Wizkid: Cantrip Comprehensive CONFLICT!

All great stories rise out of conflict and, as anyone who wasn’t homeschooled knows, school is full of conflict. This means you can have plenty of adventure without even having to break out the man-eating doll-spiders or bands of killer non-copyright infringing smurf-like micro-demons.

Students Vs Staff

The teachers are, obviously, in positions of authority and that puts them in immediate opposite with students who would rather build paper aeroplanes, sleep, text, smoke, get high, get drunk or cop a feel off each other behind the bike sheds. Some teachers are always worse than others however and certain teachers are set up to be the character’s arch nemesi.

Miss Encephela is an obvious choice, Mr Punch likes to hide away and she’s a hideous, octopoid bitch. She hates children and will go out of her way to come up with cruel and unusual punishments.

Madame Gorget also makes for a nasty and troublesome teacher who is ready to dish out punishments, usually after shouting at the student in a variety of incomprehensible languages, Like Miss Encephela she has a horrific edge which adds tension to her tirades.

Mr McBastard is less sinister and more angry, which makes him good for shouting and/or headbutting people. Given that corporal punishment is still applied in magical schools, he can be scarier than his conventional appearance might suggest.

Mr Noot on the other hand is a complete walkover and can be thoroughly bullied by the students with virtual impunity. As a victim he makes a good comedic punching bag compared to the nastier teachers.

Clique Vs Clique

As well as the specific cliques mentioned in prior articles there are always broad cliques based on academic accomplishment, popularity, fashion and music choices, remedial education status, sexiness, sexuality and just about any division you care to think of. Kids hatred and cruelty to each other is boundless and a rich source of bitter conflict that can last for years and scar for a lifetime, all without anyone getting killed!

School Vs School

Occasionally some teachers, educators or governments get funny ideas about ‘encouraging competition’ and try to get schools to play games against each other or engage in competitions. Cantrip Comprehensive tends to suck at Bigpitch and private schools do so very much love to ‘stick it to the oils’ but they’re willing to be underhanded more than the more privileged and there’s more than one thing they can compete at. Brutality can make up for a lot.

Staff Vs Staff

Teachers often clash over what they think is fair and over educational ideology. Some hate kids, some love them. Some believe in a soft approach, some a hard approach. Some like to punish, others to reward. Some like to threaten, others like to inspire. Canny students can latch on to a favourite teacher in a favourite subject and set the staff against each other, getting away with murder in the crossfire.

School Vs Town

The town is deeply suspicious of the school and the odd people that go there. It might be a Comprehensive but it doesn’t take in people from the local area. What’s all that about then eh? Plus the kids who go there seem to think they’re better than everyone else, which is bound to get someone’s back up. While the local shops are happy to take their money the local youths – and others – have their eye open for trouble, or the opportunity to cause it.

School Vs Government

Schools are subject to a lot of examination and scrutiny and every time the wind changes so does educational policy. It’s no different for magical schools and inspectors, interfering PTA groups and government secretaries are likely to turn up and put the school’s funding or existence under question from time to time. Students and staff will have to club together to keep these evil forces of bureaucracy out of their business.

Cantrip Comprehensive: Notable Students

As well as the staff it’s worth noting particular personalities within the current student body at Cantrip Comprehensive, indeed they’re likely to have much more of an impact on the characters than even the staff.

The Circle of Smoke
Found lurking in the bathrooms and behind the sheds, wherever they’re – probably – out of sight and screened by anti-scrying charms, the Circle of Smoke gathers to inhale tobacco, marijuana and anything else that can be smoked or inhaled. If you want to score they’re the people to go to but they’re pretty secretive and like to hide. When they’re high they get up to hinjinx but most of the time they’re very, very careful, wary of being sent to the detention dimension for transgressing the written and unwritten laws of the school.

Of the circle the leader is Ross Gray, permanently high he’s lost in a fug of drug-induced stupor and lets off magic seemingly randomly in the midst of his giggle fits. There’s no drug or mythical substance he can’t get hold of from unicorn horns to troll blood and everything in between, if you can put up with his short term memory loss.

