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I started this thread to describe the key religions for my new(-ish) campaign in Mystara. I thought they may be of interest. These obviously borrow from GAZ material as well as from articles on Pandius. My intent is to have a faith each for the three core alignments (Lawful=Lawful Brotherhood, Neutral=Church of Thyatis, Chaotic=People's Temple). These aren't the only religions in my game, but they are the biggest. I want my religions to include worship, but to retain Immortals rather than gods; to do this I've tried to de-emphasise specific Immortals and allow the religious trappings to be served by the church.
Religions of Mystaraby Mark S
The Lawful Brotherhood is a proselytising religion. It emphasises unswerving adherence to the Book of Law, which sets out in its numerous precepts the rules for a good, sin-free life that will result in a place in the Afterlife. Those who do not accept the Book of Law are doomed to hell; the Lawful Brotherhood is the only route to salvation. The Lawful Brotherhood is supported by eight Lawbringers, Immortals who dictated the Precepts of Law and who support its belief. Membership involves maintaining a personal code of honour, combatting evil (spiritually or physically), and obeying the law. Straying from the path entails confession, punishment, and penance. The Lawful Brotherhood is a highly ritualised religion, with specific rites and blessings for all manner of circumstances. These are encoded in the Book of Doctrine, essential for every cleric. The Lawful Brotherhood teaches that clerics are the only mortal conduits of wisdom from the Lawbringers; and that superstitions are either worthless or dangerous. The principal symbol of the faith is a lantern with eight rays of light; clerics wear white and purple liturgical vestments. Clear crystals, sources of light, and incense are important religious paraphenalia. Worship consists of hymns of praise for the Lawbringers and readings from the Book of Law. Only clerics perform the service; the congregation listens but does not participate. The Lawful Brotherhood is prominent in areas with large Antalian populations but has a temple in nearly every major city in western Brun. They also maintain fortresses close to regions notorious for lawlessness. [The Eternal Truth may be a form of the Lawful Brotherhood]
The Church of Thyatis is a ecumenical faith that accepts (and even allows) the worship of other Immortals, although its own belief is centred around three: Ixion Solarios, Vanya Vinctrix, and Asterius Mercator. Ixion represents the state and by extension the legislature. Vanya represents the military, her three swords (Conquest, Retaliation, Defence) are named after the legitimate uses of war. Asterius is representative of trade and communication, the third function of the Empire. Other gods are adopted into the religion if their priesthoods will recognise the pre-eminence of the Trias. Followers are encouraged to balance their lives; faults and deeds cannot be forgiven, but moral debts can be cancelled by good deeds; at life's end, it is important that good deeds at least balance the evil ones. Oaths and contracts are important to the Church of Thyatis; important rituals revolve around the saying of oaths, and hefty religious penalties apply to those who renege on promises. Propitiation and favour can be obtained via offerings of wealth, service, or craft to the gods. The religious symbol of the Church of Thyatis is a wheel circumscribing an upwards-pointed triangle, itself containing a coin (usually showing the face of the Emperor). The triangle is sometimes formed from three swords. Liturgical colours are gold and red. Thyatian worship consists of call-and-response services between chief priest and congregation; and the reaffirming of oaths of loyalty. The Church of Thyatis is most prominent (naturally) in the Empire and its colonies, and those regions which the Empire formerly controlled.
The People's Temple is a spiritual faith, in that its focus is not dogma or orthodoxy but rather personal revelation and orthopraxy. There is no holy scripture or single doctrine; its practices and teaching is passed orally between clerics. This has lead to several congregations that share within themselves common features. Outsiders might consider these to be separate faiths: the Church of Karameikos, the Cult of Halav, the Church of Darokin, and so forth; but these labels are not used internally. The teachings of the People's Temple revolves around epic stories which epitomise right conduct. These typically feature heroes such as Halav, Petra, Zirchev, Korotiku, Nob Nar, and others. Each hero is believed to be guided by an impersonal force: Chance (the vagaries of the universe), Desire (self-determination and willpower), Fate (inescapable predestination), or Perseverance (success despite adversity). Philosophers will recognise these as the Spheres of Energy, Thought, Time, and Matter respectively. As its name suggests, the People's Temple is a religion emphasising the congregation rather than the clergy, revolving around good works, hard labour, and community spirit. It encourages superstitious belief in omens and luck-bringing as means by which the Immortals communicate with sentient life. The holy symbol of Templist clerics is a spiral or a wave (a Maori koru, essentially) made of shell. Clerics wear no particular vestments, and a 'service' usually takes the form of a communal meal where an instructional tale is told; such meetings may devolve into a problem-solving session with the cleric as mediator. The People's Temple is a native faith of the Traladaran people, heavily influenced by the Makai of the Sea of Dread. It is widespread throughout western Brun often cohabiting/competing with the Church of Thyatis.
