Mage guilds started as simple master apprentice relationships. Most still adhere to these principles. Through history mages have determined that gathering together in a stronger organization allows them to share knowledge more readily. Such an organization makes it easy for mages to defend themselves. After each guild adopts their own philosophies they became a vehicle to teach and spread their philosophies on knowledge and power; and for some religious beliefs.
The Thirteen Kingdoms each legally require a practitioner of magic to be a member of a guild. This is a capital offence. Guild supply papers that need to be verified at a local office in each of the kingdoms (and in some each city in the kingdom). Each of the kingdoms has a local guild that mages may “join” if they are unaffiliated. This policy is supported by the guilds (who get members because of it) and the populace (who are distrustful of magic).
In other areas it isn’t a legal requirement, but mages find that having a support network comes in handy. Each guild has differing views of participation; some like the Blue Cowls or the Yellow Cowls are very tight knit but others like the Purple Cowls or the Grey Cowls are looser and have fewer requirements for guild participation. There are also a few dozen smaller local guilds that have various philosophies, many of these have less than 50 members.
There are ten primary guilds, each is considered a significant power. Mage guilds are tolerated because they each spend resources towards fighting the Elder Gods, and they tend to remain neutral in other conflicts. They only break their neutrality if the guilds themselves are threatened which at best can be considered a foolish choice.
Mage: refers to sorcerers, warlocks, or wizards.
Magic: refers to spells that come from the sorcerer, warlock, and wizard spell list.
Miracles: refers to spells that commonly come from the cleric or druid spell list.
Pseudo-mage: refers to those of another class that cast spells primarily from a mage spell list. This includes bards, some fighters, some monks, and some rogues. Generally mage guilds want more devotion than these “part-timers” are willing to give so their options are more limited – even though they are required to register in the Thirteen Kingdoms. Most register with the local guild instead of devoting themselves to a larger guild.
White Cowls (The Disciples of Abyyss)