Ted the Exstrange Student
Controversial, but promoted by the government, the Exstrange program brings the semi-supernatural creatures from the rest of the Shadow World into the Wizkid education programme as a way of trying to understand them and bring them under control. Ted is a Sparkler Bloodsucker with emo-hair and many sets of identical black silk shirts and leather jackets. The girls love him and they love him so much he feels like he can’t let on that he’s gay for fear of losing his popularity, the only thing that’s stopping some students from turning him into a newt and tossing him into a cauldron.

Sharon Enchante
Half Nymph, Sharon has gorgeous waist-length chestnut hair and a figure that has inspired many male students to actually learn geometry in order to properly describe it. A brilliant student and a skilled athlete (gymnastics) this is all ignored due to the fact that there’s a school legend going around that she’ll show you her tits for a tenner. Nobody’s yet dared find out if that’s true but given that she’s in the second year of the sixth form if anyone is going to dare they’ll have to dare soon. Of course, her father is a warlock with the Department of Magic(k)al Justice, so that really may not be a good idea.

Kyan Stane
Kyan is utterly hopeless at magic but what he lacks in mystic power he makes up for in physical strength and borderline psychopathy.  To many it seems like Kyan’s almost been designed to be the perfect school bully and he takes an astounding amount of glee in spoiling people’s day, beating people up and making class and break time a living nightmare from which there’s no escape.

A half-demon, AntiChris is a shifty, shitty, obnoxious individual with all the social skills of a wolverine and the appeal of a baboon’s arse. That said, his dad is proud of his son and is more than willing to trade favours or make deals through AntiChris for anything you might want. Booze, porn, knives, guns, magic spells, curses, demonic pacts, you name it, he can get it. AntiChris is also the school encyclopaedia of sexist, racist and sick jokes, of which he always has two or three to hand.

The Bigpitch Team
Bigpitch isn’t as big a deal in the comprehensives as it is in the private wizarding schools. Indeed it’s thought of as a nerdy, girly sport and dismissed in favour of Magic Rules Football. Most schools still have a Bigpitch team anyway, but it’s regarded in much the same way Badminton or Polo are considered in the mundane world.

Cantrip Comprehensive fields a Bigpitch team but it’s made up of those who can’t or won’t play any ‘real’ sports and they don’t really play Bigpitch, save when invited to compete by another school. Mostly they just prance around a field pretending to practice and talking nonsense.

Jedamiah Wood is the captain of the Bigpitch team and has dreams of actually making the sport cool and taking his team to the top. He’s the only one out of the bookish, asthmatic or work-shy team that actually gives a damn and his enthusiasm, while not infectious, is indefatigable.

The Three Bitches
Tamara, Diana and Harriet are the Three Bitches, a trio of ‘reformed’ witches who play up their gothy, spooky image to out-emo the other brooding kids of the school. ‘When shall we three meet again’ is answered by ‘In room 102 every lunchtime’ which is where they hold meeting of their LGBTAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Asexual and Parthenogenic) support society. They’re the only members and it’s really just a cover for gossip, hexing and reading prohibited magazines. Nonetheless, they have a scary image which they positively encourage to be spread around.

The Prefects
Sometimes good families fall on hard times. The kids from this families in good standing that lose money on the stock market or poorly thought out alchemical ventures are extended a sop by being made prefects, backing up the teachers to keep order in the halls and theoretically acting as the school’s first line of defence against supernatural threats.

The leader of the Prefects is Tarkers VanDerSnoot of the Merlinical VanDerSnoots. They took a financial pounding when the bottom fell out of unicorn futures and he’s the first and only VanDerSnoot to have to attend a comprehensive, something that he hates. Composed, collected, dignified, with floppy blonde hair and a Hugh Grant accent, Tarkers cuts a dashing figure but beneath that cool, calm, collected exterior is a seething ball of resentment waiting to explode when he’s pushed too far.

Cantrip Comprehensive: The Staff

The Comprehensive is what passes for a community school in the magic(k)al subculture of the Shadow World and as such takes the magically talented of all degrees of talent and all social strata through its gates. This acclimates the kids to real life experience by making sure that they’re victimised and bullied from the moment they arrive and it also tends to lead to world-weary teachers who wish they had proper jobs somewhere else, anywhere but here.

