Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Zulin and the Spirits of the Upper Air

Centerra currently has a monotheism (Church of Hesaya) and it sucks so I'm rewriting all of it, except for the bit where the Church cannibalizes other religions and incorporates them into itself.

Also, I'm going to try to distance it further from Catholicism by calling it the Temple instead of the Church.

The Authority

This is the thing that is omnipotent.  You can't pray to it.  It is distant.  It created everything.


This is the god of air, and the prime deity on Centerra.  He is the Demiurge, and he organized everything.

He lives in a mansion on a mountain top.  You can see it from a nearby peak.  Whenever you look at it, you can hear the bell of St. Dorbaine ringing in your ears.  It stops as soon as you leave.  You can approach the mountain, but unworthy souls are struck with weakness as they approach.  The blessed become stronger as they approach the Holy Mountain.

Very noble people sometimes trek to the shrine in the valley below the peak.

You can see the mansion, and you can see the guests on the balconies.  They are strange and beautiful and some are colossal.  If you attract their attention, they'll send you an invitation.  (Basically, name-level PCs are expected to go and dine with idle, squabbling godlings, titans, and interdimensional weirdos.)

Zulin is not at home.  Zulin is at a tea party in Hell with Ashta Lon Who-Is-Falsehood.  Zulin is trapped at the tea party by the conditions of politeness.  If Zulin leaves the tea party, Ashta Lon is also free to leave.  They've been having tea for a very long time.

Only Priests of the Upper Air are allowed to pray to Zulin, and to receive his miracles.  Priests of the Lower Air must pray to a saint, a prophet, or a slave-god.


She is the First Prophet, and as such, is an equal to Zulin.  She is the intermediary between the Authority and. . . everything else, really.

Not only did Essa first re-teach the world the teachings of Hesaya after the Time of Fire and Madness erased all history, but she also decided to reincarnate.

She's currently on her 57th reincarnation.  Her current form is 10 years old, and enjoys spicy noodles, horseback riding, and small dogs.  She is the leader of the entire religion.  She is protected by a Brynthic Hound called St. Smaudius.  ("Smaudy")

Tar Lath Lien

It is widely believed that the dragon-sorcerer Tar Lath Lien is the "serpent of the apocalypse" described in scripture, who will one day destroy the world.  Actually, it's quite clear that he is.

Tar Lath Lien is horribly smug about all this, as you'd expect.

The Eastern Patriarch

This is Yasu's second-in-command, who is in charge of the Temple within the eastern third of Centerra.  His position is required for reasons that are political, ideological, and probably more than a little sexist.

There is a growing schism between the eastern and western Temple.

Spirits of the Upper Air

It is accepted that there is a whole secret ecosystem in the upper atmosphere.  It is a realm of lightness and invisibility.  Invisible wars are fought there, and titanic angel-fauna devour each other with magics that could rend mountains.  The greatest of these sky-leviathans weighs less than a feather.

This is where angels come from.  Not the false "angels" of the Dawnbringers, but creatures who are strange and translucent (which is holy, because that which is translucent cannot hide anything).  Secrets and lies are the tools of Ashta Lon.


Saints become translucent, like purest ice.  All you can see are their bones, but even those fade in time.  The weather mirrors their moods, obeys their commands.  They speak to the wind and learn it's secrets.  They also become lighter.  They walk on water.  Then, levitate.  Then, they fly.


Paladins of Hesaya wear no armor except a pale blue tunic, each thread of which is banded with scripture (in tiny alternating blue and white bands, a fantasy analogue to Morse code).  They wield long, narrow swords, and when they cut, the wind cuts for them.  (50' melee range with their swords.)


Clerics of Hesaya command air.  They cannot control the weather, but they control small amounts of air nearby.  They can order the air to avoid your lungs, and you will suffocate in X rounds, where X = half of your Constitution (unless you run more than 200' distant).


No longer seem as out of place.


Despite all the magic colleges on Centerra, the biggest singular magical institution is the Temple.

The Temple teaches that the naga taught humanity magic, and indeed, many temples have a resident naga as a teacher and guardian.

Symbols of the Temple

Air and Serpents.  (Serpents because they are agents of the Authority, who is represented as an infinite Ouroboros most of the time.  Also, the naga thing.  Also, giant space snakes supposedly ended the Time and Madness but I've never typed it on the blog before this because it sounded stupid.)

Invisible Stalkers.  You never know when they're hanging around.

Coatls.  The most famous symbol of the Temple.  It's on their coffee mugs.

