Friday, May 31, 2019

The Fire Cults

Although most of the world doesn't differentiate between the various Fire Cults, they are quite different from each other.  Even discussing them under the shared heading of "The Fire Cults" is misleading.

Just the same, the Fire Cults can be defined as the various local religions that existed on the continent of Centerra prior to the ascension of the Church.  They have been utterly extirpated since.

There are exceptions to all of these rules, but generally:

1. Fire Gods weren't especially focused on fire.

This is probably the greatest misconception.

It was the Church that first started calling them fire cults, which served to describe them as primitive and illegitimate.  The label stuck.

The prophecy has become somewhat self-fulfilled however, as the only living branch of the fire cults is the Vincular Cult, which can be considered an arm of Zala Vacha.

2. Fire cults were intensely local.

The forces that fire cults worshiped were usually bound to a particular location (or more rarely, a bloodline).

We might think of gods as having a particular portfolio (e.g. the God of Waterfalls and Assassins) but the Fire Gods were defined according to their location (e.g. the God of Poplonda Swamp).  Within this domain, they were everything.  Outside of it, they were nothing.

The god of a fire cult usually lived in its shrine.  They were as invisible and as intangible as any divine, but their shrine was their literal home.  They occupied a very specific space.

If you were travelling, it would be important to learn the names of the gods whose territory you would be crossing, and how best to placate them.  This was considered to be more important than actually learning the geography.

They usually shared a name with their location.  Many of the names on the map of Centerra are the names of dead gods.

It is sometimes necessary to differentiate between a location and the regional deity.  In this case, the convention is to terminate the deity's name with a capitol letter ('BosperO') while the location's name is written normally ('Bospero').  I won't do this to you (since the context is usually clear) with only one exception.

3. Many fire cults were associated with volcanos.

Volcanoes were common in Centerra at the time.  As their cults fell silent, so too did their volcanos.

The Church teaches that this is because volcanoes formed a conduit to Hell, and the fire gods were all demonic spirits of earth. 

4. The gods of fire cults were usually defined around a duality.

We are used to thinking of a God of War who exists in opposition to a God of Peace.  But the fire cults usually had only a single god that they prayed to, and so that god must be an entire pantheon unto itself.

And so there was Gadrium, God of War and Peace.

OmO, God of Wisdom and Foolishness.

Patra, God of Drowning and Birds.

Meltheria, God of Gold and Lead.

by Kalen Chock

The Quendian Cult

For most people, the Quindian Cult is synonymous with the Fire Cults.

They have two gods.

Quen is the God of Flame and Darkness.

Masaat is the God of Masters and Slaves.

There is something of a revolution occurring within Zala Vacha right now--Quen and Masaat are beginning to be worshiped as two aspects of the same god.  Since Darkness surrounds all Fire, Darkness is the Master of Fire, just as all things that are Learned will eventually be Forgotten.  This is an ongoing matter within the Cult, and the source of extreme friction.

Politically, Quen is an extreme proponent of the right to privacy.

The politics of Masaat are a bit more convoluted, but they boil down to the idea that the master-slave dynamic (or by extension, any position of power) is a divine privilege, with specific rules governing the formation, execution, and dissolution of dominance, of all forms.

As a result, the fire cult is known for their defiance of authority (even more than the other branches of Zala Vacha).  They see all forms of authority as illegitimate unless they willingly enter into such a relationship, and value their privacy and independence above all.  The Church is condemned as intrusive and domineering, while kings are seen as no different from gang leaders.

Fire Cult Cleric

This is how clerics work.  They all have different rules to follow (strictures), temples, and methods of divination.  These have various pros and cons.  For example, clerics of the Church have churches available to them at every town, no matter how small.  But clerics of Zala Vacha can build their own temporary temples by making bonfires, which is something that clerics of the Church cannot do.

Portfolio

learning, forgetting, sight, fire, privacy, secrets

Strictures

If you agree to keep a secret, then you must keep it.
Allow no one else to carry a torch unless you are also carrying a torch.
Do not betray those who serve you willingly.

Temples

By default, a city will have a temple hidden somewhere.  The faithful can find it by blinding a cat and then following it.  It will always be underground.

By default, a town will not contain a temple of Zala Vacha.

Alternatively, you can construct a temple in the wilderness by building five large bonfires.  The space between the bonfires counts as a temple for as long as the bonfires burn and there is no sun in the sky.  Collecting sufficient wood takes about 36 hours of labor in an average forest.  Logging tools allow a laborer to be twice as efficient.

Divination

You must sit in a perfectly dark room and gaze into the darkness for 1d6 hours.  Images will come.  The perfectly dark room must be underground.

Transfigurations

When clerics roll triples on a casting die, they gain something.

1 or 2 = Eyes turn black.  5' darkvision.
3 or 4 = Any light source you hold turns deep crimson.  Fire resist 6.
5 or 6 = Your skin turns black as soot.  If you hold perfectly still for at least 1 minute, you become shrouded.

Spells

Spells 1-6 are available at level 1.  Spells 1-8 are available at level 2.  Spells 1-10 are available at level 3.  Spells with asterisks are explained below.

