Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 8: The Magician's Mountain, Hohenheim

The Sorcerer's Summit, The Arcane Ascension, The Magician's Mountain, Prestidigitator's Pinnacle, The Flying Peak. These are all names by which the floating top of what used to be the largest mountain in Loria goes. Bergheim used to tower above all the Yrdgar Range.

Shamanistic magic has always been with the Lorians. No tribe has ever been complete without at least one shaman, not only to protect them, but to guide them. Shamanistic magic has always been about the world. It's been about rock and wind, fire and water, or plants and nature. Hundreds of years ago some of the shaman, in their magical experimentation, discovered magic that belonged to none of these categories and they called it The Arcane.

Study of the Arcane was expressly forbidden by the shaman elders. As with all things forbidden, many of the shaman practiced it in secret. Four times a year, these shaman would meet in secret high up in Bergheim, the highest peak of the Yrdgar Range, to share their discoveries and perfect their craft. As they became more stable and the magic more well defined, they abandoned their tribes so they could devote themselves to the study of the Arcane.

Bergheim is harsh and not easily settled, but not especially steep. Still, it's incredibly difficult to get to without magic to aid you. With their magics they were able to protect themselves from the harsh wind and cold. They carved out terraces in the mountain's face and established agriculture. They built shelters, libraries, and rooms where they could develop and strengthen their skills.

Eventually their Arcane magic became so strong they eschewed their old, shamanistic magic because they felt it was weak. One day, these Arcane magicians awoke to find three dwarves who had found their way to them. Impressed, they offered to teach the dwarves, hoping that their unique point of view and way of thinking would lead to new magical developments. The dwarves declined and announced that they had only come to warn the mages that the mountain was volcanic and that the dwarves sensed that it was becoming restless and would soon erupt.

The magicians didn't want to abandon the home that they had made for themselves. In their hubris they devised a plan that they would all channel their strength into casting a barrier that would prevent the eruption from affecting the peak, effectively walling off the lava and the and holding back the pressure of its accumulation. While this was good for the magicians, it would prove to be terrible for Bergheim.

Normally, a volcano erupts from the top, but with the easiest point of egress blocked off the pressure built more and more. The eruption was going to happen, there was nothing they could do to stop that. The sides of the mountain burst off, shooting lava far out over the land surrounding it. Many people died down below even though they thought they were far enough for safety. What hadn't blown off was so unstable that it collapsed in on itself, falling in the magma pit below. There, floating above and watching it all happen, were the magicians. Their wall held admirably and held them up. Since their home was now detached from the world, they set it in motion to fly over the central area of Loria to show the world that they were better than it, a demonstration of their power. They renamed their flying mountaintop Hohenheim. Bergheim had been reduced to an average height, incredibly wide mountain, with a boiling pit of magma at its center.

Hohenheim is now the central location of Arcane magic in Loria. Aspiring magicians must either be identified and brought to the peak by current members, or find some way to reach the peak without invitation. Usually only a powerful shaman would be able to perform such a feat. Once there, however, they must forget their shamanistic learnings in order to start over as a magician.