—C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
With apologies to Lewis, citing the Deep Magic is exactly what we’re going to do now. And not just cite it. We’re going to look deeply at Deep Magic, making suggestions for where, when, and how GMs can add these spells, domains, and traditions to their campaign. And there’s a lot of it!
In addition to being made available separately, blood magic and void magic appear in the Midgard Worldbook while angelic magic, clockwork magic, dragon aspects, elemental magic, elven high magic, chaos magic, geomancy, hieroglyph magic, ring magic, rune magic, and shadow magic all get a mention in the Heroes Handbook. But Kobold Press continues to produce supplements introducing new magical traditions, new domains, and new spells. Recent offerings include combat divination, mythos magic, time magic, winter magic, and the latest—alkemancy.
Now before we go any further, let’s be clear upfront that it is absolutely fine to play in Midgard without any deep magic. And it is equally fine to throw the doors wide open and allow your players unrestricted access to every single bit of it all at once. Who doesn’t love more magic? But what I’ve done in my own campaign is kept the deep magic, well, deep. If they’re not a disciple of a domain or arcane tradition specifically concerned with a form of deep magic, then they have to encounter it in the course of play. I’ve (strongly!) encouraged my players to select the arcane traditions from Midgard—it’s part of how I strive to make my Midgard campaign feel distinct and unique and not blend into my other campaign set in the Forgotten Realms and elsewhere. But outside of the players actually studying a specific school, I introduce the deep magic slowly. Perhaps a helpful professor at the Collegium lets a promising apprentice copy from a restricted book. Perhaps the wall of a long-hidden tomb contains eldritch inscriptions that must be copied right then and there if the party is willing to pause and take the time. Perhaps a defeated foe left his or her spellbook lying around their lair and in among the more “mundane arcane” there are a few spells the players have never heard of. By making deep magic a surprise, a reward, a favor, a hard-won treasure, or the result of a quest, it feels special. It feels hidden. It feels truly arcane.
By way of example, in my current Midgard campaign, we have a dhampir necromancer named Nethrys. The party is based in Zobeck and has made several excursions into the Margreve Forest. Recently they encountered shadow fey and were escorted along a shadow road. After this, Nethrys the necromancer chose the Ley Initiate feat—a choice justified by his experiences—and he will now begin to study Geomancy and have access to ley line spells. Our gnome wizard Keller Garrick (sadly not from Neimheim, just the regular variety) has selected the Time Warden arcane tradition. He’s apprenticed to Master Diviner Rudwin Whitstone at the Arcane Collegium of Zobeck. Whitstone has allowed him to copy some low-level time magic spells from the college’s library as a result of completing a quest for him (“The Vengeful Heart” from Tales of the Old Margeve), but time magic isn’t the Master Diviner’s specialty. He’s suggested that our gnome visit Bemmea if he’s serious about pursuing his studies. (While researching this article, I realized this is a slight flub, about which more later.) Our bearfolk, Toleri Hive Tender, a member of the Lodge of the Dancing Bear from Björnrike, has taken the Rune Knowledge feat. And in our now-concluded Southlands campaign, I added some hieroglyph magic to the spells listed in the book belonging to the gnoll necromancer in Grimalkin as a way of introducing that to our campaign there.
Now let’s look through the deep magics and see where and when they might be encountered.
Angelic seals are rare. There may be some scribbled in long-lost spellbooks that might be found in a forgotten tomb or buried ruin, but for the most part, usually only those who take the Angelic Scribe feat should have ready access to them without uncovering the seals and wards in the course of adventuring. However, some 280,000 aasimar dwell in Ishadia. Although they have been crushed by the Mharoti, the Ishadians still consider themselves to be a nation of upstanding knights with divine blood running through a large percentage of their population, so it would make sense for PCs and NPCs from Ishadia to have mastery of this magic. Outside of Ishadia, Bemmea is a good bet for angelic seals and wards (as Bemmea is for most magics).
Alkemancers can be found plying their trade in Maillon, Trombie, or Zobeck or wandering Southlands deserts, the Wasted West, or the Wandering Realms of the Kariv. But they are most common in Khandiria where this deep magic originated in the city of Mahishtapur. However, we know from Dan Dillon’s Midgard-based live stream, The World Tree Burns, that there’s a kobold wizard at the Arcane Collegium named Mottle who loves to mettle with potions and concoctions and whose skin is permanently mottled as a result of his experiments. Alkemancy seems right up his alley, and Dan has given us his blessing to “make it so.” So perhaps Mottle might instruct a PC in alkemancy in response to a favor or even take a PC on as a promising student.
Battle magic and combat divination strike me as perhaps the most widespread of the deep magics. Certainly, anywhere with a strong martial tradition is a likely candidate. Apart from the aforementioned Ishadia, the Magdar Kingdom, Perunalia, and Morgau all seem likely places for these two disciplines. Of course, there are sure to be plenty of practitioners of battle magic and Combat Divination among the many followers of Mavros, the war god and patron god of the Seven Cities.
