The gods who have watched over us for so long are clearly angry. They've sent us this terrible trial in the form of a giant dungeon and told us if we can't complete it they'll wipe out our continent and start over (our intel says the other continents have gotten much the same message with their own trials, but hell if we'll help them--this'll be hard enough for us alone). We're told it won't open for another 18 years and for Young Adult fiction reason #57, the only people who can enter are those under the age of 20.
After many discussions and much analysis, we (the "government") have decided that we're limiting the number of kids we'll let enter to 1,000 and we've made it known that in 15 years we'll begin searching for those chosen 1,000 (this'll give us a year to search and 2 years to train them before the dungeon opens).
Needless to say the whole schooling system is getting a major overhaul--every school wants the prestige of teaching one of the chosen thousand. Not to mention birth rates are at an all time high. Everyone wants to be able to say that their kid was one of the few that helped save us all. Or they may be interested in the rewards we're offering those chosen. Who knows.
Thanks to some recent breakthroughs from the Mage's Guild, we're able to generate a spell to put about 1,000 people in a compressed time space where time will move at 1/10'th the rate as outside. Because of this, we're able to realistically test in groups of 1,000 kids for 8 hours with 20 proctors.
But here's the problem: how on earth do we test these kids to narrow down from the almost million kids in our age range? We want those who have strong physical attributes, so that they can go toe-to-toe physically with whatever they find in the dungeon. We need them to be quick rational thinkers and problem solvers--who knows what kind of puzzles the gods have chosen to employ. And we also need those with a strong aptitude for magic1.
We've discussed the idea of holding standardized written tests with our own proctors, but with how corrupt the nobility can be, we imagine that they'll bribe a test taker in a neighboring town (or maybe one even further) to get the test early.
The facts broken down...
- We need to narrow down from almost a million kids (ages 14-16) to 1,000
- We have the ability to test groups of about 1,000 kids at a time for 8 hours with 20 proctors
- We're judging children by the following criteria:
- Physical prowess
- Ability to think and act logically/rationally under pressure
- "Magic ability" (or out of universe: programmer/math ability)
- Ability to work well in a team is a plus (but we're willing to send in kids who prefer going solo)
- The search will begin in 15 years, so we have that long to prepare
- The location of the testing can be changed to whatever is needed--from a classroom to a coliseum. Nothing will be spared to ensure we find the best of the best.
- We've thought long and hard, but we have no other magic that will practically3 help us test the children besides the time spaces.
- We are aware that the nobles will try to bribe and cheat their way to getting their children chosen and want to actively combat that4
- It's safe to assume none of our proctors or magicians can be bribed or corrupted.
How can we effectively find the top 1,000 potential mages on the continent between the ages of 14-16?
1. Out of universe explanation: magic is similar to a mix of our world's programming and math. There is a congenital limit to how much energy one can hold at a time, but especially at the higher levels magic is more limited by your fluidity and skill with wielding it. As such, you can assume those who would be good programmers in our world would make excellent mages.
2. For example, if my 5 mages erect a compressed time space for 2 hours real world time, it will feel like 10 hours to them and they'll need to rest for 4 hours before erecting another compressed time space.
3. Teleportation magic is far too costly, and our emotion reading magics are both expensive energy-wise and far too inaccurate.
4. Note: cheating from the kids is perfectly fine (and may even be encouraged). A clever kid who can find holes in rules is something we'd love. What we don't want is for the system to be cheated by those outside the test not during the test.