More the Empire book than the Actual Empire Book
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
More the Empire book than the Actual Empire Book
This is one of the biggest books in the game-line, only a slight bit shorter than the Tome of Corruption (which I believe holds the record for size). It covers everything you'd ever want to know about the orthodox religions of the Empire and its neighbors, with tons of rules options for priests, clerical workers, and templars. Want to play an owl-knight of Verena? You'll find multiple orders with their own talent and skill adjustments to the Knight class just like the adjustments Priests get based on whatever God they worship. Want to bring in marks of the Gods to show how faith and divine magic shape a priest? The system for those is actually much more consistently designed than the similar Arcane Mark system back in Realms of Sorcery. This book is a 2007 publication, late in the line's life, and it shows. More of the material is friendlier to the players and the writing is generally more coherent and organized.
As you've probably come to expect in these Warhams books, there's a huge amount of fluff on the theology, history, and organization of the cults within the Empire. There's even a surprising amount dedicated to the pre-history of the Empire, talking about what little is known in-setting and how it's known, and setting up the possibility of Temples paying your adventurers to scamper off into the Beastman haunted forests to find old holy sites and try to reconstruct the pre-Sigmarite religions of the ancient Reik Basin. Do you want to play as 17th century german Indiana Jones? According to this book, the Empire is just beginning to understand the scholastic value of ancient sites and artifacts in something approaching an archeological sense. The fluff is a little less dense than the 100+ pages of solid history of magic that we got in Realms of Sorcery, but the initial history portion is also written entirely in-universe, as a treatise being written by a Sigmarite priest to the Emperor. The idea is meant to be that the Tome of Corruption was written in-character by a friend of his, and thus the priest in question is trying to recover his own reputation and show he is still orthodox despite being associated with a now-deceased heretic.
The framing device is useful primarily because this section isn't as long as the Realms of Sorcery history; if it had been things would have worn much thinner. As it is, having some idea of what a learned scholar in-setting would know, and how he would know it, is surprisingly useful information. We also get plenty of asides from primary sources and pre-historic relics that could be translated; I will be including some of these because some of the terminology and ideas in them are particularly interesting. Like terming the Chaos Gods 'rebels' who had to be sealed behind the Great Gate, or the way early peoples appear to have contextualized Taal as the King of the Gods. There's even mention that Sotek, the God of the Skinks, was (according to some ancient Reiklanders) a friend and member of Taal's court, which would mean ancient humans in the Reik Basin knew who Sotek was. There are an awful lot of little hints and references to the Old Ones in many of these books.
Much of the knowledge of the Pre-Imperial period comes from the dwarfs, who were busy trying not to die during the period (for context that isn't in the books, this time period is about when the dwarfs had recently defeated the elven colonies in the Grudge War and then had a fat frog half a world away blow up much of their empire because he decided continental drift was bullshit) and who had not had very much contact with the humans prior. The humans mostly came from the east, apparently fleeing some kind of calamity from across the World's Edge mountains. The first record of humans entering the the Reik Basin comes from the chronicle of a High King roughly 1500 years prior to the Empire. The Imperial scholar writing the account was given access to this source because of the long-standing friendship between the Cult of Sigmar and the dwarfs, which has been invaluable for scholarship into the Pre-Imperial period. The early humans were apparently primarily hunter-gatherers and scavengers, who fled in fear from a dwarven war party that was hunting greenskins. Their tools were so primitive their existence offended the dwarfs (as did their cowardice in fleeing when the dwarfs had no hostile intention), and so they were labeled as 'Umgi', after the dwarf word 'Umgak', meaning poorly made. To this day, the dwarf word for humans means 'people who make things badly or hastily'. Dwarfs being dwarfs, they recorded everything from the camp out of pique because they felt they'd been insulted, and so modern scholars have a record of the early fertility idols of pre-historic humans. The author mentions these early carvings were 'suggestive' and not suitable for a modern audience, so I'd imagine they found fairly normal fertility carvings of the female form, apparently dedicated to a primitive form of Rhya. Similar findings appear in multiple dwarven accounts, and it seems the humans were extremely skittish and easily frightened at the time. Whatever they'd been running from had scarred entire peoples very badly.
Much information also comes from 'antiquarians', something of a new profession dedicated to cataloguing ancient sites. It has become a pious fashion among the Empire's elite to sponsor groups of scholars and freebooters to make their way into the dangerous forests and ancient places, there to record everything they find and recover artifacts for public display in museums. These are, of course, sometimes mere tomb robbers looking for a quick profit, but even those unveil genuine discoveries from time to time. After all, much of the treasure you find in an ancient tomb is more easily sold to a temple; if you find a collection of thirteen ancient stone tablets with funny writing on them, as a group of tomb robbers did in Talabecland, who else is going to pay for them? These 'Talastein Carvings' represent one of the best depictions of pre-proto-Imperial faith (as in, this was the faith of the natives of the Reik Basin before the descendants of the modern Empire moved into the area) known in the modern Empire. Humans originally centered their holy places around the ancient Waystone network and those standing Ogham stones we've talked about in past books; likely those with a slight gift of magic could sense that these were powerful and safe places. Humans also apparently worshiped various nature spirits and followed a druidic faith based around natural cycles and the worship of a great Mother. Some of the carvings hint that there was occasional human sacrifice and model approximations of demons, but it's unclear if that was a legitimate part of the Old Faith or a proscription against it.
Modern Gods were unknown to the original natives; while they had the Mother, they did not have a concept of personified Gods in the same way as modern Old World religion. That came with the immigrants from the east, the tribes that would eventually become the pre-Imperial tribes, as well as the ancestors of the Bretonni. Apparently, at first, all of these tribes and peoples were in a great confederation, solely focused on getting away from whatever had driven them west, but they split and settled once they passed the World's Edge Mountains. Norse Dwarf records also show the Ungols and Ropsmenn of pre-Kislev making their own migration into the northern lands at this time. I have no idea what scared all these people so badly and pushed them into the western parts of the Old World. There isn't a mention of great hordes of Chaos, like there is with the later migration of the Gospodars in Kislev. Nagash is far south of the regions where any of this was happening. It's left to the reader; a pre-historic game about fleeing into the Reik Basin would be cool some day. The author also mentions there are plenty of disputes and contradictions in the exact timing of these great migrations, because there were no human written records back then and scholars have to rely entirely on artifacts and dwarven chronicles; elves won't let them see any of their own history books about the time (probably because they'd just gotten their asses handed to them and are still sore about it in the modern day).
Interestingly, modern Rhya appears to have been the patron goddess of the Bretonni, while the Ropsmenn brought Tor and the Ungols Dazh. Teutogens were the first worshipers of Ulric, and killed many of the pre-Imperial natives in his name. The original Gods seem to have been mostly tribal patrons, binding together various clans of tribal groups around a powerful deity they felt represented them. There were also plenty of Gods from this time that did not survive into the modern day, like Soll (sun god), Ahalt (harvest) and Lupus (wolves). In particular, it seems that Ulric's aspect as a wolf may have come out of victorious Teutogens synchronizing their patron God with the patron God of a defeated tribe that followed Lupus, claiming the wolf power for Ulric as a victorious king. Of the many Gods of this time, the great powers of tribal life elevated Morr, Taal, Rhya, Ulric, and Manaan, all of whom have survived into the modern day partly by virtue of being the patrons of especially powerful tribes. These Gods also represented what were considered the most important parts of tribal life: Nature, Death, War, and Life.
With no system of writing, modern scholars have to rely on pictograms and outside observers' records to determine how these 'Elder Gods' were worshiped. There were no organized cults, and a tribe's king would generally be its chief emissary to its Gods. A tribe's patron would usually be depicted as the king of the Gods, according to that tribe, but they acknowledged that there were many Gods to worship. Ceremonies were highly sacrificial and centered around the cycles of nature, much like the peoples these migrants displaced. Oh, also, when the ancestors of the modern Old World came into the region, they defeated the previous humans and their druidic representatives in warfare, enslaving or displacing them deep into the woods where the migrants could not follow. Thus, the history of the original inhabitants of the Old World ended due to the migration of the followers of these Elder Gods. I doubt it was much comfort to them that the hordes that came from the East didn't worship Chaos.
Organized religion and the idea of a specialized priest died with the original druidic faith, and would not be reborn until contact with the people of the sunny south of the Old World, the proto-Tileans. They will change everything when they bring a new innovation to the proto-Imperials: Writing.
Next Time: When in doubt, claim the idea originated in Tilea. Not only is it likely to be true, it angers the Imperial you're debating to no end.
It's all Tilean to me
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
It's all Tilean to me
I admit the author's 'book within a book' presentation gets a little annoying during the part on Tilea. The setting is never quite sure how disdainful the Empire is towards the other human nations, though it's always clear they consider themselves the main 'superpower' of the Old World and the elder state compared to other, smaller nations. Thus, the author belabors the point that the Tileans' claim to have derived the first known scripts from translating and studying elven writing in the ruins of the elven colonies more than he really needs to to get the point across: The Empire is really goddamn nettled that ancient proto-Tileans (Tilea and Estalia being not-Italy and not-Spain, respectively) invented the first human system of writing and thus have the oldest written records of any of the Old World civilizations. Thus, at every couple lines we get another aside about how you can't trust Tilean sources and they're probably making everything up, and it makes it unnecessarily harder to read the actual information contained in this section. I'd have gone a little lighter on the feigned indignation in the name of reading comprehension.
Anyway, the Tileans invented writing, supposedly from a mixture of studying the ruined elven colonies they settled in (much as the Bretonnians would do with places like L'Anguille about 700 years prior to Sigmar) and from divine revelation. Proto-Tilean religion, called herein Classical religion (The language, Classical, is the ancient first written language and serves a role much like Latin as the general 'scholastic' language of the setting), was much more focused on the divine as embodied virtues and concepts. They worshiped Wisdom as Verena and Mercy as Shallya, and Shallya and Verena primarily come from proto-Tilean influence. They also, curiously enough, worshiped a form of Khaine, the elven God of Murder, as well as a 'Guardian of Honor' known as Margileo, who is treated as a male form of Myrmidia and is one and the same with her in later interpretations. Ranald is also possibly a Classical God, but Ranaldans claim he was instead originally a mortal who managed to marry Shallya and then claim divinity in the divorce settlement after she couldn't stand him. It is very important to them for him to have tricked his way into divinity, and so they vociferously deny that he was ever a part of the Classical pantheon.
Interestingly, Morr does not actually come from the southern realms (though the name Morr is actually the southern name for him), despite being a very important God for the Classical religion. Rather, Morrite worship comes from their trading and contact with the northern tribes, which led to a great deal of cultural exchange between the 'Elder' and 'Classical' pantheons. Proto-Tileans adopted Morr as the husband of Verena and father of Shallya and Myrmidia, and brought back stories of Manaan as the lord of the sea and Taal and Rhya as divine parents. Interestingly, the Tilean equivalents of these Gods prior to the northern influence did have actual elven names, like Ishea for the mother-goddess. Isha is the elven Goddess of mercy. I think this actually subtly lends some evidence for the Tilean claim to have translated and derived their language from Eltharin, the language of the elfs. Also notable, Ulrican worship never translated to the south (though some very brave scholars will claim Ulric is a northern Khaine). The single most important import for the northerners, besides writing, myths, and the import of Verena and Shallya, was the idea of the priest. Classical priests bore a strong resemblance to modern priests; a religious specialist in the rites and rituals of a single God who can serve as emissary between the community and their God. The idea being there are too many Gods for one individual to handle all the complex rites needed to keep them all happy and blessing the community. Previously, with a more 'tribal patron' arrangement, the northern peoples had associated priesthood and kingship, as we've discussed. With the import of more Gods, more ideas about priesthood, the necessity of learning to read and write, and more of an obligation to keep multiple Gods happy, the proto-Tilean influence would decouple Kingship and Priesthood and create a professional class of religious specialists that persists to the modern Empire. This shift and split in temporal and spiritual leadership became almost complete around 300 years prior to the Age of Sigmar (The actual one, as in, with the actual Sigmar).
Shallya became one of the most popular Goddesses between both cultures, worshiped widely in the walled towns that served as major trading posts at the meeting point of the great rivers. Yes, Nuln and Altdorf (Reiksdorf, in the day, the Town of the Reik) were already very important international trade hubs even in the ancient era. Nuln was even one of the only Reik Basin strongholds to be built on the site of an elven ruin; southern lands and western lands had far more elven colonies and thus far more places for humans to poke at and build around. Shallyan worship actually preceded Verenan faith. Verena actually seems to have come to the north because she was the mother of the very popular Goddess of mercy and childbirth, after which point her people introduced writing and began to record history and records of the myths of the Elder gods. The recording of actual holy books also began to give rise to the idea of cultic orthodoxy. Worshipers and priests of the various Gods began to think of their ties to others who worshiped the same God as equally important to their ties their tribes and kings. Some degree of standardization of worship was finally possible.
Into this, Ulricans became the immense jackasses we know today. I would say the Teutogens actually practiced a henotheistic rather than polytheistic faith from the description of their conquests; meaning that they clearly acknowledged other Gods were real but also clearly only really worshiped Ulric. In Ulric's name, they butchered other peoples who would not convert and destroyed any faith that claimed to put any other God before Ulric, especially anyone who had anything to do with wolves, winter, or war. This is why Ulric is the sole dedicated war god of the Empire (Sigmar and Myrmidia have martial followings, but War isn't their primary domain) in the modern era: His followers killed anyone else. Curiously, the Talueten tribe did similar for Taal, eagerly trying to eliminate any other King of Nature and trying to claim Taal was actually King of the Gods. Meanwhile, Taal's wife, Rhya, never tried to enforce any sort of orthodoxy and simply said that the dozens of mother goddesses were different guises of Rhya.
Interestingly, many of the defeated Gods of lesser tribes that did not survive into the modern era were not destroyed, they were absorbed. See the Cult of Lupus; before Ulric's encounter with Lupos, Ulric was not worshiped as a God of Wolves. He took the portfolio when his followers destroyed and enslaved the people who worshiped the wolf-god. The discovery of this fact has led to a modest revival of Lupos worship in parts of Middenland, claiming that in the modern world Ulric 'stole' wolves from another more legitimate God of Wolves, and this could get messy given how Ulricans (and Middenlanders) respond to any kind of challenge. Some say this is the old Gods taking measures to be known again, even after they were subsumed into the larger and more successful patron-cults of the major tribal powers.
Of course, everything was going to get weird once the Empire stopped being the Proto-Empire and became the actual Empire, and so next time, we go into the Actual Age of Actual Sigmar.
Next Time: The Actual Age of Actual Sigmar
Sigmar! What is best in life? To build a ton of roads and write laws and keep records of taxation after you kill a shitload of orcs.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
Sigmar! What is best in life? To build a ton of roads and write laws and keep records of taxation after you kill a shitload of orcs.
We know the basics of Sigmar's life and the author is obviously favorably deposed towards him, this part of the text being written in the voice of a Sigmarite priest. What I find more interesting is what the text chooses to emphasize about him and about the attitude towards his eventual divinity. Sigmar is portrayed as a hero of masterful ability at both war and diplomacy, having convinced more tribes than he had to conquer in joining him. He is also lauded for saving the dwarfs as well as the humans, and moreover for establishing the friendship with the dwarfs that allowed the early human tribes to thrive. His original ascension to a sort of high-kingship is explicitly depicted as being patterned on the fashion of a dwarven High King; this is where the humans got the idea that you could have a tribal King but then also a King of a large confederation of tribes, who rules on a level above individual Kings and Queens.
Sigmar bargained with the dwarfs, as did his people, and the text also emphasizes that dwarfs began to come and live among humans. They were happy to build roads and stone buildings for their allies as long as they were respected and fairly paid, and humans were glad to assist them against beastmen and greenskins. Dwarven runes and captured proto-Tilean writing from the site of what would become modern Nuln (itself already a major international hub among the tribes) allowed Sigmar's court to declare a formal written language for the spoken tongue of his Unberogen tribe. This would become the ancestor of modern Reikspiel and allow the tribes to keep records. Sigmar also saw the creation of a formal calendar and the defeat of a risen Nagash in 15 Imperial Calendar (dated from his ascension to the throne).
The author is wrong when he claims Sigmar defeated the Bretoni and drove them into modern Bretonnia. I have other sources that show pretty clearly the Brets went there straight from the original migratory coalition and had been domesticating horses and modeling themselves on depictions of High Elf cavalry since like -700 IC, but the author is in the voice of a nationalist who is attributing everything to a single Great Man (who is also his God) so a few inaccuracies in this fictional history are to be expected. What's interesting is that the author attributes the defeat of the Norsii and their being driven into modern Norsca to their 'long worship of the Dark Gods'. This is, again, incorrect; other sources in the line are pretty clear the Norsii simply refused to recognize Sigmar's authority, and that they had killed his father Bjorn in war. The Dark Gods came later, after they were driven north. I'd suggest this is an attempt to erase a major historical mistake by Sigmar or more religious propaganda about why any sane Imperial should hate the Norse. This text also agrees with the Kislevite book that Sigmar made common cause with the Ungols of proto-Kislev and signed pacts of mutual aid with them.
What's interesting is that no-one ever seems to suggest Sigmar made a huge mistake by remaining unmarried and leaving behind no heir and no plan for succession. It comes up in multiple books, and it's always reported as quickly as possible, with as little detail as possible, that Sigmar just decided to leave after 50 years on the throne and left it up to others to decide what should happen with everything he'd overseen. It always feels like modern Imperials are afraid to dwell on why he did this. Also interesting to remember that of the 3 major human nations with actual sourcebooks, only the Kislevite Gospodar Khan-Queen Mishka actually bothered leaving a settled successor when she decided to ride north to face the darkness by herself. Sigmar just walked off the job, Giles was shot in the back (probably by the Wood Elves), and only Mishka actually dealt with who should keep going after her. Sigmar's power vacuum almost became the first of many civil wars over Imperial succession, until the high Priestess of the mother god Rhya suggested that the Counts vote for a leader they could agree on to be a first of equals. This created the Electoral Vote and the relatively weak central office of the Emperor; Sigmar had far more authority than the vast majority of Emperors who came after him.
What's curious is the myths of what Sigmar did when he left almost all say he was going to return Ghal Maraz, the titular Warhammer and symbol of Imperial office. Yet somehow it ended up back in human hands and is still the traditional symbol of office to this day. Many of the myths suggest he went east, past the World's Edge mountains; perhaps retracing the steps of the original human refugees? Within twenty years of his disappearance, a wandering holy man named Johann Helstrum claimed that he had seen a vision of Ulric presenting a crown to Sigmar before the other divinities of the humans, marking him as one of them. In the original vision, Sigmar kneels before Ulric to receive his divine status, as he was a follower of Ulric (Ulric being chief God of the Unberogen tribe) in life. Ulricans did not care for this, nor did some of the other cults, but the people loved the idea. When Helstrum went on to proclaim that Sigmar's laws were holy and had to be obeyed as the laws of a God, and that the nobility and especially the Emperor represented his will on earth...well, the early Imperial nobility suddenly found themselves very happy with the new Sigmarite faith and its proclamation that they had a divine right to their wealth and authority. Sigmarite religion becoming the de-facto main state religion of the Empire would cause and prevent a great deal of strife, as the rest of Imperial history is going to be marred by occasional stabs at Sigmarite monotheism or very angry Ulrican rejections of Sigmarite divinity.
Next Time: The Cults take their modern shapes.
Ludwig the Fat is surprisingly important, due to his love of butter and awareness he could create Electoral votes
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
Ludwig the Fat is surprisingly important, due to his love of butter and awareness he could create Electoral votes
So, the first millennium of the Empire saw most of the cults assuming something closer to their modern form, held in uncomfortable equilibrium with the powerful and Empire-wide Cult of Sigmar. Sigmarites can be prone to declaring their God the King of the Gods or even declaring him the only true God on occasion, the former of which makes the other cults nervous because the Sigmarites hold so much temporal power (due to their association with Imperial law) while the latter is a grievous threat and heresy in a polytheistic world. During the first millenium, the Holy Family (Morr, Verena, and their daughters Shallya and Myrmidia) of the Classical pantheon gained in popularity alongside the 'Elder' Gods of Ulric, Taal, Rhya, Manaan from the north, and the obviously powerful new cult of Sigmar. Ranald also appeared, though no-one is quite sure when people first started to worship the trickster. His own followers claim that he was a mortal who charmed Shallya and wed her, then accepted immortality to escape her angry father as a condition of divorce. Others say he was always quietly part of the Classical pantheon.
In 900 IC, the Empire was at its territorial height. Despite being the most powerful human nation in the world in 2522 (the 'common' starting year for WHFRP2e) it has actually lost significant territory by that time; in 900, it controlled all of modern day Parravon in Bretonnia and a fair bit of southern Kislev, plus it owned Marienburg and the Wasteland in the west. It would then collapse from there, starting with Emperor Ludwig the Fat in 990. You might remember him from some off-hand comments as the man who gave his halfling chef an electoral vote and created the Mootland as an Imperial province because goddamn did that chef know how to use butter. Well, he also started another practice that led to the eventual Time of Three Emperors and massive amounts of religious strife, again due to butter. The Grand Theoganist of the Cult of Sigmar noticed the Emperor would favor anyone who fed his appetites, and so hosted many, many lavish banquets and 'prayer dinners' with the Emperor. So many that the Theoganist himself actually collapsed and died of heart failure from attending them, himself. However, the damage was done: before his heart exploded, he was able to convince Emperor Ludwig that the Theoganist should have an Electoral vote, as the voice of Sigmar. This is two whole Electors created out of lust for butter; Ludwig is weird in that he had a lot of political ability (to be able to force through these changes) but was easily influenced by food. Naturally, our author only mentions these things in passing, as 'scandalous accusations' because as a Sigmarite priest, he's quite in favor of the enormous temporal power of his cult.
Meanwhile, in the South, they had their own demi-Goddess. The heroic warrior-queen Myrmidia was born in Estalia (or Tilea. They fight over it to this day.) and rose to unite the lands and do the heroic ancestor thing, only to be assassinated on the verge of taking a unified southern throne. The destabilization and civil war over the assassination would split the Estalians and Tileans into smaller sub-states to this very day. They claimed that unlike Sigmar, Myrmidia had always been a Goddess, and that she had come down to aid the righteous of the southern lands in defending themselves from the orcs and beastmen and to personally teach them the ways of strategy and honor. Not wanting to be one-upped by Tileans (or Estalians), this led to an Imperial heresy where followers claimed Sigmar, too, had always been a God and was the son of Ulric. It remains a popular heretical folk-myth to this day, especially in the northern lands of the Empire.
The Empire began to collapse and crumble around 1000 IC. There's an interesting undercurrent to the author's analysis of why the Time of Three Emperors happened; he insists that much of it came from the increasingly unjust laws and self-serving actions of the nobility and high priesthoods of the cults. The Empire was ascendant, after all. They ruled over the largest land empire in the Old World, their rule had been expanding and prospering for roughly a millennium since Sigmar. A growing attitude of 'we are invincible' seems to have convinced many of the powerful people of the Empire that nothing they could do could actually harm the Empire's power. Of course, this is all from a Sigmarite perspective, which teaches that a united Empire is one of the primary commandments of their God. One of the sources of the Empire's original problems was external; Giles d'Breton turned the Bretoni tribes into a powerful military kingdom and this happened at a time when the Empire didn't have overwhelming technological or numerical superiority to them, leading to the loss of modern Parravon and any Bretonnian Imperial possessions. And, of course, this was the time of the Drakwald Emperors and the terrible plagues of 1111.
Emperor Boris 'Goldgather' Hohenbach is the popular bogeyman who caused much of the Empire's woes, according to our author. A nakedly corrupt leader who was kept in power because he was extremely useful (since he could always be bought) for decades, he happily sold whatever anyone would buy. The cults of the Empire supported him as well, because it was as easy to buy temporal powers and political offices for cult officials as it was for nobles and wealthy merchants; the cults of the Empire aren't poor and Boris was happy to get hold of their collection boxes, same as any other source of money. The priesthood of Sigmar went into the crisis of 1111 with its moral authority badly damaged by the way it happily bought off and supported and nakedly corrupt Emperor. The crisis of 1111 also almost wiped out the Empire, killed Boris, and ended the province of Drakwald entirely. The Empire was no longer holding together, and by 1360, when the Time of Three Emperors actually began, it was more an admission that that was how things had been going for about 200 years rather than a sudden sundering of the Empire. It had been operating as multiple separate smaller states ever since the 'every man for himself' days of the black plague.
The reason all this matters for the book on religion is that the eventual formal split was supported by the cult of Taal and Ulric. When a Stirlander was appointed Emperor in 1360 and made it clear he intended to use the Empire to settle his own disputes with Talabecland, Grand Duchess Ottilia decided she'd had enough. The Empire was on fire, everything sucked, and she gained the support of the Cult of Taal and declared herself and her people independent of Sigmar's Empire. With the increase of electoral votes for the Arch-Lectors of the Cult of Sigmar, as well, the Ulricans picked the same moment to say they'd had enough; Sigmarites essentially controlled the Imperial election, and the last couple centuries of Emperors had been disasters anyway. The Imperial office lost its legitimacy, and Ottilia and others claimed that due to the many political sins and corruptions of the current Sigmarite cult, it was clear that Sigmar had never been a God and that Hellstrum had been some kind of clever heretic covering for political corruption. Remember this would have been pretty believable in 1360. Ottilia banned the cult of Sigmar in Talabecland, the Ar-Ulric supported her and agreed, and then hundreds of years of on and off civil war started, interrupted only to get a pope to throw a vampire lord off a balcony and then get back to it. The modern Empire would eventually reform under Magnus the Pious in 2304, but until then I'd say you couldn't say there was an Empire of Sigmar, just a bunch of warring successor states.
We also get some mention of the Crusades of Warhams, which have always been a bit of an awkward 'why is this here' element of the setting. The author herein uses them to point out how the Empire had 'fallen' by not officially sending crusaders to throw back the people of Araby when they conquered part of Estalia in the 1400s, and how shameful it was that the Bretonnians did most of the work, but it's a place where transplanting some random 'historical' event into Warhams really doesn't work. There's no reason for the Empire to have given much of a shit what happens to Estalia and no real reason is ever given for why it was shameful or important or whatever that the Empire should be involved in fighting the Arabs (from their home of Araby, of course). The event really only exists to say why there are all sorts of knightly orders in the Empire, as most of them were founded to send nobles off to fight in Araby and Estalia for...some reason. Again, there's nothing like the historical conditions that would create something as messy as the real-world Crusades in Hams. There's no real reason for this part of the story to exist except that 'well I guess the Crusades would have to happen at some point, wouldn't they, can't have French knights and shit without that'.
1547 sees the Time of Three Emperors officially begin, with the cult of Ulric having a falling out with Ottilia's descendants and deciding they'll create their own additional Empire, with wolves and axes. This would continue a long, long time, and go badly for everyone. What's important is that each Empire was supported by a different religious cult (and that each had access to tremendously important strategic locations; Talabheim is basically unsiegeable and the strongest defensive position in the Old World, Middenheim is a close second, and the Reikland is the Empire's breadbasket). The Ottilians by King Taal, the Middenheimers by Ulric, and the Reiklanders of the southern Empire by Sigmar. Meanwhile, as we saw in Realm of the Ice Queen, the Gospodar conquered the Ungols and kicked the Empire's remnants out of modern Kislev, the Imperial Province of Solland was wiped out by orcs, the Norse had a 'happy time' of excellent raiding and exploration while the Empire couldn't defend against them, and Marienburg was sold its independence, losing the Empire its one excellent seaport. In 1999, a twin-tailed comet slammed into the capital of Ostermark, Mordheim, creating a spinoff skirmish wargame and also signaling to many that Sigmar's Empire was dead and he was pissed.
I don't need to repeat much about the Great War Against Chaos, we've been over it from multiple perspectives already. What matters for this book is that Magnus the Pious rebuilt the moral authority and legitimacy of the Sigmarite faith and the Imperial government. It is, after all, Magnus that began to rein in and professionalize the Witch Hunters, Magnus who reformed the cult away from some of its worst habits, and Magnus who made the office of Emperor as mediator of the Counts and provinces seem reasonable again. A very long reign of visible rebuilding mirrored Sigmar's own, and a common heresy is that Magnus was in fact Sigmar reborn to save his beloved Empire. Whatever the case, it's clear the ex-seminarian was definitely favored by his God. Of course, he also used his popularity to give the Sigmarites even more Electoral votes, and to only grant the Ulricans one (The Ar-Ulric has an Electoral Vote). Supposedly, he offered votes to Taal and Rhya and was refused, for reasons not explained. In doing he laid the groundwork for future fuckery and blatantly favored his own cult; everyone makes some mistakes. Magnus also tried to create a grand conclave on religious unity to remind everyone they're polytheists and that all the non-Chaos Gods should be honored, which included the Classical Pantheon, and even Ranald. He also created the state Witch Hunters, making the position no longer solely religious in order to keep lunatics from burning Taalite priests or whatever insanity Sigmarite monodominants were up to this week.
The Storm of Chaos is not much treated in this text, though given it's a text written to Emperor Karl Franz with the intent of getting in his good graces it goes into the glorious rule of Karl Franz, Obvious Successor to Magnus the Pious and Obviously The Best Emperor Since. The text is effusive in its praise of Emperor Franz's brilliance as a diplomat and leader through the war, praising him for saving the Empire from the greatest struggle since the Great War Against Chaos. There is only a very brief mention of the death of Valten, the supposed Sigmar reborn, as a 'heroic sacrifice' rather than 'he lost a duel to an idiot while the army won the war around him, then got stabbed in his bed by the Skaven'; the text (and thus the official story) claims that he died of his wounds fighting Archaon.
Thus, we arrive at present day, and the present form of the Empire. The cults are deeply entwined with the political structure at every point, because the rebuilding of the modern Empire happened on the back of the Sigmarite cult and Magnus' attempts to make peace between it and the rest of the pantheon after centuries of warfare over who was Emperor and who was King of the Gods. Sigmar is back on top in the Empire, but the other cults have more of a say than they did pre-Magnus, not just in their communities and parishes but in Imperial law. The people of the Empire are generally regarded as some of the most religious in the Old World, moreso than the Bretonnians and their distant Lady or the Kislevites and their chummier, less exalted relationship with their Gods. The only people who can claim to be as fired up about churches and temples are the Estalians (or Tileans). And so we begin 200+ pages of dense exploration of the religious life of the Empire and the Old World. This is going to take awhile.
Next Time: Cult and Conclave
The better kind of Cultist
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
The better kind of Cultist
We begin with a reiteration that nominally all of the people of the Empire believe in all of the Gods. They may favor the God their village has a shrine to, or who is closest to their work, but while the cults vie with one another for political power and influence, they all technically believe in one another's Gods. A priest in the Old World is a specialized professional who knows the rites and rituals necessary to invoke the favor of their distant deity and bring their blessings to the community; in theory they are not meant to be a partisan for their God against the others. The issue is that the Cult of Sigmar is extremely tied up in the government and civic religion of the Empire, and also tends to like lashing out and threatening other cults, as we saw in the long history leading up to this point. Really, the reading of the Time of Three Emperors in ToS would seem to make the Sigmarites more of the aggressors (with their attempt to get Emperor Boris to give them a permanent and pivotal role in picking Emperors), religiously, than the Ulricans or Taalites. Weirdly, throughout ToS, I think the Sigmarites come off more and more as a threat to the religious unity of the Empire than they do elsewhere.
To that end, Magnus the Pious declared that every 5 years, all of the cults' high priests should come together for a grand ecumenical conclave in Altdorf (Originally Nuln). The first part of chapter 1 is describing that Conclave, and it's about what you'd expect. A major religious festival that draws pilgrims from all over the Empire (indeed, all over the world, given that you can reach Altdorf by the River Reik from Marienburg, and that the Reik is large enough for very large riverboats. Altdorf is a 'global' hub city) to celebrate their faiths. Myrmidians, Manaanites, Taalites, Rhyans, Morrites, Shallyans, Ulricans, and Sigmarites all come together to ask the blessing of their Gods upon all of the Empire, to pray for the success of the world against Chaos, and to discuss their grievances and issues with the Emperor and civil authorities standing as moderator. Interestingly, Ranaldans are not invited, and a new God of Merchants from Marienburg, Handrich, is lobbying hard to be included. We'll get to Handrich later but he's basically the god of dickish proto-capitalism and loan-sharking. The Conclave then primarily deals with civil rather than theological matters; the Conclave itself is an acknowledgment that more of the religious strife between the cults stems from their temporal issues than divine matters. Taxation, new holidays, the organization of civic funds for religious festivals, grievances between Templar orders of the cults; these are the kinds of issues they work out in Conclave, to prevent them being settled by mob justice or civil war. So far, it's worked; there hasn't been a major religious civil war since the end of the Time of Three Emperors .
Our first actual cult is the Cult of Manaan. Every cult lists its primary orders, its current highest priest, its holy books, its most important festivals, etc. I'll only be discussing these if they turn out to be important in the wider writeup. Manaan is one of the few Gods you find in just about every culture in the setting; even Chaos raiders from the north still offer tribute to Manaan before they get on their longships to raid the south, because they know he can (and will) decide at random he's going to kill all of them on the way. You don't fuck with the God of the Sea. As befits a sea God, Manaan is extremely powerful, and very capricious. Very few people love Manaan, but no-one dares get on a ship without offering him a brief prayer or sacrifice. Sea and river trade are essential to the Old World's economy; this is still an era where overland trade and travel is vastly more expensive than using the Empire's riverways or sailing along the coasts, even if you aren't trading for exotic goods from Lustria, Araby, or Cathay. Thus, the priests of Manaan are vital to commerce, and spend their time going from ship to ship, leading lives aboard riverboats and ocean-going vessels, blessing their voyages in return for the tithes, devotion, and sacrifices their God demands. People grumble about this being a divine protection racket, but when it comes down to it it's much cheaper to pay homage to Manaan than to lose a shipload of goods and sailors. Few are brave enough to tempt disaster by not giving Manaan his due.
Manaan is generally characterized as capricious because the sea is extremely dangerous. The books mention, though, that his immense power means that when he decides to protect and aid his worshipers (especially as so many of those attacking them have to do it over sea routes) his intercessions are spectacular, obvious, and lethal. We had the example back in Realm of the Ice Queen wherein the ceremonial-never-intended-to-sail ship-temple of Manaan in Erengrad cut itself loose and by miracle, was able to sail into the harbor and spend the sack fighting off Norse longboats. ToS also gives examples of fantastic storms and sudden deadly seas that claimed large numbers of Chaos Warriors on their way over the Sea of Claws in the last incursion. The Manaan cult doesn't have any especial allies among the pantheon, as Manaan tends to stand alone, but neither do they have anyone willing to deem them an enemy, besides a heretical offshoot of their cult to an ancient and corrupt aspect of Manaan known as Stromfels. Stromfels is essentially a bloody god-being of maritime disaster, who instead of taking sacrifices from sailors and considering that he might spare them from the wrath of the sea simply, uh, takes the sailors. And their ship. And then they get eaten by sharks. Manaanites will gladly pay Adventurers to hunt down and destroy any cult of Stromfels.