Dainrouw is a druidic faith revering Ordana Forest-Mother and the Elemental Guardians. It is found throughout Brun, focussing its efforts on protecting nature, promoting fertility, and combatting aberrations and other offences against life. The faith teaches to harvest from nature responsibly and to never needlessly end a life. Their sacred spaces are centred around spectacular natural features such as waterfalls, ancient trees, glaciers, momentous sand dunes, and even volcanoes. Most cultic centres for Dainrouw also have Ranger Brotherhoods which serve and protect the druidic priesthood. As a holy symbol druids wear small woven circles of mistletoe kept ever-fresh by Ordana's will. Some cults use plants other than mistletoe: sempervivum is used by northern groves, cactus flowers by desert groves, and so on. Lay followers make similar circles from vegetaton collected on the way to a meeting.
Elendaen is the mystical faith followed by most elves. Elendaen permeates every aspect of elvish life, waking and sleeping. It teaches that souls rest only temporarily in a physical vessel, brought there by the River of Time. Following death they are swept back into the ocean to be one with the Immortals before once again ensouling a physical vessel. Elves are fatalistic, they do not believe in struggling against one's destiny. The faith teaches them that everything is temporary, that all things change, and surrender is the only option. Elendaen is by no means nihilistic; the faithful strive for serenity and calm. Elendaen honours many Immortals, each of whom have guided them through a different phase of existence. Ordana was their creator; under Ka the Preserver they built mighty cities; under Ilsundal they wandered far; under Mealiden they became warlike; and now Calitha teaches them the way of peace. Clerics of Elendaen wear a four-pointed star as a symbol of faith. They wear shades of blue, and water is an important element in all religious rituals.
Dengar is a difficult concept for non-dwarfs to understand; it is a nation, a culture, a religion, and a work ethic rolled into one. It is only open to dwarfs and all dwarfs are members. As a nation it is headed by the King of Dengar, who claims the right of juris over all his subjects. If a dwarf commits a crime, then local authorities hand over the wrongdoer to Dengar, who judge and sentence him (often more harshly than local laws). As a religion, Dengar honours Kagyar Maker, the sole dwarfish Immortal. Dwarfs worship through labour; every anvil is an altar, and every worksong a hymn. As a state of mind, Dengar embodies the industriousness of the dwarfs, their hatred for idleness, and their constant battle with the forces of change. Destruction and ruin are the worst crimes/sins of Dengar, but laziness is nearly as bad. The symbol of Dengar is a hammer bearing the dwarfish rune meaning 'rock'. Since there is no active worshop of Kagyar except through being a dwarf, there are no vestments, no sacred spaces, and no hymns or prayers. Dengar's clerics are usually statesmen or teachers, crafting a people rather than a piece of work.
[Note: In my campaign orcs have an Aztec culture, riffing off the Aengmor/Oenkmor connection. They are slavers who subjugate the goblin races]
Naui Ochtli is the doomsday cult of the orc tribes. They believe that they have already seen the death of four worlds, and that they currently live in the fifth and final world. Naui Ochtli is the route that propitiates the ruling powers of the fifth world, and secure a place for orcs in the afterworld when they bring it to a close. Orcs seek to become members of the Godtribe, whose chief is Atzanteotl. Their worth will be measured upon death in terms of the sacrifices they have brought to the altars of Atzanteotl. The symbol of the faith is an obsidian knife coloured in the blue chalk of sacrifice. Clerics wear fantastic masks of wood, bone, and feathers that depict the member of the Godtribe whom they serve. Omoyuatl is the Blood Warrior; his priests never reveal their faces so they can pass amongst the tribe anonymously and act as secret police. Xiuhtotz is the Slave Lord who rules over captives and sacrifices. Yaxtchi is High Sorcerer to Atzanteotl; he crawled his way back from death with the secrets of witchcraft.
Maison Petro is a horrid cult banned in all nations of the Known World, yet it festers still under the surface. It is particularly prominent on the Sea of Dread, where it originated amongst the Death Kahunas of Ierendi. The cult was warped into its current form by a Glantrian necromancer who remains its high priestess. Mama Petro is worshipped as the personification of death itself. Her children are the Barons who rule over death and the dead. Baron Talita, the only daughter, is patron of all life-stealing undead such as vampires, and also favours the deliberate act of murder and assassination. Baron Ougret is her elder brother and rules over the purposeful death; he is the god of sacrifices, the vengeance-murder, and death to become undead. He rules over most of the intelligent undead such as mumiya and liches. Baron Ranivore is the patron of suicides and self-destructive death, and the incorporeal undead who often result from self-killing are under his purview. Finally, youngest of Mama Petro's children is Baron Orquo, who is the patron of violent death and natural disasters. All of the unintelligent undead are his servants; he is often called Baron Zombi. The faith is symbolised by a skull with a nail hammered through it; an animal skull treated in this way may be used as a covert sign to signal devotees of death. During rites the priests paint their faces black with a white skull.