The Other Side
Have you ever wondered what those cultists' lives were like before your party tore through their place of worship and slaughtered them all? This is your chance for players to experience their growth from a common scoundrel to an evil overlord. Who knows, perhaps they will even manage to take over the world! Membership to the cult can be a major, all-encompassing plotline for your characters, or it can be something that the GM can come back to at various stages to flavour their game. All that is required for players to participate in this is a lust for power or riches, and an evil alignment. You do not need to start the players off with knowledge of the cult and membership; you can have them doing odd-jobs and missions which will give them a reputation as evil people. Then, some sessions into the game, have them get approached by a member of the cult who wishes to talk to them about an attractive proposition which will see them powerful and rich.
Level one: Initiates.
"Vena. We were watching you when you chose to slit the throat of that self-righteous merchant. And Errat, Kovel; That job to assassinate the blacksmith? That reward came from our coffers. And an excellent job you did of it too, might I add! We wanted to see how well you would perform at tasks such as these and you ticked all of our boxes.
Now; who is this 'we', I keep talking about? Well, I am Erista. I am sure that in the divine scriptures you have heard of Eriphen the changer? The caged goddess of blood, set in her timeless prison by her own peers. We are the devout followers of her ways. She has been wrongly imprisoned and needs someone to spread her word. This is what we do; and we would like you to help us. As members, you will be rewarded with power and wealth. Dominion over others; indeed, the chance to shape the world to your liking! But first... we need a token of your commitment. A small... task, needs to be done. Interested?"
As freshly selected initiates of Eriphen's Chosen, the party is required to prove their worth and their value to the cult. Belief can come later - they don't have to be fully fanatical about Eriphen, nor do they even need to know anything of her. Right now, the cultists wish only to see if the party has what it takes to get their hands dirty in the name of something. The task is straight-forward enough, however the task itself will most likely sever all lingering ties from morality, proving that they are committed to Eriphen's Chosen.
The party will be informed that a militia caravan holding one of the esteemed members of Eriphen's Chosen is en route to the city from a neighbouring town. Apparently the clerics of the chapel of light want to 'question' the man - with red-hot iron pokers and thumbscrews - about the particulars of the cult. The representative from the cult will explain to the party that this caravan is two days away, and that they are to free this member at all costs. The caravan is guarded by half a dozen upstanding lawmen and a cleric from the chapel, and if word of the heist got out, the party would be branded as criminals. The representative strongly recommends the murder of all guards and especially the holy-man. Successful liberation of the cultist, and delivery of him back to Eriphen's Chosen will see the party become fully fledged members of the cult, and will give them a hefty reward from the coffers, as well.
How the party completes this task is up to them:
They may ambush the caravan on the road, or wait until it reaches the city walls, or even wait out inside the chapel, and break into the torture chamber in the dungeons underneath. It matters not, so long as the cultist is retrieved.
Level two: Members.
Bonuses: Gold reward for the initiate task. Enchanted Blood-drop pendant on a chain; used by the cultists to know who is a part of Eriphen's Chosen. Minor protection against 'good' alignment.
"Come now, our new friends; we have a gift for you!" Ralkast was the anointed member of the cult which the party had freed. He beckoned the party inside an altar room. There, laying on a flat stone altar are a selection of glass pendants in the shape of a water droplet. Kovel, Vena and Errat are each given one. "Now, you must simply pierce the tip into your thumb. Hold it in there for a little while and your blood will be collected!"
The tip of the pendant is hollow, and they as they pierced the end into their flesh, their own blood seeped into the hollow tip and welled inside of the pendant. Once this was done, Ralkast motioned for them to wear the pendants around their neck and uttered a few eldrich words of magic. The pendants grew hot suddenly, but quickly cooled back down.
"Good. These pendants will allow you to prove your membership to others of the cult. Anyone who touches it who does not have the same blood coursing through their veins as the pendant holds will be burned, so no imposter can just take one from you. Now!" Ralkast claps his hands together matter-of-factly, "You are a part of Eriphen's chosen. What does this mean for you? Right now, nothing; go rest and relax for a few days! You have already done quite a lot for the chosen! We will find you, and give you a task in a week or so."
