Organizing my Mages Guild notes so they don't get lost on discord. I know there are existing faction planning documents for the MG, but they're mostly TR-focused, and a bit limited in scope. This post is for collating the known lore on the pan-Tamrielic Mages Guild from all three early TES games and Redguard, and organizing the various collaborative new stuff from discord.
What does the Guild of Mages do?
When Vanus Galerion, a Psijic of Artaeum and student of the famed Iachesis, began collecting magic-users from around Summerset Isle, he attracted the animosity of all. He was operating out of the urban center of Firsthold, and there was a common (and not entirely unfounded) attitude that magical experiments should be conducted only in unpopulated areas. Even more shocking, Galerion proposed to make magical items, potions, and even spells available to any member of the general public who could afford to pay. No longer was magic to be limited either to the aristocracy or intelligentsia.
- "...provides benefits to scholars of magic and established laws regarding the proper use of magic. The Guild is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and distribution of magical knowledge with an emphasis on ensuring that all citizens of Tamriel benefit from this knowledge."
- In Morrowind, the Armistice gives the Mages Guild a further loosely-enforced monopoly on the magic trade.
- Operates public guildhalls in all the Provinces
- Some guildhalls are owned by the Guild, while others are leased from local authorities, as per the attachment in the Mages Guild Charter
- Provides various services for the public, including enchanting, spellmaking, alchemy, and transit between guildhalls (though the latter appears rarely used by non-guildmembers)
- Provides training in magical skills to guildmembers, for a fee
- Teaches literacy classes to locals, apparently free of charge
TR/PT lore further establishes that the Mages Guild:
- Liaisons with the Imperial Archaeological Society to excavate ruins and recover rare artifacts of interest
- Operates travel "relays" for guild members in areas where Imperial control on the ground is too weak to justify full guildhalls, but where the Guild has a strong interest in maintaining a presence (such as Telvannis District)
- Teaches magical disciplines at the Arcane University in the Imperial City
- Operates small research outposts in areas of academic interest to the Guild (such as Lake Andaram)
Where does the Guild of Mages operate?
Here's a WIP map of Mages Guilds throughout Tamriel:
- MG Eye - Provincial HQ
- These are the largest, most important guildhalls in the Provinces. They have multiple interior cells and a guildmaster of high rank, and host pan-provincial Guild quests in addition to their local questlines. (Almalexia)
- I - Large guildhall
- These large guildhalls have multiple interior cells, full questlines, and a guildmaster of high rank. Outside of Cyrodiil and Summerset, they are somewhat uncommon. (Old Ebonheart)
- II - "Standard" guildhall
- These are the most common guildhalls, with a single interior cell, a full questline, and a guildmaster of mid-to-high rank. (Vivec)
- III - Small guildhall
- These guildhalls are smaller than average, with a single interior cell and a guildmaster of mid-to-high rank, but only misc quests or single faction quests. (Caldera)
- O - Research outpost
- These locations are not true guildhalls (and as such don't have guildmasters), but are rather small facilities located in places of academic interest to the Guild. They may offer some quests relating to the subject of their research. (Idathren)
- R - Relays
- These locations do not have dedicated buildings. Relays are tucked away into Imperial Forts or other host buildings, and generally consist only of a teleport pad, 1-2 NPCs, and some magic miscellania.
- The color of a marker indicates its primary network (Ald-Ruhn/Balmora/Caldera/Sadrith Mora/Vivec). Anyone can use these networks, for a fee. There is no indication ingame that these networks are used frequently by non-guildmembers.
- The outer ring color (if present) indicates the presence of another guild guide who provides teleportation along a secondary "hub" network (Almalexia/Baan Malur/Firewatch/Narsis/Vivec). Only guild members can use these networks.
- All Provincial hub guildhalls (Almalexia, Emperor's Run, Firsthold, Haafingar, Lilmoth, Taneth, Torval, Wayrest) have a third guild guide providing teleportation to one of eight dedicated pads at the Arcane University in the Imperial City. These guild guides do not provide teleportation directly between Provincial hubs. Only high-ranking members of the Mages Guild can use this service, due to the immense strain and rare ability required for guild guides to facilitate safe teleportation at such long distances.
- The Arcane University in the Imperial City is the headquarters of the Mages Guild. It hosts twelve guild guides: one each for the two Heartlands primary networks, one each for Colovia and Nibenay's respective secondary networks, and eight master guild guides providing service to each of the Guild hubs in the Provinces.
- Infragris' lore on Celaudine teleportation in Guide to the Guild Guides is the basis for all of this.
