The Church of Sciomachty
Also known as Laytonism, this is the brainchild of Provost Layton Frost of Iacon. Tired of the endless religious wars of his small nation, the Arch-Mage stepped up and eliminated all faiths from the small kingdom. He was later embraced as a local hero. it was not long before his collected anecdotes and personal insights, recorded in his widely distributed book Sciomachty spawned a new pseudo-religious organization.
After seeing the seeds of his ideas take root, Layton revised Sciomachty to include details on how to organize like minded followers into cohesive cells that functioned in much the same social fashion as church congregations. Layton named himself as the head of the new organization, and was quickly accepted by those who had already adopted many of his ideas.
Herbal suppliments, especially those that sharpen the senses and clear the mind are taken on a daily basis. While things of a narcotic nature are avoided, some of the herbs can be expensive and hard to come by. There are no restrictions on foods, though ales, beers, and dark liquors are strongly discouraged in favor of clear liquors and white wines.
Passion and emotion are aspects of the base self and should be avoided. higher ideals such as analytical thinking, reason, and logic should be embraced as often as possible. The base self should be denied as much as possible, but on rare occasion, it should be indulged, lest it seek to overwhelm the higher self.
The rites of the church simply induce a conditioned responce in the mind, entering into a meditative trance is as beneficial as prayers and offerings to distant and uncaring gods. Members are expected to meditate at least 4 hours a day, more if possible.
The gods have shaped man to need the gods, and man can reshape himself to not need them. Use of various apparatti, many of enlightened K’tonian design, can overcome the limitations of the body as devised by the gods. Attributes of intelligence, endurance, perception, and magical potential can be enhanced by spinning wheels, optical stimulation, and regular exposure to magical materials.
The Church of Sciomachty is divided into Campi, each Campi roughly corresonponding with existing parishes, duchies, or dioces. A Campi is headed by a Dean, who must answer to Layton via magical communication on a week to week basis. Each Campi is in turn divided into four Quads, each headed by a Principus. A Quad in turn is divided into an unset number of cells, or congregations. Cells are encouraged to create inventive names for themselves, often drawing on the writtings of Frost, or on rare occasions the writtings of other potent mages.
On a Campi, and Quad level, the Church of Sciomachty is very legitimate, on a cell level, there are constant problems. Many cells pay lip service to the Church and use it as an aegis to continue doing things that were previously condemned by the various faiths. many morally questionable practices shelter under the power minded teachings of Layton, and use them as an excuse to indulge in illicit drugs, slavery and bondage, coercion and the like. The majority of thieves guilds in the regions that have Laytonist influence have converted. How deep seated this conviction is remains a matter to be debated.
Some sample Cells:
The Good - The PCs encounter a Sciomachtian Cell and rather than face the bad things they might be expecting, they find that the members are just ordinary people with some weird ideas and no thought of hurting others. Mages could benefit as there are likely to be more magicky types among the followers.
The Bad - As above, except the PCs run face first into a cell like the Circle of the Wheel and are faced with increasingly violent demands that they denounce the false gods and accept their own power over themselves. Dissenters might be placed in the wheel, tortured, or simply beaten and robbed, dumped in an area and told not to come back…or else.
The Ugly - If an area is dominated by the new faith, PCs can expect healing spells from priests to become much more rare and more expensive. the Cells draw up gold that would have gone to alms and the churchs so now the poor are in a really bad spot as the churches often cannot afford their own needs let alone those of others. Can the PCs help the poor, or do they step into the echelons of the Laytonists, power and privelage, turning a blind eye to the downtrodden. This is even better if the PCs started off downtrodden.
The Machine - lured by promises of increased stats on their character sheets, the PCs seek out some of the K’tonian enhancement machines, but to get that promised dot of intelligence, or a standing bonus to agility/dexterity they have to jump through the cell’s hoops, and then have to ride the machine…does it work…maybe