Introduction - Factions
"...he must pay God a twofold adoration, one spiritual, which consists in the interior devotion of the soul, the other corporeal, which manifests itself in the outward form of worship, for there is no inward sentiment or feeling which man is not wont to express outwardly by some suitable gesture or action." (Contra Gentiles, III, cxix)
Ritual is the ceremonial practice of beseeching a higher power for intervention on your behalf, or on behalf of another. Rituals are intimately tied in with the philosophy of the religion from which they spring, and often seek to venerate and aggrandize the central figures of that religion in exchange for some consideration from those forces. The venerated texts of those religions are poured over for centuries to discover the hidden truths and meanings of the parables and stories within, to give some insight into the hidden workings of the world and its sacred or profane powers. Over time, the secrets of ritual are learned through study or revelation, and the practices of the faith are determined.
The life of a priest is one of devotion and discipline, but above all, service. Priests are members of a church or temple of some kind and not only subscribe to the same faith, but also serve as part of that organization. As such, priests have duties within their church, and these duties come with authority. The authority of a priest is both temporal and spiritual, and as such the Rank of a priest within their church also lends their prayers a measure of that divine voice. As Priests ascend in Rank, they gain access to new rituals from their gospels and the effects of the miracles that may be granted at their plea may become more pronounced. A priest performing rituals above their station is considered Vulgar.
Rituals are performed using Liturgy. For every rank of the Liturgy skill, new codes are gained, which are letters of the alphabet. Whenever performing a holy ritual, the Priest shuts his eyes and points to a random letter from a random word on a random page from his gospel. If the letter pointed to is one of the codes that he knows, the ritual is successful. If not, God does not see fit to grant the miracle besought. Rank 1 Rituals require the one letter pointed to. Rank 2 requires a letter to the left or right as well, rank 3 to the left and right, rank 4 the left 2 and right 2, and rank 5 requires the entire sentence pointed to.
The Faith of the Priest also has an effect on the success of these rituals. A Priest which is Faithful (++) may point with two fingers and take whichever result they wish. A Priest which is Zealous (+++) may point with 3.
Liturgy Codes are always gained in the following order:
A Priest may study his Gospel using a Research Downtime action to gain 1 additional letter code. Whether gained from Research or from increasing Liturgy Skill, the next appropriate code is gained. It is advised that the string of codes be written in the front cover of your Gospel so you may keep track of your own Codes easily. The rank in Liturgy also determines the maximum amount of codes which can be gained this way,
FAITH IN SELF VS FAITH IN A HIGHER POWER
Every character either holds Faith in Higher Power or Faith in Self. This is a fundamental paradigm about how they view the world and the consequences of action and inaction. A farmer with Faith in Self believes that if their crops failed, they must not have planted early enough, or the soil might be rotten. A farmer who has Faith in Higher Power believes that if their crops failed it was because they are being punished for sin, or that the crops failed in order to facilitate some other virtue elsewhere needed more.
This affects how ritual functions as well. Characters with Faith in a Higher Power, even if that Higher Power is not the same as favored by the Priest, believe in the power of miracles and are open to accepting their power in their lives. When a priest, or even a necromancer or demon worshiper, calls down the power of their supernatural benefactor upon them, they know that this can and does work, and their Faith helps make it so. A character with Faith in Self does not see the world in such terms, and rituals have a more difficult time finding meaning in her life.
In game terms, for good and for ill, characters with Faith in Self have a more difficult time being the subject of ritual. When a Priest attempts to have a character with Faith in Self as the subject, or one of the subjects, of their ritual, they lose access to the Codes E, T, and A.
Characters who are undergoing a ritual of any kind should bow their heads to indicate they are Faith in Higher Power to the player of the Priest, and players who have Faith in Self should not bow their heads.
Over time, Priests often identify those of little faith and exile them to the sidelines of the community as interlopers who impede the blessings of their Lord through their weak spirit.
RANK AND PROMOTION
Rank within the Church is a matter of social standing and authority, as well as your authority within the Faith as a religious figure. Rank carries responsibility with it within the organization, and so in most religious factions, Rank is granted by one's superiors in that organization. Rank is also the level of the sacred with which you are permitted, on a spiritual basis, to have interactions with, and while supplicating above your station in higher level rituals is possible, such requests for divine intercession are much more often ignored.
THE HOLY CHURCH
Much of humankind follows devoutly to the teachings of its church and its God. The Church of Benalus the Martyr has priests that are revered in the church who are said to be able to perform blessings in His name and can cleanse the sick and heal the wounded. Miracles such as these are as much truth as they are fiction, and whether a person believes in miracles can and does affect how much of an impact one will have on their lives. Individuals with little Faith in the ability of God to change their lives or protect them find themselves unwilling to accept the touch of priests for blessings, and often leave communities where religious zeal is high.
THE TRIUMVIRATE OF THORNS
The Triumvirate is made up of three Gods that originate as fallen Archangels in the Benalian religion. Their worship is a perversion and inversion of the faith of Benalus and the Holy Church, and many of their rites and practices show their roots in the orthodox Benalian faith. The worshipers of the Triumvirate are referred to as Anathema by the citizens of the Throne, and are to be brooked no mercy, toleration or forgiveness. Their worshipers are known to possess powerful gifts and often bear strange deformities and physical aberrations.
Kuarl, the God of Slaughter, Blood, and Savagery
Lazarolth, the God of Death and Secrets
Tarranthalus, the Deity of Power and Desire
THE NJORD PANTHEON
The farthest north provinces of Njordr are home to the Rime Clans, Njords that still worship their traditional folk heroes and gods of their old religion. Conversion to "White Benalus" instead of "Red Stilvskar" is only partially complete in Njordr, and the Rime Clans still reject the entire idea of the Throne and refuse to be annexed.
Sveas, Lady of Winter and Death, Frost Taker
Stilvskar, The Slayer, The Hunter, The Killer, Husband to Sveas
Aufvaldr, Story Spinner, Wisdom Bringer, Fire Teacher
Ulfrandr, The Wolf Runner, The Wild Man, The Barsark
Jorg, The She-wolf, Mother of Ulfrandr, Daughter of Vecatra
Ura, Hearth Mother, The Childbearer
Ormhildr, The Swirling Serpent, The Sea Killer
Vecatra, The World
The Shariqyn worship no gods, but have a faith-based philosophy based on the virtues of meditation, community, and making contact with a perfect version of their soul
THE ALTAR OF VECATRA
The druid priests of Vecatra revere the earth and its creatures and reject urban society as it proliferates throughout the world. Some communities tolerate one or two people with a reputation of being a witch on the fringes of their society, but most consider druidic religion dangerous heresy.
THE ELVEN GRAND PANTHEON
Ma'ru, Lord of Chaos
Jan'arus. Lord of Sleep, Dreams, and True Death
Tirideah, Goddess of Love and Fertility
Seltor, "The Judge," Bringer of Justice and Storms
Mirachor, "The Shining Lord," God of Fire, Light, Knowledge and Wisdom
Vecatra, "The Distant One", essential Anima of the World.
Turaff, "The Barbed Crowned King" God of Fortune, Trickery, and Reversal
THE FORGE OF MAGNIR
Magnir, "The World Forger" God of Creation and Boons, All Good Things, Dwarves.
Vagni, "The Destroyer," God of Destruction and Banes, All Bad Things, Monsters.