The Academy of the Mind was founded in the year 1135 after the disintegration of the First Empire to preserve the knowledge of psionics. It has survived the many upheavals and wars which have occurred since then, including the dark days of the Second Empire, in which psionics were outlawed. It is now main source of training in psionics in the kandar kingdoms, about nineteen out of every twenty the membership being kandar. The total membership throughout Kalyr is estimated to be about 1600.
The academy has become a centre for general learning and knowledge as well as psionics. Academy towers often hold sizeable libraries of old books on any subject, and members love collecting ancient technological artefacts. The academy itself tries keeps out of ‘secular’ politics, although individual members occasionally hold political office.
There have always been a few wizards outside the Academy. There are also some smaller psionic guilds, few of which have any presence in more than one city.
It’s said that you don’t join the Academy of the Mind, the Academy joins you. While it’s not unknown for someone who’s demonstrated powers to come knocking on the door of a tower and demand entrance, what’s more normal is for wizards to actively seek out those with the talent, and invite them to become apprentices.
If a child in any kandar city starts to develop powers of the mind, sooner or later a wizard will get to hear about it. It may be by picking up rumours and gossip, or it may be by directly detecting powers in use. The talented child will be observed from a distance, and assessed for potential. If the wizard, after discussing with colleagues, decides the child is wizard material, he or she will approach the child’s parents with a view to taking the child as an apprentice. Sometimes the child will leave the family home to train with the Academy itself, which is common if the child comes from a humble background. If the child is from a wealthy or noble background, it’s more common for him or her to remain with parents, and receive training at home.
Occasionally, the parents are uncooperative; there are still prejudices against wizards in some circles. Sometimes wizards will shrug their shoulders and pass their attention to someone else, but sometimes, especially when child’s potential is very great and the obstructive parents are of low status, they will resort to underhand tactics such as mind-controlling the parents, or simply kidnapping the child.
There are sixteen official ranks of membership in the academy. All full members start at rank sixteen and progress upwards. Apprentices have no rank. Each rank above sixteen up to rank ten contains about half the number of members as the rank below. Rank sixteen therefore contains half the total membership other than apprentices.
Rank nine always contains just three people, known as Nar-Rukans. Their identities are unknown to anybody in the lower ranks, who only know them as being in at least rank ten.
The final eight ranks are each occupied by a single individual, and are referred to as the Hierachs, or the Rukanthan. These eight form the supreme ruling body of the Academy. Again, their identities kept secret from the lower ranks. In fact, some of the Hierarchs are not even known as members of academy at all! The First Hierarch is technically the leader, but all decisions are made the whole group.
If a rank has less than half the membership of the rank immediately below it, a member can be promoted. Candidates for promotion must defeat their rivals for promotion in non-lethal psionic contests. These contests take place within the local academies in each city for the first few ranks, quotas for each rank being set by the Hierarchs. For higher ranks, the contests are held across the world.
When members reach rank ten, they may be promoted to the rank of Nar-Rukan if a suitable vacancy occurs. Although promotion in theory is based upon psionic ability, in practice, ability to survive academy politics is just as important. When a position in the Rukanthan falls vacant, the seven survivors elect one of the Nar- Rukans to the position of Eighth Hierarch.
Typical members of each rank
The lowest rank, rank sixteen (Fair Connections) makes up just under half the total membership. This rank includes those newly-elevated from apprenticeship, as well as the a great many who completed their apprenticeships but who’s powers prove mediocre at best. Some these people become mageguards, trained in combat arts, whose role is to act defend the academy, either as bodyguards for more senior members, or for physical defence of Academy premises. Others of rank sixteen tend to work in everyday mundane professions, not always flaunting their membership.
Ranks fifteen and fourteen (Good Connections) contain the bulk of what people would class as ‘wizards’. Comprising perhaps a third of the total membership of the Academy, these are the people called upon when any task presents itself for which the services of a wizard are required. They also perform a lot of routine academy work, especially administration and the teaching of apprentices.
Ranks thirteen and above (Great or Superb Connections) are the ‘elite’ of the Academy. It’s the level where, for many, academy politics becomes as important as actual power. Ambitious wizards will not only seek the patronage of someone higher up, but also maintain a power base of lower level supporters.
