|#1zombiegleemaxJun 12, 2007 8:08:58||I'm updating 2nd-edition Ravenloft to 3.5 (rebooting it from the 735). I want to introduce the affiliation options from Player's Handbook II163 (imagine how cool it would be to have definitive membership in the Keepers of the Black Feather or the Deep Delvers?!) and would like some feedback. The text is lifted (and reordered) directly from Cryptic Allegiances|
The Keepers of the Black Feather
Symbol: A raven feather.
Backgrounds, Goals, and Dreams: From within the death-shrouded domain of Barovia comes a spark of life. Inside that seething domain of darkness, hidden even from Lord Strahd himself, lies an order dedicated to ancient goals and principles of good. Their membership is small, for only about 150 people in all the domain belong to this elite order. Their mission is grand beyond comparison, for they seek the destruction of Strahd Von Zarovich himself.
The Keepers of the Black Feather seek to find a means by which the evil vampire lord of Barovia can be confronted and destroyed. It is their belief that the means by which they will accomplish this end is the fabled Holy Symbol of Ravenloft. This gaol is known to all members of the society, from the lowliest agents to the highest of the rulership. Thus, a great deal of the organisation’s time is spent searching for the symbol and trying to learn its lore.
Secondary goals exist, however, that allow the membership to feel that they have made progress in their efforts even though the prime object of their quest eludes them. The most important of these is the study of Strahd himself. Much time is spent in research and speculation about the nature of his powers, the roots of his past, and his plans for the future. From time to time, the organization even takes a chance and thwarts some undertaking of the great vampire. The latter, however, they attempt only when they are certain that their direct efforts will go unnoticed by Strahd. Thus such endeavours almost always take the form of aid to others outside the group who seek to confront the Lord of Barovia.
The symbol of Ravenkind can be traced back long before Barovia became the first domain of Ravenloft. It was crafted by the Most High Priest of the realm, in the time when Strahd Von Zarovich was as mortal as any man. The priest’s unceasing efforts drove him to death, but the power of the symbol could not be denied. With his final breath, he completed the blessing that empowered this potent magical item. When his body was found the next morning, the symbol was his only legacy to his beloved people of Barovia.
Later, the symbol was hidden away in the hopes that it would never be found. But the coming of the ravenkin was foretold by its creator and none could deny them the heritage that was theirs. Sadly, those who hid the relic did so exceedingly well that the symbol eluded them. Eventually, all but one of their number lost hope and abandoned the quest. While they remained a bastion of good in the evil lands of Ravenloft, their ultimate purpose was forgotten.
One among the ravenkin, Pyoor Fiftysummers, vowed that he would not forsake their destiny so quickly. instead, he gathered his most trusted friends about him and explained what was to be done. They agreed to aid him and the Keepers of the Black Feather was formed.
Over the decades since that time, the organization has grown slowly to tis present size. From his headquarters, known as the Nest, Pyoor commands his minions in the search for the ruby and platinum talisman that, he believes, will be the crowing triumph of his two-century-long quest.
Members: The rank and file are the normal humans from many walks of life who, as one might expect, desire nothing more than to be free of the dread that hangs over their lives in the shadow of Castle Ravenloft. If they are exceptional in any way, it is only in their willingness to stand up for themselves and risk a horrible death (or worse). As of this writing, there are 125 members in this level of the society.
Each of the common members of the order is grouped into “talons” of five confederates each. These are normal folk who follow the directions of a talon chief.
The members of this order practice a complex recognition system that has three levels to it. They believe, and rightly so, that only by maintaining the utmost limits of secrecy can they survive. If Strahd were ever to learn that the Keepers of the Black Feather existed, he would certainly hunt them don and destroy them.
The first form of identification is visual. Each Keeper of the Black Feather wears one or more raven feathers at all times. These vary from actual plumage to signet rings, engraved amulets, or even tattoos.
However, because an outsider might also wear such decorations, a verbal code is also used. This second step in the identification process takes the form of a casual question that includes the word “nest” in it. The response must include the word “feather” or the person is clearly a fraud. Once this secondary identification has been made, a person can be fairly confident that he is in the company of a fellow member of the secret society.
Secrets: While it is true that all of this group’s members understand the goals of the organization very well, there is a secret that is kept from them. What is not known to the lay brothers of this order is the nature of the society’s leadership.
Unlike his followers, however, the leader of each talon is anything but normal. Rather, he is a lycanthrope; to be specific, an infected wereraven.
Although he was once human like those who follow him, the talon chief was singled out by the ultimate masters of the fellowship and given the opportunity to advance within the Keepers. In exchange for vows of obedience and service, the individual is infected with lycanthropy and becomes one of the organization’s chosen few. Although he is in charge of the affairs of those below him, the talon chief is not the ultimate power in this organization.
Above the talon chiefs are the five holders of the feather. These individuals, like the chiefs, are far from human. Indeed, they are also wereravens. Unlike those below them, however, they are true wereravens, natural members of that ancient and mysterious race. These are the source of the organization’s power, for their desire to do good and bring about the downfall of the despot Strahd is vital to the continuation of the order.
