Beings as to actions of Divinities. In the Harry Potter series, the Wizarding World hides themselves from the rest of the non-magic world, because, as described by Hagrid simply, "Why? Blimey, Harry, everyone’d be wantin’ magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we’re best left alone.”
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