2021/03/08

OSR: Magical Industrial Revolution - Loxdon College Pt. 2: Clubs, Leagues, and Distractions

Beneath the formal structure of Courses and Halls, Loxdon College is riddled with informal student organizations, traditions, and ways of whiling away the idle hours. Here are just a few examples. Additional cults (Goodberry Monthly).

Nothing in this post is canonical, just as nothing in MIR is canonical. Everything changes.

Academic Envy

A wizard's Impact Factor is (depending on who you ask):

  • the number of people the wizard could kill without warning.
  • the number of people you would need to assassinate to reach the wizard's current position.
  • the percentile chance that the wizard's death will collapse Loxdon College (either physically, morally, thaumaturgically, or some combination of the three).
  • the radius of the crater (in yards) the wizard is likely to leave.
  • the wizard's Level (though no one knows what that means. No wizards are entirely on the level).

A simple spell exists to check a willing wizard's Impact Factor. Using it front of your peers results in general mockery and masturbatory hand gestures.

Some spells allegedly inflate, alter, or completely obscure a caster's Impact Factor.
 

Pickman's Economic Model

Dick Pickman, highwayman-turned-professor-of-economics, postulated a theory that the catacombs of Endon contained enough portable wealth to enable any delver (on average) to earn more than they would at steady honest work. This "crypt-currency" was in finite supply; the first delvers in would be rich, the last would merely be mud-soaked and tired.

Students, being poor, easily convinced, and fairly risk-tolerant, flocked to the catacombs. The crypt-currency boom, and the associated side-trade in crypt-art and crypt-analysis, threatens to destabilize Endon's precarious gold-backed currency.

The environmental consequences of undermining Endon's foundations, dredging up forgotten evils, and loosing powerful spells in an already saturated region cannot be understated... or explained to students.
 

The Skull and Bones League

Dread Necromancy is illegal in Endon. Citizens, on average, treat rumours of necromancy with frenzied contempt. Loxdon College tries to balance academic investigation of the palatable aspects of necromancy with a powerful desire to avoid being burned to the ground by the mob.

The Skull and Bones League is a secret student club that debates potential societal improvements that necromancy could bring to Endon. Legions of tireless farmers. Horses that need no food, soldiers that need no pay. Miners who work without rest or air. The knowledge of the ancients, available for anyone. All very good on paper, of course. One member in every four is an informer, or at least someone who thinks they're in the club to keep an eye on the others. Despite rumours and a few macabre trophies, no necromancy is practiced by the League.

The actual secret necromancers of Loxdon College use the club as a convenient dumping ground for the inquisitive or a recruiting pool for talent.

Sean Andrew Murray

The Seven League League

Students, like anyone else, love stupid jokes. The Seven League League is named for the fabled "seven league boots", a magic item which (it properly calibrated), allows a wizard to step across the landscape at enormous speed. (Improperly calibrated boots allow part of a wizard to step across the landscape at enormous speed, and the rest of the wizard to remain behind.)

The League hosts impromptu races of all kinds. Any member can name a destination ("the spire of the Auld Grey Cathedral) and conditions ("without touching the ground") and, at an appointed time and after suitable bets, the race takes place. The survivors are showered in glory. It's a rambunctious and good-natured league. Members are perpetually short on funds, lightly concussed, and open to new and exciting innovations.
 

The Physical Enthusiasts

Effort, the saying goes, is for the Lower Class. The higher orders of Endon strive to avoid manual labour wherever possible. Hunting, shooting, military service, and thrashing servants requires a certain degree of fitness, but anything beyond the minimum is seen as unpleasantly rural.

Wizards are traditionally seen as bookish, emaciated by thought and strange energies, prematurely aged, and relatively feeble. Rebellious students invent strength-improving exercises, distill potions from the glands of cattle or apes, disassemble ancient enchantments, or simply engage in vigorous physical activity (during the daytime; nocturnal activities have taken place at Loxdon College since the invention of the candle).

Some students even train in pugilism, even though punching a trainee wizard's head is liable to result in a catastrophic explosion.

Sean Andrew Murray

Unintentional vs. Unintended Design

A buildy-crafty-type game adds a piston that can push other objects.

  • Intentional behavior: push other objects. 
  • Unintentional behavior: if you push a beehive, the game crashes.
  • Intended design: players can use it to make a secret door. The developers tested it. 
  • Unintended design: players can use it to make an elevator, a Turing-complete computer, and a cannon.

I intentionally added lots of interesting tools to MIR. I did not intend for these tools to be used in any specific way. I didn't want to add guidance on intent, because that would break the future-imperfect maybe-vagueness of MIR, it would feel overly prescriptive, and it might convince GMs that their players had to or should take certain routes.

The game isn't in the book. The book is just a tool to make the game easier. The really interesting bits happen at your table, based on your shared choices, and can't be predicted or steered. Improvise wildly. Follow leads. Link things that aren't explicitly connected but that could be connected. Take notes.

Still, since someone asked, here are some ways the PCs can make Loxdon College weirder.

  • Start a student newspaper. It's an obvious step, which is why I haven't written about a canonical one. Leave deliberate gaps in your worldbuilding and players might try to fill them.
  • Start a student union. Currently, students at Loxdon College are disorganized and fractious. Give them a Cause, and you might be surprised at the results.
  • Start a catering business. Cheap food, served on campus at all hours.
  • Throw failed experiments or cursed items down a drain and forget about them. 
  • Summon something squamous to gain otherworldly knowledge, then publish.
  • Invent a new field of study, then lecture in that field.
  • Raise funds for a new experimental building / Innovation / counter-Innovation.
  • Set up a new hall with byzantine entry requirements, rituals, or secrets.
  • Set up a rival College.


6 comments:

  1. I imagine the true Impact Factor, like the real version, is in fact a ratio of several or all of the above.

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  2. I'm really liking this one. I was thinking about something similar after remembering Utena (the anime) which is about an esoterical fencing club at a highschool.
    There is something about high schools and universities that makes us try to go back there once in a while.

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    1. In Endon, a magical car wash transforming you into a car is not allegorical. It is grounds for a lawsuit.

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  3. Pterry's Headmaster Ridicully would fit in great in the Physical Enthusiasts, while a younger version would've probably loved the Seven League League. Good energy all round in this setting! (Oh, I also finally got a chance to use some of the MIR stuff in actual play recently, the magic item creation system is a huge hit)

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    1. Woo! Glad it worked. What did they make?

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  4. Dick Pickman. Chuckled at that.

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