The paths of power were an alternative way for wizards to view magic and acquire spells in comparison to the conventional schools of magic. This system was variously called path magic, step magic, or pattern magic.
While a school comprised a large number of spells based on one philosophical principle like alteration, each path of power consisted of a much smaller selection of spells of increasing power tied together by one topic. For example, the Artificer's Path contained spells manipulating materials and devices, or the aptly named Road of Seals and Wardings. A wizard could learn a certain limited number of these paths, but was not restricted by anything like the opposing schools of specialists.
Paths of power were usually taught in specific colleges. A wizard had to follow each path by mastering all its spells in succession of rising power, but this learning allowed them to acquire the next spell when they were ready without the need to get it from an external source. Some paths were interconnected, so that the magic-user could switch their studies to a forking path if they so desired.
Use of path magic spells
Wizards using path magic also found a way to avoid the tedious memorization of their spells by limiting themselves to using one specific path on any given day only.
Another fearsome development were the three spells sometimes called "Path of Paths": close path, seal path, and burn path, which directly attacked the ability of other wizards to cast magic from their chosen paths.
Paths of power on Toril
A diversity of paths of power known to followers of this kind of magic existed in Faerûn. Some wizards of Zakhara created different paths within their provinces of flame, sand, sea, and wind, but also paths using the dreaded and despised spells of necromancy.
A number of so-called lost paths were also thought to exist. They were not taught in any college but were known only to a few individuals or to monstrous races. Among these were paths based on the spells created by the mages Elminster, Snilloc, and the Simbul; the Path of the Drow; and the genies' paths. There were also rumors of a Road of Southern Magic and paths based on spells of the elves of Evermeet and Myth Drannor, as well as the fire spells of the Red Wizards of Thay.
Schools of effect
Air • Earth • Fire • Water • Dimension • Incantation • Shadow
Schools of thaumaturgy
Artifice • Song • Wild magic
Zakharan provinces of magic
Flame • Sand • Sea • Wind • Universal
Netherese Fields of Mythal
Inventive • Mentalism • Variation
Chronomancy • Hishna • Pluma • Paths of power