Following up on the Introduction of the Astralytes, today I want to go deeper into their rank structure, which reflects that this guild is torn between being a research organization and a university, with ambitions to protect the cosmos in general. You can use these ranks to flavor NPCs, or to give to your player characters as rewards for adventures rendered, as well as to allow them access to the Astralytes’ network for whatever grueling strive to come.
The different Tracks
Most Astralytes would argue that any knowledge gained through research – or any other means for that matter – comes with the responsibility to see that knowledge spread and shared. But they will also agree that there are those handier at research while others are more skilled when it comes to passing that knowledge on.
The two branches formed hundreds of years ago. They have never really been at odds, but there is the mild dislike for each other that is to be expected within larger organizations. While this usually manifests as trash talks and practical jokes, there is no open hostility between the scientists and the teachers – although there have been exceptions throughout the history of the Astralytes.
GM Tip: Use rivalries like that to spice up your game and obscure the true motives of your NPCs. Are they trying to use the players to play a prank on a colleague? Or are there more nefarious motives at work? Are they actually trying to harm the Astralytes, or the players? Playing on this kind of known tension within a group (if you make it known first) can cover up what is actually going on till the players are already drawn in – or roll really well on insight.
In order to keep the two tracks from drifting apart too far, both have the first and the last rank in common. While students, in general, are not too partial to either side just yet, the Emerita do a good enough job at being impartial. The consensus is that they have grown wise enough to see beyond such petty issues. In reality, they are most likely just too old to really bother.
The first rank and one without distinction of path is the student. Everyone joining the Astralytes is considered a student until they earn their first rank. Outside the guild, the rank of student is itself a badge of honor. Many mages, herbalists, alchemists or healers leave their home to study under the masters of the guild and gain knowledge and reputation accordingly.
But even those that do not intend to stay with the Astralytes after their studies are over are expected to side with one faction and thus find like-minded friends and possibly mentors. The system works in favor of the guild since a number of those who came to learn for a year or two decide to stay among the friends they have made here and become valuable members of the Astralytes.
If you want to induct your players into the Astralytes, I recommend going the Scientific branch and making them SiRes (see below). It does not make much of a difference, unless you want to build a campaign around a group of students inside the guild. Teachers rarely do field work (read: go on adventures).
Those who join the Astralytes in order to discover, reveal or unearth knowledge follow the calling of the scientists. They conduct their studies in various facilities across the cosmos, with most of them retaining a link to the guild headquarters in Sigil. Those facilities include laboratories for the arcane, the alchemical and other related sciences, but also monitoring stations near interesting or potentially dangerous sites.
While some of them prefer laboratories to the wild world outside, others follow the call of adventure. They do research through field trips. Traveling in groups of at least three to ensure unbiased work, they inspect strange phenomena and research folklore. When they set up camp, they gather data using complex arcane instruments just as often as simple mechanisms like pendulums or winding sticks.
The Ranks of the Scientists
Generally speaking, scientists tend to attach less importance to rank structure than teachers do. It is common for researchers of different rank to work closely together and share both the work as well as whatever reward they might reap. What they do value are abbreviations and puns. The combination of both has lead to various ranks over the years, most of them interchangeable and a source of ridicule in some cases.
SiRe – scientific researcher
This is the basic rank of scientist and a catch-all for a number of names that were used in the past. Among them are the AlAs (alchemical assistant) and the RiPe (ritual performer). Most scientists are content with this rank until they have gathered enough reputation to become LaMas themselves.
This is also the title most often bestowed upon adventurers that seek the Astralytes’ help on some quest, or that the guild in turn asks to render aid when the situation warrants it. The idea behind it is that there is knowledge to be found in foiling threats to the cosmos and the material plane, and most adventurers would not feel at home with the teachers anyway.
FiS – Field Scientist
This rank is supposed to signify scientific progress that would allow someone carrying this rank to oversee and instruct a group of SiRes, but for reasons not widely known, it is mostly shunned and disregarded. There are rumors that it will be the next rank to be replaced by something that offers a better pun, which would lead to an increase in accepted promotions once again. Such is the nature of scientist ranks.
LaMa – Laboratory Master
While most will agree that this is not the best pun in the pond, the LaMa has held its ground as the top rank of scientist within the Astralytes for over a century now. It is the LaMas that do decide about new ranks, or, more often than not, replacing old names and abbreviations with new ones.
Teachers value simple, clear ranks without abbreviations or puns. While there are some that have retained a sense of humor, the general consensus is that fun can be had elsewhere. Teaching as well as learning is serious business, and will keep you alive should you ever chose to venture beyond the guild’s walls. This view is the result of the fact that most teachers never leave the confines of the guild headquarters. Not only do they look down on field work, they think that it is foolish and outright dangerous most of the time.
Unlike scientists, the teachers as a whole have chosen not to use abbreviations for their positions, which they think is a silly habit of a mind not at rest. Another difference between both branches is that rank plays a much bigger role in the day-to-day affairs of teachers. Someone with a higher rank is obviously smarter and better. There is less intermingling, and more of a strife to advance through the ranks on this side of the Astralytes.
In addition to that, there is another layer of separation. Every teacher has a subject that they teach or a core subject that they are really knowledgeable about. At higher ranks, some have accumulated the reputation of being well-versed in different academic fields. But more often than not, teachers will stick to their expertise and harbor pet peeves with other subjects that they deem not worth the effort.
This rank is for students that have finished their studies in a certain field and seek to continue on the teachers’ path. They hone their skills by supervising groups of students in their particular field and helping them get a better grasp of the subject matter.
Once a teacher has gained enough experience in handling students, they are raised to the rank of Instructor in a certain subject matter and are allowed to handle larger groups of students. They are also allowed to teach, but usually only get to when the subject’s lecturer is otherwise engaged.
The main task of a Lecturer is to hold lectures. They make up the bulk of teachers, and most that follow that path are content with that position. It grants them use of the lesson hall for their specialty as well as the help of tutors and instructors. And it allows them not only to teach students but also to refine how they pass their knowledge on.
Being considered masters of their field of knowledge, Professors rarely ever teach themselves but leave that to the lecturers under their tutelage. Lecturers are raised to that rank whenever their reputation permits, and sometimes new seats are formed based on necessity. Thus the number of core subjects is bound to change over time, and the Professors are those who dictate the general direction that a basic education with the Astralytes takes at any given time.
At the top of the Astralytes stand the Emerita. To become an Emeritus, one has to show “outstanding dedication in time and effort”. That usually means that the oldest of either branch are eventually raised to that rank, but there have been cases where a remarkable feat is rewarded, and a younger member is raised into the circle of leaders.
This feat usually combines aspects of both branches, like discovering an infernal conspiracy and then leading the charge against an ill-placed portal. This ensures that there will be no hard feelings from either side of the guild, and helps to raise individuals that already see beyond their own field of expertise.
Rank Structure – Now what?
Your characters might actually want to join the Astralytes, and that would be okay – there is an article forthcoming about that. But it is more likely that they will join them as adventurers when the occasion warrants. Thus, they will get the rank of SiRe and be done with it. There will be an article on adventuring for the Astralytes as well.
But you can make use of this rank structure to flesh out your NPCs and prepare some in advance that might provide the characters with useful information on their quest. In addition to that, these ranks also offer some material for adventure hooks if you want to keep things small. Maybe a teacher wants to get his hands on an ancient tome and sends adventurers to get it rather than relying on the scientists. The possibilities are limitless, even without having an actual villain in the mix.
Thanks for stopping by. I would really appreciate your feedback – it will help me produce better content going forward, and improving upon what you just read.
And as always, remember to be Inspired!