Though the Empire of Valas owed a great deal of its might to the many, many magicians within it, after the Sundering, public opinion was swift to turn on the very people who built the Empire. In those dark days immediately following the holocaust, only the Priests had any real power and they quickly supplanted the mages in public opinion. Within a very short time, this became a very real usurpation, with magicians barely avoiding being lynched by a society that had come to hate and fear them for that greatest of crimes: failure.
Magician’s scrabbled in the dust of their ancient past, seeking to makes sense of their loss. A generation, maybe two saw the Priests star rise to the point that they, along with the remnants of the military, were the true policy makers and rulers of what remained of the Empire. While the army fought a losing battle against the ever surging tide of beastmen, barbarians, and hobgoblins, the Church spread across the heart of the Empire until they were the ones in charge (behind the scenes of course, the Emperor, long may he/she live, still technically rules the empire).
Talia was ever the guiding light of learning and mages dedicated to her ways began to make discoveries about the new nature of magic that eluded most who sought to make sense of things on their own. The Hierophant took this as divine providence and, along with the Grandmother of the Talian faith, passed laws restricting the autonomy of those who sought to reclaim their former power. And so the Mage’s Guild was formed.
Though the Church created the guild to limit magicians, it was actually a boon for them. By pooling their resources and the scraps of discoveries that independent workers had made, mages were able to begin putting an effective system into place for learning and understanding the change in the nature of magic. With help from the Tryshallan who remained in the Empire (who lost even more in the Sundering than the humans), a formalized system ranking effects and the means for allowing magicians to perform them, post Sundering, was created. This system of learning spread quickly to all the provinces of the former Empire, as well as quickly being lost to the wilderness as former magicians learned what they could then fled into the wilds to escape the oppression of the Church.
While mages lost a great deal of the ease their power once had, and in fact, the actual expression of the greater powers, they found ways of recreating old effects… even if these were often weaker or more limited than they had once been. Magic began to look something like it once had, though the magnitude of what mages could accomplish was severely diminished. Some enterprising magicians found ways to backward engineer some of the elder powers into the new forms, allowing them to reclaim lost spells from ruins…even if the resulting effect was weaker.
The Mage’s Guild, as it is today, has risen since its inception. Now, with their greater control over arcane magic, they have reclaimed some of the former respect their forbearer’s enjoyed. But they must still obey the numerous laws and restrictions the Church has managed to place on their behavior. The most obvious one is that of the Mage’s Robes, the law that limits magicians to practicing magic unless dressed in obvious robes that declare their ability (and the threat they pose) to any who see them. The magician’s have, for their part, turned this requirement into a badge of office and rank by making a color scale for their uniform.
Level 0=White Robes
Level 1=Red Robes
Level 14=Black (Archmage)
Casting spells in public and not wearing your robes is considered a capital offense, except in the direst of circumstances. Casting spells on someone without their request is also considered assault and you will be punished for it.
Note that Tryshallan are rarely forced to wear guild robes; their appearance is considered warning enough. However, many Tryshallan who are members of the guild choose not to flaunt this freedom in front of their brethren and so conform (or in the case of Spellblades, often wear modified tunics over their armor). However, on the downside, simply casting a spell is a much more serious offense for a Tryshallan, thanks to the rampant racism against them, so most refrain from using their powers in public.
Due to the rife corruption within the Empire, however, guards and witnessed can often be paid off so long as the spell caused no harm or permanent change, and of course if it was used in self-defense of the mage or another, the guards tend to be more lenient.
Mages are considered the people that most often fall under the category of ‘Persons of Mass Destruction’ so while they are feared, they are also mistrusted. Nobility and city officials have the right of casus fortuitous (Force Majure) that they may invoke in times of danger to the community. Basically, mages can be temporarily assigned military duty to quell civil unrest or defend a city from attack. They are recompensed financially, after the fact, but typically at wages far below what their skills would justify (they are paid as soldiers, not mages). This threat of draft often provokes wizards to flee the heartland of the Empire and strike out on their own in the more dangerous wildernesses.