The eight Hierarchs (Legendary Connections) control the destiny of the Academy. Widely scattered geographically, they seldom if ever meet up in person, meeting instead in virtual conference in guardianspace. The identities of six of the eight hierarchs are public knowledge. The identities of the other two are secrets known only to the hierarchs themselves, and possibly to a few close allies.
A local academy exists in most cities. All members, except for the Hierarchs, belong to the local academy in their home city. These Academies are usually headed by the highest ranking member, with major decisions being made on a majority vote of a council, which all members can attend. This council is responsible for proposing candidates for promotion in rank.
In most cities, the Academy owns a sizeable building or complex of buildings with the city. There is no established form; in Calbeyn there is an underground complex surmounted by a largely decorative tower, while Filgeth has quite a large compound surrounded by a high perimeter wall. In some Vohrleyn empire cities the academy buildings lie outside the city proper, and some cities have several buildings scattered throughout the city rather than a single central headquarters.
Most academies have a sizeable support staff. These people outnumber the actual wizards, often by a ratio of as much as two to one, especially where large numbers of wizards live within the academy complex. Many of these are human slaves, who perform mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning, although some academies also hire free men for more skilled or specialised work. In more remote areas it’s not uncommon to find a considerable number of mercenary fighters hired to guard the place. Such warriors will almost always be under the command of a Mageguard, or more rarely, a Knight.
Wizards don’t spend all their days in research or honing their skills and powers. Instead, the academy supplies their talent, both to the rulers of the cities and for hire to other organisations.
The main work for the city authorities is in law enforcement. The most common tasks are forensic psychometry, and mental interrogation of criminal suspects. A particularly hated task is the mental screening of crowds trying to pick up suspects; this is both an unpleasant job to perform, and increases the antipathy between wizards and the general public. Few wizards with appropriate powers fail to get press-ganged into this at least once in their career.
Those skilled in the Way of the World have their uses too; those with cryokinesis are useful to help fighting fires, and telekinesis is useful for rescuing those trapped beneath collapsed buildings.
There is some employment of wizards in ‘deniable’ covert work, such as spying on enemies. Since this work can be dangerous, it tends to be performed by volunteers, especially those ideologically committed to whatever dirty work they’re being asked to perform.
Factions and Societies
Many factions exist within the ranks of the academy. While many are short-lived, usually centring around a single ambitions or influential wizard, others have a long history, sometimes stretching back to the early days of the academy. Some exist and meet openly, others keep their existence secret.
Kaasranth Sar is an extreme conservative sect, violently opposed to the very existence of human wizards. It was founded in Vohrleyn by Dhuillnar Andreyr a century ago, although it builds on some earlier chauvinistic sects. Membership has mushroomed in recent years in reaction to the growing recruitment of human wizards by The Progressors. Although they don’t deny their existence, they’re often secretive about their membership. Naturally they have a lot of followers in Karmork, but many academies in the Vohrleyn empire are full of them too. There are even a few of them in the north-western cities of Filgeth, Ravenah and Calbeyn; relationships between them and the growing number of human wizards are frosty indeed. Some of Kaasranth Sar are active supporters of the expansionist regime in Karmork, while others remain suspicious of Sarkan Vorsath. A recent sinister development is the killing of human children with psionic potential to prevent the Progressors from training them. They see the inevitability of conflict with human wizards and their kandar supporters; while they hope to seize control of enough academies to purge them of humans and the Progressor allies, there is a backup plan to break from the Academy of the Mind completely to form their own parallel guild. To this end their organisation parallels the organisation of the Academy as a whole, with it’s own eight ‘Shadow Hierarchs’ and ranks, usually a rank or two higher than a member’s academy rank.
The Followers of Mystery
Less overtly political than other groups, the Followers of Mystery take a quasi-religious view of the powers, in contrast to the analytical approach of groups such as the Progressors. They have a reputation for spouting what others call ‘mystical mumbo-jumbo’, but their emotional and intuitive approach towards training does produce results. They have the widest following in the Vorhleyn empire. The followers go back a long way, claiming such legendary figures as Turdula Tyr and Celvornath of Keylin as belonging to their order. They have a very loose structure with no formal hierarchy or official leadership, although elder members are ‘respected’ and ‘followed’.