The Comprehensive teaches a broad curriculum, covering basic conventional subjects as well as magic(k)al concepts. The staff include teachers of all grades of ability and enthusiasm – or lack thereof. The school might be cheap, but some people still have ideological reasons for teaching in a State magic(k)al school, or simply aren’t welcome in the private ones.

Headmaster: Mr Punch
Mr Punch is not actually a Wizard. Ever since wizarding school, which – he has no idea why he was sent to – he has faked it and the whole thing has sort of gotten out of hand. Now he finds himself in charge of a full comprehensive magical school. His way of dealing with this is to hide in his office and not come out unless he really has to. Most years he gets away with this, only venturing forth when new kids are taken in in September to give a mumbled speech and then fleeing back to his office. Mr Punch is a big, broad shoulders and barrel-bellied man in his mid fifties with a penchant for tweed suits and spectacles on chains, though he still somehow manages to lose track of them. He is a bumbling idiot and knows he is, so staying out of the way is probably his best plan.

Assistant Head: Miss Encephala
Grey skinned, Miss Encephala has an octopus for a head and speaks in pinched, hissing tones. She has an unnerving habit of stroking pupil’s heads with her gooey tentacles while she’s talking to them. Her stare is unnerving and unblinking and she utterly, utterly, loathes children of all kinds. With Mr Punch hiding in her office she has to do his job as well as hers and this has made her even more psychotic. In acts of petty revenge she undermines the school by spending its money on pointless things, making it look nice trying to make money from it and not replacing books or magic(k)al equipment unless forced to.

Head of Physical Education: Mister(?) Alex Silverbirch
Of indetermine gender this half-elven teacher acts slightly inappropriately with students of both sexes and his… her… its(?) gender is a topic of much speculation amongst the student body. Short haired, fine featured and dressed in a turquoise tracksuit, Silverbirch is in charge of the much hated PE department and has to cobble together a Bigpitch team. Cantrip Comprehensive always, always loses, but nobody in the school cares.

Physical Education: Miss Krunk
Half Troll and all woman, Miss Krunk lives a double life. At the school she’s as butch and demanding as they come, forcing kids to go through their mandated physical education classes, the minimal exercise that a magician is required to do not to turn into a fat blob or to snap in a stiff wind. Out of school she likes pretty dresses, flowers and collects My Little Ponies, a dichotomy that pupils who encounter her outside of school can’t get their heads around.

Caretaker: Mr Slaugh
A creepy, shadowy figure, Mr Slaugh doesn’t sleep and is always lurking, somewhere in the school, ready to mop the floors, clean the toilets, replace lightbulbs and anything else that needs to be done. Nobody ever sees him actually doing the work, but it seems to get done. When he’s not working he’s found in the boiler room which is hot, dark and spooky.

Nurse: Mrs Klump
Mrs Klump is a construct, a stitched together mish-mash of pieces that don’t really fit well together. Despite this she has a heart of gold (perhaps literally) and mothers any hurt kids almost unbearably until their parents come to get them. Oddly this tends to put kids off ‘pulling a sickie’ to get out of class as they can’t bear to be treated like babies.

Office Staff: The Triplets
Rather than maiden, mother, crone, The Triplets are reception, admin, secretarial. The same woman, divided into three, she styles her hair differently in each form to help people distinguish between them and uses small amounts of magic to make her job/s easier.

Head of English & Magical Languages: Madame Gorget
A penanggal, Madame Gorget is attached to her body by a metal collar. As teacher of English and Magical Languages she is strict beyond belief and has no patience whatsoever for kids who do not share her talent for languages and dishes out far too many punishments and often calls kids stupid. That’s a vampiric temperament for you.

English & Magical Languages: Mr Pott
Mr Pott is half dwarf and all insane. While a brilliant and inspiring teacher with a real talent for languages he is an energetic, vibrating ball of energy that’s barely contained at the best of times. He can be overwhelming in his sheer enthusiasm and loudness, something that doesn’t endear him to other teachers who can’t sustain that level of enthusiasm.

