Difinia has morphed through several cosmological changes that changed the rules of magic.
Magic after the cataclysm
In the past, Elder magic was based on willpower and magical formulae, but the cataclysm of the 5th Age brought that to an end. Simply, the explosion of magic tore apart the magical foundation underpinning all things and it took a long time for the energy to find its new organized structure. Occasionally a wizard stumbles across a spell of Elder magic, but there is no way to make it work. Those rules no longer apply to the universe.
Elder magic ruled everything: the world, the creatures in it, the gods, everything. The cataclysm rent the universe and changed—at least for the world of Difinia—how magic worked here. Now there were several sets of magical rules: arcane, elemental, spiritual, and divine.
Elemental magic infused the core of the world. Every nonliving thing (and some living things) were connected to six kinds of energy: fire, water, air, earth, light, and darkness.
Spiritual magic infused the living creatures of the world, giving them life, drive, and free will.
Arcane magic was formed from the vestiges of Elder magic, a mere shadow of its former self. What remained were rules for binding and structuring spells, without much of the “oomph” of the old ways. All of the power was gone from it.
Divine magic is what Arcane magic could be. Even the immortals were effected by the cataclysm, but they quickly adapted to the new magical structure and formed Divine magic to accomplish their goals. It has less potential than Elder magic had, but it is still potent.
Magic after they shut away the gods
When the forces of Evil were about to crash the gates of heaven and destroy the Good deities, the people of Difinia sacrificed themselves and used their magic to lock the gates forever, trapping themselves in the world without connection to heaven or hell.
This shut off a large source of Divine magical power. However, the Priestess eventually discovered that prayer energy could be harnessed by temples, stored, and transferred through ritual to faithful vessels: clerics, paladins, and so on. This was the first time the world saw “divine magic” cast by mortals.
At the same time, spirits could not find their way to heaven (or hell) and were trapped on Difinia. The free-roaming spirits turned out to be full of Spiritual magic that could be harnessed by clever wizards and clerics. Many spirits don’t want to be bound and used in this way, but many either don’t care or enjoy having a purpose.
(See also: magic items)
What we call wizard magic is a combination of things. It requires techniques of control and structure from Arcane magic—spells, rituals, and so on—to bind spirits, and sometimes those spirits have the power to utilize Elemental magic. The simplest spells are pure Arcane structure and power. Anything more complicated requires binding a spirit. The usual spell process involves finding the right kind of spirit, inviting it into one’s head, and trapping it there with thought and hoping it doesn’t make you insane.
What we call sorcery is a subconscious connection to Elemental magic. It’s a very dangerous thing to open one’s mind to raw elemental power and try to control it.
What we call clerical magic is Arcane magic—spells, rituals, and so on—delicately combined with Spiritual magic. Those provide the structure for drawing power from Spirits and latent Spiritual energy in the world. Prayer and ritual from attuned, faithful worshipers releases their Spiritual magic and lets the temple collect it in holy relics. From there, they transfer it to people worthy of it (clerics and paladins mostly) or special items like other holy relics, holy water, healing potions, and tokens of blessing.
What we call druidic magic is close attunement to nature, such that spirits (free or bound to creatures) willingly help draw Elemental magic from the world.
What we call necromancy is Arcane magical structure used to enslave spirits and force them to perform foul acts. It’s extremely similar in ritual to wizard magic, really, and more than one unfortunate mage has taken steps toward the darker side of their craft.