The Unquiet Lands
Deities and the Empire
The deities revered in Aucothia are the same as the ones listed in the Player’s Handbook. However, the nature of religion in the Empire, and even of the deities themselves, is different from the standard view. This thread addresses that.
There is only one world, and that is the world we live in. The world is old and young at the same time. In the past age, the world was formless and flowing. The world was also imbued with a vital, creative, and aware force. The nature of this force is unseen and represents the ultimate mystery, so the force itself came to be known as the Mystery or “arcana.”
The essence of the world, infused with arcana, gave rise to the first beings, who were at once part of, and separate from, the whole of the world. These beings, known by some as primordials, with limitless potential but no sense of past, set upon changing the world, each according to its own goals.
There arose two groups that set themselves apart from the rest of their brethren. The first were those possessed of greatest vision and organizing intent, who wished to impose permanence and meaning upon the world. Some would call them gods or deities but to their own kind, they were teachers, philosophers, and leaders. Of the second group, they were vexed by the existence of noisy thoughts and independent minds, and wished to unmake the world. These beings were known as demons.
The primordials by and large did not wish to become unmade, and gathered around their great teachers and leaders. Together, they cast the demons into an abyss, vast and deep, and they sealed this pit with great seals.
Then the leaders continued their great work of molding the world. Other primordials rose up against them, each jealous of their own dominion. The leaders and those who chose to follow them drove the rebellious primordials away to the fractured edge of the world that surrounded the Abyss, and they placed another ring of seals around this land, that they came to call Chaos.
Left in peace at last, the deities and their followers shaped the world. The arcana itself was hidden in words and symbols, available to be used as a tool, but no longer allowed to run rampant and wild. The primordials who remained were transformed into the beings of spirit or flesh, and bound to lineages that could change but slowly. They became the ancestors of all things that are. The greatest among these, primordials who neither sided with the gods nor rebelled, became the primal spirits, constrained so that they would not unmake the world, but still in possession of awesome power.
However, as the deities would be first to admit, they were not infallible, and while they cooperated out of need, each had their own vision to follow, so there was strife among them. In their bickering, a portion of the world became too bright and sharp. This was sealed away, and called the Feywild. Other portions of the world were made too dark and grim. These parts were gathered and sealed away too, and called the Shadowfell.
At last, the deities agreed that the world should be left to its inhabitants to continue the process of its shaping. At this point, they departed behind the clouds, leaving behind their philosophies and teachings, and they sealed the way behind them so that they would neither be pursued nor disturbed. They continue to watch the world from afar, ready to intervene if their policies are severely checked, but otherwise content to further their new tasks that they have assigned to themselves. This was the point that the current age of the world began.
The greatest of the divine servants left in the world was Aucoth, the firstborn son of Erathis and a human father, and prince of the First City that now bears his name. The fairest, mightiest, and wisest of all humans, he was granted godhood, but chose to remain mortal, so that he could remain in the world to carry out the gods’ wishes.
The Empire of Aucothia carries out his great work, which is the plan laid upon him by all the gods. In it, the world will reach its final state of order, borders and strife will vanish, arcana will be controlled, and beings of flesh will at last form a permanent understanding with the great, primal spirits.
Except for Erathis, inhabitants of the Empire are permitted to practice devotions for any Good, Lawful Good, or Unaligned deity (not in so many words, of course) or primal spirit, and placate any deity whatsoever. Among the Evil deities, Bane, Tiamat, and Torog may also be honored. Furthermore, inhabitants are not required to honor any deity at all. However, blasphemy against any of the state or official religions is forbidden. Erathis is a special case: she may only be worshipped through the Cult of the Emperor and her symbol, the cog, is considered the personal symbol of devotion to Aucoth. However, the cog in Aucothia is the pale yellow color of electrum. Use of the white or silver cog is banned.
Thus, non-Divine player characters may take as their own any of the non-Evil, non-Chaotic Evil patron deities listed in the Player’s Handbook. However, there are some societal considerations: the worship of any deity who does not have an organized religion is uncommon at best. In particular, the worship of Bahamut the Mithral Knight and Moradin the Lifesmith is extremely rare and usually limited to dragonborn and dwarves, respectively. Player characters who choose to worship Erathis must join the Cult of the Emperor (see below) and use the electrum cog as their symbol, if they have one.
Non-Divine characters may also turn to Primal forces for veneration. There are two modes of worshipping primal nature spirits. The traditional mode establishes that the character is part of a culture that long honored these spirits, such as in a mountain sept village. The other mode is that of the Communicant, one who is interested in contacting the primal forces, but has no previous tradition to fall back on.
While nobody disputes the existence of Divine or Primal power, not everyone takes the various religious teachings at face value. Some have no desire to worship deities or primal powers, and simply don’t, at no cost to themselves. Even some Avengers, Clerics, and Paladins (but rarely if ever Invokers) find themselves questioning the worth of their patron deities. As these three Divine classes receive their powers from investiture, they may find themselves utilizing divine power that they no longer honor. It is possible for a player character to be in this position, but it is unusual and requires special consideration.
