There have been some interesting comments here, perhaps some of the best BH conversations I have seen in a while, but I am in agreement with Wulfhere.
Frankly, if the youths attacked, its on them. Treating them with kid gloves feels a bit like imposing modernity. Raiding is not an innocent activity, as you could ask any target the youth party _would_ be able to handle.
And yes, this would cause diplomatic issues, and this seems to be by far the most likely outcome.
I've known groups of players that are just what this sort of scenario is supposed to address ("Kill 'em all, let the gods sort them out!"). I've also known groups that were the complete opposite ("We shouldn't attack until we're sure the pirates are going to betray us."). Either extreme is maddening for the GM.
On one hand, if your goal is to broker a cease-fire between two hostile groups, only a fool would start by slaughtering some of the other side to open negotiations. On the other hand, if it's not clear how dangerous the attacking group is, you can't blame the PCs for defending themselves. I've seen scenarios that expected the party to subdue attackers, despite the fact that the party was woefully ill-equipped for such a task.
I am not overfond of the "you meet too many of them to fight" situation. I've been subjected to scenarios that repeatedly surrounded me with overwhelming force to force me to parley. That can become a "rail job", especially when there are compelling roleplaying reasons why the characters wouldn't cooperate with the desired plot. They should at least have the chance to flee ignominiously (and fail the mission). Go to Comment
I love this! Combines dark (yet worryingly accurate!) parody with a fully workable and atmospheric setting for gaming. There is great potential for plots and interesting NPCs.
A couple more plot hooks
a) Exploit the town/gown rivalry: the people, fed up with the wizards and their unnatural research, take to the streets and lay siege/set fire to the colleges,
b) Maybe the players get lost in the library and can't find the way out. As readers of Terry Pratchett know, libraries can act as multidimensional plane-connecting conduits and you never know where they might end up (coincidentally, I'm currently running a campaign based in a library...),
By the way, what other colleges are there apart from Cornelius and Barnwell?
All kind of people have a reason come here, from the low peasant seeking the answer to a prophecy, up to the villain that needs to complete his research. Amongst the colleges, there may be one or two small Evil ones, that give its students secret access to those dark sorcery books (naturally they are not _that_ secret, because everyone knows sooner or later in this nest of gossip).
I can well imagine The College Of True Philosophy, the building a large black cube, where all have spartan living conditions and no decorations line the walls...
As for the Senior Masters, do they need to eat at all? Maybe not. The dinner is more a set time to meet, so they do not forget everything in their intense research, and a kind of assurance for others they are fine (well, if someone does not leave his room for a few years, that's a bit suspicious... ).
This could be a way for retiring certain character: if they are master sages in their field of study, they may be offered a chance to continue working on it... forever. This of course means they have to stay here.
The University is easy to transplant into most settings. For some is another option open:
Due to some catastrophic reasons (magical are fine), the city or only the University were destroyed. Legends yet speak of the wisdom hidden there, and of what could one find.
From this point of view, it is a complex of diverse buildings, with strange magical beasts (and plants and...), traps and dangerous knowledge, and much to loot. The Senior Masters still continue to meet, and may be quite a surprise for those searching the ruins.
... OK, that would be simply another kind of a dungeon, even if somewhat knowledge-oriented. Still, the Seniors stay, and some may seek their help or even want to study under them! May be an option for parties that love both combat and research.
"Ummm, guys? My master sent me for a scroll down into the library..."
"Oh my... what will try to eat us today?" Go to Comment
It is a place of secrets. Such a university would be a spawning ground of fraternity, cabals, and secret societies.
There are a number of departments in the university that are not what they seem to be. The engineering department has a core class group of masonry, which serves as a cover for forbiden magical education and a secretive fraturnity. There were be a number of these odd core groups spread throughout the universitites.
Crown and Country: It is a semi-secret group of Elites, who choose a small handful of elites who go the school for a given year. Those who are selected are expected to the "movers"/ "shakers"/ "people who control world". In addition to the psychological boost being selected by the organization, the secret web of contacts, connections, and favors, allow its members to be extremely effective in the political arena.
Crimson Star: This alumni organization has the goal to assure the high reputation of the instituion and to make sure that every member finds a place in the world equal to the stature of the institution. The alumni use their contacts and influences to make sure that graduates find excellent positions in the outside world and that any fame they garner, is magnified. This organization is not adverse to discrediting/ destroying/ and even killing those that are perceived as a threat to the institution. They will also manipulate events and the laws so alumni and students get credit for things they may or may not have done.
The Ochre Goblet. This is a secret organization with the expressed goal of using "unusual methods" to achieve academic success. They talk a lot, but achieve very little. This group is not as discrete as they could be, so anyone investigating "unusual events" and "oddities" at the university would find this group. The group was created centuries ago by the senior staff. If it used as a cover story... a secret group that can be supressed or blamed, should anything unusual occur. It is also used to recruit new special members of the university. Those that have an aptitude for the unusual or ferretting out the truth are often invited into more secretive orders and schools of the university. Go to Comment
Just to make it clear that the two links I have put in the "Great Library" section (to the glow lights and the withered hand) link to submissions by Moonhunter and Ephemeralstability respectively. I can remove these links if either of you object. Go to Comment
I tried not to be too specific about the colleges as a lot of them are named after gods specific to my campaign. A few non-god suggestions: Wenlock, Sedgwick, Atavus, Hobson (named after founders); Duke's, King's, Queen's (named after the duke/king/queen); Victory (founded after a famous victory); Servants' (originally founded for servants but now a full college), Priests' (originally (or still) a priest training college). Go to Comment
Wow, thanks for the extensions Manfred! I'm glad I've still got a few not very developed colleges which I can use to plop your ideas on to (such as the College of True Philosophy).
I also like the destroyed university - if it was destroyed by a magical catastrope, then the population and animals could have been bizarrely warped in to weird new forms (some intelligent and some unintelligent. As you say, the Senior Masters would still be there, unaffected and a new type of community headed by them could have grown up in the ruins. As for the dungeon aspect of the library: it sounds great: a dungeon hack in a building lined with thousands of books of magic, all there for the taking: providing you can understand them and that the magical accident that occurred hasn't warped them. If I ever leap a millenium in to the future in my roleplay world I will definitely use this. Go to Comment
Wonderful. The university of Vienna could have become something like this if the Habsburg Reich had lasted longer! I happen to be studying there, and truly, many strange figures creep along the corridors, and who knows what happens in the forgotten cellars and laboratories... 5/5 Go to Comment
Interesting that a place which is intended as a font of knowledge still guards so many secrets. I'm seeing a rivalry here between this university and an organization from my world. Will think on it more. Go to Comment