  1. control fire
  2. darkness
  3. forget*
  4. heal
  5. bend light*
  6. lock
  7. shroud*
  8. suggestion
  9. freedom*
  10. room*


Legendary Spell 

Legendary spells are only obtained by doing some great quest in the service of your faith.

  1. disintegrate
Bend Light
R: touch  T: object  D: [dice] rounds
Object appears to be displaced a few feet to the left of where it appears to be.  Attacks against that object have a 50% chance to miss.  Creatures automatically make an Int check after each attack; if they succeed, they figure it out and this spell affects them no longer.

Alternatively, you can use this spell to see around corners.  Once per round, pick a place in your field of view--you can see as if you were standing there.  You can make multiple jumps this way if you are investing multiple dice.

Disintegrate
R: touch  T: object  D: instant
Touched object takes [sum] damage as it falls apart and dissolves.  If this is enough to destroy it, the object is utterly removed from reality.  
  • 1 MD is enough to disintegrate a skull or a wooden weapon.
  • 2 MD is enough to disintegrate a wooden door.
  • 3 MD is enough to disintegrate a metal weapon or bar.
Forget
R: touch  T: creature D: instant
Target forgets the last [dice] rounds.

Freedom
R: 50'  T: creature  D: instant
Creature immediately makes a free attempt to escape whatever bonds are restraining it with a +[sum] bonus.  If an creature would normally have no chance to escape (shackled, etc) it is still allowed an attempt anyway with a -10 penalty.

Room
R: touch  T: wall  D: 10 minutes
You create a door on the wall that leads to a 20' x 20' room.  This is actually a conjured pocket dimension that matches the rest of the dungeon thematically.  The door is just a regular door, and no stronger than wood (although it may appear different).  The room improves the more dice are invested.
  • 2 MD = lasts 30 minutes.  (Long enough to eat lunch.)
  • 3 MD = lasts 8 hours.  (Long enough to sleep.)
  • 4 MD = lasts 24 hours and contains a helpful occupant who matches the dungeon's theme.
Shroud
R: touch  T: object  D: 10 minutes  (splittable)
Target will not be noticed as long as they don't do anything suspicious.  An action is suspicious if it is something that is not regularly done by regular people.  

Walking past a guard is not suspicious because people regularly walk past guards.  Putting a grenado into a guard's pocket is suspicious (unless people regularly slip things into that guard's pocket.)


Sidebar: HD Limits

Remember that spells don't affect a creature if its HD is greater than [sum].

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Six Facts About Metal

1. There are many types of metal.

Rillerick Ingerwald is famous for categorizing the metals into groups based on their nobility.  He found that these groups repeated according to a periodic structure, which he used to map out all possible metals.  He discovered that there are an infinite number of metals, including some that are liquid, gas, and even (theoretical) plasma.

Although there are an infinite number of metals, they can still be ranked by luster, conductivity, nobility (incorruptibility), sanctity (impermeability to demons), and theoretical monetary value.

Ingerwald was especially interested in the last category.  Although he never managed to transmute any of the natural metals into gold, he did manage to transmute them into some of his newly discovered metals, and was greatly disappointed when few agreed with his calculated values of worth, although some of them should have been worth nearly as much as gold.

Some of these metals include:

Gordican, which can only exist in spherical shapes and was nearly useless except as a method of manufacturing spheres.

Cratium, which increases in mass as its velocity increases.  Very desirable for projectiles, but too soft to make effective arrowheads.

Zantium, which has a "grain", similar to wood.  This allows it to flex in one plane while remaining rigid in another.

Borboridon, a theorized metal which increases in both density and softness with time, as it captures radiation.

Gandium, a theorized metal which impacts all other solid and liquid materials as if they were crystalline. 

Praxium, a theorized metal of near-infinite sharpness.  It turns to lead if it ever stops moving.

2. The best metal is gold.

It is known as the most noble of all materials, because it cannot be stained, corroded, or debased.

Gold is what gives the world worth.  This is not a human opinion, but instead a universal law.  In fact, it is possible to calculate the gold required for an almost any physical process or reaction.  The universe can be described in milligrams of gold easier than it can be described in joules or electron-volts.

We value it because the universe values it.

3. The hardest metal is adamantium.

Adamantium isn't just hard the way that steel is "hard", it is hard the way that the Pythagorean theorem is true.  Once a piece of adamantium has cooled, its atoms are (nearly) immovable with respect to each other.

Most items made of adamantium are thinner than you might think, since a small piece is just as strong as a large piece.  The size of adamantine items has more to do with the difficulty of forging them.

Let's get this out of the way: 'Adamantine' is an adjective.  'Adamantite' is an ore.  'Adamantium' is the finished product.

Adamantite ore is found only in starfalls.  Once it has been forged, the metal is beyond strength.  Many speculate that the metal becomes lost to time, impervious to any change at all.  An adamantium object will survive the heat death of the universe.  When the solar system collapses into a black hole, it will be covered with adamantine swords.

Speaking of adamantine swords: the best adamantine swords are mostly made from steel.  Only the merest sliver near the cutting edge is made from adamantium, since an adamantium toothpick is as strong as adamantium girder.  The steel is only there to give it weight, since a featherweight sword is still a poor cutting instrument.

