Friday, April 24, 2015

Wastelands Religion (Part 1 of 2): Humanity

Today's post presents a summary of the diverse religions, gods and cults found amongst the various human cultures of the Wastelands of Kreth.

The gods hold sway over humanity more than any other Free Peoples in the Wastelands. Humans worship the gods under many guises—anthropomorphic, animistic, conceptual or esoteric and even purely symbolic. The gods all fall under one or several generic domains (to keep their translation into 5e D&D game-speak simple), such as Death, Knowledge, Life, Light (or the Sun), Magic (or the Moons), Nature, Tempest, Trickery and War.

Since the passing of the Dark Years, many humans forget the Conjari, the Old Gods, and worship all manner of strange deities, spirits and forces. These are collectively known as the New Gods, or Panjari. New God cults appear regularly as charismatic leaders seek to convert followers and gain influence and power. 

Described below are the dominant religious beliefs for each of the eight major human subraces: cal-vooli, damarsun, druqara, mercatians, mordai-sul, nirothan, qaarni and vragnak. The end of this section presents a table summarizing the prominent human religions, gods and cults found in the Wastelands.

Cal-vooli spirituality revolves around Fate, Luck and the Signs of Fortune. The cal-vooli believe they are, as individuals, assigned a Fated Path in life, and will have a balance of positive and negative Luck throughout their lifetime. However, it is also their duty to alter this Fated Path in their favor by capitalizing (or conserving) on streaks of positive Luck and negative Luck. 

Cal-vooli priests, or anamiste, are more akin to fortune tellers and astrologers than their clerical brethren of other human cultures. However, anamiste hold positions of power and influence for they function as moral compasses for the community as well as spiritual guides. Frequent visits to their anamiste enable cal-vooli to understand where they are on their Fated Path by having their Signs of Fortune read, and to use the Signs to influence streaks of Luck and, ultimately, the course of their Fated Path.

Most damarsun worship one of the Panjari. These worshippers typically join cults of varying influence and size, such as the Silent Sisterhood of Alyssira the Cat Queen, the Faithful Far-Seers of Faresh the Three-Eyed Prophet of True Sight, the Boundless Hedons of Sinistar the Hermaphrodite Godling of Pain and Pleasure, or the Children of Odamaar the Lord of Light and Darkness. 

Few damarsun worship the ancient Conjari, but those who do tend to honor the tradition of worshipping the entire pantheon: Carthamon the Wisechild, Damura the Mother, Emiratha the Stormchild, Gederion the Father, Justara the Truthsister, Martus the Warbrother and Zathys the Wrathchild.

The druqara worship only Ogron the Bloodthirster, God of Strength and War, and their religious beliefs are often considered savage and vile to outsiders. The druqara undergo violent and painful rites of passage as youth to prepare them for a warrior’s life. 

Other religious ceremonies are marked by bloodletting rituals, scarification, sleep-deprived tests of endurance and honor- duels. The druqara believe it a great omen when a child is conceived during the Rite of Fugon Shu—an annual drug-induced celebratory orgy conducted in every community.

Druqara warriors will drink the blood and eat the heart of fallen enemies. This shows great honor and respect to a slain foe. According to druqara belief it transfers the “soul” of the dead warrior to the victor. To not do this is a sign of contempt on the victorious warrior’s part. This may be completely legitimate—the dead warrior may have been a thief, coward or murderer, for example.

Mercatians were the first Children of Odamaar, the Lord of Light and Darkness and the Purifier of Souls. Odamaar’s eyes are the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his body the earth, and his power and wisdom pierce all souls through flame and shadow. The mercatians unbroken devotion to Odamaar has helped spread the religion throughout the Wastelands. Mercatians accept no god but Odamaar—and by extension his immortal prophet, the God-Emperor Aristan.

Aristan is believed the direct descendant of Odamaar, and his rule over the Church and the City-state of Kreth is supported by complex layers of spiritual and temporal bureaucracy. Although mercatians acknowledge and even tolerate the multi-faith society in which they must live and govern, the disdain they feel for such “ignorant heretical savages” is rarely hidden. Mercatians who follow any other faith are branded heretics and shunned by mercatian society at best, outright killed at worst.