Manaanite belief is very superstitious and variable, but all centers around the idea that a human who sets foot on a ship or who swims in the sea has entered the domain of Manaan and placed themselves in his hands. The cult has as many different little rituals and rites to avoid annoying Manaan as it has individual shrines, and many different priests will swear by different rules that will keep different ships from angering Manaan. They also love to tell tall tales and myths of Manaan's intercessions and daring adventures, because speaking of the God's great deeds is said to please him and keep the sea calm. Acolytes of Manaan normally start their lives as fishers and sailors, and feel a call to serve the God after observing his many rites in their everyday life. To actually be initiated a priest of Manaan requires surviving being lashed to a mast (or a post on a coastal settlement) during a storm, because the cult revolves so much around the anger of the God and a priest-in-training must experience it directly. Cultists of Manaan (defined as non-priests who are very devout members of the community, such that they often help in temple affairs) are generally maritime professionals whose lives have centered around the sea.
As befits a relatively capricious God, there is little structure to the cult besides the High Matriarch (the priesthood is gender neutral; there's no 'women on a boat are bad luck' superstition among Manaanites) at the High Temple in Marienburg. Individual shrines generally have their own rituals that work for them, so long as they send their tithe to the High Matriarch. There are other individually important temples and High Priests among the various mercantile coastal cities in the Old World; you'll find a shrine in L'Anguille, Bordeleaux, Erengard, etc. The Marienburg temple has become so enmeshed in the mercantile business of the city that there are whispers of schism; it's common for Manaanites to demand sacrifice for their God and the upkeep of their cult, but there are whispers that High Matriarch Camille is going too far in claiming she can guarantee the safety of voyages in return for gold and that the cult in Marienburg is more interested in buying shares in joint stock companies than placating Manaan. A great wealth disparity within the cult is fueling this discontent; the Marienburgers are spectacularly wealthy, and much of it gets spent on nice things for powerful priests in Marienburg rather than sent off to aid struggling fishing village shrines. There are also various minor cults that worship acknowledged aspects of Manaan, like Olovad, the God of Deltas and rivermeets (who have recently started to risk heresy by claiming Manaan is an aspect of Olovad rather than the other way around), or Manalt, the god of fishermen and ocean-going bounty. These minor aspects tend to be more overtly benevolent and approachable than Angry Sea God.
You might not expect it, but Manaan has several militant orders, partly devoted to killing worshipers of Stromfels. The Knights Mariner are a templar order devoted to defending honest sea-goers, fighting pirates, sea monsters, and raiders while also providing security for the Marienburg cult. In keeping with the Marienburg controversy they are prone to charging large 'tithes' for their assistance. The Sons of Manaan lack the money and warships of the Knights Mariner, partly because they don't charge the same huge tithes for their help. They are popular throughout the northern lands of the Empire and Kislev, where they attach themselves to ships and serve as marines, defending vessels from Norse raiders and pirates. Finally, we have the Stormguard, a priestly inquisition devoted to hunting down and killing Stromfels worshipers in order to defend the name of Manaan.
Next Time: Morr
The Reaper Man
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
The Reaper Man
Morr is not the God of Death. Morr is the God of the Dead. Given how many things want to devour, enslave, or exploit the souls of the dead in the Old World, this makes Morr's worship common in almost every corner of the setting. Legends about Morr say he arose alongside Ulric and Taal when they fought over who would be king of the Gods, and while they battled over the living he passively claimed the dead. They laughed at him until they realized every single soul would eventually end up in Morr's realm. Another legend claims that Morr first appeared the moment the first human died, and that he revealed himself a God when he stopped the forces of Chaos from devouring that first soul and promised to take all of the dead under his protection. The third legend of Morr has him as a God struck down by the God of Murder, Khaine, who then established his kingdom among the dead when he found himself dead, becoming their protector and guardian. All three could be true at the same time. Morr is not a popular God; no-one really wants to meet Morr. But everyone knows they will.
Morr is also the God of sleep and dreams. The people of the Old World hold that sleep is a brief taste of death, and that sleeping souls venture close to Morr's realm, where he watches over and protects them from Chaos and nightmares as a preview of what he will do when they sleep eternally. Since death is the inevitable future of all mortals, Morr is also held as the God of prophecy and future happenings; he certainly knows one thing that's waiting for you and he's not been wrong about that one yet (aside from maybe the case of Nagash). Morrite priests tend to be very steady people who know that everyone will need their help eventually. The cult has little central organization and leaves most matters to individual temples, which are supported by their communities and in turn sponsor and protect the graveyards (called Gardens of Morr) throughout the Old World. This is very important; Morrite blessings can ensure a corpse won't be affected by necromancy and protecting graveyards from defilement is a serious Imperial strategic concern, given bordering Sylvannia. Morrites take their duty very seriously, and more than one priest has perished trying to ensure proper burials and last rites for the sick and dying during epidemics or major battles. Some Morrites will also try to carry out the final wishes of the deceased if they can, and all will try to comfort the bereaved living left behind. That comfort often only takes the form of a firm reminder that the dead sleep with Morr, but being assured that your loved one is safe and at rest in the world beyond is a good thing in a world haunted by demons and necromancers.
Morrites generally aren't required to concern themselves with matters of the living, except when it comes to necromancers. Their concern with necromancers is less that they defile the physical bodies of the dead so much as that they make it difficult for the dead to rest with Morr, which in turn risks the souls being claimed by the Dark Gods when the undead are destroyed. Morrites believe all undead can be properly consecrated and sent to Morr, and that it is extremely important to do so, no matter what the undead says and no matter who the undead is. They believe that the proper rites will allow a vampire or necromancer to rest with their master in his realm, and that doing this is a great kindness. We know from Night's Dark Masters that they may be wrong about vampires, but it's not like killing vampires is a bad thing to do even if their souls are fated to never find rest. Morrites believe that if they do not send the dead, they will be devoured by the Dark Gods or seized by Khaine as trophies; some Morrite beliefs claim Khaine as Morr's jealous (and lesser) brother, a claim that probably annoys elves. They also believe dreams are messages from the realm of the dead, warnings sent to make sure the living don't perish before their time. They believe Morr often sends warnings to give people a chance to embrace their loved ones one more time and get their mortal affairs in order so that they may die with a cleaner conscience and find their way to his realm more easily, but these warnings rely on human intelligence to decode their prophetic meaning.
Devout lay-people of Morr tend to be grave-diggers and people who watch over the bodies of the dead. Morr has far fewer lay followers than most Gods; most of those who feel truly called to serve Morr do it in a priestly capacity, as the call to serve the dead is a little unusual as it is. Most Initiates come to the temple after vivid dreams of death and ask to be admitted until they understand their meaning and if they were truly called to serve. Initiates are then given boring, repetitive tasks that require their full concentration, to see if they have the focus necessary to become a priest of Morr; they are permitted to quit their period as an Initiate at any point without censure. These standards can slip during priest shortages, which are a perennial problem for the Morrites, where a new Initiate may be encouraged to stay even if they fail some of their initial duties.
Morrite priests go about their business in plain black robes with no indication of rank, and have a custom of training pet ravens as companions, since the raven is Morr's bird. Most wear their hair short and go about life clean-shaven, much like the Amethyst wizards and their tendency to go bald. The stereotype of a Morrite priest is of a dour, honorable individual who does little but tend to graves and conduct funerals. This stereotype persists because most people only meet Morrites at funeral services, where they are required by religious law to remain solemn and quiet. In truth, Morrite cults have many, many empty hours and members are encouraged to take on hobbies, especially hobbies that involve sewing or that might produce a lot of sawdust. Morrites tend to be introverted, yes, but most maintain a circle of close friends and they often have a much better sense of humor than people expect. There are many stories of priests of Morr quietly supporting the living relatives of the dead in their communities, serving as grief counselors for those left behind and helping families to help their dead loved ones rest better. I don't believe the text even says Morrites need be unmarried, given their God has a wife (Verena) and family (Shallya, and in some myths, Myrmidia are the daughters of Morr and Verena).
The Morrite priesthood has no official hierarchy, but holds a great synod in Luccini in Tilea every ten years. Each temple sends one representative, usually after they are called by dream to go. Sometimes, the temple's highest priest will just so happen to have a very clear dream that the most annoying or junior priest in their temple has been chosen to make the very long and inconvenient trip to Luccini, but this is Morr's providence, not some mortal grudge. In general, there are two Orders of Morrites: The Order of the Shroud and the Order of Augers. Shroud temples are more common and tend to the gardens and handle burials, while the Augers are more popular in Tilea and Estalia, and provide dedicated oracles, relief from nightmares, and interpretations of troubling dreams. Morrite theological debates usually take the form of dueling dream interpretations, and the retellings of dreams can get particularly vivid (cynics would say embellished) the more important the dispute might be. After all, the temple knows that Morr sends dreams to tell priests to do things. Temples with priests related to the nobility tend to receive dreams telling them to intervene in noble disputes more often, temples with priests related to merchant families are more likely to receive dreams telling them to offer wisdom and arbitration in mercantile disputes; officially this is held to be Morr sending messages to those best suited to handle various problems, unofficially it's assumed the priests make some degree of their dreams up or interpret them in ways that would make sense to them. If you're from a mercantile background and all your prior-to-the-temple experience is with mercantile matters, after all, aren't you more likely to interpret a dream about a balance of gold as being about commerce?
The main tension among the priesthood of Morr is how active they should be in seeking out and destroying necromancers, vampires, and other undead. Some splinter orders believe it should be the main purpose of the cult, such as the Order of Raven Knights or the Fellowship of the Shroud from Night's Dark Masters. These groups are something akin to (highly trained and experienced) religious vigilantes, who do not actually have permission from the main temples to perform offensive operations against Sylvannia or devote themselves full time to destroying the unquiet dead. Most orthodox Morrites believe it is more important to give the newly dead proper rites and guard their resting places, only hunting vampires and other undead monstrosities when their God calls them to via their dreams. Most Morrites are sedentary, working the temple that initiated them; wandering priests exist, and not all of them are adventurous vampire hunters. Plenty simply accompany armies or unearth old battlefields to bless the dead far from the temples. One notable priest, Swift Wilhelm, is said to be able to perform a full service in under a minute and to be remarkably fleet of foot, allowing him to then escape whatever killed the poor soul he's sending to Morr. Wanderers are much more likely to be PCs, and while they can be unorthodox and unusually attached to the world of the living, their God clearly doesn't object; they're just as likely to receive his blessing and his spells as any sedentary priest.
There are two notable lesser orders of Morr: The Doomsayers, who travel the world and terrify children, and the Black Guard, who are the sole Templar order of their God. Doomsayers spring from an Imperial tradition, the Dooming, whereby a young child is told what is likely to kill them at age 10 as an important part of their passage towards adulthood. If you're wondering if there's going to be a giant table of prophetic DOOOOOOMS you can roll for your human PC, you better believe there is! Up to and including the possibility that what the old priest saw was so horrible they had a heart attack and dropped dead on the spot, warnings about halfling pies, 'thy end shall be a sticky one', warnings that you might end up a vampire or undead, and all kinds of ominous and vague prophecy of doom. There's even mechanics for it, whereby a PC who is facing something that sounds even vaguely like their Doom and who is out of Fate can gain Fearless for a time as they realize and accept their likely incoming death. The Black Guard are silent, black-armored knights who guard high value graveyards and act as honor-guard at especially important funerals. When the cult needs to destroy undead, the Black Guard defend the priests and put down vampires with their customary crossbows and greatswords. Vampires won't admit it, but the Black Guard of Morr are one of the major reasons they try to stay incognito when traveling through Imperial lands.
Next Time: Myrmidia, the greatest daughter of Estalia (screw Tileans)
The Big Book of War
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
The Big Book of War
Myrmidia is the most popular goddess in the world, despite Imperial antipathy for the 'weak' southron goddess (They have no sense that they talk about Myrmidia the same way Norse talk about the rest of the sane pantheon). The story of the Bellona Myrmidia, the foundational text of Myrmidian religion, begins with her as a Goddess, the daughter of Verena and Morr, approaching the founder of Tilea (and also later the first Chimera, according to legend; Tylos is not a great guy) and offering to aid him in building a grand human civilization. At this time, she was a Goddess of building, honor, and beauty, without the martial aspects, but her mortal comrade was envious of the beautiful cities of the elves and demanded that his people should exceed them in all ways. He drove his people to ruin trying to build more 'beautiful' buildings, especially an enormous tower in Tilea that would humble the Gods, and she was so horrified she abandoned him until the day humans understood Honor again. Now, the book doesn't link these events, but if you recall from Skaven history, Skavenblight is in Tilea. And was founded when ancient humans (and dwarf friends) tried to build a truly massive tower that they couldn't complete with their tools. They begged a stranger for aid and he finished their tower on the condition he could place a great bell in tribute to his own God at the very top. I can't help but notice the similarity in these stories and the geographic location; they may be referring to the same events.
In the wake of the apocalyptic war between the elves and the dwarfs, the shattered people of the South were trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild their civilization in the ruins of the old elven colonies. Into this came a mortal manifestation of the Goddess Myrmidia, who had set aside her older pacifism and who stepped forth as a great general and war-leader for the southern tribes. She inspired great heroes and taught them the ways of strategy, that they could force their foes to surrender and make their people safe. Surrender is very, very important to Myrmidian war; they believe all war is a matter of figuring out what you're trying to get out of your enemy and then getting it. Destroying the enemy might be necessary, but all foes should be given a chance to give up. Respecting prisoners of war and their right of surrender is literal holy writ for Myrmidians. On the eve of uniting all southern lands and being crowned their Queen, Myrmidia was supposedly shot in the back with a poisoned dart and sailed west, to return to the heavens and ascend back to her role as the Goddess of War.
Myrmidia is beloved in Tilea and Estalia as the chief Goddess of their peoples and the most important Goddess of the Classical pantheon. The fact that she was divine, became human, experienced a human life, and then return to divinity with knowledge of the struggles of human-kind makes her a caring and passionate Goddess (to hear southerners tell it). They believe she is able to love humans in a way even Shallya cannot, as compatriots, and she is worshiped in both her aspect as the heroic warrior-queen and the goddess of honor, art, and just revenge. In the north, Myrmidia is regarded as an oddity. She's beginning to penetrate the southern Empire as something of an Officer's Goddess as military academies and professional officers' corps become more of a part of Imperial warfare, and her Imperial Templar Order is popular and highly effective, but most Imperials are dubious about the stories of her origin. Sigmarites, especially, do not believe she was originally a Goddess but rather hold that she must be an ascended mortal heroine, like Sigmar, because if she was originally a Goddess that would be holding her as theologically superior to Sigmar. Some of the more zealous even claim she cannot be a Goddess, because they believe only Ulric could crown a new God and that Sigmar's ascension is unique.
Myrmidia is not much known outside of the cities of the Empire, but every city has at least one Eagle Temple to minister to Tilean and Estalian expats and anyone else who wishes to attend. Myrmidian services are much less 'top-down' than Sigmarite Throngs (a cute little detail: Sigmarites call their masses Throngs, after the same term for a Dwarven army) and feature the priest asking and taking questions from the congregation. Eagle Temples also hold classes teaching anyone who wishes to attend what they can of reading, Classical language, strategy, and statecraft. Most Imperials avoid them, preferring their much less interactive services. The more effective missionaries within the Empire are the Knights of the Blazing Sun. These Myrmidian Knights are an Imperial order, not sent up from the south, who travel the Empire in small units and serve as roving militia officers, mercenary sergeants, and adventurers. More than one coaching inn has been saved from beastman attack by a Knight of the Blazing Sun stepping up among the patrons, clipping on their armor, and ordering a bunch of rag-tag adventurers and travelers into a unit that can fend off the attackers. In fact, every Knight is sent on a year long errantry to seek out such situations and spread the word of Myrmidia's efficacy as a Goddess of tactics and warfare. They were also keen enough to immediately recognize and swear to Magnus the Pious as soon as he finished his defense of Nuln, which is what got Myrmidia a place as a recognized Goddess among the Grand Conclaves of the Empire. The Knights have done more than any other group to promote Myrmidian worship in the Empire, and even soldiers who might grumble about their Goddess generally won't stand for slander against their Order. They even have their own specific second tier class, if you want to play a wandering Officer-Paladin in shining armor who goes around and organizes Seven Samurai style improbable defenses. The more conventional Myrmidian Order is the Order of the Righteous Spear, who maintain a series of chapter-houses among the lands of the Empire and do more standard and less-wide-ranging knightly duties to defend their assigned temples.
Honor, contemplation, and the Rites of War are central to the Myrmidian faith. It is not enough to do a thing; it must be done right. The Rites of War demand that prisoners be taken and that enemies be offered a chance to surrender, no matter who they are, and that casualties should be counted and if agreed upon, both sides should be able to retrieve and treat their wounded or be guaranteed that they will receive such treatment from their enemies. Obviously, Orcs and Chaos Worshipers generally won't agree to these rules and may need to be fought to destruction. But a Myrmidian is still expected to treat their opponent with respect; this is a practical concern as well as a matter of honor. Disrespecting your enemy clouds your judgment and makes you much more likely to underestimate them. Following orders from your superiors is the ideal, but a Myrmidian officer is expected to obey the dictates of honor and righteousness above the letter of their commands. If ordered to kill prisoners or otherwise dishonor yourself, a Myrmidian is expected to disobey unless there is a very good reason not to. Myrmidia is also unique among war-gods in preferring to avoid a fight if possible; Myrmidians aren't expected to revel in battle the same way as Ulricans. There's a somewhat odd bit about how this comes of her having been a woman and thus physically weaker and more reliant on skill as opposed to the giant man-mountain War-Gods of other cultures, but I think it's more easily explained by the fact that her entire thing is 'What if Clausewitz, Jesus, and Athena were all the same woman?'. The desire to avoid unnecessary killing makes Myrmidia more popular with veterans as opposed to younger soldiers. Those who have actually seen a war are a little less likely to go in with Ulric's ideas of how it ought to be relished, or Sigmar's blunt desire to endure like a dwarf.
Myrmidian Initiation is available to anyone. Initiates are formed into a small group, called a Flight, and train together exclusively. The Initiate who shows the most initiative and does the most to help the group excel in their lessons and duties is then named First Eagle and is considered for advancement into the Priesthood; no Initiate can be fully confirmed as a Priest without making it to First Eagle for a time. Initiates whose training goes on too long will be taken aside and asked to leave, as not having made the Goddess's cut. Once an Initiate is considered for Priesthood, they undertake a trial varying from temple to temple and place to place. This might take the form of a bullfight or boar-hunt (Myrmidia fought great mythic boars and bulls), a journey through a trap-filled training facility hidden under their temple, a term of military service, or travel to a distant holy site to prove they can handle themselves. After completing this trial, the Initiate is confirmed and becomes a Priest.
Myrmidia was known for turning herself into an eagle all the time, partly so she could see the battlefield from above and divine the best strategies and partly because eagles are cool. Thus, Myrmidians wear a lot of eagle imagery and often keep eagles in their temples. The spear and shield of antiquity are Myrmidia's holy weapons, and as she is a Goddess of War every priest and priestess is expected to know how to use both. Mirrored shields and dazzling armor are common among Myrmidian knights and priests.
Myrmidia's cult is very well organized, with many different orders and a large central authority reporting to the Order of the Eagle, a general organization of all of the Myrmidian temples that directs resources and tries to spread the faith. The Eagle of the North is the title of the overall high priest of Imperial Myrmidia worship, and is usually regarded as a dismal post among northern barbarians who prefer big axes and hammers over actually learning much about war. Within the Myrmidian orders, superiors are directed to listen to their lessers; a sergeant is closer to the battlefield than a general, and so his advice may be limited by his perspective but it must form a part of the general's picture of what needs to be done. Within the Empire, the superiors in the Order of the Eagle dictate advancement, but in the south very few priests are promoted beyond their priestly rank without the say-so of the Order of True Insight, an Order of oracles and strategists who are said to try to divine Myrmidia's overall strategy for humankind.
Myrmidians have many divisions in their cult, something Sigmarites point to as a weakness born of their desire to debate and talk about everything, but most of them aren't important to Imperial Myrmidian worship. The only one that is really felt in the Imperial north is the foundational argument over where mortal Myrmidia was born. Estalians believe she was the greatest daughter of Estalia, and Tileans believe she was born in Tilea and was the greatest daughter of Tilea. The Estalians also believe she conquered and civilized the Tileans, and the Tileans believe she conquered and civilized the Estalians. Both nations have endless forged and authentic holy texts that support their side or the other. The center of the cult thus shifts between her supposed birthplaces in the city of Magritta (Estalia) and Remas (Tilea). The current La Aguila Ultima is a Tilean woman, but has sworn to accept the Estalian version of events and moved her court to Magritta in hopes of settling the dispute once and for all. This causes problems for the Imperials, because the Imperial branch of the Order of the Eagle are technically sworn to obey a High Eagle of Tilea, and Imperial Myrmidian texts are primarily in Tilean. The Templars of the Righteous Spear, though, are sworn to accept Magritta and the Estalian texts. And so it goes on to eternity. If La Aguila Ultima (Or L'Ultima Aguila, as Tileans would say) is unable to reconcile these differences in her cult, it could tear the south in half in a terrible religious civil war, which would certainly spill into Bretonnia and the Empire.
We have already mentioned the Order of True Insight, but they come up as one of the most important lesser Orders of Myrmidian worship. They are Myrmidia's only oracles, and are used when the cult does not wish to rely on her father's (Morr's) augury. All Oracles of the Order of True Insight are women, many of them in their later years, invited to become members after a long career as Myrmidian priestesses. Some are much younger, though, chosen for their stunning vision and insight. In truly important matters, it is best to consult three priestesses, one young, one middle aged, and one elderly, to have all perspectives. Indeed, three such priestesses recently arrived in Nuln, indicating the Eagle of the North plans some great campaign and needed to consult them...
There is also the Order of Fury, an Order devoted not to Myrmidia herself but to one of her famous heroines and shieldmaidens. Fury was a peasant woman who renounced her very name and took the name of Fury to swear revenge against all worldly evil. Myrmidia tried to comfort her and talk her out of such a plan, but when her heart could not be swayed the Goddess used her against her enemies, adorning her in shining plate and setting her against evil, where Fury would kill until there were no more foes to kill, then fall to her knees and weep for what she had become. Fury eventually perished fighting the Orcs, making mountains of their dead before she fell, much to the grief of her Goddess. The Order styles themselves the same way, and most Fury Knights are women who have suffered terrible loss such that they seek to emulate their namesake. Strangely, in the Empire, most Fury Knights are men instead, and many are converted Ulricans. They are gaining popularity as a way to lever off Ulrican worshipers and present a more 'manly' version of Myrmidia to Imperial tastes, something that makes the Cult of Ulric very annoyed.
Myrmidia is a Goddess who is slowly growing in importance in the Empire, from throwing in with Magnus to the determined efforts of the Eagle of the North to grow the Imperial branch of the cult. She may be a foreign Goddess who isn't worshiped with the same sort of devotion as most of the Imperial pantheon, but there are plenty of signs that that's changing.
Next: Ranald, Secret Champion of Democracy and Doing Crimes All The Time
You have nothing to lose but your chains!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
You have nothing to lose but your chains!
Ranald is a trickster God, except he doesn't fulfill the normal destructive trickster role in society. Ranald breaks norms, true, but he leaves the destroying and selfishness to his idiot counterpart, Tzeentch. Ranald is much more focused, which is surprising for a God of Luck, Merchants, Gamblers, and Thieves. He doesn't behave like other Gods, and his cult doesn't behave like other cults; they lack the majesty, the pomp, and the gilded temples. Instead, Ranaldans meet under the crossed fingers in seedy bars and dark tenements, praying before hastily assembled idols of the cat and taking stock of what the community needs. Ranald's four aspects are the Gamester, the God of luck and play, the Night Prowler, the spirit that admires the courage and skill necessary to break into a heavily guarded mansion and take things, the Deceiver, the God of irony, storytelling, and lying, and the Protector, the God who anyone can turn to, no matter who they are and how 'low' they might be, and who will see the least among humankind raised up and those on high brought low to answer for their crimes.
As you might imagine, his aspect as the Protector is the most persecuted of all; the powerful do not like an aspect of a cult entirely devoted to abolishing hierarchy between all humans in the interest of establishing an autonomous and equitable communal society. Yes, Ranald is the God of classical anarchism, and the book itself calls his cult one of the leading edges of the move towards the abolishment of hereditary aristocracy and towards first a greater republicanism, and then possibly even something beyond that. If you examine all of his aspects and all of his tenants, Ranald's core is that there is no such thing as a worthless person. His priests run the range from artistic master thieves, to con-men who do what they do to expose how a wealthy scion wouldn't have lasted a day without inheriting the wealth they 'earned', to revolutionaries and neighborhood watches that look out for people who the authorities have failed. Interestingly, Ranald is also worshiped (and placated) by wealthy merchants and people who received great windfalls, because they know if they follow his stricture and give Ranald 'his' share it will keep his priests from targeting them and taking the rest of what they own. Ranald asks the fortunate to remember that they are fortunate and to give to those who are not, or else his followers will try to level things out. A mixture of religious tithing, charity, humility, and protection money. Ranaldans are especially brutally persecuted in Bretonnia, where they are associated with the Herrimaults and other people who 'don't know their place'.
Ranaldan beliefs hold to all of this leveling because they believe in luck. The world isn't inherently just; wealth isn't equated to ability or righteousness, but is often a result of birth or good fortune. Since fortune rises and falls for all people, the lucky should remember they were lucky and not be so proud as to assign it all to their own ability, or else Ranald may show them how quickly they can fall right back into the mud. Thus, since luck plays such a role in everything, everyone has an obligation to look out for one another and provide for those who have little fortune in the now. It's an interesting place to get a God of reversals from, the idea that the world is unjust and people have an obligation to make it more just by their actions.
Actually becoming a Priest of Ranald is actually very difficult. Many thieves and liars might pray to him or invoke him, but very few serve him. It takes a different sort of person to truly trust in the luck God, and the especially driven Initiate will be viewed with suspicion; the cult knows that the authorities try to infiltrate their numbers. Generally, cultists watch their flock for those who show the proper irreverence and drive in life, then approach them after observing them for some time. The priest won't immediately introduce themselves as a priest of Ranald, and many Initiates don't actually realize they're Initiates for their entire Initiation. Instead, the priest supports and assists the Initiate while quietly testing their luck, charm, and talent. Sooner or later, the priest reveals what all these 'little matters' they've needed help with add up to, and the Initiate is given the choice as to whether or not they wish to become a priest. If they agree, they're trained carefully for a final test to join the cult. Then they're tricked into taking on a totally different quest and observed for how quickly they adapt when they realize they've been fooled. If they succeed in their altered task, there's an enormous party and they're welcomed to the fold as a full brother or sister. This actually sounds like something that would make a great first story arc for someone who started as an Initiate.
Ranald's cult is larger than the authorities think. The priests might be rare, but lay worshipers are common throughout the entire Old World. The authorities see Ranaldans are criminal masterminds, and don't understand that they have friends all throughout the communities in which they operate. His sigil is a simple X, to represent his crossed fingers, or a statue of a cat (Ranaldans love cats), and all of his sigils are held to lose power if they are too openly displayed and too easy to suss out. There is no direct structure to the cult, because it is a cult of anarchists. The cult also isn't invited to the Grand Conclave, yet a high priest shows up to each and every one. Sometimes multiple do, totally uninvited, making speeches out of nowhere as if they just slipped in through a window as they explain away their various thefts and japes throughout the proceeding five years and show the others their cult is a legitimate part of the pantheon, much as others might wish they weren't. Sometimes groups of priests will form a 'crew', but this is as close as Ranaldans get to the Orders and Templars that you see in normal cults, generally in cells no larger than ten people.
There are, however, general sects among the lay-worshipers, often led by priests. The largest sect is the Brotherhood, a general club of people who deal with money for a living. They are based on an understanding of Ranald as a God of bounty and understanding, a God who shows the true value of things. They pray to him and tithe to him to keep the other sects away, and in so doing they keep hold of their own lowly origins and give generously to their communities. The average member of the Brotherhood is surprisingly honest, and has discovered that a measure of cooperation makes business go much better than constant lies and trickery.
The Givers of Coin are altruists and revolutionaries who try to level things for the least fortunate at the expense of the most. They explicitly dream of overthrowing the feudal orders of the Empire, Kislev, Bretonnia, and all lands and replacing them with egalitarian collectives based on mutual cooperation and support. They work towards the abolishment of the idea of hierarchy, knowing this is a dream for the far future and working towards whatever change they can bring for the now. This group suffers some of the worst persecution of all Ranaldan sects, given that they worship him almost exclusively as the Protector.
Surprisingly, the smallest group of lay worshipers and priests are the actual outright thieves and conmen, who do it entirely to show off that they can get away with it. The Crooked Fingers are what most of the respectable cults claim all Ranaldans are; thieves, criminal masterminds, and rogues who prefer to take from the rich and give to whoever they feel like, mostly themselves. As long as they display great skill and tremendous luck, Ranald is still with them, unless they grow too violent. Ranald is fine with threats, but actually having to kill someone during the commission of a robbery or crime is the mark of an amateur, and he frowns upon such clumsy emergency measures.
Next Time: Date the daughter, meet the father.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
Shallya is the most beloved and uncontroversial goddess in all of the Old World, worshiped in every country and important to almost every community. Shallyan Sisters (and brothers, there ARE Shallyan Brothers, we'll get to that) are often the only professional medical care an Old Worlder can afford, and they are known as some of the best midwives available. Most people began life with a Shallyan helping their mother bring them into the world, and many will end their life with a Shallyan providing hospice. Shallyans also organize donations to the poor and food insecure, tend to plague victims and try to prevent the spread of disease, fight the forces of Nurgle (the only time they are permitted to fight; they have a holy laser beam spell that absolutely ruins Nurglites) and stay as far away from systemic criticism and reform as they possibly can for fear that controversy will affect the flow of relief donations and the unquestioned access they enjoy across most borders and countries. They are afraid that if they speak out on why systemic injustice causes poverty, the nobles and merchants will stop giving them the money they use to organize food assistance or will cease funding their hospitals or forbid them to operate on their lands.
Shallya is depicted as the beautiful young daughter of Verena and Morr, a caring woman who feels the pain of every living thing. She is generally depicted crying, and usually surrounded by doves. The idea is that Mercy is the daughter of Wisdom and the gentle guardian of the Dead. According to legend, Shallya is forbidden to help everyone because otherwise she would probably stop the cycle of death and destroy the world, and in some stories her father cannot even bear to see her because her tears move him to shame about the suffering death causes, and she deals exclusively with her mother and her sister Myrmidia. Shallya herself is also not a big fan of big picture thinking, and neither is her cult; what matters is relieving as many suffering and wounded people as they can in the moment. Individual temples are highly organized (and sparsely decorated, money spent on golden statues is money that isn't buying bandages and medicine!) hospitals, with a strict hierarchy and plenty of rules about what sort of ailments each priest or initiate is meant to respond to. The cult's organizational experience at training new doctors means that even Shallyans who aren't blessed with the miracles of their Goddess are highly competent healers and medics (Shallyan Initiate does start with Heal+10, after all), and an individual shrine might be able to process and treat dozens or hundreds of patients a day.
Shallyans advocate for mercy in every case, except possibly Nurglites. The idea is that there are plenty of Gods of retribution and justice; at least one voice should make the argument for mercy and gentleness. This means Shallyans tend to argue against 'common sense' justice like public flogging, executions, or corporal punishment of children. The most uncontroversial and obvious mercy Shallyans grant is their medical experience, but they also act as a locus for charity. Shallyan charities are almost always honest, and manage to bring plenty of aid to the less fortunate; the nobles and merchants love to very publicly give portions of their wealth to the Shallyan temples for prestige under the guise of altruism. The temples don't generally concern themselves with the fact that these donations are buying a noble prestige and are usually well within their means; they care that they can now organize a food drive or expand the sick-rooms to handle an outbreak. An important distinction about Shallyan charity is that they seek to eliminate misery, not to bring about happiness. They are concerned with treating the worst cases in the now, not so much with keeping them from repeating. It's an interesting wrinkle to the cult; on one hand this leaves all manner of injustice free to fester, but on the other, it helps keep Shallyans from going mad and a sort of pragmatic, triage-focused approach does help plenty of people. It's easy to see why there's a myth that she once loved and then broke up with Ranald, though.
Adherents of Shallya tend to give more to charity than most, but the actual Initiates and Priests are people who find they can't ignore suffering when they see it. The priesthood doesn't have elaborate orders and Templars; they are split into those who provide care directly (the doctors, nurses, and miracle workers) and those who organize care (community organizers, administrators). The former group is beloved throughout the Empire, both as most people have experience being treated by one at some point in their life, and because a stock character in Imperial ribalds, operas, and woodcuts is the beautiful, innocent young Shallyan doctor. The portrayal is always positive, even if the archetype is a little over-sexualized (there's a lot of emphasis in Imperial fiction on the lack of a vow of Shallyan chastity, and the heroine of these stories often marries a dashing young patient), so the temples hardly object. They have come to spot a sort of 'dashing young patient', though, and make a point of assigning them the eldest sister working at a shrine. Many Adventurers have come to realize this has the side effect of getting them the best and most experienced of a shrine's doctors, and have taken to faking a desire to woo beautiful young priestesses in order to get better medical care. The organizers are less romanticized, and the popular mythology is of the stern young Shallyan priestess shaming people into getting out of the drinking house and helping her carry food or watch over patients.
As a brief note, the book points out that while the mythology and romantic stories of Shallyans are always about women, there are actually a fair number of male priests of Shallya. They simply don't tend to work in the temples. Because the majority of the Goddess' adherents are women, there's a sense among the cult that leaving young men and women under stress together is going to inevitably lead to medical soap opera dramas and love affairs. As a result, men are generally assigned to travel and care for rural communities, tend to coaching inns, and otherwise segregate themselves from their female peers. This also has the added bonus of weeding out young Initiates who got into the business to spend time around lots of women their own age as peers. Thus, male Shallyan Priests actually make very good wandering doctor PCs.
Shallyan Initiates often come from the temples' orphanages. They are people who have been around those who care for the poor and sick all their lives, and who feel a call to return the mercy that was shown to them. Those who come to the priesthood from another origin tend to be cult adherents and volunteers who find themselves spending more and more of their time working for the cult, until they ask to be initiated. An Initiate is expected to show concern for others above themselves, and are assigned to spend some time traveling or working in a shrine in a more dangerous or crime ridden area as part of their initiation into the priesthood. The idea is to grant the Initiate a wider appreciation for the world at large, to give them a chance to practice their skills and learn from healers who work in dangerous areas, and to experience hardship in the name of the Goddess to see if they are truly called to their path in life.
The Shallyan cult is roughly feudal, with each temple owing some degree of tithe and tribute to larger regional temples, which themselves will owe tithe to the chief temple of their nation, which will itself owe tithe to the Grand Cathedral in Couronne. It's always been a bit curious to me that the center of Shallyan worship is in Bretonnia, given that a common heresy in Bretonnia is that Shallya is the Lady's master and the Lady is a lesser Goddess serving the maiden of mercy (if you'll recall from Knights of the Grail, the Grail Damsels brutally suppress this heresy whenever it shows up.) I suspect the apolitical nature of the Shallyans, the opportunities that they provide for showing off a noble's charity and generosity (without fixing fundamental systemic issues), and the health-care they provide the peasants are uniquely suited to fit into Bretonnian culture. These chains of tribute are mostly a formality, and instead temples tend to have moral authority and power based on the skill of the doctors they graduate. A prestigious temple accepts the most promising Initiates and turns out the most skilled Priests, and that becomes self-reinforcing.
