In case anybody was wondering: I still get to name the blog posts. Now sit down as N. Manscorpion grapples the mic once again. I really wish I could add more pictures to these posts, but the interface keeps fucking with me and it won't work. Oh well.
The Crater of Termination: Gods and Religion
The Chain has no shortage of gods, from the ancestor cults still popular amongst certain of the nobility of Xish, to the bloodthirsty warrior-gods, beloved of many of the wildermen tribes, whose worship is said to have gone on in one form or another since time immemorial.
But all know the true Gods, even if, out of misguided fealty to lesser deities, they deny their supremacy. Their signs, or in some cases even they themselves, can be visited and witnessed (though only the most devoted or foolhardy would go looking). But the greatest proof that they alone of all gods deserve the name lies in the power granted to certain of their worshippers, a power which none of the followers of other so-called deities can claim: sorcery.
Such magicks as these chosen few wield are even more terrifying and strange than those pursued by wizards in forbidden tomes, for they are bestowed through direct, mind-blasting contact with the god itself, and amongst the effects are unnatural power over the very forces of life and death.
Clerics must choose a god from the below list, which also includes the most common or popular cult, church, or order devoted to the worship of each. Note that these are not the only options: many smaller sects devoted to each of these gods are spread throughout the islands. A cleric need not even belong to any order – the gods bestow their favour upon few, but their motives in choosing the ones they do are inscrutable. Anyone, from the most fanatical zealot to a casual fan, might be granted the powers of a cleric, and whether or not one belongs to any kind of organized worship appears largely immaterial. Occasionally, a complete non-worshipper, or even the devoted worshipper of another (lesser) god will receive the gift, accompanied with sanity-wracking dreams of visitation, alerting the hapless beneficiary to his new fate.
Clerics are always Chaotic; all whom the gods touch are, in some way, tainted or corrupted. There is no distinction between Cleric and Anti-Cleric (as outlined in the OD&D rules) and as such no restrictions on Chaotic clerics (i.e. they can still turn undead, are able to cast all cleric spells, etc.).
Null, the Devouring Star, the Annihilation Whisperer.
The most widely-worshipped god in Xish, thanks in large part to the infamy of the Crater of Termination. Most worshippers hold that Null is literally a star: a particularly bright, red-tinged one which always appears in the same place in the sky, and can even be seen faintly during the day. A small minority believe that the star is not Null itself, but either the place where the god resides, or very close that place. Many worshippers, and even some non-worshippers, report visitations by Null in their dreams, where it always manifests as an almost physically tangible sense of hatred and contempt, accompanied by a dry, disaffected whisper. The message of Null, while often tailored to the individual recipient, is always, at core, the same: living beings’ right to exist on Null’s earth has been revoked, and they will all shortly be extinguished. Accordingly, worship of Null tends to coalesce around one of two poles: those who strive to placate the deity and thereby save life on earth, or at least themselves; and those who celebrate the imminent end of wretched existence, and venerate Null’s wisdom in choosing to bring it about.
The Cult of the Devouring Star. This group falls into the latter of the two categories, and as such predates the current vogue for apocalyptic doom cults by a number of decades. But only since the revelation of the Crater of Termination, a handful of years ago, have their ranks truly begun to swell. As such, they are one of the wealthier sects: thanks to careful investment of donations and tithes, they own all of the land around the Crater of Termination, which contains a lavish temple and various farmland, and several other estates around Xish. Many see something hypocritical or contradictory in the building up of material wealth given what worship of Null seems to entail, but the Cult themselves respond that this wealth, by its very absurdity and ephemerality in the face of the incoming extinction of humankind, is perversely pleasing to the god. Generally speaking, they are a friendly and gregarious bunch.
Mahelgog, the Mouth of Time, the Living Island.
Mahelgog makes travel through the western ocean impossible past a certain point, and while it is widely considered that this point is very close to the edge of the world, it seems unlikely that anyone has ever survived the trip through Mahelgog’s domain long enough to verify this. Those few who have seen Mahelgog and somehow managed to return (at present, only two such individuals are known to live, and both have since become high-ranking members of the Confessors of the Drowned) can only confusedly describe something like a large island, larger than any of the Chain, but which none would take for mere land: too smooth, too many wrong angles, and the unmistakable sense of a noxious, unfathomable life. Time and space are both said to show their meaninglessness in the face of Mahelgog – hence the legends of sailors returning from encounters with the god as decades older than when they set out, or reverted to drooling babies, or with memories of other men from other worlds in place of their own. Mahelgog rarely makes itself known to worshippers, and even its clerics generally only report a sense of nausea, disorientation, and (sometimes) temporary amnesia as the results of their daily communion. It is not clear why the god even empowers clerics, for it rarely makes any other sign that it acknowledges, let alone needs, worship.