The issue of distance and the expenditure of magic is not difficult to explain. When transporting someone, the magicka and level of concentration required rise sharply beyond a certain threshold in the Lucevarius Curve.
This means that, while teleportation in a range of several miles is fairly simple, the same spell across large distances requires exponentially more magicka. To teleport from Daggerfall to Wayrest is somewhat draining for a standard practitioner. But to teleport from High Rock to Yokuda would require more magicka than a thousand mages in concert could harness.
- The guild guide networks are drawn with the hardcoded limitations of the game in mind (four destinations per guide). They can consist of no more than five nodes.
- Relays are used only in places where the Guild has either a limited presence (Telvannis, Black Marsh) or many locations of interest in a dense area (Nibennium, Moridunon).
- Bosmora will not have MG presence in post-redo TR. I gave Merveyan (Lan Murha) a small standalone guildhall rather than a relay like Bosmora because the concept art for the former looks like a more substantial city. Also, as the most developed of the six districts in Morrowind, Mournhold District should have a full roster of five guildhalls, in my opinion.
- The Tear guildhall is operated by the Morrowind Guild, but it is connected to the northern Black Marsh network. This is both because of the node limitations mentioned above and to emphasize the Tear guildhall's physical and narrative isolation from the rest of Morrowind.
- The Dragonstar West guildhall is operated by the Hammerfell Guild, and attached to no guild guide network at the beginning of the game. As part of the Karthwasten Guild of Mages questline, the player can strong-arm the DSW guildmaster into connecting her guildhall to the Skyrim guild guide network.
- Before the War of the Bend'r Makh, Hammerfell's northern network included Dragonstar and Karthwasten as hubs, and Skyrim's networks were arrayed differently.
- The Falkreath and Gideon guildhalls sit on Cyrodiilic primary networks for historical, cultural, and political reasons. They are connected to other guildhalls in their respective provinces by secondary networks.
- The Padomaic Ocean network is not connected to any Tamrielic networks or to the Arcane University because of the vast distances involved.
- Because the Guild of Mages was founded in Firsthold, Summerset has a rather dense concentration of Guild presence, and many old, proud Tier I guildhalls. The Firsthold<->Imperial City connection is the longest in Tamriel, and is likely maintained by the most skilled guild guides in the Empire.
- Bruma, as a city astride Colovia and Nibenay, sits on the north Colovia primary network, but the Nibenese cities' secondary network.
- Unlike in Cyrodiil and Summerset, where the Guild grew around large central guildhalls, small guildhalls in High Rock sprung up in a more dispersed fashion due to the fragmented political state of the province until the Warp and the widespread appeal of magic in Breton society. Consequently, there is a very high density of MG halls in High Rock, but no Tier I halls outside of Wayrest and Daggerfall. By 3E427, the larger guildhalls are likely grappling with the challenge of affirming their leadership in such a fractious environment.
- Hammerfell's northern Crown territories, by contrast, have only a handful of MG halls due to the Redguards' traditional distaste for magic.
- "Temaris" (maybe not named that) is a speculative Imperial fort-island discussed in #cathnoquey on discord; it would be a forward merchant port and Navy staging harbor for the Padomaic Islands.
- There is not much worldbuilding done on Yneslea at this time, but assuming it is still a part of the Empire, it likely has a MG hall. Per MD and Lucevar's lore, Esroniet is no longer a part of the Empire, and therefore has no MG presence.
Who leads the Guild of Mages?
Upon receiving this letter, you will step down from your post and grant the title of Arch-Mage to %PCName. From this day forward, %PCName will handle all Guild matters in Vvardenfell. You may keep the title of Arch-Mage, but you will retire from active participation in the affairs of the Guild.
In the Emperor's Name,
"Well, I'm glad that mystery is solved at last. Next time the Arch-Mage of Almalexia visits, I'll really have something to brag about."
First, Arch-Mages are not Archmagisters. Origin of the Mages Guild states that the Guild is governed by a "supreme council" of six Archmagisters. The highest rank in the vanilla Mages Guild is Arch-Mage, but given what we know of the position based on the in-game lines quoted above, if the positions were coterminous, three of Tamriel's six Archmagisters would be based in Morrowind once the PC attains that title. This is obviously silly. Rather than try to find some way to divide up six Archmagisters throughout nine provinces, I think the better approach is to have six all at the Arcane University, and to firmly distinguish these Archmagisters from the "Arch-Mage" role held by Trebonius, his unnamed counterpart in Almalexia, and (eventually) the player. One of the six Archmagisters should be Corim Ashlen, (former?) Loremaster of the Lillandril Mages Guild, who assisted the Eternal Champion in their quest for the Staff of Chaos during the Simulacrum.
