Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Temples of True Communion

Sci-fi Temple Ruins by Robert Brown
True Communion stands in a strange position, at once one of the most popular philosophies of the Galaxy, but at the same time, reviled by the elites of both Empire and Alliance; it is a closeted philosophy, one that many adhere to, but few willingly admit. Even in its heyday, True Communion had little true hierarchy: only when the Keleni Temple-Worlds had total independence and the Keleni were united as one people, one nation, beneath their royal dynasty, did True Communion begin to look like a truly united philosophy. Instead, when one seeks to find adherents of True Communion, one finds scattered communes and communities, usually of lower class individuals, who gain their spiritual guidance from a nearby temple.

A Temple represents the core of the True Communion faith for a local community; its abbot represents the highest spiritual authority that they know. True Communion builds its temples in naturally occurring “holy places,” which tend to be found in remote, uncivilized regions. There, they seek to condense that spirituality into the heart of the temple, where Eloi Fragments can form. They also gather relics and philosophical lore for any who seek them. Ultimately, the purpose of a temple is to provide a safe haven for sacred things, and a place where those who wish to learn the ways of True Communion can go and discover themselves in peace.

Despite this, most temples end up acting as a central hub of religion for the locals. Though they must travel far (or the temple must come to them, often sending priests to look out for the local faithful), people regularly bid the monks of the temple to give them blessings, knowledge, healing, guidance and to officiate their ceremonies. Thus, temples become the secret hearts of the community of the True Communion faithful.



Agendas of the Temples of True Communion

A temple exists to protect a holy place and to provide a place for people to come to partake in that sacred space. Beyond this, the monks of the temple seek to live out the principles of True Communion, which means they seek to support justice, charity and so separate themselves from the world. Thus, they often assist and guide local communities of faithful, tending to their spiritual needs and the material needs of the poor, and seeing that the faith remains true, that the “communities of faithful” are genuinely faithful, exhorting them to return to the path of True Communion if they falter and cutting them off if they refuse.

  • A rebellious teen with considerable latent psionic abilities has been disrupting a local community with mischievous, even criminal, behavior, though he (or she) seems to not be genuinely malicious. The community has called upon the temple to send someone to “guide” the youth, by which they mean to tame him and put an end to his obnoxious behavior. The Abbot has seen in a vision from Communion that the youth walks a path between light and dark, and may join either True Communion or Dark Communion. One of the members of the Temple volunteers to go, protect the youth from rival factions and find a way to guide the youth to his (or her) ultimate destiny.

  • An ancient temple, once thought lost, has been discovered. Already, imperial archaeologists, criminal treasure hunters and sinister cultists descend upon it to rifle through it for relics and memory crystals. The temple must send skilled and competent monks to quietly recover the artifacts, bring them back to the temple, and ensure that no further desecration is done.

  • A community starves under imperial embargo. At great risk, a member of the community reaches out to a temple and begs for aid. The monks of the temple must use their reputation to find some way to either lift the embargo, or to find smugglers willing to risk the blockade to bring medical supplies and food to the planet or, barring all of that, to find some miracle that might make any of this possible.

  • A heretic has begun to spread a dangerous philosophy among the faithful, and an entire temple has fallen to his honeyed words. Your temple must send priests to counter the unrighteous words of the heretic, and either convince the corrupted temple to give up its new and wicked practice, or to be denounced before their own community.

  • Pilgrims descend! On the anniversary of the death of a particularly beloved saint of True Communion, a horde of people approach the temple. The temple must make ready for their arrival, see to their protection from bandits and convince local imperial authorities that such a mass of ideologues gathered in one place poses no risk to their power.

True Communion Temples as Opposition

The Temples of True Communion do not typically enjoy state of the art security, nor are they guarded by elite soldiers; despite the combat training many Communion monks enjoy, they mostly use it for self defense and, for example, rarely have access to heavy hardware. Thus, as opposition, the temples of True Communion rarely rise above BAD -2.

