Thursday, 12 March 2015

Campaign lore: the Old Gods

Eight in number are the primal gods, left to govern the world in its youth. They are still worshipped by simple folk, but the upper classes of the Empire turned away from them long ago. Today, no follower of such a quaint and primitive religion would find favour at court.

The gods have many names and faces, and are worshipped across the human world in many guises. Most cultures recognise this fact -- even the angriest of the Free Nornrik rebels understand that their god Perkunas and the Imperial god Tiniaz are the same figure. There are also many lesser gods, said to be aspects or emanations of the Old Gods.

The Old Gods represent primal forces; as a result they are all Neutral on the moral scale, although their clerics may have any moral alignment.

Valla, goddess of life. Mother to all that lives, Valla does not play favourites among her young. Chaotic. She hates the undead and some constructs; life is for the living. Her shrines are often mobile, springing up wherever one of her clerics rests for a time. More permanent shrines tend to be in agricultural regions or deep in the forests, both because these places are sacred to the goddess and because the authorities make life difficult for her worshippers in cities.

Rhadamanthus, god of death. Rhadamanthus welcomes the dead into the underworld; his priesthood maintain funerary shrines and see that burial rites are carried out properly. He hates all who attempt to cheat death, from the alchemy-maddened immortals of the Imperial court to liches and vampires. He is brother to Valla, and the two priesthoods share a deep mutual respect. Lawful.

Fjorgyn, goddess of the earth. Lawful. Fjorgyn stands for all that is ancient and permanent. She is a greedy goddess, who will give the gifts of fruitful crops or glittering gems only when the proper offerings are made. Her temples are dark and ominous places, and even the cults of the Abyss have not rooted her priests -- who are said to command the earthquake and the rockslide -- from their mountain fastnesses. In Nornrik, Fjorgyn is said to have been the mother of the legendary heroes known as the Eight Cold Kings, and to have turned them into mountains when their reigns ended.

Tiniaz, god of the sky. Chaotic. Stormy and wrathful, Tiniaz sees all the evil that men do beneath him, and yet he hurls his thunderbolts not at the wicked but seemingly at random. In the Old Alliance, they say that he loves Fjorgyn and that storms are his rage at being separated from her. His temples are festooned with banners that snap and flutter in the wind, and his long-haired, rune-tattooed priests read mystical secrets in the dance of these totems. Those struck by lightning are said to be the god's chosen.

Nodens, lord of the deep. Chaotic. The god of the deep sea, Lord Nodens presides over a watery realm, welcoming into his drowned halls those who lived and died on the waves. In the Empire, the cult of Nodens has been almost entirely exterminated by the insurgent cults of the Abyssal sea-gods, and only a few shrines hang on where fishermen and sailors would rather dare the wrath of the Abyssal cults than of the cold deep. In Nornrik, his cult is strongest in the coastal south, but the recent conquest of this area by the Empire may soon change things.

Pele, goddess of fire. Chaotic. Pele is the warrior of the gods, who fought alongside Fjorgyn to bind the Old Devils behind walls of stone and flame. Her clerics see life as a forge, a trial by fire in which the goddess judges the strength of the faithful. Those who fail are consumed, but not damned; the goddess welcomes them to her fiery heart. Surprisingly, her temples are not at all warm -- only a single flame burns deep in the inner sanctum, except on certain festival days. Those with burn scars are beloved of Pele.

Shamash, god of the day. Lawful. Shamash is one of the least personal of the Old Gods, venerated as a god of time and truth. He is said to be the second-oldest of the eight deities, born only shortly after the creation. His clerics are serene and impartial; in remote communities they often serve as judges or magistrates.

Nephthys, goddess of the night. Lawful. The goddess of the night is the oldest of the Old Gods and has even less of an identifiable personality than Shamash. She provides arcane wisdom in the form of dreams, and her devotees spend half of their time in temples heavy with the smoke of hallucinogenic incense, waiting for their mistress to give them prophetic visions.

Other cultures acknowledge the existence of the Old Gods; in Elven theology they are believed to be emanations or aspects of the God, reduced and simplified so that the feeble minds of humans can grasp them. Those who worship the Gods of the Abyss recognise the existence of the Old Gods, but consider them weak and outdated -- and some even scheme to eliminate them all together and free up their space within the cosmology.

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