Feb 2, 2012

Religion on the Plains of Kadiz

As part of my prep for the Dawnlands game, I'm finally getting around to writing out the various cults and organisations PCs can join. Since this Dawnlands game will use Openquest, these cults will be Openquest cults, which differ from MRQ2 cults in detail. Personally, I also find my design philosophy for cults shifting between the two games. My tendency with MRQ2 cults is to make them huge and expansive, as a way of incentivising PCs to join and then stick with them. Under Openquest, I tend to make cults mechanically simpler, with fewer skills and spells.

This is especially true for the two cults here, which are intertwined. The idea is that they are complementary, and PCs, including PC priests, will join both. The Religion (Nomad) skill here is the particular instantiation of Religion (Own), since the PCs will be nomads. Yes, both cults use the same religion skill - knowledge of one necessarily includes knowledge of the other, since they are essentially two branches of the same religion. Unlike in regular Openquest, there is no separate Lore skill for the cult beyond Religion (Nomad), mainly because I think it's redundant. Everywhere in the rules it says Lore (Religion), the skill Religion (Nomad) can be substituted instead. Priests don't gain allied spirits in the Dawnlands.

The Kadiz nomads and the Hill People share a common religion encompassed within two cults. This religion is a derivative of the old cults of Eternal Night and Moon, two ancient deities the Children of Night worshipped until each was slain by the Dawnmen and their temples destroyed. In place of these deities, animal totem cults associated with them arose, the worship of the Celestial Herd and the Wolves of the Earth. Never popular in the kingdom of High Kaddish, when the people who would become the Kadiz were driven from the emerging Orthocracy of Kaddish during the civil war, they took shelter with the so-called "traitor clans" of the Hill People and absorbed much of their culture, including the worship of the Celestial Herd and Wolves of the Earth.

While they form separate cults, most nomads are followers of both. Sept leaders are initiated into one or the other cult as a way of communicating to their family which roles in nomad life they intend to embody. Chieftains are initiated into both when they assume the role, to prevent internal division into factions. There are only a handful of professional priests, mostly older men and women, who teach new sept leaders and chieftains and anyone else interested.

The Celestial Herd Cult

The Celestial Herd are the cattle that the Earth bore Eternal Night so that they would have something to eat and to wear. After his death, the Dawnmen stole Eternal Night's cattle, but they could not control them and the cattle ran away. Now they wander the sky, manifesting as storms, clouds and a constellation known as "The Herd". The Celestial Herd brings life to the plains through the rain (which is their milk), but they are constantly being hunted and killed by the Wolves of the Earth, with each falling star being a single cow. To replenish the herd, the priests sacrifice cattle and burn them, letting the smoke waft up to the sky where the sacrificed cow becomes a god. The Celestial Herd are sometimes referred to as the "Storm Bulls". Nomads pray to them so that their herds will be plentiful and healthy, and to bring rainstorms to the water-parched plains.

Worshippers

The Kadiz nomads, the Hill People, Kaddish in the hinterlands

Type of Cult

Major deities - the Celestial Herd is the most popular cult on the plains.

Cult Skills

Influence, Natural Lore, Performance, Religion (Nomad)

Worshipper Duties

Priests: Sacrifice cattle whenever there is a falling star; Burn bushels of grass, hay and fodder four times a year (on solstices and the equinoxes) to feed the herd

Lay Followers: Thank the Celestial Herd whenever it rains; Don't kill cattle unnecessarily

Battle Magic

All

Divine Magic

All common spells plus Call Elemental (Air), Divine Heal, Lightning Strike, Shield

Special Benefits and Notes

When battle magic and divine spells taught by this cult have a cost in gold ducats in the rules, the cost must be replaced by sacrificing cattle at one cow per ducat.

The air elementals summoned appear as ethereal bulls.

The Find spell granted by this cult is Find (Water).

There are only two levels in this cult, lay follower and priest. To become a priest, a lay follower must spend 5 IP and have Religion (Nomads) at 75% or better.

When performing their ritual duties, priests normally wear a ceremonial head-dress made from the skull, leather and horn of a single cow.

Rather than waiting for a holy day to replenish their spells, priests must perform a ritual that culminates in the sacrifice of one cow for each spell they wish to replenish.

The Wolves of the Earth Cult

The Wolves of the Earth were originally dogs created by Eternal Night to protect the Celestial Herd from the many things that would hunt them. In exchange, they were allowed to take the old and sick and weak Storm Bulls, so that the herd would remain strong. After Eternal Night was slain, the dogs became wild and vicious, and the Dawnmen drove them away when they stole the Storm Bulls. They hid in the earth, and became wolves. When they starve, their stomachs cause the plains to tremble and shake, and their howls are the whistling wind. They are the patrons of hunters of all kinds, of animals, men and secrets. Priests sacrifice wolves to them, to help replenish and grow the pack after every earthquake. They are referred to as the "Stone Pack" sometimes.

Worshippers

The Kadiz nomads, the Hill People, Kaddish in the hinterlands

Type of Cult

Major deities - the Stone Pack is the second most popular cult on the plains

Cult Skills

Perception, Natural Lore, Deception, Religion (Nomad)

Worshipper Duties

Priests: Sacrifice wolves after every earthquake; Participate in a ceremonial hunt twice a year (on the night of the first thaw in spring, and the first frost in winter)

Lay Followers: Pray to the wolves after a successful hunt; When livestock dies of old age or sickness, leave it for the wolves

Battle Magic

All

Divine Magic

All common spells plus Call Elemental (Earth), Divination, Fear, Sureshot

Special Benefits and Notes

When battle magic and divine spells taught by this cult have a cost in gold ducats in the rules, the cost must be replaced by sacrificing the hearts of animals the priest has hunted at a cost of one heart per ducat.

The earth elementals summoned appear as giant wolves made of living stone.

The Find spell granted by this cult is Find (Enemy).

There are only two levels in this cult, lay follower and priest. To become a priest, a lay follower must spend 5 IP and have Religion (Nomads) at 75% or better.

When performing their ritual duties, priests normally wear a ceremonial head-dress made from the skull, fur and teeth of a wolf.

Rather than waiting for a holy day to replenish their spells, priests must perform a ritual that culminates in the sacrifice of the heart of one creature they have hunted themselves for each spell they wish to replenish.