Arch-Mage appears to be a position responsible for a designated set of guildhalls. In Trebonius' case, this is explicitly stated by Ocato to be the five guildhalls of Vvardenfell District. It follows that Morrowind's other districts - aside from perhaps Telvannis and Deshaan - have their own Arch-Mages, also appointed by the Archmagisters of the supreme council. In other provinces, I think the division is largely practical above all, and probably corresponds more or less with the guild guide networks and geography, except in cases of cross-province networks, or where it seems practical to combine them for historical or modern reasons. It also seems reasonable that "Arch-Mage" - being a rank title - could overlap with other non-rank titles. This is how I'd suggest arraying the Arch-Mages, with a couple of potential plot hooks. I think it would be nice for the player to be able to attain the rank of Arch-Mage in several provinces in different ways, and thereby consolidating their power in the faction continent-wide. I've marked the ones I think could be player-earned in blue:
- Arch-Mage of Almalexia
- Responsible for Heartlands,
Telvannis, and Deshaan District guildhalls ( 32 networks) Wants to hand over responsibility for the mess that is Telvannis to someone else, but no one will take it. Maybe the player could agree to take on the responsibility in their capacity as the Vivec Arch-Mage?
- Responsible for Heartlands,
- Arch-Mage of Baan Malur
- Responsible for Velothis District guildhalls (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Firewatch
- Responsible for Telvannis District guildhalls (1 very limited network)
- Backed up against a metaphorical wall, would be interesting as an unconvential "leader" mage (a nightblade, perhaps)
- Arch-Mage of Narsis
- Responsible for Narsis District guildhalls (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Vivec
- Responsible for Vvardenfell District guildhalls (1 network)
- The player's eventual rank in the vanilla questline.
- Arch-Mage of Lilmoth
- Responsible for all Black Marsh Province guildhalls (2 networks)
- Very expansion-minded, interested in using the Guild to push further into Argonia and study its peculiarities (thus the relays and research outposts). Might get in over their head, opening up the job to the player.
- Arch-Mage of Skingrad (or Anvil?)
- Responsible for all County Anvil, County Kvatch, and County Skingrad guildhalls (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Bruma
- Responsible for all County Bruma and County Chorrol guildhalls (1 network, minus Falkreath)
- Nibenese and Colovian attitudes towards magic are probably colliding in Bruma, and its Arch-Mage is probably a controversial figure.
- Arch-Mage of Cheydinhal
- Responsible for all County Cheydinhal guildhalls (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Bravil
- Responsible for all County Bravil and County Leyawiin guildhalls (1 network, minus Gideon)
- Arch-Mage of Nibennium
- Responsible for all Heartlands guildhalls (2 networks)
- Arch-Mage of Winterhold
- Responsible for all guildhalls in the Old Holds (1 network, plus Danstrar)
- Arch-Mage of Haafingar
- Responsible for all guildhalls in western Skyrim (2 networks, plus Falkreath, minus Danstrar and Dragonstar West)
- Could be a stooge of Thian. Either way, probably the one sponsoring the research outpost on Roscrea.
Arch-Mage of Whiterun
- Position abolished when the city fell into chaos. Rolled into the Haafingar Archmage's responsibilities.
- If the player rises high enough in the Skyrim MG, the position could be restored and awarded to the player.
- Arch-Mage of Evermore
- Responsible for all guildhalls in the Kingdoms of Evermore-Farrun and Jehanna
- Got a lot to deal with. Evermore's wizard-rulers despise the Guild, and the Jehanna guildhall has to deal with Thian's occupation.
- Arch-Mage of Shornhelm
- Responsible for all guildhalls in the Kingdoms of Shornhelm, Northpoint, and Camlorn.
- Might be targeted by Wayrest and/or Daggerfall Arch-Mages to carve up into their domains. Position might be attainable by a player willing to play politics.
- Arch-Mage of Wayrest
- Responsible for all guildhalls in the Kingdoms of Wayrest, Orsinium (1 network, plus Portdun Creek)
- Arch-Mage of Daggerfall
- Responsible for all guildhalls in the Kingdoms of Daggerfall, Camlorn, Shornhelm, and Northpoint (2 networks)
- Arch-Mage of Taneth
- Responsible for all Hammerfell Province guildhalls (3 networks)
- Abruptly handed all this responsibility when their counterpart in Sentinel perished in the Warp. Things are coming apart at the seams.
