Centre of Learning, Llaza.
The Arketes College, or Collegium Arketium, lies about an hours ride northwest from the centre of Llaza, along the shores of the Anhoi River. It was founded over 400 years ago by the sage Arketes, a great man who travelled widely and influenced kings and statesmen despite being completely illiterate. In his old age he retired to his brother's farm and as the number grew of people seeking him out for advice and wisdom he took to conducting lectures in a nearby meadow. On his death many of his better students carried on meeting there and lecturing to new generations. Although Arketes himself never wrote down a single word of his teachings, his niece Dom Keralia wrote several works based on his lectures, reminiscences and sayings. She was to play a large part in the early development of the College. Eventually the College grew to its current state where it has approximately 500 students at any one time. There are between 30 and 40 teachers (called Doms) on the Faculty who are assisted by advanced students who take over the majority of teaching of newcomers.
The main subjects taught are the Nine Arts, which include philosophy, history, aesthetics, law, theology, medicine and natural sciences. There is also a magical faculty to which it is notoriously hard to gain admission. Men and women are taught here, and there are many non-human members of faculty. Salsham'ai are particularly well represented and even tlaxu, reviled in much of Llaza, find a home here. Arketes' free thinking and democratic principles have left a legacy of liberal, even radical, views amongst the student population and the College could be seen as instrumental in building anti-Empire sentiment prior to the Llazan declaration of independence. There is, however, also a strongly conservative faction made up of the sons and daughters of high ranking Merchants Leaguer members. The spirit of healthy debate is such that these two opposite sides of the political spectrum actually serve to strengthen the Collegium and not destroy it.
Layout of the College
The oldest building, the Great Hall, stands on the site of an old barn (so inevitably the students call it 'The Barn'). Originally it was used for teaching but it now serves as refrectory, ceremonial area and general meeting room. Dom Keralia herself laid the foundation stone. Other buildings include the library, the dorms (segregated by sex) and the New College building which is about 200 years old. It houses the lecture halls, laboratories and seminar rooms and the private chambers of the Doms. There is an assortment of ancillary structures such as the kitchens, tacked on to the Barn, and the 'Shed', where sporting and exercise equipment is stored. The Meadow, where Arketes first declaimed, is carefully preserved at the centre of the settlement and still retains the feeling of a rustic pasture. Salsham'ai members of the faculty particularly enjoy conducting classes perched in the trees. A half hour walk down the hill is a small village (now almost a suburb of Llaza) that has grown up to house the employees of the College.
The most significant events in recent years were the Great Fire and the Hognash Scandal. Thirty years ago a group of Vaartan fanatics started a fire in the library that destroyed a large proportion of the holdings, including most of the original manuscripts by Dom Keralia. It was a terrible blow and although much has been recovered (with the help of such institutions as the Great Library in Thalsa) some irreplacable documents have been lost.
The Hognash Scandal some years later has also had a severe effect on the College's finances. One of Arketes' tenets was that education should be as freely available as possible because, as stated in the college motto, 'Knowledge brings Freedom'. The result was that fees were kept low and there was a large proportion of scholarship students. The College always remained comfortably funded by donations since ambitious but poor young men and women were often extremely grateful to their alma mater once they had achieved those ambitions. Soon after the Great Fire, Dom Hognash, the recently elected Chancellor, was advised to invest in several high-risk, high-gain investment schemes to help offset the costs of rebuilding and restocking the library. Some of these backfired and College finances were left in a worse state than before. Fees are rising rapidly and the number of scholarships is decreasing. The college is facing a difficult period.
Using Arketes College
General: The Collegium can simply serve as a background piece, a place where educated player characters studied The Classics. It can also act as a place of discovery, where player characters in search of information can visit to try to learn of ancient mysteries, lost treasure and the other sorts of research that player characters conduct.
Sponsorship: In order to raise revenue, some members of faculty have begun the unorthodox method of sponsoring adventuring parties. Not all of the Doms agree with such means, as they are the same kind of high risk venture that Dom Hognash unwisely became entangled in. One such sample patron is Dom Ai-Pan, Reader in Ancient History, who has a strong interest in the Lesser Dragon Empire. Ai-Pan is willing to pay up-front fees to adventuring parties for reasonable expenses if they are willing to follow up leads to Dragon Empire archaeological sites, often in dangerous parts of the world. The College gets first choice of any artifacts found, plus 150% return on expenses fees. The adventuring parties keep any other incidental loot. Treat Dom Ai-Pan as an Expert 8, with Appraise +17 and Knowledge (history) +17 (he has Int 17 and Skill Focus for both of those skills).
Mystery, Mayhem and College Life: If the GM wants to adapt a scholarly mystery story, from Inspector Morse to The Name of the Rose, the College serves as an able backdrop for anything from the petty rivalries of academics (see the works of Robertson Davies), to student mischief both malign or comedic. The book-burning Vaartan fanatics were never caught, and their actions may lead to a more sinister conspiracy such as the Followers of Vuul. Alternatively, those Merchant League members who advised Dom Hognash to invest in their failed schemes may have had ulterior motives in ruining the Chancellor and/or the College.
(c) 2008 The Creative Conclave.