The Cult of Equilibrium
What started as a small movement up in the Atlas mountains has in recent times grown in popularity among the commoners and excentric nobles of the nearby fiefdoms. This movement believes in maintaining the balance in all things. This also applies to good versus evil.
Equilibrium Cultists therefore worship two opposing deities of their choice, and try the best they can to follow the commandments given from both deities, even when they contradict eachother.
To style yourself a proper cultist, you must worship at least two gods, or an even number. These gods need to be as close to polar opposites as can be managed, so that they balance eachother out. How you decide to follow their commandments is up to you, whether you try to find some common ground in both, or alternate between the creeds somehow. The keyword is balance, for every evil there must be good, and vice versa. Only true maniacs would worship more than two though, as it is hard enough to balance dual deities.
For instance in a D&D setting, Pelor + Asmodeus, Erathis + Gruumsh, or Lolth + Corellon might be some interesting opposites to explore.
Because of the diverse nature of the cult, everyone is welcome, yet there isn't much that hold them together. Many proclaim themselves as prophets, or orators for the cult, resulting in smaller cells breaking off to pursue their particular brand of what is considered true dogma. And because of their worship of evil deities, they're no favorites among the authorities either, so like most cults, they keep their activities mostly hidden.Â
The trouble with balancing two or more opposing dogmas, and the moral choices that come with them, drives most cultists to insanity, or at the very least, keeps them balancing on the brink.
Most self styled cultists treat it as a quaint pastime, a way to entertain guests with a touch of the occult. And usually end up bored with the whole notion after a week or two. That leaves the fervent believers who fear the wrath of one or more gods, should they choose to cast off what they have brought on for themselves.
By its very nature, it is a chaotic cult, that usually lack any specific long term goals. But any one driven group are likely to try to stop the most unexpected thing, because they perceive it as a threat to their brand of dogma.
Their mark is a balanced scale(with different cells adding variations as they please), but because they usually lack both organization and funds, they have no real established dress code, other than the stereotypical robes, which are usually brown or any old bathrobe they could find. They have no real rites to speak off, other than telling eachother about their weeks and the hardships related to dogma they've had to face. If they are feeling traditional, they might chant for a few minutes, using an ancient word which meaning has now been lost; 'lagom'. Each group usually invents their own rites depending on how ambitious a leader they have.
Uses in Your Campaign
They can fill any niche, from comedy relief/touch of color to dangerous radicals. Easy to adapt to any pantheon.
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? Responses (18)-18
In some of my settings this would really annoy the gods and that is a good thing.
It's a good idea, but I'd kind of like more. This seems like simply the bare bones of this idea. I mean, don't force more stuff in there just to please me, but... I don't know what you would add, though.
Well, if you don't know what's missing, it would be kind of hard for me to rectify it then. I know it's a tad bite-sized, but not everyone likes to read long chunks of someone else's stories. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge to get your own creativities flowing. But by all means, if there's something missing (that you can point out) I'll see what I can do about it.
'But by all means, if there's something missing (that you can point out) I'll see what I can do about it.'
Starting with Paragraph 1: The voice in the paragraph is speaking to potential cultists 'To style yourself a proper cultist'. This means this is written by in game character and this bring in world perspective to the topic. But you don't tell us anything about the world that would help us to understand the perspective the author is bringing to the text. If you wish to just present an idea, than address the audience on the website, your fellow players and GMs, you do not need address the idea as an in world setting.
But if you want to discuss your game world and the opinions of a character in that game world ('Only true maniacs' is an opinion') than you need to share with us somethings about the world that influenced your authors perspective. What was the origin of this faith? What is the promised goal of reaching this balance? Are two examples of things that might be addressed but I would pass on these and focus on the rationale of the tenants. What makes these people more than hypocrites by their own reckoning? If spend six months in cloister of chastity caring for hospice patients while writing letter on behalf of political prisoners and then spend six months raping and killing fathers in front their children am I balanced? You state in the next section that there many sub dogmas, but what was the core dogma from which these are degenerating. Also this dogma accepts a Good and Evil as real and being polar opposites, what do they consider Good and Evil respectively? Does it matter as long they are opposite? In short with the Tenets you give a bare bones idea, which is fine, but it is not a developed idea.