After completing initaion, the party is allowed to 'take a break'. The GM may have them do odd jobs, or continue their current roleplay as per normal. They can rest, adventure, buy or sell - whatever they wish. In a week or two, or whenever the GM wishes, they will be contacted once again by the same representative that recruited them. The cultist will take them to a secluded area to chat for a while; and she will explain some of the story behind Eriphen, including information about her two children (See the Appendix). She will point out that The party has a choice: They can remain as members of Eriphen's Chosen, doing small odd-jobs, such as thievery, the occasional low profile murder and extortion to fill the cults coffers for them - and they will be rewarded with a fair cut of the spoils. Or, if they truly wanted to a taste of power and glory, they could accept Eriphen as their goddess, and be promoted immediately to Acolytes of the guild... after proving their devotion, of course.
If the party chooses not to advance at this stage, that is fine - the GM may give any number of jobs to them as minor quests, and the representative will approach them once in a while, asking if they have reconsidered. When they DO choose to advance as Acolytes, however, they will be given a task to prove it: They must defile the church of Fenrit the life-bringer; the god who is responsible for Eriphen's imprisonment.
Defiling the church of Fenrit involves spilling the blood of one of Fenrit's clerics onto the altar and floors of the Church. How they do this is up to them - the party could charge into the church in the middle of the day, swinging weapons and cleaving down clerics and priests where they stand, or they could kidnap a cleric and steal into the Church at night, sacrificing him on the altar. They could even slay a cleric somewhere secluded and drain his blood, then inconspicuously pour it over the altar when nobody is looking. There is no 'right way' to do it, so long a significant amount of blood strikes the altar.
The representative will reveal that the pendant they wear gives a mild 'protection from good' enchantment to the owner, and as such, they will suffer no retribution from Fenrit for this act of defiling.
Level three: Acolytes.
Bonuses: Access to magical items held by Eriphen's Chosen. A new, enchanted piece of gear for each character at the GM's discretion.
"Incredible work, friends!" Ralkast laughed, patting Kovel on the back and smiling at the other two, "Fenrit's lackeys never knew what hit 'em! You have shown unerring devotion to Eriphen, and there is no turning back for you! Come!" the cultist motioned the group into the unassuming building which was the secret chapter house of Eriphen's Chosen. Leading them through the halls, he continued conversing with the party, "We have decided that your task deserves a reward, so we open our stores to you. The Chosen have collected a fine assortment of items rare and magical, and you may each pick one item from our vault!" Ralkast stopped in front of a heavily reinforced and locked door, spend a minute or two fumbling with the multiple locks and then opened it. "Take your pick, my friends!"
Kovel, Vena and Errat sorted through the assortment of items. Kovel drooled over a greatsword, runed and humming with magic, whilst Vena chose a pair of padded leather boots - they made no sound when walking with them on! Errat found himself a nice ring which - once he slid it on - broadened and expanded his mind.
"Good choices all 'round!" Ralkast grinned. "Now! You are recognised as Acolytes of Eriphen's Chosen. And we have the next task for you! A task most dire and life-threatening! One which will make you all quiver in fear - especially you, Kovel! You must... do research, through books!" Ralkast laughed sinisterly.
Errat and Vena smiled. Kovel groaned.
"Do you think all our work is excitement, adventure?" Ralkast clicked his tongue, "Someone has to do the hard yards slogging through ancient texts, and we share the load through all the members. Off you go, now; meet Trillen at the library and she will fill you in with the details!
There are three parts to the Acolyte progression of Eriphen's Chosen. The first part will see the members enter a dusty, abandoned library where they will meet another couple of cultists. One cultist will explain that they are seeking a way to unchain Eriphen and her children from their chains and free them once more into the world. The way to unleash the first of the children - Vulca - from her chains is nearly discovered; they simply must slog through many ancient religious texts to find the final reagent needed.
Some hours into their study one of the members of the party will find the right book but then the library will be attacked by the most merciless and pretentious of horrors imaginable - A band of heroes, out for fame and glory! (The GM may write up their own character sheets for these heroes if he wishes!) These heroes will be a fair challenge to the party, and the better course of action is probably to try and flee with the book - but if they wish they can try and overcome the group. If they don't manage to kill this band of heroes, the GM can have them continue accosting the party at any point from here. Adventurers and heroes will always be a thorn in the side of our anti-heroes.
