Monday, September 30, 2019

Cults Example: The Old Faith

THE OLD FAITH
Type of Cult: A Neutral caretaker polytheistic cult that spans multiple Kingdoms, debauchery and love of nature is the goal. The Old Faith is being squeezed by Lough Worship. 
Cult Details: Priests are known as Priestess, only Females can be priestesses. They all have Dreadlocks, and wear Fur caps and fur lined wool robes. Red is the color of Old Faith
      1. Lay Members, 2. Acolytes, 3. Priestess/Bard, 4. High Priestess
Worship
Worshipers: The type of people who make up the cult membership.
Holy Place: Groves are the Holy Place; A mid-sized stone temple with a tree in the middle is the actual place of worship
Holy Times: Fall and Spring Equinox; Summer and Winter Solstice; Full and New moon and the celebration of the Veneration of Love (which lasts a week of drinking, feasting, and dancing). Holy Times are celebrated by Priesthood except the Veneration of Love which is open to everyone. 
Prohibitions
Minor: Must always offer comfort to those that seek it; Must never Gamble; Must not bathe (except during Veneration of Love); Must only cut hair at specific times (except during Veneration of Love)
Serious: Cannot touch a dead body; Must always perform funeral rites.
Judgment: Tribunal hears evidence and decides (may be backed by religious laws and precedents)
Penalties: Minor: Shun, Temp; Major: Banishment
Dealing with the Dead
Body: Buried and then a tree is planted ontop the grave to protect the soul of the dead.
Mourners: Mourners celebrate the dead like a new Orleans Jazz funeral.
Description
The Priestesses of the Old Faith are low key. They survive on wealthy patrons hoping for luck (usually merchants). They don't expect much from worshipers except that everyone attend the Fertility festival which everyone does because it's the place to be. They are non-confrontational which has been unhelpful against the Church of Lough which has been very confrontational and which has intimidated worshipers away from active support of the Old Faith.

Table 1: Deitiesof the Old Faith
Deities
Cintussa, Goddess of Earth (Queen of the Gods)
Verticus, God of the Sun
Valagenta, Goddess of Magic
Cotta, Goddess of Death 
Apos, God of War
Combaromarus, God of Knowledge




Friday, September 27, 2019

Best of the Web: Old Persons Game, Selling Dragons, and Monty Pythons Goblins

Old Person's Game
Dragons Are Real has an RPGaDay post called Evolve that ends with "I wonder where this will lead us in the next 45 years…I may not be around to see that but I think the hobby is save and will continue to evolve."  I've thought about this subject for some time and it will be interesting in the coming decade or two as the original grognards who started playing in college or younger start to retire and suddenly find they have lots of free time again.

I think a large part of the OSR has been the cultural divide between the young (who Wizards courted with increased complexity in 3e and 4e) and the old as grognards who have hit a spot in their careers that allowed for more home life and a returned to the hobby (they wanted to play what they knew instead of starting over). The number of new gamers will just increase, possibly ten-fold, as old timers start to retire.

I suspect the number of players will increase as well. Folks in a retirement home are less concerned with looking cool than they were back in high school, they might be a lot more willing to give the game a go.

Selling Dragons
Dungeon Fantastic has a post called Selling Dragons - did it come up in your game? in which he talks briefly about just that. I've never had players try to subdue a dragon but then the opportunities have been few and far between as I have always preferred low level play. Still the post got me thinking about how much fun it could be to have a campaign in which the characters go out and acquire rare beasts and monsters for the arena, or for the Wizards school, or whatever. They could be told where the things are by experts, and be provided with an appropriate cage and some bits of knowledge (some accurate, some sketchy), and then off. They have to track, capture/subdue the thing and get it back to get paid. And of course there are those that would want to kill the beast in revenge, and other groups interested in the cash to complicate things even further. Could be lots of fun.

Monty Pythons Goblins
I was reading through blogs and some commenter posted some images from the East German version of the Hobbit. The images were drawn by Klaus Ensinkat and I find them a fascinating as they were created before Rankin Bass and the Brothers Hildebrandt and Peter Jackson solidified the images of different creatures into our collective memories. The first are the three trolls.


