Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Faith In Ur-Hadad

Time for more A-to-Z RPG goodness here in Kickassistan! My wife swore I should have written about "Fish in Ur-Hadad," but that seemed less interesting to me than Faith. After all, what's more human than faith? I'm sure if I asked my wife that question, she'd still say "Fish." Anyway, here you are.

The people of Ur-Hadad are a notoriously jaded and skeptical people, particularly when it comes to the concept of faith. Everyone else's faith but their own, that is. If the Hadadi did not take faith seriously -- and the duties that Man owes the gods in fulfillment of his compact with them -- then the Avenue of One Thousand Gods would become a looter's paradise, yet they disdain the faith and beliefs of those non-Hadadi who clamor to enter the First City on pilgrimages to make sacrifices at the temple of their preferred celestial being. The faith of the Hadadi, the Hadadi claim, is an educated, refined one, the faith of one thousand years spent at the center of the world's religious life, and therefore far more "correct" than that of masses outside of the First City's gates. This arrogance and superiority manifests itself in the crowds huddling at the city's western gate, where the gate village known as Pilgrimtown (to those who live there) or Grimdown (to those who don't) survives by huddling close to the city's wall.

Pilgrimtown

In much the same way that the Squat (known to some as Mustertown) builds itself around Ur-Hadad's East Gate, so too does Pilgrimtown grow like a cancer outward from her West Gate. On the books, Pilgrimtown is officially called "West Gatetown," the locals are comprised of the faithful from nearly every religion known to Man, perhaps even more than can be found on the Avenue of One Thousand Gods, all gathered together in hopes that some of them might gain entry to the First City and be able to complete whatever pilgrimage brought them here in the first place .

With so many often conflicting religions in one place, conflict is inevitable. Here, the blood-stained devotees of Gorus Na'al, cast out of the city proper generations ago and widely guilty of countless blasphemies against every god but Gorus Na'al, rub shoulders (and blood-drenched feathered raiment) with the fleece-laden worshipers of Odosk, the Father of Contemplation. Violence is an unfortunate side effect of the pressure-cooker that is Pilgrimtown, but one that has diminished in recent years, owing to the waxing influence of a group of pilgrims devoted to a concept they call "That Which Is Given Away;" the "Givers," as they are colloquially known since no other name makes sense, maintain an extensive network of trading of goods and services throughout Pilgrimtown. Givers hire other pilgrims for the jobs that fit their talents or buy goods that those pilgrims are known for; for example, they purchase lambswool from the Odoskites while they have been known to hire Na'alites to "keep the peace." Exchange, the Givers preach, enriches all it touches. So far, the nobles and officials of Ur-Hadad have turned to blind eye to the Givers' manipulation of the Pilgrimtown market, glad that violence has diminished, but possessed of rising fears as to the consequences should the Givers' rampant exploitation of the faithful go unchecked.

These days, Pilgrimtown is a haven for true believers, zealots, proselytizers, con men, converts and mendicants of all stripe. One vast ghetto of the faithful, the Hadadi authorities often give up chase rather than track a cultist into the depths of shanty town. As such, the shadow market of Ur-Hadad maintains close ties with the enclave, where the zealous may trade in a principle or two for the better-than-adequate funding provided by the criminals and gangs of the First City. As such, the dregs of mankind have helped swell the assembled ranks of Pilgrimtown, earning it the further sobriquet "Grimdown," while many criminals use "going to temple" as a euphemism for "cooling" in Pilgrimtown.

Why So Zealous?

What's up with that zealot? Roll d11. (1 - 2) - He and his troupe are holy mercenaries who will fight for no nation, but rather for coin, since their faith in the Celestial Owl precludes their loyalty to (and trust in) any mortal authority. They are suspicious of others but looking for new contracts. (3 - 4) - Few people buy from this Na'alite poultry butcher, with his teeth filed to points and arms bloody up to his elbows. He aggressively courts new customers but will readily take umbrage at any slight. (5 - 6) - This particular zealot is a "Giver" and, as such, actively solicits the PCs for information about their specific talents. If he doesn't have anything he can use them for, he instead tries to sell them cheaply-made but very expensive trinkets of "vast and portentous religious significance."  (7 - 8) - Clad in the lambswool fleece that is the mark of his faith (despite the heat), this Odoskite evangelist offers the party wizard (or the character with the highest average of Intelligence and Personality/Wisdom) to join him in his consciousness-expanding meditative rites. These involve sitting in his pasture and minding his sheep and goats Sucker! (9 - 10) - Crashing out of the nearest tavern, a small gang of Metal Gods worshipers clutch whiskey bottles and large mugs of ale, as eager to crash into each other repeatedly while yelling holy songs as they are to start a fight. (11) - He is an assassin who follows the dictates Mother Gilshikasi, the Queen of all that Crawls and Matron of Insects. He kills with large poisonous bugs that he wields like weapons. Things Get Better: The zealot has received a vision or prophecy wherein the PCs complete some holy task for the zealot's favored flavor of divinity. Suddenly, they've got a new friend in Pilgrimtown. Things Get Worse: The zealot's beliefs and goals make them an enemy of the PCs. He strikes when the time is right!

Acknowledgements: Huge props go out to +Wayne Snyder for the idea of Pilgrimtown and to +Edgar Johnson for this fantastic post he wrote about religion in Ur-Hadad!