Interestingly, Shallyans actually do have an impression that they need self-care as well. One of the important theological questions for the faith is the degree to which self-care is permissible or necessary. The general orthodoxy revolves around asking oneself if they could have used what they're receiving for the poor instead; a Shallyan offered an invitation to a dinner by a grateful patient is permitted to accept and to enjoy themself. Similarly, it's accepted that it's good if one enjoys their work; enjoying the challenges of one's medical practice or community organizing is generally accepted as making a Shallyan better at their job. Some sects disagree, believing that enjoying oneself or accepting any sort of gift from patients (even if the gift is then given to the poor) sets a Shallyan on the path to corruption. Some extremists even believe happiness is immoral, since the world is so full of suffering that no-one should be able to enjoy themselves until all of that misery is taken care of. The general orthodoxy accepts that a Shallyan should have some semblance of a life outside the temple and should take breaks from work as a practical matter; doctors make mistakes when they're sleep deprived, stressed past their limits, and deep in depression from refusing to accept they have boundaries. Alcoholism is surprisingly common among Shallyans who have seen plenty of trauma, and in the Old World, few people recognize it as an addiction or disorder; these things are thought of as moral failings, instead.
Another major debate in the church is the degree to which Shallyans should concern themselves with who they help. Radicals say a Shallyan should help anyone they come across, radicals in another direction advocate that the temples should stop ignoring systemic issues and work to eliminate the sources of the social problems they treat, and most agree that doing a sort of social and political triage to distribute limited resources is an acceptable use of a Shallyan's time. There is also a debate on the matter of Nurglites. Almost every orthodox temple believes Nurgle and his followers are a living disease that should be destroyed, but most temples don't believe they should do it themselves; they fight him by treating the sick and preventing panic, not by killing Chaos Lords. Some radical Shallyans believe that it is acceptable to learn to combat Nurglites directly, themselves, and often drift away into the worship of Shallya's sister, Myrmidia. Others point out that even if it might be acceptable for a Sister or Brother to fight against Nurgle, most Shallyans have absolutely no martial training and would get in the way outside of providing care. An even more radical minority claims that Nurgle's lies mean his followers are his victims, and that they deserve mercy and care if possible; this is not a popular view, and the cult prefers to support warriors who destroy the followers of the Fly Lord. In general, Shallyan pacifism tends to extend to the Shallyan themselves, not their companions. It's common for a Shallyan aid convoy to bring along several well-meaning and heavily armed warriors to 'carry the food', after all.
Next Up: Sigmar's cult ain't comin' off too great in this book.
God is the dream of good government.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
God is the dream of good government.
At his best, Sigmar is a God of cooperation and governance, mirroring the life of the historical Sigmar. The cult of Sigmar is the most powerful religious cult in all of the Empire, though unlike Myrmidia Sigmar has almost no worshipers anywhere else in the world outside of Imperial expats. This is because Sigmar is more tightly bound to the Empire's secular government than any other God. A cynic would say that Sigmar's acceptance as a God and the early nobility's enthusiastic promotion of Sigmar worship had more to do with Johan Helstrum adding 'And also it's holy to do everything the very rich and powerful people of the Empire demand you do, and their wealth and power flows directly from God' than anything else. A cynic would probably be right. One of the interesting things in the Sigmarite write-up is to ask what Sigmar actually stands for, rather than against; he likes dwarfs, I guess, and would generally prefer the Empire be secure and a powerful hegemon.
The single most important distinction between Sigmarism and all of the other cults is the extent to which Sigmarite religion has the enthusiastic and total support of the Empire's government. The Empire's government has, from day 1, really liked the idea of a religion that says 'The Emperor and the Electors are sacred positions and should be obeyed without question, their power flows directly from the first Emperor who is now a God and they have eternal divine legitimacy'. That same support has given Sigmarism more temporal power than any other cult; Sigmarites keep and help to write much of the Empire's legal code, Sigmarites have 3 of the 15 votes to pick a new Emperor since Magnus gave them 2 more, Sigmarites form a portion of the officer corps and leadership of the army through the Warrior Priests, Sigmarites have more influence on the Witch Hunters than any other cult, and in general if you can name a position in Imperial government, the Sigmarites have a say in it. The Temple of Sigmar is usually the focal point of an Imperial village or town, forming a social center where people can catch up with their community at Throng every week and take a break from their work. The local priest is usually an important official, taking charge of whatever doesn't have a secular official; in some towns, an old Warrior Priest is both the parish's Sigmarite father and the leader of the local watch or militia, while in others they might serve as a judge or mayor. Whatever the case, because Sigmar is so heavily associated with government, priests tend to consider the secular governance of the Empire part of their cult's domain. Sigmarites also train the youths of their community to wear black shirts and suss out 'heresy' and ensure respect for Sigmarism as a sort of sanctioned cult militia, the Hammer Bearers. If that sounds a little uncomfortable to you, it should.
You see, one of the issues of Sigmarism is that it trends towards tyranny. The strictures of Sigmar specifically say 'Preserve the unity of the Empire at cost of individual liberty' and 'Obey your orders from your betters'. The idea of strict hierarchy and the idea that those who have power deserve it by virtue of having it are baked into the structure of the modern cult and have been since Helstrum first put that bit in there (probably to appeal to skeptical Electors). It's impossible to discuss the modern cult of Sigmar without getting into this. It's an organizational flaw that has caused Sigmarism and the Empire endless trouble, and probably destroyed the Empire at least once (depending on if you think the Empire that came out the other end of the Time of Three Emperors is the same Empire that went into it, which I'd argue it really isn't). There's a reason that of all the Imperial religions, Sigmarism has the most trouble with 'one true god-ism' so to speak; every generation you find another bunch of extremists claiming Sigmar is actually the only God and the others are all tricks by Chaos. This is another flaw of Sigmarism: They fucking love accusing everything they disagree with at all of being Chaos. We're going to see that when we get to banned Gods. I can't help but wonder to what extent the Sigmarite urge to associate all divergent thought and political heterodoxy with Chaos has strengthened the hand of Chaos cults throughout the Empire.
The Order of the Torch is the main Sigmarite order and provides most of the priests who work the Empire's temples and parishes. These are the community leaders and organizers who advise nobles and politicians, preach the word of Sigmar to the masses, and generally handle most of the religious heavy lifting for the cult. The Grand Theoganist is head of this order. The Order of the Silver Hammer is the Warrior Priests, the classic Warhammer staple of bald men and women in plate armor with giant warhammers leading bands of State Troops and acting as adjuncts to Imperial generals. They are beloved by the common people, not only because the Silver Hammers are visibly out there fighting evil but because the wandering warriors also handle the ministry of remote communities with no settled temple, since they can safely travel on their own. The Order of the Anvil is a monastic order of legal scholars who advise on both cult and Imperial law. They advise both secular and cult authorities on the minutiae of Sigmar's word. The Order of the Flame are the cult's own secret police, with the power to ask assistance of any other cult member in their investigations. They are often Witch Hunters, but are not technically 'the' Witch Hunters.
Sigmarites tend to be insular, suspicious, and superstitious, which they think of as a reasonable reaction to a corrupt world where evil is all around them at all times. One of the main beliefs of Sigmarite religion is that paranoia is completely justified, and that the dwarfs are right to be suspicious and to keep long books of grudges. They enforce a siege mentality as much as possible, thinking it a wise response to a dangerous world. They also like 'strength' and 'strong leadership'. These are the only things in their 'beliefs' section. I think that says an awful lot about the state of the cult of Sigmar. Look at all the other Gods so far. Almost all of them stand for something besides 'The world is a bad place, you can do or get done'. It can be easy to get the impression that modern Sigmarism is more about the perpetuation of its own influence than anything else.
Much of Sigmarite initiation is designed to instill a proper respect for authority while teaching the initiate dwarf lore, khazalid (hopefully: Many priests barely know dwarfish and tend to make all kinds of ridiculous mistakes in it), the life of Sigmar, and Imperial law. An Initiate is eventually tested according to their temple's traditions, either being asked to recite many pages of prayers perfectly from memory, being asked to go out and kill an Orc for Sigmar, or being put through painful hazing rituals in the monasteries and flagellant orders. After that, they become a Priest. Note that Sigmar accepts men and women as priests equally.
Sigmar is so widespread that it is impossible to assign a general uniform or lifestyle to his priests. The classic bald warrior in heavy armor with a huge hammer is really only characteristic of the Order of the Silver Hammer. The colors, hairstyle, and lifestyle of a priest will change drastically depending on where they live, which order or minor order they belong to, and what they do, though all of them favor high collars to simulate the gorgets and armor worn by the popular Warrior Priests. They also really like griffon and hammer iconography, hammers for reasons obvious and griffons because catbirds are rad as hell (actually it's because Magnus the Pious loved catbirds, but that's really just another point in his favor). Sigmarites like to wear holy books chained to their bodies as a sign of their religious burden and a symbol of being subservient to Emperor Sigmar. Sigmar's faith has a strict structure full of dozens of titled officers, from the Grand Theoganist who rules the Order of the Torch and through it the rest of the Sigmarite Faith, to the Arch Lectors who help him ensure that any Imperial candidate will be acceptable to the cult, to the 16 other lectors who serve as a college of cardinals or the many, many other theoganists, capitulars, high capitulars, and keepers that form the teeming mass of worthies of the Sigmarite cult.
Sigmarism has recently faced several significant crises that may shake up the cult. For one, Volkmar the Grim, the previous (and now, again, current) Grand Theoganist was (is) a well respected reformer who has done a great deal to contribute to the professionalization and effectiveness of the Witch Hunters. He immediately took an army up to confront Archaon and was killed in a duel with the so called Lord of the End Times, leading Arch Lector Johan Esmer to succeed him as Theoganist. Esmer came up in Realm of Sorcery; he's a cunning, intelligent man who knows the orthodoxy and authoritarian impulses of Sigmarism like the back of his hand, and who constantly schemes to use them to gain more personal power. Unfortunately for Esmer, Volkmar was then encountered chained to the banner of a demon prince during the war. Volkmar then broke out of his chains and fought his way back to Imperial lines, presumably while shirtless and wielding a chisel and his own broken chains as weapons. This is because in addition to being a respected theologian and reformer, Volkmar was totally goddamn metal. Esmer was told to step aside, Volkmar became Theoganist again, but people are starting to notice Volkmar is different than he used to be. More drawn and distant, darker and colder. Esmer has begun to spread the rumor that Volkmar was indeed killed, then raised or possessed by the forces of Chaos, which is absolutely a real possibility and presents a really good campaign hook; Esmer is a terrible guy maneuvering for personal power, and even if he's right about Volkmar he's a huge dick who deserves a party of PCs after him.
Ascetics are a major Sigmarite splinter that believes the relationship with Sigmar should be personal, rather than communal. They hate singing, religious ornamentation, and communal prayer. I'm not entirely sure where they get this belief out of worshiping 'Conan the Barbarian but if he was really excited about roads and laws', but you do you, monks. They're mostly important because they also argue that the state should have no say over the cult's affairs, while the cult should have total say over the state's affairs, which is very popular within the cult (and not very popular within the state).
Malleuns are crazy heretics who think the hammer is a God, not Sigmar. They think Ghal Maraz chooses agents of divinity and they center around a crazy Warrior Priest named Artur Malleus who thought that Karl Franz was a fraud who didn't really have Ghal Maraz. He claimed he got visions from a 'TRUE HAMMER' (yes, a hammer) telling him it would be wielded by a mortal man to begin the end of days. His followers naturally thought the boy Valten (you'll remember him as the odd lad who the Emperor gave the hammer to and appointed Champion, who then got knocked out by Archie and then ganked by Skaven while healing in Middenheim's Shallyan temple) was obviously the second coming of Sigmar who would lead them to the real hammer. They're very confused by his apparent death and many suspect Karl Franz murdered Valten.
The Unifiers are the elephant in the room of Sigmarism: They believe that Sigmar is Emperor of the Gods, and all other Gods are beneath him. No other cult should be granted worship, only Sigmar. Sigmar, as Emperor, handles all aspects of divinity and is the only true God. This heresy shows up every generation and is hardly unique to 2522 or even really all that novel. It seems to be a normal impulse of the extremes of Sigmarite faith. What's dangerous here is that Johan Esmer is a member, and may well be on path to becoming Grand Theoganist again.
The Lesser Orders of Sigmar aren't especially interesting, except for the Templars of Sigmar, who are the actual Witch Hunters (along with some of the Order of the Silver Hammer). They actually hate the Order of the Flame, as they feel it is too unbeholden to Imperial law and far too secretive. Most interestingly, all these Orders get variant talents and skills if you play a Priest from them, and the Templars specifically get Gun. If you want to play a gun-wielding Witch Hunter of Sigmar, this is an entire order of Solomon Kanes.
So, there you have it. Sigmar's cult are kind of dicks. Unique in how little they stand for and often the aggressors in the weird religious strife the Empire ends up in due to a weird vein of monotheism that runs through their religion. They're an interesting bunch, and the schisms and crises of the cult provide ample opportunity for your PCs to have adventures and maybe help reform the religion into something that wouldn't piss off Sigmar The Guy Who Likes Roads And Law Codes.
Next Time: Taal and Rhya
King Taal and Mother Rhya
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
King Taal and Mother Rhya
Taal and Rhya are unusual in that they are usually worshiped together, and their cult is considered a single entity even if individual priests and priestesses tend to emphasize one or the other. They are also unusual in being very gendered Gods; Taal represents the masculine and Rhya the feminine, and the priests and priestesses keep to this. Taal and Rhya are likely the oldest nature Gods of the Empire, having been worshiped since pre-Imperial days. During the tribal period, they were originally a single being, Ishnernos, but split apart into a sacred couple over the years of worship. Taal is one of Ulric's traditional mythic rivals for the title of King of the Gods, and there are many myths of the two competing with one another, though they always come together to fight Chaos in the end. Taal tends to be emphasized over his wife specifically because Talabheim is one of the great cities of the Empire and the center of his cult, but anyone who worships Taal worships Rhya as well.
Taal represents the power and majesty of nature, appearing as a great horned hunter or stag. He represents life's power, providing the spark that makes the heart pump and the urge to survive and create. He rules over the beasts of the wood and guides the arrows of hunters and the axes of warriors, and he also stands as the patron of the transition between childhood and adulthood, which Imperials consider to be the peak of a being's life. Rhya represents cultivation, nurturing, healing, love, and passion. She is the goddess of agriculture and livestock, prayed to by farmers all across the old world, and also a patron of fishermen so long as they fish in fresh water. As goddess of love, she tames the wildness of her husband and brings about wisdom and genuine maturity. She also watches over the fertility of all living things, humans included, and she is the 'wholesome' patron of passion as opposed to Slaanesh.
Priests of Taal and Rhya are most loved in the remote and rural areas of the Empire, especially the north and east. They watch over small farming, hunting, and logging communities, providing the sacred rites that will help the orchards and fields give fruit, the woods to grow strong, and the game to be plentiful. They are often the only priests available for truly remote communities, and so take on all the other duties of a priest, advising the people and guarding souls from the dark things that lurk in the woods. Priests and cultists are uniformly woodsmen, hunters, and survivors who spend much of their time away from the Empire's cities and towns. They're also unusual in having a rapport with both the elves of the Laurelorn forest and the Magisters of the Jade and Amber order; they don't consider Jade or Amber wizards much of a deviation from their God and Goddess, and both Orders respect Taal and Rhya. The cult of Taal and Rhya is less involved in the overall politicking of the Empire outside of Taal's veneration in Talabecland and Talabheim, and even there that's more a case of the city and region being holy to Taal rather than Taalites ruling the government.
The cult believes in living life to its fullest, that life is a blessing and an inevitable cycle. All things are born, die to feed something else, and hopefully pass along something of themselves in the form of their children and the memory of their life. Taalites and Rhyans also pay close attention to the changing of the seasons and the regularity of nature, and are charged with guarding against unnatural phenomena like Chaos. As mentioned above, they also believe that a life is divided into childhood, adulthood, and old age, and that the transitions between those represent a sacred space for their Gods, who will help a person to gain the most they can from each part of their life.
While all Taalites and Rhyans are hardy outdoorspeople, initiation changes depending on which God a person was called to. Both Gods' worshipers will pair a young prospective priest up with an experienced priest to teach them to survive in the wilderness and to show them the ways of the Gods. Taalites are tested on their strength of character, hunting prowess, and ability to survive the harshest parts of the wilds. Both young men and women in the Empire in heavily Taalite communities undergo a rite called the Quickening, where they go out into the woods of the Priests of Taal and get extremely drunk, take hallucinogens, and learn how not to die in a forest. Yes, if you're from a Taalite community your transition to adulthood is going on a several week hunting trip where you take mushrooms and have wild psychedelic visions of nature gods. A Taalite Initiate's training involves more of these visions and rituals, to learn the wisdom of Taal and instill a proper sense of awe at the power of nature. Rhyan initiates forgo the drunken wild partying in favor of fairly normal training where they learn to heal, give counsel, mediate disputes, and advise farmers and fishermen. It ends in a simple celebration and dancing ceremony when the young woman is deemed qualified to become a priestess. Men are forbidden from attending these ceremonies and have increasingly made up wild stories of what actually happens.
As noted, Taal and Rhya are always worshiped in tandem outside of their specialized and gendered rites. Each region of the Empire has an assigned pair of Hierarchs, one powerful Taalite and one powerful Rhyan, who are considered of equal rank and authority. During Spring and Autumn, the Hierarch of Rhya rules, and during Summer and Winter, the Hierarch of Taal is in charge, as those are the seasons of their God and Goddess. In some cases, when the Hierarchs squabble, this leads to a seasonal cycle of the two reversing one another's edicts until their conflict can be mediated, but the cult tries to pair Hierarchs to keep this sort of arguing to a minimum. Beneath these Hierarchs are the High Priests, who are assigned the care of specific holy places and sacred groves. Beneath them are the normal Priests, who do the grunt-work of assisting local communities and tending to the holy places at the direction of the High Priests. Individual Priests tend to have a great deal of latitude, and are encouraged to disagree with their superiors if they can make a case to their peers; competition is an important part of nature, and so is growing up. What is low today will be high another day, after all.
The main sects of Taal and Rhya are the Kin of Taal, the Bringers of Bounty, and the Wardens. The Kin of Taal are the archetypal keepers of 'men's magic', the ones who direct the Quickening ceremonies and who revel about the woods, reminding people of the power and joy of Taal. They are characterized by long hunting trips, massive communal feasts after said hunting trips, gallons of powerful moonshine, sweat lodges, and hallucinogenic substances used to induce wild revelry. Curiously, they are only comprised 'mostly' of men; in general the text can't quite tell if the gender lines between Taalite and Rhyan worship are impermeable but give the impression there are occasional exceptions. Wardens are protectors of the sacred places, bound to keep the secret rituals of Taal and Rhya secret and to battle the beastmen and other despoilers. Your usual fantasy holy warrior ranger types. The Bringers of Bounty are the main sect of Rhyans, blessing the agriculture and festivals of the Empire and helping to see to matters of family and childbirth. They are generally some of the most popular priestesses outside of the Shallyans, admired for their wisdom and sought for their advice on keeping the peace and maintaining families.
The Longshanks are the official Templar Order of Taal. They vow never to stay in a place for more than a week, traveling the Empire in a constant hunt for monsters and evil throughout its forests. They serve the Imperial army much like other knightly orders, save they serve as scouts, snipers, and raiders rather than heavy shock cavalry. They are especially beloved in Talabecland, where they have many shrines and pilgrimage routes to protect. As an added note they get Consume Alcohol as one of their Templar bonus skills, so I'd assume they like partying with the Kin of Taal when they get the chance.
The Horned Hunters are something of an equivalent of flagellants for Taal, a bunch of crazy people who run around the woods, wearing horns and living by axe and bow alone. They believe that living in the forest in the manner of the proto-Imperial tribes is the only way to truly honor Taal and Rhya, and they tend to be violent and dangerous. They're regarded as a little too touched by the Gods, yet their craziness is still considered sacred.
The Daughters of Rhya are interesting; do you remember the Maiden's Charms from the Realms of Sorcery? The magical no-fail birth control that a woman only needs to wear around her neck? These are the priestesses who make them. Officially, they are simply healers, midwives, and counselors on marriage and motherhood. In reality, they teach women how to deal with abusive or difficult marriages, how to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and do what they can to protect victims of domestic abuse. Because of the Maiden's Charms and other 'meddling', they are sometimes accused of witchcraft and 'stealing men's potency'.
Next Time: WOLVES! PECS! AXES! CELIBACY!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
Ulric, the God of War, Winter, and Wolves, started out with some dick moves. According to the Book of the Wolf, he is the oldest human God, and he led a tribe of humans known as the Teutogen into the forests of what would become Middenland and directed them to destroy the indigenous forest peoples, killing and enslaving them until little record of them survives. After years of war, he led his people to a flat-topped mountain, and punched the hell out of it to show them they were supposed to live there, producing an ever-burning silver flame that still exists to this day. When the humans reached the mountain, they were confronted by an army of wolves, but refused to back down. Ulric was pleased with this aggression, and chased off the wolves and gave them the mountain that would become Middenheim to be the center of his cult and the grand center of the Teutogen tribal kingdom. Most believe that as long as the flame burns, Middenheim can never fall and Ulric's people will always manage to hold out. They haven't been wrong yet, and Archaon's defeat has only strengthened this belief.
Ulricanism is a very bitter religion. It used to be the most powerful of all of the Empire's cults, and Sigmar himself was crowned by the Ar-Ulric, the Highest of Priests. Even according to Helstrum's preaching, it was Ulric who crowned Sigmar a God and welcomed him to the pantheon, implying that under normal Sigmarite faith they accepted Ulric rather than Taal as the King of the Gods prior to Sigmar. Ulric once held a network of holy sites all over the proto-Empire and was the chief God of the Unberogen (Sigmar's tribe) as well as the Teutogen. For centuries, they were still one of the most important Imperial faiths even as Sigmar caught on as chief God of the Empire. Slowly, though, that's changed; Ulric just isn't that relevant to the average Imperial citizen, with his teaching that you should charge that 8 foot hellviking with your head bare and an axe to hand rather than just shooting the guy from a safe distance. Ulricans teach that their God was the first to face Chaos, though, and that he should always have an honored place for having been willing to attack them the moment the Dark Gods appeared (by legend he actually beat the holy hell out of Khorne but couldn't quite finish the deal). Because their God was willing to fight Chaos alone, they teach that self-reliance is one of the most important virtues, and that the best teacher a young person can have is a mistake that doesn't kill them.
Soldiers and warriors still worship Ulric as a God of courage and strength, but this is growing less common as Myrmidian missionaries make headway in the south and as Sigmar becomes increasingly associated with the Imperial army. One of the things lowering Ulric's stature is that Ulric's strictures frown on the use of guns, crossbows, and helmets as cowards' weapons. Meanwhile, we have the famous quote from Magnus the Pious about how 'Faith, steel, and gunpowder are what make the Empire'. The firearm has become the icon of the Imperial State Troops since the time of Magnus, and while Ulricans will grudgingly say that if you're ordered to use one and it's the best tool for the job you should consider it, their stance against guns is slowly crowding them out of the worship of the professional military. One of the main missionary forces of Ulric is the example set by the Knights of the White Wolf, the famed templars who go into battle with massive hammers and no helmets. They have spread his word with every victory and crusade, and they are both the largest Templar order in the Empire and the very first order of holy Knights. So long as they persist, and manage to attach themselves to almost every Imperial war, Ulric will not be forgotten.
Ulric's beliefs are chronicled in a mythic cycle of the God that encourages believers to act as Ulric does. Ulric always, always takes the most direct route available to him and relishes the combat and confrontation this causes. He likes his followers to be aggressive, argumentative, and stubborn. He also despises deceit and trickery, facing everything head-on. He also absolutely despises cowardice and weakness, and Ulric's mythic exploits include many punishments for cowards. Might makes right for Ulricans, and the weak should obey the strong. Ulrican priests often establish the temple pecking order with ceremonial fist-fights to determine who is strongest among them.
The cult is technically open to anyone, but the upper echelons of the cult tend to be obsessed with 'pure Teutogen blood' and often only promote those who have directly seen bloodshed. Initiates are subjected to harsh conditions, deprivation, and brutal training regimens designed to drive off those who don't have the strength to serve Ulric. Ulricans rarely dismiss Initiates, even if they repeatedly defy cult orders: This just leads to more beatings until the Initiate learns their place or flees of their own volition. The final test to become a priest is being taken several miles from the temple with only your robes in the middle of winter and dumped, told to find your way home or freeze to death. Some temples will also stage attacks on the initiate to ensure they are strong enough to persevere, though these are 'play fights' and aren't intended to kill the Initiate, only test their willingness to fight back even when they're unarmed and alone. The rite is designed to seem much more dangerous than it is; it's a test of character rather than a means of killing young priests-to-be. When the Initiate returns, they take their vows of celibacy and are welcomed as a Priest of Ulric, commonly after a last party and a chance to get laid before they take those vows.
Ulricans are controlled from Middenheim, by the Ar-Ulric, the over-priest of the cult. The Ar-Ulric is in direct control of every single function of the cult, in theory, and is also the sole non-Sigmarite Elector in the choosing of a new Emperor. As he is always the spiritual advisor to the Count of Middenland, he is also influential over a second Electoral Vote (and potentially, an Emperor. Boris Toddbringer was supposed to become Emperor at the last election, being outmaneuvered politically by Karl Franz of Reikland). Beneath him will stand the Grandmaster of the White Wolves, who has a stature equal to any of the High Priests, and the High Priests. The Grandmaster is extremely important to the cult, as he is in command of the most sprawling knighthood in all of the Empire. The Grandmaster also chooses a company of Wolves to be the Teutogen Guard, the best of knights who provide a personal bodyguard to the Ar-Ulric. This temporary position is considered the surest path to the inner circle of the White Wolves.
The vows of celibacy are pretty unique to Ulric, and are an imposition that comes from the Time of Three Emperors. The Middenheim Grafs feared the Ulricans would found their own dynasty, being a pillar of opposition to the Reiklander Sigmarites, and so managed to force the Ar-Ulric of the time to swear the priesthood to celibacy in return for being permitted access to the Sacred Flame at Middenheim. The celibacy has, weirdly, driven off almost all of the female priests of Ulric, as Temples refuse to train women as they'd be 'distracting'. This has only made the cult more and more ridiculously aggressive, and the cult absolutely hates the vow of celibacy but is afraid to overturn 1000 years of tradition at this point. Recently, Graf Toddbringer's bastard son has gotten an Ulrican high priestess pregnant, and the cult is using this incident as proof that the blood of the Grafs no longer hold the vow to have any value anyway, so maybe it should be thrown in the trash and they should be allowed to marry again. Really, the degree to which they hate their vow of celibacy and used it to drive out most of the women in their cult explains a lot about how crazy they get at times. There would probably be no more women in the cult of Ulric if it weren't for the Nordland temples, which continue to train exclusively female orders. The Middenheimers hate them.
Ulric's cult has a thing about 'Pure Teutogen Blood'. They fucking love to talk up how great the ancient Teutogen tribe was, they base much of their religion on how they are the chosen people of Ulric, and it is impossible to get to the highest ranks of the cult without having the 'right' ancestor. All this blood purity nonsense has actually let a Chaos Cult slip into the Cult of Ulric, through the extremist Brotherhood of the Axe, an honored knightly brotherhood that claims it is simply trying to turn the cult back to the proper blood purity that will let it thrive again. You remember them from Tome of Corruption? They're the Cult of the Crimson Skull, the guys who reasoned Archaon was going to lose and Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows and so made heroes of themselves fighting him, hoping to get into position to launch a devastating religious schism by taking advantage of Ulricans' obsessions. Their attempt is the central plot of Ashes of Middenheim, under the sinister and cunning Medium Priest (Okay, Deputy High Priest, but my players called him the Medium Priest) Klaus Liebnitz.
Sigmar is another sore spot for a religion seemingly dedicated to sore spots. Ulricanism refused to acknowledge Sigmar's divinity for several centuries, despite visions sent to their own seers, supposedly by Ulric. Most modern Ulricans believe Sigmar is a God (but a lesser one than Ulric) but there will always be dangerous extremists who deny his divinity or think he was a trick by the powers of Chaos. Ulricans have fought plenty of religious civil wars over this matter in the Time of Three Emperors, but have lost almost all of them; this is one of the direct causes for the retreat of their cult. Ulric's devout are limited almost entirely to Middenland, and the cult begins to worry they will fade entirely if they don't reverse their fortunes soon.
If they want to figure out why their religion is growing unpopular they might want to look at the lesser Order of the Winter Throne. These people believe they are preparing for an apocalyptic winter wherein Ulric will defeat the Chaos Gods by freezing them, but the temperature will grow so low that only those who have trained very hard in the existing, real winters will be able to survive it. Thus, they run around burning peoples' food stocks in winter to make winter harder so they can train for the super winter that will freeze Chaos. They do not ask communities if they want to participate in this. And then they wonder why their God is increasingly unpopular.
Next Time: JUSTICE! OWLS!
Read, or the Owl will come for you
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
Read, or the Owl will come for you
Verena is the Goddess of Wisdom, Justice, and also owls (she loves owls). She is also credited with keeping the Empire from sliding into complete tyranny, and her clergy often butt heads with the Sigmarites over their differing definitions of Order and Law. Verena's concept of Law and Justice is not the direct adherence to the letter of a nation state's laws, because that would imply that the humans writing them were more perfect than other humans and thus managed to write perfect laws, but rather with the constant project of trying to refine and change the law to ensure it protects as many people as possible and makes them as equal as possible in its sight. To get to this better but never perfect law, one needs wisdom, which is attained by learning as much as possible. Everything needs to be examined; you can't just declare something heresy and burn it, you need to have a look at it, THEN declare it's heresy and burn it if it looks like it leads to tentacle town. Interestingly, in the myths of Ulric taking up his axe to strike out after Chaos, Verena was the first God to follow him, stealing Morr's sword when her husband was too frightened of the Dark Gods to wield it. She convinced others to follow after her by shaming them with her example. The sword is thus also a symbol of Verena; without punishment, there can be no law, and those who seek to destroy learning might not respect a sharp pen as much as they'll respect a sharp sword.
Strangely, there is little hierarchy to the cult of Verena. They are much more focused on advising those in power and interpreting law and teaching wisdom than ruling themselves; Verenans are lawyers and philosophers, not kings. In times of war, the the Verenans will take up the sword against Chaos and scurry to the front lines to preserve as much as they can, fearful of war's ability to burn down libraries and destroy monuments. Their desire to save as much written knowledge as possible puts them at odds with the Witch Hunters and Sigmarites, as some extremely Verenans prefer to preserve corrupted texts in the hopes that learning more will lead to a way to stop Chaos for good. The cult is also unafraid to annoy Sigmarites and Ulricans and others by trying to record accurate records of history and protecting alternate interpretations of doctrine; what was heresy today is still important theology tomorrow, even if it's labeled heresy. This leads Verenans into all sorts of unusual alliances and feuds with other cults. The cult's attempt to be objective also leads to a reputation for being 'fickle', since the Goddess demands they try not to favor friends and family in their judgment (and to recuse themselves if they feel they cannot resist doing so).
Vernans are unusual in that most of her Priests exhibit more of her characteristics more directly than any other God save possibly Ranald. They tend to be wise, learned, curious people with a love of showing off what they've learned and a tendency to lecture. They love to engage in debate and offer advice even when they aren't asked, but they're rarely judgmental people; Verena demands they hear both sides and then judge disputes, after all. Above even Wisdom, though, Verenans prize Justice. Some fanatics take this much too far and go off to play at being a one person court and executioner, but these are heretics. Conventional Verenans will turn over criminals to the courts, or if they've judged there's no possibility of justice from local authorities (such as in Bretonnia) they will set up and run their own parallel courts with recruited locals. Curiously, Herrimaults in Bretonnia are as likely to have Verena as a patron as they are Ranald. To that same note, Verenans have an active missionary tradition, sending people to places that lack for justice to argue in favor of it. They are very unpopular in Kislev, Bretonnia, and the Border Princes (Think the Wild West combined with the Balkans). Wherever there is tyranny, there are Verenan missionaries, raising the rabble and talking about how society cannot function if the rule of law is not being wielded according to justice.
To the Vernans, justice and learning are the foundation of all human civilization and must continue to be examined and improved in order to keep society functioning. They also believe justice should be predictable and visible; the idea being that people who can safely and confidently turn to law as arbiter are more likely to do so rather than taking matters into their own hands. Tyranny might bring 'order', but it isn't really order, so much as cowed obedience while the tyrant is free to do whatever they wish. Being under the whims of a tyrant cannot bring order, since the ruler is then free to act without impunity and no person can feel truly secure in such a situation.
Initiates to the cult of Verena have to study. A lot. A smarter Initiate will arrive with a university degree and possibly several years of legal practice; this makes the process much faster. Most scholars and lawyers will at least join the cult as lay members, as the networking and professional opportunities offered by the cult of the Goddess of Wisdom are very helpful to one's career. Being made a Priest of Verena essentially involves defending a thesis before a committee of other priests, and if one can successfully hold their own they are anointed.
The actual structure of the cult is quite loose, because favoring a specific single high priest would overly favor their specific interpretation of law and lore. Each city or town's Verenans manage their own affairs as a miniature cult, setting up their own priorities and mini-organization. They claim this is because they favor justice over bureaucracy, while others point out that even getting every opinionated, intelligent academic in one city to agree on anything is hard enough as is let alone trying to do it with every academic in the Old World. Each individual temple maintains a High Priest, who remains in their position until the peer review board decides to boot them out and appoints a new one. They often have to defend their position in formal and public debates, because academic thunderdome is an important part of the cult. Also, the cult really likes owls and almost every temple has an owlry. The hooting must be incessant.The two main divisions in the cult are the Scalebearers and Lorekeepers. Scalebearers focus on the idea of Verena as judge and arbiter. These cultists believe that justice supersedes learning, and train to act as mediators and judges themselves. Their decisions are often enforced by Verenan Templars from the Order of the Scale and Sword, scholar-knights who wander about assisting authorities. Lorekeepers focus on the aspect of Verena as the defender of knowledge, believing learning more important than justice and serving as librarians and scholars.
The Order of Mysteries is a semi-templar Order of Verenans who try to recover the lost knowledge of the ancient past and explore new lands. If you want to know the kind of people who'd go to Khemri or Lustria, these are those sorts of adventurers. They often ally with the Light Order of Magisters and often hire experienced adventurers as guides and bodyguards in their wanderings. Most adventuring Verenans will be of the Order of Mysteries, off to unlock some new mystery or another, hoping to publish in their semi-annual journal about their discoveries. They don't publish everything, of course; some knowledge is judged too dangerous to be handled by anyone but Top Men, even if most of their findings will eventually end up in a museum.
The Order of Everlasting Light is another Templar Order of Verena. They are normal knights, fighting with lance and shield in honor of their goddess, except that they are cursed with absolutely terrible luck. While they still tend to have a noble's idea of justice, their curse tries to lead them towards defending those who could turn to no-one else. Whether it is a curse for some ancient misdeed that the knights need to make up for in the present, or the subtle hand of their goddess trying to guide them to humility and true justice is up to a GM to decide, but in among the tendency to walk under someone emptying their chamberpot lies plenty of seeds of adventure as misfortune drags the knight into moments of real heroism.