The second are Orcs (or Goblins) in pseudo-Samurai gear.

I find these illustrations captivating for some reason and thought i'd post them somewhere that I can find them again.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Cults Example: Church of Lough

DeleteTHE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF LOUGH THE ALMIGHTY
Type of Cult: Law Cult, Spans multiple Kingdoms, it was larger but has split into three. The cult goal is to stop Chaos!
Cult Details: Priests are known as Clerics. E
ither sex can be Clerics. All Clerics are bald, male Clerics have bushy mustaches and Sidewhiskers. Clerics wear ornate caps, robes, or tunics.;  Cult Colors are White & Black.
      1. Lay Members, 2. Initiates, 3. Clerics/Templar, 4. High Cleric
WorshipWorshipers: Anybody and everybody. To not worship Lough invites suspicion.Holy Place: Domed Temple is the Holy Place and only place of worship
Holy Times: Daily at Sunrise and Sunset (for an hour each): Day of the founding of the Cult (day long, Singing & Flagellation); Start of the Pilgrimage Season (week long celebration, Feasting, Sacrifices of Wine kegs). Everyone is expected to worship at all Holy Times.
ProhibitionsMinor: Must never commit brazen Conduct; Must not lie; Must tithe 50% of wealth; Must attribute all good things to their Deity; Must avoid Gluttony/Greed; Must not Blasphemy; Must not engage in wickedness; 
Serious: Must not use magic or consort with Chaos!
Judgment: Priest hears evidence and decides (may be backed by religious laws and precedents)
PenaltiesShave head for breaking minor prohibitions and Death for breaking serious prohibitions
Dealing with the Dead
Body: Cremate the dead
Mourners: Mourners flagellate themselves to show remorse
Description
The Clerics of Lough are busy-bodies and control freaks and generally unlikable. They oppose chaos, however, and always have and now that Chaos has been seriously threatening ... everything ... few are willing to publicly disagree with them.

Table 1: Saints of Lough
Saints
St Ballaton, patron of Fate
St Bethor, patron of War
St Castiel, patron of Heroism
St Chasan, patroness of Storms
St Dagiel, patron of Blacksmiths
St Karlel, patron of Wealth
St Ophiel, patroness of the Moon
St Samael, patron of Weather
St Suriel, patroness of Luck

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cults Part 7: Cult Statblocks

When you have a lot of information and want things to be easy to find you need to organize things consistently. Basically you need a well organized statblock. That's what I'm doing here.
Name:  THE NAME OF THE CULT OR DIETY  Should include common alternate names and perhaps the domain (Table 4). 
Type of Cult: This is the type (Law, Neutral, Chaos), Reach of cult (Table 1 or Table 2), Nature (Table 3), and Goals of the Cult (Table 7).
Cult Details: Priests are known as? Gender of Priesthood (Table 28) and applicable clothes and grooming restrictions (Table 29 through Table 34);  Cult Colors (Table 5 and Table 6).
WorshipWorshipers: The type of people who make up the cult membership.Holy Place: Holy Place (Table 8) and Place of Worship (Table 9).Holy Times: List of Holy Times and Holy days (Table 11 through Table 21) . 
ProhibitionsMinor: Minor Prohibitions (Table 22)Serious: Serious Prohibitions (Table 23)Judgment: How Judgement is determined (Table 24)Penalties: Common penalties, both major and minor (Table 25)
Dealing with the DeadBody: Dealing with the corpse (Table 26)Mourners: Getting through the grief (Table 27)
DescriptionA catch-all for anything left to describe. Saints, religious orders, common names, mythology, etc.
In addition to the Statblock the GM should come up with a table of 6 'what are they doing' style encounters.





Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Cults Part 6: Cementing Cults into Campaign

Names
The GM should determine the names of the Deities and different Saints and then use those names.
  • Using a religious name could be a sign of a religious family. Many Christian names are derived from Saints (George, Michael, Mary, Peter, Thomas). Spanish languages often use Jesus, and Muslims prefer Mohammad. Such naming can mark a religious family for observant players.
  • Old cities are rarely renamed but new found cities are often given religious names (St Paul, St Louis) which can help establish time of founding of the religion or the city. Additionally take a look at a few maps and notice how many places in the American West have Devil in the name to indicate a hostile place.  If a Pantheon has a bad boy this is  good way to cement that into the map.
  • Naming temples after Saints is common in the real world (to many to name). If a Cult of Law has a dozen saints with different Domains a Temple named after one gives the players a hint as to how that temple might be different. 
Spell Lists & Magic Items
Most games that use the OGL have their list of proper names that are product identity. This happens in spell lists and Magic Items lists a lot. Although Wizards are probably researching and creating all this stuff Cults have the benefit of zealots willing to acquire things at great risk and hand them over to the Cult. Cults also have the benefit of time in that after a generation or two nobody will question the Cult's story of where the item came from. Over time the cult will wrap that item in Legend and Lore and rewrite history so thoroughly that even they'll believe it.

Add the name of deity to that magical item. Call it an artifact and if a PC gets a hold of it have zealots show up in the night looking for it, attempting to manipulate politics to get the PCS arrested and have the thing taken from them.

The same goes for Spells that have a proper name in them. Change that name to the name of a Deity or Saint.

Wandering Encounters Tables
I've discussed wandering encounters tables previously and created subtables for Clerics/Priests (here and here). The idea here is that instead of saying Cleric/Priest you say Cleric of Lough or Priest of the Old Faith and have a sub-table of 6 or so things that Cleric or Priest is doing when encountered. A different subtable for each Cult might seem like a bit of work but their actions really help define the Cult. Are they going door-to-door helping the poor, looking for alms, or are they kicking down doors looking for Chaos?

Events
I mentioned Events here and haven't followed up yet. Events are perfectly for integrating cults into a campaign. Cults have holy days, big celebrations they put on or perhaps want to disrupt. Each should be an event that everyone knows is coming and that helps define the Cult. Is the event a celebration of food and games or it is a dour affair of flagellation and fasting? Events are not adventures per-say but grand happenings that might complicate an adventure. 

Cult Plots
Here's the easy one, the meat of this post, even though its a bit short. Cults should be responsible for a number of adventure hooks. They are powerful factions and they want things. This means they will often come into conflict with each other and with the power structure of the campaign and might be willing to hire folks to do their bidding, or looking for patsies be a distraction or take the heat for something. 

Additionally Cults can be featured in rumors and adventure location backstories. Why have a mad wizard when you can have a heretical Cult spin-off that is solidly anchored into the campaign. That the Cult that heretics split off from is hoping to erase all evidence of the heretics and might be willing to pay well for someone willing to do so and then move on.

The Use of Lore
A GM can cook up a lot of detail on each Cult. This is where the frustrated novelist comes in, writing up the myths and legends and details of a religion. This is also the kind of stuff most characters would know and which should be readily available. I suggest producing occasional handouts for the players giving out information, hopefully before that information might come into play. For example if Priests of the Old Faith always eat with their left hand behind their back characters would know that, and its better they know about it before they run into the impostor priest so that the GM doesn't need to make a knowledge roll on the spot, giving away that there is something they should be noticing.

These sort of things help make a cult less generic and add depth to a campaign.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Cults Part 5: Priesthood Details

Not every cult will be bald with members wearing black or brown hooded robes. Having different cults be instantly recognizable helps the players role-play and can add a bit of fun to the game. Remember that no matter how silly a 'look' might appear to modern eyes the members of that Cult will tend to believe their look is proper. The following tables provide variety to the various Priesthoods.


