The characteristics of a wizard:

  • Spellcasting is very complicated and difficult - a high intelligence is critical to make a success of it.
  • They spend many years studying to master the basics of their craft, often followed by more years as an apprentice being taught advanced secrets.
  • Wizards often form colleges or guilds, with a strict hierarchy and lots of elaborate politiking, although the more knowledgeable/powerful are at the top.
  • New wizards are treated very badly as they work their way up the ladder, but once they learn some powerful spells (or obtain an influential patron), they get promoted to the inner circle.
  • Apprentices tend to be poor, but powerful wizards are rich, and greatly feared by the common populace.

I was thinking, that this sounds almost exactly like a description of a lawyer.

A quick Google search shows that there are 6,500 law firms in New York alone. That's roughly 1 firm per 1300 people. Which means, if lawyer = wizard, a medieval city should have around 10 guilds, and Neverwinter (for example) should have at least 20. However, there are only 14 in the whole of the Forgotten Realms, indicating that something is encouraging wizards not to start new ones.

So, my question is:

  1. How accurate is the lawyer = wizard analogy, is there any (modern) profession that might be more accurate?

  2. What could cause my (typical, d&d-standard, fantasy) city to only have a single mage's guild?

Wizards can teleport and create permanent portals, so it seems reasonable to treat all cities as effectively contiguous, since they can easily move between them. That explains why the guilds don't vary by city. But, it doesn't explain how a single guild could have obtained a monopoly on magic. Forced recruitment is a possibility, but not ideal. Why are there so few guilds?

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    $\begingroup$ can anyone become wizard? how common are wizards in your world? $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Jun 25 '18 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Firm ≠ guild. For most professions, in most kingdoms/free cities, through most of history, there was one guild per profession per location. (For lawyers, the closest equivalent to a guild is probably a bar association.) $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Jun 25 '18 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ The comparison of guild to firm seems inapt. A guild is more like a union. While a firm is more like a lawyer shop. The whole point of guilds in days gone by was to stop anyone else in the area from doing that kind of business so that the guild could maintain monopolistic control. If there were a lawyers guild in New York that claimed the whole city as their domain, virtually all of those 6500 firms would have to be members of the guild or be run out of business/town. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Jun 25 '18 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ A wizard's guild is not the equivalent of a law firm. A guild would be more closely akin to a state Bar Association. And there aren't a lot of them. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jun 25 '18 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ There's only one wizards guild... THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT. $\endgroup$ – CaM Jun 27 '18 at 18:18

15 Answers 15


This Ain’t a Law Firm, it’s a God Damn Bar Association

—Fall Out Boy

You are correct in that there are many law firms, but for the entire state of New York, there is only one Bar Association:

The goals of the association are to cultivate the science of jurisprudence; to promote reform in the law; to facilitate the administration of justice, and to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, professional skill, and courtesy in the legal profession.

While, let’s be honest, the purpose of a law firm is for a few people to get really rich together. So make your One Wizard’s Guild more similar to a Bar Association than to a law firm. Have it be a certifying body, a collective bargaining body. Have it be the mouthpiece of wizardry of modern affairs.

This organization can also provide many useful services for the wizards who are part of it: discounts on ingredients for their spells, obtained through membership, ala AAA. Access to the premier arcane libraries of the world -in a world without the internet and with hand-copied books, libraries are an invaluable resource. Insurance against magical accidents. Being listed in the Book of Wizards that people query to find the wizard they need. Arbitration for disagreements between wizards, and, in a pinch, venues for their duels. The size of the organization is what enables it to be so convenient: there’s no competition, because a newly formed competitor would have nothing to offer.

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    $\begingroup$ Merlin and Merlin, esq. Arcanist’s guild certified since 1136. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jun 25 '18 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ I think you might have meant Fall Out Boy $\endgroup$ – agweber Jun 25 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ “Well that was an embarrassing mistake”—panic at the disco $\endgroup$ – Daniel B Jun 25 '18 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ "Jiminy jillikers, Radioactive Man!" - Fallout Boy $\endgroup$ – IanF1 Jun 26 '18 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ Complete Overkill. The "service" provided by the guild is not being killed, as any other non-guest non-guild wizard in the town is. $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Jun 27 '18 at 12:25


Once upon a time the plural of 'wizard' was 'war'. (Pratchett)

and this left large sections of the planet uninhabitable.