Because Divine characters usually receive their power through initiation, some thought must be given to the background of characters who follow deities other than the ones of the established religions listed below.
THE STATE RELIGIONS
The Cult of the Emperor – The Cult is the instrument that guides the Empire, making sure it does not stray too far from the divine teachings of Aucoth, that is, the first Aucoth. As Aucoth was a model of filial piety, to be initiated into the Cult’s mysteries is to partake of the worship of Erathis, Aucoth’s holy progenitor. The high priest of the Cult is always the current Emperor Aucoth. GAME NOTES: The Cult accepts any class, race, or alignment. Divine characters from the Cult have access to the Harmony of Erathis feat.
The High Temple of the Great Master – Aucoth’s tutor in battle was Kord, himself. Aucoth never failed to address Kord as “Great Master.” Aucoth and Kord working together performed the great ritual that created the Path of Storms, which flows over the Empire every summer, feeding the crops and dispelling drought. The High Temple stands in the Metropole, and is the very place where Kord tutored Aucoth. His teachings make sure that the Empire never loses its vitality. For all of its focus on strength and training, it’s actually a fairly easygoing religion to be a part of, which makes it the most popular faith in the land. GAME NOTES: Devotees of the Great Master may be of any class, race, or alignment.
The Church of Tiamat – Greed is good! At least, the lawful pursuit of gain is, according to the Church of Tiamat. As long as the business of the church is business, the Empire tolerates it. However, the Constellation Bureau has made clear, sometimes through spectacular demonstrations, the fate that awaits followers who horde their wealth and fail to properly pay their taxes. GAME NOTES: Player characters are not encouraged to join the Church of Tiamat, but Unaligned Martial, Arcane, or Barbarian characters of any race may do so. The teachings of the Church are Evil, encouraging selfishness at the expense of others.
The Monastic Orders of Saint Ioun – This is actually a collection of generally-independent sects, some encompassing only a single monastery. All share the goal of gathering, preserving, and disseminating knowledge, though some focus on one aspect more than the others. While followers of Ioun have a reputation for investigating the arcane, many monasteries in the Empire actually focus on communion with primal spirits. Therefore, an Iounic Monastery may well be a gathering place for people who use primal power. GAME NOTES: Members of an Iounic order may be of any class, race, or alignment.
The Raven Brotherhood – The Raven Queen accepts followers of any sort, but this fraternal order of grim warriors represents her most prominent devotees in the Empire. While few join, there are many reasons to do so. The most prominent one being forgiveness for any past crimes, no matter how heinous, at least officially. In return, the Raven Brothers pledge to fight and die in the service of their Queen. GAME NOTES: Raven Brothers may be males of any race. Martial characters, Barbarians, or Clerics of any alignment may be Raven Brothers. Unaligned Avengers, Invokers, and Paladins may also be Raven Brothers.
The Society – The Society is a union of bounty hunters, guards, and watchmen who are pledged to hunt down enemies of the Empire and thwart their ambitions. In order to do so, the Society performs ceremonies to appease Torog, the King that Crawls. Rather than following his fellow deities to the Astral Realm, Torog chose to remain behind, under the earth, protecting and strengthening the seals that keep out the forces of Chaos and the Abyss, and capturing primal spirits who abuse their place and threaten the creation. GAME NOTES: Player characters are not encouraged to join The Society but may do so as long as they are Arcane or Martial. They may be of any alignment, but the Society’s actions often veer towards Evil. The Society will accept any race, but Goliath, Halfling, and Half-orc communities will ostracize known members.
The Vulysen Sisterhood – While followers of Sehanine the Autumn Moon may be of any gender, the Sisterhood is an all-female sect of Sehanine worshippers that hails from the Vodlaian Archipelago, to the east. It performs works of charity and cares for the poor. Unlike Aucothian religions, the Sisterhood treats Sehanine as a fully divine goddess, and represents her abstractly as the harvest moon of autumn. As a foreign religion, it must apply for a license from the Constellation Bureau every year in order to stay inside the Empire. GAME NOTES: The Vulysen Sisterhood do not revere the trickery or thievery aspects of Sehanine. Followers may be females of any race or alignment, and of any class save for Barbarians or Warlords. The acts of the Sisterhood tend to favor the Good alignment.
Player characters are not encouraged to join banned religions, but may nevertheless join some of them if they are prepared to accept the consequences.
The Church of Saint Avandra – As recently as one year ago, this was the most popular faith behind the two state religions. Many members of the Constellation Bureau were Avandrists, and the Church was widely accepted as an active pillar of the Empire. Last summer, the Edict of Evocation was pronounced, declaring the dissolution of the Church on the grounds of treason, corruption of morals, and blasphemy. Specifically, the Church stood accused of perverting the true teachings of Avandra in a way so as to work change that would undo the Empire. The temples were torn down, its orders disbanded, and its clergy forced to recant. Resistance was dealt with mercilessly, as was any church found to be “actively engaged in blasphemous rites.” Most were caught completely by surprise. The sudden move against an extremely popular faith pushed many areas into rebellion, and is credited with starting the current time of troubles. GAME NOTES: Player characters are not encouraged to be part of the former Church of Saint Avandra, but if they must, they will have an easier time of it than being in the other banned religions. Many in the Empire sympathize with the Church’s plight and even some among the normally fanatical Bone Lancers are tempted to look the other way when confronted with a practicing Avandrist. Of course, this is far from universally true, so open Avandrists may have very short careers. Good and Unaligned characters of any race may be Avandrists. The Church did not train Invokers, nor did it consecrate Paladins, but it accepted followers from any other class.
