Of Wizards, Sorcerers and other Magic Users

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
(-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II)

Author's Preface:
I was writing a new campaign world for Fantasy HERO, when I encountered a problem I had never come across before – what to call the magic users in my campaign and what the hell is the difference anyway. So, after a little research, here is what I’ve come up with, organized alphabetically.
If anyone has any comments, questions, or corrections, e-mail me.


Alchemist
Alchemy was a science and philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. It focused on trying to find methods to transmute lesser metals into gold, finding the universal solvent and finding the elixir of life. It was the basis for modern day chemistry. In fantasy literature, alchemists are usually magic-users who specialize in transmuting matter and brewing potions.

Animist
Animism is the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena and even the universe itself. In the sense of a magic user, an Animist works his magic by communicating with these souls and convincing them to do his will by prayers, threats or even mind control. Used in MERP as a synonym for Cleric.

Apprentice
A magic user of low power that is still under the training of a mentor.

Archmage
A mage or magus of high status and power. Used especially in fantasy literature.

Changellor
A Mentalist. Used in Mutant Chronicles.

Cleric
A member of an organized group of a religious organization, a priest for example. In many fantasy games like D&D or MERP clerics are granted supernatural powers by the deities they follow.

Conjurer
A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) conjuring and summoning.

Distorter
A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) manipulating reality, and/or creating physical phenomena. Used in Mutant Chronicles.

Druid
An ancient cult that existed in the British Isles. The Druids worshiped the powers of nature and the five elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Spirit. Druid magic is usually performed in groups, and usually relates to agricultural or nature related events. Used in D&D and AD&D as a kind of priest, but a more accurate description can be found in Mage: The Ascension, in the tradition of Verbena.

Elementalist
A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) magic connected to the four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. In fantasy literature the Elementalist’s magic usually consists of summoning elementals (and thus making him a kind of conjurer), but not necessarily.

Enchanter
The female form Enchantress is more common. A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) in magic of enchanting, seducing and tempting. When spoken of an Enchantress it usually has a negative connotation.

Fortuneteller
A person who has (or claims to have) the ability to predict the future.

Hedge Wizard
A hermit. A magic user who lives on his own away from society. For example, Tolkein’s Radagast the Brown.

Incantatar
An Enchanter. The female form, Incantatrix, is more common. The term is used for a Prestige Class in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Mage
(Plural: Magi). A modernized spelling of Magus. Used in Mage: The Ascension, AD&D and MERP.

Magi
Plural form of mage or magus.

Magic User
A generic term that refers to anyone who wields magic, i.e. alters reality in a supernatural way.

Magician
Derived from the ancient form Magus. Nowadays, it refers to a stage magician, a man who performs illusions and desertions for a living. Stage Magicians have no supernatural abilities, but rather rely on psychology and sleight of hand to perform their illusions. Used falsely in MERP as a synonym for Mage.

Magus
(plural: Magi). From ancient Persian – a priest believed to possess supernatural powers granted by a god. Later, the meaning changed to refer to anyone who possess supernatural powers. According to Christian belief, three magi visited Jesus when he was born.

Mancer
A suffix used to indicate the kind of magic a magic user practices or specializes in, for example: necromancer from fantasy literature, or a more modern technomancer from Mage: the Ascension.

Medicine Man
From the North American Indians - a person believed to posses magical or supernatural powers. A shaman.

Mentalist
A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) manipulating the minds, thoughts and feelings of others.

Mystic
Anyone who wields magic powers. Used in Mage: the Ascension and in Mutant Chronicles.

Prophet
A man who speaks for a god or some other deity, or by divine inspiration. In literature, the term prophet is usually used to refer to someone who has visions, and is usually interchangeable with the terms seer and visionary.

Seer
A more common name for a visionary.

Shaman
Among tribal people - a person who acts as an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, using magic to cure illness, foretell the future, control spiritual forces, etc. Used in Shadowrun.

Sorcerer
An evil magic user, a black wizard.

Summmoner
A conjurer.

Vikan
The people who follow the Druids’ religion. Where the Druids’ are the ‘priests’ the Vikans are the common believers. Both regular Vikans and Druids were persecuted by the church.

Visionary
A person who sees visions. A magic user who specializes in (or practices only) divination, clairvoyance and scrying.

Warlock
Derived from Middle English Wær-Loga, which means Covenant Breaker. A male witch. Like witches, warlocks are also considered to be evil by common belief. Nowadays, the term relates to and evil magic user in general.

Witch
According to common belief, a woman who has a pact with an evil force that grants her supernatural powers. Witch’s magic is usually ritual magic, based on weaving enchantments around a cauldron. Witches are believed to be evil, the mortal minions of the devil. In reality, the witches were simple women who followed their own religion, which is somewhat similar to that of the Vikan’s. The church persecuted them, too. Many people, especially women, were burned alive because they were suspected to be witches, although many weren’t. The term is used in its negative meaning in AD&D.

Wizard
Derived from Ancient English Wis-Ard, which means Wise Man. Wizards were believed to have the power to command nature and to heal sickness and wounds. Nowadays refers to a general wielder of magic. Used in J.R.R Tolkien’s writings.