Friday, November 17, 2017

Patreon Poll: The Cult of Death

It's time for another Patreon poll.

The Divine Masks worships the Archetypes of Communion as Gods and its priests master the power of incarnation to become living Gods.  I've explored, or will explore, all three Dark Communion Archetypes (the Rebellious Beast, the Beautiful Fool and, coming soon, the Mystic Tyrant), but I also wanted to touch on True and Broken Communion.  For True Communion, I chose the Bound Princess, but for Broken Communion, I revisited an old favorite: Death.

But what should Death look like?  Should it be an ancient funerary cult?  An assassin cult dedicated to the unmitigated power of Death?  Or perhaps the terrifying worship of something beyond human (or Ranathim) conception? And, if you've read the Dead Art and the Gaunt preview, what's the relationship between these and the Cult of Death?

It's all up to you, Patron.  I've created 13 posts (an introduction, available here and 12 questions), which are available to all $5+ Patrons.  If you're a patron, check it out!  If you're not, as always, I'd love to have you.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Domen Venalina: the Sin Eaters

Domen Venalina: The Sin-Eaters, the Cult of the Bound Princess

Fitres Venalina, rei harfu imanathurem
Fitres Venalina, forgive my sins
--Prayer to
Fitres Venalina

Many Ranathim believe that something is fundamentally wrong with them. Their culture encourages them to sate their passions and feed their hunger, by trickery or by force, at the expense of others. And yet, the damage they inflict lasts far longer than the sensation of satiation. Guilt gnaws at them, and when it becomes too much for them to bear, they turn to Fitres Venalina, the pure lady. In her grace, even the most abhorrent Ranathim can find forgiveness, love, and release from his hungers.

When the Ranathim Empire encountered True Communion, they recognized the power as similar to their own Dark Communion, but they had no ability to access it. And many saw that True Communion contained within it the power to heal, soothe and comfort, while Dark Communion only had the power to steal and corrupt, but the Ranathim had no capacity to access True Communion. Their very nature denied them access to the sense of community that True Communion offered, and to some Ranathim, they could only come to one conclusion: the Ranathim were fundamentally monstrous and corrupt.

According to the lore of Domen Venelina, one of the members of the race that founded True Communion, Fitres Venalina, took pity upon the wretched Ranathim and taught them how to escape the confines of Dark Communion and to join her in True Communion. For this, the fallen and sinful Ranathim rewarded her with death, but even as they placed her upon the execution block, she whispered her forgiveness to the executioner. Those she taught, and the executioner himself, forsook their sinful ways and began to follow the path of Fitres Venalina.

Regardless of lore, Domen Venalina is among the “newer” cults, though still thousands of years old, and arose shortly after the Ranathim encountered the philosophy of True Communion. Annifem Lithe did what it always does, and folded the concept of True Communion. The paths of the Righteous Crusader, the Bound Princess and the Exiled Master became yet more Lithaja, Gods, albeit ones much harder for the Ranathim themselves to worship. This didn’t stop them from trying!

Domen Venalina arose as one such cult dedicated to a True Communion “God,” in this case Fitres Venalina, or the Bound Princess. They see her as the path from their inherent sinfulness, thuremka, and into a state of grace, or Venaka. To do this, the Chiva Thurulina must bring grace to the rest of her race. Like Fitres Venalina, they sacrifice themselves on the behalf of their race and community, and they do this by consuming the sinful thoughts and deeds of others, giving them a chance to live life as the other races do, free of their wicked passions. In this service to others, they find a way to connect with the rest of their race, and with True Communion.

Domen Venalina is an odd faith. Some mistakenly call it an off-shoot of True Communion. It certainly is not. Rather, it’s an imitation of True Communion, as seen through the lens of Annifem Lithe. The Ranathim who practice it don’t truly understand the harmony it seeks, but instead see the same pattern of oath and divine wrath that steeps the rest of the Anala system. Through submission to and channeling of Fitres Venalina, they seek a reward, in this case, redemption from their vampiric nature. At the same time, Domen Venalina stands at odds with the rest of the Anala system in that it inherently rejects the core values of Ranathim culture, such as hedonism and pleasure. Chiva Thurulena instead embrace a form of masochistic asceticism in explicit rejection of Ranathim culture.

Chiva Thurulena, or just Thurulina (for women) or Thurule (for men), can be found on the corners of streets, offering their services or begging for food. Their temples often act as monasteries, places where one can isolate herself from the world and from temptations of the flesh, and they act as sanctuaries for anyone who wishes to escape the perils of society or their own sinful ways.

