A place of power is a location in which a magician's personal magical prowess is greatly enhanced.
This may be due to the natural properties of the place - such as a mana spring or other source of power to which he has attuned himself or otherwise personalised - due to extensive preparations such as the drawing of wards or due to alliances that he has made with something in the immediate area such as local spirits (especially if he's a shaman) or even a genius loci. A suitably malevolent caster could even use a bad place for this1.
Whether other people can use the place of power or not depends on its nature - in some cases, anyone can use it equally well, in others a specific user has an advantage (perhaps due to attunement) and/or can allow or deny access to others. A more powerful (or diplomatic) worker may or may not also be able to wrest control of the place from an attuned worker.
The downside to using a place of power may be that a user is likely to be dependant on it and, if substantially less effective elsewhere, may effectively become stuck there.
Places of power are often marked by significant geographic features … and if there is no natural feature there (and sometimes despite there being one) … people are likely to build one. Even without physical features such an area is liable to be known for fortean events and to have a sinister - or sacred - reputation.
As far as theurgy is concerned - and other religion related things - places that are literally sacred are liable to act as places of power where the righteous are bolstered and the wicked weakened. Of course the same effect can very easily play in reverse when dealing with a Religion of Evil.
Additionally place captured from an enemy may be a very effective place to work magic against them - even if the place itself has no particular supernatural bent the symbolism alone may well add power to many forms of magic. If the captured location is a place of power in its own right then so much the better. This can work particularly well in regards to some forms of theurgy - a temple seized from a foreign god and re-consecrated to your own should be valuable in all sorts of ways. Most faiths will have specific rituals to deconsecrate a site if they leave voluntarily, but a genuine conquest may not leave time for such things. Also the site may fight back - an ancient place of power belonging to one faith might take a long time to truly change hands, with anything taking place there under the auspices of the new regime being sabotaged to some degree for centuries. The relative power and character of the competing deities may have some relation to this - as may general flavour2.
Notable Places of Power
Game and Story Use
- This is a good way of turning the BBEG into Orcus on his throne - he has become overly reliant on his place of power (or paranoid about someone taking it over) - and will not leave.
- A major NPC may turn out to be not that big a deal in and of themselves … but as long as they are on their home turf they appear to be a lot more powerful.
- This also means that taking on wizards on their home ground becomes a lot more dangerous3.
- Access to, or control of, a place of power may be a major campaign goal.
- A sapient place of power may be a player in its own right - possibly reversing the master-servant relationship on those who try to use it.
- This may be the sort of place that you build a wizarding school.