Magic users have a fetish for hats. With all that chaos gas in your head, you’d wear one too, lest the sun cause your head to explode!
As I posted previously, magic users (I will use the shorter “mages” from this point on) are outcasts, victims of a memetic disease that has caused chaotic energy to build up in their brain. Their only relief is casting spells, which release that energy, and they all crave new formulae to recite to get that release. Since spell research is a lost art, they search the world for rare spells or resort to cannibalism to gain their rival’s knowledge. All this while avoiding the wrath of organized churches, zealous clerics and superstitious villagers.
What are mages like, then?
Masters of Disguise
Any mage who has lasted longer than a few years has learned how to pass for normal when required. They pick up on local customs, details, clothing trends and accents. In LotFP terms, they would all have at least a 2 in 6 skill at disguise and mimic.
A lone mage is a rare mage, but they do exist. Most mages seek out their own kind for mutual protection. A dozen first level mages will stand stronger against a mob of villagers much better than one. Some mage communities also have real-world occupations such as caravans, acting troupes or mercenaries. There are many that do not try to pass for anything but what they are. They live in borderlands, travel at night and generally try not to bring the wrath of the local lord upon them. Many of these are extended families or clans, who pass on the curse to their children.
Mage communities are both rivals and codependents. They might war against one another for years yet observe a truce during large gatherings. They identify their clan or lineage by their dress, which is usually expressed as a choice of hat or decoration thereof.
In western Europe-themed games, mages share a common set of customs that have been passed down ‘because’.
A fleeing mage is entitled to sanctuary from pursuing non-mages if he asks for it. He must leave once the danger has passed and his safety is guaranteed for two days. If he stays past the day the danger has passed, he does so of his own will and his safety is not assured. If the leader of a community offers hospitality, however, a visiting mage may not be harmed under any circumstances while that leader is still in charge.
A mage is not obligated to go out of his way to rescue another mage or to block pursuers. If a mage saves another’s life, the rescued mage owes him a brain-debt, which means the rescuer is entitled to his brains should he die before they part company. Some interpret this as a right to rescue then eat another mage’s brains right away.
Magic communities have their own courts and codes of behavior. It is important for a visiting mage to learn the local rules, especially when it comes to casting and duel etiquette. In some communities, teaching someone a spell is the equivalent of marrying them. So watch out how you interact with the locals.
Mages often introduce themselves to one another by repeating the phrase of the read magic spell they first learned. Often this becomes a special name used among other mages and which regular folk cannot pronouce or understand. If a mage wants to impress, she might list certain spells she knows (which reveals ‘level’ and therefore status). Mages also like to point out identifying characteristics of their hats.
An example of a mage introducing himself to a band of strange mages:
I am Sakura, also known by the seed syllables ‘marak-tah-lem’. I am a master of the ball of fire that reduces my enemies and their kin to ashes! You will notice my red turban, which is the customary hat of my people, who hail from across the Kraken’s sea. It has a blue jewel in the center, which represents my having attained the sixth level of mental calm and focus. The observant will also know me by how tightly it is wrapped, which is necessary to contain the power within my skull. Should you ever try to unwrap it and cut your way to my brains, you would find scorpions and many other surprises between its folds!
Men with Hats
Which brings us to hats. Most people in the world wear hats, but mages wear HATS. The more outlandish, the better. The more foreign, the better. Hats are used to signify attainment, identify clan or community membership, hold spell components, small items and even traps for the unwary. A hatless mage is a vulnerable mage. Two mages removing their hats to one another is an act of intimacy, either friendly or romantic. It signifies deep trust. Tipping the hat is a way of showing deep respect. Touching a single finger to the hat is a common way to greet another mage for the first time. It is a symbolic tipping of the hat and denotes polite respect.
Mages who must pass in civilization have more modest hats, usually following the local style (although they will be as nice as the mage can afford and perhaps a bit ostentatious). These normal hats are scorned by the magic communities of the borderlands as ‘small hats’. Bareheads have managed to grow gravity-defying hair that can also be used for storage. Wigheads wear white wigs in the local fashion and use their wigs as others use their hats.