The origin of archivists in Faerûn is shrouded in mystery. This is for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that these enigmatic spellcasters don’t like to share their knowledge. Each group, order, and individual member of this class has a different origin or explanation for how they came into existence. Most are specialized members of religious orders in a manner similar to members of the healer class. They occupy a small niche in certain faiths that focuses entirely on the accumulation of divine knowledge from as many sources as possible. In many cases, clerics become archivists when their minds are awakened by a special vision from their god.
The most expansive group of archivists in the world is a group known as the Benign Order of the Third Eye. This group of divine practitioners in service to Savras is uncommonly secretive for a faith typically associated with honesty and truth. It is quite new, having been founded in 1371 during the Feast of the Moon. On that day, a handful of worshippers in a substantial number of major churches experienced uncharacteristically candid visions. The vision took the form of a calm, breezy vineyard before violent purple lightning became visible in the distance. In place of grapes, the vines were weighed down by millions of tiny, white or purple crystal balls. Savras spoke almost candidly, expressing the need to accumulate knowledge and magic for an upcoming battle with Cyric, the Prince of Lies. Since that vision, the members of the order have traveled around Faerun, accumulating divine knowledge from as many sources as possible. Officially, they are supposed to be respectful of the sacred places, tombs, and sanctified grounds of other religions, but in their religious zeal, they often overstep these boundaries.
The Brotherhood of the Secret Quill is an order of Oghman archivists with members in many temples of significant size in Faerûn. Most members work by day as record keepers, managing bureaucratic affairs such as temple finances, library loans, and similar jobs. While performing these duties, the brothers make extra copies of texts and secrets away the most important lore of the Binder in a hidden safehold. This mammoth, extradimensional library is known as “the Vault of the Bound.” It can be opened only by members who have memorized key passages from sacred texts in a certain order. To gain entrance, one must have a keyed item — usually a quill or token — and recite the text properly in a specified location in each temple. Members are usually invited after demonstrating proper devotion and respect for knowledge (minimum of 5th level). They are inducted inside the Vault of the Bound, in a ceremony that involves the sharing and receiving of previously unknown knowledge. Inductees must present a thesis on a unique subject, impressing the order with their thoroughness and creativity. Accepted recruits become members. Rejected recruits have their memories altered to erase all knowledge of the order, the vault, and the rest of their ordeal. It is common for members of the Brotherhood to take levels in the loremaster prestige class.
The Order of Ibis is probably the most mysterious archivist order in Faerûn. It is a secret order of Thoth operating out of the University in Gheldaneth in Mulhorand. Thus far, the order has remained completely hidden from the rest of the church and Mulhorand. It was founded when a group of cleric/wizards of the Lord of Magic excavated a forgotten complex buried beneath the university. During the excavation, they accidentally activated an ancient magic rune which transported them to another place. They found themselves in desert oasis dominated by an immense pyramid. The structure was topped with a large, golden ankh. Ibises and baboons were abundant — sunning themselves, lounging in the trees, and drinking from the cool pool. Despite the beauty of the scene, the oasis seemed neither idyllic nor peaceful. A herd of rushing ibexes came bounding down the steps of the pyramid, nearly trampling them. When they reclaimed their footing, they saw a mammoth humanoid avatar of their deity slowly walking down toward them on the air. The avatar stopped halfway, whereupon it opened its mouth to let out a sound that mortals clearly were not meant to hear. All of the worshippers were knocked unconscious, later awakening on the floor of the excavation bleeding from the eyes, ears, and noses. All had become archivists, merging their wizardly and priestly powers together into a single, more flexible form of spellcasting. None had heard the deity speak but all understood is meaning. They were to ruthlessly monitor and control the import, export, and transmission of knowledge throughout Mulhorand and its trading partners, making sure that Mulhorand’s best interests were always kept foremost.
Other groups of archivists exist among most of the knowledge-oriented churches, including those of Mystra, Azuth, and others with the Knowledge, Magic, Rune, and Spell domains. For those wishing to use the ideas presented above but without adding the archivist class into their games, here is an alternative. Characters with levels in wizard and cleric, or in the mystic theurge prestige class, can achieve spellcasting versatility similar to archivists. The visions received by the practitioners can change their outlooks without changing their classes.