The mordai-sul believe their gods are all dead, slain in a terrible war with primordial beings who rebelled against their godly creators. The mordai-sul are the descendants of the faithful survivors of this war. The evil primordial beings still live and are terrible foes that must be opposed for their ancient treachery.

The mordai-sul believe the only way they can connect with their dead gods is through the spirits of their ancestors who lived during the time of the gods. Mordai-sul ghostpriests undertake spiritual vision quests to commune with their ancestors and glean insight and wisdom from their memories of the gods. Ghostpriests are known to enhance their visions by consuming psychotropic foods and drink, and praying in mountain caves, high clifftops or other precarious locations. According to mordai-sul tradition, the more dangerous the location of the vision quest, the greater the insight gained from it.

Spirituality, prayer and offerings are central focuses of nirothan life. Their chief deity is the Sun God, Amok-Rateh. Other major deities include Nivatha, goddess of family, the moons, healing and protection, and wife of Amok-Rateh; Kotasep, god of knowledge, secrets and magic; Ulat-Fara, goddess of bravery, valor and justice; Vunap, god of the underworld, judgment and death; Heturan, god of nature and storms; and many others.

A core belief amongst nirothans is that they originate from another world, Nirotha. Amok-Rateh and the gods magically sent them to this world before a cataclysm to preserve their culture and expand their knowledge and understanding of all things.

The qaarni cosmology is best described as a four-spoke wheel symbolizing the world, with each spoke representing a major force that allows the world to turn in balance. When any one spoke becomes too strong or too weak, the world wobbles erratically and risks being destroyed. The four forces, or spokes, of balance are ambition, fate, growth and decay.

Qaarni worship many aspects of each spoke of the World Wheel, typically in the form of deities (vandri) or forces (linsra). Examples include Kistora the goddess of creativity and innovation (vandri, ambition); the Hecati, or mischievous winds of luck, chance and the unknown (linsra, fate); Horado the god of strength and bravery (vandri, ambition); Vexath the god of strife and famine (vandri, decay); the Light of Lustar the Sun, illuminator of truth and provider of wisdom (linsra, growth); and so forth.

Vragnak honor and pay respect to a pantheon of animal and nature spirits—the Great Bear, the Deathfrost Wyrm, the Warrior Walrus, the Hunter Snow Leopard, the Mighty Mammoth, the Demonic Ice Hag, the Tree of Life, the Frozen Dead, to name just a few. Slaves, adults and even children are sometimes sacrificed in rituals to appease the spirit and natural forces, as well as bring good fortune to a great endeavor—such as constructing a new village or raiding the southlands. Vragnak believe the world was partly shaped by giant men, so giants—notably frost and fire giants—are both feared and honored by the northmen.

I apologize if this table formatting gets wonky...

Divine Power
Conjari, Old Gods

Carthamon the Wisechild
Open book or scroll
Damura the Mother
White bird
Emiratha the Stormchild
Lightning bolt
Gederion the Father
Green tree
Justara the Truthsister
Sun and rays
Martus the Warbrother
Crossed swords
Zathys the Wrathchild
Black field with two red eyes
Panjari, New Gods

Alyssira the Cat Queen
Tempest, Life
White or black panther
Bu’Matha the Preserver
Leaf encircled by seven stones
Elder Demon-Gods from Beyond the Void
Variable, choose appropriate
Head of tentacles, various unwholesome sigils
Faresh the Three-Eyed
Prophet of True Sight
Knowledge, Light
Three eyes inside triangle
Gulgash the God-Hero
Life, War
Silver sword in front of a mountain
Kraakor the Warlord
Sword in front of a shield
Kuzu K’Zaal the Dark One
Death, War
Skull in front of an eight-pointed star
Lords of Elemental Chaos (Aerimond, Aquazoth, Magmazoth, Terramond)
Varied Chaotic
Variable, choose appropriate
Various symbols representing air, water, fire and earth
Mysteria the Veiled One
Knowledge, Magic
Crescent moon and stars
Necromonga the Sovereign of Bones
Skeletal hand
Sinistar the Hermaphrodite Godling of Pleasure & Pain
Tempest, Trickery
Human-headed serpent consuming its own tail
Shadiis of the Two Faces
Black & white faces in profile
T’Ssalik the Serpent Lord
Trickery, War
Two-headed serpent slithering up a staff
Human Subraces