Once the library encounter has been dealt with, the party will be able to find out from the book that the correct reagant to complete the summoning/unchaining ritual is Charwort, a rare herb which grows deep within caves. The GM may choose to send the party out into the forest to collect this. Otherwise, Eriphen's Chosen will send their own cultists, giving the party some respite from the cult-quests for a week or two; wherein they can rest up, do some other quests or whatever they choose to do.
The third and final part of the quest is the unchaining ritual. Once the Charwort is collected, a representative from Eriphen's chosen will contact the party and inform them that the guard and clerics of Fenrit may have been tipped off as to what they are doing. The group are needed once more; this time to defend the cultists mages while they perform the ritual.
The ritual will take place in a cave outside of town. It will take several hours, and true to their fears, halfway through it, the cave is assaulted by either militia and clerics, a couple of rogues trying to sneak in, or the pretentious heroes, depending on the GM's choice. The party must fend them off, whether by killing them, scaring them away, succesfully camouflaging the entrance, or getting them to chase our anti-heroes away from the cave; whichever way they can think of to let Eriphen's Chosen wizards complete the ritual.
Once the ritual is succesfully completed, Vulca will appear in mortal form, dramatically appearing in the centre of the summoning circle in a burst of flames. She will appear humanoid and naked, larger than a human. Her skin will be of bark and branches and twigs will continually grow from her form, only to be charred and burned away by veinous cracks of flames through her bark-skin. Her body is in a constant state of burning and healing, turning to ash and regrowing.
Level four: Chosen of Vulca.
Bonuses: An attack bonus against 'good' aligned creatures and people.
Eriphen watches between the bars of her cage, mortals. She is impressed with you. You prove your worth each day by showing your strength! Vulca addresses all of the cultists present. Finally, she turns to Errat, Kovel and Vena. And you! If not for you three, the ritual will have failed. You deserve a reward. Vena gasped as flames licked over her form - the other two screamed as well; the same was happening to them. However, only warmth was felt, starting on their skin and then penetrating deep into their souls. Each of them felt deeply empowered!
Now. I am weakened, and must recover my strength. To unbind my Mother you will need both my help, and that of my brother. Mott must be unchained!
The ritual completed, Vulca the demigod will appear in a weakened state. She will grant the party members empowerment which will see them more capable of defending against and attacking those aligned with Fenrit, and all good-willed people. When the party reports back in to the cult's chapel, they will be told that Vulca has held them in high regard, and thus they will be known as the Chosen of Vulca.
The next step in their advancement is to become anointed. The representative of Eriphen's Chosen will explain that those who are fully committed to Eriphen must be anointed by the blood of a vicious beast - The GM may choose the creature to be a suitable challenge for the party's level (be it a demon, dragon, manticore; pick whatever is suitable for your campaign). Alternatively, the GM may wish to put the creature as a higher level, and thus the party may have to go back to their normal questing and adventuring until they have more experience in the world.
When the party or GM chooses to go on a hunt for this creature, they must slay it and capture it's blood in a vial. Once collected, they should take it back to the chapel of Eriphen's Chosen. The cultists will perform the ceremony of anointing, pouring the blood onto the party members and reciting passages from their own books of prayer. Once done, they will be greeted as the anointed of Eriphen's Chosen.
Level five: Anointed.
Bonuses: Another magical item from the vaults of Eriphen's Chosen. Access to the Eriphen's Alchemist for cheap potions.
"Welcome, brother." Ralkast smiled and pressed his forehead against Kovel's still bloodstained one. He moved on to Vena, "Welcome, sister." The cultist performed the same action to her, and then to Errat. "Welcome, equals, for we now stand together on the same level. Come! You may pick from another of our glorious magical artefacts!" Ralkast took them once more to the vault and opened it, allowing the three to pick out their choice. Once done, he beckoned them on once more, this time to the back rooms of the chapel where they had not before been allowed access. "I want you all to meet someone. A good friend of mine, actually!" Into a lab which smelled of sulfur and acid they went, and a wrinkled old man dressed in silken fineries approached them, "Meet Ithus. Ithus, this is Vena, Errat and Kovel."
"A pleasure." The old man creaked.
"Friends, if ever you are in need of flasks to augment yourself, tinctures, salves, bubbling brews; this is your man. All we ask is that you cover the material costs."