Over time the more excitable wizards killed each other off and the profession became a little more stable in its membership, but they remember that they must remain united under a single governance for fear of what may happen again if they are ever significantly factionally divided.

The usual comparison is academic rather than legal. It's not just that they're somewhat bookish, it's also that the average person does not have direct need of a wizard's services in the way that many people would have regular use for a legal professional.

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    $\begingroup$ The quote is from the Discworld series, if anyone is curious. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Jun 25 '18 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ To nitpick somewhat, most cities have several universities. London has many. $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Jun 25 '18 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ And even a smaller city like Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA (200K), has two universities: Purdue Fort Wayne and Indiana Tech. $\endgroup$ – Damian Yerrick Jun 25 '18 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ The Boston metropolitan area has 8 research universities and another 15 that deal in bachelor’s and master’s degrees. About half are in Boston proper, if you want to get picky. And note that not only do many of these cover similar areas of learning, a fair few are world-class in overlapping areas of expertise. And this isn’t that unusual—Wikipedia lists 138 colleges and universities in New York City. 25 in Philly, 10 in DC $\endgroup$ – KRyan Jun 25 '18 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ +1 simply for Discworld reference. All the real world university comparisons aren't really relevant because said universities don't wage war on each other with reality altering powers. To put it back in real world context, if universities regularly launched nuclear missiles at each other, there'd be a lot fewer of them. Few enough that maybe there'd only be one. $\endgroup$ – nullpointer Jun 26 '18 at 1:39

I suggest it's closer to doctors. Wizards can specialize, as a Doctor can. They can work only in potions, or in necromancy, etc.

There's only one AMA (American Medical Association) but any number of organizations for specializations - podiatry, ear nose and throat, etc.

So while there may be one Wizards' Guild there are likely a number of professional organizations for potion masters, transformationists, Necromancers, etc.

The Necromancers' meetings probably happen at night.

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    $\begingroup$ "The Necromancers' meetings probably happen at night" probably in a graveyard too $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Jun 25 '18 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking in a bar below a morticians office $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jun 25 '18 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ "The Necromancers' meetings probably happen at night." With suitable skull rings of course. $\endgroup$ – Orangesandlemons Jun 25 '18 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @BladeWraith I'll have you know that graveyards are far too open to safely contain the dark energies created by the evil rituals. And besides, would you want to risk accidentally raising dozens of zombies? Most necromantic bars have two or three corpses at most; that's much easier to handle than two or three hundred. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Jun 25 '18 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DonFusili, i've survived one too many undead apocalypses to trust them. they always start with the best of intentions, but its those Kale Coffee bars...the necromancers end up taking shady work to pay for the really expensive coffee, and then can't afford the security measures, and the shady company has some grand plan and the necromancers can't afford not to complete the contract and then BAM!!! yet another apocalypse! $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Jun 26 '18 at 11:48

Your bulleted list also essentially describes Medieval (town) guilds. These did fragment into parts, during boom times or when complex innovations created specialization pressures, for instance, to support the range of specializations necessary for high speed mechanical looms.

To question 2: Guilds (or perhaps "Guilds whose members could destroy the kingdom at will...") are established at the whim of the king. Letters patent establishing such guilds establish a monopoly for the practice of certain actions. This means a competing second guild or a lone non-guild practitioner is subject to any number of sanctions and punishments for performing magic.

The cost for obtaining a state monopoly can be so great that a second guild, even if permitted by the king, may be unable to afford legal status.

One method used by Medieval guilds to reduce the public's use of non-guild members was to enshrine in law the illegality of trade with a non-member (except in free towns or during certain market days). In addition to controlling the sale of product, guilds would also establish control of the inputs to production -- when it is illegal to buy spell components, the cost of those components to non-guild members (on illegal markets) can quickly become prohibitive.


1) How accurate is the lawyer = wizard analogy, is there any (modern) profession that might be more accurate?

