The big thing I wasn’t clear about when I first playing was the difference between crystal mana and personal mana. By default, you get four personal mana. With it you can swift cast any regular spell for two mana and it will usually have a lesser effect. With appropriate role play (for thirty seconds) this goes down to 1 mana and it will have the full effect. Your Role play is up to you, I just recommend confidence. Even if your character is a bit nervous, you need to show that they sort of know what they are doing.
At the end of the day, all your personal mana is replenished for the next day.
Crystal mana is a resource. You must have a crystal mana site to get it and you get seven pieces I think. This crystal mana can be used in place of personal mana. However what you really want it for is rituals or creating new rituals.
This ties into the second thing I would have liked to know. You need lore in a realm to be able to perform in a ritual of that realm. If you have one level then you may perform a level one ritual on your own or perform a level two ritual with another person, if you have the mana. For a level one ritual you require one mana. If you choose to master a ritual then it halves the cost. It is probably a good idea to find a coven fairly quickly if you want to do this as it will mean you get to do some of the big fun rituals. I suggest you find out which realm lore is most common in Dawn and which Realm lore people are wanting more of. If you choose that lore then it will mean you are more likely to do rituals.
Rituals are one of those big things that give you a chance to really RP. You can really get lost in them and feel the emotions and that is why they can be great.
You also need to have the lore in a realm to create a new ritual in it. You have to look at the laws of magic to see if it can actually be done. https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Ritual_theory . You need 10 mana to make one but you get a refund of half if it doesn’t go through and it is sensible. If it is silly and doesn’t go through, you are likely to lose all of the mana you put in. These new rituals are called arcane projections. They can be used once or they can be sent to a college to be put into imperial lore however this will take a long time usually. The smaller the arcane projection, the quicker it is likely to go through.
The people who make the arcane projections will almost always want someone to talk to about. It is all about bouncing your ideas off other people and seeing whether or not the ideas are any good.
The third thing I would have liked to know is that you don’t actually need to have a wand, rod or staff to cast the regular spells. If people are fine with you touching them or putting your hand near them, then you can cast heal on them without needing any of the above items. They are only needed for offensive spells. When using an offensive spell, if the effect does not effect the person it was supposed to then you do not lose the mana.
There is a fourth thing I would like to talk about and that is conclave and the hall of worlds. The hall of worlds is a big tent which represents basically another pocket world where the magicians go to talk or meet with the eternals. It is right next to the Regio which is a group of obelisks in a circle which is where you go to do the rituals (as IC the effect is more powerful in a Regio). To get into the hall of worlds you stand by the door and RP magic to get in. I personally wave my hands in front of the door and say under my breath ‘Show me the way, open the door, let me go where I could not before’. It is really up to you. If you are in dawn you might like to add stuff about grand legendary beasts like ‘Let the dragon open up its maw so I may past in, let the Pegasus transport me to places afar’ (I will talk more about this later).
Usually around nine in the evening, there is a meeting of conclave in the hall of worlds. Conclave is the magic version of the senate, military council or synod. Here they will talk about various matters from passing new arcane projections into imperial law, to performing certain rituals to aid the empire, to dealing with sorcerers (unvirtuous magicians). A person may speak for a minute if they pay a crystal mana. This is to stop people from talking over each other. If someone is taking their turn to speak and they ask you a question, you either give them a very short answer (basically yes or no) or say you will tell them afterwards and either pay a crystal mana or hope someone does it for you. Usually people will say very similar things and it can be quite boring. It is also very hard to follow but there is a little bit of plot in there. You can go to the hub (not to be mistaken with G.O.D or Games operation desk) and find a little bit out about what is being said there.
In conclave you will find that there are groups set up, separate of covens. They are multi-national and each one focuses on different aspects of magic.
To answer your final question (though @Geoffrey_Willoughby has done this already, I thought it would be a good idea to clarify as he has only given examples), you look at the aspects of the legendary beast and see how it fits to the spell you are doing. You will probably only know a few spells so you won’t need to remember too much. https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Legendary_beasts . This link should tell you want you need to know about the kind of beats you would find and what they are all about. When you are unsure of what to say during spell casting RP, just try and think of a similar effect in nature and work that in. With Dawn you want to be fairly grand with it because they like that.
I hope that helps. If you need any more help, feel free to ask again, I do not mind at all. I was in your shoes just over a year ago and I know how daunting it can feel at first but the first event is really thrilling.