Tuesday, March 10, 2015

City of Curses: The Skullmount, In Depth

Aspect: Knowledge is Power;
Connected To: Old Crux (via the East Gate), Old Crux (via Bellamy's Stair), The Catacombs
(Underneath), Port of Crux (via elevator crane), The Blood Quarter (underground);
Most Significant Icon: The Chancellor of Crux University
Well Known For? Education; Arcane and Scientific Research
Notable Sites and Locales: Bellamy's Stair, Scrolls and Bones Tavern, The East Gate Bridge, The Clocktower, The Deepstair

At the center of Crux is the city's most well known landmark.  I walk up the east gate, but the Skullmount has at least three other ways into it.  The east gate connects the Skullmount to Old Crux, across a bridge that connects with an ancient tower.  As I walk through the gate, it feels smaller than it should be.  The ironoak doors are covered in a dozen different wards.  Even then, a pair of guards stand ready.

They look bored to me, though.

The campus is dominated by a massive building, on the highest part of the mount.  The Clocktower, the most accurate of it's in Ith.  Storied buildings, all bustling with students of all classes.  Even martial students can be seen, all moving in lines and crowds from one lecture to another.  

There is much here to describe, yet so much to be seen!  The sights and smells of parchment, rune, 
artifice and ink pervades the air.  Familiars of all kinds wander about, their masters studying while they look for other things to occupy their time.  You can even hear beautiful chants in the air, as Bards practice their own musical arts.  If it can be known, you can find it here.

No one knows when the Skullmount first appears.  It predates Ithic history and Crux itself.  But ever
since its first discovery, there has always been a place of study atop it.  The oldest site of the University can be accessed through the Deepstair under the Clocktower.  The Skullmount itself is riddled with catacombs, ancient temples, ruins and other sites.  So much lies under the University, it has never been mapped or fully accessed.  Without knowledgeable guides, the vast labyrinth can cause anyone to be lost.

There have been a series of universities.  Ursyklon sources reference the university when they first
landed near Crux at Gruudl.  Referred to at the Skullmount even then, Aetherblooded had the run of the University at that time.  Known as the Library, it would become the beloved home for the Archmage Ith when he first visited Crux.

The Tomasi Empire's adoption of Crux as a capital preceded the first Great Fire of the University.  The ancient Library went up in ruins.  Rebuilt afterward, the newer Universitas Esotori Machina expanded the institution's focus.  Many Tomasi Summoner-Legionnaires would study at the Universitas.  It became a critical site of the Empire, known for educating the imperial royal family and best arcanists.

When the Empire fell, the Universitas was a abandoned for almost five centuries.  The years left it open.  Buildings collapsed or sunk deeper into the Skullmount itself.  Outside cults of various kinds entered the catacombs and other ancient sites within the skull.  Refurbishing the catacombs, descendants of these squatters are still found within the catacombs.

The dark era prior to the Othebean Crusades saw a surge in activity at the Skullmount.  A new institution grew from the ruins of the Universitas, the first University proper.  It grew, teaching anyone from the Maru Sea who proved themselves worthy.  The dark arts, black magic and other practitioners that graduated from this university helped to incite the Othebean Crusades in the first place.  Othebea, fearing what might happen if such magic were left untended, sought to stop the University from continuing to seed the Maru Sea with such spellcasters.

Othebea didn't shut down the University, but the Archbishop of Crux placed very heavy restrictions on them.  Stifled by such limitations, the University and the Church of the Twins often clashed over what they could and could not teach.

The Great Fire, at least the third the Skullmount had experienced, precipitated the Darkness.  Protests
followed when Othebea tried to block rebuilding the University.  A new organization came into being dedicated to the creation of new university, according to the faith of the Machine.

The first thirty members of the Esoterium Machina faced persecution throughout Ith, their "University of Letters" seen by Church authorities as Witchcraft or worse.  But the Esoterium Machina succeeded to bypass the Church.  Wealthy donations and alchemical patents built the new University of Crux.  The Chancellor of Crux University as a position was born, primarily to help recruit nongovernmental funds for the University.  Despite the Church's (and the Prince's) efforts to block the Esoterium Machina, the University was rebuilt.

Since then, all knowledge has been welcome at the University.  It formed the center of revolution when Ith revolted against Othebea.  The Destreza sword school moved onto the campus, Ursyklon professors joined the Archaeology and History departments and the University pursued innovation after innovation.  From the University would come advancements in firearms, alchemy, Spellcraft and even household objects.

University Departments
Archaeology:  the lost riches and history beneath Crux makes the Archaeology Department constantly busy.  Ursyklon archaeologist crews examine finds from Gruudl, while others explore the abandoned temples and complexes deep within the Skullmount itself.  Its a museum, lecture hall and archive all wrapped together.  Ursyklons and others use a variety of magic and science to uncover secrets from the past.

