Monday, February 2, 2009

Lyceum Aegis Campaign Prep and NPCs

In a further effort to maximize efficiency, I'm going to work through some of the campaign creation process and use that as a post. Pretend it is educational. I mentioned in yesterday's post the minimum list of things I need to get ready before taking my niece's campaign to the table. Obviously, I need to come up a name...but I haven't quite figured that out yet. So instead I'm going to walk through the creation of key NPCs for the campaign. I'm going to begin with the seven staff/instructors for the academy setting on the game.

What do I know before I jump into this:
--They're Mages-- ala Mage: the Ascension

--The Academy was once an outpost, but fell to something. They're trying to rebuild that.

--Seven of them, each named after a day of the week.

--There was a conflict-- perhaps it is ongoing. Certainly their people lost in the past. Maybe there was an eventually victory, but the threat still remains. I'm unsure about this. I'm not imagining that I'm going to be dealing as much with the Technocracy concept in this game except in the most basic sense (people who want to stamp out magic). By that I mean, not going too much into the philosophy about control and reality behind it.

--I can see two ways to consider this group. One, they've been sent here on a mission to reopen this site. Maybe this is a big break for them, a chance to prove themselves. Two, they're operating without any real backing from the other mages. I like this second possibility more. It means more potential adversaries and gives a stronger reason why the masters might be more circumspect and secretive about what they do. If I do go with the conflict that originally destroyed this place being ongoing, then it could be that their old comrades might see them as wasting effort on a fruitless path when they need to be facing the major adversaries.

-The instructors will probably come from different Orders originally. These are the groups with different philosophies and casting styles in the M:tA setting. I don't want that to be too front and center, but might be a nice device to help add details to a particular NPC.

-The new students will be developing their magic through this “Persona” casting style. The instructors have decided to explore and teach that. Maybe it is something new that they've stumbled upon and believe can help them turn the tide in the ongoing or upcoming war. That this magic is new and different could be a major plot point for the PC(s) to discover as the game progresses.

-One thing to keep in mind is that while some of the instructors might generate conflicts, they shoudn't serve as bad guys. They might be broken in their own way, but none of them should be outright evil. They might have their own agenda and have tensions with the other instructors, but I need to be careful in thinking about them.

MONDAY (Male)
Fool's Gold (Six of Metals, Reversed) Foolish choices; mistaken identity
The Deck (Knight of Legends) Gathering, a meeting, drawing together
The Pursuviant (Knight of Archetypes) Questing, exploration, knowledge

Early on in his time after awakening to magic, Monday found himself at the center of many hopes and dreams. Many mages simply awaken from their sleeping world, but Monday was connected via relatives involved in the deeper mystical world. Additionally, several prophetic visions arose about him early in his life-- casting him in a role as a hero in the current conflict. He believed in these and took for granted his role and foretold greatness. Some joined with him, but as the years passed, those who had thrown in their lot with him found left. By his early twenties he should have been finding a way to turn the course of the Ascension War. But he didn't. Instead, he grew older. By his early thirties, he'd become a forgotten footnote in the rolls of the mages.

It would take him until his fortieth birthday to truly come to terms with his destiny being wrong-- or changed. At first he assumed what had happened had been a deliberate attack, but years of searching told him that instead, those prophecies had themselves been wrong. Or at least that's what he told others as he began recruiting people for this new stand, a chance to reopen the Eastern Watchtower. Although he would never admit it openly, he has gathered his fellow magi in the belief that the prophecies which once swirled around will be enacted by someone he will teach. He quietly seeks out prophecy and portent, while at the same time quotes his own life story as a reason to disregard those stories. He knows that the others would think less of him if they truly saw his motivation. He hides much of this under the cover of a voracious appetite for knowledge and learning. He leaves day to day management of the academy to others, focusing on trying to divine what his own path is and how it ties into this new style of magical casting.

TUESDAY (Female)
Jaela-Aksa (Ace of Waves, Reversed) Uncreative birth, nothing new, stillbirth, impotency
Chadra-Aksa (Two of Waves, Reversed) Abuse, curses from outside, negative authority
Human (Lord of Races) Wildness, risk-taking, leaps of faith; synthesis; mortality

Unlike the other Mages of the Academy (note to self: I need to put a name to this-- is Academy the term I want to use?) Tuesday actually works her magic through the Persona casting style. It was she who discovered it and found power through it. The others, trained in other traditions, carefully mask their style to mimic it, but do not understand it completely. Some have some faith in the process, while others follow out of desperation for hope, and others because they have nowhere else to turn.

Tuesday awakened to magic, but found she could not create any effects beyond the most basic. However she understood the esoteric principles deeply. She suffered at the hands of several masters who grew frustrated with her inabilities. In turn, she became abusive-- a masterful teacher with a wicked temper who could not do, but could only teach. Her rage at her own limitations scoured herself and others. She would become a valuable tool for the Hermetic Order she worked within, but earned many enemies, those who became powerful from her teachings often returned to cause her problems in the fullness of time.