- Arch-Mage of Firsthold
- Responsible for all guildhalls in Summerset Isles Province (3 networks)
- The Summerset MG's governance being the oldest - and most consolidated - of all the provincial Guilds, this person is likely the most politically powerful individual Arch-Mage.
- Arch-Mage of Emperor's Run
- Responsible for all guildhalls in Valenwood Province
- Oversight of Valenwood's MG halls was consolidated following the War of the Usurper, during which the Guild was paraylzed by infighting and inaction. This centralization allowed the MG to survive the Simulacrum in Valenwood while the Fighters Guild did not.
- Arch-Mage of Rimmen
- Responsible for all guildhalls in Anequina (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Torval
- Responsible for all guildhalls in Pelletine (1 network)
- Arch-Mage of Port Mare
- Responsible for all guildhalls in Cathnoquey and Yneslea (1 network)
- Almost certainly the weakest Arch-Mage, politically speaking. Probably wants a powerful guild guide for an Imperial City hub connection, but is very unlikely to get one. Might compromise on a link to Almalexia or Thorn instead.
One need not be a member of the Mages Guild to know that this carefully contrived hierarchy is often nothing more than a chimera. As Vanus Galerion himself said bitterly, leaving Tamriel to travel to other lands, "The Guild has become nothing more than an intricate morass of political infighting."
The Guild of Mages also contains a number of subfactions, according to Daggerfall:
- the Academics, a subfaction of spell merchants
- the Cabal, a subfaction of summoners who consort with Daedric princes
- the Crafters, a subfaction of enchanters
- the Isolationists, a subfaction of spellmakers
- the Mercenary Mages, a subfaction of... well, mercenary mages
- the Odylic Mages, a subfaction of mages who will provide item identification services
- the Order of the Lamp, the Guild's elite security mages
- the Patricians, a subfaction of magical tutors and academics
- the Travelers League, a subfaction for guild guides
- and the Utility Mages, a subfaction of merchants who buy and sell magical items
In TESII, these subfactions are represented in every guildhall. Additionally, Origin of the Mages Guild describes a per-Guildhall leadership structure that is simply impossible at TR/PT scale (or even vanilla scale, for that matter):
Each Guildhall is run by a Guildmagister, assisted by a twofold counsel, the Master of Incunabula and the Master at Arms. The Master of Incunabula presides over an additional counsel of two mages, the Master of Academia and the Master of the Scrye. The Master at Arms also has a counsel of two, the Master of Initiates and the Palatinus, the leader of the local chapter of the Order of the Lamp.
Obviously, it's not especially feasible to replicate any of this, nor is it necessarily even worthwhile. Several - if not most - of the Daggerfall subfactions are pretty much just a cipher for service providers, and Morrowind already handles that pretty cleanly. Additionally, some of the names are a little weird; academics aren't part of the Academics faction (they're Patricians), and the Isolationists' work has nothing to do with their name. As for the Guildhall "leadership structure", since it comes from a canon book, I think it's best to leave it unmentioned (as vanilla did), with a couple exceptions. The ideal way to handle Daggerfall Mages Guild subfactions, I think, would be to retain only those interesting enough to warrant a class-based subfaction (i.e., the guild guides), while reskinning the rest as political factions within the guild or unique non-class-based roles for highly specialized and valuable work.
Here's my proposal for them:
The Academics, the Isolationists, and the Patricians become three political forces within the guild, with members of all classes. They each represent a driving force in the Guild's politics, and the bulk of the "morass of political infighting" described in Origin of the Mages Guild.
- The Academics are the newest political group, having come into existence sometime around the campaigns of Uriel V. They are dedicated to expanding the guild's reach, and conducting mass recruitment and outreach efforts to the general public. The Academics are the ones pushing for a surge into Telvannis and Black Marsh, and the force behind the Guild's endeavors in the Padomaic. They are on friendly terms with the Tricho subfaction of the Imperial Curia, and have a standing arrangement to share discoveries of mutual interest with the Exarch of the Concordian Archives. The Academics are the most diverse of the three "parties" pushing on Guild politics, but their most prominent advocates are currently Bretons, Dunmer, and the newly powerful Arch-Mage of Haafingar. Traditionally, the Academics are led by the Provincial Guilds' Masters of Academia, but the title is mainly ceremonial.
- The Isolationists are a political group who oppose the Academics in their efforts to expand the Guild into new territories, and chafe at the idea that the Guild should share its discoveries as a rule with any other faction. The Isolationists remind guildmembers that the Guild of Mages existed long before the Empire was born, and that only wise policy will ensure that the organization survives past its (imminent) death. They are led by Altmer, as one might expect from a subfaction with such a long view, but the Isolationists are by no means an exclusive Summerset club. Isolationists are the staunchest advocates for the interests of guildmembers of all races across Tamriel, and prioritize their well-being above the Guild's ability to provide services to the general public or to solicit artifacts for the Empire.