If this is just a bare bones idea why even bother discussing its roll in society? Are you trying to give other a hint on how to use this in game? Again you give us game world specifics, evil deities being hated by authorities, most cults being hidden and wrathful gods. Again you are discussing your game world but you are doing poor job of it. I get that implied depth is often better than real depth in fantasy settings, but here you seem to try to channel an archetype of a game world. If you assume that archetype is already there, assume there is a good an evil axis, authorities are pro-good, cults are hidden and so on than why do you need to discuss it all?
Now you get super specific, lagom chants and symbols (the scale).
If your goal was to paint a picture of the cult in the game world, you did but as ceasar say it is very bare bones. If you want to toss out the idea as an idea, than you have done that and these little story seeds are nice but underdeveloped.
How did you use it in your campaign?
I really like the idea itself -- especially as a quirk for a PC. In a setting where worship = clerical powers, I would actually expect very few gods to grant these cultists any spells or other boons. Faithfulness is rewarded, but most purely good/evil deities would probably not favor someone who worshiped their arch-nemesis at the same time.
Probably a more successful route would be to worship two neutral deities who have wildly opposite domains. Perhaps a god of commerce alongside a goddess of poverty, for instance.
Oh yeah. I hadn't really considered the implications regarding powers/boons granted by the deities, or that a PC could be a member of such a cult. Good points.
Neutrality seems the way to go with this cult; either they could worship one neutral god, or three (or more), using a neutral god as the fulcrum between the good and evil one, which can be used to help justify their actions.
So for example, perhaps their main deity can be the neutral god of possessions or materialism, and their pivotal gods can be the god of stealing and god of charity. Thus, by following the lesser doctrines of theft and charity they promote the greater doctrine of materialism, and create their equilibrium. In addition, following this thought process may give their minds justification and stave off the insanity so common in the cultists without the fulcrum.
This is a cool, thought provoking sub, Gossamer, and I agree that quality doesnt necessarily mean pages and pages of text!
It is darn shame what happens to those poor unbalanced cultist, I am sure all of us have felt the sting of that problem. Indeed SE it all too common.
Nice idea Shadow, still keeping true to their view of balance but moving away from the inherent contradictions you would have with only a good and an evil god. No doubt that would be the natural evolution of this cult, once it is being led by smarter leaders.
I thought of the villian Two-Face where he sometimes flips a coin to decide a way forward. I sort of saw the cultists doing that kind of thing to decide on their reaction.
I could see this as being fun. You play it off as a kind of hobby of the bored and such, which is an awesome way to portray it IMHO. In that way the rich can dabble in the occult and tell their friends they are in a cult while keeping it all innocent and interesting.
Some may go farther into the discomfort to those that know them so that rumors start to spread and such. But often not too far before they get a correction.
I see some that may go too far though and truly embrace the cult's extreme edges. Those are the ones that slowly spin into darkness and insanity and would be the exception rather than the rule.
I like it and, for me, while you could always add more, if you concentrated a bit more on the core idea and delved into that a bit more, the sub would be a much stronger.
Thank you for taking the time to vote Strolen. :) That last part sounded a bit vague though. I've been thinking about adding in the parts that have been brought up so far, e.g. the best way for a PC to embrace the cult etc. But I'm not sure what you mean by delving further. I could always add more filler, maybe a short desciptive story for ambience? But other than that, I'm not sure what else to say about the core principles that haven't allready been said. Since the cult could in theory follow any deities, it is really hard to add special rituals, distinct flavour etc.
Probably because I see it less as a cult than I do the opposing view points of the two deities they worship. To be a cult, there is usually a unified concept but when you allow any and all gods then that unification is quickly lost.
So my comment was concentrating more on the acts of worshiping two different deities and how that would play out. I don't need as much as axle mentions but hearing more on how they would actually balance it would go a long way to understanding your concept of it.
I did touch upon that briefly in the beginning.
'How you decide to follow their commandments is up to you, whether you try to find some common ground in both, or alternate between the creeds somehow. The keyword is balance, for every evil there must be good, and vice versa.'
I left it vague partly since the cult is so broad, some take it seriously, others don't. So either they try to find some common ground between their chosen deities, do good one day, do bad the next, or do one good deed, and the next an evil one. Or maybe they flip a coin like you said.
But they do take some commandments from all their chosen deities, whether they warp them to have more in common with their other deities or if they just pick a few they like from each.
I'll look into adding this once I find some time. This was what you had in mind, right?
Short, sweet and useful.
Quite a 'meta' group, almost overly self-aware of the universe and its theology.
I find this an interesting take on how to role-play neutrality. Great comments too, pulling the idea in various directions.