The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes
Magic in the Realms
From the simplest cantrip to the mightiest workings of High Magic, from the blessings of healing mercy to the raising of mighty heroes from the dead, magic permeates the Realms. Any understanding of magic begins, and ends, with an understanding of the Weave.
The Weave is an essential element of the universe, running through everything in unseen threads. Some creatures, objects, and locations have deep, intrinsic ties to the Weave and can perform extraordinary feats that come naturally to them (a beholder’s flight, a vampire’s charming gaze, a dragon’s breath weapon, and so forth). Creatures with the necessary talent and skill can also manipulate the Weave to perform magic by casting spells.
The Weave isn’t normally visible or detectable, even through the use of spells. Detect magic doesn't let you perceive the Weave, for instance. The Weave isn’t magic, precisely, any more than a collection of threads is a garment; it’s the raw material from which the tapestry of magic is woven.
In two senses, both the metaphorical and the real, the goddess Mystra is the Weave. She is its keeper and tender, but all three times the goddess of magic has died or been separated from her divinity (twice as Mystra, and once as her predecessor, Mystryl), magic has been twisted or has failed entirely. With Mystra’s last death and the coming of the Spellplague, the Weave was thought destroyed, and the term lost its significance. Since the end of the most recent Sundering, both Mystra and the Weave have returned to their roles of centuries past, and spells and magic items are more reliable than they had been while the Spellplague raged.
Supernatural Powers and Psionics
The inborn magical abilities of certain creatures, the acquired supernatural powers of people such as monks, and psionic abilities are similar in that their users don’t manipulate the Weave in the customary way that spellcasters do. The mental state of the user is vitally important: monks and some psionics-users train long and hard to attain the right frame of mind, while creatures with supernatural powers have that mind-set in their nature. How these abilities are related to the Weave remains a matter of debate; many students of the arcane believe that the use of the so-called Unseen Art is an aspect of magical talent that can’t be directly studied or taught.
Where a spell effect is brought to life by manipulating the threads of the Weave, the creation of a magic item ties some of those threads together in a specific way, to produce the desired effect for as long as the item lasts. The Weave provides immediately available energy for spells and also enables those who know the craft to harness that energy inside an object until it is called forth by its user (who, of course, need not be a spellcaster).
In some cases, the magic of an item must be tied to its wielder, representing an entwining of the threads of the Weave between wielder and object known as attunement. As with all matters related to magic, the number of items to which a single being can be attuned is limited, but the benefits of such a relationship can be considerable.
Mythals are some of the most powerful magic in the world of Toril, constructs that bind and shape the Weave in a particular location, sometimes so powerfully that the rules of magic or even reality can be bent or rewritten.
A mythal is a permanent field of overlapping magical wards and effects tied to a specific location. In its original usage, this term applied to the works of High Magic that protected ancient elven cities. It has since been expanded to cover all manner of similar protections, from the immense floating cities of fallen Netheril to the wards of Silverymoon to the smaller— but no less effective— workings of magic that keep safe important locations like Candlekeep. Even the many-layered wards and effects of Undermountain, beneath Waterdeep, are considered a mythal by some.
Most mythals are defensive in nature, designed to restrict the kinds of magic that can be employed in the area they govern, and the most common restrictions are concerned with teleportation and conjuration magic. Evereska’s mythal influences the weather of the area and wards its inhabitants against disease, while the mythal of undersea Myth Nantar makes its waters breathable and more comfortable for creatures not suited to underwater life.
In many ways, a mythal is less like a spell or a magic item than a living creation of magic, capable of growing stronger or weaker, absorbing damage, or dying. Mythals can also sometimes heal themselves, as did the mythal of Silverymoon, blossoming out of the Moonbridge following Mystra’s most recent return. Each active mythal has one or more beings attuned to its effects, who can ignore any restrictions on spellcasting, can direct targetable effects of the mythal, and can teach others of appropriate skill how to access its secrets.
Except in cities such as Silverymoon and Evereska, adventurers are most likely to encounter damaged or failing mythals in ruined locations where magic once had great influence. Although an identify spell might reveal some of the simplest effects of a mythal, active restrictions on spellcasting can be discovered only by trying (and failing) to cast a prohibited spell. A powerful spellcaster might learn how to access or repair a mythal without assistance, but such feats are legendary, and rarely attempted by even the most renowned of mages. Any elven city with Myth in its title (Myth Drannor, Myth Glaurach, Myth Nantar, and others) has, or had, a mythal protecting it. The ruins of such places are certain to have unpredictable effects related to their damaged or destroyed mythals.
Certain spells allow casters to perceive or manipulate the effects of the Weave in particular ways. The Weave itself also has irregularities that affect spells.
Detect Magic. Detect magic reveals threads of the Weave woven together through spellcasting, or the “knots” of the Weave in a magic item. A magic item appears enmeshed in the silvery-blue threads of the Weave, and the way the threads are arranged reveals what type of magic is used (necromancy, abjuration, and so on). Similarly, active spells and areas imbued with magic are limned in a silvery network of threads, which might twist and reknit themselves depending on the magic involved.
Dispel Magic. Dispel magic unwinds and prematurely ends magic, unraveling whatever construct of the Weave was put in place.
Antimagic. Antimagic effects can dispel existing spells and unravel any magic woven from the Weave. Permanent effects, such as those from magic items, are usually suppressed by antimagic: while the effect is within an area of antimagic, the construct of the Weave unravels, but the threads snap back into place once the magic is outside the area.
Dead Magic. In rare areas of dead magic, the Weave is absent. Not only do spells and magic items cease to function, but even the supernatural abilities of creatures that are innately tied to the Weave might fail as the knot of the Weave they carry with them unravels.
Wild Magic. In an area of wild magic, the Weave becomes “tangled,” spontaneously forming its own constructs and resulting magic. It also tends to twist the constructs of the Weave created by spellcasting, causing unexpected results.