The Order of Kalan
Named after the legendary Golden Age ruler, the long-term goal of the Order of Kalan is to restore the supremacy of wizards in kandar society. This leads them to be regarded with considerable suspicion in ‘secular’ circles, so many members of the Order do not publicise their membership. They’re prone to meddling in the politics of Kandar cities, usually subtly, carefully avoiding any over actions that might prejudice the wider public against wizards. The order takes the credit for Lenata Tyr’s appointment as Tharn of Calbeyn, although they actually played but a minor role. They don’t have much of a formal structure outside that of the Academy itself. In general the member of the order in any city who’s of highest rank in the Academy will be treated as the order’s leader in that city. Hierarch Paletha d’n Rusorka is universally accepted as their leader.
The Progressors as an organisation has a long history, founded four centuries ago by the great Karmorki wizard and Hierarch Daar Harsur, who sought to understand the underlying principles of the powers of the mind, in contrast to the rote learning and mystical approaches that were in vogue at the time. The Progressors have always taken a very analytical and “scientific” attitude towards powers of the mind. An early discovery was that humans had as much potential as kandar, something that shook traditionalists to the core. In recent years the Progressors have actively sought out and trained human wizards, which have changed the emphasis from a purely scientific organisation to a much more political one. They are utterly opposed to the kandar supremacist Kaasranth Sar, for obvious reasons. Unlike some other factions, they are more open about their membership. Their organisation is city based, with each city having an elected leader, and those elected leaders forming the collective leadership of the Progressors as a whole.
The Vohrleyn Empire
Well over than half the total membership of the Academy of the Mind live in the great empire of the south. Biggest academies are the two vast centres of Vohrleyn and Keylin, and in their orbit, a great many smaller academies, some of them with little more than a dozen members. The two big academies each have memberships in the hundreds, and are notorious for Byzantine politics, as many sects and parties compete for influence. Meanwhile, the smaller academies are often dominated by a single sect, often dominated by a single charismatic figure. Both the Followers of Mystery and the Order of Kalan are popular, as well as many smaller local sects.
The academy at Keylin was riven by the so-called ‘wizard war’ five years ago, when in a ghastly mirroring of the bloody secular politics of Keylin, what had been a philosophical debate between The Progressors and Kaasranth Sar turned to bloody violence. It began with the extremely gruesome murders of several leading progressors, and ended with the arrest and execution of most of the leaders of the Kaasranth Sar cabal blamed for the deaths. There are still open wounds over this, with the survivors of Kaasranth Sar widely shunned, and who in turn accuse the Progressors of framing those who were executed. Several of the accused managed to escape, and have since turned up in Karmork.
The Vohrleyn Academy, largest of them all, is just as badly fractionalised, with some groups forming what amounts to ‘academies with the academy’. It hasn’t turned as violent, although there has been more than one unexplained death. The worst Cabal is the local Order of Kalan, headed by Tuval Ardreyr, which claims a membership of more than fifty, and is regarded with considerable suspicion by the secular authorities due to their alleged political meddling.
The academies in smaller cities vary considerably; some notable (or notorious) ones are the Academy in Elbeyn, dominated by a hedonistic subcult of The Followers of Mystery that claim to follow the Guardian Esala the Artist, and the Academy of Mite, dominated by a fanatical Kaasranth Sar group.
Three of the hierarchs are reside in the empire. Dakura d’n Erdara, based in Keylin is the leading light of the Followers of Mystery. She’s an enigmatic figure whose motives and actions are often difficult to predict. For example, although she’s frequently supported conservatives such as Keruis and Uvanya, she was also a strong advocate of Lendor’s elevation. Her psychometric and precognition abilities are legendary, and it’s suspected her precognition guides most of her actions, as she can foresee the likely long-term consequences of any act. Her long-term goals are, however, a complete mystery. A flamboyant figure in Keylin, she attends may social events, and serves as an advisor to the Sarkan, something that gives her a tremendous amount of political influence.
Keruis d’n Fogazdyuir is the leading advocate for Kasraanth Sar amongst the Hierarchs. While you might suspect such a hierarch to be based in Karmork, in fact Karuis is based in Vohrleyn. He’s rumoured to have been closely involved in a plot aimed to destroy another hierarch, as well deep involvment in the ‘wizard war’ in Keylin, but more recently has ceased active involvement in such things, perhaps because he fears exposure. Nevertheless he continues to support some of Kasraanth Sar’s more unpleasant activities, such as the murder of psionically-active human children.
The hierarch Paletha d’n Rusorka supports the Order of Kalan, and backs any action that furthers her goals of increasing the political power wielded by wizards. Thus she supports one high-ranking wizard who against all tradition has become the Tharn of a strategically important city, even though she dislikes her liberal policies. Similarly, she supports Danuka in her role as ‘grand vizier’ in Keylin.
