Friday, May 27, 2011

Cultists of Dwimmermount

This is my latest take on the idea of anti-clerics. I never got the chance to use it extensively in the Dwimmermount campaign, but, when I did, I didn't encounter any problems with it.
Cultists
Requirements: Chaotic alignment
Prime Requisite: Wisdom
Maximum Level: None
As noted above, all clerics must be Lawful in alignment. This is because all the gods, regardless of their spheres of influence, support and protect the civilization of Man. There are, however, some Men who regard neither the gods nor the civilization to which they give aid to be worthy of their own devotion. Such Men have instead thrown in their lot with Chaos, as embodied as the various demon lords and princes of the Great Void and are known as cultists.

Cultists might be called “anti-clerics,” as they possess all the cleric's abilities but with one significant difference: they can only cast the reverse of any cleric spell listed in Labyrinth Lord “reversible.” That means, for example, that a cultist cannot cast cure light wounds but only cause light wounds . Many cultists infiltrate Lawful religions, passing themselves off as clerics and working from within to sow dissent and distrust. Others form secret societies dedicated to demons and attract like-minded individuals to join their evil cause. All live to bring about the destruction of Man, his civilization, and even his gods.

Cultists have no ability to turn the undead, as clerics do. Instead they may attempt to command them, using the turning undead table. If successful, the cultist may command a total number of hit dice of undead equal the number of retainers he may possess based on his Charisma score. This ability has no effect on the cultist's being able to attract retainers, however. These undead remain under the cultist's command for a number of days equal to the cultist's level. Command can, at the cultist's discretion, be reestablished after these days have elapsed, but a new roll may required to do so. A “D” on the turning undead table means that, not only can the undead be commanded automatically, but they also serve indefinitely.

While under the cultist's command, intelligent undead use the Monster Reaction Table to determine their willingness to obey commands that are potentially self-destructive. If this results in a “Hostile” result, the undead breaks free of the cultist's power and attacks him. The same result occurs if an attempt to command an undead fails.

Cultists (but not clerics) have access to the 3rd-level spell animate dead.

27 comments:

  1. Just one question: how would they infiltrate lawful orders if they can't cast cure spells? Wouldn't that be a pretty effective way of rooting out the hidden cultists?

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  2. Maybe the clever hidden cultists use a ring of healing, or other magical items to help protect their cover?

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  3. Hey James! The cultists coerced you into posting on Open Friday! ;-) Seriously, this is good stuff. I'm really eager to see the Dwimmermount setting/dungeon get published. Also, here's my official humble request to have my equally humble blog considered for a spot on your Links of Interest page!

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  4. As another question on infiltrating the lawful church how do you get around the Know Alignment spell?

    Calling them cultists fits extremely well.

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  5. Maybe the clever hidden cultists use a ring of healing, or other magical items to help protect their cover?

    That's more or less the idea I had.

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  6. I'm really eager to see the Dwimmermount setting/dungeon get published.

    I spent most of the day working on that very thing, which is why I posted this. You should start seeing some Dwimmermount material published in the coming weeks.


    Also, here's my official humble request to have my equally humble blog considered for a spot on your Links of Interest page!

    Sure thing!

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  7. As another question on infiltrating the lawful church how do you get around the Know Alignment spell?

    Know alignment is a foul AD&D-ism that I don't use in my game. :) Seriously, it's not in the LBBs + Supplements, so I never felt the need to include it in the campaign.

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  8. Funny how the knights Templars and hospitalliers ran afoul of the catholic church and were branded heretics and cultists.

    Personally, your cultist is too much hammer horror and not enough religious warlord. Afterall, chaotic clerics were free to build strongholds I the wilderness, it wasn't "all" sneaking around and infiltrating.

    I like the charisma bit, but the rules from the LLB already provide means to force intelligent undead into your service as henchmen (and count against your charisma limit).

    The limit makes undead armies a bit impractical without a host of lesser clerics in your employ as well.

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  9. Personally, your cultist is too much hammer horror and not enough religious warlord.

    Hammer horror is exactly the vibe I was going for, since it fits both my campaign and the influences of the early hobby.

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  10. Nicely done, and I like the photo of Charles Gray! (He was also a great "Mycroft Holmes," years later.)

    "Know alignment is a foul AD&D-ism that I don't use in my game."

    Bless you. I always hated that spell.

    One question: how non-interventionist are your gods? If they meddle in or even notice the material world at all, one would think they'd be a tad upset at a Chaotic cultist pretending to be a Lawful cleric and profaning the god's altar during a service. Or do their Chaotic patrons give them some sort of cover?

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  11. Isnt being convinced into joining a cult a lack of wisdom? ergo the Prime Requisite is Ambition or the desire for power (Charisma) rather than Wisdom.

    While Wisdom is ok for Bob the High Clerist of the Knives of Zuul, it isnt OK for Unwin the Gulible who joined up because he thought the robes were nice.

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  12. One question: how non-interventionist are your gods?

    They are so non-interventionist that there is plausible reason to believe they don't exist.