After becoming anointed, The party may choose another magical item of the GM's discretion. They will also be able to buy discounted potions at their leisure from the cult's chapel. Finally, they will be told to take a rest and have a break from the rigors of Eriphen's Chosen. They will be called on again.
The party may take this time to do side quests, rest up, explore and buy whatever they wish. When they or the GM are ready, they will be called on again by their representative. The representative tells them that Vulca has informed the cult that Mott is chained in his otherworldly prison by a link between a holy relic and him. Breaking this relic will also break the chains and summon Mott to this world. The problem is that This relic is the sceptre of the high priest of Fenrit - Alucious the light-giver. It is an ancient relic, passed down through all of history, and the high priest is guarded well both within his manor and in the high-church of Fenrit. - not to mention the priest himself is quite capable of using holy magic to deter intruders. The party - since they have proven themselves thus far - has been chosen to collect this sceptre and smash it.
How the group chooses to do this is up to them. They can try and sneak into the manor or church and steal it from under the high-priest Alucious's nose. They can break into the manor and fight their way to his sleeping quarters, or they can infiltrate the church. They may also manage to find the priest on the streets, if they case out his manor long enough. Let the party be inventive.
The party may either smash the sceptre when they get it, or bring it back and smash it at the chapter house. Either way, once they do, a chill wind will blow, and abruptly, from the roof or sky, great shards of ice will pierce down and stab deep into the ground before them. The ice will melt away into a sculpted form of a massive, spindly humanoid. Mott, the demi-god will then open his eyes. Frozen deep inside of mott's jagged icy form are what seem to be a myriad of blood droplets, and light shone through him will dance red and blue on the walls.
Level six: Chosen of Mott.
Bonuses: Plus two to a stat of the player's choice.
Freedom. The voice echoed within the minds of Kovel, Errat and Vena. Clever little manlings. The voice was cold and emotionless - it tasted of fear; of nightmares and the grave. There was no emotion. Just cold, painful truth. Errat let out a little whimper, and Kovel paled. A reward is necessary. The trio suddenly felt as though they were pieces with dozens of glacial spikes all through their bodies. They screamed, as their life and warmth was sucked out of them and icy death threatened to overcome them. Finally, just as they each were about to slump to the ground and greet the void, warmth spread through them once more. Errat gasped in shock - as the warmth returned to him, he felt his mind expanding, grasping concepts which previously eluded him. Kovel's muscles bulged in his garments, tearing the linen in several places, and Vena felt a litheness and nimbleness which she had never felt before... Power! It was theirs! I must consult with Vulca.
Once Mott has been freed, he will grant the characters two bonus points to their statistics. If he is broken free in the middle of a fight with anyone (if, for example, the players broke the sceptre in the middle of a battle with the high priest) He will slay any foes swiftly with glacial bolts from his body. He will also intill terror into all around him; such is the feel of death walking nearby. Once his boon has been granted to the party, he will go to consult with Vulca about the methods to free their mother, leaving the party alone.
The party will meet with their representative once more, who will inform them that Mott and Vulca are in a closed meeting with the leading trio of Eriphen's Chosen, and they are figuring out the next step to take to free Eriphen. In the meantime, the Chosen have a task the party may feel somewhat Nostalgic about: The cult has been watching a band of four brigands - they have anonymously given them some underhanded tasks and watched their progress, and they show potential. The party is to rendezvous with these people at the local tavern tonight and inform them about Eriphen's Chosen. They must represent the cult and persuade these people to join. This is a chance for the party to show their skills at persuation and coercion.
Two things can happen here. Either they succesfully convert these people to the guild, or they kill the newcomers, because they will know too much. Completing this task will give the characters the final reputation push to promote them into the elites of Eriphen's Chosen. To become one of the few Disciples of Eriphen.
Level seven: Disciple of Eriphen
Bonuses: Empowered blood pendant - grants +2 to armor class and saving throws.
Ralkast shuddered, "That Mott is an intimidating critter, isn't he?" The cultist looked over his shoulder to the closed door behind him. Mott, Vulca and the leading three of Eriphen's Chosen were behind that door. Only the most esteemed and revered of the cult were even allowed to interact with the three. "Well, the reason I have you here, is that you have been asked for personally. You are the greater now, gentlemen. I wish you well." Ralkast bowed lightly to Kovel, Errat and Vena and walked away, leaving them alone with the door. The trio looked at one another for a bit, and then entered the door.