Modern forging techniques has yet to replicate those swords, however.  The best that modern smiths have achieved are some (admittedly impressive) axes.

The cutting ability of an adamantium weapon is decent, at best.  Since the blade can never be sharpened, the edge can only be honed prior to quenching.  No one is certain how the ancient blacksmiths sharpened their adamantium blades to such a fine point, but that information would be worth a fortune if it were rediscovered in some ancient dungeon.

Adamantium makes for better armor than weapons, although it is defeated by its cost.  Any king who can afford a suit of adamantine armor can also afford an army--and that king is much better served by the army.

Because of this, newly claimed adamantite is usually destined for architecture or furniture.

There are a few different ways to forge adamantium.  The most commonly known way is use one of the dwarven lightning forges, a task that requires as much diplomacy as luck.  There is a well-known forge inside the Forbiddance, but securing the location is difficult.

It is also a perfect insulator, but few people care about the insulating properties of adamantium, since it isn't very relevant to swords.  Still, the thermal sensation of adamantium is closer to styrofoam than steel.

It is commonly believed that adamantite meteors are actually fragments of the original sun, which displeased the Authority with its blasphemy.

An advanced stage of the disease.

4. There are four adamantine superstructures in Centerra.

The Forbiddance is an enormous wall between Clavenhorn and Mondaloa.  It is about a mile thick and twice as high.  It is not known how deep it descends into the ground.  The inside is a labyrinth of passages which convene on the Forbidden Highway, a cylindrical tunnel 500 feet wide that eventually terminates above the Sea of Kaskala when the Highway abruptly terminates in the sky.

It is largely abandoned, its magnetic treasures long since stripped away.

The Bastion of Medurak is the dam that holds back the Saltsea.  It is difficult to reach the original structure beneath the salt deposits, but patient excavation will yield it.  The crystalline desposits grow in strange, repetitive patterns.  Many claim that they spell out words.

Near the Bastion is the Cloud Factory, by far the smallest structure on this list.  It captures the moisture that would form over the deserts of Fangol.  The resultant clouds are sent to the west, beyond the knowledge of our maps.  Their final destination is unknown.

Lastly, there is the Golden Road, named not for its material but for the toll to cross it.  It doesn't seem to have been constructed as a bridge, but that's what we use it for.  (It actually seems to be the rim of a ring-shaped object, now mostly buried.  Frustratingly, it seems to have doors on it, and yet lifetimes have been spent trying to pry up the least fragment.)

The Golden Road is large enough that entire families have been born, grown up, and died in its shadow.  Houses cling the side of it like barnacles.  Some are solid brick.  Some wicker shacks dangle like the nests of bowerbirds.  And two hundred feet below, the familial dhows pull up fat tuna from beside ramshackle quays.

At the south end is the city of Bospero, the greatest conurbation in the world.  The Glorious God of Golden Fish is usually moored somewhere in the middle.  And at the north end is the cursed city of Nibulum.

5. Immortality can be derived from metal.

Many people know of the Transmetallic Alchemists.  Very few know what they do.

They are a semi-secret society.  Their above-ground activities include alchemy franchises and an annual fair in Bospero that features fireworks, automatons (especially cuckoo clocks), and fantastic jewelry.  They also buy interesting objects from sketchy grave-robbers, no questions asked.

Their secret goals usually boil down to the accumulation of mundane power (usually through boring infiltration of established institutions) and the pursuit of immortality.

Just as necromancy frequently culminates in lichdom, so does a Transmetallic Alchemist's career frequently culminate in the transmutation of their own body into liquid adamantium (which they refer to as the magician's metal).

While the Transmetallicum claim that the feat is possible (and was achieved in olden times), no recent examples of flawless success exist.  Most neophytes struggle to overcome the first step in the process, which is the consumption of large quantities of liquid mercury.

This is not to say that there Transmetallicum are not without their successes.  In their ranks, you will find alchemists with steel bones, plates of flexible armor beneath their skin, and monstrous powers of magnetism.  They know the secrets of azoth, aqua regia, and the alchemical oblate.  It is just that they have so far failed to capture their holy grail: to secret of transforming objects and creatures into adamantium.

6. Metal can get sick.

Like all other materials, metal can be poisoned, fall ill, and be possessed by demons (a cursed weapon).

The most common affliction of metal is rust, which is a disease that only metal can get.  It is commonly transmitted by water, which is why iron must avoid water, and why rust seems to spread from a single infection, much like a fungus.

Another metal-vector disease is soft rot, which eventually causes bones to become soft.  First like rubber, then like jelly.  Death can come early (from damage to the brain or heart) or late (from respiratory failure).  Soft bones flex painlessly, but the early stages of the disease are accompanied by shooting pains in the limbs.

Although the disease can infect humans, its real target is metal.  Afflicted iron becomes pale, loses its luster, and eventually becomes crumbly.  Small, spiral worms hatch from the quickening metal, each one small enough to fit under your fingernail.  They disperse by flying away in flocks, where they are usually eaten by insects.