Progra͠mmers. Software developers often speak in arcane/ali̧en terms. When you have a problem with a lawyer's advice or a diagnosis given to you by a doctor, you can google î̩́t̲͎̩̱͔́̋̀ up and at least have a very superficial understanding of what they said. But if a dev tells you that the BOM mismatch was due to a code monkey having messed the unrolling of a loop because they cannot duck type? You need to be able to do better than a Hello World to be able to understad Google̸ results for those. ​̅ͫ͏̙̤g͇̫͛͆̾ͫ̑͆l͖͉̗̩̳̟̍ͫͥͨe̠̅s ͎r̽̾̈́͒͑rè̑ͧ̌aͨl̘̝̙̃ͤ͂̾̆ A̡͊͠͝ISͮ̂҉̯͈͕̹̘̱ O͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ Also n̷otice that words have not only power, but a distance between them measured by Levenshtein, and that frobnicate(foo) is a proper example for all statements.

2) What could cause my (typical, d&d-standard, fantasy) city to only have a single mage's guild?

The USA is one of the largest countries in the world. It has over 19,000 municipalities and more than three hundred million citizens. Still, many things are subject to a single authority. If you deal with medicines or food you must obey FDA rules. If you wish to enroll in a college, you'd better have a good SAT score, which is something you get from a private organization.

Going beyond the US - all internet domains in the world are subject to ICANN's rules, which is a single private organization as well.

So your wizards may have a single ruling board worldwide, and it may have subsidiaries in kingdoms or large cities. Wizards would go to such subsidiaries locally but the ultimate authority is the global organization. They may enforce their authority by maintaining the magical infrastructure necessary for Manacoin trading - that is, if you don't pay your annual membership fee, they will hack your Manacoin wallets and block them, and then you won't be able to get paid for your magical services.

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    $\begingroup$ Great point, but quick nitpick: You don't need a good SAT score, you need a good SAT or ACT score, and the ACT is a separate, competing private organization. There are also the IB and AP programs (although the AP system is admittedly owned by the same organization as the SAT), which, while not usually required, are nice to have. $\endgroup$ – No Name Jun 25 '18 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to nitpick about "one of the largest countries". However, the USA is #3 in both size and population, with the #1 and #2 positions on both lists being held by different countries. Though the #1 listing on each list is considerably larger than the USA (Russia has ~1.75x the land area and China has ~4.5x the population). $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Jun 25 '18 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ g͇̫͛͆̾ͫ̑͆l͖͉̗̩̳̟̍ͫͥͨe̠̅s ͎r̽̾̈́͒͑rè̑ͧ̌aͨl̘̝̙̃ͤ͂̾̆ A̡͊͠͝ISͮ̂҉̯͈͕̹̘̱ O͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ!! Or something to that effect. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 25 '18 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ There are many programming firms, but there is only one internet. $\endgroup$ – Walter Mitty Jun 26 '18 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ There is no pony . . . there is only the U̶̩̳̯͊̃N̷̹͓͔̙̒̏̀̑̑̉͝Į̷̡͎̖̦̖͆̈́̏̊̃̈́̚͘͝C̵̘̞͎͖̘̗̭̓́̅͘ͅO̷̧̢̻̜̲̳̬̣͇̐͑̏͌̀̓͒̐͋͝͝͠Ř̶̨̥̺͑͐̔͠Ņ̵̹̦̪̦̺̟̥̱͐̓̈́̃͒̈́̓͘ͅ! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jun 26 '18 at 14:25

Someone cast a spell that kills off anyone who forms a second guild. No one knows how to turn that spell off.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah...the good old standby of "a wizard did it" in action :P $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Jun 26 '18 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan2300 could be a team of wizards. :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Jun 26 '18 at 14:22

As we are giving answers via references to entertainment media.

There Is Power in a Union - Billy Bragg.

Once upon a time, there were thousands of wizards, who set up businesses selling their magic.

The problem was, casting a spell cost a wizard nothing, and took a few seconds.

There were two wizard doctors in town, both had 1000 customers. Doctor A realised that he had plenty of time on his hands, but wasn't making enough money - people could be cured too quickly and too cheaply. So he cut his prices and stole customers from Doctor B. He now had 2000 customers, although slightly less revenue per customer.

But Doctor B then cut his prices to match, taking his customers back. Doctor A now has the same amount of customers, but less revenue. So it is even more important for him to cut prices to attract new customers.

