Re: Lunar College

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Sat 10 Jan 1998 - 13:23:12 EET

I'd like to thank Stephen publicly for being such a nice chap these
days. It may be an effort, but it's well worth keeping it up. Three
Cheers for New Year Resolutions! For the record, some of "my" ideas
derive from work done by Chris Gidlow, my long-time collaborator,
and the army sabbatical is one of these -- cf. the "Tarsh War" pic
of Heartland Corps troops, and essay on the Lunar College's use in
warfare, for more in this vein.

Panu writes:

>> ... your practical sabbatical year with the Army (from which the =

>> College receives some generous funding) ...

> This, IMG, is quite important thing, actually. If you're noble, then
> the army life is going to not just teach you stuff, but you might
> even make some friends, who in turn can help you out later, by
> giving letters of recommendation and fixing jobs in Red Army.
> Remember the Triarchs?

Well, while that's true, the fact is (from the student's point of view)
that a year out on some backward barbarian frontier casting elementary
magics to benefit illiterate grunts who want to kill savages is *not*
what enrolling in the Lunar College of Magic is all about. Sure, some
students will be keen to learn violent and destructive spells, perhaps
only joining the College so they can get placings as military magicians
(both during their sabbatical year and after graduation). But I would
imagine that to most students, this year of compulsory military service
is about as welcome as Conscription/the Draft/National Service *always*
is among the student fraternity. Albeit there isn't a major war on (yet).=

OK, you can make army contacts -- and impress important people in stress
situations -- during your year at the front. But you can make *zillions*
of important contacts (friends, mentors, patrons, etc.) just by being at
the College in the first place: think of the tutors (the most learned and=

powerful magicians of the Lunar Empire), your fellow pupils (children of
the wealthy educated elite of the Heartlands), the opportunities to meet
important people in Glamour (visiting speakers, guests at student events,=

pater's friends in the Capital), etc. etc.

The difference is, the army officers (and full-time army magicians) may
get to see how well you work when the chips are down, the balloon goes up=
the Gatling's jammed and the major's dead... and this is a good entree
for later employment, not necessarily in a military context.

I'm not denying that the army year is "quite important". I would hate to
suggest, however, that it's seen by all as the most desirable or signifi-=

cant part of your education at the Lunar College of Magic. If you have a
military bent, maybe it is. If you don't, it's almost certain not to be.

Character-forming, either way. The LCM isn't a military institution: it's=

a magical institution that the military finds useful. (Compare to Real
World examples of military-funded scientific research at "pure" academic
institutions: the only way they can stay open, sometimes, is to make a
compromise between principle and practicality).

> Surely a generous stipend from the parents will sort things out.

Not if you spend the generous stipend on exotic recreational drugs, miss
classes and fail your course that way. I said that drug-taking might lead=

to a student "dropping out" of the College, not that it was a cause for
expulsion in and of itself. (Although, in excess, it probably is. Granted=

that Western society doesn't prohibit the drinking of alcohol, were you
allowed to turn up to all your classes and lectures as drunk as a skunk?)=

Also, can you imagine a student writing back to his elderly Dara Happan
father: "Dear Father, I have spent my first year's grant already on drugs=

and booze. Please send more money, your loving Son"? Wouldn't you just
*love* to see the reply!?

> I had the impression that drugs are not persecuted very actively in
> Peloria. Opium to the masses, sort of.

"Opiate of the masses" is the quote you're after. I believe that, while
essentially liberal and tolerant on the question of weird mind-altering
substances (as one would expect, given Lunar associations with illusions,=

mental imbalance, etc.), the same arguments that rage in modern society
with respect to drugs' legality, availability, suitability, etc. can be
found in Pelorian circles. One example that springs to mind is Great
Sister's "Just Say No (to Gin)!" campaign -- cheap booze, a useful way
of keeping the barbarians addled and the underclass stupefied, is also
wrecking the lives of its addicted slaves, and prohibition is the only
reasonable answer. Another would be the situation with Hazia on the
frontier -- see my "Letter from a Monopolist" (in Tales #16) for an
Etyries merchant's perspective on the recent seizures and clampdowns.

Just because society at large condones (or condemns) something doesn't
mean that this is accepted by all segments of society. We have frantic
debates in the UK at present on:

   * banning tobacco advertising
   * legalisation of cannabis
   * lower drink-driving limits

all of which have obvious relevance to the Pelorian drugs debate. OK, so
alcohol's legal. Would you lose your job if you turned up drunk to work?
Would you allow anyone to brew or distil their own booze? Would you allow=

anyone to sell it? to buy it? Would you stand by and take no action if
someone was ruining their health, life, finances through abusing it?

The Coders, it appears, are keen to stamp out Hazia smuggling in Prax,
and also seem to have a strong moral line against the use of this drug.
We now know this is "atypical" (the Lunar Empire regulates the supply
and distribution of hazia, but does not prohibit it outright) -- this
makes it an interesting quirk of their characters, not an inconsistency.
Imagine, for example, a confrontation between MOB's Count Julan (all
righteous moral indignation) and my own sleazy Norbanus of Filichet
("Selling gin and hazia to the natives is good for the economy, good
for preserving peace on the frontier, and good for the Empire!").

The drug debate is more interesting if there are different sides to it.
And whether or not drugs are legal, students at the College will be
experimenting with them: sometimes literally! After all, it's easier
to achieve Discorporation with a pipe of Praxian Gold than with three
hours' ritual drumming in the woods -- mind you, your neighbour on the
next floor up has just brought his new drum kit into the insula, so
maybe he has a different opinion...

Oh, and I agree completely that LCM graduates in the Minor Classes are,
skillwise, tough magical hombres -- perhaps equivalent to a just-made
adept sorcerer, shaman with fetch, or newly-ordained Rune Priest. I was
looking at their lifestyle, not the content of their magical training.

They aren't all good "Moonson Youth" and Komsomol Cadets, ever striving
zealously for the furtherance of the Lunar Empire and the Lunar Way --
they're well-off kids in their late teens and early twenties, enjoying
their first real taste of freedom and independence in an intellectually
stimulating, socially liberal atmosphere. Of course you get fruitcakes,
weirdoes and drop-outs. *Of course* you get party animals, as well as
Party hardliners. I'm just building a "feel" of student life at the
Lunar College, trying to show you what part it can play in your games
(other than the "He casts a red fireball at you: roll Dodge" sense),
and how it can enrich other parts of the world than the Magic rules.



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