Still, there is a level of power beyond even that of the inner circle. At the head of all things is Pyoor Twohundredsummers, the oldest known member of the mysterious ravenkin, who has been searching for the holy Symbol of Ravenkind for almost a century and a half. The five holders recognize Pyoor as their absolute master and do all they can to carry out his orders. Outside of the five holders, no member of the organization even suspects that the ruling force of the Keepers of the Black Feather is neither human nor wereraven.
Like many secret societies, this group has a special headquarters. Known as The Nest, its location is a secret held only by Pyoor and the five members of his inner circle. From time to time, others may be brought here, but only in times of absolute need and then only after they have been blindfolded and otherwise rendered unable to retrace their steps later.
The Nest is a series of secret chambers located beneath the Blood o’ the Vine inn in the Village of Barovia. The view of Strahd’s distant Castle Ravenloft through the large picture window of the inn’s sitting room serves as a constant reminded of the important of the society’s mission.
The Blood o’ the Vine has a long history that dates back to the earliest days of Ravenloft. Over the years, it has passed through many owners, but now rests in the hands of Bray Martikova. At the time of this writing, Bray’s family has owned the inn for some 150 years. The antiquity of the establishment is a matter of great pride to both the owner and the clientele.
In addition to his role as master of the Blood o’ the Vine, Bray Martikova is one of Pyoor’s chief lieutenants in the Keepers of the Black Feather. He is well aware o the importance of his establishment to Pyoor and the order.
Scale: 9 (regional).
Affiliation Score Modifier: As mentioned, the lower ranks of the Keepers of the Black Feather are generally human. Only infected or true wereravens are eligible to become talon Chiefs. Only true wereravens are eligible to become holders of the feather.
Criterion Affiliation Score Modifier
Character level +1/2 levels
Lives in Barovia +1/2
5 or more ranks in Bluff +1/2
10 or more ranks in Bluff +1
Parents or siblings in the Keepers of the Black Feather +1
* excluding wereravens and ravenkin
Complete a mission assigned by
the Keepers of the Black Feather +1
Makes a discovery about Strahd Von Zarovich +1
Makes a discovery about
the Holy Symbol of Ravenloft +1
Defeats a minion of Strahd Von Zarovich +1/4
Titles, Benefits, and Duties: In addition to the traditional “membership” of the order, many members of the order can call upon normal raves to do their bidding. The extend of this ability depends on the position of the individual, as noted below.
Affiliation Score Title: Benefit and Duties
3 or lower No affiliation.
4 – 10 Talon: Speak with animals (ravens, huge ravens, or giant ravens only) (CL = character level), +2 bonus on Knowledge (religion) checks made regarding undead
11 – 20 Talon Chief: Charm animal (ravens only) (CL = character level)
21 – 29 Holder of the Feather: Charm animal (ravens and huge ravens only) (CL = twice character level)
30 or higher Head of the Keepers of the Black Feather: charm animal (ravens, huge ravens, and giant ravens only) (CL = four times character level)
Executive Powers: Craft, research.
|#2emjaysmashJun 13, 2007 9:33:52||So, I'm assuming that, since only infected or true wereravens can become Talon Chiefs, a non-wereraven PC who joined in that group must become an infected wereraven to be a Talon Chief, even if he has the appropriate affilitation score. Is this correct?|
|#3zombiegleemaxJun 13, 2007 15:53:57|
So, I'm assuming that, since only infected or true wereravens can become Talon Chiefs, a non-wereraven PC who joined in that group must become an infected wereraven to be a Talon Chief, even if he has the appropriate affilitation score. Is this correct?
Correct. As per [i]Cyptic Allegiances[i]"Unlike his followers, however, the leader of each talon is anything but normal. Rather, he is a lycanthrope; to be specific, an infected wereraven.
Although he was once human like those who follow him, the talon chief was singled out by the ultimate masters of the fellowship and given the opportunity to advance within the Keepers. In exchange for vows of obedience and service, the individual is infected with lycanthropy and becomes one of the organization’s chosen few. "
So, PCs may never in fact become Talon Chiefs. That would ultimately be up to the DM (and would probably only be useful in a campaign focusing on Barovia). However, PCs that move in and out of Barovia may benefit from lower level membership. It is a very specialised secret society, admittedly.
|#4emjaysmashJun 14, 2007 9:37:04||It's very cool. I might just have to use it... Thanks for posting it!|
|#5humanbingJun 15, 2007 7:42:28||Good work! I'd imagine any Ravenloft-centered running of "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" or 3.5 update to "House of Strahd" would do well to have this secret organization in it too.|
Just a question for the rest of you - I have Cityscape, which is an okay book but not that great for my purposes. That book has rules on Contacts and affiliation with societies. Has anybody compared those rules against the rules from the PHB II?
Let me know how they compare!