With the coming of the Dragon of Shades, an Age of the World came to an apocalyptic end. Centuries passed, and civilization limped back into the light of knowledge. Now a new Age has dawned, as the wizards of the present seek to discover the lost arcane art of the past known only as The Language Primeval!
College of Wizardry presents a complete guild of magic that can be placed in its entirety into any campaign world. This 96-page booklet contains:
- The secret history of the College of Wizardry, "Mathghamhna" in the Elder Tongue.
- A complete listing of the college members, including descriptions and stats for the chancellor and regents of this Arcane Order.
- Directions on how to fit the College of Wizardry into any of TSR's currently published worlds.
- Rules for enrolling PC wizards into the college at any level, including as apprentices.
- A full-color poster showing the three towers of Mathghamhna.
- New spells and magical items.
- Two unique magical power sources: The Spellcrux and The Language Priveval.
- Four mini-adventures for characters who range from apprentice to 11th level.
- Companion accessory to Den of Thieves.
College of Wizardry (1998), by Bruce R. Cordell, is a generic wizardly sourcebook for AD&D 2e. It was published in January 1998.
Origins (I): The Second Locale. Den of Thieves (1996) kicked off a new line of splatbooks, each of them associated with a iconic locale for one of AD&D 2e's occupation groups, and now College of Wizardry (1998) extended that series. Where Den of Thieves covered rogues, College of Wizardry (unsurprisingly) focuses on wizards.
The location splatbooks were evolving: College of Wizardry is more focused on the locale itself and less on what the wizards there might be doing.
Origins (II): A History of Wizard Colleges. Wizards had long been seen as teachers, with T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1958) being an early example. However, wizards teaching in schools were a bit rarer in ye olden days of the fantasy genre. "The Wall Around The World" (1953), a short story by Theodore Cogswell, may be the earliest example. However, the best-known classic wizardly school is surely the School of Roke at the heart of A Wizard of Earthsea (1968).
The subgenre of wizardly colleges really came of its own in the late '70s and early '80s — though some of the earliest examples from this period approached the topic tangentially. The Riddle Master of Hed (1976), by Patricia A. McKillip, told of a riddling society in the ruins of a wizard school. Then in Rayment E. Feist's Magician (1982), Pug was trained individually, but he'd eventually form a whole academy of his own. But soon after that, magical university became more common, including Discworld's Unseen University, first mentioned in The Colour of Magic (1983) and taking center-stage in Equal Rights (1987). D&D even contributed with its Towers of High Sorcery, mentioned in the Dragonlance Chronicles (1984-1985) — though Krynn's young magic-users still tend to train under a single wizard, coming to the Towers only for their Test.
Much as thieves guilds were uncommon in the D&D game proper, wizardly colleges were too, at least in the '70s and '80s. AD&D 1e (1977-1989) contains almost no mention of how magic-users are trained. Even TSR's novel new worlds did just slightly better. Dragonlance Adventures (1987) touches upon Krynn's magical organizations and Towers. FR6: "Dreams of the Red Wizards" (1988) similarly talks about schools of magic, but it's unclear how much those are actual organizations, as opposed to categorizations of magic type. The best attention to wizardly schools came in D&D's two most innovative corners: Dragon magazine revealed "The Mystic College", in Dragon #123 (July 1987); then, just a month later, the Basic D&D line detailed a Great School of Magic in GAZ3: "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987)
Coming into the '90s, the nascent magic college genre really blossomed, especially in YA novels. It also got a bit more attention in D&D. PHBR4: The Complete Wizard's Handbook (1990) mentions academies here and there, but that was the biggest source until the release of College of Wizardry (1998).
Expanding D&D. College of Wizardry includes some rules for the college, including how to join and what the apprentices gain as they advance. It also contains rules for a few unique (but minor) magic systems. The Spellcrux provides spells through links to an artifact while the language primeval supports the modification of spells through the Aleph language.
Exploring Neverness. Where Den of Thieves depicted a pretty abstract locale, College of Wizardry instead offers a deep history and evocative background for its wizardry college, all centered on the college itself, Mathghamhna. A shared NPC links this setting to the one already depicted in Den of Thieves, while the next book in the series, Bastion of Faith (1999), would reveal that all three lay in a city in a world called Neverness.
NPCs of Note. The crazed demipower Dargeshaad and the fearsome Dragon of Shade both appear in the College of Wizardry history. They would recur in Reverse Dungeon (2000) by the same author. Meanwhile, the assessin Needrar from Den of Thieves is seen again here.
More problematically, the academian Drake from this book is also found in Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998). That's not to the only tie between the College and the Tomb: this book also mentions a Bleak Academy, which appears in Skull City in Return to the Tomb of Horrors. The problem, of course, is that the Tomb of Horrors is found in Oerth. College of Wizardry would not be the only book to link together the very loose world of Neverness and the primeval campaign of Greyhawk — though the geography suggests that they need be separate worlds.
Organizations of Note. The Bleak Academy is just a sidenote; the real heart of College of Wizardry is the Arcane Order. They'd recur in numerous D&D 3e (2000-2007) books, beginning with Tome and Blood (2001)
About the Creators. By 1998, Cordell had been writing D&D books for a few years. However, that was the year that his production really exploded. He authored a total of nine major releases in 1998, including four mind flayer books and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.