Chiva Thurulena offer their services to others, taking the burdens of unwanted passions onto themselves, or healing the wounded and weak as best as they can. They also offer permanent relief from their sins by embracing Fitres Venalina, which they claim has purged them of their passions and even their endless hunger for psionic energy. They’ve replaced it with self-flagellation and wailing songs to the grace of Fitres Venalina and bemoaning the fallen state of their people.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Domen Sonostra: the Knights of Rage

Thamet Sonostra, rei jiva mei girdi
Thamet Sonostra, give me strength
--Prayer to
Thamet Sonostra

The predatory, winner-takes-all nature of the Ranathim often means that every winner leaves behind him a trail of losers. The distraught, wounded and broken victims of the depredations of the Ranathim may turn to the law or to the charity of friends and family for assistance, but when even these fail, when all that is left to a Ranathim is his own blinding tears and burning rage, he turns them to Thamet Sonostra, the lord of rage, and begs him for Jenum, justice. To this, Thamet Sonostra always responds the same: “Do it yourself.”

Domen Sonostrum is a cult of revenge and vigilantism. Its members once suffered injustice or had a loved one suffer injustice, and they seek to rectify it by their own hand. The find ecstatic divinity in their own rage; they mete out of justice in back alleys, and under the cover of night. They accept no law, for law has failed them. They accept no defeat, for they have already suffered the humiliation of defeat and have risen again. They accept only vengeance. For the modern Ranathim, under the yoke of the slaver empire, they represent a brutal sort of hope: “May the Nasatemo Sonostra find you” a Ranathim victim will spit at those that oppress him.

Domen Sonostrum, the Cult of Rage, rose in the dawn of the Ranathim civilization as a barbaric counter-reaction to the rise of said civilization. Those who suffered under oppression took first to the mountains and then the stars to escape their bonds. There, their rage festered and reached divine proportions. When they fell upon their enemies, they did it with howling rage. Long before the Ranathim forged an empire, these ecstatic warriors had already carved out pocket realms in the stars in the name of their god. The rising Ranathim Empire first conquered these fiefdoms, and then unified them. The Mystic Tyrant whispered to them of the greatness of their deeds and the awe in which the Ranathim people held them. He turned their attention outward, not at the Ranathim, but at those who threatened the Ranathim. In so doing, he turned them from marauders and pirates and into the Nasatemo Sonostra, the Knights of Rage.

As the Knights of Rage, they served for centuries as the shocktroops of the Ranathim Empire. Whenever injustice befell the Ranathim people or when they met an enemy that no conventional army could defeat, the Mystic Tyrant unleashed his Knights of Rage upon his enemy. They discarded honor in favor of victory, law in favor of revenge. Their brutal tactics terrorized his enemies into submission, and earned the admiration of the Ranathim people.

When the Ranathim Empire collapsed and aliens began to prey upon the Ranathim, the Knights of Rage scattered and returned to their old brigand ways, but they never forgot their purpose as a protector of their people. They turned their piracy against the enemies of the Ranathim, and became the seeds of terror and insurgency. Wherever they found Ranathim children wailing over their fallen parents, they would take them up, fuel their hatred and forge them into weapons wielded by the bloody-handed Thamet Sonostrum. The Ranathim will never forget their grudges against other races, and they don’t have to, thanks to the justice of the shadows.

Stereotyically, Satemo Sonostra are fit, sinewy Ranathim men, covered in tattoos and blood-splashed armor, wielding a psi-sword. In practice, female Ranathim and aliens make up a sizeable portion of their ranks. They wear armor only when necessary, often dressing in civilian clothing and secreting away their psi-swords until they need them. As with all nadomen, the Domen Sonostrum have great temples; theirs are darkly lit with slow burning braziers with an altar before the great idol of Thamet Sonostra, with an altar before him, covered in blood and gruesome trophies taken from the slain enemies of Thamet Sonostra. Elsewhere in the temple, Nasatemo swap stories of injustices that need to be righted, plan attacks, or train in their brutal arts.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Patreon Post: the Gaunt (and the Dead Art preview)

When the Ranathim fought their great and terrible war with the "Monolith," they stole the secrets of Necro-Psi (and more here) and used them to forge an army of half-living constructs made of "synthetic flesh" that they called the "Tarvathim," but the rest of the Galaxy now calls the Gaunt.  The forbidden secrets of their construction have largely been lost (but not entirely!), and without their masters around to rule them, the hideous Gaunt have dispersed throughout the galaxy, struggling to eke out an existence in a galaxy that recoils from them in disgust, and when one of the ancient "True Tarvathim," immortal constructs built at the dawn of that terrible war, arrive in a community of the Gaunt, their lesser kindred flock to them, looking for leadership.