Head of Alchemy: Mr McBastard
Another half-dwarf, Mr McBastard heads of the alchemy department the largest one, largely because it’s the most  commercial and thus gets most of the funding from Miss Encephala, much to the resentment of other departments. Mr McBastard doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks, least of all his students upon whom he practices his drill sergeant routine in his deep, Scottish brogue.

Alchemy: Miss Neem
Miss Neem is an intensely disinterested alchemy teacher who is really just phoning it in. Part basilisk she has to hide her death-ray gaze behind some big, bug-eyed sunglasses. You can still feel her glare though, whenever you disrupt the class, she just wants to get through it as fast as the kids do.

Alchemy: Mister Larry
During a research trip to the Outer Hebrides, Mr Larry was bitten by the legendary Venemous Vampire Sheep of those island fields.  He didn’t turn fully, but did manage to limit the effect so that he only turns into a sheep during a full moon. Occasionally he ‘slips’ during the rest of the month, but he tries to keep it under wraps while working on side projects that interest him far more than teaching, desperate to get the respect he used to have as a field wizard.

Alchemy: Mr Noot
An ill-advised government programme offers to let magicians who work in other fields of the magic(k)al underworld take up teaching without any training. Mr Noot is a typical product of this, a ‘teacher’ who has no idea  what the hell he’s doing and over whom the kids ride completely roughshod. He couldn’t teach his way out of a wet paper bag and his classes are reminiscent of a school of piranhas devouring a confused – and possibly retarded – cow. He gets very red faced and smacks his lips when upset, which only makes it worse.

Head of Scribing & Enchantment: Mrs Bumble
Mrs Bumble is a frustrated painter who would much rather live in the lake district painting watercolours but because of her lack of real talent and her magic(k)al capabilities finds herself teaching calligraphy, sculpting and enchantment to students who may even be better at it than she is. Out of bitter resentment she deeply criticises even the slightest flaw in any student’s work and has, thus, put many possible great enchanters completely off the field forever.

Scribing & Enchantment: Rosebud
A forest nymph, Miss Rosebud is a subject of some controversy amongst parents and staff – and the older pupils – split almost entirely along gender lines. A naked green girl with only three strategically placed leaves to cover her modesty causes awkward questions and problems. That said, she’s one of the few good teachers who actually cares about her pupils and her bursting into tears is the ultimate disciplinary tool.

Head of Never Again: Mrs Popper
The department of ‘Never Again’ is what passes for history and it’s their responsibility to ensure that future generations do not make the huge magic(k)al mistakes of the past. Mrs Popper is enthusiastic in her task, especially when talking about the darker, nastier parts of history. Perpetually pregnant she has a love of silly voices, hats, props and illusory magic when she’s teaching.

Never Again: Doctor Smee
A creaking, dusty, slow-talking old fool Smee maintains his position through sheer stubbornness, despite having had a retirement party at least five times. They’ve now given up firing him and since he forgets to ask to be paid they let him hold his mumbled classes in the school library. Most kids don’t even bother turning up.

Head of Magical Theory: Mr Pond
Mr Pond is perpetually damp-looking, with a hideous comb-over. His clammy presence chills the room and while he’s jovial and chummy and means nothing bad by it, it still manages to come across as creepy. He’s very keen and competent when it comes to magical theory but is far more interested in being ‘down with the kids’. Something that he’s not nearly so good at.

Magical Theory: Miss Turkey
Part harpy, Miss Turkey has an annoying, screeching voice and has to sit on a perch while teaching class. She’s great at magical theory  but her appearance and patchy feathers are unsettling, even disgusting and tend to put most of the kids off learning. She has a lot of sympathy for other half-breeds in the school system and runs a little support group at lunchtimes.

There are other teachers of course, filling in gaps and standing in when Mr Larry turns into a sheep, but these are the teachers who really shape the school experience for the pupils.