Finds first made by the Archaeology Department go into research and development by other departments.  Alchemy, necromancy, transmutation and others uncover the keys to relics and wonders discovered by the archaeology department.  Sometimes new discoveries are made, other times insights are gained into arcane secrets.  And other times, things are found that were never meant to be rediscovered.

Necromancy: The Dark Hall glitters from the onyx in its bricks, each one a rectangular skull.  The
Accordances of Ith forbade certain forms of necromantic practice.  Volunteer cadavers for necromantic study arrive at the Dark Hall, through its lower doors and elevator crane access to the Port of Crux.

Vivisection and anatomy work at the Dark Hall have always drawn the ire of the Church of the Twins and others.  But the Necromancy department has devised many alchemical answers to various Necromancy-based ailments and monsters.  Others, like the Vampires of the Blood Quarter, accuse the Necromancy Department of being opportunists and providing tools that will own led to their own persecution.

And others question the use of dead Androids in certain capacities.  Especially the Voice, who sees such university research as immoral.

Alchemy: A squat building, the bricks are burnt black and warded to contain possible explosions.  The work here supplies firearm innovations, as well as makes practical tools used in other parts of the University.  The potions employed by Necromancy, Transmutation and Abjurations are created in the Alchemy Building.  Research here furthers technology and innovation.  Gunpowder and explosives are part of the research too.

This makes the Alchemy Department very profitable for the University of Crux.  The sale of various
alchemical goods and devices helps fund the university.  Adventurers and others in the Crux take advantage of this, while others find ways to abuse it.  Addictive substances, some recreated from the ancient ruins beneath the University, also are created in the labs of the Alchemy department.

The Skullguard: The University of Crux has its own police department, but they do not report to the
Chancellor.  Instead they are servants of the Archbishop.  Stationed throughout the Skullmount, the
Skullguard have sole jurisdiction over it- leaving the City Watch and Metropolitan Police out.  Because they are in the pocket of the Archbishop, most of the faculty rankle at the Skullguard's intrusions and investigations.  They aren't afraid to lie or hide things in order to avoid Skullguard scrutiny.  The Skullguard themselves are lightly manned, most coming from Fighter or Ranger classes- they don't inform anything to the Archbishop, nor do they help members of the Eagles and the Crows.  Even if they did help them, how could anyone prove it?

Memorable Skullmount Locales
The Deepstair: Underneath the Clocktower, the Deepstair connects to the ruins of previous iterations of the university.  The Deepstair also is the first section most archaeological crews have to venture through before entering any of the labyrinthine catacombs.

The Scrolls & Bones Tavern: Near the East Gate, this Tavern and its dormitory have long been a welcome sight to students on Campus.  A comfy place, the Tengu Barkeep keeps an open mind, often hiring students for entertainment or as servers.  He has a preference for songs written by the Voice, and refuses to stock any papers published by the Publisher.

Bellamy's Stair: Named after Isgora Bellamy Medama, this secretive stair is carved into the skull at its southern side.  Narrow without rails, most of the faculty tend to inform students that it is off limits. Bellamy's Stair isn't guarded by any Skullguard, although they do try to patrol it.

The Clocktower: The first marvel created by Nikola Ripley, the Clocktower (due mostly to being on the highest point on the Skullmount) is the highest point in all of Crux.  It is also the most accurate, using planar clock measurements and self-correcting clockwork to adjust itself.

Location Stunts
The Sum of Knowledge: If you are a student of the University, and you attempt to Discover while using Knowledge at the University, you gain a +2 bonus.  If you are adding details (not creating an aspect, but just adding new details or truths to whatever it is you are researching), you gain an automatic 2 shifts to the roll if you succeed.

The University Laboratories: If you are at the University of Crux, and trying to produces Alchemical Goods, you can attempt to avail yourself of the superior laboratories in the Alchemy building.  If you succeed at a Crafts roll of Difficulty Fair (+2), you can add the Laboratory-Made aspect to any function aspect of any potions, elixirs or oils you make.

The Infirmary: While at the University of Crux, you can admit yourself to the Infirmary.  If you do so, you can immediately justify recovery for any physical consequence.

Crux, City of Curses, is my current "project."  A dark fantasy world, during an early industrial period (1830s-ish).  This is part of a longer series of in-depth looks at prominent neighborhoods in the City of Curses.  The University is led by the Chancellor, a figure associated with academia and more lovecraftian horrors.
Ursyklons conquered the world over ten thousand years ago.  Since then, they've lost knowledge of spaceflight and other magic.  Tiny, feral halflings, you only call them that at your own peril.
Othebea is known as the Divine Empire, and it is also dominated by the Church of the Twins.  The Church of the Twins is centered on two goddesses, the Summer Rose and the Black Rose.
Ith, where Crux is located, is known as the Sorcerous Republic.  The University and the Esoterium Machina based there are central to its own independence, which it only won two decades ago.