Verenans love schism because it gives them something to argue about. Most differences of doctrine are just treated as another opportunity to debate and try to move closer to true justice or learn something new. Some zealots, however, will wander out to random villages, whip up a mob, and start conducting trials ad-hoc. The cult tries to stop this sort of behavior, seeing it as a perversion of the court of law and also something that tends to get the cult of Verena censured. Other Verenan heretics lie in the Scrollbearers, people who have decided knowledge is power and thus knowledge should be hoarded instead of taught. This is one of the few things every non-Scrollbearer Verenan will agree is heresy. The various minor orders of the Goddess are more knights, with the Knights of the Scale and Sword serving as guards to judges and the Knights of the Scroll providing protection for traveling scholars and security for universities and libraries.
And thus, we finish the Cults of the Major Gods. Next, things get fun, with the folk worship of the Empire's common people.
Next Time: So goddamn many minor gods
The lands of small gods
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
The lands of small gods
Alright, enough random discussion posting, time for more actual reviewing.
The Empire loves tradition and generally doesn't like to change if things are working out for them. From this, while scholars may debate the nature of the Gods and the meanings of their creeds, you get the actual lived experience of divine worship among the people of the Empire. The Gods (except maybe Morr) aren't very communicative in everyday life, and even when they send signs and portents it tends to be vague and open to interpretation. Thus, people have come up with all sorts of rituals and local rites that they think placate the divine and enable them to get through their lives without famine, beastman attack, or a plague of mutant catbirds descending on the fields. Similarly, Imperials love excuses for parties and spectacles, because who the hell doesn't, and so the people have invented as many festivals, holidays, and other reasons to get together with your mates, have a beer and some sausage, and do something silly as they can get away with. This is incidentally why humans don't mind absorbing the halfling ritual of Pie Week; it's a week where you eat pies! And it even favors a God and brings her favor so it's proper and pious to be eating pies. Who doesn't want some of that?
The Empire is a big place, with many people and many Gods. Many places worship smaller Gods, held by the cults to be minor aspects of the main Gods. Many places worship in ways that would be considered very odd, and the Witch Hunters are charged with investigating rumors of truly strange practices and making sure it doesn't turn into Chaos worship. For the most part, though, without modern communication there's no way to even communicate total orthodoxy. Most cults are happy to accept minor divergent practices; a local village might celebrate Rhya with a mushroom festival where the person who picks the biggest mushroom on the first mushrooming day of the year gets to represent the Goddess or her husband Taal in a celebration that night, and that would be fine. If that same festival started to include hallucinogenic mushrooms and the representative of the God or Goddess being sacrificed by being put in a box full of bees, the Hunters would start to get suspicious. Generally human sacrifice is the biggest red line.
Worship differs between Nobles and Commoners. Commoners tend to pray for more immediate needs, for one. They want good crops, they want the weather to stay nice, they want taxes not to go up, they want their families to be safe, and they want to keep the Beastmen away. Nobles tend to ask the Gods for help in affairs of state, or for victory in war, or for help getting promoted to a higher title. As the Nobles look down their noses at the 'vulgar and ribald' worship of Commoners (who also tend to prefer myths with lots of exciting sex and violence and adventure) the Commoners wonder why the Nobles are bothering to ask for help getting even richer when there's crops that need tending. Can't eat without crops, you know. Nobles love the temples as a way to increase their prestige and demonstrate their piety. Donate a statue of gold to a temple of Sigmar and you get a plaque saying your family was rich and powerful enough to do so, while honoring the God of Government and improving your prospects by being publicly pious. The cults like receiving massive donations and so they tend to encourage the Nobles to do this, often by speaking in favor of families that do so. Similarly, funding big religious festivals and parties makes you beloved of the common people, who love any excuse to get a big dinner and a day off that they didn't have to pay for.
There are dozens and dozens of minor deities in the Empire. Too many to list them all, even among the ones actually described in the book. Minor deities tend to be regarded as aspects of a major deity, or else they're regional Gods or mostly forgotten Gods whose worship has only survived in a few places. Most Imperials are respectful of local customs about these Gods, though Hunters might ask a few pointed questions to be certain that Katya the Lady of Disarming Beauty (a minor goddess of love worshiped in Reikland) isn't Slaanesh. Minor Gods are still Gods, and as long as they aren't a matter of Chaos it's still a smart thing to respect local Gods. The classification of Minor Gods as aspects of the nine main Gods is actually part of a common missionary tradition (and one with plenty of real-world precedent), whereby priests encountering a backwater that worships a new God will attempt to relate that worship to their worship and thus convert the followers while still overall respecting their tradition. Other Minor Gods are foreign Gods worshiped primarily by expats, who haven't caught on in the Empire yet. A shrine of Dazh the Sun God built by a Kislevite merchant living in Marienburg and trading with Erengard would be considered a Minor God, but still shown respect. Meanwhile, Myrmidia used to be like this, but her explosion in popularity has seen her acknowledged as a main God and her Knights' contribution to the crusade of Magnus the Pious have made her an accepted part of the Grand Conclave. It is heretical to note openly that whether a God is major or minor relies almost entirely on how much popularity and political influence their cult has. The most common sort of Minor Gods are nature deities, as they are the usual fare of isolated rural communities, and place Gods like Bylorak, the God of Bylerhof Marsh, whose priests managed to overthrow their Von Carstein master and make their home safe against the vampires. From the example of Bylorak, you can see that even these small Gods can have real power among their people.
We get some sample Gods, like Artho, the Middenlander God of Old People Disapproving Of Young People, or the Nordlander God of Dancing, Leork (whose name is awfully similar to the elf God of dancing and song and trickery, and Nordland borders on Laurelorn forest...) or Borchbad, the God of the Voice. He is the patron of agitators, and it's said if a powerful person keeps an amulet of him immersed in wine the local Agitators will be too drunk to ruin the plans of the mighty. The minor Gods tend to be weird, or Imperials worshiping an aspect of an imported God or non-human God.
Imperials often worship their ancestors, too, especially if the ancestor did something important. This is partly an imported custom from the dwarfs, and is more common among Imperials than other humans because of their influence. The dwarfs approve of this practice, though they sympathize with the way short-lived humans have so many ancestors to placate and keep track of. Ancestor worship is the principle aspect of all dwarf religion, and you can often tell how much contact a human settlement has with dwarfs by how much attention the humans pay to worship of their ancestors. Halflings also worship their ancestors, but prefer to do it with ridiculous exaggerations and tall tales of their illustrious great aunt's life. Reciting genealogy is a common memorization lesson for halfling students, and halflings hold competitions about who can remember more of their ridiculously gnarled family tree than one another. Elves respect their ancestors, but tend to do it while they're still alive. A great-great-great-grandaughter has a good chance of personally speaking to and knowing her great great great grandmother, after all, since they live so damned long. Once someone actually dies of old age, the elves tend to consider it something of a victory, sing a few songs, and get on with it. This looks extremely disrespectful from a dwarf's perspective, and is one of the reasons they struggle to get along.
If you wish, you can buy an extra Talent to have an Ancestor spirit following and annoying your PC. Every time you spend a Fortune point, you roll on a table full of results like YOU IDIOT! and YOU CANNOT BE RELATED TO ME! I REFUSE! to see what extra effect you get. These range from the very positive (a free +20% on your next test, an immediate extra half action, a floating +10% to whatever test you wish, d5 Wounds healed immediately, etc) to the very dangerous (The spirit getting mad and leaving until you coax it back with long recitations of their deeds, the spirit cursing you with minor penalties, the spirit trying to cause an IP). Overall kind of a wash mechanically but it might be fun to have from a roleplaying perspective.
Next Time: It isn't superstition if you live in a setting with goddamn wizards
It's not superstition if it works
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
It's not superstition if it works
The world is full of goddamn wizards and Gods and demons and mutants. People in the Old World know this. They know magic is real and they know there are powerful forces everywhere affecting their lives. What do people do when confronted with all manner of phenomena they're powerless to control? They invent means of making themselves feel in control, obviously. Almost everyone in the Old World has something
they do to try to keep themselves lucky and healthy, even as the most educated try to point out that none of this works (before making sure they bring their lucky quill to the thesis defense on the subject so Verena will bless their words with persuasion, of course). Players are encouraged to come up with the ridiculous things their heroes do to try to make sure they'll be lucky, in the spirit of good fun. What curses and superstitions you believe in (and why) can add texture to your character. Similarly, con-men at all levels take advantage of these beliefs and sometimes amass huge piles of gold selling false cures or protections from non-existent curses. Many Imperial superstitions have a root in some ancient historical event or religious ritual, long since forgotten, but Imperials are generally nervous about actually discarding a tradition. In essence, superstition should be a fun way to add some quirks to your character, some comic relief, and plot hooks for swindlers or for fucking with other characters. Say the Crime Lord Ernst von Waldendorf believes the first coin he ever stole is sacred to Ranald and the source of all his good luck; stealing it from him and watching him go to pieces would be a fun plot.
Superstition interacts weirdly with magic. Magisters debate whether or not superstition exists because of magic, or whether perhaps magic exists because of superstition; Magisters know that magic is partly a function of human thought and aethyric resonance, though they debate how exactly that happens. But at the same time, people are superstitious partly because they know that an old woman in a pointy hat really can curse or bless your fields. That's something that happens! The Empire's agricultural system relies on it. So if she can do it, why wouldn't various other rituals and rites have a real effect on the world? People believed (and still believe) in all kinds of ridiculous stuff around their luck and health in our world, where no-one can actually shoot lasers out of their eyes after babbling some magical nonsense. Imagine how much more people will believe in when when sorcerers really are swaggering around dispensing curses.
In general, superstitions have no game effects. Your GM can decide that your silly ritual or your lucky charm really do have an effect at a dramatic moment, though. This should be limited to something like a minor -5% or +5% to something or +1 damage on one attack or minorly reducing the effect of a crit; superstitions are not nearly as powerful as real magic, even if your GM decides they'll have actual power. We are referred to the adventure path Lure of the Liche Lord for rules on 'real' curses, which a friend informs me is intended as something of a Nehekara book and is an adventure path that actually concerns the Tomb Kings, complete with plenty of extra rules for tomb robbing and raiding. I'll have to add it to the docket to cover some day. An interesting note: Magisters cannot use superstitions at all. Something about being an actual mage makes the minor blessings people believe in totally useless to those who can genuinely shape the Winds of Magic. They can still be afflicted by minor curses, though.
The most common curse Old Worlders fear is THE EVIL EYE. This is the general maleficium that you see in any account of evil magic and witchcraft. Finding weevils in your bread, the milk going sour, a run of bad dice rolls (for the player or the player character), these are all signs someone has put the EVIL EYE on you. Evil Eyes can come from the wronged, the spiteful, the hateful, or the malicious, and they can either involve eye contact or they can be inscribed on your doorstep or belongings. You get rid of the Evil Eye by various completely insane folk remedies, like eating pig eyes and then making yourself vomit them back up to 'purge' the eye spirit out of yourself, or more commonly by going to someone you know you wronged in the community and making restitution. The superstitious will often keep a chicken at hand, because a chicken can outstare anyone with those blank chicken eyes, and that deflects the Evil Eye nine times out of ten. "Paranoid men with a chicken under their arm are a common sight in backwaters of the Empire."
Due to all these superstitions, there are too many variations in custom to police them all in the Empire. Even the most zealous Hunter will usually grudgingly admit most of this is harmless. Usually. Though now I'm imagining the badass Witch Hunter very seriously carrying his anti-curse chicken everywhere and yes, this is good.
Next Time: Signs of Faith
The sign of victory!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Slvation
The sign of victory!
Empire being the Empire, there are hundreds and thousands of holy sayings and signs and sacred names that people take on to try to draw the benevolent eye of the Gods. There are so many that the general rule on them is that players should be encouraged to come up with their own signs and sayings of the Gods, and use them liberally. Some of the established signs are neat, or funny, so I'll be going into those, but there's an awful lot of them. Manaan invented the modern salute, for instance. Morrites greet one another by dragging their hand down across their face and body, miming closing the eyes of a dead man in a gesture called 'Morr's Shroud', and a Morrite with their hands behind their back is signaling they are at prayer and want to be left alone. Myrmidians have the old Roman salute, as well as a sillier one where they hold their hands with palms held wide in front of the chest (to represent the sun's rays) and then swing their hands outwards. Sigmarites give the V for Victory sign to represent both the glorious victory of Sigmar and the twin tailed comet. Giving it with the hand held inward is equivalent to flipping someone off, and is considered sacred and appropriate to do to enemies of the Empire. Similarly, priests and monks will often drag the V of their fingers in front of their eyes as a prayer to draw Sigmar's wisdom; this makes them look like they are doing disco moves. Ranald is shown by the crossed fingers representing his X, always on the left hand. Most of Taal and Rhya's signs double as a way of signaling you want to sleep with someone, such as slapping one's knees or saluting with a finger held in the other hand. Some Shallyans will greet one by slapping each other to reflect the Goddess's sorrow, and are considered ridiculous by both the rest of their cult and the rest of the Empire. Verenans stroke their chin thoughtfully when they think someone is lying to them. These sorts of things.
Showing faith isn't just a way to keep the Gods on your side; literally showing faith is a major fashion statement in the Empire. Religious iconography is always in style, and always an acceptable embellishment to a person's appearance. Illiterate soldiers will often have prayers they can't read sealed to their armor in wax to protect them and show off. Brands and tattoos are common all across the Empire for people of both genders, and religious marks are considered good luck. If you want a cool tattoo, why not get a flaming twin-tailed comet or a badass wolf? It will still look cool and now one of the Gods might look more favorably upon you. Some Imperials like to perform intentional scarification rather than tattooing, especially among Ulricans, to show a cultist was willing to endure pain for their God. Scars and marks of war give a person authority in the Empire, and plenty of people don't wait to get them in an actual war. Ritual robes and clothing are a good excuse for your best clothes, because again, you can be stylish while also drawing the good fortune and favor of a God. Sometimes this ritual decoration can get a little out of hand; While a Cultist of Ulric wearing a wolfskin cloak that they killed and skinned for themselves is hardly problematic, Cultists of Manaan commonly wear fish on their heads, and the smell is terrible. One famous friar in the town of Ubersreik wore a live piglet to show that the Gods favored him such that he could calm any creature, until it was discovered he'd glued it to his bald head in a drunken stupor. Priests are also known for making and keeping puppets. Yes, puppets. Puppet shows are popular entertainment in the Empire, and a Priest who has their puppets to hand can use them to dramatically demonstrate the myths of the Gods, often to great success with peasants. Imagining the very serious Sigmarite priest stroking his chin at encountering some moral depravity and then whipping out his trusty puppets to demonstrate why this was a sin against God and the Empire is very good.
We get a large table of possible ridiculous things you can encounter a procession of religious-minded folk wearing at any time, with the obvious very slight possibility that those pilgrims over there have a real relic or magic item or cursed device that they probably don't know about. They also include the chance that someone is cosplaying a warrior priest with useless fake armor, wearing a hair shirt or other devices of penance, or, of course, that the random person is a secret Chaos cultist. Not sure why you'd use this table, but it's cute. We get similar tables for talismans and altars, with chances that something a person is wearing or offering is actually very valuable, very unholy, or very, very silly.
In general, your players should be using all this as an excuse to dress in truly outrageous fashions. Religion in the Empire is colorful, and often one of the places where people get to have some fun in their lives. Go wild. Glue a piglet to your head.
Another common aspect of Folk Worship since the establishment of the Grand Conclave is the practice of sainting Venerated Souls. These are catholic Saints with the numbers filed off and no theological implication of immediate salvation without necessity of purgatory, because the Empire has a wholly different soteriology than the Catholic Church. Still, these are holy individuals who have generally been martyred in the name of their Gods, to whom the Empire's high priests attribute miraculous intercessions and happenings by a vote at Conclave. The line between a minor god and a Venerated Soul is blurry, but the key is that a Venerated Soul is a former mortal. They are prayed to for intercession in the matters related to their martyrdom and their lives; a Warrior-Priestess of Sigmar who gave her life protecting children and orphans might be prayed to for the protection of children from physical danger, while a Shallyan who denied himself to the point of his own death to protect his charges from starvation might be prayed to for the protection of children from starving to death. If there is a situation, you can be certain there is a Venerated Soul for it, no matter how specific or obscure.
One example of a Venerated Soul of Morr is Brother Shawl. He was a silent young artist, given to visions from his God, who would carve exact replicas of people at the moment of their death as memorials. He also loved to carve life-like obsidian and marble ravens, decorating Morr's Gardens with his work. Eventually, a young woman fished out of the river came to his temple for burial, and before Shawl could show his carving of how she died, he was found dead as well. The carving he had been working on had been used to stove his head in. As the priests debated who could have performed such a terrible crime in their very temple, the ravens of marble in their graveyard took flight. Each one cawed a single name: Rudolf. Rudolf was a fellow priest, revealed as a serial killer who had been drowning young women in the nearby town. He confessed to the murders, saying Shawl had been about to reveal him by his carving when he had killed his Brother to conceal the truth. Every month, a flight of ravens returns to that graveyard, screaming 'RUDOLF! RUDOLF!' to remind the world of their father's murderer. Old Worlders pray to Shawl to reveal the truth of unsolved murders and on matters of justice. Generally, nothing happens, but roughly once a decade, a raven will appear to a supplicant and whisper a name, before falling to the ground and breaking apart into marble or obsidian.
We get many other example souls, from a Shallyan who was accidentally spreading plague, burned for spreading said plague, but then her being burned and the plague ceasing to spread got conflated and people assumed that her sacrifice had saved them from the plague, to a wandering judge who was killed in a box full of bees while trying to prosecute a strange nature cult out in the sticks. Most Venerated Soul stories focus a lot on how the Soul died, like the Manaanan who swam out to his foundering ship and rescued every other crewman before dying of consumption three weeks later, or the hero tracker of Taal who killed over 30 Beastmen and saved his town before being executed as a mutant years later. Most of the Venerated Soul section is played for black comedy outside of Brother Shawl.
Your PCs probably don't really want to become Venerated Souls, given that it requires dying, usually horribly.
Next Time: Perhaps a little too faithful.
Have you accepted Sigmar as your personal savior!?
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Have you accepted Sigmar as your personal savior!?
As might be deduced by the existence of the Flagellant career, sometimes people take things too far. The Gods do not generally speak to their cults directly or directly make their desires known, outside of truly miraculous circumstances. It's easy for heresies, heterodoxies, and extremist ideologies to form when the Gods are powerful, real, and distant. One thing I like about the chapter on extremism is that it begins by discussing why people turn to these extreme religious ideologies in setting, and also goes into their general contours so you can make up your own splinter-sects and heresies, before getting into the canon, recognized groups of fanatics. This is generally something the book handles well; it gives you plenty of tools to construct your own holy sites, temples, sub-cults, religious sayings, and superstitions, with the canon ones as inspirations and ready-made examples rather than a hard list. The two general classes of fanatics, people who have gone too far in their devotion to their God, are flagellants and zealots. Flagellants are focused on repentance and building a personal connection between the individual and their God and are usually much more of a threat to themselves. Zealots focus on promoting their God above others, and are often a threat to the community, or even the Empire, depending on how highly placed they might be.
People are primarily called to the extremes of faith by trauma, by being raised by fanatics, by being raised by a different sort of fanatic (you will often see one pious member of a noble family burned for necromancy or chaos worship turn crazy flagellant to 'redeem their honor'), the preaching of a highly charismatic priest, a feeling that they have had direct divine revelations, or, most uncommonly, by thinking they've discovered an important contradiction or revelation through careful scholarship of their God's tenants. Positive and negative experiences are just as likely to drive someone to fanaticism; someone who feels Ulric guided them safely through a winter that starved many of their neighbors might feel just as chosen as someone joining the Sigmarite zealots to get revenge on greenskins. Interestingly, those who were actually corrupted by Chaos or other dark powers tend to become zealots, seeking not just to redeem themselves but to keep themselves above suspicion; no-one would ever suspect that the Witch Hunter in training used to be part of a Slaanesh cult. Those who simply had a brush with darkness tend towards become flagellants, trying to protect their souls and thank their God for giving them the sense to pull out in time.
Fanaticism takes many forms, but the most common is someone who acts as a supremely pious lay-member of the cult, giving more than they can afford and centering their life around their chosen God. They follow their God absolutely, following all the strictures, listening to cult authorities over secular ones, undertaking major pilgrimages despite the danger, and otherwise displaying extremes of piety. They don't assault members of other cults, but they no longer have the energy or time to pay respect to other Gods. The Proper Believer often ends up a mendicant, because God takes priority over everything, even earning a living. Unlike most forms of fanatics, these mostly don't threaten the community and the cults will often encourage them; they set a good example and they're great for the collections box, plus they listen to the priests. These sorts are most common among Shallyans, Verenans, Taalites, and Mannanites.
The True and Faithful Servant is not yet dangerous to the community, but is getting close; these are distinguished from the Proper Believer by their focus on the priesthood of their cult. These believers begin to believe that A: Their God is better than all the other Gods, though they do not yet go so far as to attack or cause trouble for the other Gods, just ignore them like the Proper Believer and B: As corollary to this, the priesthood of the cult is closer to the awesome God and better than normal people, and should be obeyed, followed, and assisted in everything possible. They see the priests as the extension of the word of God itself, often joining the personal retinue of a charismatic. Favored priests should be obeyed as if they were Sigmar or Myrmidia themselves; not coincidentally, this particular mode of fanaticism is most common among followers of Sigmar and Myrmidia, and unheard of among Verenans or Ranaldans.
The Unworthy believe they have sinned terribly against their God and structure their lives around repentance. These are the classic roaming bands of flagellants the Empire gets every time there's a major disaster, wandering around whipping themselves and calling out to Sigmar to preserve them. These people lose any regard for their own safety, believing that they have already angered their God and that the only reasonable thing to do is repent with what time they have left in hopes of saving their souls or drawing the wrath of God away from their community. These are the people who start to make cult authorities uncomfortable. On one hand, they do preach that the wrath of the Gods is to be avoided and they often make grand displays of piety, but the Gods are generally concerned with lives that make sense within a community and these people ignore all the aspects of faith besides bloody repentance. They are also generally a danger to themselves, but wandering bands of crazy flagellants are also disruptive to normal cult activities. High Priests often try to limit their contact with their flocks and channel these would-be-martyrs into something 'useful', especially among the cult of Sigmar. Curiously, this sort of self-flagellation is also common in lay worshipers of Shallya, as they dramatically bemoan the suffering of the world and make themselves suffer in turn.
The Scourges of God are the most dangerous sort of fanatic. These are the sorts who believe they've been chosen to battle the enemies of the One True God, which has the potential to go bad real fast in a polytheistic society. They're prone to believing that anyone who obstructs them is another hidden Chaos Cultist or servant of evil and corruption, and they're usually armed. They form religious militias and march out against the enemies of the divine, and many cults will try to channel them to the frontiers, or into templar orders, where this can be directed at acceptable targets like Norscan raiders or greenskins. If they can't accomplish that, these people often start ranting about the ENEMY WITHIN and going after innocents within the Empire, or even worse, they start yelling about the awful heresy of believing in other Gods and begin to attack other cults. Worse still, sometimes they decide that there's terrible corruption and decadence in the high ranks of their own cults and start to go after the high priests and established religious authorities; from the perspective of a cult, this is an unmitigated disaster. Crusades against 'corruption' by an untrained and renegade militia of zealots can get out of hand very, very quickly. This insanity is most common with Sigmarites, Myrmidians, and Ulricans, but it can pop up with Morrites in areas that have faced vampiric threats.
Those with a Deeper Understanding think they have discovered a great and hidden truth about their God, or have had revelation of an important event. Someone who thinks they've found another Sigmar Reborn is the explicit example in the book, since that's something of a recurrent heresy for the Sigmarites. How this sort of heterodoxy gets treated is going to depend a lot on what the person found and how. Someone who has simply discovered and promoted the life of a new saint might eventually get a new holiday added to the calender and be treated with great acclaim by their church. Someone who advocates for the overthrow of the entire existing cult authority is likely to be accused of heresy. This sort of thing is so common among Verenans that it could be said that every true Verenan is a bit of this sort of fanatic. Aside from the parade of Sigmar Reborns, Sigmarites despise this kind of believer and are more likely to come down on them like a ton of bricks than any other cult, no matter what they're advocating; they are suspicious of books and of people claiming to discover secret revelations from them.
Some believe their God is a Close and Personal Friend, who speaks to them and interacts with them regularly. This is treated with caution by the cults; yes, it's usually a sign of a crazy heretic or huckster, but every now and then it happens. Sometimes, after all, the Gods really do choose an individual for an important task. If the individual shows signs of the God's magic or blessings, they will be treated very carefully; they prefer to name these prophets prophets only after they know the extent of their agenda, and so prefer to wait until the prophet is safely dead. After all, if you name someone a prophet too early, there have been several cases where a prophet then went on to condemn the very high priest who legitimized them. At the same time, the cults really don't want to risk pissing off their God by actually persecuting an actual prophet of their actual God. These sorts of things are always a fine line to tread.
Finally, the most dangerous sort of fanatic are the ones that don't just stop ignoring the other Gods, but declare there ARE no other Gods. One True Godism is extremely dangerous and risks the safety of the community and the stability of the Empire. Officially, it is to be stamped out at every turn, as sternly as necessary. In practice, this is a common heresy among followers of Sigmar, and even there the fanatic must keep it secret or else they will face swift and brutal persecution from their own cult if it comes to light. What's interesting to me is that the tendency to proclaim Sigmar is the only God seems to be more common among Sigmarites, while most other cults often produce fanatics who tend towards a more henotheistic approach where they claim their God is the main one worthy of worship, or they deny the divinity of a specific other God (generally Sigmar). Still, these people are a threat to the Empire no matter what form they take; imagine what happens to sea travel if you try to claim that Manaan isn't a God and stamp out all propitiation of the sea, for instance. Or look at how important Morr is to the defense of the dead against Chaos. Or ask yourself if you want to deal with what happens when you dump Rhya, the Goddess who blesses all harvests and also childbirth and love. These are not good ideas when you're certain these entities exist and get really pissed off if you deny them respect!
Next Time: Major Fanatical Sects
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Manaan's first example is the Dyke, a cult that believes an enormous flood is going to kill everyone in the world for offending Manaan. They started out praying to avert the flood and taking care of wounded sailors, and the central cult regards them as weird but mostly not a problem. The problem comes in that their original founder finally died of exposure from spending all her time standing in seawater and yelling at the ocean that she's sorry. The subcult is fracturing, and at least one apocalyptic branch has decided the flood is coming no matter what and breaks flood prevention measures to punish man for their hubris. Another is building a giant ark in the mountains that they think will take them to paradise. These could all go badly. There's also the insane Holders of the Shore, who think humans shouldn't go on the sea, ever, and so run around burning boats; these are obviously dangerous heretics, for obvious reasons. The Sea Born believe they're magical chosen of Manaan born on ships, who will get magic powers like being able to drink sea-water if they never set foot on land. There's an optional talent provided in case you want this legend to be true, so you could play a magic Manaanite prophet who can drink sea water and repair their ship-home even at sea; stranger things have happened in Hams Town and magic sacred maritime adventures wouldn't be a bad idea for a campaign.
The Morrite Doorkeepers used to be a fairly normal group of undead hunters. Then Ingrund the Grim, their current leader, rose to prominence by killing a bunch of vampires and impressing on the others she had Morr's favor. She then went batshit crazy and started claiming that all medicine and healing represented an affront to Morr. Shallyans, surgeons, all these are as evil as vampires! Her group of lunatics assassinate doctors, try to burn down shrines to Shallya, and have been denounced as a likely cult of Khaine. Ingrund survived the persecution and now believes the whole Cult of Morr is an evil anti-deathist madhouse in thrall to the wickedness of DOCTORS. She would be a good arc villain for a very baffled PC party. They still technically fight vampires, but it's much easier to slit a Shallyan's throat than fight a Von Carstein, so their focus has shifted a bit. The Blessed of Morr think the physical world is terrible and Morr's realm is a paradise. They also believe you shouldn't kill yourself, because every soul should undergo suffering to ensure that Morr's Realm will feel like a proper contrast. Thus, they believe the more you suffer in life, the more you'll be blessed in death, but Morr will also call you sooner, since you meet your quota faster. This leads them to practices like flagellation and extreme fasting that tend to kill them even if they aren't intentionally committing suicide. The cult denounces them as heretics, but as they're only really a danger to themselves, the Morrites are busier persecuting those insane Doorkeeper people before they go on another doctor-hunt.
The Cult of Myrmidia Perfecta absolutely hates that the missionaries in the Empire have done the thing successful missionaries have literally always done and converted parts of Myrmidia's worship into analogues that the locals will understand. They hate things like Fury being emphasized or Imperial Fury Knights being mostly men (since Fury is used to siphon off Ulricans) or the way the Imperials primarily worship Myrmidia as a 'mere' Goddess of Strategy. They believe the entire Imperial cult of Myrmidia is heresy against the Goddess of Civilization and that it needs to be destroyed. The central cult is not happy about a bunch of murderers running around actively trying to destroy its careful progress towards expanding into the Empire, and the Perfecta are condemned as dire heretics and enemies of the faith. There is, of course, also an ongoing heretical war between extremist Tilean and Estalian sects about where Myrmidia was born, but this rarely comes up in the Empire. Except that the Imperials haven't got a dog in the fight and both sides have noticed that influencing the new Imperial cult to support one or the other might be an excellent strategy. Thus, they slap-fight in the shadows about which texts to approve for missionary work in the Empire and try to convince new Imperial converts that Myrmidia was obviously born in Estalia or Tilea.
Ranaldans have two kinds of fanatic: Fortune's Favored believe you should trust everything to luck and just try to make their way through life, taking what comes. They're considered self-destructive but harmless. The orthodox tend to help them out from time to time, trying to support these holy hobos because they see their life as a slightly insane but ultimately pious life. This is the closest you get to a Ranaldan Flagellant, those who live entirely by his mercy and whim. The Humblers are a more extremist sect of Ranald the Protector followers, who believe anyone possessing wealth or power deserves to be taken down a peg simply for the act of possessing those things. They don't wait for someone to be a tyrant; all rich men are tyrants by nature of being rich, and should be targeted for it. Naturally, this is not popular with the authorities. Being Ranaldans, they don't kill their targets, but they ARE happy to get them killed on false charges of Chaos worship, treason, etc. Orthodox followers would prefer to be a little more discriminating in their targeting, and tend to think the Humblers take a little too much pleasure in ruining peoples' lives, but Ranald's cult doesn't officially persecute anyone unless they openly violate the Strictures. The Humblers are careful not to do so.
The Plague Wardens are a terrible heresy against Shallya, believing it is their duty to kill the sick so they can't spread Nurgle's plagues. Shallyan Plague Wardens are some of the clearest 'this is really pissing off your Goddess' heretics in the whole section, because almost anyone who could use Shallyan magic who joins them loses it, quickly. They believe that by killing the sick, they are carrying out an extreme version of triage and preventing disease from spreading, and they are very willing to wear swords and go into combat with Nurglites and the desperately ill. The cult, naturally, condemns them as insane. The book has a little section on 'actually they may well have saved thousands of lives by preventing the spread of disease' but I'm pretty sure a bunch of rotting bodies being transported to be burned probably aren't very sanitary, either, and that preventing the spread of infectious disease by swording everyone who has it doesn't usually work out. Especially when they also accidentally end up killing people who just have a cold. The Suffering Hearts are a sect of extremists who believe that priestesses need to purge themselves of any and all worldly desire and personal pleasure before they can heal the sick. Doing so without 'purifying' yourself will lead to disaster. Thus, they've ended up spending all their time scourging themselves and don't bother to spend any time actually being doctors anymore. Curiously, those who declare themselves purified, leave the sect, and start actually helping people again see an unusually high rate of magic among them; possibly the Goddess trying to encourage them to stop hurting themselves.
Next Time: More Crazy Heretics
Mothers of Sigmar
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Mothers of Sigmar
Sigmar, being the largest religion in the Empire, has the most groups of fanatics described here. Our first group is Those Left Behind. These are the daughters, wives, and widows of those who die fighting the orcs and goblins, whether in the Imperial Army, the militia, or on adventure. They've formed up into a loose warrior-sisterhood, reasoning that seeking revenge on the greenskins for killing your kin was good enough for Sigmar and perhaps he'll bless their efforts to do the same. Equipment is rare in these groups of roving would-be-warriors, and mostly consists of hand-me-downs. If a new sister can't find a real weapon, she gets the biggest rock or stick she can manage until she can brain an orc and take his choppa (in practice, these unarmed sisters usually die). However, those who survive become hardened fighters very quickly. When these bands of warriors win victories, they're prone to drinking heavily and throwing rowdy parties to thank Sigmar for his protection. Every member takes on a title where they take Sigmar in place of the loved one they lost, so they are the daughters, wives, and mothers of Sigmar, the latter title making the Order of the Torch a little nervous about heresy. Still, aside from the wild parties the group doesn't seem interested in doing more than fighting orcs and defending towns from them, so they're mostly tolerated. They could be a pretty fun concept for a wild campaign of scavenging and desperate combat.
The Flagellant Orders are a famous phenomena of Sigmarism. There are dozens of these tiny groups of lunatics, hitting themselves with corded whips and wearing broken glass sewn into their clothes. They believe pain and suffering are key to holiness, but outside of this they don't have any unified beliefs, and the little bands of masochists often get into flail fights over obscure doctrine or the preaching of a charismatic.They also like to hurt themselves in public, usually while wearing plaques they can't read, publicly proclaiming the world is wicked and doomed. Most believe what they do is the only thing that keeps Sigmar from destroying the evil world, or standing aside to let Chaos do it. These religious manias can take over whole towns in times of fear or disaster. Worse, some of these groups are endorsed or encouraged by some of the priests of Sigmar, so there's no getting rid of them. Again, not quite sure where they get Flagellants out of Sigmarism particularly, but if I had to guess I'd say it's a perversion of some of the dwarven cultural bleed-over. Dwarfs say you should be able to take it, after all, and Sigmar says be nice to (and a little like) dwarfs, so maybe those wires got crossed with crazy apocalypticism and produced these weirdos. Sigmar's Anvils are described as a whole separate group, but I'd just use them as an example of Flagellants; a bunch of hopeless people who believe that by suffering extravagantly, they'll take up all of Sigmar's wrath and protect the rest of the community.
The Unifiers were already dangerous enough in claiming Sigmar is master of all Gods, but that isn't necessarily heresy; there's always been debates about which popular God is King or Queen of the divine realm. The Truth of Sigmar go further, claiming that all the other Gods have died fighting Chaos and only Sigmar has seen any success. All other cults are just the Chaos Gods holding up the corpses of the other Gods to deceive their followers. Thus, according to the Truth, every prayer to Shallya is empowering Nurgle, etc. This is a very dangerous and very fringe heresy, punished heavily by the Sigmarite cult. Not just because it risks civil war, not just because it's wrong, but because it glorifies and strengthens Chaos, by falsely claiming it's already 'won' most of its war against the sane world.
The Fanatics of Taal and Rhya really follow the same pattern for both groups: The Celebrants and the Wildmen. Both withdraw from society to go live in the woods. Both get killed by beastmen a lot. Celebrants go off into the woods to party in the name of Taal and Rhya and do crazy forest mushrooms for the rest of their lives, while the Wildmen actually try to revert to a pre-Imperial hunter-gatherer society. Contrary to the title, Wildmen are both genders, and sometimes form small, successful communities of hunters in the middle of the woods, far from normal civilization. This would be normal enough, if not for the fact that they also think things like 'pants' or 'daggers' are meaningless before the might of King Taal; they think humans should live naked and unarmed, without tools. As you might imagine, they have serious problems with fighting off ravening Goatmen, not to mention bears. The official church doesn't really care about either flavor of 'withdraw from society and die in the woods'.
