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Making a new Mage Setting (Anstruther Academy) for young Awakened

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  • #61
    Update: So various things have come up. Characters have encountered their Avatars, knowingly and unknowingly. They're gradually heading towards the point where they'll start having their first seekings.

    And I've had a great idea for the events of the third year which I wanted to share. I'll do a tl;dr with the "cool ideas" since this will be quite long.

    Important details:

    - one PC is fae blooded, and their mother was someone important within the Arcadian hierarchy. They don't know this yet.

    - another PC is connected to the Norse Gods, and they never shut up about it.

    Plot:

    - Our fae-blooded PC starts having nightmares which intensify over time until they find they can't wake up, essentially entering a coma. These nightmares are taking place in what was his Demesne, but it has been invaded by monstrosities. Eventually the other PCs are able to connect into these dreams and help him survive and explore.

    - The PC finds that the wider world of Arcadia is ruled over by a single despotic Queen called Umbra, who has supplanted the old order, where there were four monarchs. Her armies of true fae (your elves and faeries, tall and beautiful and harsh and cruel) harness nightmares as steeds and cannon fodder, and suppress those who would resist the order of the Queen. The world is very slowly freezing over. He explores this world with the other PCs joining him via his astral link to the high umbra.

    - Throughout the lands there are rumours of the return of Aurora, the good and noble queen who left many years ago and did not return. The stars themselves did, briefly, arrange themselves to celebrate her return. Umbra was displeased with this and the relevant stars have been tortured and killed for their heresy. This is why the night sky is obscured in most places by a freezing mist; to hide the constellations and try to stifle hope. This is because the fae-blooded PC is the heir of this Queen, and many of the inhabitants of Arcadia can sense this. They are incredibly hopeful at first, and then bitterly disappointed when they meet this awkward human boy, little more than a dreaming child. There are themes of legacy and living up to your parents, with motherhood already being an overarching theme of the chronicle.

    - The PCs learn that Umbra is taking delivery of many different kinds of beings, from all sorts of realms. Bygones like centaurs and dragon eggs, rare spirits, and unusual imaginings from various parts of the high umbra. Humanity's greatest dreams and worst nightmares, plucked from their minds and brought to her great menagerie for some (presumably dark) purpose.

    - Eventually this all comes to a head when the PCs, perhaps accompanied by a small army of rebels, come face to face with Umbra. She simply laughs and warps all of the PCs (except for the fae blooded one) into horrible shapes, making them experience agonies beyond imagination for a brief moment. "You are naught but dreams. Be gone from my realm, children." They all awaken in their beds, and find that no matter how hard they try they cannot return to the dreaming, or connect to the trapped PC's mind at all.

    - A prisoner, but free to explore Umbra's castle, the PC witnesses all the preparations Umbra is making for some coming calamity. Freezing and storing all sorts of beings. She claims that she needs to end the line of summer so that Arcadia can freeze over entirely. As long as he exists that can't happen. And she needs to do that so that she can preserve a "seed bank" of sorts. She has seen the end coming. Humanity will choke itself on fumes, or consume itself in a nuclear Armageddon, or awaken some ancient evil that will devour it (whether that means Vampires, Demons or Archmages she cannot say). She has given up hope on this reality, and simply wants to survive the coming destruction to populate whatever world comes next. Freezing and hardening her realm improves the odds of these creatures living to see the next reality (juxtapose this with a unicorn wandering around her palace courtyard with its foals to show where she's coming from). It's a sort of conservation / apocalypse survival setup.

    - Umbra discovers that the only way to kill the PC is to destroy his physical body, and she finds that his astral form is largely resilient to her powers due to some hidden protection. The other PCs, back in the real world, try and figure out a way to reach Arcadia. The Norse PC, guided by his Totem/Avatar/Gods will realize that they need to sail into the waters of Asgard (physically crossing into the high umbra proper, which is only possible because he is linked to that realm), and request the aid of his ancestors. From there Heimdall can tell them how to reach the Dreaming below. There's this whole journey into the High Umbra, a feast in Asgard with actual Norse gods and Valkyries, lots of amazing setpieces. They're told that Arcadia has been sealed off from outsiders, meaning there's no way in. Except one...

    - The only current opening into Arcadia is via a sort of delivery system that Umbra is demanding. There's a place in the high umbra with many names (some call it Pandemonium or the Nightmare Brood) where people's night terrors take form. If you dream about a horrible spider monster, it's born into this unending maelstrom of monstrosities. Umbra is taking delivery of these creatures since they form an important facet of her armies, and she believes that when the world ends Arcadia will come under attack no matter how well she hides the realm. She wants her soldiers riding on the backs of selectively bred night terrors that can cut through any force of demons or dark spirits. There is a "port" of sorts connecting the two realms, so the only way in is to survive passing through a gauntlet of terrifying monsters.

    - Umbra's plan to kill the PC's physical body is to open a portal in the Anstruther grounds which once linked Arcadia and the physical world "when the stars were right". Of course many Hermetic scholars have shown that even when the stars take the right positions the portal cannot be opened, not realizing that this refers to the position of stars on both sides of the divide. She orders loyal stars to take the right formation, and as the portal opens she releases soldiers and nightmares into the grounds, ordering them to kill the sleeping boy. If any PCs have stayed behind at the school they'll get caught up in this. This creates some time pressure and urgency in the story.

    - There's a final battle within the skies of Arcadia, where the PCs are physically present and so Umbra can't simply banish them like before. The fae-blooded PC assumes the fae mien that was hidden within him at some critical moment, they manage to defeat Umbra or convince her to surrender. The final battle is yet more glorious setpieces; riding on frozen clouds, falling off waterfalls, battles in the crumbling ruins of the old castles.

    - BIG DECISIONS. What do the PC's learn from Umbra's plan, and her fears? How do they feel about her predictions, and what do they do with all these bygones they have now? What does the fae-blooded PC do with the fact that to many he's now King, or at least some sort of Prince, of Arcadia? He might reject his royalty and tell them to elect leaders or choose a good and noble King. Or he could accept his lineage and decide to rule this place in his dreams. What do they do with the portal? Destroy it? Let it stay open? It's the first time something like this has existed in many centuries. If it stays open bygones will be able to return to the world. The grounds of Anstruther are the perfect place for centaurs and unicorns to furtively test the waters of earth again. There could be this feeling that the mythic age will return, that technology won't rule the world forever, and that the monopoly of the Technomancers could be reversed.

    tl;dr, list of cool stuff

    - evil angry fae warriors riding on top of monsters from the nightmares of humans, that they've captured and trained and bred to inspire fear and be good mounts.
    - big epic setpieces like the feasting halls of Arcadia, the rainbow bridge, gods like Tyr and Heimdall and Mimir, plus a fae world which has something of a Narnia vibe.
    - the villain is doing bad things, but there's a legitimate thought process behind it and it's coming from a place of hopelessness, not pure evil. She's trying to create a spiritual Noah's arc so that when a new world is born the wonders of the old one won't be lost forever.

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