|An Imperial College of Magic|
The Imperial Colleges of Magic maintains the best, most prestigious centers of magical learning in all of Aranor. They are located across the world. Magic-Users from the colleges (they prefer to be called “Imperial Wizards”) are easily recognized by their robes. Base colors indicate a wizard's area of specialty, while other various adornments indicate rank. Note that the character's rank as an Imperial Wizard, and his level as a Magic-User are not necessarily related. Rank is more about clout and political influence. Not all Imperial Wizards are concerned with rank, so do not be tempted to rash action due to the simplicity of an opponent's garb.
Another institution of magical learning that is gaining popularity is the Guild of Arcane Lore. While not as large and institutionalized as the Imperial Colleges, it is spreading and being sought by more and more prospective students. Graduates prefer to be called Guild Wizards or Loremasters. The institution is decentralized, with students being taught in small groups in what the Guild calls chantries. These are small buildings, or perhaps a small compound, usually built on a magically significant location. Loremasters are also recognizable by their robes, but they have no indications of rank on theirs. At first disrespected by the Imperial College, the Guild has persevered and consistently provides a high degree of quality instruction, and has begun earning the grudging respect of the Imperial College.
An alternative to more traditional forms of magic is Alchemy. A guild devoted to standardizing and formalizing the practice has formed within the last fifteen years. Its goal is to establish firm guidelines for rank (apprentice, journeyman, and master) and to establish uniform rules governing the practice of the trade. They are also seeking to promote the craft and spread its practice far and wide. Alchemy has been practiced for centuries, but until the last generation or so it was limited to a folk-craft. Knowledge of it was handed down orally, with any writings on the subject (such as specific recipes) being closely guarded. It was that secrecy that was one of the major hurdles overcame in establishing the guild. Now the movement is well underway to standardize certain recipes, but still allowing Master Alchemists to develop and maintain recipes with “trade secret” status. The Imperial Wizards view the alchemists as poor cousins basically, being people unable to actually develop magical skills and having to rely on “smoke and mirrors to simulate true magic”. The alchemists, on the other hand, take a great deal of pride in being able to replicate magical affects that the Imperial Wizards spend half their lives studying to achieve.
The final method for learning magic is the oldest. The mentor/student relationship has existed for as long as magic has been practiced. Wandering masters may arrive in a town, make his presence known, take on some students for a time, then move on. Some masters live in remote towers and take on students that prove themselves worthy by the completion of some hazardous task. However the relationship is established, there is no guarantee as to the quality of instruction or how far the instruction will ultimately go. Wizards trained in this way are not afforded the same respect as their formally trained brethren. In fact, they are often referred to as Rag Wizards, since they don't have the formally recognized robes of the Imperial Wizards or the Loremasters.
In fact, in the highly competitive world of the magically gifted, there are many derogatory terms for one's competitors. The Imperial Wizards are the most elitist of any of the groups, and are disdainful of all the other groups to some degree or another. As noted they refer to individually taught mages as rag wizards. They refer to the Loremasters as “Lories”. Alchemists they call “lead-heads”, “bubble-heads”, or “mixers”. All the other groups refer to the Imperial Wizards as “Dandies”.