Demoted by one of her former pupils, Tuesday had a revelation that her path could only lead to emptiness or her own destruction. She undertook a deeper journey within her own soul-- trying to trace back the past lives of her Avatar, she primal shard of magic which connected her with the beginning. She could see it had been damaged on a fundamental level-- but each time she tried to see the source of that damage she was turned away. But she pressed on, losing herself deeper and deeper in this quest. Somehow, while not repairing her avatar, she managed to join with it in a new way-- grating it a freedom and consciousness beyond what other mages could. She remade her avatar and herself, giving rise to a Persona form.

When she returned to her Chantry she demonstrated her new powers to a few. She knew that what she'd done was something new, something which would wither among the established orders. She also knew there would be others-- had felt the echoes of their avatars in the spirit world. Accordingly she sought out those who might want to leave their chantries but still respected the Traditions. They would relight the beacon at the Eastern Watchtower. What she has not completely revealed to the others is that the Persona powers are strong...and independent. They reflect the mental state and soul of the Mage more openly. Her own Persona-Avatar serves her, but at the same time questions her decisions and reminds her of her self-guilt. She knows, better than the others, that what she will teach might be dangerous. At the same time she hopes that training the young may reduce the risk.

WEDNESDAY (Female)
The Sindar (Five of Archetypes, Reversed) Temptation relieved; avoiding betrayal of self
Comta-Kur (Seven of Waves) Enlightenment, return to faith
Twilight (Knight of Days) Shifting, subtle change, transition between states

Wednesday has fought in the conflict-- which I'm imagining as ongoing at this point. It has run hot and cold for years-- with the current state being one of a long-held breath. While the Mages have been fighting the Technocracy, and losing with the rise of the surveillance state, they have also been fighting another war, against supernatural forces lurking in the darkness of the world. All those things once forgotten and lost, all those creatures of myth and legend put away by reason which passed unlamented, they have been remade in a kind of Mythic Undeath-- that is the battle which the Eastern Watchtower and others were made to stand against. Now that I've figured out that, then it occurs to me that the city of Arkham Harbor (outside the Academy) might be a refugee camp for mythic things which have not fallen to this force.

(Sidebar-- these are global details that came to me as I was mulling over what to do with this character-- I point this out to show how the exercise of NPC creation can lead to finding other details about the world.)

She fought in many battles, an adept warrior, trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of her enemies. She resented the fact that the Traditions found themselves pinned from both sides, by this Old Magic Adversary and the continuing predations of the Technocracy. She resented that the latter could not, would not even acknowledge the presence of the former. That anger gave an edge to her foes, and when she lost her last battle, they offered her a kind of mercy and entry into their ranks. Where others might have turned away, she joined the enemy willingly.

Of that time, she still has not spoken. A year later mages found her on the doorstep of a chantry. She'd survived and lived, and had somehow returned uncorrupted by that experience. Though pressed mightily by the questioners of the Traditions, she would not...and perhaps could not...tell them anything. They discussed what to do with her and eventually settled on a kind of house arrest that would eventually lapse. In great part that came down to her new behavior. Before she had never been the most contemplative of magi-- she preferred action and brute mage to solve problems. Now she began to study the philosophies and deeper ideas of magic. She changed, becoming quiet and sedate. She still remained an outsider and distrusted by some, which is why Tuesday came to her, to offer a place among the Mages of the Academy.

That idea, that plan, sparked something in her. While she still remains quiet and passive, she has also begun to think about the war again. She's turned her back on her old tools, but perhaps now believes a new way can be forged.

THURSDAY (Male)
The Sindar (Five of Archetypes, Reversed) Temptation relieved; avoiding betrayal of self
Eog (Knight of Metals, Reversed) Dampening, draining, reduction
The Plaguebearer (Three of Archetypes) Contamination, contagion, corruption transmitted

In some ways, Wednesday and Thursday stand as opposites in their path here. Thursday avoided the war which embroiled the Traditions. He sought out the mysteries of magic forgotten and traveled alone across the world. Eventually he settled in one of the Chantries becoming a figure who spoke for abandoning the war or at least reducing the energy expended upon it. He believed the Mages could escape from the conflict by themselves ascending, becoming perfect, and rising out of this world. He sought a blending of enlightenment and twilight-- the joining of oneself more fully with magic. Some stood with him.

But as time passed, his world grew smaller. Contact was lost with more and more allied chantries. Mages from his house left in order to take up the fight. Some simply vanished in the course of their explorations. Thursday paid it little heed. It would take the shattering of the gates of his Chantry and the annihilation of all there to bring him back. Though he has not spoken of it he found himself drawn back, thrown from his rising path by a simple human feeling: guilt.