The Sons of Ulric are insane religious terrorists who believe they are actual blood descendants of Ulric. They have existed for centuries, and have been trying and failing to take over the cult for just as long, because none of them can agree who should rule the cult (then the world, they are semi-divine Godlings!) after they win. Instead they tend to fall back into squabbling and making wolf noises at each other before agreeing that any minute now they'll be God kings. Then someone else mentions that some of the Sons (and occasional Daughters, but they refuse to change the name) aren't even Teutogens. Then one of them shoots back that Ulric can fuck whoever he damn well likes. Then they start arguing over whether or not blonde hair is a sign of Ulric and really there's a reason they've never gotten anywhere. They are an illegal embarrassment to the Cult of Ulric, which has been trying to wipe them out as long as they've existed.
The Wolf-Kin are ex-soldiers who have formed up into loose roving bands of religious warriors. When a warrior of Ulric feels they have committed grave offense, instead of hitting themselves with whips, they put on some woad, learn to berserk, and go off to face the corruption of the world head on by fighting demons, greenskins, and beastmen. As they seek out and primarily fight obvious enemies in defense of northern communities, most people think of the Wolf-Kin as something of a romantic group of heroes, aside from the part where many of them die in the process. Since they're ex-soldiers, though, many of them have and know how to use weaponry and armor; this makes their berserking rages actually carry them to victory more often than you'd usually see with a band of Flagellants. Aside from the occasional case where a band of Wolf-Kin declares an Imperial tax collector a bandit who has no right to take from Ulric's people, the church barely has to denounce them for anything; they're mostly legitimate.
Verenan Defenders of Truth believe no subject should be forbidden, no book should be illegal, and that everything in the world can eventually be catalogued and understood. As you might imagine this gets them in trouble in a world full of evil books and dark wizardry. They're often suspected of being heretics, and accidentally end up helping heretics reasonably often, but the cult refuses to condemn them. The official cult line is that they go a little too far, and that maybe it's okay to burn Ye Booke of The Most Livesome Awfulness, but generally the Verenans would rather err on their side than the other. Scholastics are simple Verenans Flagellants, who whip themselves when they get questions wrong in large impromptu quizzes imposed by their charismatic preachers, and who consider memorizing vast quantities of trivia a holy task. The only really unorthodox part about them is the desire to be hurt if they get questions wrong or their study falls short; Verenans consider that pretty crazy.
Next time: Acts of Fanatics
I am the Scourge of God!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
I am the Scourge of God!
The actual religious punishments/extreme acts of faith section is pretty dull and about what you'd expect, but it does introduce a new class that's quite interesting. The Penitent is a dull take on the Zealot to reflect a different route into the crazy Flagellant class (their difference is a focus on Torture and Heal, rather than flails), but the Scourge of God is a new 3rd tier 'capstone' career for Flagellant types. These are the charismatic preachers and 'holy warriors' who run the Flagellant Orders, and they can be followers of any God, even Shallya; I suppose Shallyan Scourges are either those crazy Plague Wardens or people who are all in on finding and beating the shit out of Nurglites. They're a slightly below average 3rd tier fighter, given they only get +25% WS, no BS, and no special weaponry, but they still get 3 Attacks, good Wounds, and a ton of public speaking and Willpower. Plus they'll have Fearless and Strike Mighty from having been a Flagellant. They'll lack Dodge unless they took a different career track at some point, but the real point of interest for the Scourge of God is getting Resistance to Chaos. Remember this is the talent Halflings have, and Grail Knights have, that makes them totally immune to mutation and gives serious bonuses against any sort of Chaos magic or trick. So yeah, get crazy about your religion enough and maybe you'll become totally immune to Chaos Mutation. They can also exit into Witch Hunter and they're fairly short for a 3rd tier, plus they get Luck (+1 fortune a day) and some good stat talents; they're not a bad career at all.
Tensions between the cults don't normally take the form of the cults actually declaring one another illegitimate. As we were over in the last section, Monotheism is one of the only non-Chaos heresies that is (generally) persecuted out of hand by every single mainstream cult. However, this doesn't mean that a bunch of powerful organizations with very different ideas about how the world should work aren't going to get into it with each other from time to time. Theological differences tend to be the least common source of tension, specifically because most cults are content to stay in their lane and theology is mostly limited to scholars and priests, who are easier for the mainstream cult authorities to control. Verenans might argue that Ranaldans are trying to change the world wrong by not trusting to the power of law, but they aren't likely to argue Ranald isn't a God, that sort of thing. The main source of theological tension is the constant 'Sigmar is no God!' from some of the fanatics of Ulric. Even when no-one claims Sigmar wasn't a God, there is the issue of Sigmar being a pious worshiper of the Gods when he was mortal. Thus, Ulricans will sometimes claim that Sigmar was a follower of Ulric, and even after being crowned a God, remains a follower of Ulric, and that Ulric should be placed over his faithful worshiper. It is certainly true that Sigmar was a devout Ulrican when he was a man, but Sigmarites would claim Ulric raised him to the same level as Ulric when he entrusted him with divinity. I sometimes suspect this is why 4e put in a gospel of Sigmar but then had the Order of the Anvil keep it as secret as possible; Sigmar's actual life as a king following the Gods opens up an entire line of theological attack that leads to more tiresome civil wars and sniping.
Objections to behavior in another cult are the more common source of tensions. The example adventure given is a Shallyan High Priestess arguing that all corporal punishment is immoral, with a Sigmarite Priest considering that must mean she's been corrupted by evil, because only evil would object to beating your children or rolling them down a hill in a barrel to correct their behavior, since everyone knows this is just proper discipline and authority. The PCs would be asked to step in and stop this from coming to hammers and fire. Similarly, you can run into cases where cults generally agree on what's good, but not how to do it: The example given is that a Myrmidian would prefer a careful plan and the initiative of individual officers to win a battle, a Sigmarite would trust in obedience to a central authority and the strength of the soldiers as a group, and an Ulrican would be yelling about WHY ARE YOU PONCY GITS ARGUIN', GET THE AXES, WE'RE GETTIN' IN THERE. They all want to win the battle and agree they should be fighting, but none of them can agree on how, to the point that armies often have to divine their regiments by war-god or else they won't work well together. Similarly, Ranald, Sigmar, and Verena tend to squabble with one another over how the Sigmarite would rather things be done how they've always been done because that's how they're done, the Verenan would be willing to listen to the Ranaldan's critique but would want him arrested for all the theft, and the Ranaldan would want to embarrass both of them as potential tyrants. There's also ongoing arguments between Verenans and Sigmarites, because Verenans consider asking why a law is a law a religious duty and Sigmarites consider it heresy. The two usually stick to arguing with one another, though, because Sigmarites grudgingly admit that Verenan Investigators are about as good as the Witch Hunters at hunting down actual witches, and they both agree on what to do with actual dark wizards. Sigmarites are also deeply suspicious of books. I'm not sure how they feel about owls, but I'd guess it's ambivalent
Finally, sometimes you run into a theological or cultic conflict where once you dig down, it turns out that two powerful religious figures just hate each other on a personal level. As they are powerful religious figures, they are prone to finding moral and theological justifications for their conflicts even when it comes down to a simple personal disagreement. These are the most prone to spinning out of control because of the inherent deception involved; when outside mediators don't have a solid idea of the cause of the conflict (because the real cause is just 'Fuck that guy!' and neither side wants to surrender the dignity of a real religious conflict by admitting it) it's more likely they won't be able to defuse things. Then the streets are knee deep in blood and you end up with a full blown heresy on your hands because the High Priestess of Shallya wouldn't sleep with a Morrite and then he got bitter and spread rumors she was a Slaaneshi (this is the example adventure for this sort of thing) and now those Doorkeeper lunatics have arrived on the scene screaming about how all doctors must die and he's encouraging them and oh dear, get some PCs on this before it gets worse.
Next Time: Other, Shittier Gods of Cattle Raiding, Trickle Down Capitalism, and Murder
Overt and covert exploitation
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Overt and covert exploitation
We get two 'new' Gods who haven't quite been accepted yet here, and they suck. Not because they don't enable plots or anything, but because they're dicks. Gunndred is the god of cattle-rustling and thuggery. Explicitly and proudly. He's becoming popular in the Balkans/Mad Max/Wild West crossover that is the Border Princes, because they're a region where Bandit King Priests don't get stomped on by a large and angry contingent of the Imperial military. Gunndred is quite literally the God of Banditry, with his followers debating whether or not those froofy Highwaymen get to be counted as worshipers in between coming up with their scary torture gimmicks to scare cattle hands. You see, every priest of Gunndred has a gimmick, like biting people and eating part of their cheek in front of them, or telling people not to tell anyone who robbed them (then coming back and killing them if they don't disobey you and tell people who robbed them because REPUTATION MUST SPREAD). Gunndred followers aren't worshipers of Chaos, they're just kind of shitty people who like hurting people and being famous for hurting people. They also love loots. There really isn't that much more to him: Loots, sadism, have a gimmick and a costume so people remember you. In time, perhaps he'll become the God of Costumed Supervillainy if his worship isn't stamped out. He is depicted as either a huge man in poor clothes with a cudgel, or an extremely fat man covered in jewelry and robes with six shadowy thugs standing behind him. The cult of Ranald vociferously denies that these people have anything to do with Ranald, and indeed, many pray to Ranald for protection from Gunndred.
As an adventure seed, Gunndred isn't that complicated. You're adventurers, you're the sort of people who get hired to go deal with cattle rustlers all the time. Especially when all the local guards and mercenaries are scared stiff of Chief Bloodjaw, who's said to eat the faces of her prisoners (an actual example NPC, and one of the first to develop Gunndred's magic, indicating he favors face-eating for fearsome reputations). Are you bored of fighting occult-powered brigands with Chaos powers? Go fight some people empowered by a scary asshole thug god, as a reminder that you don't need Chaos to be an asshole. I suspect that's the real purpose of Gunndred: To remind you people can be evil all on their own, no tentacles required.
Handrich is a little more complicated, and about robbing people in more respectable ways. Handrich is the god of legitimate merchants, according to merchants' clubs, as opposed to Ranald, who is the god of 'legitimate' merchants. Pay no mind to the fact that they're both represented by a pair of crossed fingers, of course. Or to the fact that Handrich has as holy writ 'Don't get caught in a lie until you've left town'. Handrich's followers believe whatever is good for business will be good for the whole community, lobbying for lower taxes, conspiring together to raise prices, and giving to charity as ways to get around and dodge their taxes. Yessir, Handrich is the shitty capitalism god. I'll just quote the book here. "Our cult brings nothing but goodwill and fortune to the people! Through Handrich's blessing the money we bring in trickles down
to those in need, eventually! It's the perfect system!" Handrich's followers love trusts, engineered monopolies, lobbying for the government to invest in their businesses, and giving to the poor to launder their money. Seems like a shitty God with nothing to do with Ranald outside of a love of money and tricking people into giving you that money, right?
Except for another little thing. When you use Handrich's magic or benefit from it, you take on a real material debt to the God. This debt is generally paid by charity, with the assumption that money moving is good for Handrich. If you don't pay your debts on time, Handrich will curse the hell out of you and your businesses will collapse until you pay your debts. What this means is that effectively, if you're going to run with 'Handrich is a long con by Ranald' rather than just 'Handrich is the God of voodoo economics and trickle-down' (which is presented as one of the possibilities) you can have the capitalism God trick bankers and merchants into being in crippling, usurious debt to street-urchins, especially as Handrich specifically has a spell where you go and beg for more time to pay your loans. If the image of wealthy Marienburgers all talking and scheming about how the 'free market' will make them lords of all the world while not noticing they're having to negotiate loan payments with orphanages doesn't please you I don't know what's wrong with you.
If you want to play up Handrich as the shitty capitalistic exploitation God, though, there's the fact that the cult can be played as being all about a fancy, respectable public face while at the same time doing backroom deals to fleece the public with fixed prices, tax dodges, and manufactured famines and shortages. Handrich in this mode is explicitly set up to be a different sort of challenge for an adventuring party, where they go to investigate crime only to find the thieves are working through purely 'legal' and 'respectable' means to enact a conspiracy against the public, and the heroes will have to turn to other means to stop the hoarders and speculators who are causing trouble. In this case, the parallel to Ranald is more that Handrich is all about pretending to be legitimate, while being an even bigger thief than any second story man ever could be.
Bit of a short update but these Gods aren't that complicated.
Next: Foreign Gods, Elf Gods, Dwarf Gods, and Halfling Gods.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Imperials have a lot of cultural bleedthrough from the local Gods of their neighbors. How likely an Imperial is to denigrate a foreign god as 'just' a regional god tends to be a function of how far away from that region the Imperial lives. In the northern Empire, Kislevite shrines are common and the people hold Ursun, Dazh, and Tor (the Gods of Bears/Nature, Rulership/the Sun, and War/Lightning) in high regard, though there's a curious tendency to build a single shrine that serves all three Gods since their congregations are small. Most Imperials outside of the north will tell you Ursun is an aspect of Taal, Dazh is an aspect of Myrmidia, and Tor is an aspect of Ulric, but they're respected on their own terms in Middenland, Ostermark, and other neighboring provinces. This admiration comes from the fact that Kislev and the Empire have been fighting Chaos together since the days of the Ungol tribes allying with Sigmar; the Empire has no cause to believe the Kislevite Gods are anything but enemies of Chaos and champions against evil.
The Lady of the Lake is dismissed as an odd regional God worshiped by weirdos, and is often made fun of in the Empire. She isn't worshiped outside of Bretonnian expats. If people do take her seriously, they tend to assume she's Myrmidia or a servant of Myrmidia and that the addled Brets just made up a weird pond lady.
Dwarf Gods are not Gods in the same sense as humans think of Gods, but are rather the most honored ancestors of the dwarfs. The Gods like Grimnir (vengeance, war, slayers), Grungi (craftsmen, miners), and Valaya (Motherhood, protection, plenty) (the most important 3) are simply the most important of all ancestors, held up to the level of divinity because of their greatness. Dwarfs build private shrines and prefer to give private devotion rather than the public worship of humans. Instead of private prayers, though, they like to tell epic sagas of the great deeds of the ancestors, usually accompanied with a lot of drinking and possibly some off-key singing. Humans respect the faith of dwarfs, partly because Sigmar told them to, partly because it seems reasonable enough and they've always been friends. Dwarfs think human religion is rather odd, but then, they think a lot of things about humans are rather odd, without it affecting the fact that they get along well enough. They do, in fact, view Sigmar a little like a human Ancestor God, but as he's a human Ancestor God, few dwarfs worship him. Notice the few, though; apparently it isn't impossible to play a dwarf warrior priest (albeit without magic) who identifies Sigmar as an Ancestor God if you wanted. You'd be considered odd, but that's neat. Sometimes, humans come to identify strongly with the Gods of their neighbors and friends, and it isn't unheard of to see humans in Wissenland building shrines to Grungi or offering prayers to the Ancestor Gods. A genuine human-built temple of Grungi stands in Nuln.
Elves have a lot of gods, and like to claim they're in direct contact with them. They also like to claim they have no need for Priests, because all elves are mystical and magical and special, according to elves. Elves consider everything they do to be special, and so they consider their Gods to have a direct and personal interest in their everyday lives, with no need for rituals and cults the same way humans have them. It is very rare to see humans worshiping an elven God, or elves worshiping a human God, because both tend to think the other's pantheon is a messed up distortion of their own pantheon.
Also, a not inconsiderable number of the elf Gods are assholes.
Asuryan is the King of the Gods and the Phoenix Lord, and he is also a huge dick. He chooses every king of the Ulthuani High Elves, which means he chose Caledor II, which means the War of Vengeance is his fault. It isn't in this book but a lot of the other myths do an interesting thing with him that I'm not sure is intentional: He tends to kind of strut onto the field after everything is resolved and say 'Ah! I see! Everything went exactly as I wished. I am truly perfect!' which was a mold for the King of the Gods in the ancient near east. Similarly, he's also a dick who let a lot of terrible things happen to the other Gods and did things like burn the God of Wisdom's great library for daring to teach elves how to study and question tradition.
Hoeth is the aforementioned God of Wisdom and he's an awful lot like Verena. The main difference is that he loves magic and is patron to the High Mages of the Tower of Hoeth. Generally one of the less dickish elf Gods.
Isha is the Goddess of Agriculture and Fertility, the mother of the elven race and the protector of the natural order. She's a general nature and healing goddess. Two separate entities claim to be the Avatar of Isha on the world: Ariel of the Loren and Alarielle, Everqueen of Ulthuan. Who knows if they are.
Khaine is interesting. Khaine is a massive dick, and is the God of Murder and also the God of Doing Bad Things For A Good Cause. Elves pray to Khaine when they have no other option. Khaine is a bloody-handed murderer who thinks of nothing but murder all day, but he is also an enemy of Chaos and in many ways, you could contextualize him as the God of elves killing elves. He is also the patron of the Dark Elves, where their edgelord Witch-King Malekith has elevated him to the top of the pantheon because he's a Canadian psycho-murder elf king. Is probably
not just Khorne with a pair of pointy ears held on by string. Probably
Kurnous is the Father of the Elven Race and husband to Isha, much like Taal and Rhya, really. However, unlike with Taal and Rhya, among elves Kurnous is waning and Isha is waxing, partly because only the wood elves actually like nature all that much; the average High or Dark elf doesn't actually care about trees or nature. Remember that a High Elf lives in an artificial magical paradise that has as much to do with real nature as a disney movie, while the average Dark Elf loves iron and spikes and industry because Tolkien-esque bad guys (and also insane militarist authoritarians). The Wood Elves still keep Kurnous as their chief God, worshiping him above Asuryan, which actually fits in well with their origin as deserters and survivalist colonists who refused to continue to get involved in the War of Vengeance or leave the Old World.
Lileath is a lying dick (at least in canon, where she pretty much directly caused the End Times by lying to everyone). I mean, she's the Goddess of Dreams and Prophecy. She handles general seer stuff. There's nothing all that exciting about Lileath. I mean, we don't talk about the End Times and they didn't happen in the timeline 2e is in (since one of her lies was apparently 'you should let Archaon take Middenheim, it's a good plan. For reasons.') but it bears mentioning. Who knows what she's actually like in 2e, since we never got an elf book.
Leoc is the Elf God of trickery and celebration. Elf Ranald has nothing to do with anarchism or justice against oppressors, and just prefers being a generic trickster god who also really likes singing and dancing. His priests are called Feastmasters, though, and they are party priests of the tricky party God, managing grand celebrations. He is also the patron of the Wood Elf Wardancers, an order of dance-fighters who exist to annoy the everloving shit out of anyone who has played Blood Bowl.
Mathlann is Manaan, but with a big mustache and fake glasses. If anyone asks why an elf has a mustache, he drowns them. He is another representation of how absolutely no-one who spends time on the ocean would ever neglect to make offerings to the sea god. Given the Ulthuani High Elves are a seafaring people, he is quite important.
Morai-Heg is the Goddess of Fate and Death. She's the usual 'knows when everyone will die' kind of crone of fate, with a rune-pouch with the death of all things written on it. Nothing to see here.
Vaul is one of the other non-dick elf Gods, the God of smiths and builders. He tried to save the world from Khaine, no-one backed him up, and he was horribly crippled and enslaved to the most dickish of the elf Gods outside of Asuryan. He just wants to make things and be nice! Poor Elf Hephaestus.
Halflings have a lot of Gods, as well as worshiping human Gods (particularly Sigmar, who they claim promised to protect all halflings and was a great friend to halflings. There is no evidence this ever happened). Halflings don't take religion all that seriously, unless it gives them a good excuse to get together, gossip about each other's families, and eat until they pass out. Their main Goddess is Esmeralda, noted for having no strictures and only one command: Have a week where you eat a ton of pie, once a year. Halflings treat this with religious devotion, as do many of their neighbors, because hell, a week of pie is great. They have other Gods, as well, but most of them are more like tall tale folk-hero characters than the Gods of the humans. Their Gods get up to antics and tend to be more 'halflings wish they could be this guy' rather than the embodied virtues of their people or the forces of nature.
All of the races have very different perspectives on religion. Humans are the only ones who worship with dedicated priests and miracles and channeling the power of the Gods. Elves don't seem to understand divine magic (we have multiple cases where they assume it's just oddly channeled Arcane magic, despite the fact that it works much differently mechanically and narratively) and believe there is no need for specialized priests when every elf is inherently special (outside of some cases like the insane murder religion the Dark Elves have raised over in not-Canada). They just offer a prayer to whichever God they think they need at the moment. Dwarfs do have specialized loremasters who handle blessings and keep the names of the Gods, but without the ability to channel magic they don't seem to be able to form the same kind of connection to the divine that humans do. And halflings mostly just want an excuse to eat pie and get drunk as hell, with one local bribed to get slightly less drunk so he can give the ceremony some dignity. Such a rich tapestry in the Empire, I tell you.
Next: Enemy Gods
An enemy God approaches!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
An enemy God approaches!
Plenty of peoples and places have mistaken powerful spirits and monsters for Gods. This is most common in Norsca, where individual tribes will add Demon Princes and Greater Demons to their pantheons, rather than worshiping the creature's master more directly, after particularly profitable or terrifying encounters. It wouldn't be uncommon to find a tribe that venerates Valkia the Bloody Handed, Khorne's Demon Princess wife, rather than Khorne directly. The table of Enemy Gods mentions Hashut of the Chaos Dwarfs, but sadly he doesn't get more of a write-up here. Our first actual enemy god is Gork and Mork, the Biggest of all orcs. The orcs worship Gork and Mork as something for all orcs to aspire to: They're big, they get in lots of big fights, they fight each other all the time, they fight other Gods, and they fight orcs that get big and bad enough to give 'em a proper scrap. Gettin' stomped by Gork n' Mork would be an honor. They worship them by building giant shrines of orc shit in places they've conquered, to show the orcs have conquered it, and by sacrificing 'cowards, prisoners, and allies who don't get out of the way fast enough'.
Ogres have a God called the Great Maw. They won't explain what the Great Maw is, just that it can eat anything, and by eating anything it can gain the power of anything. The Ogres worship it with grand displays of competitive eating and showing off how fat they are (often by having belly-ramming wrestling contests), but as much of Ogre society revolves around grand displays of competitive eating and showing off how fat they are, uh, it can be really hard to tell when it's religious and when it's just what they want to do all the time.
Beastmen and Marauders all worship the Dark Gods, obviously.
Most scholars who admit (or who are permitted to know) Skaven exist believe the Skaven are just normal Chaos Worshipers; the common theory is that they're just unusually smart rat beastmen. Usually, they're just assumed to be Nurglites (which is actually probably true of Clan Pestilens, and would likely cause another immense rat civil war if it came to light) Others claim they have their own God, a God who demands they conquer the world rather than blow it up and melt it into evil Chaos mush. This is the Horned Rat, and his commandment to his squeaking minions is INHERIT-INHERIT! Some humans turn to worshiping the Horned Rat because they are very, very stupid and think the insane nazi rats will make them preening pawleader over their own human communities, rather than realizing the ratmen known for constant betrayal and racism will just eat them and then resume enslaving their people.
In addition to these outright Enemy Gods, there are the outlawed Gods. The most prominent among these is Khaine. Khaine is not quite Kaela-Mensha-Khaine, the Elf God of Totally Not Being Khorne We Swear. He is more of a human re-imagining, a God of Murder and Assassins. His cults are pretty bog standard thrill kill cults, except part of the thrill is leaving marks of your God on the body before ritualistically dumping it in the bay or a dark alley behind a house of ill repute. Khaine is unusual in that he is actually a legitimate deity, and part of the Classical Pantheon; it's just that his worship is totally illegal because it can't be done without, you know, murdering people with a ritualistic knife across the throat. So even though he's known as non-Chaos and acknowledged in myth as Morr's shitty brother (which must tick off elves), if his cultists are caught they go to the pyre or the headsman's axe.
Most of those who worship Khaine don't really do it for the thrill, but rather because they are actually professional murderers. Assassination is hardly that uncommon in setting. The problem is that once you're an actual Priest or Cultist of Khaine, he demands you keep killing people. You aren't to rush, and you aren't to get caught, but you need to kill, and enjoy killing. A cultists of Khaine is permitted to take satisfaction in causing what looks like an accident, as opposed to a Khornate who wants to do it loud and messy. They like setting up intricate pattern-killings and challenging investigators to catch them. So yes, Khaine is not just the God of Assassins but also the God of Serial Killers, for your Verenan Investigator to hunt down and solve; the adventure seeds for Khaine are all 'man do your players like murder mysteries, because these guys love causing murder mysteries.'
We also get a really interesting side-note saying that while the High Elves would find the crazed murder-cults of human Khainites really weird and abhorrent, they're actually very close to the sorts of insanity and corruption the Druchii have gotten up to over in Canada. Implying that both the humans and Druchii have misinterpreted Khaine in their desire to be massive edgelords, and managed to do so in the same way. I'm pretty sure if you told a Dark Elf their religious ceremonies were very human, they'd be extremely cross with you.
Khaine isn't the only outlawed God, though he is the only one who will be getting a full spell list and ways to play (or make as a villain) a Khainite priest later in the book. We already has mention of Stromfels, the evil shark God aspect that Manaan's cult fights all the time. But we get two more interesting, if brief, descriptions of outlawed Gods. One of them is Vylmar, the Party God. The Empire used to have a totally legit party god of drinking, celebration, and having a good time. However, the Sigmarites felt uncomfortable with the Party God, and eventually decided he must just be Slaanesh (wrongly). They outlawed his worship, killed his people, etc many centuries ago. This has greatly strengthened cults of Slaanesh throughout the Empire, because it left people with no legitimate God of parties, and people are not going to stop having parties. Even worse, Slaaneshi will now pose as underground Vylmar worshipers to lure people in with the promise of fun and normal parties, before getting them crazy drunk or hopped up on mushrooms and getting them into Slaaneshi stuff instead. There is also Solden, the God of Tyranny, who is mostly a God of being a massive dick to everyone. Some scholars believe he may be a weird Law God opposite of Chaos, but his worship is incompatible with living in normal society as it generally forms crazy personality cults around a powerful cult leader who can do whatever they wish with their followers. I think Solden is a reference to the old and long-ago dropped 'Order' Gods who were supposed to be Moorcockian Law God dicks to match Chaos, which were thankfully dropped from the setting.
Next Time: Heresies and Chaos Cults.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
The Imperial Cults struggle with the fact that a lack of modern communication and a large land area mean there are going to be plenty of divergent beliefs throughout the Empire. Regional variations on a faith that would be considered heresy elsewhere are common. There is simply no way to enforce a total orthodoxy, and sometimes a divergent idea will become popular enough that the main branch of the cult needs to judge if it's heresy or not. Each cult deals with these divergent beliefs differently.
Manaan doesn't give a shit as long as you keep worshiping the ocean and pay him his
due honors and tithes. In fact, as Manaanites tend to be extremely well traveled (since sea travel is much safer and faster than land travel, giant Chaos Whales aside) the cult actually seems to encourage a vast variety of superstitions and rituals, incorporating exotic beliefs from other lands. The only real sin you could commit is cutting the ocean out of the deal to worship other sorts of bodies of water exclusively, or trying to worship Manaan as a land god for some fool reason. The punishment for this is drowning, in seawater, to remind a heretic there ain't no beatin' the sea.
The Cult of Morr has regular religious arguments based on dreams and messages from God, but without a firm structure and hierarchy these mostly result in debates, rather than heresy trials. The real heresy risk comes from all the exposure to necromancy in the process of destroying necromancers. Necromancy holds the constant temptation to live longer, or to let one's loved ones live longer. Fighting it long enough and being around death and the dying all the time can tempt someone into turning their back on Morr. There is also a temptation to make a lot of money by selling the bodies entrusted to a temple of Morr; this is a grave heresy and leads to execution just as quickly as getting seduced by Dark Magic would.
Myrmidians are almost as zealous about rooting out heresy as Sigmarites, though their doctrine is a little more open and participatory so there are fewer ways to accidentally become a heretic. They like big, showy military tribunals for suspected heretics, with a big jury and religious lawyers to increase the pomp and public nature of the trial. These trials are usually not fair, something that annoys the cult of Myrmidia's mother, Verena, as all the flash and show is designed to ensure the people bringing the trial get the outcome they want. There's a weird detail about how imprisonment is much more common than death for Myrmidian trials.
Ranald doesn't really 'do' heresy outside of violating the strictures or worse, snitching on your crew. That last one is one of the few things Ranaldans come down on the way other people go after heretics. However, they have an exception for this rule: Since they're often working with others in the shadier parts of the Empire, Ranaldans are the first ones to trip over many Chaos cults, vampires in hiding, or conspiracies. The most pious will take the law into their own hands and enact what vigilante justice they can, but sometimes they need more help than they can muster, in which case this is one of the few times it's religiously permitted to snitch (quietly and anonymously) to the authorities. If someone does violate the strictures, the usual punishment is to get them drunk, steal their pants and money, and dump them on the road to trust to Ranald to let them make it home.
Shallyans don't have many truly heretical sects or beliefs they consider dangerous, because most of the religious variation among Shallyans is how much they should hug people and what degree of self care they're permitted to do. The main heresy among Shallyans is refusing to help people, and this leads to the most common actual heresy: going into business with your skills. Shallyans are skilled doctors even if they aren't miracle workers, and actual miracle workers are in high demand because they can just stick a guy's guts back into his belly and seal the wound, or curse someone of plague with a touch and a short ritual. The temptation to start rationing your skills by 'donation' to 'personal upkeep' is always there, and always a great sin. Shallyans don't burn or beat their heretics, they simply cast them out of the cult.
The cult of Sigmar is extremely zealous in trying to prevent any form of divergent religious thought. Everything could be Chaos. Everything! The cult thrives on the status quo and dislikes change, and so it tends to crush both legitimate threats and reformers alike in its desire to stop anyone speaking ill of itself. Anyone who challenges the status quo enough without enough backup is going to be accused of being a servant of Chaos. Priests are told to keep a constant eye on their flock for deviant religious ideas or grumblings about religious reform, even as the cult exalts past successful religious reformers as obviously having been right all along. Sigmarites also believe retribution should be swift and public, in order to warn the flock of what will happen if they stray. Sigmarites always feel weirdly insecure.
Taal and Rhya don't really care about heresy so long as you don't burn down any of the sacred places and maintain a general respect for nature. The one thing they really hate is mutation, as it's a perversion of nature. I get the sense that 4e Rhya would probably change this some, but as it stands they are both extremely intolerant of any sort of physical mutation. This is actually one of the reasons many important ceremonies are performed without clothes: It makes it impossible to hide mutations from your fellow cultists.
Ulricans try to be as zealous as Sigmarites as the two compete to be more insecurely masculine than one another. Cultists will live up to the code of honor set by Ulric or they'll be dropped in a pit with a variable number of wolves (depending on the crime) and a time limit. If they beat the wolves or are still standing at the end, their punishment is complete. The Ulricans also like exposure or nailing someone to the ground out in the cold for wolves to eat them, if they want to make sure you're dead. Ulricans tend to be law and order types the same way Sigmarites are, but primarily because working together and keeping to codes of honesty make it easier to survive in the rougher parts of the Empire.
Verenans are actually encouraged to come up with new religious doctrine and ideas, which are then debated in large academic settings. However, as they are as vicious as any other academic, those whose ideas fail to gain any traction will see their reputations ruined and may find themselves cast out of academia as hacks and frauds. This is considered a worse punishment than merely burning someone. Otherwise, criminals should be punished according to justice, generally decided by a mixture of religious doctrine and some of local laws. Sadly, there's no fancy owl-based execution method, unlike Ulric and his wolves.
We also get a brief description of the Dark Gods but the whole thing is explicitly an advert for the Tome of Corruption (telling the reader to go buy it for more THRILLING information on CHAOS, the best part of WARHAMMER!), despite Tome of Corruption not really having much more than a couple pages devoted to the Gods themselves in like Chapter 15. You know the drill, Khorne likes killing, Nurgle is a shitlord, Slaanesh tries to lure people in with sexy parties, and Tzeentch is still a cardboard cutout with 'CLEVER!!!!' written on it.
Next Time: Oh god how are there this many words about the calender
Sigmar likes calendars. Guy was passionate about staying organized.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Sigmar likes calendars. Guy was passionate about staying organized.
Old Worlders generally don't have easy lives. One day of toil melts into the next, marked by the occasional moment of absolute terror when your village comes under attack, or the passing of a small band of colorful lunatics (adventurers). The main respite people have is the holidays, and they celebrate them with a will, happy to have a good chance to live, play, and honor the Gods. It isn't idleness or gluttony if you're having extra sausage and plenty of beer in honor of Sigmar! Or your neighbor's pie goddess. Or Taal. Or anyone, really. There's an implication that the Imperials partly accept Myrmidia in hopes that a new set of holy days will get them more time off.
The Empire could not function without the Imperial Calendar. The Calendar allows for the recording of historical events, the scheduling of taxation, and the proper timing and preparation for times that will honor the Gods. Much as he helped to put together tribal scholars and Verenan priests to create a written form for Reikspiel, Sigmar also personally drove the organization of the Imperial Calendar and the standardization of time-keeping. His new vision for an Empire of laws and an organized state could not be accomplished unless everyone could agree what day it was, and the old tribal kings and priests had had dozens of different means of measuring the days and seasons. This was unacceptable. Weirdly, Warhammer's years are actually 400 days long, with 33 or 32 day months. Six important festival days lie outside of the months, marking important transition periods during the year.
The original tribes of the Reik Basin did not keep a standard calendar. Those that marked time did so in seasons and the movement of Mannslieb (because trying to keep time by the Chaos Moon Morrslieb would be a very bad idea), using a very simplified lunar system. Most of the early human methods of keeping time were inaccurate, and did not agree with one another, rendering the organization of complex taxation impossible at the foundation of Sigmar's Empire. Sigmar himself understood this, and also understood that a better calendar could better keep when people ought to honor all of their Gods, but his people had no precedent for careful record keeping and he had his hands full just inventing a written language. It shouldn't be a surprise that, needing help with a matter about keeping very precise records over a long period of time, he turned to his friends the dwarfs and asked how they did it. The origin of the 400 day year and 32-33 day month with filler festival days is the dwarven calendar. We also get an actual Warhammer Calendar for this section, intended to be photocopied and used to keep time in a campaign or mark PCs' birthdays and important dates. All of their month-names, day names, etc are all different. The calendar in the book also marks the days of Sigmar and Magnus' birth (Sigmar was born on the equivalent of January 3rd, Magnus February 4th) and all manner of other holidays and celebrations.
So, the human calendar is essentially the dwarf calendar, because those were the people Sigmar could turn to about such things and because he felt that marking time the same way as his closest allies would help them coordinate and seal the bond between the two civilizations further. However, there was a problem: Dwarfs don't mark weeks. Dwarfs only mark months, because they live much longer lives than humans even if they aren't as quasi-immortal as elfs. Sigmar wanted humans to have a more divided sort of time to set aside frequent market days and other important events. He thus went and asked the priests and nobles of his peoples how they marked short-time clumps, and got a thousand different responses. The most common short-time marker was a 'woche' (week), which could be 3-12 days between market days for a tribe or settlement. There were also funftage (Five-days), which were used in the old solar/lunar calendars because 5 weeks of 5 days marked one full passage of Mannslieb. There was also the Vierzehnnacht (literally just fourteen nights, oh Warhams german) that marked how long the Endal tribe could withstand a siege of their main holding, and the Sennight, a seven day period with each day named after a different god, and what kind of idiot would ever use such a unit of timekeeping (that is basically our week).