The Gaunt are a new PC race option, one deeply tied to the Ranathim, with extreme survivability balanced by unpleasant appearance (not to mention smell!) and psionic susceptibility.  The True Tarvathim are a new PC race option for players who want to try something ancient and terrifying, or for GMs who want to unleash an ancient horror upon the galaxy.

Both (and a Dead Arts preview, for context; it'll be available on this blog at the end of the month) are available now to all $3+ patrons on my patreon.  If you're a patron, enjoy! If not, as with all previews, these will eventually come out, but if you want to see them now, I'd love to have you.

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Dome Sefelina: The Cult of the Beautiful Fool

Sefelina Midra, rei indra mei fet imasevaiku
Sefelina Midra, free me from slavery
--Prayer to Sefelina Midra

Domen Sefelina is among the oldest of Annifem Lithe cults, and predates the Anala system. They followed a lurid, tempting trickster goddess, Sefelina Midra, the untameable dancer. At the heart of their temple, the Nachiva Sefelina dances beneath her idol to the beat of drums and the piping of flutes and the scent of intoxicating incense, while the high priestess channeles Her divine will and deliveres commands and miracles to Her faithful. Her commands and miracles liberated the downtrodden, the poor and the slave, giving them a home and a purpose, and the dispossessed flocked to her temples to give Her offerings and to enter her service.

The Nachiva Sefelina, the preistesses of Sefelina Midra, offer their services to any who bring the temple offerings. The services include many forms of amusement, including feasts, intimacy and intoxicants of all kinds. This earned them their moniker of Sacred Whores; this suggests that they offer vice for a price, but this is not the case. They offer vice to liberate others. They know that all Ranathim want to indulge in their passions, and the Nachiva Selfelina assist them.

They indulge in vice and they obey the commands of their high priestess for a purpose. Domen Sefelina preaches a theology of liberation. Those who seek freedom from morality, law or slavery can always find a haven in the temples of Domen Sefelina. This proved troublesome with the rise of the Ranathim Empire, and so the Divine Emperor of the Ranathim inducted them into his House and symbolically married the high priestess of the temple, forging a union between the Domen Sefelina and the Imperial Cult, so that the dominion of the Empire was the dominion of the Domen Selfelina. This helped to tamp down their tendency to undermine authority.

This arrangement collapsed with the fall of the Ranathim Empire. As the rapacious races of the Galaxy began to take the Ranathim as slaves, the popularity of Domen Sefelina exploded across the space occupied by the Ranathim population. At first, slaves who escaped would make their way to the temples, seeking sanctuary, but soon the Sefelina Midra, the Goddess of the Domen, made her will known: “Free the slaves.” The Domen Sefelina has, in the modern galaxy, integrated with many criminal organizations, offering whores and drugs in return for the service of smugglers and assassins, so that they can work to free slaves and undermine any authority throughout space where they have influence. They have gained a reputation for the witches of the criminal world, and the last hope of the desperate.

Stereotyically, Nachivana Sefelina are beautiful, immodestly dressed female Ranathim. In reality, they include male members, and many less attractive Nachiva serve the Domen, they just tend not to be its face. The center of the Dovem Sefelina are its temples, festooned with the imagery and symbolism of Sefelina Midra, the Beautiful Fool, and at its heart is a great idol of Sefelina Midra in all her lascivious beauty. Resting on a dias, at her feet, is the high preistess of the Domen Sefelina, who speaks for Sefelina Midra.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cults of the Divine Mask

The foundation of Annifem Lithe are the old cults, the Nadomen, of the Ranathim. Their lore and theology served as the basis for how other “similar” cults from other alien races, or even other Ranathim cults. Though the cults have changed over time, Ranathim and other aliens, and even some humans, still worship those original cults, and a multitude of cults beside.