Air Elementals.  The tiny, pissed-off tornado kind.  But honestly, if you're fighting an air elemental, everything in the area is going to be whipping around like a hurricane, and you'll have to shout to speak to anyone more than a few feet away.

The Doctrine of the Four Elements . . .

. . . is a heresy.  There are many atomic elements, and air is a gas, merely one of the three states of matter.  (Fire is really more of a chemical reaction.)  It's just that air happens to be the most enlightened state of matter.


  1. I quite liked the old Church of Hesaya to be honest. Felt it was one of the stronger Fantasy Catholic Monotheisms out there, in a kind of Warhammer Fantasy way. By which I mean that it was accessible enough to quickly grasp, but interesting and textured enough to feel like its own distinct thing. Out of curiosity, what did you think sucked about it?

    Zulin and Ashta Lon feel quainter and more Lord Dunsany to me, more like local gods than continent or world-spanning ones. It's harder to imagine the Temple of a god stuck in an infinite tea party conquering the earth and consuming all other faiths they encounter. Giant space snakes, saints that grow lighter and more translucent, and giant invisible quasi-gaseous angels are fantastic ideas though.

    1. It wasn't bad, it just felt too close to Sigmar and Pelor. The familiarity and accessibility was nice, but I just get claustrophobic when I feel like I'm cutting too close to established tropes. I'd rather be original than good.

      Anyway, it's fun to extrapolate on. What would the Navajo religion look like if it was expanded, codified, centralized, and crystallized into something like the Catholic church? Surely we can get weirder with our alternative-reality religions.

    2. I know what you mean, though. Maybe I'll go back to calling it the Church, for that element of familiarity, and mix in some more Catholicisms.

    3. Centerra has so many great unusual elements that the more familiar church-like structure became novel in the way that it interacts with them, which I think is one of the most interesting aspects of a very interesting setting (and on aesthetic terms "Hesaya" just has a pleasant ring to it). Its the comfortable old pagans vs. catholics thing, but presented through a warped lens. Centerran pagans feel different from celtic pagans, Centerran hell is amazing, and the identifiable references lend a certain resonance to the new ideas. I'd love to read about or play in a world with imperialist Navajo religion though, so I suppose its just a matter of preference for where one lands on the Tolkien to Tekumel scale.

      Zulin as Jesus or Mary could be interesting, perhaps as the first local religion to get swept up into the Temple/Church's control, and now all these non-native old folksy air-snake rituals have been adopted into a monotheistic worldview, in the manner of those Old Testament references to polytheism that have been reinterpreted so many times. Everybody pretty much agrees that Zulin-Who-Is-Truth is very important, but there is much debate over exactly how important.

      OR if you have an ineffable Authority and a Quoatl Demiurge, go full on imperial Gnosticism. All these emanations and minor deities have strayed from the Divine Plan and misused their divine essence in acts of unsanctioned sub-creation, they must be brought to concordance and returned to the path of wisdom and righteousness. As priests are initiated further into the secret knowledge they slowly shed their base physical forms. Learned temple elders shake their heads and try to explain that Zulin isn't a separate god per se, he's a physically embodied, self-willed emanation of the most high and unknowable Authority. Bizarre metaphorical entities from the various layers of atmospheric heaven communicate by signs that even the wisest sages can only dimly grasp.

  2. What he said. Characters like Evica and Cascarion have more punch in the context of good old familiar Christianity, in my opinion. Tension between pagan and Christian elements, and all that. I guess i feel like it's the not the institution of the Church itself that was interesting, but all the different moving parts that were connected to it in various ways, like the Heralds of Morning, who seemed to be based on the same concept as the Church, but with radically different methods and philosophy.

    Anyway... questions:

    How does Zulin relate to the Authority? Is he considered the First among many deities who are treated as aspects of the Authority?

    And how does the Authority relate to the "God" spoken of by the Radiant Maiden?

    1. How do I want to balance familiar Catholic traditions with new, weird stuff? I don't know. It's a non-trivial question.

      I'm mostly trying to invert as much as I can without it ceasing to feel like good ol Catholic monotheism. Pope is a woman. Resurrection is a thing. Snakes are good guys now. The four element thing is a heresy. Those are all interesting ideas, but you change too many and it stops feeling like home -- you lose all the emotional associations (like pagan tension). And that threshold is different for everyone.

      My goal is to keep those associations while injecting as much new stuff as possible.

    2. Zulin is one of many of the Authority's creations. He's just the one that has a church built around him, and who claims dominion.

      The Radiant Maiden denies the existence of Zulin.