At the center of Steamcity Firdon is the broad campus of the once-minor-now-major University of Firdon. Slightly off the beaten track, the University once languished in inconsequentiality, but with the discovery of liquid magic Ether it quickly grew far beyond its original intent, forcing the city around it to grow as well. In the past year the number of faculty has doubled, the student body has tripled in size, and by all reports the growth is expected to continue to rise.
The towering buildings are a strange sight when first seen, but one look at a map of the grounds gives full measure to the symbolism inherent in every structure therein. Where other colleges and universities are built with tall, flowing spires and abundant curves, the buildings here are broad and rather blocky to look at. However, few universities can lay claim to the fact that their structures are designed around their subject matter: at the University of Firdon, every building is shaped like a five-cog gear. The simplicity of both form and symbolism are a perfect match for this machine of a campus: output is all that matters, whether that output is research or graduates.
While not often discussed, this design also has a benefit that is highly useful to the often-times dangerous research performed by the faculty: the solid structure of each building enables it to better contain and survive damage from internal explosions of all types, both mechanical and thaumaturgical.
There are a total of six buildings currently occupying the rapidly shrinking campus grounds, a seventh currently under construction, and two more in the planning stage.
The largest buildings on campus are those of the Engineering and Thaumaturgy departments. Both buildings contain offices, faculty residences, and classrooms for teaching, but still fully half of the building is devoted to the myriad of laboratories used for research of all kinds. In the Engineering department, such research tends towards mechanical steamtech contraptions. The Thaumaturgy department is in a state of flux, however.
Whereas before research was done mostly to develop new spells or explore variants of old ones, with the discovery of Ether the department is shifting research from pure thaumaturgy to a combination of magic and steamtech, producing what some have termed thaumatech. It is this department which is the core of the swiftly rising magidustrial revolution in Firdon, though they still rely heavily on the ideas and contraptions of their colleagues in the Engineering department.
Slightly smaller than the Engineering and Thaumaturgy departments is the Biology department. As with her cohorts, this building has offices, residences, classrooms, and laboratories. Research here is focused on animal and plant life in general, as well as the effects of magic on the biology of various species. A very small, very restricted amount of research is also done into Biomancy, combining selective breeding with thaumaturgical alteration to produce entirely new species of plants and animals.
Approximately the same size as the Biology department building is the student Dorms. Containing a vast dining hall on the first floor, the entire rest of the structure is devoted to living space for the students. The building currently under construction is another dorm twin to this one.
The second smallest building is that of the Philosophy department. Like her three companion departments, the building contains both residences and offices for the faculty, as well as classrooms for teaching the student body. While the academic presence of the Philosophy department is currently next to nothing, it’s been around since the University was founded; up until now, no-one could find a truly adequate reason to dismiss the department and their occasional ramblings about the nature of ethics, the sciences, and reality: the tuition gleaned from wealthy patrons wanting their children to have a “higher education” paid for the department and a little extra. Now that things are in full growth, no-one really has either the time or the energy to spare for the department, relegating them to the occasional course on the ethics of the sciences.
The final and smallest structure at the University of Firdon is the Administration building, which helps organize everything from the flow of supplies and materials each department needs to the academic progress of each student. While the paper-pushers tend to catch the ire of everyone else on the campus when things occasionally get confusing, their work is essential to the functioning of the University as a whole: without their tireless work, the entire machine would grind to a screeching halt in short order.
The two buildings still in planning are, respectively, a machine shop for both the Engineering and Thaumaturgy departments and a dedicated student laboratory.
A Brief History
The rise of the University of Firdon is a simple story to chronicle. With the advent of steamtech roughly 20 years ago, research centers were popping up everywhere, some successful, some not. One wealthy man, Metis Eukleides, took note of the successes and failures of the various centers of research, especially those of the think-tank variety. Instead of founding a pure research center, Metis instead chose to give rise to a full University. In this way, the center of research could educate and create the next generation of researchers, ensuring a continual line of discoveries reaching into the future to propel humanity to the heights.
Gathering together various notable names in technology, magic, biology, and even philosophy, the University was founded. The small town that sprung up around it was named Firdon, and so the college became officially known as the University of Firdon. A few truly innovative ideas sprang forth every few years, justifying the continual influx of students and faculty, but nothing truly earth-shattering ever came out of the University grounds, and so it began to wallow in near-obscurity. That is, until the discovery of Ether and the abrupt rise of a magidustrial revolution. The University is now rapidly growing to become the center of thaumatechnological research and development for a hundred leagues in every direction.
~The PCs find an extremely odd device during their travels, and no-one can figure out what it does, or where it came from. Perhaps the combined experience of the faculty at the University of Firdon can help?
~The PCs happen to be visiting either the University or the city of Firdon, and encounter a strange biological oddity that got loose from the research labs against all odds. Do they ignore it (risking the lives of innocents nearby), kill it (risking the ire of the Biology department, who’ve invested heavily in this project), or help capture it (risking themselves)?
~A large explosion rocks the night, lighting up the sky. Someone in the Engineering or Thaumaturgy research labs just had a very bad day. Is there fallout of some kind, inducing strange side-effects in the populace (including the PCs)? What other strange things might occur in the area when high-energy physics gets loose and takes over?
~Rumor has it that underneath the University campus is a secret lab, performing all kinds of illegal and dangerous experiments. One man denounces the University, exclaiming that he was kidnapped and experimented on. He shows scars all up and down his torso to anyone willing to listen, talking of the creatures they put inside him before he was able to escape. Is there truth to the rumors, or the man’s claims?