The Confessors of the Drowned. Like the Cult of the Devouring Star, this group is organized around a message of imminent apocalyptic death – but, unlike the Cult, they have only become as such relatively recently. In the past, the Confessors of the Drowned led a more secretive and hermetic existence; for unknown reasons, they have become much more public and vocal, declaring to all who will listen that, any day now, the oceans will engulf all the islands of the Chain, and Mahelgog will once more have dominion over all of the earth. It is unclear from whence this new direction has arisen: all members assume, naturally enough, that it originates from a directive made by Mahelgog itself, but the sect is so large, widespread and loosely organized that no one is exactly sure who might have received the divine order. Perhaps no one did.
Akrillug, the Basilisk, the Destroyer of Ehkran.
There are still some withered old men who remember when the southernmost island of the Chain, once called Ehkran, was a verdant paradise. Now, it is a desert where nothing grows and no living creature stirs. If one actually dares to venture onto the island (and some, who one might call either brave or stupid, have), one can still visit the sites where once stood the sprawling cities and bejewelled castles of the Ehkranites. The structures are nothing but dust, but littering the spaces are millions of statues of humans with Ehkranite features, all cast in expressions of terror and anguish. At the very heart of the island, where once towered the Twin Palaces of the Two Kings, one can find statues in the likenesses of these very kings, the faces contorted with utter horror, and each standing on either side of a massive reptilian footprint. Some say that three identical footprints can be found at points far across the island, suggesting a creature large enough to straddle its entirety. The island now stands as a testament to all who would profane or anger the gods, though not a man alive, no written record, could attest as to how the Ehkranites might have done so.
The Church of the Stone that Wept. This is one of the oldest cults – perhaps the oldest, predating the destruction of Ehkran by many centuries, if their own records are to be believed. The Church, of course, holds that its god, Akrillug, is responsible for the Ehkranites’ fate, but there is disagreement over this. That a god called Akrillug exists is not in dispute: many, not just Church-members, have reported dreams or waking visions of a gargantuan, vaguely reptilian presence – in fact, similar reports are recorded in some of the oldest extant texts in the musty libraries of Xish. Yet it is not clear that Akrillug is the cause of whatever happened in Ehkran; the god itself has certainly never indicated this, given that in all known visitations, it never speaks or even seems to acknowledge the subject of the dream or vision. The Church points to the footprints, and says this is enough. All who disbelieve, so they say, will one day find themselves gazing into the eyes of the Basilisk: for, a crucial element in common between all known visions of Akrillug is that one never sees the god’s face. To do so, says the Church, is to gaze upon death itself.
Bone Jackson, the Goat-god, the Mother of Endless Blood.
The goat-men of the wild hills all worship this god, which they depict in their primitive paintings and effigies as a kind of impossible creature with countless limbs and mouths, the composition of which changes drastically across depictions except for two goat horns always protruding somewhere from the amorphous mess. The wildermen, whose tribes are sometimes enemies and sometimes allies of any the goat-men tribes, and who are the only ones who would ever bother to learn any of the goat-men’s language or customs, report that in their own vulgar language, the deity’s name translates loosely as “Mother of Endless Blood.” Because the name sounds vaguely like “Bone Jackson” in the wildermen tongue, this is what they call it, and what it has subsequently come to be widely known as. To the goat-men, it is female, and worshipped as a principle of fertility and generation: the god’s menstrual blood is held to be the very source of the goat-men themselves, and upon death their souls will return to choke in that infinite crimson river forevermore. Some wildermen have adopted the worship of the Mother, but cut most of the blood stuff out of it and worship it as a vaguely male Goat-god (generally depicted as a particularly monstrous-looking goat-man) which they continue to call Bone Jackson. The existence of wildermen clerics seems to suggest that, whatever the god might be called, it does not mind the worship, though no wildermen have ever accomplished the literal conjurings of the god which the greatest goat-man shamans of all the tribes are said to gather together to perform once every nine years, at a time and place unknown to any but themselves.
There is no single organized sect or cult of this god. Player-character clerics will generally be goat-men, who may or may not belong to (or have once belonged to) a tribe-specific, or even inter-tribe, cult. A few non-wildermen, non-goat-men worshippers can be found here and there, though they tend to be raving, flea-ridden lunatics.
I’d like to have a few more gods than these, but four is more than enough to get rolling with. Bonus points if you can guess which Cthulhu Mythos deity I had in mind when I was writing up each of these (except not really, because it should be pretty obvious).
Not much more for me to say about this, except I cannot WAIT to play in this damn setting. We will have to set up some Google Hangouts or Manscorpion has to come back and visit for reading week! Now let's dance: