Monday, 23 July 2012

Cult of the Cacodemon


This cult first appeared in Griffin Mountain under RQ2 rules, I am updating it for Legend (and I haven't read it, but it will probably work for RQ6 as well). In my Griffin Mountain G+ game the players have just done for a gang of these creeps, but who knows, after reading this they might be tempted to join them instead.

The Cacodemon was one of the many horrible monsters that appeared in the armies of chaos during the Great Darkness. He was, according to legend, eventually slain by Waha, the great spirit of the Praxian nomads, and can now only return to the mundane plane with the aid of powerful magic wielded by his willing slaves. Each has a an avatar of Cacodemon of his very own, a vessel into which he can pour his corruption, greed and violence, but the beast yearns to be unleashed and act of its own free, mindlessly destructive will.

He is the traditional god of wild ogres, monsters who prey on humans from heir secret camps in the wilds, but many ogres who secretly live within civilised lands also follow him, dreaming of using his gruesome avatars to strike terror into their human neighbours and allowing their avatars corruption to mask heir own.

Anyone can join, but almost all of his followers are ogres, or humans who will soon become ogres as they consume human flesh as part of his worship. A follower must prove their dedication to Cacodemon by engaging in acts of violence and mayhem at the behest of their priests, and must join in the seasonal feasts of human flesh.

The cult will train its followers in Stealth, Disguise and Deception, and teaches the spell Boon of Lasting Night and Detection Blank.

Human followers will not detect as chaotic to any spell or ability unless they have a chaos feature.

To be considered as an initiate a candidate must have Stealth 30%, Disguise 30%, Deception 30% and two other skills at 30%, preferably a weapon skill of some kind.

They must undergo the Heroquest 'Awakening the Avatar', rolling POW+STR x 3% or less. If they fail, an avatar of the Cacodemon of 1d4+1 dice (see below) will appear and attempt to kill him. If he lives, the rest of the cult will hunt him down and finish the job.

They gain a Pact with the Cacodemon and his mark, a severed hand, usually easily concealed. They can be taught any spell or skill heir cult leaders see fit, but Disruption, Befuddle, Goldentongue, Glamour and Mindspeech are favourites.

They must dedicate at least 1 POW to their pact, but no more than 1/4 of their total POW, and must learn as their first Divine spell Summon Cacodemon. They may also learn Blessing, Behold and Shield.

Any Initiate who gains a chaotic feature may transfer it to their avatar, if they manage to summon it - useful if they live hidden among civilised folk and get something not easily concealed and or something detrimental.

Acolyte (Claw)
A Claw must have 50% in five of the cult skills, and may include Theology (Cacodemon) and Pact (Cacodemon) amongst these. He must dedicate at least 3 points to his pact, to a maximum of 1/2 POW.

They may learn the Divine spells Disarm, Beserker, False Form and Dismiss Magic.

Priest (Talon)
A Talon must have 75% in five cult skills and must carry out a task of assassination or destruction assigned by their superiors. If they manage to kill one of their superiors, they are automatically their place in the priesthood. They must dedicate at least 6 POW to the cult, but no more than 3/4 or their total.

They may learn the spells Amplify, Extension, Create Skeleton and Create Zombie and must learn Ritual of Sacrifice.

High Priest (The Avatar Incarnate)
There is only one High Priest and he must have 100% Pact skill and devote at least 9 POW. There may not actually be a High Priest most of the time, and he keeps himself well hidden as the only way a lesser priest can be promoted is by killing him, usually with the aid of his personal avatar.

The High Priest can no longer summon the Cacodemon, he is transformed into a Cacodemon whenever he casts the spell, and when in ogre/human form he has all the chaotic features he may have offloaded onto his avatar given back to him, usually making him a twisted, mutant wretch of barely humanoid appearance.

Becoming an Ogre
When a human consumes human flesh (Praxian herd men don't count) he gains 1d6% in a new skill called Ogrishness, and must roll an opposed skill roll of Ogrishness vs his Persistence. If he fails he has become an ogre and rolls a new Str on 2d6+12 and a new Dex on 2d6+6. If these are higher than his current scores he gains 1 point per month until he reaches his new limit and his teeth become sharp and carnivore like. He is now a chaos creature, like it or not, and there is no way back.

Chaos Features
The quickest way of gaining a chaos feature is to join the cult of Primal Chaos and beseech the demons to bless you, but merely using certain corrupting spells may end up with the same result. As before, start a new skill called Chaos, add 1 point for each use of False Form, 2 for Create Skeleton or Zombie, 1 per dice of a summoned cacodemon, 2d6 for Ritual of Sacrifice, and roll for this skill vs Persistence (or just roll unopposed, some people actually want a chaos feature). Points may be added for particularly chaotic deeds committed. Once a chaos feature has been gained by this method, the skill is reset to zero.

Cult Special Spells
Summon Cacodemon
Duration Special, Rank Initiate, ranged

Summons the personal Avatar of the Cacodemon. This will have 1 dice in Str and Siz per 4 points of POW dedicated to the pact, 1 dice per 3 points if done on a holy day, 1 dice per two POW on a high holy day. The cultist must sacrifice at least one sentient creature of at least 10 POW and roll his Theology (Cacodemon) skill or under to control the demon once summoned, and again to dismiss it when he wants to. If it persists he must roll again once per day to control it, and again to dismiss it. An uncontrolled demon will kill anything it can reach. Killing the summoner does not dismiss the demon. A High Priest always uses the 1 dice per 2 points ratio, and personally transforms and thus does not have to roll for control.

Ritual of Sacrifice
Duration Special, Rank Priest, touch

A priest may find a holy place and sacrifice victims to boost the size and power of his demon. He gains 1 dice per 10 points of POW of his victims on a holy day and 1 dice per 8 points on a high holy day. For first victim roll the Pact skill to succeed, then at Pact -20% for the second and so on until the priest fails a roll and the demon has absorbed as much POW as it is going to and actually appears.

False Form
Duration 1 hour per 10% Pact, Rank Acolyte

Changes the form of a worshipper into that of an ordinary human of the same size, undetectable by any physical examination, magic or skill. Useful if one has a particularly noticeable Chaos feature, or a 100% foolproof method of disguising ones sharp teeth, or even (for the very brave) fooling priests of other cults long enough for you to make it through an initiation ceremony and stealing their secrets.

The Cacodemon
STR variable d6
CON 3d6
SIZ variable d6
POW 2D6 + 1 per STR/SIZ dice
CHA 3D6 + 6 per STR/SIZ dice

Combat Actions 3
Strike Rank 12
Armour 1 per STR/SIZ dice

Brawn STR+SIZ x 2%, Resilience CON x 5%, Persistence POW x 3%, Athletics STR+DEX x 2%

Weapon Styles
Claw STR+DEX x 2%, Bite STR+DEX x 1.5%, Tail STR+DEX%, Kick STR+DEX x 1.25%

Weapons have three different Size, Reach and Damage, first for size 1-15, second for size 16-40, third for 41+
Claw Size S/M/L, Range S/M/L, Damage 1d4/1d6/1d8
Bite Size M/L/VL, Range S/M/L, Damage 1d6/1d8/1d10 + poison
Tail Size M/L/VL, Range M/L/VL, Damage 1d4/1d6/1d8
Kick Size S/M/L, Range M/L/VL, Damage 1d6/1d8/1d8

Chaos Features
Poison Bite with Blade Venom potency 20+5% per STR/SIZ dice
1 extra random chaos feature per 3 dice of STR and SIZ
1d3 Chaos Features on top of that

The demon is vaguely Broo shaped with a huge crocodile-like head, vestigal wings and a barbed tail, but the shape and size of the various body parts varies enormously.

