Magic has always been around in the world of Krynn. It’s a world with magic within it, left over from Creation, surging through all living things, pooling in nonliving matter, suffused within the River of Time and stretching from one end of Krynn to the other, touching the border realms and pocket dimensions between the Mortal Realm and the Outer Planes. Magic is always there, Cataclysms and mortals and gods and dragons or no.
The thing is how to use it, how to draw upon it. In the largely unrecorded, mythical prehistory of the world, when the firstborn races were young, it was second-nature to some creatures, simply part of what made them what they are. The gods were the first to bestow upon the mortals the power to use magic, as a result of dedication and devotion – the world’s first clerics were also the world’s first spellcasters. But magic was in everything, manifesting in various ways, not just in spells. Dragons didn’t always cast spells; they used to use magic in other ways, ways that the Dragon Overlords later evidenced, to shape the world around them and do wondrous things that were later lost.
There were no “arcane” spellcasters until the Graygem was created and released. It wasn’t planned. The gods of magic quickly realized they needed to do something about it, since it was happening all over the place, and they hadn’t quite figured out how to properly rein it in. But they were distracted, and the elves clearly needed it, and the Dragon War was fought and the elven mages drew too much upon the ambient magic of the world, and that was that. Chaos had seen fit to throw in that unpredictable flaw within the way the sorcerers used this magic, and that’s when the mage storms ravaged the world.
So of course the moon gods instituted rules, and rites, and lay down formulas and spells, and stepped down as gods among their peers and focused entirely on representing magic to their new adepts, the wizards. Spell magic, something the dragons had already mastered thanks to the moon gods, was now in the hands of mortals. Pass the Test, make that commitment to the Orders, and even more power is yours. The other way of doing things was allowed to fade and pass from memory, and with Chaos bottled up once more his effects upon the world made it less and less possible to draw that magic out and use it to do what the moon gods were worried about it doing.
Flash forward to the Chaos War, and Chaos is released again, this time in a fiery giant aspect of doom. We’re getting more and more information as this subject comes up in the novels that the Sun has some link to sorcery, the sorcery used once in the past by the young mortal scions. Is it the same magic? Is it the old magic come back? Well, kind of. It takes 28 years for anybody to realize it’s potential, and by that time Takhisis is using it as a way to power herself up through the leeching of all magic by her trapped souls. So it seems kind of weak and confusing and full of limitations, but the moon gods weren’t around to make magic available to wizards, so sorcery was where it was at. Luckily for the world, at no point did anybody get as powerful as those early elven mages, nor did they draw so strongly upon the world’s ambient magic that it created mage storms. The gods found the world just in time.
Or so they thought. Sorcerers are still around, as are mystics who seem to be doing the same thing the sorcerers are doing only they’re manifesting it as a form of self-driven, passionate faith-based power. What’s arcane? What’s divine? Are they the same thing, with a different twist? How do spells work? Are dragons using spells? Are faeries? Is there more to magic than just fireballs and cure spells?
In the end, the answer is a definite: sort of. It’s easiest for many mortals to grasp magic in discrete, defined, and orderly patterns. It’s easier for the gods to do that, too. The gods like covenants with mortals, who give up some of their free will as the price of being able to do great things. The gods like secrets, knowledge, hidden lore, which when striven for and quested for can bring great personal ruin but unleash wondrous power. Where all this has begun to slip is that this is the Age of Mortals, an age where the gods are not necessarily the ones handing the reins of magic to people. Bards are enthralling the masses, war priests are growing in stature to lead armies, assassins are drawing the shadows around them, and not all of these magic-using mortals are casting spells or doing things the ordered way. Sorcerers, especially, are breaking rules all over the place. And the ogres, elves, and even humans have realized that magic is everywhere.
If Chaos has done anything at all, it has unleashed upon the world the nagging doubt, the questioning of the soul, that leads some to shrug the yoke of order from the traditions of magic and dig deep into Krynn’s wellspring to do things nobody thought they could ever do.