They are, however, some of the most potent psions of the Galaxy, with access to centuries of lore and miraculous feats from its saintly masters. Their PSI-BAD as typically -8!

Most temple security comes in the form of remoteness. Temples tend to find a place on forbidding islands, atop precarious peaks, or lost in deep jungles. Finding the temple is often the first trick. Second, temples rely on the goodwill of their faithful. The people who follow True Communion will rarely give up their secrets and may well be willing to die before betraying their faith to outsiders. If the temple can be found and infiltrated, while specific monks won’t offer much resistance (and may even invite the travelers in!), the leaders of the temple often have a good idea of what’s going on, thanks to their own psionic powers and knowledge gleaned from Communion. Generally, assume that the temple knows the broad intent of anyone who visits their door. If the intent is truly wicked (say, the theft of Eloi fragments or the assassination of the abbot), the target may be removed to a remote location or, if the leaders determine that resistance is impossible, will simply hand over the invaders objective, to avoid more loss of life than is strictly necessary, trusting that Communion will see to the return of the artifact, if that is Its will.

If a temple is to provide a serious threat to adventuring PCs, focus more on the capabilities of individual NPCs than on the overall threat posed by a temple; outside of militant groups (which are better treated as ideological resistance cells), those who attack temples tend to slaughter the inhabitants unless a heroic abbot or templar master steps forward to put a stop to it.

Serving a True Communion Temple

Religious Ranks
Ranks:

Religious

8

Speaker for Communion

7

Saint

6

Abbot or Abbess

5

Elder

4

High Priest or High Priestess

3

Priest or Priestess

2

Head Monk, Head Nun

1

Monk or Nun

0

Novice




Lay Servants: Technically not part of the temple at all are those who only serve the temple in a non-religious capacity, such as those who clean or cook for the monks. Lay servants are rare in a temple and many who follow True Communion see it as laziness, as the religious members of the temple should themselves care for the temple: that is why they are there. Even so, the lay people of a community often wish to bring the monks of the temple food, or to clean up the temple, and as such, one can often find volunteers working in a temple with no religious rank to speak of.

A Note on Honorifics: The Kelen language often appends a suffix to someone’s name, an honorific, which refers to their place in society, or their relationship with the speaker. The most common honorific used in a Keleni temple is -kaja, which means “kin.” Many non-Keleni temples simply use Galactic Common and use the term “brother” or “sister” instead. Keleni outside of a temple may refer to any member of a temple with the honorific -kera, or “holy one;” those within the temple will never use this except to reference saints. This has no equivalent in Galactic Common.

Novice: Those who wish the join a temple become novices. Novices are not yet constrained by vows, though they are expected to live as though they were (in preparation for their life as a monk; their mistakes are more easily forgiven) but also have no religious authority. They often have the most difficult tasks and the members of the temple often push them to do tedious or taxing tasks to test their resolve and willingness to join the temple. In Keleni, novices rarely get an honorific, but might be refered to with -isa, or “Child.”

Monk or Nun: Those who serve the temple well and prove their worthiness can cast off the garments of the world and take on the cloth and sash of a monk and join the temple proper. A member of the temple chooses to sponsor the novice and agrees to guide them through the principles of True Communion. The prospective monk must take the vows appropriate to the temple and are expected to maintain those vows for the rest of their life (though “retirement” is not unheard of, though not without a sense of disgrace). Their job now is to master the principles of True Communion, both the philosophy and the phenomenon, at the feet of their new master. In Keleni, these might also be better referred to as “students” and have the honorific -wala.

Head Monk or Head Nun: After a monk has been a monk for some time and has gained sufficient mastery over the principles of True Communion, the temple expects him to take on responsibilities and to begin to lead and guide his fellow monks. Those who attain such a position of leadership may be given a symbol or a tassle to wear on their sash, which denotes them as someone to whom the other monks should listen, and turn to in case of guidance. In principle, a head monk or nun is still a monk (and in Keleni still bear the -wala honorific), but they have begun to prove themselves. Not all monks go through this stage, but most do, before becoming proper priests.

