Monday, July 28, 2014

[Wilderlands] Hyborian Gods of the Wilderlands [5/16/11]

In the beginning, the gods, demi-gods, and heroes of the City State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands were taken directly from Dungeons & Dragons Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes, by Robert Kuntz and James Ward. Judges were directed in pretty much every case to refer to GDGH in just about every reference to a deity in the Guide to the City State and the later Revised Edition of the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

In addition to the classical deities and demi-gods of history, that tome included the mythic creatures from several literary sources, including Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Several of the gods of Thuria (the name of the continent whereon all Conan’s adventures took place) naturally made their way into the Wilderlands. The Blood-Stained God of the Orcs of the Purple Claw was among the first gods mentioned. Boomer Bronk, the cleric of Haghill in Initial Guidelines Book K revered Yezud the Spider God. Elsewhere, the mighty nature of the barbarian races, the nature of the relationship between Mitra and Set in Dark Tower, and the inclusion of Tsathoggus in the Shield Maidens of Sea Rune, indicate a strong Howardian influence in Judges Guild products in general and in the Wilderlands in particular.

Thus, it is not at all inappropriate to return to the gods of “Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea” section of GDGH for inspiration for further gods for inclusion in the Wilderlands. I think I’ll be adding them to my current Selisengard campaign…

CROM - Neutral
Crom is a fine, grim god for the savage tribesmen of Barbarian Altanis, for whom he is their paramount (though non-exclusive) deity. Being inspired by a god of the Irish, and in line with many later Conan pastiches, his clerics are druids; as he is most certainly of Neutral aspect, this fits pretty well, as does his “survival of the fittest” philosophy. Only men may be druids of Crom, thus the women of Altanis turned to the development of psychic abilities and formed the Protector caste. Too, druids of Crom are not much for protection of the clan or tribe, so the Protectors fill in a needed niche in a harsh world. In the current campaign, he is of course revered by mercenary Altanians, though there are few such in the region. Perhaps a few Tharbrians revere him, as a distant, more martial cousin of their gods…

MITRA - Lawful Good
Mitra is used to good effect in the original Modron town book from Judges Guild; with the advent of the Necromancer Wilderlands, his worship spread far and wide (though interestingly has no major presence in the City State). The GDGH choice of a sword of cold is an odd one; I think I’ll go with the more traditional fire association as used in the Necromancer Wilderlands, as well as the far more martial aspect. In addition to the center of worship in Modron, I have him being the patron deity of the Tharbarres clans of the northern Endless Desert; I also have him as an ally of Mycr in my campaign, so this is not as odd as it might seem. Temples to Mitra are rare, however, in the Falling Empire, and usually hidden, due to his association with Mycr.

SET - Lawful Evil
The Egyptian gods are the gods of the Ghinorians in my campaign, and through long ages of Ghinorian migration, trade, and proselytization, they are found throughout the Wilderlands. He was long ago the patron of Bukera, the founder of the Quizats Haterak faith of the Lenapashim of the Endless Desert; since their falling out his worship in the region is mostly limited to a cult found in the port cities from Dagonsharp to Lenap.

ASURA - Lawful Neutral
Howard’s Asura is essentially an analogue of Varuna, who in Vedic belief, is the counterpart and ally/twinned god of the Vedic Mitra, Varuna being a lawful sky god of the sun at night (the Cosmic Ocean, perhaps the Milky Way), opposed to Mitra being lawful sky god of the daylight and the solar disc. In Howard’s “Hour of the Dragon,” he is a god of illusion and reality, of seeking the reality beneath the illusion… an esoteric cult, to be sure. In my Wilderlands, Asura is a former cleric ascended to godhood under the patronage of Varuna, a god of the Telanghans, a southern people found far to the east in the Kingdom of Karak. Asura sought new followers among the peoples of the Wilderlands proper; today his cult in the Falling Empire is hidden in plain sight, under the guise of another temple… of this I will say no more, lest players in my campaign happen to read this…

TSATHOGGUS - Chaotic Evil
Tsathoggua/Tsathoggus never featured directly in any true Howard Conan story; he was found, sorta kinda, in one of the De Camp/Carter pastiches, “Conan the Buccaneer.” But he’s made an even bigger splash in the Wilderlands, where he is everyone’s favorite Demon God. In GDGH it is mentioned that he takes any opportunity he can get to animate one of his stone idols; a feature certainly to be used if any PCs raid a temple of the cult! Tsathoggus fits in nicely as one of the “monstrous demonic mystery cults” of the High Viridians, and is sure to make an appearance in the campaign!

Not to be confused with the Hindu (and Telanghan) god Hanuman, Hanuman the Accursed is a demonic being who has taken the name of the ancient and honored god in mockery of all that he represents. Born the son of a vanara ape-woman and a rakshasa king in distant Telanghata, Hanuman the Accursed eventually attained godhood around the same time as Asura, who was among his greatest enemies. Thus, wherever Asura sends his followers, Hanuman the Accursed seeks to send his own. This demonic god makes for another excellent “monstrous demonic mystery cult” of the High Viridians, and also fits in nicely as a cult among the Lenapashim.

