The Color of Magic

Long before Eberron came into existence as a setting for D&D, I had been using Magic: the Gathering sets and expansions as inspiration for my campaigns. Not only the fantasy staples of Dominaría made my imagination and creativity fly into creating adventures for my players, but the interactions between the five colors of that game’s spells stroke me with their philosophy and relations with each other. Years later, the famous “color wheel” has been the object of design study and a complex system has been established as canon.

And sometimes for my Eberron campaigns, even if not mechanically, I have that canon ingrained into how society sees magic. This month, the RPG Blogs Carnival is being hosted by “Sea of Stars” and the proposed theme is “Making Magic Wondrous”. This is my little collaboration.

In M:tG, each of the five colors represents a set of beliefs and principles, giving identity to everything, from characters and organizations to places and magic itmes. A color’s philosophy explains how people identified with it sees the world, what objectives it hopes to realize, and what resources and tactics they have at their disposal. The basic concepts related to each color are:

  • White is the color of community, the whole coming together to provide protection and uphold the law in favor of the innocent. To wield the power of white magic, you must put the needs of the many above your own. As such, White values peace, law, structures, selflessness, and equality.
  • Blue is the color of thought, the focusing of the mind to realize its limitless genius. To wield the power of blue magic, you must be able to control the deceptive nature of illusion in pursuit of ultimate knowledge. As such, Blue values knowledge, deceit, cautiousness, deliberation, and the search for perfection.
  • Black is the color of death, decay, and forbiddeen lore. To wiled the power of black magic, you must be willing to stop at nothing and pay any price, no matter how sinister or depraved. As such, Black values power, self-interest, death, sacrifice, and the lack of inhibitions.
  • Red is the color of passion, the reckless pursuit of emotion into the heart of chaos. To wield the power of red mana, you must be ready to rush headlong into battle and break all the rules along the way. As such, Red values freedom, emotion, activeness, impulsivity, and destruction.
  • Green is the color of nature, of the ferocity and unbridled growth that rules the wild. To wiled the power of Green Magic, you must shed the shackles of civilization and embrace a life of raw savagery. As such, Green values nature, wildlife, connections, spiritualism, and tradition.

These are the philosophies I use to slightly customize how regular citizens see magic in my Eberron campaigns. When I first did it (back in the 3.5e days), there were not only schools of magic but also several spell descriptors, such as Healing, Mind, and Good. When I decided to update it to 4e, the division was mostly energy-driven. And I take this chance to run a new version for 5e, which for some reason I haven’t done yet. Here it is:

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The 5e Player’s Handbook has given us only the eight classic schools of magic. Roughly, Abjuration matches White magic; Divination, Enchantment, and Illusion are Blue; Necromancy is Black; Evocation is Red; and Conjuration and Transmutation are Green. This division, though, leave us with healing spells being red, which is not precisely intuitive if you’re a M:tG aficionado. So we decided to look at the Spell Tags in D&D
Beyond and tried to run the same division.

Spells by Tags

  • White: Banishment, Healing, Warding.
  • Blue: Charmed, Communication, Compulsion, Control, Deception, Foreknowledge, Scrying.
  • Black: Debuff.
  • Red: Damage.
  • Green: Buff, Creation, Environment, Exploration, Movement.

Spells with Combat, Shapechanging, Summoning, Teleportation, and Utility will fit a category considering their specific details.

Spells by Energy

  • White: Force, Radiant.
  • Blue: Cold, Psychic.
  • Black: Necrotic, Poison.
  • Red: Fire, Lightning, Thunder.
  • Green: Acid.

 

So in the end, most spellcasters, when seen in public or looked for by adventurers, may refer to them by a color according to their abilities: a sorcerer releasing a fireball or scorching ray will be recognized as a red mage, while a cleric of the Sovereign Host curing their adventurers’ wounds will be seen as a white one. In the same way, when looking for the suspicious necromancer, PCs may have more success refering to him as the “black mage”.

Now the real project that has come to my mind if if I should give an additional step and turn this into a full mechanic where spellcasters need to have a connection of some sorts to a certain kind of landscape in order to be able to cast specific spells… but that will have to wait for a not-so-near a future opportunity.

Until next time, I hope the magic in your campaign find its very own color.

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