I’ve been a vocal advocate for the “shared world” experience in role-playing games. Although the referee is responsible for the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to detailing the campaign world, I don’t believe he or she should be the only one carrying the load. As a game master, I encourage player creativity to help fill in the unpainted corners of the world we’re all exploring and experiencing together. It not only jump-starts my own creative process, but allows for a greater investment in the setting on the part of the players.
The following is a result of that refereeing style. In my Kingmaker Pathfinder game, the party’s wizard often refers back to his time at the magic university he studied at prior to his adventures in the Stolen Lands. Player Rich has elaborated a wonderful backstory about how his wizard paid his way through college as a bootlegger brewer and regularly provides bits of information and lore with the preface “When I was studying magic in Strormfast…” I, for one, believe such creativity should be rewarded, and, inspired by Rich’s anecdotes, have sketched out a brief description of the hitherto unnamed university his wizard attended. Rich’s wizard is of the evoker school and, based upon his usual method of prying information from prisoners, I thought the benefit provided for studying evocation at the Ashgate Academy is fitting.
The Ashgate Academy can easily be dropped into any 3.5 or Pathfinder campaign with a name change or two. Older editions of the game can utilize the Academy with a little mechanical tweaking.
Founded in 1499 G.C.R., the Ashgate Academy is one of the few renowned and respected schools of the magical arts in the harsh northern kingdoms. Situated in Strormfast, the college earned its name from the site of its construction. The Academy stands at the base of Pyre Cliff, the traditional site of cremation for the city’s dead. Following the incineration of the deceased’s mortal remains, the funeral procession bearing the ashes pass through a wrought-iron gate erected at the base of the cliff. The Academy’s main building faces this “Ashgate,” thereby earning its designation. The Academy’s sigil is a crimson flame inside the archway of an argent gate on a field of deep azure.
The Ashgate Academy is best known for producing exceptional practitioners in the schools of enchantment, evocation, and necromancy. Instructed by masters of these magical arts, the graduates of these three schools enjoy a minor benefit from their education. These benefits manifest as follows:
Graduates of Ashgate Academy’s enchantment college are well-schooled in the identification and classification of magical auras. Enchanters of the Ashgate Academy gain a +1 circumstance bonus on Spellcraft checks made to determine the school of magic involved in a magical aura or to identify the properties of a magical item when using the detect magic spell.
Graduates of Ashgate Academy’s evocation college are famed as battle wizards and feared for their ability to rain destruction down upon enemies. Evokers of the Ashgate Academy receive Intimidate as a class skill.
Graduates of Ashgate Academy’s necromancy college receive intense training in the funeral practices and beliefs of many diverse cultures. Necromancers of the Ashgate Academy receive a +1 circumstance bonus on Knowledge (religion) skill checks regarding funeral rites, afterlife symbolism, and the identification of deities possessing the Death domain.