Note, this idea is still in the “poking around” stage, though I have main characters and the bare bones of a setting settled on. So anything here is subject to change!
First, magic is, in game terms, Int+Perception based – you have to be smart, and you have to be able to sense the flow of the spell/equations.
The source of magic is the ambient energy of the universe, channeled by a sorcerer’s innate power and knowledge of spellcasting. “Places of power” do exist; ley lines/weak spots in reality that more power can be drawn from, but Things can also leak through. Some are obvious – monuments, Stonehenge, etc. Others… not so much. Airports, train and bus terminals, docks, dryers…. (Makes you wonder about the cat curling up on top of a warm dryer!)
Spirits and Other Entities can inflict both blessings and curses. Curses are definitely preferable; you never know what might be asked for a blessing.
Bunnies say, all humans are theoretically capable of spellcasting. But you either need extensive training and willpower (for educated sorcerers) to start distorting reality… or you need the “dumb luck” of being cursed. Up until relatively recently (past two centuries) all magic was passed along by oral/family traditions and “book learning”. Organized schools like Cerulean University are new. Educated sorcerers need training to sense magical items and changes in ambient energy; cursed sorcerers need teaching to figure out what the heck they’re now sensing.
Symbols and glyphs, instead of words, are the main means to shape reality. If a spell has an incantation, the words and gestures in it are meant to represent those glyphs and their alterations in reality. A properly done enchanted object probably has glyphs done on top of previous glyphs, with the end result creating the active spell.
Symbols and glyphs can currently be captured in images, but not yet “run” on a computer.
A knowledge of ancient languages does give you an advantage studying old spellbooks and inscriptions that describe reality-warping, but you don’t need to know any specific language to spellcast.
Hand-to-hand training can be useful for more than just self-defense. It teaches you where you are in space, and that makes any spell-gestures (to invoke glyph shapes) much more effective – footing, hand placement, even breath control!
Currently poking the idea that part of getting magical writing down/making a spellbook does include specific inks and materials. A thought the bunnies had is that casting any specific spell might well require adapting it to your own “style” – including the magical influence of your curse, if any. Both of these would mean that spellbooks are not cheap, and imply that there might be a market for people who create single spell sheets for any individual person. And they’d make the study of how magic works vital to anyone who wants to advance their own magic.
The better you know physical reality, the better you can affect it. If you want to cast water spells, learn hydrodynamics, water-based ecology, etc.
Hawthorn is a symbol of bad luck, curses, and cleansing. There are plenty of hawthorns planted in the “other” side of Cerulean University. Holly, OTOH, is a symbol of good luck and blessings; the berries can only be brought on campus with permission, and any holly found growing on campus will be eliminated. With prejudice.
Given the habits of students, instructors are used to shaking any dormitories down for brewing Egyptian paut.
Finally, given that magic involves distorting reality…. “A sorcerer living on a volcano is Asking For It.”