Cacodemon and the Borist Church
At some point in the Second Age presumably some more than typically unhinged Godlearner sorcerer came across the cult and developed it into a whole Malkioni heresy. Borist towns are apparently very peaceful, sedate places with pleasant placid people, but in every basement there is caged up demon, embodying all the violence, lust and destructive urges the citizens do wish to deal with in the open. Most demons are very small, but who knows how big the secret demon of that pleasant, responsible householder who just wished you a nice day actually is.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tharkantus in Balazar

Way back when Chaosium's 2nd edition Runequest was the thing the cult of Yelmalio was pretty straightforward. Then, as discussed extensively on numerous Glorantha forums, Greg Stafford redid the whole business, adding Elmal, Tharkantus, Halamalao and whole bunch of other bits of mystical backstory and annoyed a few people and muddied the waters no end. This is how Yelmalio/Tharkantus/whatever works in my current Griffin Mountain campaign

The mighty hero Balazar worshipped a god called Tharkantus, the Son of the Sun. Balazar founded shrines of this god at a number of locations throughout his newly conquered territory, and expected them to develop into the mighty Sun Dome temple colonies he had known back in Vanch, his homeleand. Instead they remained small shrines, each with its own small cadre of hoplites and the towns never expanded beyond castles in a stone age wilderness.

There are maybe 1500 worshippers of Tharkantus out of a total Balazaring population of 25,000 or so, mostly followers from among the pig tenders at the citadels, plus a few dozen initiates and acolytes among the Citadel Warriors and 14 priests, the leaders of the warriors and advisors and administrators for the kings. The cult is strongest in Dykene, moderately powerful in Trilus and fading in Elkoi.

The Balazarings are not entirely ignorant of the great upheavals in their only deist religion since the dawn of the Third Age; they have heard the names Yelmalio and Elmal from foreigners and know about Sun Domes, and a few have even visited such mighty Temples.

Taklong Woodheart of Elkoi is the accepted High Priest of Tharkantus for the whole of Balazar, though the other priests almost invariably put loyalty to their citadel above loyalty to him. He only has two subordinate priests at Elkoi, and a dwindling congregation as the local citadel warriors and pig tenders convert to Lunar gods.

The Sun Dome Temples at the Laramite Hills and the Daughter's Road are both claiming the dead hero Balazar as one of their own Templars, and thus dominion over the Balazar temples and the right to choose its High Priest and a tithe of their meagre income. Even worse the Daughter's Road lot are True Sun Revivalists, claiming to have rediscovered the ancient mystic practices of Yelmalio Daysenerus, while the Laramites are Disciples of the Third Emanation, followers of Monrogh's version of Yelmalio Tharkantus, both gobbledygook to Balazar's soldierly faith.

The Lunars interfere, as they always do, and are pressuring Taklong to take up the Daughter's Road offer, so he is openly courting the Laramites out of spite. Mostly he wishes the whole question would just go away. He is also heartily sick of the sight of his priests, one of whole he suspects is a tool of the Lunars, the other of whom IS a Lunar, or as good as, a half-Tarshite who is far too pally with that oleaginous goit Clodius Semprino, the Lunar 'Security Advisor'.

Tradition states that Taklong can name any priest he pleases as his successor, but he refuses to do it, as as soon as he does so he knows he will be poisoned, knifed or otherwise removed. He is looking to poach clergy from the other two temples, but none relish living in Elkoi.

The Trilus Temple has five priests (one died recently fighting the Moon worshipping Spiral Tribe) led by Chief Priest Tarkan Ormsfoe. Tarkan was exiled from Trilus by the last of the Gadaringer dynasty, and was instrumental in bringing Yalaring to the throne. He was a Black Lion, but has become a loyal Impala since the change in regime. While he has nothing but admiration for Yalaring's abilities as a warrior he is losing confidence in his talents as a ruler and losing patience with his tolerance of the Orlanth cult. Bluebird's position as tutor of Yalvann and advisor to the King is really bugging him as well; he was training Yalvann up to be the ideal lordly, stern and majestic Tharkanti King – might have spoilt the boy a little along the way – and he is afraid Bluebird will convert him to some weird foreign god.