YEZUD - Chaotic Evil
In the Conan tales, Yezud was actually the name of the city that worshipped the Spider-God (or Goddess); in the Conan comics, he/she/it was first named Omm, then later Zath after the name used in a De Camp pastiche. With Yezud of the Wilderlands, I’m going to say that today, the name Yezud is simply applied to the cult, rather than to the “god” itself, the exact Spider-God entity today being the largest, most ancient spider in the world. Another Wilderlands classic, the cult of Yezud was once upon a time far more widespread, until the Spider God allied with Set during a war between various deities and somehow managed to piss off Nephtlys. She and her followers soundly trounced the Spider God and almost permanently destroyed it. Today, its spirit lives on only through the expediency of inhabiting the largest, oldest male giant spider in the world; as sometimes this spider is not strong enough to hold all the deific power, other giant spiders of lesser though still great size often hold a portion of the deific power, and thus split the cult in many schisms based on the different avatars. Nephtlys has effectively locked the Spider-God out of the Spider-Goddess business, and thus taken over the most generative portion of the deific “portfolio.”

It should be noted that since the days when the Spider-God and Set were allies, they had a great falling out (as Set turned on the Spider-God, which led to his downfall), and so today, the Spider-God and his followers are among the greatest enemies of Set and his temple!

The clerics of Yezud are notable in that they have several special powers:

1) They can, at 1st level, memorize and cast the special 1st level summon spider spell; this spell creates a small black pearl-like object that can be kept until used, though it dissipates if not used within 24 hours. When thrown, or when handled by anyone other than a cleric or devotee of Yezud, the pearl opens up into the form of a giant spider, with 1 HD per level of the caster. If the spell is cast on a gem of at least 100 gp value per level of the spider, the pearl remains permanent, and can be used and reused until the spider is slain, after which nothing remains except black goo. Note that clerics of Nephtlys also have this spell, though only gain it as a 2nd level spell.

2) In addition to the 1st level summon spider spell, they also gain access to the following druid and wizard spells as cleric spells of the noted level: 2nd = spider climb; 3rd = web; 4th = envenom (reversed neutralize poison); 5th = animal growth (spiders only); 6th = insect plague; 7th = creeping doom; 8th = animal shapes (spider only); 9th = shapechange (spider only).

3) At 3rd level they gain a small giant spider as a familiar, as per the spell summon familiar. The cleric gains the ability to spider climb, as per the spell, once per day per three levels (once at 3rd, twice at 6th, etc) as per the spell cast by a wizard of the same level. The spider grows in size, one HD per level the cleric gains (though the cleric does not gain any hit points after the initial gaining of the familiar). If the spider dies, he cannot get another familiar for a year and a day, and when he does, the spider starts out again at 1st level. If the spider familiar ever gets to 11 HD, it becomes an avatar of Yezud, and thus requires the cleric to build for it an appropriate temple above a great cavern where it can raise its spawn.

4) Clerics and true devotees (i.e., those who can handle spider pearls safely) all adhere to a strict regimen of abstinence from alcohol and fornication; this is especially true of the temple virgins, who dance for the god on holy days!

5) Clerics of Yezud can use daggers.

Some say that a cult of Yezud is found in the Dankbark Forest, where they are led by man-like spiders…

The Blood Stained God is worshipped by many, not just the orcs of the Purple Claw! He/she/it takes many forms, though always some sort of metal idol of vile and martial nature, invariably covered in the blood of sacrifices. There’s not much to the faith other than sacrificing people to it in return for power; anything else considered important to each cult is pretty much at the whim of the current Evil High Priest, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of sacrifices. The Blood Stained God is perfectly happy for two of its own cults to fight… it has no preference for any type of blood, whether that of the innocent or that of its own followers. Often, the idol used as the center of cult worship is a defiled, debased idol of some goodly, lawful deity.

YAMA THE DAMNED - Chaotic Evil
Yama the Damned is another being not to be accused with the Indian (and Telanghan) god Yama, the Judge of the Dead, Yama the Damned is a mysterious demon god who seeks to further his worship through seeding the world with his own children. These Sons of Yama godlings are the Evil High Priests of their temples. Each such usually rules a temple-city or even kingdom, whether found hidden in a high mountain valley, a deep earth cavern, a jungle-cloaked island, or even a secret in the midst of the ancient dungeon ruins under a modern city. His children and their closest followers are granted clerical spells; his ruling child can actually animate the great stone idol of the demon god that stands at the heart of the temple-city. The size and power of the idol depends on the secular power of the ruling Evil High Priest. While most often found in the Kingdom of Karak, his children and followers are of many races, and can be found nearly anywhere… there is said to be a tribe of cavemen in the Pinnacle Mountains, who are said to live in the ruins of an ancient city, and are ruled by their godling Evil high Priest.

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