What worship means varies from cult to cult, and how believers interact with their cults, and with Annifem Lithe differ from believer to believer. Many faithful focus intently on a single cult, absorbing their specific practices and superstitions Others attend a variety of cults superficially based on their needs, treating each cult as a different set of supernatural specialists. Others take Annifem Lithe as a whole cohesive system and see individual cults as suffering from tunnel vision. Those who treat primarily with the cults are said to practice Chivare and those who treat with the Annifem Lithe as a whole are said to practice Zathare. The Nadomen, the cults, are the only meaningful organizations of the Annifem Lithe system. Those who study Zathare, or who practice broader Chivare tend to have little organization beyond local master-apprentice relationsships, or small circles of individuals sometimes called covens.

Those who follow a specific cult might, instead of having the Believer (Annifem Lithe) quirk, they might have a Believer (Specific Cult) quirk. Most believers subscribe to the various superstitions associated with their cult, which double as small ritual acts. Characters may take these as quirks, or as Delusion (Superstition) disadvantages, usually worth no more than -5 points.

Annifem Lithe categorizes all of its various cults into the categories of the 9 communion paths A sample of cults under the Annifem Lithe system include:

  • Domen Sefelina: The Cult of the Dancer celebrates hedonistic freedom, and grants that freedom to all who make offerings to their goddess. They traditionally served as the brides of the Ranathim Divine Tyrant; today they offer their services to the underworld and fight to liberate their kind from slavery. Domen Sefelina worships the Beautiful Fool. Other cults that worship the Beautiful Fool, according to Annifem Lithe, include the “Cult” of Esau Elegans.
  • Domen Sonostrum: The Knights of Rage fight against the injustices that nobody else will fight against. They take revenge for the fallen, for the outcast and dispossessed. They traditionally served as the secretive enforcers for the Ranatahim Empire, but today, the serve as a seed of insurgency against those who oppress the Ranathim. Domen Sonostrum worships the Rebellious Beat. Other cults that worship the Rebellious Beast, according to Annitehm Lithe are the Ithin-Kor, and the “Cult” of Lothar Kain.
  • Domen Venalina: The Sin-Eaters have discovered a way to purify the Ranathim of their “inherently sinful nature” and to gain access to True Communion, and they offer to liberate all other Ranathim of their sins and dark impulses and draw them into the grace of True Communion along with them. Domen Venalina worships the Bound Princess. Other cults, according to Annifem Lithe, that worship the Bound Princess, include the cult of Sissi Sabine.

Agendas of the Cults of the Divine Masks

Each Cult has their own specific concerns and agendas, but cults, taken as a whole, have similar sorts of agendas. Cults broadly tend to be concerned with protecting their holy spaces, expanding their membership and influence, and in collecting relics associated with their particular faith. The Annifem Lithe cults also rely on powerful psions if they want to gain access to Communion, thus they remain constantly on the look-out for powerful potential psions. Examples of such agendas include:

Once thought lost forever, the shifting hyperspace storms of the Tangled Expanse have opened to reveal a path that leads to a lost Ranathim world upon which a famed Ranathim temple rests in ruins. The cult must send an explorer to survey the damage, drive out any intruders, and make it safe for a pilgrimage of a Chivaga who restore is sanctity to their God.

An ancient relic, once thought forever lost after the fall of the Ranathim empire, has turned up on the antiquities black market in the hands of a human smuggler who likely doesn’t know its true power. The cult must quietly contact the smuggler and secure the relic. If his asking price is too high, the cult may use other means to secure it. However, the operation must remain quiet, lest rival cults or, worse, the Nazathan, hear of the relic and try to seize if for themselves!

The date of a great Cult festivity looms near. The faithful brim with excitement, but the authorities grow nervous as pilgrims from all across the world flock to the city in which the temple is located. The cult has never been more powerful, nor in a more precarious position! The leadership must find some way to assure the leadership that nothing unfortunate will happen, while making preparations to ensure that the festivities go off without a hitch, despite increasing political tensions which such a large mass of faithful are slowly making worse with their presence.

A daughter of the divine has been born! A cult, long without a proper Chivaga has learned of a child who has faced the milestones of the divine path, and displays a capacity of miraculous power. Naturally, her mysterious power frightens the locals and her own family, who lost their faith in the Annifem Lithe long ago. The cult must dispatch a chiva to comfort or cow the populace, collect the child, train her in her destiny as Chivaga and then install her as a new leader. Be careful! Whomever trains the child will likely control that child’s destiny and thus become a behind-the-throne power for the child-priestess!