The Teutogen woche, which was 8 days long, was agreed upon to placate the Teutogens and because 32 divides well into 8s, plus the 8 day woche was sacred to Ulric and Sigmar was still a devout Ulrican. The days were all named things like 'bake day' and 'market day', with festival day being a day of rest and religious observance at the end of the week; Imperials goddamn love Festag. The central Imperial government has been using this calendar for 2500 years now, but some corners of the Empire will still use the older methods of timekeeping, to better confuse the hell out of your players if you wish.
The Imperial calendar's day/week/year measures measure most of the time in the human-dominated Old World. The Breton calendar is based on the Imperial calendar, simply measuring time from the ascension of Giles the Uniter rather than Sigmar's foundation of the Empire. Similar for the Kislevites, measuring time from when the Khan-Queens founded Kislev, but also omitting the Festivals and adding an extra week to the year. The Ungols sometimes keep time very differently, not really liking centering an entire calendar around the date of their defeat by the Gospodars. The Norse have as many timekeeping systems as they have tribes, and some parts of Norsca are close enough to the Wastes that time gets a little fucked up, anyway. Tileans and Estalians still keep time in the old solar/lunar style, with 16 months of 25 days divided into 5 day weeks.
I'll admit, I've never really used any of this material. It's easier to just assume time goes like it does in our world instead of memorizing a bunch of made-up day and month names, and really, how often are you keeping the exact calendar date of everything that happens in an RPG? Still, it's nice that they provide the tools in book to really use this stuff if you want to, and it says a lot about Sigmar's character that some of his many epic tasks were centralizing the calendar and establishing a written language. I think it's telling that their adventure seed for all this material is just a standard 'race against time' plot, though; if I was going with all this date confusion I'd probably write something about a squabble over the authenticity of a holy relic or conflict between neighboring communities who can't agree on if a day should be a celebration of Ulric or Sigmar or something, myself, but it's not that easy to get grim and perilous adventure out of calendars.
Next: The Holy-Days
A merry First Quaff and Valaya bless us all!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
A merry First Quaff and Valaya bless us all!
The Empire loves holidays. These are the times of the year when even the Sigmarites are down to have a good time. Celebrations in the name of the Gods are pious! For once, the nobles and peasants mingle, and class is often set aside as the nobles try to gain status by funding more and more lavish public festivals in the name of the Gods, while the peasants are happy to get a chance to drink and dance and do all the things they really wish they could spend the whole year doing. These opportunities to relax are considered very important to the spiritual well-being of the Empire; I'm going to draw a quote from another book here, because I think it explains average feast-days in the Empire quite well.
"They have a holiday in the Empire. Wurstfest, they call it. At harvest time, each town or village sits down to eat and toast their Gods, their province, their Empire, and their ancestors. Even the poor serve dishes of sausages...They gorge themselves all day, and quaff huge amounts of ale. By evening, if a fight has not broken out, one is organized. They should and beat one another, but are generally so drunk that no real harm comes. When they are so stupefied they pass out, the festival is over. They think this is normal, even needful, to clear the air among neighbors." -Sigmar's Heirs, Cortega del Cristo, Estalian Playwright.
So yes, this is the time to get drunk, sometimes have a friendly go at someone who looked at your pig funny so that you can all forgive one another after, and eat whatever sausage you can get.
The Witching Night is not a holiday people look forward to, unfortunately. It is the night before the new year, and is sacred to Morr, as one year dies and another is born. The line between the living and the dead is blurred, and necromantic rituals are much more powerful on this dark night, leading the Morrites out to battle the dead and perform solemn rites over the graveyards to ward off this fell power. Most folk stay locked in their homes and put up charms against the dead. Because death and dreams are so close to one another, this is considered the best night of the year for augury of dreams, and many people have very vivid, even lucid dreams on this one night of the year.
Year Blessing marks the day after Witching Night, and belongs to Morr's wife, Verena. It is marked by a blessing from the Goddess of Wisdom on the new year, asking that it bring justice and learning to the people of the world. This is considered an auspicious day to settle feuds and make amends before the Goddess of Justice, to start a new year with a clean slate. It is also a day to celebrate not being eaten by zombies, and to remark on the presence or absence of an undead siege on Witching Night before.
Mittrfruhl is the spring equinox, especially sacred to Taal and Manaan. It also marks the ending of Ulric's rule over the year. Animal sacrifices are buried in the woods or thrown into the sea, depending on which God a community holds is more powerful, and the priests of both cults lead celebrations of the power of their Gods. Children born on Mittrfruhl are thought to be destined to be quick-tempered and excitable, doomed to grow up to be adventurers. Naturally, this holiday is also an excuse for a party.
First Quaff is a very sacred day to the dwarfs that bleeds over into the Empire. It marks the time when a hold begins to taste its newest batches of beer, and it is a time of grand celebration among dwarf holds where songs are sung and even dwarfs cheer up for awhile. Imperials are naturally very keen to honor their allies by doing as they do, considering this is a holiday all about tapping the kegs and getting drunk as hell together. I imagine in places like Wissenland, where there's extensive crossover between the dwarf and human population, this is generally celebrated together. It is also an important time of augury for dwarfs, because the first drink has to be a good as hell drink or else you're going to have a bad year. There is great ceremony as the best brewers present their best and most promising batches to be sampled by a hold's King and Runelords, hoping that they'll have the best drinks and thus the best luck which will bleed over to the prosperity of the hold. Spilling too much beer is also a sign of terrible luck.
The First Day of Summer marks the day Sigmar ascended to Godhood in the popular imagination, and so it is one of the biggest festivals in the Imperial calendar. Every single town has their own 'Sigmar's Sausage', supposedly the recipe the Emperor loved best in life, and competitions of cooking, martial parades, extreme drinking, and plays and stories about the life of the greatest Emperor are common all over the Empire. This is one of the few unreservedly happy days of the year for almost all Imperials, a celebration of civic pride and the ties that bind the Empire together. No-one would deny this is a time to celebrate, and one might even see a Witch Hunter smile on the First Day of Summer. Maybe.
The Day of Folly is the only publicly recognized holy day of Ranald. The Day of Folly is a day where the social conventions are, in theory, reversed. Servants get to order around the nobles they work for (though they must be careful to keep this harmless and in good fun; the day after can be a nightmare if they don't), street festivals have people wear elaborate masks and celebrate as though class didn't exist, and pranks and jokes are common. Most Imperials think this is a good way to let off steam and change things up a little, but most also keep things harmless lest the brief revel cause trouble for the rest of the year afterwards.
Sonnstill is the summer solstice, and it has always been holy to humans and elves alike. This day belongs to Rhya, especially, though most give honor to her husband as well. Fertility rites are common, and this is considered a blessed day to find a wife or a husband, so villages often send their young men and women out to dances and celebrations with neighboring villages. Children born on Sonnstill are said to be blessed with the power of life, and will grow up to be energetic and bright. This is also one of the few days where elves will sometimes attend human ceremonies, especially the wood elves of the Laurelorn forest.
Saga is another dwarf holiday, where the dwarfs sing songs and remember the epic sagas of their people. Lots of drinking, like any dwarven holiday, but also a time to honor the dead slayers, ironbreakers, and other heroes of a hold. Humans often take up this celebration and do the same in honor of their own ancestors; it's only proper to be proud of the deeds of Imperial heroes, and it's another good reason for drinking and singing.
Geheimenstag (the day of mystery) varies, and no-one likes it. This is the day that both moons are strongest in the sky, which shifts around due to Morrslieb's irregular orbit. The walls between worlds are thin on this day, and while it is sacred to the augers of Morr, it is also a time when Chaos can seep into the world and mutation rates rise. Augeries performed on this day sometimes have extremely unintended and horrific results, but they often tell the future better than any other day of the year.
Pie Week is Pie Week. To humans, it's becoming a secular holiday, and isn't celebrated with nearly the same religious observance as their halfling neighbors. Meanwhile, to halflings, this is the one religious ceremony they will absolutely clear their calendars for, and seeing a halfling without a pie to hand at any point in pie week is like finding a happy Ulrican priest. Humans don't give a damn about the halfling Gods and generally don't really believe they even have gods (they generally suspect the halflings just make them up at random and then forget about them, since they don't worship as humans do), but they do love pies.
Mittherbst is the Autumn Equinox, and it marks the time that Taal and Rhya hand rulership of the world over to Ulric. Great sacrifices and festivals are dedicated to Rhya to bless the harvest, and sacrifice is made to Ulric to keep the winter from being too bitter and to keep the wolves from peoples' doors. Children born on this day are said to be grim and fatalistic, making good Witch Hunters, Sigmarites, and Ulricans.
Second Breech is another dwarf holiday, marking another important beer tasting, when the smaller batches brewed by individual families are tested rather than the large communal kegs. Songs are dedicated to the ancestors of each family as they ask them to watch over the beer. Humans rarely celebrate this holiday, though it's entered the calendars of some prominent brewing families.
Mondstille is the winter solstice, the greatest holiday of Ulric that marks his dominance of the world. It is a time of despair, when wolves seek out livestock and sometimes attack unworthy humans, but also a time to celebrate that winter is half over, and that Taal and Rhya are returning to the world. Bonfires are lit to guide the Gods of fertility and nature back, while people raise wolf-pelts to warn Ulric's children that they are ready and willing to defend themselves and their communities, as Ulric would want them to.
Keg End is the conclusion of the dwarven calendar, when any leftover beer is emptied out of the kegs so that they can be used again next year. This means that, of course, there's a hell of a lot of drinking; it would be a terrible shame to just pour a keg out! You've got to drink the damn thing! Humans love this festival as well, though not quite as much as the dwarfs, and laws dealing with drunkeness and public consumption of alcohol are usually waived during Keg End, as man and dwarf get drunk together and toast the year to come. Excess beer is given to those who can't afford it, because actually wasting beer on this day is said to bring terrible luck.
Next: Sample local festivals.
Still don't get all the whipping
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Still don't get all the whipping
The local holidays provided here are there to give you examples of the sorts of holidays and festivals you can construct for adventures and local flavor in your game. This is something I quite appreciate about Tome of Salvation: A lot of the material in it is intended to spark players and GMs to make their own stuff, rather than trying to be a truly exhaustive list of all the traditions of a place as big and tradition bound as the Empire.
Water's Turn is a local festival for a small Middenland town, Dunkelbild, where the town is supplied with fresh water by a nearby lake. A few days after the spring equinox, the water 'turns' as the colder water at the bottom swaps with the warmer water up top, causing a huge algae bloom that makes the lake turn green and smell terrible. The people bathe in the water and collect barrels of it (conveniently scraping a bunch of the muck off the top layer) to throw onto their crops after it's blessed by a priest of Taal. According to local legend, being anointed with (but not drinking) the water will cure all manner of illness, and the entire town smells of lake-scum for the duration of the festival.
Von Albexer's Night is a new holiday in Stirland and western Sylvania, inspired by the invention of fireworks. They were meant as military signaling devices, but come on, shiney colored explosives! People love the things, and so the populace came out in droves to witness engineers 'testing' their signals. During one such display, a Morrite priest fell into a trance and predicted his town would be destroyed by Beastmen a week hence if they weren't prepared. The town took his vision seriously, and when the attack came a week later, they drove off the attackers. The Morrite died in the battle, and Von Albexer was buried as an honored hero. To honor him, surrounding villages have a display of what fireworks they can afford, hoping to guide his spirit back to watch over them.
The March of the Greenskins is celebrated in the town of Heisenberg in Wissenland, commemorating the time their town was taken over by orcs. By some miracle, the warlord had the foresight not to destroy the town and eat everyone within, keeping them alive as hostages and servants. Two months later, he was killed by the Knights of the White Wolf and his horde was broken, saving the town. Locals beat effgies of orcs and goblins and give thanks to Ulric, then a group dressed up as the White Wolves rides into town and orders everyone to take the effigies out and burn them, while people dance around the bonfire.
Net Casting Day is celebrated all over the coasts of the Empire, a day sacred to fishing villages and those who follow Manaan. Sacred nets are woven from the ropes of old ships and the hair and clothing of sailors, then the priests of Manaan sail out to where they can no longer see land and cast the nets. What they catch augers the fate of the fishing season; it's great luck to catch plenty of fish on Net Casting Day.
Sigmar's Walk marks the day when Sigmar left the city of Altdorf to begin his journey east. Cultists of Sigmar fill the streets and march all across the city, heading to the Emperor's Gate as they ceremonially begin their own journey east. During this time, many of them whip themselves and beat themselves with chains, because there's a weird masochistic streak to particularly devout Sigmarite worship that I still don't really see a root for considering their God. I suppose it's generally a feeling that they can't live up to him and that a God of Law should punish sinners like themselves? Saner people line the streets to offer support, flowers, and water to the stumbling tide of pilgrims. And to clean the blood off the streets.
The Run of the Antlers celebrates Taal's invention of hunting, and is celebrated all over Talabecland. One group of young men put on antlers and runs through the village, chased by the chosen hunters, who use arrows wrapped in clothe and weak training bows to 'capture' the stags. The ceremony continues until every stag has been hit, then devolves into feasting and celebration.
Two Gifts Day is a curious Ranaldan holiday celebrated in the League of Ostermark. Each person gives two gifts between family members, one a silly or joke gift in a huge and grandiose package, and the other something small that they consider precious. After that, it is fair game to steal anyone else's gifts all day, at which point you're expected to give it to someone else. The theft and giving is supposed to symbolize how material possessions are fleeting and that the concept of ownership is an invented social construct, according to Ranaldans. Most people just find it a fun day to connive taking things.
The Night of Flaming Arrows is a celebration unique to the town of Halstedt in Stirland. It marks a great battle where the town held off a force sent by the Vampire Counts in 2015, by constructing fortifications to slow the advancing zombies and skeletons. During the battle, as the enemy became entangled on the wooden fortifications, the local sheriff requisitioned a hidden cache of powerful moonshine and used it to light the militia's arrows aflame, then set the fortifications on fire with the flaming arrows. The town suffered grave losses, but thanks to his quick thinking, they survived. Now, it's tradition to drink the same recipe of moonshine each year on the night of the battle, then wander out and coat arrows in prayers against the undead and the self-same moonshine. The combination of drunk celebrants and flaming arrows causes a lot of property damage.
Next Time: Rites of Passage, DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM
The Doom Song
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
The Doom Song
Rites of passage are common and very important for Imperials. Birth, death, adulthood, a journeyman passing on to a full artisan, a soldier taking the coin and leaving home to fight, all of these things have a sacred component to Imperials. It isn't explicit, but given how much Imperials tend to fear Chaos, I can't help but read into this that every liminal point or time of change has to be protected against it.
Imperials begin to invoke the Gods the moment a woman is certain she's pregnant. The mother is blessed by a priest or priestess of Shallya or Rhya (or both, if possible) and has her belly rubbed with sacred herbs to ward off misfortune and mutation. The father makes offering to Taal for his own part in the gift of life, and Morr to placate the God and ask him not to draw the child into his realm any time soon. Many lay offerings to Morr are propitiatory like that. Auguries are also performed, and for a fee, many prophets and augurs claim they can change the fate of the child for the better. In a world of magic, this is sometimes (though not very often) true; some very powerful priests or wizards can set a child on another path before they're even born.
Infant mortality is high and childbirth is fairly dangerous in the Old World. When a child is born and the mother is safe, it is considered an auspicious event, with prayers of thanks given to Shallya for her mercy. A shilling (or in rich families, a crown) is taken and buried on the family's property, to be dug up and given to the child when they come of age. Birth-coins are an object of many superstitions and even more genuine magic rituals; Necromancers and Chaos Cultists prize the coins of children who died without reaching adulthood as useful magical components. It's also considered terrible luck to have to spend your birth coin. Most Imperials will try to hold on to theirs no matter what, because spending the first gift they were given on entering the world is supposed to ensure a life of pain and sorrow. By contrast, birthdays in the Empire don't involve giving personal gifts; rather family and friends provide sacrifices to Shallya and other patron Gods to thank them for your health and ensure it will continue, with the assumption that you will provide reciprocal sacrifices on their birthdays. Every birthday is a marking of how death hasn't gotten you yet.
Now we come to the centerpiece of this whole section, which the thread has thoroughly discussed already, but goddamnit Dooming is an amazing tradition. Every Imperial child is brought before a priest or doomsayer of Morr and told how they're going to die, at their tenth birthday. Every single one. This is considered a very important part of transitioning from a child towards adulthood, facing that death is certain and it is definitely coming for you at some point. In some communities, this is done on the day of the New Year, with every child of appropriate age coming before the priest for their foretelling, while in others it's handled more individually. Whoever suggested playing as a wandering Morrite who gets into adventures in between traveling off and telling children horrible stories of their inevitable deaths, this is 100% an acceptable PC idea. Also, Ostermarker Doomings are the best because they involve ritual wearing of outrageous hats, while Averlanders often have to make due without a priest and have a parent or village elder just make something up on the fly.
Whatever happens, a child comes before Morr bearing gifts that will forestall the God until their prophesied doom. The augur reminds them that no sacrifices will ward off death eternally, and then tells them, in a smoke-filled room at the edge of twilight, how they are going to die. The child leaves, closer to adulthood and wiser as to the ways of the world and the inevitability of death, and usually in tears.
Dooming is presented as an important part of roleplaying an Imperial. Imperials are a little death-obsessed sometimes, and they love augury and fortune-telling because they often have a fundamental anxiety about the future. The Dooming is one of the most universal religious rituals an Imperial Human PC will have participated in, and it tends to be important to a character because many are traumatized by it. We get a series of questions to ask if a player wants to consider how their Dooming shaped their PC, and they're the usual things like 'how did you react' 'do you believe it' 'do you try to avoid the thing you were told of' and all that sort of stuff. We get notes on how to incorporate Doom with the Fate system: When a PC has run out of Fate, they naturally tend to be played more cautiously, since they both don't have any rerolls left and also can't escape death if they go down. Thus, a GM might want to drop signs of their Dooming to explain why a previously brash hero might suddenly be more withdrawn and careful, as they feel their death approaching for real this time. Also, if you die like your Dooming, 'your new PC can have 1 extra advance' (with no indication of whether a new PC should be brought up to speed with other PCs and then given an extra advance on top; 2e never dealt with how to handle power disparities from PC death). We of course get a 1-100 table of Dooms. They warn of everything, from execution, to shitting yourself to death because of bad sausage, to the doomsayer having a heart attack in terror at witnessing your fate and never actually getting round to telling it to you, on account of being dead themselves. A sidenote says a GM should not be too worried if a Dooming doesn't come true; they're hard to read literally and most soothsayers are faking it anyway. Similarly, if you have 0 Fate and pass a Fear or Terror test with doubles, or roll doubles on the severity dice for a crit, a character is enlightened by closeness to death and gains Fearless for d10 hours, as they realize Morr is not to be feared after all.
Quickening is another very important ceremony, when a child begins puberty. In theory, this ceremony marks the point where a person can join the military, take on an official apprenticeship, or become an Initiate, but in reality most children will have already been learning a trade or helping with the family business long before their Quickening. The ceremony varies a great deal from province to province, but in all cases there is a celebration with family and friends as the child is presented to the Gods as a child and permitted to ascend to adulthood. A favorite childhood toy or article of baby clothing is burned and buried, to mark this passage. In many towns, the young men and women are divided up on Quickening Day and begin to be presented to one another as future spouses, a ritual that the parents love and the children find horribly embarrassing. Sometimes, these are binding oaths and most of a town's marriages are arranged by matchmakers at this time. Other times, it's just a silly formality and the new adults are allowed to choose who they court every time Mannslieb comes full again. In the northern Empire, boys undergo a more thorough rite to Taal where they must prove they can survive in the wilds and learn to use weapons and hunt. If a child somehow dies on this form of initiation, they are to be stricken from the communal memory, and it is not permitted to speak of them again, nor to grieve.
Marriage is simple. Divorce is not. Marriage involves picking a priest, entering a contract between families, jumping over a jug together, and now you're wed. Noble marriages tend to complicate things with huge affairs of conspicuous consumption and much more complicated contracts. The jug you jumped over is kept, and by law if it is ever shattered the couple can consider divorce. It's considered good luck for a match to keep the jug in good shape. In most of the Empire, it is tradition for the man to ask the woman for her hand in marriage, but in southern Reikland and Wissenland the custom is reversed, and the man has right of refusal while the woman initiates. Divorce is strongly discouraged by social pressure and the ties of property and family. If a couple is to divorce, they must find a priest (it's luckier to find the same one who married you) to tie their hands together, then ritually cut the bond with a sacred knife, then throw the bonds into a fire (or the sea, if the priest is a Manaanite). Before this ritual, the couple must decide on the fate of their property, children, and all the other legal elements of marriage, which is the real barrier to divorce. Nobles almost never divorce, because their marriages usually have major political implications that would be very difficult to disentangle; unhappily married noble couples are an unfortunately common thing in the Empire.
Journeyman's Release is the mark of an apprentice ending their apprenticeship and entering their journeyman period, and it is a time of great celebration because this is a major professional achievement. The journeyman presents the finest craft they did as an apprentice to their master, who accepts it and gifts it back to the journeyman, as the first item they can truly be said to have made for themselves. Friends and family gather to praise and honor the master for instructing the apprentice well, and to honor the apprentice's transition into a real craftsperson. It is considered bad luck to directly criticize this piece of work, which has led to an entire genre of backhanded praise and weasel words for crotchety older relatives to use to claim they did way better back in their day. The master then presents the journeyman with three coins, one to be spent on moving to a new community (or renting a home within your current one), one to be spent on tools, and the last to be saved as a memory of your education. Spending the third coin is said to curse a tradesperson's work forevermore, in parallel to an Imperial Birth Coin.
Soldier's Day marks the day when a soldier or squire has finished their training and becomes a full member of their regiment or order. For knightly orders, this is a ritual of great pomp and honor. For common soldiers, a batch who have just finished their training will generally go out and get massively drunk and try to get laid before they go to war, instead. These ceremonies are often led by older members of the regiment, who guide the new soldiers in carousing, getting tattoos, and fatalistic toasts about how they're all off to war and may well die out there. I did mention Imperials are a bit death obsessed, yeah? Tattooing is an important part of Soldier's Day, both to build unit cohesion and celebrate (Imperials love body art and piercings as it is) but also because a unit marker tattoo makes it easy to identify deserters.
Next Time: Holy Places
What is holiness? We just don't know.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
What is holiness? We just don't know.
Now, I like this book. I do. But something you've probably noticed at this point: We're over 150 pages in and there haven't been hardly any actual game mechanics. A few tables to roll on, some color, an extra class or two, some new advancement stuff for priests, but nothing like Realms of Sorcery's whole subsystems or Tome of Corruption introducing ways to play a Chaos campaign or Night's Dark Masters having extensive mechanics for generating Castlevania villains. Tome of Salvation starts to hit a point where it is, perhaps, a bit too dense and the book is about 95% fluff. You can go too deep on fluff and worldbuilding and start to stifle things, especially if you find yourself repeating yourself within the same book; ToS could probably have done with a little editing down. It is the second biggest book in the line, after all, just after Tome of Corruption. ToC was huge because it was a disorganized mess that tried to do 80 things at once; ToS is huge because with Sigmar's Heirs being a pile, it and Realms of Sorcery and others have to basically serve as the Empire book in addition to doing their thing.
And yes, I will get to Sigmar's Heirs after this one. Finally.
Sacred Sites are weirdly random; there's no real rhyme or reason to why some sites get blessed or cursed. Say you're the site of a slaughter of pilgrims by Khornates. There's an equal chance that the site becomes cursed (because of blood spilled by followers of the blood-spiller), that nothing happens, or that it becomes a blessed site of a great martyrdom. The most common cause for a blessed site is something that interested a specific God; a place where a brilliant captain had a strategically important last stand is more likely to draw Myrmidia while a battlefield where a single man killed a hundred foes in a berserk rage is likely to be blessed by Ulric, that sort of thing. Sacred sites are also formed on the extremely, vanishingly rare cases where a God has appeared in the mortal realm, according to legend. Many of these manifestations aren't real, or were merely the manifestation of a divine servant, and every cult is very cagey about the possibility of direct divine appearances. Reported divine appearances are swiftly investigated, because if the Hunters and Priests don't get on them right away the legend can grow out of control, even in the case of a fraudulent claim. Moreover, the sudden influxes of pilgrims, heterodox preachers looking to draw on a new legend for legitimacy, and hucksters can bring huge disruption to a community. A false sighting can even result in persecution of a community for blasphemy against the Gods. Claiming you saw Rhya in the woods is dangerous, but if it's true your community is going to become very important and very rich, very quickly; nothing brings investment like a genuine wellspring of sacred power.
Other holy places become holy because they are associated with holy people. A library where a sainted venerated soul dispensed her justice and wisdom would become sacred to Verena, for example. Magnus the Pious's birthplace in Nuln is an important Sigmarite site. Religions can also just say a place is really holy and it might take, like the Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf. Sometimes, a place is clearly chosen because it was holy, but records are lost as to what made it thus. The Theater of Ravens in Luccini is where the Morrites meet every 10 years to discuss doctrine, and they know it has always been blessed of their God even back to the days of Proto-Tilea and the first introduction of Morr to the Classical Pantheon from the North, but they don't remember why.
Temples are all over the place in the Old World, as you may've gotten the impression. Sigmarite sites are the most common holy spaces in the Empire, and while Verena and Myrmidia are growing fast in popularity, neither actually has that many temples in the Empire. Ranald doesn't bother with temples and doesn't name sites holy, or at least, doesn't do so in ways that most normal priests would recognize. Taal and Rhya have thousands of ancient sites in the Empire's many forests, less visited because they aren't near the growing cities and burgs. Coastlines and rivers boast shrines to Manaan, and almost every community has at least a small shrine to Shallya. Ulric is almost entirely worshiped in Middenland, and so the area around Middenheim is ringed with holy sites, while they grow uncommon and fall into disrepair elsewhere.
There's a lot on the difference between shrines and temples, but really, a shrine is a small marker of a holy site (and may become like a temple, if the site is important enough) while temples are larger, more active repositories of priests and important rites. Interestingly, in poor villages, a temple may be dedicated to the pantheon rather than a single God, as they don't have room to build shrines to all the Gods their community needs to function. Almost every village in the Old World centers around at least one temple, and they remain important social hubs in towns and cities. In smaller and more remote temples, the caretaker may be a simple caretaker, not even a priest of the cult. There simply aren't enough priests to maintain active priests of every God a community needs in every community. There are also monasteries dedicated to cloistered orders of men and women who worship and scribe far from the 'normal' world.
The example temple is weird. It's a temple of Myrmidia dedicated to the legend of Nahmud the Dark Maiden. When Myrmidia was campaigning against wickedness and uniting Tilea and Estalia as a mortal woman, she rescued a dark-skinned woman who claimed to be a princess of a far off land. This woman warned her of a great ambush and allowed her to outmaneuver her foes, then thanked her for the rescue and left to live alone in the mountains. Nahmud left behind scrolls, a testament of her encounter with Myrmidia, that have been rediscovered and ruled to be very sacred and very untranslatable. When the Order eventually managed to get them translated by a High Elf they'd aided, what the Abbot heard shocked him, and he quickly had the elf murdered and the translation hidden. There is no hint in the book what the translation was, but my suspicion of a dark-skinned princess from a far off land is that the woman Myrmidia rescued may have been Nehekaran. Given this is all happening with an Estalian order, and Estalia had the whole 'attacked by vampires, Goddess had to kill their general herself to save the country' mess with the War of Blood back in Night's Dark Masters, I don't think Myrmidia having been aided by a Lahmian vampiress would go over well among the faithful. Lots of other possibilities, of course. Anyway, the example monastery is a pretty normal place except for having the original scrolls and possibly the translation buried within it, moved from Estalia to the Empire to hide them away from the faithful. Which is an obvious adventure seed. Still, if you're trying to give a place report on an example temple, why put all this Da Vinci Code stuff in the place? Also, the example map and everything being written in 'handwritten' text makes it more difficult to read, as it's trying to be an 'in universe' map and letter from someone visiting the place. The Shrine of the Dark Maiden just isn't very useful as an example of a 'typical' temple.
Also, it gets more detail than, say, all of Altdorf, Talabheim, or Nuln do in the Empire book. This place gets almost as much of a write-up as many of the cities in the Kislev book. It also gets an entire page of plot hooks and threads to use, complete with area markings, a cast of NPCs, etc. It's just weird that there's this much detail devoted to this one temple.
Next: Holy Sites of other Gods
Temples and Holy Sites Galor
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Temples and Holy Sites Galor
Manaanite temples are ideally simple and sea-based, but that makes them surprisingly hard to build and maintain. The ideal Manaanite temple is stonework, not just because this is more expensive and impressive (and thus honors the God better) but also because building a sea-God temple out of wood on the coast where it will be lashed by regular storms and constantly exposed to damp and salt means you'll regularly be rebuilding the temple as the wood rots. In cities, some Manaanite temples will be mistaken for part of the shipyard or unusually ornate warehouses until a visitor notices the priests. Manaanite shrines (small markers of holy sites) are often unattended, since many of Manaan's holy sites are hard to reach and put a real temple over. I'd assume this is because they mark the site of important storms or something. There are far more shrines than temples to Manaan. Most shrines, sailors will simply leave offerings or shed a small amount of blood on the altar, trusting that no-one will steal from the sea god and that the tide will wash it all out to him eventually. The example holy site is a temple in the northern Empire that augurs the health of Manaan's cult by the growth and contraction of an odd, red coral reef off the coast. It just expands and contracts, at random, and is thus seen as a sign of the God's power. Priests spend hours floating above it in boats, or swimming among it if they have the Manaanite miracles that allow them to breathe underwater, studying the reef in hopes of unlocking the mysteries of the tides.
The Empire is totally littered with both shrines and temples to Sigmar. Sigmarite temples tend to be built in the shape of a hammer, with the priest at the 'hilt' so everyone can focus on them, while the 'claw' is for cultists of other faiths who come to attend throng, the 'body' of the hammer is for the normal devout cultists of Sigmar, and the 'head' is for the nobility and other very important persons. Almost every community in the Empire has at least one shrine to Siggy, and nearly every home keeps a small devotional space. Sigmarites also love ritual choirs and big, booming speeches; anything that amplifies the message of Sigmar is incorporated into their throng ceremonies. The example holy site is a set of temples built up in the mountains, supposedly around the place where Sigmar himself sealed his alliance with one of the ancient tribes by killing the first of all Dragon Ogres. Each temple guards a spot on the pilgrimage route that retraces the Saga of Skarnarok, and the priests believe that some of the crags are actually the teeth and claws of the titanic monster. Thus, they may have once been anointed in Sigmar's blood, and have holy powers. Early archeologists work the area, looking for signs of the settlement of Siggurdsheim, the tribal capital of one of Sigmar's allies.
Taal and Rhya are the most popular deities next to Sigmar in the central and eastern Empire, but they do not build huge urban temples the way other cults do. Shrines are more common, generally marking sacred spots out in the wilderness, with occasional 'temples' that are massive, shaped mounds of earth, rings of stones, or huge monoliths. Hey, Taalites and Rhyans are mound builders! The Taalites and Rhyans mostly leave their sacred sites alone, watching them from afar and only gathering there on important holy days, while worship is more generally conducted in private or among one's family. Rhyan shrines tend to incorporate a wheat field or other signs of agriculture, while Taalite shrines are built of untamed wood and set up to aid in initiation rites, to mark his role as the protector of passage to adulthood. Dedicated shrines of Rhya are fairly rare, since it's a common belief that anywhere you grow crops, or women gather to talk is a Rhyan shrine, as is every marriage bed. The Rock of Split Waters is a sacred site to both cults, where a huge monolith of granite marks a point where two tributaries of the River Stir come together. This represents the sacred union of Taal and Rhya, and pilgrims risk their lives to swim the rivers and climb the monolith to carve praise to the Gods at the top. Beastmen have been attacking the site lately, and devout PCs (or PCs willing to take money from the devout) may be hired to help protect it.
Ulrican temples are built as defensible centers of the communities. Walls, gates, and storehouses (both for winter or for a siege) are common features, and most temples are built around a sacred flame that the priests must keep burning. Ulric wants you to have a defensive target so that you know when you've lost and should be ashamed of yourself. Ulrican services are quiet affairs, and most of a priest's work is done in private, behind closed doors. That way, a devout person can approach the priest to ask for help without being seen as weak. Quietly asking for someone to listen to your problems so that you can try to unravel them in the telling is considered reasonable among Ulricans. In their quieter moments, or among better priests who aren't quite as busy yelling about PECS and WOLVES and AXES at all hours, there is a persistent belief that Ulric works by revealing peoples' true strength and helping them understand that they are resilient enough to overcome their trials. Shrines of Ulric require no priest, and are usually simple altars where the first drink of the night can be poured for Ulric and weapons can be set down to be blessed before battle. Almost every barracks in the northern Empire has a shrine to Ulric. Ulric's holy place is the so-called Womb of the Wolf. Ulric's myths claim that in ancient days, he really loved sleeping with mortal women and having offspring with them. The Womb of the Wolf is not a sacred site to the mainline cult, but rather a hideout of those loveable squabbling fuckups, the Sons of Ulric. They believe in a myth where the daughter of the Teutogen chieftan in ancient days had a child by Ulric, but her father wouldn't believe her and drove her deep into the mountain Middenheim is built on. There, they say she was tended by Ulric's wolves until she gave birth. The Sons use it as a hideout, since they believe they are all Ulric's children. They also encourage female Sons (they don't call them daughters) to sleep in the area, in hopes Ulric will come to them and make more sons.
Verenan temples are usually courts, schools, or libraries. You can't really have a Verenan temple unless it's one of those things, too. Courts dedicated to Verena are surprisingly rare, because a court has to be especially and auspiciously just in order to be consecrated to her, and most of the Empire's courts are either too easily bought or too easily manipulated by the nobility and the powerful. Verena's temple entry is surprisingly sparse, but her holy site rules. Ildebrand's Field marks the site where a zealous Sigmarite Witch Hunter held his final court. Ildebrand was infamous for his massive, theatrical show-trials, where he would arrive and start a huge spectacle, ending in burning people pretty much at random on the accusations of the locals. His trials were mockeries of justice, arbitrary affairs devoted to theater rather than finding the truth. One day, he showed up at town of Silburwurt in Reikland, and set up his court. The first person brought before him was the usual helpless old woman who lived alone at the edge of town, and he began his usual bellowing of accusations as she became incoherent with fear. Then he pronounced his verdict: She was just an old woman who lived alone, not a heretic. In every case he faced that day, he could not do as he normally did, and instead handed down just and true verdicts, much to his own surprise. Suddenly, he found himself investigating why people had brought their neighbors to him, discovering many had property their neighbors wished to confiscate. In one case, he discovered an accuser was a secret cultist of Khaine who viewed 'getting a guy murdered by an insane Witch Hunter' as a great way to assassinate someone, and captured the real heretic for trial and execution. At the end, he passed judgement on himself as a murderer for the many innocents he'd burned, and hung himself. A temple of Verena has been built around the tree, while Sigmarites grumble that this was obviously the work of the Ruinous Powers.