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  13. ergo the Prime Requisite is Ambition or the desire for power (Charisma) rather than Wisdom.

    That's an interesting notion, actually. I hadn't really considered that.

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  14. @ James: You could argue that summoning Zuul of the Pointy Knives and Jam Donuts is an act of Charisma as well (Bob attempts to convince dark lord to show up, and offers a virgin sacrifice to sweeten the deal).

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  15. Know Alignment

    But James, you say you are playing Labyrinth Lord, it has Know Alignment as a 2nd level cleric spell, have you house ruled it out? Which is certainly a sensible way to get around this conundrum.

    In my post on this topic, I explained how my infiltrating chaotic clerics either have a small magical item which conceals their alignment or I allow Know Alignment to be reversible (Hide Alignment) and have a 24 hour duration in the reverse version. It's the first thing a chaotic cleric does in the morning!

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  16. @UWS guy

    I don't believe the Hospitallers were, as an order, ever accused and certainly never convicted of heresy or otherwise being a cult. Heck, they're still around today.

    The Templars were accused of many things and railroaded into making false confessions thanks to France's King Phillip IV owing them a pile of money. They were simply disbanded (thanks to more pressure from Phillip) due to the scandal and much of their order folded into others.

    As for Know Alignment, I don't recall ever using it in a campaign as I don't really remember any PC ever bothering to take it!

    @The Jovial Priest

    Know Alignment is reversible in OSRIC similar to what you suggest, although the duration is rather short (1 creature for 1 turn, 2 for 5 rounds, etc...). To be effective in hiding, you'd really have to know someone was checking up on alignments.

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  17. James, your anti-cleric is a bit contrived as a class. In the real world, with but a few exceptions, opposites in the religious and political extremes are not the opposites, but the twins of each other. Part of the problem with your, and mainstream fantasy's conceptualization of the anti-cleric, Necromancers, really, is the implicit assumption that indead were created by Evil. This is not to say that undead are not by their nature evil or at least predatory on the living, but rather to say that the mechanism by which undead get reanimated arises out of the nature of yhe universe in which they exist and not as a result of some human conceptualization, in which the value judgement is implicit. In my campaign setting, Necromancy is outlawed and prosecuted the same way witchcraft was by the inquisition, but, the undead would exist even if tere were no Necromancers. By the same token, both, Necromancers and Surgeons use scalpels, and both, Surgeons and Ncromancers, can heal the wounded, however, Necromancers also perform vivisections on humans and other sentient beings as part of their experiments, and the potion that they give you to drink, may not heal you, but be a poison, so that they have fodder for re-animation. Which is why Necromamncers are so greatly hated and feared. Makes for a more complex and hence, more interesting gameworld. Part of a sandbox where the meaning and storytelling is done via setting itself. No need to railroad players into anything, since a party that includes good characters will inevitebly be drawn into conflict with the Necromancers and their allies by virture of players own sensibilities and desire to act. Undeath in itself is a separate phenomenon, result of the physical nature of the game universe, apart from the good or evil of the humanity.

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  18. But James, you say you are playing Labyrinth Lord, it has Know Alignment as a 2nd level cleric spell, have you house ruled it out?

    I usually say I'm playing LL, because that's the rulebook my players own and it's (generally) the closest to the LBBs of all the clones, especially when you use the Original Edition Characters supplement. However, I have made quite a few changes to bring it even closer in line with OD&D, the spells available being one of the main ones.

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  19. In the real world

    But my campaign setting most emphatically isn't the real world nor do I wish it to be. It's a fantasy one that operates according to its own rules. Whether those rules hold true in any other world is utterly immaterial.

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  20. "In the real world..."

    I know in my real world campaigns, Necromancers were in short supply...the Accountant class was more useful.

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  21. "...the Prime Requisite is Ambition or the desire for power (Charisma)..."--yellowdingo

    That got me thinking...

    In D&D3E+, there's a Class that's Prime Requisite is Charisma -- the Sorceror. In Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa, there's a Class that tries to derive power from Chaotic entities through evil rituals -- the Sorceror. Why not take the Sorceror from Carcosa, make its Prime Requisite Charisma, and use it as a Cultist?

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  22. I don't know if the rules in B/X and Holmes were different, but in Mentzer D&D there is already the notion of a "cultist" in the rules, in that Chaotic clerics cast mostly reversible spells, Lawful clerics the direct versions, and both can only deviate rarely and for good reason from this rule lest they lose their powers.
    This said, I like the rule for controlling undead, though I have used the Avenger abilities from the Mentzer Companion set.

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  23. In fact, in my Hyborian Age campaign, clerics are always and ONLY Chaotic; they represent those sorcerers which acquire spells by demonic pacts. Magic-users are instead sorcerers who acquire spells by study. The notion of priest is separated from class, so a magic-user could be a priest, or a cleric could be a priest. The former, when Lawful, are priests of "good" deities which use sorcery to fight demons, like Ibis or Mistra. The latter (and more numerous) are priests of demon gods like Set or Anuman.

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  24. The Other Charisma dependant class is the Charlatan who would be ideal in a Cult.

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