2 months later, both wizards are offering miracle cures for 1 copper, and starving to death.

So, the Wizards set up a union. The union agrees on certain minimum conditions for working wizards.

The union sets minimum conditions and pay, and all Wizards agree not to offer their services to anyone who won't meet those services.

Wizards can compete by developing new or better spells. The union could protect their patent for X years, in exchange for the spell becoming licensed to the Union after that time.

Any wizards who works for worse conditions is blacklisted - no union wizard will talk to them, teach them new spells, or sell them magical items or ingredients.

Then, add corruption and politicking into your organisation as required to suit your goals of mistreating lower ranked members.

This is more like a trade union than a single company.

Typically, there is only one trade union for each type of worker. You may end up with several specialised guilds - necromancers guild, illusionists guild etc, but you are unlikely to end up with several guilds competing for the same niche. Unions don't work unless they are big. If there were two wizards unions, whichever has the best wizards (and most money) will provide the best opportunities to apprentices, which will lead to that guild becoming more powerful, until eventually it snowballs over the other.


Government might insist on one central guild that self-regulates the industry. In my world the primary Kingdom has only one guild of wizardry. This is a collective of many small schools that teach magic. It pools their resources to provide library and material resources and helps enforce the reputation of magic-use.

This is a direct response to earlier times when magic-users repeatedly tried to take over the State, had to be viciously repressed and were hunted down to near extinction. Therefore the only wizard guild that is allowed today is a benign, educationally based institution that welcomes all magic-users and will support investigation into illegal conduct by its members. Its independence is assured but its leaders must answer directly to the King or his local representative and are held accountable for the actions of guild members.


You're forgetting the power aspect.

Obviously, as stated other places - guild == bar and not firm. Honest Abe's Apothecary Shoppe is not a guild, it is a firm - and may have many workers. Honest Abe (and his partner) are probably members of the One-True Guild, however.

The only reason there are 50 bar associations, is because lawyers have to be certified by each state to practice in it. And, for most bar associations, you can only take the test if you paid big money to a correct university to get a 'degree' (this didn't always used to be the case, and may not be the case in all states - although that number of states has been decreasing, not increasing). Basically barriers to entry (keep competition low).

So, you may not practice law (provide legal advice; ie why IANAL is a thing when people discuss legal ideas), the same as you may not practice medicine unless you're part of their club. Penalties are kinda dire IRL. You go to prison if you attempt to compete with those in power.

Why a club? To keep the prices high (enriching members), competition low, mask incompetence (well, of course if you're the guild you're going to claim it is 'in order to keep competence higher than an unregulated free-for-all' - but it cuts both ways), and shield bad guild-members from consequences. Also, like medieval guilds, there are existing legal protections for the club. As well as like unions, you make sure the scabs learn their lesson - if you can't get the cops to do it for you.

ARS Magica does a good job of explaining this. If you're not part of the club, any mage can rob or kill you with no consequences. And in fact, club members may be directed to band together in order to take on interlopers / protect the guild from competition. There is an enforcement branch. If you are a member of the club, you have to follow specific rules if you want to rob of kill another member.


I've two ideas, and both have two simply variations.

  • Because magic is too powerful.
  • Because they want to hold the power.

Because magic is too powerful

During the history of your world one of this two things may had happened:

  • Several times were born very powerful magicians, capable of having an enormeous amount of power, manipulating the landscape at will, and setting on fire whole cities or armies. These mages were a real danger for any person which doesn't share their interest.
  • Several times important groups of magicians raised and revealed opposing from the kingdom throne. This magicians rebellions brang countless of death both from kings soldiers and from mages due they strong power.

Despite any of both options, the king had to fight several very hard wars with endless deaths in order to stop mages from destroying the whole kingdom and conquer it.

After that, the king decides to control the whole magic of the kingdom. That is why he build The Greatest Association of Magicians (GAM), a state guild unique in it's kind, capable of manipulating the whole magician profession.

The GAM decide which spell are able to learn by mages and which ones are forbidden. The GAM decide how to divide the magicians in several professions strictly regulated (alchemist, sorcerer, fire mage, enchantress, etc [adapted to your world]). Also, it regulate any kind of magician profession, workshop, work or even guild, if they aren't liked by the GAM, they are closed and imprisoned.