The other Gods, for some reason, don't have the same kinds of write-ups for their cult temples and holy sites. We get a site for Myrmidia where a Myrmidian captain with no unit managed to slow down 200 orcs by herself, and a Shallyan temple built in the middle of Sylvania that the vamps have never managed to bring down because any that try get incinerated by holy power. We also get the High Temple of Handrich, which pointedly accepts no gifts nor offers charity, but instead the priests run 'shops' and 'investment booths' to offer to help wealth trickle down and move into the community, because Marienburgers. What is supposed to help move money and develop the community is already developing into a generalized atmosphere of sacred loan-sharking as they continue to accidentally invent capitalism.
Pilgrimages get a lot of page space but generally aren't very interesting; you know how these work. You walk a holy route, you pray along the way, you stay in hostelries and hope you don't die on the road, many people use them as the one legitimate excuse to travel (or a good way to get out of debts or criminal charges and never come home). Pilgrimages are big, big business. Religious tourism is a huge source of income for any Imperial town that either has a holy site, or sits on a pilgrimage route. The example Shallyan pilgrimage has our favorite flaw in Hams writing: Everyone on it dies. Everyone. Only one percent of pilgrims survive the walk from Altdorf to Couronne, according to the book, because they're all sick when they start and it's a dangerous route, despite being a well-patrolled mercantile route through Axe Bite Pass and Montfort. Really, guys, we don't need the massive mass death to convince people travel is dangerous.
Some of the famous pilgrimages are interesting, though: Sigmar's Walk is a general pilgrimage out east, visiting holy sites on a two-month walking tour meant to symbolize Sigmar's walk away from the Empire. This is the sort of 'normal' pilgrimage that doesn't kill everyone that goes on it, since it mostly travels through well-patrolled lands in the southern Empire. Soldier's Walk is a Myrmidian pilgrimage intended to wash away the guilt of what a soldier has done in war, traveling from a soldier's home to the home of the greatest of soldiers (Myrmidia) in either Remas (Tilea) or Magritta (Estalian). Bandits have long since learned not to attack those pilgrims. They might only be carrying a pilgrim's staff, but you don't take that pilgrimage without being a hardened veteran, and they're usually more trouble than they're worth. Manaanite pilgrimages go along the river routes of the Empire out towards the sea. Taalites and Rhyans travel among the standing stones and through rough wilderness, and their pilgrimages tend to be short and dangerous due to Goatman Prime hiding behind every goddamn bush.
We also get a Pilgrim class, which is a weird sort of Tier 1.5 class that gets lots of traveling and knowledge skills, higher stats than a 1st tier ought to, but is offered in the Career Compendium as a starting class. It can be entered from absolutely any class, and exits into being a traveler, outlaw, demagogue, or starting Initiate. It's a really weird class.
Next Time: The Life of Priests
I need a priest!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation
I need a priest!
One of the odder bits in the ToS writeup is the idea that 'it is a rare boy or girl who tells their parents they want to be a priest'. Yes, priests have a rough initiate period, and yes, it's a little uncommon to be that strongly drawn to one God, and yes, especially if you end up able to use miracles being a Priest is going to mean being scrutinized more carefully by a divine power and your community for the rest of your life, but it's a position of tremendous respect in the Old World. Not only that, but outside of Ulricans priests are perfectly able to inherit property, marry, etc so many of the reasons you might worry about the priesthood seem less likely to come up.
Many people who become priests do so because they're called to their religion, feel an especial attachment to one God, and wish to learn the rites that will bring that God's good will down on the community. This is simply enough, but it's worth noting that the average priest got into it because of sincere religious belief. Older people who become priests were often already Templars, Hunters, or other people heavily associated with the church, who have decided to go into preaching and maintaining the rites rather than fighting for their God. Taking an initiate's vow and entering the formal priesthood is also common among lay cultists, who often performed other functions for the cult and already had occasion to learn many of its teachings. These people are already used to following the strictures and often take less education to achieve ordination, since they were already deeply involved with the cult.
Others are orphans, raised in the many religious orphanages in the Empire. The cults of Shallya and Sigmar operate many orphanages, and generally try to downplay how useful these are to producing children who already have some religious education and inclination as future priests and priestesses. Religious education is also one of the most affordable and widespread forms of education in the Old World, so burgher parents will sometimes send their children to learn to read and write with the temples' schools; some percentage of these children are inspired to take Initiate vows and stay in the faith, especially as this is a very respectable path to take in life. 'Gifting' a child to the church is also a common way to get rid of a child a family can't feed, or a noble son or daughter who the family doesn't have any property for. The family hands the child over to the priests to be raised as an Initiate from a young age, which means they'll be provided for, educated, and may eventually have a respectable profession; far superior to letting them wander off and become an Adventurer or exposing a child you can't feed. Other children taken into the temples as wards are the children of priests or templars killed in action; the temple has an obligation to provide for them as part of its obligation to its former servant.
Others become priests because something has drastically changed in their life. The example given is a mercenary who found himself badly wounded and on the wrong side of a losing battle, praying to the Gods to let him live, and just before he passed out and came to still alive, he saw a dove sitting on a wrecked cannon. Naturally, he became a Shallyan, thinking the Goddess had spared his life. Life-changing events happen; people find a new path in life. These priests are generally just as valued as the young initiates, and might bring unusual skills to their temple that the cult will appreciate. The Career system gives a few explicit paths for this, like a Thief who becomes a Verenan in contrition.
Some people become priests because they're respected and valued members of the community who get paid. This is especially helpful if you used to be (or still are) a criminal, cultist of dark forces, or someone else who wants to erase their past. Still, plenty of people become priests to have access to the collection box and to be exalted among their peers. Some of them might even make fine priests, even if they got into it for selfish reasons; a priest is above all else a religious professional and intermediary between a community and their Gods. If they're capable of performing the rites and doing their job properly, it might not end up mattering that the main reason they do it is because it's a good and secure job. Of course, those who got in to hide their past misdeeds, and who continue doing them, make either particularly interesting PCs or enemies for PCs.
We also get an interesting aside on a compact between Shallyans and Ulricans in the northern Empire, whereby the Shallyans take the girl orphans but hand over the young boys to the Ulricans for initiation at the age of seven. This is usually a huge shock to the boys, who are used to the kindness of the Shallyans and then handed over to be beaten into gruff warriors by the harsh Ulricans. The Ulrican temples actually have great respect for initiates of this sort who either successfully escape the orphanage or keep trying to break out despite being captured and punished repeatedly; it's pious to the God to refuse to be caged in a situation you don't want to be in and to keep resisting your fate. Some of the best Ulrican priests come from those who have been caught running away five or more times, as Ulric admires their resolve.
Next Time: The beatings will continue until it makes up for the perceived slights I suffered as an initiate myself
Suffer, as I did!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
Suffer, as I did!
There's a theme running through most apprenticeship narratives in Warhammer Fantasy, whereby masters abuse their apprentices because they were abused by their masters and so internalized that this was an important part of the educational process. I don't think this is just being done for grimdark; this is something that happens. I remember my father's stories about doctors resisting the calls to limit Resident hours (because the medical Residents were so exhausted that studies found they were making errors that were hurting patients) because 'oh all the hard work and lack of sleep when I was a Resident made me the doctor I am today! They have to deal with it!'. This is just the way people think, sometimes, especially if they went through a very arduous education.
Initiates are first brought before a temple's Master of Initiates (who might also be the main priest, if it's a small country temple with only one priest), who tries to gauge their personality and why they want to be a priest, asking them questions about theology and the Gods (which can be amusingly awkward if the Initiate to be is a 6 year old child or something). Young candidates are almost never rejected as Initiates; the temples pride themselves on their ability to shape children into proper priests with enough effort. Older Initiates are more likely to be turned away, specifically because it's much harder to 'manipulate and mold' an adult (the book's precise words). Temples look for a closer fit in adult Initiates because they assume the process of raising a child as a temple ward will also properly indoctrinate them. Once a student is accepted, they don the robes of their novitiate and symbolically burn their old clothes, to reflect turning away from their old life to move towards a life of faith. Oaths are sworn, and sometimes a new name or an extra name is assigned to represent this is a new part of the Initiate's life.
An Initiate will be subject to numerous tests of faith over the course of their Initiation. Many of the tests of faith are physically painful or terrifying, imposed by the priests because they were once imposed on them. An Ulrican temple might occasionally abandon Initiates in the snow and expect them to find their way home. Sigmarites are very fond of corporal punishment because they believe it 'hammers out' sin. These Tests of Faith are considered integral to religious education; even Shallyans will subject their Initiates to such things in hopes of preparing them to deprive themselves in order to better serve others in the future. It is also quite possible to fail your Initiation and never actually become a priest. Theoretically, any Initiate is welcome to keep trying until they succeed, but eventually the priests will tell one that perhaps the path of a priest is not for them if they continue to fail their tests and fail their ordination. Sometimes, such people become templars. Sometimes such people become the insane zealots running around preaching that their old church is corrupt and they know the only true path of the God. Sometimes they become Chaos cultists. And sometimes they take the hint and go get a normal secular job.
Small towns train their Initiates like apprentices, with the Initiates working directly for the priest as they learn about their faith. In cities, though, alongside the universities there have come theological academies, equipped to train whole classes of scurrying Initiates. These facilities are a considerably investment for a temple, and so they rarely just train priests; seminaries double as a place to teach the templar squires their religious duties and a way to educate monks before they take their monastic vows. Interestingly, many seminaries are co-ed, though you'll find single sex seminaries as well.
Initiates do the scutwork of the temple, partly because someone has to and partly to teach them their place as the lowest of the low. Initiates spend most of their first year cooking, cleaning, and scrubbing out the jakes, often while being subjected to those Tests of Faith by fickle priests who remember how it 'built characters' when they were young. Young Initiates get very little time to themselves, as any moment not spent doing the chores is expected to be spent either in lessons or in prayer and contemplation. Often, their 'prayer and contemplation' time is the only chance they get to socialize with other Initiates their age, so I imagine there's as much socializing as praying during those times, especially as they aren't carefully supervised. Initiates are never permitted to actually preach, instead helping a priest prepare their notes and organize their sermons. After a period of this (either the first year, if the Initiate was already an adult, or on reaching majority if they were not) an Initiate is sent out into the world to work for their God and learn more about the cult's place in the world. This is where Initiate PCs come from, and the temples are known to secretly encourage Initiates to become PCs and adventurers; fighting Chaos cults and uncovering dark conspiracies is a great way to inspire enduring faith in promising young priests-to-be. Remember that the average PC Initiate is on track to become a miracle-using magical priest, who are considered especially favored; a PC Initiate is usually quite promising and the sort of person their masters would like seasoned in the fires of adventure.
Ordination happens when the priests decide it will. Ordination can happen very quickly (often for those who are either tremendously promising, or who have paid a great and generous gift to the temple) or very slowly, but the moment when an Initiate PC is officially ordained and becomes a Priest should be a major character milestone. Holy vows are sworn that symbolically bind that character to the direct service of their God for all of their life. In all of the cults, these vows are the main component of the Ordination ceremony; in some cults, this will be the entirety of the celebration. A priest bound by these vows has a higher responsibility to their God than the lay cultists or the general public, and this theoretically puts the priest at risk of much greater divine scrutiny and punishment should they violate the tenants of their faith. We'll get to the Disfavor system later; it's actually way less harsh than 4e's and you're expected to occasionally annoy your God some, since you're only human, while making it much easier to get rid of Disfavor in the course of normal play. Some cults will continue to watch a young priest for a probationary period, and all cults advise that a priest's training is never truly complete; there is always more to learn and more to do.
We also get some actual mechanics! There are some new careers for monks and abbots (mostly scholastic careers, with the option to make either a divine spellcaster or leave them without magic), but we also get variant rules for the Priest careers. You see, the designers wanted to make it possible to play a Priest without being a miracle-user, or to play a more cloistered and scholastic priest, so we get alternate Priest career advances for both flavors. The non-magic Priests get better physical abilities, better combat abilities, and are still highly charismatic and brave individuals with reasonably good scholastic skills; hardly a bad PC type. The Cloistered Priest track lowers a Priest's combat ability in favor of more knowledge, theology, a better ability to run the fuck away from trouble, and slightly better magic talents. This is a nice little add-on in case you wanted to try different flavors of the Priest class.
Next Time: Sigmarites have a great love of doctrine and correct thought, which leads to every individual temple having their own idea of the only true way to worship the Heldenhammer.
All agree his conduct was exemplary
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
All agree his conduct was exemplary
Priests vary by region, God, and individual temple. Initiates of Manaan are always ordained by keelhauling or being lashed to a ship's mast during a storm; Manaan will kill them if he feels like it, and letting him do that is considered an important part of becoming a priest of the fickle sea god. One tradition universal with Manaanites is the Watch; most priests will not sleep unless someone else is on watch. Naming a watcher before you sleep is an important ritual for Manaanites, and if the watcher falls asleep on watch most temples will have them flogged. Most Manaanite ritual requires sight of the sea or a fast-moving river; Manaan has no power over lakes, as they are too still and fresh for him. Thus, most priests spend their lives wandering along the river-routes or living on the coast. It's common to sacrifice land-based products to the sea, trading beef or fruit for Manaan's blessing over fishing and commerce; this is often done by building a shrine that will be claimed at high tide, such that Manaan can come and collect his sacrifices when he feels like it. Much of Manaanite worship focuses around making sure the ocean god knows he's in charge and keeping him placated by doing so. Manaanite priests are also known for enjoying drink, song, and lewd behavior when off duty; it's considered sacred to act like a sailor and most of them used to be sailors anyway.
Morrite Initiation and Ordination are imagined to be terrifying rites full of ghosts and horrible undead by the common folk. This is not the case, and Morrites are generally ordained in a simple, solemn ceremony where the priest takes their vows and nothing more; Morr is not concerned with the living, so they do not waste his time with elaborate ordinations. Every different region of the world has a different ritual for Morrite priests when they go to bed, but almost all of them will do evening prayers in hopes of inviting the guidance of a divine dream in Morr's aspect as Lord of Dreams. Most priests of Morr keep a diary of their dreams, dutifully and truthfully writing whatever they see in the night, and these notebooks are very personal items that can be very revealing about a priest's character. Morrites are also weirdly unwilling to make promises to the living, in honor of their God, and so are often reluctant to enter into secular contracts. Few priests of Morr are squeamish or easily turned aside by the smell of embalming fluid (or rotting corpses). In the public imagination, Morrites have no sense of humor and regard the whole world with indifference; this isn't true. Many of them are actually quite funny people, as a way to cope with constantly being surrounded by death. It's just...who would laugh at a priest of the God of Death? Crazy people, that's who.
Myrmidian Ordination never involves combat, but often involves talking about the deeds the Initiate did as a cadet or Initiate and the presentation of arms and armor from the temple to mark their promotion. The first thing a Myrmidian priest does each day is arm themselves, donning arms and armor with a prayer to the Goddess to be ready for the day. The next thing most do is disarm themselves, because most of their duties don't actually call for a breastplate, morion, and spear. Priests who do not have access to their arms and armor for some reason will still perform the arming ritual symbolically, treating their clothes as armor and their quill pen (or other nearby tool) as a weapon. Myrmidians have some odd superstitions about blind alleyways, rooms with only one door, and other 'encirclements' being very bad luck. They also believe decisions need to be made carefully, and that acting on impulse invites divine disfavor. Most Myrmidians also believe a person should have a weapon to hand at all times. A dagger, at least. This can lead to them coming off as rather paranoid. It is also very bad luck to hurt an eagle, and very good luck to see an eagle, because Myrmidia teaches that eagles are extremely rad. Myrmidians don't necessarily have to be in charge, but they always like for there to be a plan; everything has to have an itinerary, and if possible, things should be done in groups.
Ranaldans don't really have set rites, both because theirs is a God of anarchism and because if there was an easily recognized 'rite of Ranald' beyond making the crossed fingers there's a good chance the authorities would crack down on the cult. You'll be ordained when your crew of revolutionaries, thieves, and merchants declares you'll be ordained, and it will probably involve a big party. Many ordination rituals involve flipping a coin or rolling dice once a day until you get the score or result the elder priests think you should; that day you're lucky enough to become a Ranaldan. Some priests even come up with randomized tables that they roll on to see what rites Ranald wants them to perform today; this is a ridiculous behavior that no normal person would ever do. Tossing a coin to choose between difficult choices is a way to put the decision in Ranald's hands. One story going around the Empire says that a Ranaldan in Averland conned a goldsmith into making him a pair of golden dice, then stole them (obviously) and rolled them to see which province God wanted him in. It sent him to Ostland right as the Storm of Chaos happened, where he successfully deceived a Chaos Lord and escaped with a crowd of a hundred refugees and their many treasures, leading them all the way to Altdorf safely. He then sold all the treasures and art he'd pillaged from ruins along the way and one presumes went off to get drunk. Ranaldans agree that his conduct was exemplary.
Shallyan ordination generally includes a vigil where the priestess (or priest) stands in a public place, taking no food themselves, and tries to help anyone in need who passes by. Those who succeed are given a single meal from the Goddess and made a full priestess. Those who fail are permitted to try again as often as they wish; Shallya is the goddess of mercy. Most Shallyans beg forgiveness from any they've harmed in evening prayers before they sleep, and it is custom for a Shallyan to prepare a meal for someone else in the morning before they eat, themselves, symbolically putting others first. Ideally, the meals a Shallyan gives away should be better than the ones they eat. Shallyans are also known for apologizing an awful lot, and technically only followers of Nurgle are exempt from the need to apologize to anyone you do harm to. Some Shallyans are vegetarian, on the grounds that meat is murder, but this is not required by the Goddess. They tend to be very outspoken in urging others towards compassion and mercy, and such is their reputation that most people will at least listen politely; most people know they're going to need a Shallyan at some point in their lives.
Sigmarites love ritual and order above all things. This means that their religion is prone to heavy regional variation as every individual temple practices the 'only' real way to worship Sigmar. There are common elements, of course; warhammers will be involved, and Khazalid (the dwarf tongue) is usually used in invocations and declarations. Most priests don't speak Khazalid especially well, and their congregations don't know any. There are many Imperial jokes about rural priests majestically raising their hammer to the east and declaring 'I really need to take a piss' in dwarven as if it was the most dignified thing in the universe. Sigmarite superstition revolves around corruption of thought. It's considered bad luck to be the first one to read a new written work, and Sigmarites as a whole are deeply suspicious of books. After all, a book could have TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS in it, which could wholly corrupt its meaning. Clever agents of Chaos could have messed with punctuation! Typos are clearly the work of the forces of darkness. A printer who misspells the name of Sigmar may be in danger of being beaten by a mob directed by the local priest, as evidence that they're in league with satan. Strangers are also another possible source of evil; anyone who invokes Sigmar before the priest is probably trying too hard and corrupted. Anyone who refuses to answer an invocation of Sigmar is definitely a Chaos worshiper, or worse, a foreigner
. Because Sigmarism holds up Sigmar as the pillar against Chaos, and because nobody else worships the literal State God of the Empire, it's common in rural Sigmarite parishes to believe foreigners are very vulnerable to Chaos corruption. Stories of someone trying a foreign haircut being burned as a witch are common, but conveniently always seemed to happen to somebody else's cousin in a village far from this one, if you take my drift (they are exaggerations). Sigmarite priests like to assume they are in charge of any situation where they are not explicitly outranked.
Taalites and Rhyans are declared priests and priestesses by whatever priest or priestess they were initiated to, at which point the cult has a feast. The new priest or priestess usually hunts or gathers the main course, to show the God or Goddess's favor. Generally, morning and evening rites are performed to mark sunrise and sunset to keep track of the shifting times of day and the cycle of the seasons. Taal cultists like to shatter the skulls of any animal they killed the day before, after giving its spirit 24 hours to seek revenge if it cares to. I'm going to mostly quote the book for the next section: It is a superstition among Taalites and Rhyans that you can only be truly sure of the safety of your food if you hunted and cleaned it yourself (probably true, in the Old World), that firearms can explode and bring a curse on their wielders (probably true, in the Old World), that having lots of coins and metals on your person can bring you danger (probably true, in the Old World), and that it's safest to clean and drink in moving water far from the cities (probably true, in the Old World). In other words, most of their superstitions are pretty close to correct. Priests and priestesses tend to try to accentuate their gender, with Taalites exalting the masculine and Rhyans the feminine, and both sorts of priest are charged to enjoy life. Feasting, drinking, making love, all these things are tributes to the God and Goddess.
Ulricans rituals are short and to the point. Many of them involve intentional exposure. The example given is the Ordination Rite in a northern temple that hasn't seen a single female priestess in centuries: The young man is let out into the snow in just a loincloth at night. The initiate approaches the temple gates, which are left unlocked, but is not allowed to open the doors in any way besides banging on them and loudly demanding entrance until the force of his blows opens the doors. He then kneels before the priests and is covered in wolfskin as he swears loyalty to Ulric. Ulricans do not having morning or evening rituals; you just get up, get something to eat, grab your axe, and get to your day. Ulricans also believe it's bad luck to back down on anything unless it's an order from a clear superior. It's bad luck among some temples to even admit mistakes. If this gets you into fights, all the better. More conscientious Ulricans are instead cautious about actually giving their word, such that they can be sure they never break it, rather than just constantly pretending that they didn't. Ulricans (male and female) are extremely proud of their hair (and if male, beards), which they spend a great deal of time maintaining; temples will often have contests to decide who has the best hair. They also don't regard beating someone as a sign you don't like them, and so enjoy getting in fistfights with friends. No word on if they take losing as well.
Verenans ordain their Initiates with a presentation of the Initiate's thesis and a recommendation from their mentoring priest-scholar. The work's thesis is given, and if the priests find it worthy, the Initiate is made a full priest. In some temples, two Initiates must debate one another on some topic, with the winner becoming a priest and the other trying again later. It is considered good luck among Verenans to read before bed, and to read on waking, to bookend the day with the increase of knowledge. Priests of Verena believe that forgetting things is bad luck, and so often keep notes on everything around them. Most also believe they have a duty to make fair decisions, because you know, Goddess of Justice. The older the book you can cite in a dispute, the better, because forgetting is against the Goddess and reading an old book transports the wisdom of the past into the present for consideration. Like Myrmidians they don't like living without a plan, and think things should be considered carefully and with as little prejudice as possible before you make a decisions.
Next Time: Penance and Wandering Priests
I'm a different kind of Ulrican. I'll be giving a speech later, but you should ask any questions now; I might have to leave town in a hurry after.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
I'm a different kind of Ulrican. I'll be giving a speech later, but you should ask any questions now; I might have to leave town in a hurry after.
Priests wander for many reasons. It's important to talk about them because, let's face it, you're probably not going to play a group RPG campaign about staying in one place and tending to a temple (though of course, you could). The Wandering Life section is specifically about bridging the gap between a traditional life of prayer and a life of wandering, getting into fights, and stealing treasure.
Some priests take a Wandering Vow, releasing them from the obligation to a single congregation in return for spreading their faith and tending to the needs of communities with no temple. This is perhaps the most respectable reason to be a wandering priest, and there are entire orders of Imperial friars who go from town to town and perform blessings for those who have no temple to their God. Spreading the faith, founding new temples, etc in your wake as you go about and fight rat people and goatmen is certainly an option for an orthodox adventuring priest. Some wandering priests aren't missionaries, but rather Manaanites, Myrmidians, etc whose congregations wander as it is; a Manaanite who plies the river Reik and or the Sea of Claws would hardly be unorthodox, nor would a Myrmidian following and ministering to a free company.
Some priests travel and wander out of penance, cast out of their original temple and trying to make up for their sins. These could be matters of heterodoxy and heresy, or they could be something simple, like never having told the temple you used to be a thief. A priest may also have suffered a sudden downturn in their luck, and decided that they have somehow offended their Gods; people in the Empire generally operate on the older principle that if you are afflicted with terrible luck and sickness you must have offended the Gods whether you know you did or not. So a priest wandering on penance may be doing so because of misfortunes that cause them to believe they sinned despite not knowing how they sinned. For some, this attempt to redeem themselves can turn into an entire lifestyle as a wandering priest (or, in extremes, a flagellant).
Naturally, some are also seeking something important. Verenans are the most common sort of seeker-priests, always looking for some ancient codex or scrap of lore, but anyone could be seeking some sort of important relic or macguffin. It might even be on behalf of their cult rather than for purely personal reasons. Included here are those who wander for purely worldly reasons; it might not be a cult matter for a Priest of Sigmar to seek out the Chaos Lord who killed his parents years ago, but the cult might not object and the God likely won't. Priests are still people, so looking for relatives or trying to help out their families or friends are also common reasons to be out and about seeking for something.
Some priests wander because they don't have a temple or congregation anymore. The Storm of Chaos saw Archaon's armies specifically target the priesthoods and their temples, because he was an ex-Sigmarite who was extremely mad about his old religion (and all Old World religions). Many northern and eastern towns suffered damage, or lost their temples. If you're the last surviving priest from a sacked town in Hochland or Ostland, what do you do? You wander until you can find another temple to take you in, or you spend your time protecting refugees and seeing to their spiritual needs. Some of these priests continue to wander under a vow of penance for ever allowing such harm to come to their temple and their congregation, while others travel only long enough to find a new place to preach.
And, of course, some are wandering because they're rogue. Heterodox or heretical priests or priests of small and radical new sects are often on the move because if they don't keep ahead of the mainstream cult, they'll be squished. Some of these rogues aren't even unorthodox, but rather fell afoul of some sort of personal conflict during the politicking inherent in the priesthoods. It can be awkward for a temple to deal with a rogue priest who is still able to use miracles, as this is usually taken as a sign of divine legitimacy. The cults are not actually the sole authorities on their Gods, despite what they would tell you, and thus there are many small, wandering sects of unorthodox belief who worship their Gods differently without drawing divine disfavor. The life of a rogue priest trying to found their own sect is certain to be exciting, if very dangerous.
Cults also rely on lay worshipers, people who are unusually drawn to a specific God but not to the extent that they become a priest. These people help clean, cook, do the chores, guard the temple, donate their earnings to its upkeep, and spread the word of the Gods. The Old World's cults would fall apart without their lay worshipers, many of whom work for very reduced wages or donate their labor as a sacrifice to the Gods.
Temples employ lay worshiper guards because temples are usually wealthy places that know better than to trust the Gods entirely with security. They also know that there are occasional bouts of religious strife (Verenans, for instance, would really rather have enough guards to keep the occasional Sigmarite zealot from burning their books) and that temples tend to be targets of Chaos cults, who hate them as a serious theological adversary. Larger temples will be able to employ templar knights for these jobs, but a rural or small town temple (or a poorer city temple) may have to resort to simply arming some of the more trustworthy locals and deputizing them as Temple Guardians. We get a class for this; they're a 1st tier that can go on to a military or religious career. They're not great fighters (lacking a second starting Attack) but they get Dodge, Strike Mighty, Strike to Stun, and the very rare Stout Heart (+10% to Fear saves of all kinds), so they're brave and reasonably competent and social. You could certainly do worse for a start.
Temples also employ servants, for the same reason anyone else does; these are the bulk of lay-workers in a temple, joining the Initiates in keeping the building clean and proper and the staff fed and clothed. Upkeeping the appearance of a temple is very important, after all. Overseeing this is the Cult Attendant, a general class for deacons and administrators. These are the administrators and organizers of the laity, and the class is a social/management class that is excellent at commerce and diplomacy in the name of trying to herd cats and keep the temple from falling apart. They investigate mundane corruption like missing collections boxes, they keep everything running, and they try to stay unseen so that the congregation credits the priest with the smooth running of the local cult; most pride themselves on being unnoticed.
Many temples of Sigmar and Shallya have taken up a tradition of sacred music. Sigmarites absolutely adore the spectacle and sound of a glorious choir singing in harmony about the wonders of the Empire and its greatest Emperor, and a temple with a grand choir can become wealthy and famous very quickly. Conservatories are common in Imperial cities, training cantors and choristers as the temples compete to hire the best musicians. The Cantor is a good way for an Entertainer or Minstrel to get their foot in the door of religion; it's actually a very quick 2nd tier class for an ex-Entertainer and can go directly into Priest afterwards. They're charming and learn a lot about music and religion, obviously, and get a unique talent where their music can boost divine magic's casting rolls. A large choir of proper Cantors can make any religious blessing rite much easier on a temple. The other value of the class is social; you can make a lot of money and a very respectable career writing hymns.
There are also lay-scholars hired as instructors for the Initiates. The Catechist is not necessarily a priest, but they certainly train them. This is a way to get into the religious track from the academic ones, and again, it's actually a pretty quick second tier for a Student or Scholar who wants to dip into religious education. Annoyingly, they can't actually exit into Priest, and Students can already become Initiates, so Catechist is honestly kind of a waste of a class. They can't all be winners, I suppose. Still, if you wanted to stat up the humorless monk yelling at your Initiate I suppose it's not a waste to have the class.
We also get a long and interesting section on statting up generic priest NPCs of all of the faiths, adding and removing talents and stats to reflect the different sorts of people called to the various Gods in case you really quickly need an NPC priest. This is a nice resource for a GM, and it goes all the way from Initiate to Anointed Priest. If you need quick stats for any of the religious professionals PCs encounter at random, they're here. Along with tables you can roll on if you really want to randomly determine why a priest is traveling or some little details about them.
Next Time: Ugh, do I have to talk about the silly Hams Crusades? I suppose I do.
The Crusades and the Crusaders who fight them
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
The Crusades and the Crusaders who fight them
So. The Hams Crusades. This entire backstory event is terrible. We'll start with what happened, then we'll talk about why it's not good. So in the 1400s, while the Empire was falling into 3 Empires and all, the Sultan of Araby decided he wanted to come out of Warhams North Africa and conquer Warhams Spain, Estalia. He was very successful in this, taking many slaves and seizing Magritta, the (according to Estalians) birthplace of Myrmidia. The Bretonnian king Louis the Righteous decided he was going to assault the Sultan's armies before they reached Bretonnia. Remember: This is after the 1360 declaration by Empress Ottilia that Talabecland would no longer be part of the Empire, supported by the Ar-Ulric. The Empire is not a state at this point. Also remember we got a description of this from the document at the beginning of this very book saying none of the Empire's cults directly supported Louis's plan to attack Estalia; here in Chapter 10 we get a statement that the Empire stopped its civil war temporarily in order to send small numbers of knights from each Elector Count's armies to go fight alongside the Brets.
They make a big deal of the army marching south to liberate Estalia, and how such selfless action is rare in the Old World's history. The evil sultan flees without even fighting them, leaving behind a dumb sheik sidekick to fortify Magritta and hold the crusaders for 8 years while his retreating army burns and enslaves much of Estalia ahead of the crusaders, who are so horrified by this that they swear vengeance and pursue into Araby. The Crusaders completely burn the northern city of Copher when they arrive, slaughtering almost the entire population, and the evil sultan hopes that will satisfy them. It does not, they fight across the desert and grow 'more convinced of their own righteousness by the trials they faced', and then meet the evil sultan in battle, where his forces are slaughtered because he's very evil and bad at leading armies. The knights 'used magic and common sense' to avoid dying of dehydration or exposure (again note: 900 years before the establishment of the Colleges). The Knights continue to plague Araby for generations, until they're certain they've killed every last one of the families and descendants of Jaffar's army, then go home.
So let's talk about this. I am not an expert on the Crusades, but I know more than enough to know this is a pretty goddamn offensive way to do a pastiche of a tremendously complex and historically important series of religious wars. We have the heroic crusaders so enraged by the idea of Europeans being made slaves that they spend a century hunting every last slaver to the death, then going home to great glory after a fairly easily series of wars and adventures. And the whole thing exists entirely to go 'oh hey this is where most of these religious orders of knights were founded'. Firstly, none of this shit is necessary to have tons of religious orders of knights, especially given the enormous religiously-split three way civil war currently ending the Empire of Sigmar as a cohesive political entity, not to mention the regular incursions of hellvikings and dracula. Secondly, the actual crusades would have been a much better, more fitting sort of event for Hams' milieu, being that they were a complete and total goddamn mess
. Where are my scheming Venetians getting the crusade to sack their rivals in Constantinople? Where are the Byzantines struggling to deal with the huge armies of foreign knights foraging across their lands? Where are the kings trying to use this mess to carve out an idea of legitimate statehood? Where is any of the massive goddamn mess that actually exists? Making the crusades a simple story where shining knights go and fight an evil sultan for awhile isn't just offensive, it's boring and doesn't fit the way the things human nations get up to in Hams are usually messy as hell. It also just doesn't fit into the polytheistic religious milieu very well. Why is this war specifically a religious war? The war against arabs instead of, again, the war against hellvikings who worship the devil? The book has no explanation.
And again, does it really add anything? The Hams Crusades suck. They suck a lot. They're a lazy backstory event in the worst way.
The book talks about how they were important to the formation of militant orders because they weren't a response to a religious disagreement but an 'unexpected political attack', except that, uh, the Empire gets unexpectedly attacked all the goddamn time. That's what all the vampire, rat nazi, and hellviking wars are. Why is it suddenly special and making everyone set aside their differences and come together for religious war when they get attacked by arabs? Anyway, crusades still happen, but they tend to happen for religious reasons, and they tend to be pointed at Chaos, Undead, or to spark civil unrest when one of the cults decides that another political entity is blasphemous. Sigmarites and Ulricans both love crusades, and while Myrmidians add a religious element to every war they go to, they do so so regularly that they don't bother to call it a crusade. We get a 3rd tier Crusader class, but it's a strictly shittier Knight of the Inner Circle and there's no reason to take it unless you're a Sergeant or Veteran, who can enter it to get onto a knightly track. We get a bit about how Crusaders tend to view what they do as a very violent form of pilgrimage, and that while the cults don't actually believe that a person can wipe away a life's worth of sin by donating heavily to a crusade, many nobles and knights believe you can and the cults don't correct them in order to be able to fund their armies.
Next Time: Holy Orders of the Empire
A very different Black Crusade
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
A very different Black Crusade
Alright, with the shitty Crusades stuff out of the way let's get into the actual flavors of Paladin you can play as in Hams. There's a lot of them, and most have gotten a little mention before now.
Our first on the list is the most famous Templar order in the Empire, singlehandedly keeping the faith of Ulric somewhat popular, the White Wolves. The White Wolves are the very first Templar Order in the Empire, dating back to the 500s; they are the first 'heavy' religious unit the Empire ever fielded. To honor that ancient tradition, and because they're still Ulricans, they go into battle without helmets and with huge fur-lined capes so that everyone can see their magnificent hair and beards. Despite the wild appearance, they have two thousand years of organization and experience behind them, and they fight in a disciplined unit of horsemen or foot knights. One oddity is that they don't use lances, preferring short cavalry hammers and getting stuck in. Their specialized hammers actually get a special rule entry in Old World Armory (Not sure why it isn't repeated in this book): Like an Orc Choppa, their hammer does more damage on the charge, but takes an entire proficiency to use that you can only buy as a Knight or Inner Circle Knight of the White Wolf. However, it's an SB+2 On the Charge hand weapon that does SB+1 normally; this is pretty goddamn worth investing in. On foot, they prefer great axes and great hammers.