Cult of the Divine Masks as Opposition

The Cults have access to well-trained psions and limited access to Communion. Their membership tends to be more enthusiastic than well-trained. Most cultists will have combatants no better than civilians, at BAD -0, though likely with unusual powers. More militant cults, like Domen Sonostrum, can field full space knights might field combatants as effective as BAD -5. Organizationally, the Cults typically have a BAD of -0 to -2, not because they have exceptional security measures, but because their psionic training offer them additional security. The PSI-BAD at least equals or exceeds their BAD.

Serving in a Cult of the Divine Masks

Religious Rank

6: Thamel (Master/Mistress), Chivaga (Head Priest/Priestess)

5: Chiavagi (High Priest/Priestess)

4: Chiva Siva (Special Priest/Priestess)

3: Chiva (Priest/Priestess)

2: Chivago (Lesser Priest/Priestess)

1: Kigalegi (Senior Acolyte)

0: Seva (Slave), Kigale (Acolyte)

If one wishes to serve a cult, they first submit either as a Seva (slave or servant), who labors for the temple and does whatever the cultists need of him, or they become a Kigale, an “Acolyte” (lit “Follower”). Acolytes serve in a lay faculty, serving higher priests directly and governing the Seva.

Those who have sufficient psionic acumen or who have a destiny that bring them in alignment with the path of the cult can become Chiva or priests or priestess (lit “Witch”). Apprenticeship begins with the rank of Chivago or “Lesser priest/priestess.” Such priests learn at the feet of greater priests and typically focus on Communion Oaths as the source of their connection with Communion. Once a character has graduated, they become full-fledged Chiva. Most Chiva have at least a Communion Oath, or are Archetypes. The Chiva Siva (lit “Special Witch”) work as agents out in the world, collecting artifacts, spreading doctrines and subverting danger against the cult.

The greatest priests and priestess must either be Archtypes or have achieved Communion itself. These become Chivagi (Greater priests/priestesses), or the Chivaga or Thamel. These lead the cult on a local level, running the temple, wearing the mask of their divinity and making pronouncements in their stead. No higher organization exists. There’s no “High Master of all Domen Sefelina.” Each temple follows their own cult in their own way, and some cults worshiping the same path might even begin to form rivalries with one another!

Favors of a Cult of the Divine Masks

Generally, cults offer their members access to supernatural power and insight.

Communion Miracles: The Cults of the Divine Mask do have access to Communion, albeit in a more limited way than the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant or True Communion. Treat requests for miracles as requests for technical means (PR 15), but apply an additional -2 to represent the greater cost for Communion miracles associated with the cult.

Relics: Cults of the Divine Mask regularly collect and worship relics associated with their particular path, adding them to their own god’s mythology. They may be willing to part with them, if you have sufficient draw with the cult! Treat this as gear (PR 16), but apply a -5, similar to “experimental gear with no price tag.”

Sacred Spaces: Cults of the Divine Mask have access to places “Holy” to certain forms of Communion (most commonly Dark Communion, but some cults to paths of True or Broken Communion do exist!). Treat this as Facilities (PR pp 18-19) if the characters want to make use of the site to enact a miracle.

Introduction (PR 18): While the Cults of the Divine Masks don’t really hold much sway with the galactic elite, many members of the criminal underworld, or members of outcast races, worship the Cults. However, cross-cult introductions (such as joining Domen Sonostrum and looking for an introduction to the high priestess of Domen Sefelina) do not benefit from the +5 for “introduction to members of the same organization.” The Cults of the Divine Mask are related, but not that closely!

Teaching (Services, PR 18): The Cults of the Divine Masks have access to secrets and will willingly part with them to almost all members, though Anala Izathan, the Practices of Sorcery, tend to have greater access to actual secrets, rather than the cults.

Cult Character Considerations

Requirements: Characters serving a Cult of the Divine Masks have no minimum wealth, and must have Religious Rank 0, and have a Duty of at least 9 or less. Most will have an appropriate Vow or Disciplines of Faith (Ritual).

A Favor from a Cult of the Divine Masks institute is worth 1 point/rank. A Cult as a Patron is worth 15 points as a base. A Cult as an Enemy is worth -15 points.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Divine Mask Symbolism and Ceremonies

Annifem Lithe Symoblism

Annifem Lithe pretends to be a cohesive system, but it might be better described as a cataloging of various systems with a rough attempt at creating a grand unified theory that underlies them. As such, it necessarily encompasses many systems that have few similarities in symbolism or ceremonies. Thus, one cannot completely describe all possible symbols or ceremonies for Anala. Instead, this documents some of the most common symbols.

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