Table 28: Gender of Priesthood
1d06
Gender
01-04
Co-ed, both male and female
05
Male
06
Female

Table 29: Male Hair Table
1d12
Style
01
No defined style
02
Bald
03
Braided
04
Buzzcut
05
Chupryna (Super long bangs)
06
Cornrows
07
Dreadlocks
08
Longhair
09
Ponytail
10
Queue (Chinese)
11
Rattail
12
Tonsure

Table 30: Female Hair Table
1d12
Style
01
No defined style
02
Bald
03
Beehive
04
Braided
05
Bun
06
Cornrows
07
Dreadlocks
08
Feathered
09
Longhair
10
Pixie
11
Ponytail/Bunches
12
Shimada (Japanese) 

Table 31: Facial Hair Table
1d12
Style
01
No defined style
02
Beard
03
Bushy beard
04
Chinstrap
05
Cleanshaven
06
Goatee
07
Mustache
08
Shenandoah 
09
Sidelocks
10
Sidewhiskers
11
Soul Patch
12
Van Dyke 

Table 32: Headgear Table
1d12
Style
01
No defined style
02
Conical hat
03
Feather headdress
04
Felt cap
05
Fur cap
06
Helm
07
Leather cap
08
Ornate cap 
09
Painted cap
10
Pointed fur cap
11
Skullcap
12
Wreath

Table 33: Vestments Table
1d12
Style
01
Cloak
02
Fur tunic
03
Kilt
04
Loincloth
05
Leather
06
Ornaments (see Ornaments Subtable)
07
Ringmail armor
08
Robes
09
Shift
10
Tattered robes
11
Tunic
12
War harness

Table 34: Ornaments Subtable
1d12
Style
01
Gold Badge
02
Jade Ornaments
03
Onyx Jewelry
04
Snake Fang

Friday, September 20, 2019

Best of the Web: Clerical Heresy, Sounds of D&D, Foodies, and Backpack Background

Clerical Heresy
Long ago a poster named The Grey Elf was going through the AD&D DMG and posting their thoughts on the RPG.net forum and they had an interesting thought about the Day-to-Day Acquisition of Clerical spells that got my mind thinking.
"Third through fifth level spells are granted in turn, not by the deity itself, but by powerful servitors of the god or goddess--angels, demons, yochlol, devils, archons, and other supernatural minions impart these abilities as mediators between the cleric and deity. This is of great interest, since now the cleric needs not only follow the strict tenets of the deity, but has to avoid pissing off or foiling the personal ambitions of its all-too-free-willed minion as well. Nobody ever said being a cleric should be easy.
This also opens up really interesting options for play; what if a cleric violates the tenets of his god, but the deity's angelic minion has fallen madly in love with the cleric? That minion could, feasibly, still grant powers.
This got me thinking about the reverse situation. Imagine a Cleric is a staunch defender of the tenets of their deity but some of those angelic minions go their own way, a heretical split in the religions. Where does the Cleric stand when his connection to the God doesn't appear to be acting on behalf of the deity? Are they cut off from their deity or will new minions be sent to grant them powers.

Are other clerics of the same deity cut off as well? Do they know who is cut off and/or why. So much potential in both lines of thought that its amazing this sort of thing has never been explored before (at least to my knowledge).

Sounds of D&D
Monsters and Manuals has an interesting post called Sounds of D&D. It got me thinking about the soundtracks for different campaign worlds.
  • Carcosa = Slipknot?
  • Forgotten Realms & Pathfinders Golarian = Enya
  • Glorantha = Woody Guthrie
  • Greyhawk = Excalibur soundtrack
  • Harn = Robin of Sherwood soundtrack (Forever free...)
  • Mysteria = Rush
  • Old World of Warhammer = Gwar
Totally pointless and arbitrary but it makes me wonder if those that create campaign worlds shouldn't decide on the sort of soundtrack that matches the expected style.

Dungeon Foodies
Skerpies at Coins and Scrolls has a problem with his players eat monsters and he's created a madly brilliant set of posts detailing the flavors of various  monsters. Monster Menu-All Part 1: Eating the AD&D Monster Manual and Monster Menu-All Part 2: Veins of the Earth.

Backpack Background
Desks & Dragons has an interesting post about using a characters starting backpack as a way to create background for the character. The post is called Your backpack is your background and it is a brilliant idea I need to roll around in my head a bit. The blogger wrote it for his own game Dungeonsnack (wasn't that the last post?) and I'm not sure how it might tie into mine but I like the background story coming out of the trivial, if the players want to unspool it.