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.

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