"Welcome, Disciples!" The resonant, female voice echoed through the hall. Three people stood on the far side of the table. One elderly male on the left - with a long grey beard and spectacles; a real fatherly figure. One young male on the right, a tight cropped black beard was sported by him, and a smirk was plastered on his face, however his eyes seemed cold and dead inside. The woman in the middle was probably mid-forties in age. She wore a genuine smile and creases of amusement wrinkled the skin around her eyes. "Come forth. Show us your pendants!"
When they did, she touched each with the tip of her finger. The blood inside them bubbled away and blackened in the glass, and a sense of empowerment caused shivers to run up their spine. "Good!" Said the woman, matter-of-factly. "I am Eratos. This elderly gent next to me is Luin, and this one is Karasten. Now, on to business!"
The leading three of Eriphen's Chosen will ask to meet the party personally. They will be ushered into a private meeting room where Eratos - the leader, Luin and Karasten stand, with Mott and Vulca behind them. Eratos will empower their blood pendant, granting additional protective abilities. She will then explain the situation. Eriphen is near freedom - there is but one final ritual to perform. However, the ritual requires two final things. First, the location; the ceremony must take place at the altar of a defiled church of Fenrit - this will not pose much of a problem with Vulca and Mott behind them. The second thing is not as easy a thing to achieve. Eriphen is the goddess of blood, and as such, the purest blood is needed for the ritual. The freshly spilled blood of an elf of royal blood must be poured out onto the defiled altar. The elven homeland holds great wards which Vulca and Mott cannot yet break through, so the leading trio have decided that this will be the task of the companions.
This will be no easy task! The party must sneak into the elven homeland and kidnap a prince, princess, king or queen of elven lineage, and bring her back alive. Cunning and discretion is advised by the leaders; as a full out attack has no hope for success. The GM may decide what is necessary to this task, depending on the world he has put the group in. Additionally, if elves are not a part of the GM's campaign, he may alter it to any 'royal' or 'pure' blood he deems suitable.
Once the elf is captured and returned to the chapel, the entire cult of Eriphen will move to invade the chuch of Fenrit. The church will fall easily, and the elf will be tied to the altar while blood is splashed on the floors and walls and runic symbles and circles of power are drawn. The ritual will take a couple of full days, so the party must wait.
On the second day, with just a couple of hours to go, the sound of screams and warcries will be heard throughout the town. Elves who had tracked the party had found them, as well as many Clerics of Fenrit - warned by their god that disaster was about to happen, and militia; indeed, townsfolk had even taken up wood axes and knives and were advancing on the defiled church.
The Cultists are prepared for a fight, and the players must assist in the battle. This is a battle which cannot be won - the correct way to fight it is to only delay the attackers from getting into the church for the final minutes. Blocking attackers, distracting them, leading them away and lighting fire walls and the like are the best course of action here. If the players haven't killed their 'hero' counterparts yet, they will meet them in this fray also.
Finally, if the group is successful, A discordant hum will sound from the church, gaining in volume until it becomes a cacophony of sound and a shockwave which causes all those in the battlefield to fall prone. Silence will fall for a couple of seconds, as everyone gets to their feet and looks over to the church. Finally, the entire church will implode, bricks and mortar sucking in with a horrid sound of crushing and crunching. The rubble will fall away, and out of it steps a naked woman with fiery hair - she appeared human. However, that quickly changed. After surveying the battlefield for a moment, She screamed in an oddly bass tone, and from her form sprouted a monstrous form which defied nature - a -thing- of teeth and claw and black fur morphed from the woman's skin, massive and bestial. And with her children at her side, Eriphen joined the battlefield.
Level eight: The hand of Eriphen
Bonuses: Free access to the coffers of Eriphen's Chosen, as well as free reign into the vault. The GM may choose what money is available in it and the magical items. Eriphen's blessing - which grants health regeneration, resistance to magic, disease and poisons, and halts ageing forever. The players will no longer die of natural causes.