Priest or Priestess: Once a monk is sufficiently educated in the principles of True Communion, he no longer needs to worry about his own spiritual growth, but the spiritual growth of others. At such time, the monk is tested and, if his knowledge (and virtue) are up to the task, he may remove his monk robes and don the robes of a priest. At this point, the master/student relationship formally ends, but informally, priests often return to their masters for advice. The priest is responsible for the spiritual and communal well-being of his community, and they journey out of the temple to tend to the needs of the community and to return with reports as to how the faithful are faring and what, if anything, the temple needs to do. Keleni priests often bear the honorific -wona, literally meaning “Journeyman priest.”

High Priest or High Priestess or Master: A priest who has proven himself in the field may return to gain a higher position within the temple; like the head monk, this typically manifests as a tassle or a symbol worn on the sash, though such symbols and tassles tend to be chosen by the priest himself, or inherited from his teacher. He then becomes a High Priest or “Master Priest.” A high priest serves two functions within the temple: they coordinate the priests, especially in communities where multiple priests serve in a relatively small geographical area (such as a city with a large, thriving True Communion community), or on missions where numerous priests are sent to a particularly distant area; high priests often have greater leeway from the temple to do as they wish, and, traditionally, joined the Knights of Communion when they went on a crusade. Finally, a High Priest is able to, even expected to, take a monk under their wing as an apprentice. Their honorific in Kelen is -tuta, meaning “teacher” or “master.” In Galactic Common, members of this rank are often referred to as “Master,” especially by their apprentice.

Elder: Those greatest and most accomplished masters of a temple may find themselves called back to the temple. Here, they become Elders (sometimes “High Master,” but often still just “Master”), and govern the temple under the guidance of the Abbot, directing the teaching of the monks and deciding where priests should be dispatched. Together, they form a council that decides the overall policy of a local temple. They’re still expected to take on students as well. In Keleni, they still tend to be referred to as -tuta, or “Master,” but they may also be called -hena, or “elder” (though it should be noted that -hena has similar connotations to the Japanese “sempai,” and one may hear, for example, a monk referring to his head monk as -hena as well; in this context, you have masters and “elder masters”).

Abbot or Abbess: The abbot or abbess it the master chosen from the council of elders to act as the final voice and authority for the temple. They ultimately decide the fate and direction of the temple, and often founded the temple. They are not expected to take on students, though some do when it suits them or when they see a particularly interesting student, and they rarely travel outside of the temple unless forced to. Traditionally, the Abbot had the -hena honorific, but with the fall of the Keleni temple worlds, many are referred to as -kera, or “Holy One” or “Saint.”

Saint and Saintess: With the fall of the Temple Worlds, authority in the philosophy of True Communion has devolved down to Abbots and Abbesses; no overarching organization exists. But when it did, and when it might again, those with power and influence across all of the community of True Communion was called a Saint. They had no expectations beyond tending to the needs of all members of the community, often wandering from world to world, instructing the abbots in proper philosophical principles, helping found new temples and spreading the truth of True Communion to new worlds. Such people always bore the -kera suffix.

Speaker of Communion: Rarely, a figure would arise to whom all Saints would bow. Such a singular figure directed all of the True Communion philosophy and often illuminated heretofore undiscovered principles hiding within the doctrines of True Communion, or would rise up to protect and lead all of the faithful during a time of crisis. They tend to be exceptionally difficult to find, both because they tend to be rare, and because when they do appear, they generally follow the path of the Exiled Master, and thus lay a very light hand upon the whole of the True Communion heirarchy. They are similar, conceptually, to the Jewish Prophet of the Buddhist Bodhisattva. They usually bear the -kera honorific.

