Thursday, 17 November 2016

Level One: The Threats

Being a student adventurer is a dangerous business, and nowhere more so than at the Black River Academy, an educational establishment not exactly famed for its safety record.  (Though as dwarf wizard Arein optimistically notes, "I've heard it's much safer than it used to be.  They say nearly eight out of ten students only ever suffer minor injuries.")  At any rate, adventuring means quests, and quests mean threats, and more often than not those threats come on two - or four, or possibly more - legs.  So here's a brief introduction to a few of those that our plucky but ill-prepared band come up against in Level One...

[And if you're the sort of reader who prefers to come into a book knowing absolutely nothing then bear in mind that there are some mild spoilers ahead!]

Durren had never met any rat-kind, and he knew of them only by their reputation, which wasn't good.  They were considered to be at best scavengers, at worst thieves and bandits.  He certainly wasn't surprised to hear that they'd have robbed a merchant caravan, though he guessed it had been a small and poorly protected merchant caravan - because rat-kind were also known for their cowardice in the face of any real threat.
Our would-be heroes' first challenge is to try and recover stolen goods from a race known as rat-kind: basically, humanoid rats.  Though looked down on by other species, who tend to focus on their verminous half, rat-kind are intelligent and sociable, with their own language, crafts and culture.  (Though it's true that they do have a bad habit of stealing things.)  At any rate, the party are surprised by how much the village they find resembles any human - or dwarf, or elvish - community.  It's their first lesson that not everything is what it seems when it comes to the Black River Academy and the world of Level One.
"What, in the end, is a unicorn but a horse with a spike upon its brow?  An intelligent beast with its weapon always drawn?  Therefore, the unicorn that has tasted blood is a dangerous creature indeed." - Cullglass 
Like rat-kind, unicorns were once normal animals that, centuries past, were infected and changed by the cosmic phenomenon and source of all magic known as the Unbalance.  And, as with the rat-kind, this has granted them a level of reasoning that goes far beyond what the average horse could hope to possess.  Just what that adds up to, and whether the party's mentor is right in suggesting that such unusual intelligence grants unicorns a capacity not just for violence but deliberate cruelty, is something they'll have to decide for themselves.
Priesthood of the Petrified Egg
"A priesthood in the hills east of Fort Jargen, formerly famous for their good deeds and responsible use of magic, have grown somehow corrupted.  Where in the past they strived to heal the unbalance, now they seem actively to be exacerbating it, abusing their power without the least concern or accountability." - Cullglass 
All magic in the world of Level One comes from the Unbalance, and all magic has a cost.  Put simply, using magic makes everything more magical, and that means more creatures like rat-kind, unicorns - and far worse.  As such, every spell cast has the potential to make the world a stranger and a more dangerous place.  So it is that the vast majority of those who use magic take upon themselves a grave responsibility: most try at least to heal the Unbalance in proportion to the damage they inflict, and some even go further, working to compensate for others as well.
So it was with the Priesthood of the Petrified Egg, at least once upon a time.  But rumour has it that recently they've had a change of tune, that they may even by striving to actively worsen the Unbalance - and that they have an immensely powerful magical relic at their disposal to help them to do so.
The Booby-trapped Dungeon
"At the risk of pointing out the obvious, you do realise it's dark down here?" -
Because there has to be a booby-trapped dungeon.

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