The Wolves are assigned all over the Empire, being a tremendously popular and old Order. They guard every notable temple of Ulric and a unit of Wolves is stationed in every city, with other packs out in the field fighting in the name of Ulric and going on quests to increase the reputation of the Order. The Order is keenly aware that they are one of the most popular parts of their church, and do all they can to remind people that Ulric is still a powerful and important God. Part of their prestige comes from their antiquity; Imperials are impressed by the long history of the White Wolves. The rest comes from the fact that they've involved themselves in almost every famous military campaign in the Empire's history. When Mannfred Skavenslayer charged out of Middenheim to crush the rats besieging it, his vanguard were White Wolves. When Magnus marched on Asuvar Kul, the Wolves joined him. When Mannfred was beaten at Hel Fenn, the Wolves were charging his undead lines. The sheer number and energy of the Knights of the White Wolf, and their drive to glorify the Lord of Battles by, uh, fighting a lot of battles, has made them heroes in the eyes of much of the Empire. Even people who don't like Ulric will say those guys are alright.
The Black Guard of Morr are my personal favorite knights in this chapter, though it's a hard choice. You might remember them from Knight's Dark Masters, where they got a (pretty cool) unique Career of their own. These are the silent, black-armored guardians of the most important priests of Morr and the most strategically important graveyards. They dress entirely in concealing black plate, with the joints specially padded to make them quieter and the armor designed to hide their face and identity; the reason for this is that they fight users of black magic. A lot. They don't want their enemies to be able to touch exposed flesh, they don't want vampires to be able to get at their necks, and they don't want their names or identities known to black mages who can do spooky ghost magic. They also avoid talking in combat, taking a vow of silence when on duty (outside of obvious exceptions for, say, warning a fellow knight something's behind them), and so present a solid line of silent, black-armored warriors with halberds and bows. The prohibition on talking is apocryphally so that you can't get vampire blood in your mouth while fighting, since that can be fatal.
While everyone else was off spearing sneering stereotypes during the Crusades, the Black Guard embarked on a secret mission. They ignored the fight with Araby and instead moved into Khemri, on a mission known as the Black Crusade. There, they challenged the Tomb Kings (who are still an abomination to Morr) in search of ancient Egyptian lore that could help their temples prepare against a return of Nagash. Braving mummy's curses and battling the immortal lords of Khemri, they took many ancient scrolls and treasures and returned them to secret places among the Temples of Morr to avoid the wrath of the Tomb Kings. This is a hell of a lot cooler than the rest of the Crusades! Black Knights striving silently against massive Egyptian skeleton armies and constructs to steal the book of the dead? That is way better than whatever else was going on with the Crusades.
The Black Guard are a defensive order outside of important missions like the Black Crusade. They tend to be quiet, intense individuals who are content to spend their lives defending the peace of the dead. There's a bit of a sidebar on the Raven Knights, the unique 3rd tier knight from Night's Dark Masters, saying these are often ex-Black Guard who join this allied sister order to go onto the offensive and actually hunt down vampires and undead.
The Knights of the Blazing Sun are the Myrmidian equivalent of the Knights of the White Wolf, in that the Empire loves and respects their Order even among people who don't care for Myrmidians. They were formed by a unit of secular knights who converted to Myrmidian worship when a statue of Myrmidia fell on their enemies and saved them during the Siege of Magritta. The Order guards pilgrimage routes between Magritta and the Empire, a duty that has made them rich, and spends that money on recruiting promising knights and sending them out to serve as roving officers that spread the word of Myrmidia as they organize local militias and fight in local conflicts. They missionary by example, just like the White Wolves, but where the Wolves are heroic warriors, the Blazing Suns are organizers and instructors.
The Blazing Suns also have their own special career in Sigmar's Heirs, and they're a normal 2nd tier Knight but with more focus on academic skills, leadership, and fencing to go with their lance and steed. Every Blazing Sun must spend several years after being raised to a full knight wandering the world and offering aid to any acceptable military campaign, as both an officer and a soldier. They are also notable for being the very first knightly Order to recognize Magnus the Pious as Emperor and swear to aid him, an action that singlehandedly put Myrmidian worship on the map as a new up and coming faith in the Empire; this is why the Myrmidians are on the Grand Conclave. I feel like they're an intentional parallel to the Ulrican White Wolves, in that while the Wolves keep the flame of Ulrican worship alive, the Blazing Suns are key to igniting faith in Myrmidia in the Empire.
The Knights of Everlasting Light are the most famous Templars of Verena. Not because they're amazing soldiers, but because they're cursed. During the Crusades, this Order murdered and pillaged like mad and got cursed by a vengeful spirit, such that the knights will almost never die gloriously. They have since taken their vows very seriously and try to be champions to those no-one else will fight for, hoping to satisfy the curse by serving justice. Thus, the career of most Everlasting Light Knights is 'Heroic battles for people no-one has ever heard of, in places no-one will ever remember, then later fall down the stairs, get kicked by a horse, or choke on a chicken bone.' Accepting that they will likely die to something embarrassing and stupid later makes these knights brave and self-sacrificing, and willing to get down into the muck so to speak.
The fact that they're cursed makes them take up grand quests and military campaigns rather than simply guarding temples. The knights hope to one day serve truth, justice, and liberty well enough to make up for the murderous brutality of their predecessors, or at least, to find some kind of powerful enchantment or knowledge that can undo the curse. In the meantime, most accept that they're going to have a career of defending plague villages and fighting monsters no-one believes exists, before dying like a Sierra adventure game protagonist the minute they get too close to water in their armor or falling off a cliff.
The Longshanks are the Taalite and Rhyan Knights, and they don't fight like Knights at all. They're an order of Scouts, to the point that the Longshanks don't take a variation on the Knight career and just do Scout instead. They're your standard good guy rangers, wandering around and shooting Beastmen, getting into adventures with the saner elves that live in Laurelorn forest, and protecting the sacred places and priesthood of their cult. They are not permitted to stay in the same place more than a week, and wander about on long and constant patrols in packs of rangers. There isn't really much more to say about them; if you've seen a fantasy ranger, you know these guys (and gals, they're currently led by a woman).
The Knights Griffon are a Sigmarite order founded by Magnus the Pious, because Magnus goddamn loved catbirds. I'm serious, the Griffon was made a noble Imperial symbol entirely because Magnus loved them and rode one during his campaign against Kul. The Knights Griffon are an extremely generic order who guard the High Temple of Sigmar and are generally extremely stuck up and arrogant, something they take as a strength. They're the shining knights who don't actually see much combat since they're mostly busy guarding dignitaries in the safest part of the Empire, all while talking themselves up and annoying the Reiksguard, the secular knights charged with guarding the Reikland and the order of the Emperor's Marshal. There really isn't much more to say about them, either; they're just kind of there.
The Sons of Manaan are our requisite sea-paladins, the poorer knights who guard the northern parts of the Empire's shore and who have an enduring rivalry with the much better paid Marienburger Knights-Mariner. The leadership of the cult, in turn, doesn't like the Sons because it thinks of them as too Imperial and not Manaanite enough. The Sons are unusual for Manaanites because they plan to fight on the shore as well as on board ships, training their white warhorses in the surf of the northern Empire. They use white horses on the principle that they want their charge to look like a crashing wave of angry ocean paladins. They also serve as marines on northern merchant ships, of course, but being willing to fight on the shore has seen them derided as landlubbers by the Marienburgers. When aboard a ship, they use the cutlass and buckler like other Manaanites, and when on their horses, they use tridents rather than lances.
So yeah, if you want to play a nautical paladin, there are those guys, fighting pirates and sea monsters and vikings.
We also get a summation of the extra skills/talents each God grants to Templars; every God/Order gives 3 extra advances to the Knight career, except the Longshanks, who don't get anything extra and who need to be Scouts instead. As mentioned, we also have actual classes (in other books, annoyingly) for the Black Guard and the Blazing Suns. The Black Guard career is awesome, too, getting you some solid ranged skills and a longbow to go with your halberd.
We also finally get the Warrior Priest, as an alternate option to the Anointed Priest as a 3rd tier career. In contrast to the Anointed Priest, the Warrior Priest is a better fighter, gaining Dodge and Strike Mighty, and a Weapon sacred to their God (usually Two-Handed, but the player can choose in discussion with the GM). Note that the only faith excluded from taking Warrior Priest is Shallyan. You can be a Warrior Priest of any of the other Gods, though Ulricans, Myrmidians, and the famous Sigmarite Silver Hammers are the most common Warrior Priests. The class picture is, of course, the iconic Imperial Sigmarite, bald and with two hammers and their customary armor.
We also get a class for Grandmaster of a Knightly Order, which is weird. They aren't really any better at fighting than a Champion, but have amazing stats across the board, great leadership, and their trappings call for 'a full suit of magical plate armor', which is more than a little weird. I'm not sure why there's a Grandmaster class, as Lord-level characters are usually depicted as a little beyond the scope of the average murder-hobo.
We also get a cursory set of equipment options for religious warriors, but they're very sparse because there's only so much gear porn you can do in a system that doesn't differentiate much between gear. None of it is really very exciting, except maybe the very poorly written Comet Flail. The Comet Flail is a flail with two hollow heads full of flaming oil, to symbolize Sigmar's comet. It acts exactly like a normal flail, except it can accidentally set its user on fire (2% chance per swing, 99-00), and any hit while it's ignited has 'a chance' to set enemies on fire (chance not actually listed; do they get an Agi save? Is it a percentage thing? We just don't know) and inflicts an extra Damage 2 hit on top of the SB+1 Impact Tiring hit from the flail.
We also get some example stats for a 'generic' squire, knight, and inner circle knight, but they aren't very exciting and they aren't nearly as thorough as the generic priest stats in the last section.
Next Time: Finally, Divine Magic!
A long time coming
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
A long time coming
Wow, we're 215 pages in before we finally get to the main mechanical section of the book, the expanded Divine Spells. But because this is Tome of Salvation, we're getting some fluff first. As I've said, there's maybe a little too much in this book, but this part is good.
You see, humans both are and aren't aware that miracle using priests are people with magical potential. The orthodox teaching is that anyone who prays the words is asking the Gods for aid (which is why the non-magic variant priests still learn Speak Arcane Language), but that the Gods only answer for truly pious individuals. Similarly, magic-using priests are generally more common than people with the potential to become wizards. The elves will tell you that all human priests are just using a form of arcane magic, but they're genuinely wrong about that; divine magic works differently, both mechanically and fluff wise, and anyone with magical sense who isn't as shackled to an elf's perception of magic as being wholly limited to color/high magic can see it. It's a matter of debate between priests and wizards how much a priest's magic comes from the priest versus the God.
Priests experience Magical Sense differently depending on what God they serve. The example given is a Taalite and a Sigmarite looking at a Jade Magister working a plant spell. The Taalite sees an individual encased in ivy and natural magic, because Jade magic isn't opposed to Taalite beliefs. The Sigmarite sees tendrils of faint corruption; not quite full on Chaos or darkness, but something reflecting their suspicion of magic. Divine preconception helps drive a priest's ability to see into the world of mysticism and aethryic energy. Similarly, the Speak Arcane (Magic) that priests know varies by cult. It isn't actually known where the original cultic languages come from, and many of them predate written language. Scholars whisper that these are, like all Arcane languages, based in the grammar and words of the Old Ones and derived from the 'mother tongue' of all mortal language. Priestly magic also appears very differently on magical sense; you won't see them carefully gathering up the right proportions of winds and then weaving them into a spell. To magically sensitive people, a priest's chant can have wildly varied effects, ranging from a faint nimbus of holy light to the priest seeming to take on the appearance of the God, becoming almost a momentary earthly avatar. The book leaves open what this means about divine magic vs. arcane; it's specifically up to the GM and group to decide.
We also get many more spells. Even more Petty spells for Mag 1 priests, which can be bought on top of the normal Petty spellbook for 50 EXP apiece. Much like wizards, priests still get the same number of spells for selecting a Divine Lore (6), and so get 3 different lists, one of all core rulebook spells, one mixed list, and one of new spells for this book. They can also buy additional Lore spells for 100 EXP apiece and the GM is free to demand they need training to do so, as with wizards. I actually like that they do this, so that adding on to the spell lists isn't a flat increase in power for casters.
The new petty spells aren't much to write home about but they fulfill an important fluff niche: They let you use non-generic, god-flavored magic at 2nd career instead of having to wait for Anointed/Warrior Priest. This has always been one of the frustrating parts of playing Priests; you don't get your full flavor until you're a long way into being a Priest. That was, I suspect, always the real purpose of the Initiate and Priest extra skills and talents, to make up for that wait. We get God-flavored petty magic like Manaanites being able to hold their breath a long time, Morrites blessing weapons to hurt ghosts, Ranaldans granting a reroll at a penalty on a failed test, or Sigmarites having a spell to help stop Imperials and traditional Imperial allies like dwarfs from fighting long enough to exhort them to unity. They're a nice extra touch and most of them are useful. We also get some new Lesser Magics that allow for things like magically amplified preaching so you can be heard by hundreds of people, or spells to bless a location and make it harder to fight in, or a genuine divine vow that hurts the target to break. They're also nice to have.
But the real meat is the Lores. The Lores of Handrich, Khaine and Gunndred get added to the list of spells, and they're kind of meh for the most part. Gunndred gets spells about hurting people and stealing cattle because he is a shitty bandit god, while Handrich gets strictly worse than Ranald spells about mercantile affairs with the added interest rates (all the spells cost money/debt if you want to activate their Ingredient) and Handrich cursing you if you fuck up. Seriously, while Handrich has more spells about making money and haggling than Ranald does, Ranald's are much better
and Handrich remains just kind of the shitty capitalism God. The main 'good' spell Handrich has is Bought Loyalty, where you instill someone with a terrifying fear of breaking CONTRACTS after they have created joinder with you. They must make a WP test to break the contract, and if they do, they suffer a -10% to basically all fellowship and mercantile skills until they make up for it. The example used in the book is a Handrich priestess using that spell to ensure some people she bribed to avoid taxes stay bribed.
Khaine is a little stronger, but limited by almost all of his spells focusing on daggers, which are still just SB-3 weapons. None of the spells like '+1 damage with daggers!' really make up for that base penalty. The most powerful Khainite spell at CN 20 gives +1 Attacks and lets you half action Swift Attack, which is great, but it's a CN 20 spell that takes a full round action to cast and only lasts for Mag rounds. All three of the new Lores are just a little weak and forgettable.
Manaan's new CN 20 kind of rocks, though: Blessing of the Albatross. You summon a magic Albatross and as long as no-one on your ship shoots it, for one hour, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS your ship will not sink. Kraken tries to drag it under? It stays floating and it loses its grip. Hurricane waves wash over the deck? Somehow it bobs to the surface. Sailors can still be washed overboard or killed, but the ship will not sink. So you can have your sea priest standing on top of a ship during a battle with a sea monster in a storm, yelling a bird into existence that ensures your battered ship stays standing no matter what. They get new spells for sensing fish, but also new spells to address 'what happens if you aren't playing in a sea-based game', where they can bring sea-like terrain penalties to people on dry land by making their balance shift like they were caught in a storm at sea. They can also drown you on dry land by making your lungs fill with salt water. An interesting bit: Every Lore separates the 3 new spell-lists by theology. The rulebook lore for Manaan is his aspect as the Lord of Journeys, while the entirely new spells are his aspect as the Lord of Storms, while the mixed list focuses on gentler magic and invokes his presence as the Lord of Bounty.
Morr's new spells are almost entirely related to augury and fulfill his aspect as the God of Dreams and Prophecy. The new spells are all about talking to the dead, receiving visions, and interpreting dreams, which is potentially useful if a little limiting. At the same time, think of how many mysteries you can solve with Speech of Morr, a spell that summons a spirit from the realm of the dead (CN 20, so this is High Priest level magic) to answer your questions honestly. This spell can only ever be used on an individual once; Morr won't risk a soul by letting it out more than once. Any attempt to cast it on someone who has already had it cast on them invokes an immediate miscast. The new spells also let Morrites communicate over long distances by dreams, and mimic some of the Lore of the Heavens' bonuses from augury spells, since they know what's coming. Morrite magic can become an interesting mixture between death and augury with the new list.
Myrmidians have always been about buffing and commanding, and the new spells for Myrmidia include spells like 'see through the eyes of a magical eagle to command a battlefield from an elevated position' or a simple but effective buff that gives all allies in range +10% WS. They also get a spell for relaying commands accurately at extreme ranges as if they had a magical radio, a spell that makes them much better at Strategy knowledge checks while letting allies reroll fear tests, an armor buff, and a spell that makes all Myrmidians, Estalians, and Tileans in range Fearless. Interestingly, the much more personal-combat focused spell list from the main book is Myrmidia the Wrathful, reflecting her aspect as manifest in Fury and her hatred of injustice, while the new ones are Myrmidia the Captain and Myrmidia the Commander, depending on if you're mixing personal combat and command or going full command.
Next Time: Ranald, Shallya, Siggy, Taal, Rhya, Ulric, and Verena
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
The new spells for Ranald are interesting; he had luck and thieving covered in his original book lore, which is reprinted here as Ranald the Rogue. However, he gets a bunch of new spells relating to empathy, smuggling, and bargaining by understanding the genuine worth (or lack thereof) of things as Ranald the Dealer (primarily new spells and mercantile magic) and a mixed lore of luck magic, stealth, and the ability to make people forget you as Ranald the Liberator. The new spells mostly aren't terribly exciting, though they're useful for a merchant or fence; +20% to haggle and evaluate for awhile because you can see true value, the ability to spread rumors of shortages or bounties (which can cause riots if you aren't careful. Unless you're trying to cause riots), the ability to make yourself forgettable or your goods impossible to find by search, but his new CN 20 big spell is great. Perfect Empathy makes you able to completely understand what another person says, breaking all linguistic and social boundaries and making them completely unable to successfully lie to you. They can try, and won't realize you're able to instantly decode their lies and see their real meaning. In a mercantile context it gives a massive +50% to Haggle, but otherwise, I'm sure you can think of plenty of uses for 'this person can't lie to or deceive me and I understand everything they really mean for the next 3 minutes'.
Shallya gets a little shafted in terms of new spells, but this is mostly because her existing Cure Poison, Cure Wounds, Cure Insanity, Cure Disease, SACRED LASER CANNON, and 'damage is shunted to me' spells were already the perfect core of a Shallyan Lore. We also get a sidebar about the Shallyan suggesting that she may be too good at healing people and that GMs who want their game to be 'grim and perilous' should consider making healing magic way less useful to keep players 'afraid of combat'. The suggestion is that a PC who has been Heavily Wounded (reduced to 3 or less Wounds) only gains 1 Wound from healing spells and can only have one healing spell cast on them per day. I dislike this suggestion for a very specific reason: Before 4e added 'Shallyans are permitted to fight to defend themselves', if you're playing a Shallyan the most you're doing in combat is occasionally Striking to Stun with your staff, and healing people. The Shallyans can heal like crazy, fast enough to possibly heal-tank through a serious enemy, especially when they can also actually tank by taking damage done to a softer ally and then channeling it through the Shallyan's armor and possibly better toughness, protecting your squishy wizard. Their magic is really powerful because it's the main thing they've got in combat; randomly taking it away if anyone gets seriously hurt just feels like it would make people stop playing Shallyans.
Anyway, for the new spells for Shallya, they get an absolute loser of a spell called Delay Affliction that holds off a status effect for Mag days, but is harder to cast than either Cure Poison or Cure Disease, both of which would instantly end the status effect as is, so there's no reason to ever use it. Golden Tears is a legitimately useful CN 18 spell that will instantly cure any Critical Effect short of dead or armor damage, instantly healing broken bones or shattered limbs without the chance of losing body parts, if cast within 2 rounds of suffering the hit. Its Ingredient is also a tear, so Shallyans should have plenty of those. Shallya's Endurance is a good, cheap CN 8 buff that provides +10% Toughness to a target for a minute (including increasing their TB). Useful for resisting damage; Shallyans are meant to be surprisingly hardy. Vestment of Purity is a new CN 20 big spell that makes you completely immune to poison and disease for Mag minutes or until you try to harm someone. It also makes all followers of Nurgle need a -20% WP test to attack you, otherwise they cower in the face of Shallya's power. Withstand Disease is a cheap CN 4 buff that gives +10% to Toughness to resist disease. The new spells aren't bad, necessarily; it's just that the standard Shallya the Contemplative list from the main book is so good. Shallya the Enduring is missing any actual healing magic, which seems like a big oversight, and Shallya the Restoring has Delay Affliction (but also Golden Tears) in place of Purify (Sacred anti-Nurgle laser) and Martyr (Tanking), which is a reasonable choice. But why would you want to give up the holy laser cannon?
Sigmar's base book lore has always been awesome. It only gets better here. Sigmarites have always been the most 'D&D Cleric' of Priests when it comes to spells, but they get some stronger theming as the Anti-Chaos Priest with their new spells. Sigmar the Anvil is the defensive lore, giving you a heal and a bunch of defensive, courage, and buffing magic. Sigmar the Hammer is the base lore from the core book, with hammer enchantments (being able to give a hand-weapon hammer Magical and Impact is extremely good for a cheap weapon blessing), attack magic (Soulfire and Comet of Sigmar are difficult to pull off without being a High Priest but pretty effective), and some buffs. Sigmar the Purifier is the anti-Chaos list. Interestingly, Sigmar's lists are all mixed; none of them are solely comprised of new spells. Sigmar's new spells absolutely rule: Heart of the Gryphon is a CN 14 that makes all Imperial citizens and Dwarfs within 24 yards of the caster Fearless for a minute. Vanquish gives you and all allies within 12 yards +1 Attacks against Chaos, Greenskins, or Undead as you imbue them with Sigmar's resolve against those enemies for CN 16, which is a massive buff. Immaculate Flesh is a CN 12 spell that gives Resistance to Chaos for a minute, making you immune to mutation, but prevents further spellcasting while it's up. Heed Not The Witch is *awesome* (and CN 15). It gives you +20% to save against Dark magic, but also permits a WP-20 save to negate any
Dark spell, even if it didn't permit a save. This can combine with something else Sigmarites can get when we get to the Divine Marks to potentially make a Warrior Priest completely immune to Chaos magic
when cast. Word of Damnation is a debuff at CN 13 that causes any heretics within 12 yards of the caster to fear the wrath of Sigmar and suffer a -20% to WP saves against Divine Lores (including non-Sigmarite ones) and Intimidation or interrogation by showing them a reflection of their own wickedness. No matter what else you might think about Siggy, his spells are really, really good and Warrior Priests of Sigmar are very powerful.
Taal and Rhya's Lore is a little disappointing, and makes me think 4e was right to split the two into distinct cults. It's disappointing because you'd expect their Lore options to be 'Rhyan Magic', 'Taalite Magic', and 'Both'. It isn't. It's 'Mixed', 'Taal as King of Beasts', and 'Taal as Lord of the Wild'. The majority of the spells are Taalite, including all the new ones; the only Rhyan spells are the ones from the core book. The Lore being overwhelmingly Taalite is just disappointing; this would've been a good chance to add in more healing and gentler magic to represent Rhya. The idea is meant to be that the cult of Rhya is currently waning while Taal waxes, with the idea that this will eventually cycle back in the other direction as it has many times before, but I'd rather have more mechanical support for Rhyan priestesses as well. Anyway, the new spells do do some pretty nice stuff: River Blessing will let you swim unhindered (in rivers, only) in plate and let you swim at a rate of SB rather than 1/2 Movement, with +20 to any tests to swim. Useful if you're playing on the Reik. Snarling Rage gives you Frenzy but wait no it also gives +1 Attacks and makes you Frightening, for only CN 10. This means that every non-fear-immune enemy immediately has to start saving or losing turns. This is definitely worth getting into a Frenzy for. Wild Wind is a very hard CN 19 spell that makes everyone around you (but not you) have to make Toughness saves or be stunned for a full minute, and suffer -20 to WS and Agi even if they save from the wind. Similarly, you cannot use ranged weapons nor have them fired at you while it works, except for guns. Gunfire can penetrate the wind. Lord of the Wild is a CN 15 spell that lets you control animals, as long as you don't tell them to do something ridiculously suicidal. Ox Heart lets you buff someone with free Toughness rerolls if they fail a Toughness test for a minute at CN 14. And finally, Taal's Fury is a shittier version of Fiery Blast from the Lore of Fire, at a whopping CN 26 (it is the hardest Divine spell in the game; even a High Priest will greatly struggle to cast it). It causes d10 Damage 4 hits, distributed however you wish, as nature itself gets really pissed off at someone and they're swarmed by biting animals, trees fall on them, lightning hits them, etc.
Whatever problems Ulric has, his spell lists ain't one of 'em. Ulric's Lores, aside from a focus on Frenzy, are very powerful. He actually has what I'd class as the best attack spells in the Divine list, only rivaled by the Sigmarite Soulfire. Ulric the White Wolf is the basic book lore, Ulric Snow King focuses on snow and winter, and Ulric Blood Hand focuses on buffs and battle magic. Frost's Bite is only in Snow King, but I think every Ulrican will want to take Extra Spell for this CN 9 beauty. It hits a target within 24 yards and instantly causes them d10 Wounds, no reduction, while forcing a Toughness test or they cannot take offensive actions on their next turn. This is basically the Shallyan sacred anti-Nurgle laser but 7 CN easier to cast and with no targeting restriction. Unbridled Rage is a CN 21 spell that relies on allies having Frenzy, which is a weird move, but Ulric can give that to people so I suppose it works out. It grants any Frenzied ally +1 Attacks and lets them Swift Attack as a half action for 1 minute. This means a character with a zweihander can full attack at +1 Attacks and then still enter Parry stance as their other half action. This is really useful to do. Also note this applies to you, and can stack with Battle Fury, the easy to cast basic Ulric spell that gives you +1 Attacks. An Ulrican High Priest can reach 4 attacks a round. Crush the Weak is a buff that lets you reroll one missed attack per round at CN 10, which is kind of an odd name for the spell. Hoarfrost Thews can only be attempted once a day, but makes you completely immune to exposure and cold for 1 day per Mag at CN 13. Finally, the Snow King's Decree is a long, long attack spell (2 Full Actions, 1 Half Action) at CN 21 that will completely murder one person if it goes off. The enemy 'erupts in silver fire' as Ulric tests them; unless they are a particularly honorable and brave individual, Ulric crushes their weakness, causing Damage 8 hits once per round for rounds equal to your Mag that ignore all armor. Even your average Exalted Lord of Chaos or Vampire Lord can't resist that kind of damage (doubly so for the vampire, since it almost certainly counts as holy), though casting a spell that takes that many rounds seems an iffy proposition.
Finally, we get the new Verena spells. Verena's aspects are Verena the Judge (the basic book Lore), Verena the Just (Spells about destroying injustice and the guilty), and Verena the Wise (Knowledge and augury). Preserve the Balance is a pretty great CN 13 spell that causes any crime committed against you to be returned against the offender for one minute. This means anyone who attacks you without very just cause suffers the same hits they deal to you, in addition to other curses like a thief dropping his purse after stealing yours. You can also cast it to immediately revenge a crime committed within the last minute. Owl's Wisdom is a CN 17 that makes you brilliant for Mag minutes, doubling DoS on Int tests (and remember, Perception is based on Int) and allowing you to dismiss the spell to immediately reroll a failed test. Reprobate's Sentence is a CN 17 spell that lets you accuse a target, taking a full minute long prayer and reading of charges. If they are guilty of the crime you accused them of, they begin to vomit and become terribly sick until they confess if they fail a Toughness test, making one every hour for 1 day per Mag of the caster. As Verena is My Witness is a buff at CN 14 that lets you Charm twice as many people as normal and gain +10% to Charm, so long as your argument is genuinely the truth as you know it. If you lie, the spell ends. The Blind Maiden is a CN 16 spell that lets you instantly see through any illusions, as well as letting you tell if someone is lying to you with an Int test. It also permits you to see perfectly through a blindfold as if you weren't wearing one. Finally, Retribution is a CN 14 debuff where you name a target you have proof is guilty of a crime. They make a WP-20 test, or else they will be wracked with such pain that they only get a half action each turn for 1 minute per point of Mag. This pretty much takes that person out of a fight. Given that the average Chaos Lord has very certainly committed crimes, this is a rather hefty spell.
We also get some Divine Rituals, though Rituals aren't very interesting. There's procedures for making a temple or shrine into holy ground that will repel demons and vampires and grant a casting bonus to priests of that religion equal to the Mag of the priest who led the ceremony (So +1, +2, or +3 after you roll dice), which is quite useful. The only consequence for failing the ritual is that you will think the site is holy, while the blessing is flawed and grants no casting bonus nor repels the forces of darkness. There is also a spell to summon a holy servant of your God, which you have no control over, and there are no real stats suggestions given for the Divine Servants. Also it's CN 26 (CN 24 if cast on a holy day in a holy place) which is hard for a Mag 3 Priest to hit, and if you fail your God is going to be very angry and use the new, improved 'you really fucked up' Divine Miscast table for you.
With the Lores out of the way, let's talk about Disfavor. Disfavor is a new mechanic whereby you gain a point of Disfavor when you break your strictures. Only priests with Fate Points or Mag suffer Disfavor; others aren't noticed so directly by the Gods. So, for instance, a Shallyan taking up the sword and striking down a bandit that was going to kill one of her allies suffers 1 Disfavor. There's a dumb thing about 'you don't have to tell players when they suffer Disfavor' but also an assurance that any Disfavor suffered should only be for 'significant' acts against the strictures; if you don't tell your players the Gods are mad you're A: A dick and B: They're going to figure it out quickly when they try to use magic. Disfavor Dice get added to any spellcasting check you make while under Disfavor; for every point you have you roll 1 extra die that only contributes to miscasting. Every time you use a spell while under Disfavor, you lose 1 point of it. Non-spellcasting priests instead lose 1 point when the GM decides to give them a -10% to one roll for annoying their God. So, you actually clear Disfavor fairly quickly, and can also clear your entire pool by accomplishing a significant penance or a quest of major interest to your God. The idea is that the average PC is going to annoy their God sometimes, and that your life as a priest should be a give and take between your obligations, your adventures, and your faith. This doesn't sound so bad, right?
Well, it can get bad! If you roll quads on a casting check, instead of the normal Wrath of the Gods you invoke the VENGEANCE OF GOD. This is the 'You Have Really Fucked Up Now' miscast table. It can inflict d10 Insanity, inflict 2d10 Wounds with no save, completely wipe out your Divine Magic (regaining 1 point of Mag per act of significant penance), get you divinely excommunicated and tell everyone about it (-30% to Fel with your cult until you do penance), take everything you own except your shirt and pants (with particularly important items or magic items being returned when you do penance), call you before a vision of your God to face ultimate judgment (Burn Fate or lose your PC), or invoke a 4 dice miscast on the Arcane table as the forces of Chaos are pulled through by your wickedness. So yeah. Don't get too much Disfavor. And if you do, don't use magic for awhile, try to do penance. Though the odds of quads are very low, at least, unless you're rolling a monumental number of dice.
Next Time: Divine Marks at last! These are great!
The end of Gods
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Tome of Salvation
The end of Gods
Our last section in the book is a fairly superfluous list of holy relics, which are really just magical items, as well as a bit about how only Priests with actual Mag can perform real blessings that make weapons Holy for purposes of fucking up vampires and demons. The relics really aren't very exciting; they're little things like a white wolf cloak that makes you immune to cold, protective Sigmarite amulets that provide bonus armor, and the antlers of the first stag ever killed by humans that provide an entire community of warriors +10% to hit before moving on to wherever they're needed next (okay that one is kind of cool).
Instead of spending pages on regaling you with the holy relics, I'd like to talk about this book in general. You might've noticed there is actually relatively little mechanical stuff in this book, even more than is usual for Hams sourcebooks. What's there is very good; the new Priestly and Templar orders as variants on careers are a good way to make the individual cults stand out without needing to write two dozen new minor variants on Knight or Priest. The Warrior Priest is a very solid 3rd tier alternative for people who want to be the classic Sigmarite Priest found in all sorts of Hams art (or for people who want to explore what Warrior Priests of other Gods would be like). The new spells are functional and many of them are fun, the new petty magic goes a long way to making the Priest career feel less generic before 3rd tier, and Disfavor is a decent attempt at a give-and-take of divine favor.
But really, the core of this book was always going to be the fluff. I like the fluff of this book a lot, even if I feel it's a little on the dense side and could have used another editing pass to remove some redundancies (because this book is 260 pages as is, rivaling the Tome of Corruption). This book needs to go into such detail on the religious and cultural life of the Empire partly because the book I'm going to be covering next didn't. Sigmar's Heirs is not a great book for many reasons, and Realms of Sorcery and Tome of Salvation had to fill in a lot on the Empire to make up for the holes in that book. Also, the religious life of the Empire is deeply important to the national character. Imperials are really, really religious people.
One of the reasons I've always liked Hams religion is that while it's a sort of standard fantasy Polytheist pantheon, it actually remembers a lot more about real Polytheism (and religion in general) than fantasy settings usually do. In general, the people of the Empire honor Gods because they're Gods, and you'd be stupid to disrespect any of the Gods. Every region has its own regional spirits, aspects, and variations. Priests are portrayed primarily as religious specialists who represent their Gods and do their service, but who are still bound to show respect to the rest of the pantheon. Cultures cross-contaminate and religious ideas travel between peoples, even between humans and other races. People learn about the religions of their neighbors and adopt foreign festivals that sound good to them. Missionaries rely on syncretism; look at the Myrmidians trying to use Fury to explain their faith to Ulricans. The Gods are real to the people of Hams Fantasy, which was true of most polytheistic cultures; it's hard to imagine it from an Abrahamic dominated American culture in 2018, but our ancestors genuinely believed in a lot of what they followed in the past. There is an element of sincerity to the religious practice in Hams that I appreciate.
There is also a lot of messiness to it, which I also really appreciate. The Gods are real, but the Cults are human organizations with tremendous power, and so they bicker and jockey for prominence. They still generally maintain respect for the other Gods, but that doesn't necessarily extend to wanting another God's cult to get more valuable lay worshipers, workers, art, and money. I've come around on Sigmarite Monodominism as a setting element, too; it works well as a problem in the setting. A darker urge and side to Sigmarism that threatens the unity of the Empire, despite him being the God of Unity (and the Empire). What I didn't actually realize until a deep reading of this book is how often the Sigmarites have been the aggressors in the Empire's religious conflicts. Sigmar's claim to be God of the Empire can be taken as Sigmarites claiming all aspects of Imperial life are his domain, crowding out the need for other Gods in extreme cases (and bear in mind, this is always portrayed as an extremist position.) Sigmarite political religion bordering on a monotheism in this otherwise polytheistic world is actually really interesting and generates a lot of good conflict, both for Sigmarites and others.
The Gods general portfolios follow the Warhams Fantasy pattern where they're cliche on the surface, but have enough twists to them and play with their cliches enough that there's a lot to write about. Things like Ranald the Trickster being the God of the downtrodden and 'worthless' and running around tricking Tzeentch and getting into uncomfortable alliances with Verenans because they both hate tyrants? Those are fun! Those are where you get adventure plots. There's enough tension, but enough hooks, that you can play unusual priests or members of smaller sects that believe differently. You can put multiple religions together in a party and find ways to have them work together and reasons for entertaining friction. The Gods are developed enough to have character, while being distant enough to let religious PCs have their own identities.
Everything about the Crusades sucks though, ignore those.
In conclusion, Tome of Salvation is one of the best fluff books in a line with a lot of really good fluff books. It contains plenty of material to inspire adventures, what mechanics there are are fun to play, and writing this review both made me start a priestly/missionary campaign as GM and one as player because I really wanted to use this material. There's hardly a better endorsement for an RPG supplement than 'it made me want to play with it'.
Next Time: WE ARE SIGMAR'S HEIRS!