When his Chantry was overrun, he was in his astral state-- becoming more magic than man. He watched the carnage from a distance. He could have returned, he could have fought, be he did not. Instead he observed. It would only be when he returned to his body that the full weight of what he had seen and what he had not done would fall upon him. He snapped-- he felt his own avatar twist-- and he knew he would never be able to ascend. His guilt would bind him and prevent him from ever doing attempting that again. He sought out Tuesday when he first heard of her ways. He hoped they could perhaps show him how to undertake some vengeance. But he also thinks it might be a way to heal himself. He teaches with some enthusiasm, and hates the Adversary with his heart. He has yet to recognize how potentially dangerous his new back and white vision of the world might be. Unlike some of the other instructors, he is trying to understand the Persona magic. He has yet to come to any real mastery, but he might in time-- for good or ill.

FRIDAY (Male)

Halea Debased (Two of Gods, Reversed) Greed, overindulgence and empty seduction;hatred of men;facile lies and betrayal; pleasure for pleasure's sake
The Bridge (Two of Legends) Connection, ties, linkage
Jaela-Kur (Ace of Waves) The origin; a productive, creative birth

Friday is a goof. He enjoys magic and takes things less seriously than perhaps anyone else among the staff. He sees all of this current work as a kind of game and an adventure. He relishes his role as a secretive master. He will play up his part and perhaps go over the top in it. While that may make him more generally accessible to his students, should they wish to uncover the mysteries of the Academy, he's also apt to send them on wild goose-chases and episodes reflecting his own sense of humor.

Some of the others, especially Thursday, resent the decision to have him join their numbers. However he's here for two reasons. The first is that Saturday, an important and valuable member, is his sister. She demanded that he be brought along. In part she hopes to change him a little through the experience and in part she worried that leaving him behind would spell disaster. He'd burn his bridges back home and someone might see him as a potential weapon against her. The second reason he has been accepted is that despite all of his strange indulgences, he's actually a good teacher. No one would ever say so, but his skills have been recognized. That's a double-edged sword for some, who fear the students may model themselves on him. Tuesday was an effective instructor before her change, but Friday is a good instructor.

SATURDAY (Female)
Thulth-Kur (Five of Waves) Rebellion, struggle against tyranny
Dwarf (Two of Races) Constructing, gathering, assembling, hoarding
Dragon (Ace of Creatures, Reversed) Advice, passive control; power protected/hidden

Saturday has always been made of steel-- she has resisted efforts to mold her into anything other than what she wishes to be. She fought often with her own masters and on several occasions openly defied the orders of the senior members of the Traditions. She is perhaps a little paranoid and secretive, keeping her own counsel. Most assume she's joined to escape the wrath of the elders. There's some truth in that, but not one she'd ever admit.

She is the artificer among the mages here-- working and forging items of power. Many she keeps locked away from the sight of the others. She offers some up for the general use, but the best she keeps for herself. The same goes for materials and rare objects that can be found. She keeps contact with the community in the shadow side of Arkham Harbor, and they know such things can fetch a pretty price from her. More than any of the others she lacks faith in this new form of magic. However, she's willing to go along if it gives her space and room to further her own agenda. She believes that at some point in the future she will be in charge of the Academy and will be able to shape it to her needs and vision. While she won't make any steps towards that for some time, it lies further down the road.

Her one obvious weakness is her brother, Friday, though not for the reasons many suspect. She's mostly worried that his “stupidity” could reflect badly on her. She wants him where she can keep an eye on him and away from the general group of magi.

SUNDAY (Female)
Makistani (Lord of Races, Reversed) Hesitancy, caution; difficulty in trusting own instincts; analysis
Twilight (Knight of Days) Shifting, subtle change, transition between states
Agrik Ascendant (Ace of Gods) Determination, willingness and ability to purify & cleanse, needed destruction; sacrifice

Sunday should come across as the least magical of the Academy masters. In fact, it might not be revealed until later that she possesses any magic. She will focus on the mundane aspects-- whereas the lessons the others teach, if not wholly magical will at least have some application. She'll handle things like decorum, home ec, and the like. In person she should seem to question her own decisions about lessons and homework, alternately accommodating and confusing.

Sunday was involved with great workings in the past, but ones that came crashing down. Large scale rites by magi require dedication and commitment. The great failure she took part in resulted in a number of deaths. While others survived, she's always at least a little blamed herself. She's never been able to tell if she was the weakest link among her fellows. No blame was cast upon her and that perhaps has deepened her own self-questioning.

She will begin distant and a little scattered-- perhaps not really connected with the students. Over time, however, I imagine her becoming their advocate. She will be the one to speak against putting them in danger or pushing them too early to learn new things. In time, she will be the one who will place them above any agenda the Academy has.

*****

OK, that took between two and three hours to come up with, so about what I expected. Since I was starting with them, I ended up with perhaps longer descriptions. But the process helped flesh out some of the ideas of the Academy for me. You'll notice my entries for the last three are a little shorter.

Tomorrow either the Students or else some general notes on rpgs