The Konaic Empire
There are just two Academies in the Konaic Empire, in Karmork itself, and in Selnin. All the smaller ones have been forcibly closed, with their membership ordered to move to Karmork or Selnin; this is presumably so the authorities can better keep an eye on them. Sarkan Vorsath does not trust wizards that are not personally loyal to him. Even some of Kaasranth Sar are treated with suspicion.
Both academies have suffered bloody purges, especially Selnin, which had at one time been a major centre for The Progressors. Just about anyone loyal to either the Progressors or the Order of Kalan either fled, disappeared, or was killed. Many of the Selnin Progressors managed to escape, including some human wizards. Of the fate of the disappeared, little is known. While many assume they’re dead, there are persistent rumours that some are hiding out in the Selnin marshes, or in the mountains.
Despite this, Karmork remains the base of two of the hierarchs. One is Balaar d’n Komirul, not known as a supporter of Kaasranth Sar. He tries to keep out of politics, which amounts to a tacit endorsement of Sarkan Vorsath’s expansionist ambitions, despite his personal distaste. He can be careless and let slip his real feelings, which is dangerous in such a paranoid place, and the feeling amongst the other hierarchs is that sooner or later he’s going to have to flee or be killed. The other is Uvanya d’n Khadyua, head of the Karmork Academy of the Mind in addition to being a hierarch, She walks a tightrope. Although not a member of the Kasraanth Sar, she has to keep on good terms with them in order to avoid making enemies. She is legendary at diplomacy and striking compromises, but appears to lack any strong personal convictions. The way things are going in Karmork, it’s likely that the centre will not hold for much longer, and she will be forced to take sides between the growing and politically-sponsored Kasraanth Sar faction and the increasingly marginalised traditionalists.
There are only five Academies in the independent nations in the north-west, in the cities of Filgeth, Ravenah, Calbeyn, Zenatan and Kelbers, of which the ancient academy of Filgeth is by far the largest and most important. The northwest is now a major stronghold for the Progressors, their numbers boosted by those fleeing the purges in the Konaic Empire. Over the last few years, Filgeth has become increasingly polarised, with a large Progressor contingent facing an equally large group of Kaasranth Sar. The northwest is one area where human wizards can be found in significant numbers.
While none of the six known hierarchs reside in the northwest, it’s generally believed that at least one, and possibly both of the two ‘mystery’ hierarchs are actually based here. There are persistent rumours that one of the mystery hierarchs holds high political office, possibly the rank of Tharn or Sarkan, and this is why his or her identity is kept secret.
Distant Kasir has sizeable number of wizards, who remain in enough contact with the rest of the Academy of the Mind to be considered part of the organisation, even though their organisation and practices are very different. Their effective leader is Ovig Dasel Nar, who is recognised as a hierarch. To the more refined kandar of the ‘civilised lands’, he comes over as rude, aggressive, and impatient on his rare visits to the north. His mental powers are immense, though, and few will challenge him. He possesses a keen intellect, but is utterly disinterested in the secular politics of the north, instead concentrating his mind on research.
There are very few wizards in the far west or human settlements, and even fewer of those have any contact with the academy; most are ‘independents’. However, it’s generally believed that the Progressors are seeking to establish an academy amongst the humans of Numidix.
If there are one or more wizards as PCs, the Academy of the Mind will be an important part of the game. If all the PCs are wizards, the Academy and it’s politics will be pretty much central. Some possible adventure seeds:
The human child: There’s evidence of a young human slave with very strong powers. The Progressors want the child, to be trained as a wizard. Kaasranth Sar will want him or her dead. If the child is a city like Karmork or Selnin, it will be a perilous expedition by The Progressors to smuggle the child from under the Koniac’s noses.
Serial Killer: The city is shaken by a serious of grisly murders, which could only have been committed psionically. If the murders are not stopped, the population will turn very hostile towards wizards. Who is the murderer? Is it a renegade member of the guild, or something else entirely? Once the killer is identified, what is to be done to him, her or it?
Special Talents: Some other organisation needs psionic aid. Perhaps there’s a mental interrogation that needs doing, or some forensic psychometry. But is everything quite what it seems? Can the PC wizards avoid getting caught up on someone else’s secret agenda?