The Trilus branch of the temple has a tradition of voting for a new Chief Priest among all the Temple personnel from initiate upward upon the death of an old one, a practice justified by an ancient standing order from Trilus himself about field promotion of officers. Tarkan's protégée, Zangil the Faithful, died, and he is looking for a new candidate to support who is sympathetic to his aims. Torath Manover keeps banging on about this god back in his homeland called Elmal, who he claims is Tharkantus in disguise or some such rubbish. The fact that in Torath's tales Elmal is always a loyal follower of Orlanth tells Tarkan all he needs to know about his ambitions.

In Dykene the Tharkantus Temple has no rivals and the citadel is all but a theocracy. King Skilfil appoints the Chief Priest personally, and has chosen his old friend and comrade Sylvanthi Brighteyes, who is a shaman of the spirit-cult of Balazar, which scandalized a few die hard traditionalists. They didn't say much about it though, Skilfil would have had them dismembered and fed to his giant hawks. There are another six priests (including Skilfil's daughter Starnia) and one shaman at Dykene and they regularly drill the populace in militia skills.

According to the traditions of Balazar the priests of Tharkantus must crown a king for him to be legitimate, and the king must be of the bloodline of Balazar himself and be an initiate of Tharkantus. King Glyptus of Elkoi has let his initiateship lapse and never bothers to turn up to temple at all. Yalaring never was a proper initiate having never taken the requisite gift and geas, but Tarkan crowned him anyway, and notes wearily that while Yalaring is always dutifully in the temple every Fireday he often falls asleep during the ceremonies. This, in his own opinion at least, makes Skilfil the only true and rightful king in Balazar, and thus his temple ought to be the most important, not the one in Elkoi, and all Tharkantus followers should obey his orders. Only a couple of worshippers have fallen for this propaganda, Elkoini fed up with Lunar overlordship.

Each citadel has an orb and mace-like sceptre that are part of the royal regalia, imbued with magic powers to enhance the abilities of the king. King Glyptus claims to hold the original Globe of Authority as passed on to Elkoi, his eldest son, by Balazar himself, and has a nice new silver(!) sceptre that was a gift from the Lunars. Yalaring has only the Sceptre of Trilus, the Orb was taken into the wilds by the fleeing Black Lion clan, Joh Mith had a pretty looking but magically feeble replacement made in Dragon Pass for him. The Orb and Sceptre of Dykene were recovered from the ruins of the old citadel during its reconstruction by the Dwarves. Taklong has collected information on these items and has made it known that once he has the true sceptre and orb of Balazar he will crown a High King of Balazar and end the centuries old civil war amongst the citadels once for all – some hope say the cynics.

Taklong would also like the Hawk Standard of the Golden Legion, last used to summon all the followers of Tharkantus and Balazar from the whole land to fight off Godar the Windwalker and his Army of the West Wind two hundred and some years ago. All of the Citadels claim it is interred in one of their royal tombs, but no one really knows where it is for sure.

Balazar is worshipped as an ancestor by many out in the wilds. The relationship between the Tharkantus worshippers and those of Balazar is usually cordial, and the priests recruit many of their best Templars from among the Hawk Warriors who claim to be descended from Balazar or his Golden Legion. However many of the Hawk Warriors of the Balazar cult are too full of themselves and too enamoured of the idea of being of the blood of kings to embrace the Tharkantus virtues of discipline and loyal service to the royal house wholeheartedly, and a few are hostile to the bossy know-it-alls in the stone huts, with their squiggly clay tablets, tribute records and fancy gilded bronze armour.