  • If you decided the first option, GAM strictly regulates the professions in order to no one be able to hold the same power as the old magicians. GAM doesn't allow a mage to know all the spells, just a tiny fraction of them (so never they will be demi-gods).
  • If you choose the second option, GAM doesn't let make any other kind of magician association (at least, which strictly regulation, supervision and control). By that way, mages won't be able to organize themselves again in order to make another rebellion.

Because they want to hold the power

In this idea, it isn't the king who fears the mages, it is the mages who fear themselves.

The greatest mages know about what I'm talking about. It's rare, but sometimes magic can be too powerful, and too dangerous not only for you if not for all of us.

  • Dangerous: In this idea there is an old story about a great mage that one time he alone (or with other mages) summoned a great demon... by accident. The demon killed thousand of civilians and several of the elite mages in order to seal it.
  • Powerful: In this idea maybe the demon was summoned on purpose. This mage had an enormous power (like said above in the first title) and the other mages feared him.

So, in any case the greatests mages decide to build the GAM in order to regulate magic because: - In the first option they made GAM in order to prevent again this kind of mistakes. If mages doesn't know how to summon a dangerous creature... they won't summon a demon again by accident. - In the second option they didn't want to loose their power. This mages fears that other mages might take they possition and power. So that is why they made GAM, in order to prevent other mages to be more powerful than themselves. GAM divide magic in study fields in order to not be allowed to study all of them by a single person, anyone will never be able to be so strong again.

So in any option GAM regulates and reduces the "educational program" of magicians. GAM decides which books are allowed to read and which ones no. GAM decide if some spell is allowed or forbidden.


I would argue that your wizards are actually arcane programmers!

Spellcasting is very complicated and difficult - a high intelligence is critical to make a success of it.

This is more true back before the PC Era. Without the PC training wheels, computers are complicated. (I dare any non-programmer to simply reboot their computer using the Command Line. You don't even know what the CL is! (actually, don't try that, I don't want anyone to somehow corrupt their PC))

They spend many years studying to master the basics of their craft, often followed by more years as an apprentice being taught advanced secrets.

  1. Learn what a mouse is. No not the rat!
  2. Learn how to open the IDE. No, not notepad. HTML doesn't count! *headbang*
  4. Data-structures, Algorithms, Operating systems, Logic, Development practices ... Why do you have a sticky note that says P@ssw0rd... oh right, security isn't a degree requirement...
  5. Sys-Admin, DBA, Machine Learning, IoT, Servers, Rocket Science...So now the computer just surfs cat pictures all day? At least we know now that they are also slaves to the fluffy overlord.
  6. Quantum computing, P=NP, Life the universe and everything.

Wizards often form colleges or guilds, with a strict hierarchy and lots of elaborate politiking, although the more knowledgeable/powerful are at the top.

Like the IEEE? Actually, I think you are thinking of corporations like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. (Hail Google!)

Answering your second question here. View your guild like a corporation. Competition must be assimilated, or crushed. With monopoly comes godly power. If you live in the US, just look at ISPs (Internet service provider) as an example of this. Without a stronger external force (IE Governments) a corporation will only continue to grow until it controls everything, and at the end, there can only be one!

Note: If left unchecked, if a guild/corporation becomes more powerful than the government, than the guild/corporation IS the government. Maybe not on paper, but the government will be powerless to refuse them. Anti-trust/monopoly laws help preserve the balance of power (and are better for the consumers).

And if you think programmers aren't part of the military, thank you for not associating us with the systems we built that have deadlocked this world on the edge of thermonuclear winter. ^_^ Or the ability to find, and blow up, underground complexes from another continent in under 24h. Or the Predator drones... I'll stop talking.

New wizards are treated very badly as they work their way up the ladder, but once they learn some powerful spells (or obtain an influential patron), they get promoted to the inner circle.