Cantrip Comprehensive: The School

(Shamelessly ripping off from my own school experiences)

Cantrip Comprehensive is situated in the small town of Blackchurch in Wiltshire, England. Blackchurch is an almost entirely unremarkable town noted only for a brief zombie infestation* and the fact that the local populace seem to consume more drugs than the population of a much larger town, perhaps a side effect of the presence of the school.

The school was originally built to cope with an influx of magic(k)ally interested children in the mid 1960s. It was built to replace an old TB hospital that was present on the site before and has lead to the presence of a couple of coughing ghosts that make assemblies a noisy event and one that’s often even less interesting than they normally are.

The school is divided into four ‘blocks’ which surround a ‘lovely’ expanse of asphalt which passes for a recreation ground. A rather sad patch of grass is at the back of the school is where Bigpitch and other sports are played, half the size it used to be since part of the playing fields were sold off for a new housing estate to be built.

1. The Old Block – Once the site of the TB hospital this red-brick victorian building is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, creaking, draughty and – frankly – in need of pulling down. Magic(k) and history is in its every brick which is part of the reason they don’t dare tear it down.

2. The New Block – Not so new really since it’s a concrete and sheet-metal, brutalist monstrosity from the early 1970s. It’s grubby, smells faintly of plastic, has a depressing atmosphere and houses most of the alchemical and other more technical classes, which means it has burnt out a few times, though never been destroyed. Each time it is redecorated as cheaply as possible and somehow ‘flame retardant’ is never on the list of priorities.

3. The Community Block – This is where the indoor sports ‘arena’ is, along with the ‘community area’ which is used for fund-raising events and as a clubhouse for the sixth form.

4. The Huts – ‘Temporary’ buildings that have been there as long as anyone remembers, they’re even worse than the Old Block, even though they’re much newer. They’re due to be replaced ‘any day now’.

The whole area is protected from prying, mortal eyes by a massive Nerf spell that bolloxs up the eyesight of anyone looking towards the school so that they only see normal goings on. A variety of pocket realms serve as special classrooms and as the staffroom, away from troublesome and interfering students.

*Referencing the infamous Blood! scenario with the deadly Fray Bentos Pies.

Cantrip Comprehensive: Magic(k)al Comprehensives

There have been several instances during which the existing structure of ancient, privately owned and run magic(k)al schools hasn’t been able to cope with the influx. Never have things been so bad as they have been since the late 1990s, since when there has been an ongoing ‘perfect storm’ of occult interest amongst tweens and teenagers that has resulted in far too many of them stumbling into the true magic(k)al arts.

Not all of these kids have the money or the magical heritage to justify their attendance in the best schools such as the Wobbly Academy, Orcsford, Wheaton or the others. It became necessary given the massive influx to go to the government for help. The same government that has previously caused problems for the magical fraternity but, since one hand doesn’t seem to know what the other is doing they help – sort of – at the same time as they’re causing problems, after all, it’s better to have all these magic(k)al problem-causers a) owing you and b) all collected in one place.

With government funding a series of buildings were re-purposed to become the new magic(k)al comprehensives, a series of substandard, underfunded, shoddy buildings where anyone who has shown a passing capability for magic(k) is rounded up and flung in order to be taught by all the magicians, wizards, soothsayers, warlocks and witches who couldn’t pass muster to educate at one of the older academies.

Needless to say this results in a rather brutish school environment in which learning is not a priority, where black magic(k) is traded around the playground like pokemon cards and where nobody really wants to be, not the teachers, least of all the kids. All this amateurish magic(k) flying about the place is dangerous, tears holes in reality and makes the comprehensives magic(k)ally as well as physically dangerous. If you’re not breathing in asbestos or clinging in vain hope to a Victorian radiator you’re getting your head dunked into a toilet by a half-orc or falling into a dungeon pocket-realm that’s spontaneously appeared under the boiler room. That’s if the teachers – who haven’t been properly cleared due to the haste and desperation with which they’ve been hired – don’t get you. Then there’s the exchange students who are termed ‘extra-strange’ students with good reason.

The ivy-clad private magic(k)al schools get all the kudos, but there’s something to be said for the school of hard knocks and it’s a more useful life skill to deal with that sort of real world situation rather than the self-important bullshit that goes on elsewhere.