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Religious Orders

Worship this.

Forging ahead at a snail’s pace is the next instalment of our Major Encounters series: the Religious Order.

Religious Order

Religious orders are formed when clergy get together for intense focus of a particular aspect of their faith. Think of an order as an elite club within a religion or maybe as a private faction within the church. But keep in mind that the order itself is not a church—lay people do not attend services there. Instead, the order exists to serve the religion, not its adherents.

Medieval Monastery

Priory of Arrrrgh…

Religious orders focus on a single, particular aspect of their immortal patron, the teachings of an historically significant prophet or priest, or solving a specific problem the church faces (e.g., recovering the holy lands from the infidel or uniting various factions within the faith to a single orthodoxy).

This focus is “reserved” for the clergy. This doesn’t necessarily mean the order is evil or has something to hide—it just means that its membership deals with (or thinks it deals with) some aspect of the religion that’s too heavy/esoteric/unimportant for the average worshiper to be concerned with. It could be super-secret or completely public, aligned with the parent religion or heretical, it could be mainstream or cult-like (meaning that its rites differ from those of the parent church and that it recruits its own followers, perhaps from outside the ranks of existing adherents).

Roll once for Type and Clergy/Guard population; then once each for Dedication, Focus, Alignment, and Disposition:

ROLL  TYPE         CLERGY/GUARDS* DEDICATION   FOCUS         ALIGN.    DISP.†
 1    Holy Site    1d6-5/1d4-3    Saint        Healing       Lawful    S-A-M
 2    Hermitage    1d6-3/1d4-2    Martyr       Divination    Neutral   S-A-C
 3    Shrine       1d6/1d4        Hero         Ancient Text  Neutral   S-H-M
 4    Mausoleum    1d6/1d4        Angel        Hedonism      Neutral   S-H-C
 5    Temple       2d6/2d4        Demon/Devil  Technology    Chaotic   P-A-M
 6    Priory**     3d6/2d4        Demigod      Naturalism    Chaotic   P-A-C
 7    Abbey**      4d6/3d4        Lesser God   Dark Secrets  -         P-H-M
 8    Mil. Order‡  2d6/10d4       Greater God  Jihad         -         P-H-C
 9    Chantry      5d6/5d4        -            Dimensions    -         -
10    Glebe§       6d6/6d4        -            Immortality   -         -
---------------
*  Ranking cleric is (d6: 1-3 man; 4-6 woman (roll 2d8 for level)); guards are 
   0-level men-at-arms (plus 1 officer per 8 guards)
** For our purposes, these orders house (d6: 1-4 monks; 5-6 nuns)
†  Indicates exposure ([S]ecret or [P]ublic), relationship with parent church
   ([A]ligned or [H]eretical), and status ([M]ainstream or [C]ult) 
‡  Housed in (d8: 1-3 Fortified Manse; 4-5 Tower; 6-7 Keep; 8 Castle)
§  Total population 5d6x10

There are a two ways to use this table: First is as-is, meaning that when you want more detail about a randomly generated religious order, make some rolls and see what you get—match the results as best you can to whatever pantheons, faiths, and religions are already defined in the setting.

But you can also use the results in reverse, essentially as a high-level “religion-generator” either for new immortals or for new aspects of existing deities. Like if you roll up a fighting order dedicated to a lesser god whose focus is ancient texts, there are a couple ways to spin it: is this a new lesser god or perhaps an aspect of an existing god? Do the fighters protect ancient knowledge, or do they sally forth to reclaim it? If the lesser god is lawful, then maybe the knowledge is world-saving; if the god is chaotic, then the knowledge probably includes all sorts of terrible things. As with any random table, take the results and roll them around to create something your busy brain might not have come up with on its own.

Minocra Religious Orders

Using the table above, here’s what I came up with for Minocra’s two religious orders (my results are shown to show you what I was working with).

Hex #1117: Tholdir’s Manse (11 clergy; garrison: 22 warriors)
(What I rolled: neutral fighting order; dedicated to a martyr, naturalism, S-H-M)
This secret fighting order is dedicated to the martyr Tholdir, an eastern general who fomented rebellion against the Gods of the Spires by advocating a return to nature and animism. The order, led by Kamocek (Clr 10), has good relations with the local Usabir clans, whose worship of animal totems fit in well with Tholdir’s teachings. Priests of the Spire Gods have sent assassins to Minocra to root out Kamocek and return with his head, but they’ve not yet located the Manse, getting only as far as Alaha.

Hex #2410: Graxis (9 clergy; garrison: 6 guards)
(What I rolled: chaotic temple; dedicated to a demigod, technology, P-H-C)
Graxis is an ancient demigod rumoured to dwell in (or beneath) the marshes to the north-west; the cult here has dedicated a temple to his service in the hopes of learning the secrets of the “New Science.” The cult’s leader, known only as The Preceptor (Clr 6), seeks to swell the temple’s ranks, as forays into the marsh for clues are dangerous and costly; he’s tapped the local goblin tribes for fodder, but he needs more reliable servants.

Final Words

Slowly but surely, Minocra takes shape with the help of random generators. This one, perhaps, requires more GM input than the previous settlement and fortress tables, but as an idea starter, I think it helps.

Again, your feedback is helpful—is this useful, and what’s missing?

  1. July 25th, 2012 at 08:00 | #1

    Cool. I’m looking forward to using this when I delve deeper into Salorica’s religions.

  2. July 25th, 2012 at 21:11 | #2

    @October : Great – I’m interested in seeing how well it works for you. Comments and suggestions always welcome.

  3. Tom H.
    July 26th, 2012 at 09:32 | #3

    In the setting I’m poking at, the big distinguishing question is “Are we trying to *worship* this entity, or *propitiate* it (them)?” I suppose that’d fall out in your system with a Lawful order dedicated to a Demon/Devil?

  4. July 26th, 2012 at 23:00 | #4

    @Tom H. : Or a Lawful order trying to *contain* a demon…

  5. July 27th, 2012 at 12:32 | #5

    Good stuff. I imagine secret and cult will most of the time be one to one (same with public and mainstream). What utility do you see in separating these concepts?

  6. July 27th, 2012 at 13:04 | #6

    @Brendan : Secret/public refers to exposure – is the order known to the general populace? Mainstream/cult refers to recognition by the parent church – how does the order observe and practice the parent church’s teachings? popularity amongst the majority of those who know of the order. Note that these distinctions are independent of alignment with the parent church.

    A public cult would probably focus on a single detail of the church’s mythology to the exclusion of others, but its existence is known to all.

    A secret mainstream would be an order that promotes or supports the church’s mission behind the scenes.

    I realise it might help to categorise real-world orders along these axes by way of example, but I’d rather not, for fear of misrepresenting them through these simplified generalities. Hope this helps, though.

  1. July 29th, 2012 at 16:59 | #1

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