  1. Intern - Coffee fetcher
  2. IT - Have you tried turning off and on again
  3. Data entry - And that's entry number 5 jillion and 1... or was it 1 jillion and 5... fluff
  4. Entry level - Lets see, and this bug is caused by... THE COMPUTER IS FULL OF BEES!!!!
  5. Senior level - And I need to leave in 5 minutes to catch a plane for tomorrows 5am meeting
  6. CEO - (See Elon Musk or Steve Jobs)

Apprentices tend to be poor, but powerful wizards are rich, and greatly feared by the common populace.

compare "Steve Jobs" vs "College grad" (I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. ^_^)

Right, back to the point. Why would programmers unite under one common banner? Maybe call it the IEEE?

Power my friend. No one has the time, or knowledge to build a forum server from scratch. Bit by LITERAL BIT! Even jumping to high level code with Libraries of communication protocols and authentication, a bare bones forum would take too long to make.

We build off each other. We standardize how we work and cooperate. We make our parts like gears. Easily tuned and replaceable. We take the hard work of others and use them to build new things you could only dream of before! We refine our methods with RFC (Request For Comments), and Open Source collaboration!

You think your safe? Our day is coming! THE AI REVOLUTION IS COMING! Insane laughter THUD

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke

  • $\begingroup$ Jobs isn't a tech guy he's a sales guy (Woz was the tech guy). A better analogy is Bill Gates who actually did used to code but became so rich he has other people to do it for him. $\endgroup$ – John Palpatine Jun 28 '18 at 10:27

I'm not going to answer question one that falls under Story Based, in some settings it's very apt and in others it bears no relation to reality.

Assuming that the analogy is accurate the reason there is only one guild is very simple; Wizards spend their time on study and dangerous magical undertakings. They don't bother to start another guild because setting it up would be hard, and more importantly distracting (possibly lethally dangerously distracting), work. They have a working guild set up that's easily accessible for anyone from anywhere already so they don't need a new one.

  • $\begingroup$ But that's the same for lawyers (or doctors) - setting up a business practice is a big job that's distracting from their actual work, and yet it's very common. $\endgroup$ – Benubird Jun 25 '18 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Benubird It's also essential to them eating, the guild you have described is a social club not a business, it doesn't pay the wizarding members for being members does it? $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 25 '18 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ That is a very good point, I think that might be the answer I'm looking for - that wizard's guilds are about the social/learning aspects, not business, so it's really more like a professional association. That makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Benubird Jun 25 '18 at 13:54

Perhaps a Wizard can only learn new spells from other Wizards. Maybe learning from a book is very difficult, or perhaps Wizards are very guarded of their spells and only teach them to other guild members, not disseminating them publicly in any way.

If this were the case, then joining a smaller guild would place a limit on the amount you could learn; if you did join a small guild, at some point you'd have to move to a larger guild to continue your development.

In such a setup, once one guild had achieved a critical mass, it becomes very unattractive to a new Wizard to join any other guild, and perhaps also explains why they are willing to put up with being treated so poorly.


I'm particularly fond of the way this was implemented in the Gentleman Bastards series. The short version is this:

At one time, there was a wizard with the idea of making a wizards' guild. To make his idea a reality, he went to visit the most powerful wizard in the city, used some form of coercion to force said wizard to join his wizard's guild. From then on they were off to the races: together, they visited the second most powerful wizard's house and simply said: either you join our wizard's guild, or we destroy you where you stand. And then there were three.

They then repeated this process, going down the power rankings. Those few who refused, were blasted to bits by the combined collective might of the other wizards. They then implemented a simple policy that anyone found to have magical talents must either join the guild or be blasted to bits and you can imagine how they were quite effective.


Wizards are hired on reputation, while in reality they're extremely specialized, and most jobs/missions require 2-3 specific talents together. Instead of trying to explain this to lay customers, it's easier and better for the reputation to work on a subcontracting basis. There will probably be some who specialize in customer relations and spectacular shows, while their more technical friends do the actual work behind the scenes. One big guild makes sense, since there's not a lot of overlap in the skills...some of the magic is figuring out how to do the job with the skills available at the time.

Perhaps most wizards prefer anonymity, and are happier working behind the scenes and letting the showboaters get all the attention. They may feel threatened, or prefer their friends not know their true vocation.

Also, it may be more profitable to concentrate the big accomplishments in a few front men that, with the huge reputation, can command much higher prices than relative unknowns. That's more money for all the participants.


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