Sunday, 5 April 2015

Cults part II

This is a follow-up to 'How do you run your cults?', in which I outline different ways of getting to grips with religion, from taking deities from history, to getting them from literary sources, to using 'Official' D&D deities, to making them up, and also whether keeping the same name or changing them around or just giving them titles is the order of the day; so whether one prays to Zeus or Mörnir or Vondar or the Sky God might not matter, if all of these things are functionally the same thing.

Of course, it could be that (either) Vondar (or the Sky God) is a laughing god who wields a spear and rides across the sky on the back of a blue dragon, singing songs, and his priests worship him in mountain caves where he brews storms with his laughter and singing. In other words, Vondar might not be like Zeus.

There's a sort of table that comes down to an axis in one direction - called 'nature' perhaps, or maybe 'powers' - with 'derived from sources' and 'made up' on it, and another - called 'name' - with 'derived from sources', 'made up' and 'title' on it. The example of Vondar above would get a 'made up' in both boxes, as both the name and theology of Vondar are different from Zeus. 'The Sky God' (who gets a check for 'Title' on the 'name' axis) could refer to a god like Zeus, or a god like Vondar. It would be perverse I feel to have a mythology of a dragon-riding god who brews storms by singing in mountain caves, and call him 'Zeus' though, unless I was planning on running a specifically Ancient Greek campaign, and wanted to show lots of different local theologies and legends for my gods (basically, each city or region having their own version of the gods).

Having looked at this excellent post on Beyond the Black Gate, in which Al simply puts down some features of the deities and cults in his campaign,I've been inspired to try to do the same with the gods of my campaign. Two of the gods of this area, Kos and Issek, come from the Nehwon mythos and I won't describe them here. One notable feature I suppose is that on reaching Second Level and actually gaining Clerical magic, in this campaign Clerics must take a weapon appropriate to their deity if there is one. This is, essentially, because it makes no sense to me that Clerics don't use their deity's 'sacred weapon'. So I've detailed the sacred weapons of the deities below and indicated when a Cleric needs to adopt one.

Isi (life & magic) also known as The Great Mother and the Queen of the Stars. She usually appears as a queenly woman of middle years with a sceptre in one hand. She presides over many aspects of fertility of plants, animals and people, and is also connected with stars and the sky. Any may join her clergy, who wear scarlet kilts. There is a temple of the Great Mother in most settlements, and often some of the other gods have only shrines inside her temples, particularly Rosh, Nefu and Resek (see below).

Rosh (oaths, vengeance) – also know as The Avenger. Rosh is the son of Isi, and oversees the giving of oaths, which are often sworn before his altars. He appears in his depictions as a powerfully-built bare-chested young man who wields a sword in one hand and a wand in the other. He wears a kilt of bright blue; his clerics, who can be male or female but are always human, wear similar kilts, but clad themselves in leather armour and wear helms in the shape of hawks, Rosh’s sacred animal. Clerics of Rosh at Second Level and above must only use normal swords as weapons.

Nefu (water and weather) – also known as the Lady of the Waters. Nefu is the consort of Rosh, and the sister or cousin of Resek. She presides over rivers and streams, springs, rain and all falling or flowing water; when angered, she summons thunderstorms. Both the fish and the lioness are sacred to her. Her clerics wear rusty-red leather armour and helms that resemble fish-scales. In cities, they are particularly concerned with the provision of fountains of clear water, which they call ‘the blessings of Nefu’.

Resek (light) – also known as the Lord of Light. Resek is regarded as being a close kinsman of Nefu; as such he, Nefu, Rosh (Nefu’s consort) and Isi (Rosh’s mother) are regarded as being closely-linked. In smaller settlements, their cults will often all be found in the same temples, generally a temple to Isi with several shrines of the other gods. Resek seeks out evil everywhere and turns his searching light on it. His clerics wear white tunics, and helms with hawk-feathers attached to them. He wields a halberd and a mace in battle, and his clerics must pick one of these weapons to use on reaching Second Level.

Tas (cats, the household) – also known as the Lady of Cats. She protects the household from the evil powers of the underworld, particularly represented by snakes and rats, and is also regarded as being a goddess of luck and plenty due to protecting the grain harvest. She appears as a beautiful bare-breasted young woman wearing a cat-mask or helm with cat-ears. Her clergy (who may be of any race or sex) wear similar helms and grey kilts, and encourage the killing of snakes whenever they can. In smaller settlements she may have a shrine in the temple of Isi rather than a temple of her own.

Huran (war) – also known as the Lord of War. Huran is the personification of the male warrior-ideal; he always appears as a very tall man, and wields a spear which flames with the light of the sun. He usually appears in his depictions armoured for war, and his clerics – who are always human males – wear leather armour and war-helms when they go forth from the temples, whether or not they are going to battle. From Second Level, clerics of Huran must use spears as weapons.

Ets (evil, the underworld, snakes) – also known as the Lord of Night. His cult is very secretive and will never share its temples with other gods of the pantheon. He is the implacable enemy of Rosh. Representations of the god show him with the scaly skin of a snake, which is a sacred animal to him. He uses a great black spear in combat. His clerics, who may be male or female and of any race, wear black helms and leather armour; his sign, a coiled serpent, is usually bright green and is prominent in his depictions and on the gear of his priests – when they are not hiding their true natures. Clerics of Second Level and above must use a spear as a weapon.

Alol (sun, archers, music) – also known as the Shining One. He is a complex deity with responsibility for the sun, music, archery and bears. He appears on all his depictions as a beautiful young man with a bow or carrying a harp. Sometimes he wears a bearskin around his shoulders, and in the stories of his cult can assume the form of a bear. His male priests wear gold or yellow tunics and leaf-crowns. They must use the bow as a weapon upon reaching Second Level. Alol is a fickle and jealous god; his clergy will not have friendly contact with any other cult. His temples usually stand in naturally-beautiful places such as by waterfalls or in groves.

Ras (war) – also known as the God of Battle and the Wolf-God. Ras is depicted as a powerfully-built older warrior, always wearing a helm, breastplate and crimson tunic. He is the lord of battle-lust, delighting in slaying. He carries both a sword and a spear; his clerics must pick one upon reaching Second Level and may from then only use that weapon. Non-humans may not join his clergy though they can make offerings to him before battle. Wolves are sacred to Ras and sometimes are trained to guard his temples. Like Alol, he is a jealous god and will not share his temples with others.

And now, with Orem-Thep added (I forgot about him as I was only looking at the temples in the PCs' town, and he doesn't have any temples)...

Orem-Thep (creation, benevolence) – also known as the Good Lord. Orem-Thep is, if the tellers of his tales be believed, the creator of the human race and the inventor of all civilised arts. He has no temples as such, but there are preachers who take to themselves an amber-coloured tunic and an iron ring as badges of his faith and preach his benevolence and wisdom, leading prayer-meetings in public places or at worshippers' houses. They also use a torch as a symbol of their devotion, signifying the illumination that Orem-Thep brings to the world through his benevolent wisdom. The cult of Orem-Thep hunts griffons whenever it can, as they hold them to be uniquely evil.

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