At the Imperial College of the Arcane, students struggle to master the art of magic, both theoretical and applied. And wherever there are students laboring under intense pressure—both academic and social—there will always be student societies. Most tend to be small, informal groups of close friends. However, some are powerful secret societies whose histories span the ages, and whose rituals remain forever hidden from outsiders.
This article provides a brief overview of five secret societies of the College Arcane, located in the Archmage’s city of Horizon (which you can read about in 13 True Ways). These aren’t official additions to Dragon Empire lore, but players and GMs might find them useful for adventure seeds, character backgrounds, NPC opponents, and even One Unique Things.
- 15-30 current, active members, usually chosen from specific areas of magical study or types of spellcasters. First-year students are almost never invited to become members of a secret society—society members keep an eye on promising first-year students to see if they’d be suitable candidates in the future. Belonging to multiple secret societies is forbidden, and anyone found doing so will be cast out and shunned. However, some societies are friendly with one another, and may collaborate on joint activities.
- An official name, and sometimes a nickname that’s more commonly used to refer to the society
- An associated icon, who might be symbolic of the society’s focus, an inspiration to its members, or even its official head
- An enchanted badge or token which, when worn, signals membership in the society to other members who are nearby—perhaps by changing temperature, tingling, or whispering in the wearer’s ear
- A motto
- An initiation rite that includes a challenging ordeal and an oath of secrecy
- A clubhouse, which at the College Arcane is called a “lair”. A secret society’s lair might take any form, whether mundane or fantastical. The key thing is that outsiders cannot see or hear what goes on inside a lair, and members can enter and exit without being seen.
- Society activities, such as the discussion of academic topics, formal debate, carousing, public service, or tasks performed on behalf of the society’s patron icon. Depending on the nature of the society, some of these may be done publicly while others are private and subject to the oath of secrecy.
The Good Fellows
Nickname: The Hellhole Club
Membership: Primarily wizards and demonologists (from Book of Demons), if your campaign’s version of the College Arcane accepts demonologists as students.
Associated icon: The Diabolist.
Motto: “From Shadows, Light. From Light, Understanding.”
Badge or token: Two hands clasped in friendship.
Initiation includes: The candidate’s courage and will is tested by branding the society’s badge on their exposed skin. The brand (and associated pain) vanishes within seconds.
Principal activities: Discussion of magic related to demons, devils, and the Abyss; the pursuit of power and influence.
In reality, the Good Fellows are a recruiting funnel for the cult of the Diabolist. As part of the society’s fun and games, members are required to carry out “secret missions” in the Diabolists’ name. These tasks are harmless pranks at first, but gradually become more sinister. Any member who refuses is reminded that the society now has quite a long record of that member’s diabolical acts. It would be such a shame if it ever became public… (For more on the Diabolist’s cult in Horizon, see “The Diabolist’s ‘Moderates’” in 13 True Ways, p. 148; and the Hell Marsh Cult monster entry in 13th Age Bestiary 2, p. 134.)
Society for the Advancement and Promotion of the Defensive Magical Arts
Nickname: B.B.F. (Blast, Burn, and Freeze)
Membership: All spellcasters, but primarily sorcerers.
Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as defender of the Empire and caster of some wicked destructive spells.
Motto: “Courage Under (And Possibly While On) Fire.”
Badge or token: Two wands, crossed.
Initiation includes: On “Dueling Day”, candidates—dressed in ridiculous costumes—must fight public “duels of honor” on college grounds using absurd weapons chosen by society members.
Principal activities: Discussion of magic as it relates to warfare and battle; re-enacting historical battles using magical miniature landscapes and animated figurines (some dating back to the society’s founding).
Scroll and Staff
Nickname: The Page-Shufflers
Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as the Empire’s greatest master of magical learning.
Motto: “Read Thrice, Speak Once.” (Often paraphrased as, “Know your sh*t before you open your mouth.”)
Badge or token: An open book with the flame of the Archmage rising from its pages.
Initiation includes: The retrieval and reading of a scroll—the society’s founding document—hidden within the College Arcane’s vast library. The member must never speak of its contents to anyone, not even other society members.
Principal activities: Debate, study, and the discussion of magical texts from past ages. After final exams, truly legendary carousing.
The Cacophonous Society
Nickname: The Bleating Herd
Membership: Primarily bards and chaos mages.
Associated icons: Elf Queen, Spelljack (See “The Age of Founding”, Book of Ages)
Motto: “Wit, Harmony, and Friendship.”
Badge or token: A lyre within a laurel wreath
Initiation includes: Candidates are given music and lyrics for the society’s anthem (an almost impossibly difficult song) and must perform it in public while the current members heap good-natured ridicule on them.
Principal activities: Discussion of the intersection of magic and the performing arts; musical, dramatic, and comedic composition and performance (both public and private); carousing.
Hand and Eye
Nickname: Rag and Bone
Membership: Primarily necromancers, wizards, and clerics of death gods.
Associated icon: The Lich King
Badge or token: A skull with a skeletal hand covering its right eye.
Initiation includes: Candidates are abducted from their rooms in the dead of night and led blindfolded to a certain cemetery on College grounds. There, they experience a ceremonial death and resurrection in which they are buried alive and then dug up again an hour later. The new members are welcomed joyfully with a lavish feast.
Principal activities: Discussion of necromantic magic, philosophy, and ethics; charitable works related to death, dying, and grieving, always performed anonymously—for example, providing a poor family with funds for the proper burial of a deceased loved one.
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