Blood magic isn’t really for PCs. This is the province of the Blood Kingdom—Morgau, Doresh, Krakovar. Outside that dark empire, blood magic should only be encountered in cults and secret orders (as it was in the aforementioned “The Vengeful Heart.”) It’s a thing to be shunned by right-thinking folks. However, there are warlords in the Southlands who have taken up the Oath of the Giving Grave, the Sacred Oath of the Antipaladin, and they definitely wield blood magic.
Chaos magic is the province of mad wizards and crazed bards. Surely there would be a few among the bards of Skaldholm, perhaps followers of Loki the Trickster, while the Duchess Vasilka Soulay of Perunalia also holds bards in high esteem. Perhaps a bard of the College of Entropy might show up at Poet’s Festival in Bratislor, and the gnome bards of Niemheim aren’t above a little chaos. Bemmea, again, must have places where one can study the School of Chaos if one is bold enough.
The Mharoti Empire is obviously the home of dragon magic. Little else need be said there. Just as elven high magic is rooted in the Grand Duchy of Dornig. Of course, elven high magic is never, ever taught to non-elves. The shadow fey practice both elven high magic and shadow magic as well.
If there is a place for clockwork magic anywhere, then it’s in the City of Gears. The Free City of Zobeck, whose patron god is Rava the Gear Goddess, is the undisputed home of clockwork magic.
Elemental magic finds its home in the Mharoti Empire, amid the dragons and dragonborn, and amid the jinnborn of the Southlands, who trace their lineage directly back to powerful elemental creatures.
Speaking of the Southlands, the various glyphs of hieroglyph magic are studied by the different Southlands faiths with different faiths concentrating on different glyphs. But we’re told that scholars see a connection between ancient hieroglyphs and the glyphs of the aboleths. See my recent article, “From the Archives: A Deep Dive for Hidden Lore.” It’s possible some ancient hieroglyphs might turn up among the Ankeshelian ruins in the sunken city off the coast of Cassadega. If so, do they hint at aboleth influence in the ancient cultures of the Southlands?
Mythos magic is tailormade for the Wasted West. The Dread Walkers are nothing if not Lovecraftian monstrosities, striding the fallout of a magical Armageddon. If there is mythos magic to be found, it will be uncovered sifting through the blighted sands of that wasteland.
Ring magic is the province of the Northlands’ reaver dwarves. Ring wardens are rare outside of their home, deep beneath the northern mountains. Rune magic, however, would be far more common across the entirety of the Northlands and, unlike ring magic, isn’t limited to dwarven practitioners.
Master Diviner Rudwin Whitstone instructed my aforementioned gnome to travel to Bemmea to seek out higher levels of time magic, and the timekeeper tradition did begin in the west before the Great Mage Wars, but in researching this article, I discovered that today time magic is most common where clockwork magic is also practiced, so my gnome might be just fine staying in the Arcane Collegium of Zobeck.
Winter magic is a thing of the Northlands, natch. The warlock patron, the Frozen One, is said to sometimes be a Mask of Boreas the North Wind, and the barbarians of the Northlands may follow the Primal Path of the Blizzard’s Heart. Winterfolk halflings seem a good candidate for this magic, as do any of the peoples of the Northlands.
Finally, void magic is simply of the Void. Like blood magic, you don’t want to go messing with that! Leave it to the hands of strange cults and the tentacles of eldritch horrors where it belongs.
I hope these suggestions are useful to your own campaigns. Obviously, they are suggestions only, and you are free to incorporate the deep magics however you choose. Meanwhile, that we might give credit to all the learned masters that have shared their disciplines with us, here is a list of the separately available Deep Magic offerings and their designers.
- Alkemancy (Phillip Larwood)
- Angelic Seals (Dan Dillon)
- Battle Magic (Greg Marks)
- Blood and Doom (Chris Harris)
- Chaos Magic (Greg Marks)
- Clockwork Magic (Scott Carter)
- Combat Divination (Matt Corley)
- Dragon Magic (Shawn Merwin)
- Elemental Magic (Dan Dillon)
- Elven High Magic (Greg Marks)
- Hieroglyph Magic (Michael Ohl)
- Illumination Magic (Greg Marks)
- Ley Lines (Dan Dillon)
- Mythos Magic (Chris Lockey)
- Ring Magic (Dan Dillon)
- Rune Magic (Chris Harris)
- Shadow Magic (Michael Ohl)
- Time Magic (Carlos Ovalle)
- Void Magic (Dan Dillon)
- Winter Magic (Mike Welham)
Lou Anders is the author of Frostborn, Nightborn, and Skyborn, the three books of the Thrones & Bones series of middle grade fantasy adventures, as well as the novel Star Wars: Pirate’s Price. You can find out more about him and his works at www.louanders.com and visit him on Facebook and on Twitter @LouAnders.
 In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure, To the Edge of the World by Wolfgang Baur (about which more in a future article), Simez Rothgazzi, a geomancer of Barsella, actually offers instruction in ley line magic as a fee for doing him a service.
 Oh well, perhaps the Master Diviner has ulterior purposes in making this suggestion.