The Followers of Grandfather Moradin – The worship of Moradin is not in itself forbidden. This is a heretical foreign cult from the south that actively works against the Empire by sending assassins to target its leaders. They have been at it in secret for many years, but recently achieved prominence by sponsoring parts of the rebellion. The followers of the Grandfather use a hammer as their holy symbol, as distinguished from the anvil used by devotees of Moradin the Lifesmith. GAME NOTES: In general, player characters may not join this religion. A revealed member of this cult will be attacked on sight in areas controlled by the Empire.
Gruumsh – The Demon Amidst the Gods was the sworn enemy of Aucoth. Orcish bands that are allowed to gather inside the Empire must first stamp out all trace of Gruumsh worship in their ranks. GAME NOTES: Unless otherwise specified (as with The Society) player characters may not select Evil or Chaotic Evil patron deities.
The Royal Sect – South of the Orange Peaks lies a country that refers to itself with the blasphemous name of “The Realm of Erathis.” The Emperors have all looked forward to the day when one of them might finally put down the wrong-minded false faith that makes a mockery of Aucoth’s sacred ancestor. This religion is known to the southerners as The Royal Sect, and its practice is absolutely forbidden within the borders of the Empire along with its symbol, the silver cog. Three times, known as the Three Great Chastisements, Aucothia invaded the Realm and gave rout to their forces with the dreaded Bone Lancers. Unfortunately, the Realm is vast, and the final conquest has always eluded the Aucothians. It is accepted without question within the Empire that a Fourth Great Chastisement is inevitable, and merely awaits a suitable offense to be delivered by the southerners once more. GAME NOTES: Player characters should not join this religion. Revealed practitioners of this religion are imprisoned on sight in Aucothia, and then usually treated as spies for a foreign power.
These religions are largely unknown to most Aucothians. However, player characters with unusual backgrounds, such as elves from the Deep Woods, might be practitioners.
The Cult of King Maglubiyet – Many of the goblins and hobgoblins who reside in the Empire brought this religion with them from the Five Kingdoms, their homeland. The petition to license it into an official religion was reviewed and denied, perhaps because the cult of a King impinges upon the ground held by the Cult of the Emperor. This has caused a slow-burning schism within the goblin community as some elements wish to rework the faith to make it more palatable to the Aucothians, a prospect which outrages the staunch traditionalists. In the meantime, it is making slow progress, hampered by the lack of sanctioned churches, but nevertheless growing in popularity among some mercenary bands. GAME NOTES: Player characters are not permitted to join this religion.
The Four Seasons Church – The deities of the four seasons are of course Corellon of spring, Pelor of summer, Sehanine of autumn, and the Raven Queen of winter. As a group, they are revered by most of the inhabitants of the Deep Woods. There are no churches of this religion in Aucothia proper, but its practice is not frowned upon. GAME NOTES: Arcane, Martial, or Primal player characters may be part of the Four Seasons Church. The Church trains Good and Unaligned Clerics and Paladins, but does not produce Avengers or Invokers. The Church does not accept devas or half-orcs into its ranks. Any other race is allowed, but usually only denizens of the Deep Woods join the church: eladrin, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings, and humans. Clerics of the Church are allowed to choose between the channeling feats of Corellon’s Grace, Pelor’s Radiance, Raven Queen’s Blessing, or Sehanine’s Reversal. Good Paladins may only choose Pelor’s Radiance while unaligned Paladins may choose among the other three. Once a channeling feat is selected, however, no other may ever be chosen.
The Twin Goddesses – The sacred texts of this religion state that the goddesses Melora and Sehanine are in fact twin sisters, a revelation not broached by any of the other faiths. A somewhat obscure cult from Vodlai, this religion shot upwards in popularity as former Avandrists flocked to it, attracted by its rather mild and gentle teachings. Melora and Sehanine are depicted as light-hearted maidens who bless crops, gather the bounty of the sea, and plant the seeds of love in people’s breasts. However, they are also sometimes depicted as twin huntresses who strike against those that threaten them, a fact not unnoticed by many one-time Avandrists. Unlicensed, the precepts of the religion are spread by word-of-mouth from wandering preachers. GAME NOTES: Unaligned Avengers, Invokers, and Paladins may be followers of this religion, as may other characters of any alignment. The religion accepts all races. Divine characters may choose between Melora’s Tide or Sehanine’s Reversal if they take a channeling feat, but once one is chosen, the other may not ever be selected.