- Finally, the Patricians are the "new establishment", the powerful core of the modern Guild, dominated by the powerful and politically connected Cyrodiil elite. They aren't opposed to expanding the guild, but are generally concerned foremost with making the MG as politically powerful as possible, and are reluctant to support dead-end money sinks like the outpost boom in Black Marsh or the nascent Padomaic chapters. Unlike the Academics, the Patricians see the Tarquin Tricho as a fierce political rival, and are known to have contacts with the Exarch of the Palatial Estates. Numerically, the Patricians have far less support than the other two political groups, but their leading members are disproportionately powerful in Guild politics.
These three subfactions become the overarching political division of the Guild. The following subfactions remain "in play", but generally align with one of the above to ensure their interests. Additionally, smaller subfactions sometimes overlap with the larger ones; it's common, for example, to find members of the Travelers League who are also Academics.
- The Cabal are still recovering from decades of Imperial investigation of Tharnite complicity during the Simulacrum, and today exert little political power by 3E 327. However, their remaining members (no more than two dozen or so) are individually very powerful summoners and conjurers, and are still sometimes called to guildhalls across the Empire to provide their expertise on Daedric matters. When represented ingame, they should be presented as fearsome, high-level NPCs with unique dialogue. They are known to oppose the Travelers League, though their reasoning is unknown.
- The Order of the Lamp remain the elite security forces of the Mages Guild. Though most are stationed in Cyrodiil and Summerset, every Province's main guildhall has at one, and many more operate undercover. The Order is on the front lines of fighting Telvanni incursions into the Guild in Morrowind, and this should be represented in the Firewatch redo. In principle, members of the Order are expected to remain uninvolved with intra-Guild political struggles. The Order of the Lamp is led in each Province by an NPC with the title of Palatinus.
- The Travelers League, a free association of guild guides, is dedicated to ensuring that the Guild continues to train, deploy, and supply mages educated in the highly specialized science of Celaudine teleportation magic. They also lobby the Guild for their preferred teleport network configurations, and often push for expansion into areas without guild presence. While not all guild guides are members of the Travelers League, most are, especially in the eastern Provinces and High Rock.
Lastly, the following Daggerfall subfactions should be presented as unique "classes" (though obviously not true classes) for special, quest-relevant NPCs. They should not be referred to as factions because frankly, they're not especially interesting as factions, and are much more interesting with unique roles.
- Guild mages especially skilled in enchanted item forging are known as Crafters. Though many mages in the Guild can enchant mundane items, only the Crafters have the skill of creating new artifacts that are already magical. Every item created by a Crafter is unique (ie, a named artifact), and their services are retained at the most prestigious guildhalls in Tamriel. Crafters do not offer their services to the general public.
- Occasionally, the allied Guild of Fighters requests the assistance of the Guild of Mages. In these instances, the Guild deploys its Mercenary Mages. These are generally (but not always) battlemages, and often have a closer relationship with their FG comrades-in-arms than with the rest of the MG. In places like the Velothis Fighters Guild training facility, Mercenary Mages should be depicted as rough-and-tumble spellswords rather unlike the somewhat stuffy standard MG types.
- The Odylic Mages are the master scholar-mages of the Guild, called upon to provide insights on mysteries the guildhalls cannot solve. The Odylics are mega-savants; because of the sheer number of fields they must have unparalleled expertise in, there are no more than a handful in the entire Guild. Odylic Mages - when they appear in quests - should convey an air of academic mastery, and their unique dialogue should be laconic and definitive.
- Finally, the Utility Mages are those few mages trusted by the Archmagisters with the highest secrets of the Guild. Utility Mages may be of any rank or class, and many of them operate secretly. Their primary task: to secure, transport, and store extremely valuable magical artifacts discovered by the Guild anywhere in the Empire, and to ensure that such items do not fall into the hands of others. Utility Mages often appear unannounced at the close of an expedition to pluck some highly-esteemed item out of its tomb and spirit it back to Cyrodiil. In general, Utility Mages are individually loyal to one Archmagister or another, but occasionally, powerful Arch-Mages will attempt to secure a valuable prize for themselves. The IAS does not like the Utility Mages.
All of this gives the Guild of Mages three primary political forces, an additional three minor political forces, and four "specialty mage" character foundations that can be used in quests throughout TR/PT.