The battle was hopeless - Errat felt he was simply delaying the inevitable death by casting walls of fire to slow the elves and clerics down. The clerics responded with gusts of cleansing breeze which extinguished his flames - the breath of Fenrit himself! And then... The church! Kovel Pulled Errat down, just in time as a plank of timber flew over them. And finally... SHE arrived. She was a thing of beauty and horror both together. A beautiful naked form belied the true bestial nature of Eriphen, and that was soon proven true; as she morphed into a mass of flesh and claw and tooth. She was a blur - appearing on one side of the battlefield in one second, and across the other the next. Body parts of elves went flying dozens of meters up into the air, blood splattering the entire town as she did her work.
And then, it was over. In just forty eight seconds she and her children had slain over a thousand foes. Suddenly she appeared before Errat. Naked and beautiful once more. In contrast to her children she actually physically spoke - her voice was firm and commanding, and full of power. "Ah. Errat, my little mageling. And Kovel and Vena - both so strong. So resourceful. You are a testament to my meaning. You have been pivotal to my release. My blessing goes to you three. I will need you in the coming months. You are now my hand." She smiled and then suddenly blinked away - instantly she was halfway over the battlefield, talking to Eratos. Vena looked over to her two companions - they had the same look as she. A look of astonishment. They had felt it too! Like a clock stopping... She no longer aged like a mortal. She would remain the same, forever!
Eriphen will end the battle in a matter of seconds with her fearsome attacks - blood and gore will be all that remains of the battlefield. To the party she will appear, and grant them Eriphen's blessing - which will bless them with immortality - stopping their aging, granting enhanced regeneration and increased resistance to magic, diseases and poisons. Additionally, as reward Eratos will allow the party free access to all that Eriphen's Chosen has to offer - their stores of money, magical items and free access to all parts of the chapel.
Eriphen is free, and the assault against the country and indeed the world will begin.
From here, Eriphen will lead the cultists into war. The party will be major players in the battles, and even though there is a god on their side, it will not be easy - after all Fenrit is not yet defeated, and may have to step in personally as well!
As the influence of Eriphen expands, Land will become available, and the party will be entitled to much of it.
But from here the cult's purpose is fulfilled; Eriphen is unleashed on the world, and so this is where we leave the journey of Eriphen's Chosen. As for the course of the world? It is up to you from here.
The Primordial God
Eriphen the Chaotic. Eriphen of Change. Eriphen, primordial god of Carnivores; of survival of the fittest; of gaining life by taking life from others.
Eriphen is not of the current pantheon of gods - she was a primordial god of the world when life was vicious and unforgiving - when civilisation did not exist and beasts fought for survival in the forests and deserts and plains. When civilisation arrived, along with it came the current pantheon of gods. Gods such including but not limited to Harrot; god of the fire. Patron god of smiths. Kralk'ma; goddess of justice. Patron goddess of the law. Fenrit; God of light and life.They tried to coexist with the Primordial gods - including Eriphen - but they clashed. The primordial gods were simply too chaotic and uncontrolled. They acted without reason and ration. Eriphen seduced and copulated with two of the new pantheon - From Harrot, god of Fire, she birthed her daughter, Vulca - of Fire and life. And from Moldanis, god of the grave, she birthed Mott - of ice and death.
Fenrit grew wearied of Eriphen's chaotic and animalistic nature causing havoc within the pantheon, so he conferred with his fellow gods. A heated debate took place; many welcomed the influence of the primordial gods, but the majority of the pantheon decided that the primordial gods must be removed if true order were to be instituted. The first blow came to Eriphen and her two children. She was overpowered by her former peers and caged away, and her children shared her fate. The other primordial gods either shared her imprisoned fate, or were outright slain.
Held seperate from the world she loved so, her thoughts grew dark and vengeful. After countless centuries locked away, she found she could seep a whisper of her influence back into the world. She reached the dreams of one young girl named Eratos, deep within the grips of a nightmare. Eriphen chased her nightmares away, and within her unconscious mind, Eriphen told this child her tale... and told her what must be done.
The mainstream scriptures only gloss over the primordial gods; telling of how the pantheon removed their evil influenced and instilled order into the world.
Eratos was contacted by Eriphen when she was a child, and told her of the plight of the god. She informed Eratos of what steps must be taken to free her once more - and over the course of the years she created the cult of Eriphen's Chosen, dedicated to freeing the god from her prison.