Cal-vooli: Fated Path, Luck & Signs of Fortune
Variable, choose appropriate
Deck of cards, dice, coins, various symbols of luck and fate
Damarsun: Any religion, god, cult or spiritual path
Variable, choose appropriate
Damarsun may follow any religion,
god, cult or spiritual path
Druqara: Ogron the Bloodthirster
Tempest, War
Red fist, blood-drenched axe or sword, bloody heart
Mercatian: Odamaar the Lord of Light & Darkness
Knowledge, Life, Light, War
Blazing sun within circle and two orbs at its poles
Mordai-sul: Dead Spirits of the Ancestors
Variable, choose appropriate
Each ancestral family or clan has its
own symbol
Nirothan: Court of Amok-Rateh God of Ten-thousand Suns
Variable, choose appropriate
Sun and staff, each deity in court
has its own symbol
Qaarni: World Wheel of Balance
Variable, choose appropriate
Four-spoke wheel, each god and force has its own symbol
Vragnak: Animism & Spirit Forces
Variable, choose appropriate
Each spirit force has its own symbol
 Next up, the second part of this post will summarize dwarf, elf and half-orc religions.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hogtown Games to Launch this Summer!

LONDON—April 19, 2015—The Borderlands: Steve’s Dorky Old-School Gaming Blog today announces the Summer 2015 launch of Hogtown Games, an independent small press publisher of tabletop RPG supplements.

Company spokesman Nudford Alastair Duke III, or 3-Nads-a-Swinging, as he is affectionately known around the office, addressed the flashing cameras and furious text-thumbing of the paparazzi after graciously exiting (completely of his own volition, we assure you) to the red carpet of the Prince Albert Pub on Hampton Road, Twickenham, with the following public announcement:

"Take yor bloody hands offa me you pin-headed wank... Huh? Wotzat, love? Oh yes, the Thai food here is bloody fab... Huh? Papawhatzi? ... Oh, roight! *cough cough*

"Esteemed members of the press, and I include you seedy blogosphere hacks when I say that, I thank you for coming here tonight. I'm very pleased to announce the formation of Hogtown Games, an independent small press publisher of tabletop RPG supplements. Hogtown Games is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Global-Evil-Tech INC's Super Happy Fun Time Gaming and Fish Sauce Exports Emporium, LLC.

"Hogtown Games mission is to create old-school flavor gaming products with pulp adventure-gonzo spices and ingredients. Due to the technologically sensitive nature of the company, and the raving insecure egos of its corporate shareholders, we will not be taking any questions at this time. 

"Thank you, once again, for coming. Cheerio, and happy fun time gaming!"


The press release is obviously fake, but Hogtown Games is not. :-)

My mission with Hogtown really is to produce old-school flavor RPG supplements with pulp adventure-gonzo spices and ingredients. There may even be some more "standard" fantasy stuff (and even sci-fi/space) thrown in as well. I won't reveal any specific details of planned supplements yet, other than the first freebie one will be coming out this Summer, and that some will be free and others will be for sale. All will be available as PDFs and most will be available in print.

I'm a one-man operation based here in Toronto, so certainly don't expect a release a month (or even a quarter for that matter!), but I will update the blog whenever I have solid information to share about Hogtown Games releases.

See up there on the right ... I even have a cool logo designed by the groovy artist
+Del Teigeler. You can check out Del's art blog over here. It's full of awesomeness. Thanks again for the great work, Del!