University of Linnarson
...In the hallowed halls of the University of Linnarson a glimpse may sometimes be caught of the Senior Masters, learned sages and masters of knowledge. They seldom leave their dusty studies full of learned tomes, other than to dine - each evening they will be found shuffling down the dimly lit corridors to the dark and shuttered Great Hall. After feasting at high table by candlelight they will be gone, returning once more to their studies. None but they know of their pact with death, how they have willingly embraced an eternal undeath in which to pursue knowledge, yet this is the reason for the darkened corridors and the shuttered hall, for those who are undead cannot abide the light of the sun...
Steeped in antiquity and reeking with the odour of learning, the University of Linnarson is large and sprawling; universally recognised as the pre-eminent centre of learning on the continent, it dominates the town of Linnarson in which it is situated. The university is home to many learned men; approximately half of those at the university are wizards, with the other half consisting of other learned men. It has strong links with other places of learning in the city (such as guild schools and the military academy). There is sometimes friction between the magical and non-magical parts of the university. The university also takes students, who come from all over the continent for the privilege of learning.
The university is very old (almost 1000 years old, though it has expanded over the years). It's architecture reflects this, with styles ranging across the centuries. Many of the buildings are very grand. It has a collegiate structure and there are 34 different colleges (founded at different times), many of which are named after deities or saints; prestigious nobles or the founder. Each college is quasi-autonomous but bound within the overall body of the university (similar relationship to the different states in the USA).
The Great Library
Towering like a monstrosity over the city of Linnarson, is one of the most imposing and unattractive buildings in the university: the Great Library. Recently extended, it consists of a large tower seven stories high with adjacent wings built on. It is known to extend several stories below ground, though the total extent of its catacombs is less widely known. The library is the largest in the known world, containing several hundred thousand volumes. Scribes are constantly setting out on long journeys to copy books from other libraries.
It is probably the only place where holy books of worship and healing rest only a few tens of feet away from those of the vilest necromancy and dark sorcery (some areas of the library are restricted). A visitor to the library would first find himself in the grand antichamber, a circular room lined from floor to ceiling with books. The near regions of the library are lit by the famous Glow Lights of the Great Library; however, someone who ventures further in to the depth may find rather more sinister things, such as having their books brought to them by a withered hand.
A selection of traveller's comments
-I was walking past the Great Gate of Barnwell College, admiring the intricate carvings and the gargoyles that adorn the front of the college when I saw one move. It was no mere decoration, but a living gargoyle.
-Unless you have a strong stomach I wouldn't advise looking at some of their research too closely. They carry out gruesome experiments on strange monsters there.
-Never have I seen so many bizarre and outlandish races gathered together in one city. I know that learned men come from all over the world, but I'll still never get over the shock of seeing a centaur discussing philosophy with a pixie.
-Don't annoy the students. Pranks can be a lot more annoying when they can wield magic.
-Even the King's Palace in Ellesae doesn't compare with the grandeur and beauty of some of the buildings here.
Most of the university's funding comes either from gifts from merchants or nobles or else from its vast endowments. Many people who die without heirs leave their fortune or estate to the university (in a similar way to giving it to a monastery), and some colleges are fabulously rich. Cornelius College is the third biggest landowner in the kingdom (the first two being the Crown and the Church). This wealth is reflected in the grandeur of many of the buildings; given that the large number of wizards, philosophers and the like the university abounds with bizarre magical (and non-magical) devices and creatures.
Colleges vary in size, wealth and splendour. Many have grand buildings and beautiful grounds. All share some common features including rooms in with the Masters, Senior Masters and students live, a place of worship (not necessarily all devoted to the same deity), a small library and a Great Hall (shuttered) where the members of the college dine. Meals are formal occasions wearing formal robes and gowns; at many meals archaic ceremonies involving speeches in the Old Tongue, bowing and other such formal occurences are common. Of course, the food and wine is extremely luxurious: Duke's College has enough wine in it's cellars that at the current (high) rate of consumption it would have enough for forty years.
A few cultural things
Rivalry between the colleges can be quite intense, leading at times to genuine animosity. The rivalry is formalised in the Summer Games, a week long period of tourneys (both physical and arcane) between the different colleges.
Honour duels are very common amongst the students. Duels are fought with long, thin duelling swords and are usually to first blood. It is considered very bad form to accidentally kill someone in such a duel, and a mark of skill and honour is to wound your opponent in the face. Facial scars from such duelling are thus common, and recognised across the continent as a mark of someone who has been to the University of Linnarson.
The Senior Masters
In the hallowed halls of the University of Linnarson a glimpse may sometimes be caught of the Senior Masters, learned sages and masters of knowledge. They seldom leave their dusty studies full of learned tomes, other than to dine - each evening they will be found shuffling down the dimly lit corridors to the dark and shuttered Great Hall. After feasting at high table by candlelight they will be gone, returning once more to their studies. None but they know of their pact with death, how they have willingly embraced an eternal undeath in which to pursue knowledge, yet this is the reason for the darkened corridors and the shuttered hall, for those who are undead cannot abide the light of the sun...
The Senior Masters are the oldest and most learned men at the university (and, indeed, in the world). Those belonging to this elite group have all, despairing of the shortness of life and the amount of knowledge to gain, become undead in order to have an eternity in which to become more learned. It is generally assumed that they are prolonging their life using magical means: the fact that they have become undead is a total secret. The Senior Masters hold all the important posts in the university. They are not evil in any of their actions (though can be ruthless and callous in the pursuit of knowledge), though people who believe that all undead are evil would probably consider them to be evil.
-This could be a good place to get a party together. They could all be students or otherwise associated with the university.
-Just as an interesting place to visit. Maybe you have to take a message to someone there.
-The wizards will probably have plenty of needs for rare items which could spark off quests.
-A more involved mission involving intrigue with various people/groups at the university.
-The Senior Masters. Maybe their secret comes out (or is in danger of coming out).
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? Responses (19)-19
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.
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?
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).
I enjoy the way that you used other submissions in your own setting.
A slightly worrying way to look at higher education!
Wow. Too much possibilities to mention...
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?'
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.
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.
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
How could I have missed this!?
Very nice! 5/5
Oh, and don't forget to add a link to that other, dead University.
(Actually a secret BUMP on this setting.)
What can I say? Another pearl from that English wonder, Iain. Will your posts ever attain less than a 4.5/5 I wonder?
I am not sure I actually ever voted for this post when it was on Citadel v1.0 . so I am voting now.
Phew. Fantastic work. Brilliant idea-extending comments from the strolenites, and splendid links. I'm giving this a full pot. Bravo.
See, now this I call an excellent work. Bump.
It's definitely a good start - and yay! to MoonHunter for putting some more meat on the bones - but aside from the Senior Masters, I'd have liked a little more substance to balance the flavor text.
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.
This is awesome. Every world should have a grand library!