Favors of the Temples of True Communion

The Temples of True Communion exist to protect points of holy sanctity and to train people in communing with the Cosmic Infinite so that they can create miracles, and to guide and protect communities of the faithful who choose to submit their lives to the wisdom of True Communion. As such, temples command a few precious resources that they can offer to those who serve the temples, and even to those who do not!

It should be noted that for the purposes of True Communion, ranks are universal. While an abbot cannot come to another temple and expect to be in charge, he is still afforded respect and assisted with equivalent respect. One can pull rank in any temple, regardless how far he is from his original temple.

These favors include, but are not limited to:

Holy Ground: Temples exist to guard sacred things, whether it be the most holy of holies on the temple grounds itself, or ancient libraries full of sacred (or forbidden) texts or memory crystals. Gaining access to a holy place can be treated as Entry Clearance.

Material Assistance: Most monks must take vows that prohibit them from excessive wealth. They must live off of the generosity of others! The temples often house that generosity, as when a monk joins a temple, he might donate his material wealth to the temple; similarly, the faithful followers might offer up donations to the temple. While such donations are usually used for charity or to maintain the temple itself, the temple might offer it to those monks in need. This material assistance rarely comes in the form of cash, though, and usually in the form of specific things worth cash; many donations come in barter form (such as donating space-chickens rather than money). Treat this as a special form of Cash.

Spiritual Guidance and Instruction: Temples exist to provide people with access to teachers who can illuminate them on moral, spiritual or psionic concerns. Temples also house masters of powerful fighting techniques or psionic disciplines that one may wish to learn. Treat requests for such guidance or instruction as consultation.

Relics and Eloi Fragments: Temples often house ancient, psionically imbued relics, and in their holiest point, Eloi Fragments, the physical crystalization of True Communion’s sanctity. All can prove very useful, but are rare and hard to come buy. Treat requests for these as Gear requests, but with an additional -5, representing their unique nature.

Healing: Temples house powerful psions with access to Esoteric Healing methods and Psychic Healing powers. Those who seek treatment have only to make a Treatment request.

Miracles: The most powerful aspect of a temple are its Communion-attuned masters who can collectively call down powerful, world-shaking miracles if necessary. Treat this as a technical means request.

Introductions: Pilgrims come from all over the galaxy to worship at a particularly famous temple, and so one could find a way to introduce oneself to a powerful person, but such acts are discouraged: in the heart of a temple, social position should not matter as much as spirituality. Such requests never get the +5 for introducing someone in the same organization, and gain an additional -1 besides.

The Resources of a Typical Temple
As noted above, Temples can instruct characters in True Communion, and even supplement their understanding of True Communion with instruction in the Virtues, martial arts or psionic disciplines. Most Temples teach three Virtues (some especially broad temples might teach more, and some especially narrow or young temples might teach only one or two). Keleni traditionalist temples typically teach the three Orthodox Virtues, while Templar Temples might teach any Orthodox or Heterodox Virtue.

Temples rarely teach martial arts. When they do, they usually teach a single, self-defense martial art, though some especially zealous temples that back insurgents might teach more aggressive techniques. If the temple teaches any martial arts at all, the most common martial arts for a temple are Keleni Stick Fighting or Keleni Assassination techniques. More commonly, temples will teach one or more of the three psychic disciplines. Temples that teach Keleni Healing Techniques tend to be known far and wide as places where one can go for miraculous healing. Temples that teach Sacred Body Mastery also have a reputation for healing, but tend to supplement their training with martial arts. Temples that teach Guidance tend to be far from home and emphasize integration with the locals and careful diplomacy.

True Communion Monk Character Considerations

Requirements: Characters servinga True Communion Temple need at least Rank 0, Duty (Almost All The Time) [-15] and some form of Discipline of Faith, typically Mysticism [-10]. Some temples demand additional vows (Keleni temples often demand vows of poverty; human temples typically demand vows of poverty and vows of chastity). Characters with Rank 1+ must take Clerical Investment and may purchase levels of Social Regard (Revered).

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