• Tag Archives Religion
  • Off The Beaten Path 3: The Northern Stelae Park, Axum, Ethiopia

     

    Northern Ethiopia is home to the semi-autonomous city-state of Axum. It is a city of conquerors and the conquered. Once a seat of power for the Kingdom of Aksum, this progenitor nation predates Christianity by a century or more. With the advent of the Purge these are only a few of the details lost to the modern world.

     

    Central to present day Axum is the Northern Stelae Park, a holy site and presumed graveyard marked by ancient stone markers rising eight to twenty-four meters in height. These Stelae or gravestones are presumed to be markers for kings and warlords of a forgotten kingdom. Recovered documentation indicate that both the Obelisk, the tallest of the still standing Stelae, and King Ezana’s Stele were moved to Italy at one point. Records as to how, why, and when the Stelae were recovered are unclear.

     

    Each of the Stelae within the park are ornately carved, almost as if they were small buildings with false doors and windows.  The carvings are intricately detailed, possessing markings, which can no longer be translated accurately.

     

    Open to the public, the park is often visited by new age and mystic types, attempting to reconnect with older spiritualities or spirits themselves. This effort is not entirely without merit. Anyone visiting the site possessing the Realm Sense Focus can feel Grave resonance. This resonance is noticeably stronger than an average graveyard. Those with Ghost Sight may pick up faint wisps or trails through the park, along with the sensation of danger, or immanent battle.  These sensations are strongest at the Obelisk of Axum.

     

    Characters attempting to use the Spirit Travel Ability within the Stelae Park do not need to roll to Slip The Body as long as they posses a single level or more in Spirit Travel.

     

    Things Best Left In The Past

    Both Spirit Callers and the Church of Unua take a heightened interest in the Stelae Park. The Spirit Callers see the park as a link to the Grave while the Unuans believe Axum may have been either Eden or a recreation of it. While the city lacks other resonance sites, the carvings on the Stelae are enough to indicate a clear link to the unified city.

     

    Both Baronies have been locked in a three-way stalemate over control of Axum with the Keepers. While the Keepers do acknowledge the park’s historical value they fear it is a sleeping Gate to the Grave. That alone is reason enough to have the entire site wiped clean and the Stelae destroyed.

     

    Between the lines of war are the Qdus Arbanya, a small coven of native Lucids that work to undermine all three Baronies though bureaucratic movements circumventing plots to take legal control or alter the area in any way. The Qdus Arbanya takes exceptional precautions to avoid intervening directly working through proxy companies and special interest groups. Their operatives are not above manipulating new age tourists into taking action on their behalf without ever revealing who they really are, or what their goals may be. With the presence of the Callers, Unuans, and Keepers the Qdus Arbanya have become adept at playing one off the other and keeping suspicions high and pointed at other Baronies.

     

    Players finding their way to Axum could easily be drawn into this four-sided conflict.



  • Lucid Tales – Canaan

    There is little that makes sense when I step out of the amphetamine-laced walls of the hole I met, really met, Ember in. The stench lingered on me, the chemical smell of boiling drugs. Snorting into my cigarette, ash balloons out in small carcinogenic tornadoes  There was no telling where I was walking too, or if I was heading towards anything in particular as I spat the cigarette from my mouth.

     

    Filthy, not the cigarette, me. Walking into that apartment building, I had been righteous. Now, I was just a man that lacked the courage of his convictions. She called us Nephilim, the sons of gods and daughters of men. Whatever that meant.  Before, I had been a detective, afterwards, I still was. There was no divinity to Lucidity. We were the same scared children crying in the dark and looking for answers.

     

    Maybe that is what was appealing about the Keepers. The Keepers did not try to explain our nature or the supernatural connections. They understood that people with power tend to abuse the powerless and that meant protecting the innocent. Maybe that resonated with my cop mind. Was it that simple though? Ember was a killer, the Dark was a hungry place and she shared that ravenous need for life.

     

    Who did she kill though? Killers, would be killers? Wasn’t that the protection of the innocent as well? Was she damned because of her gifts? If she were one of them, they would call her a vigilante, mundane, weak and something ultimately destined for failure or death. She was Lucid, or Nephilim, or whatever, and so it was unlikely any beat cop, pimp or drug dealer was ever going to be able to stop her. Why should I though? What gave me any greater authority over her?

     

    Sliding down into the hard plastic of a transit stop bench my eyes drift over empty streets. What would it be if everything was even? What if she was just a fly by night vigilante and I was still a real cop? She would have killed at least four people, no matter how justified; she would be arrested, and be forced to stand trial. We weren’t normal though were we?  There was no arrest; there was no judge or jury of her peers. She was Lucid and a killer. According to the Keepers that meant she had to die.

     

    She wasn’t just murdering random people, Ember knew them. Knew them in a way no mundane cop or judge could ever know the heart of a man on trial. Did that matter? According to the Keepers it didn’t. The murder of the mundane was justified only in the most extreme cases of defense. In the eyes of the Keepers she had to die.

     

    What was I then? I had seen this woman, heard the stories that no one shares. Nephilim she called us, more than man. Did that make us the incarnation of angels and demons? Somehow, I did not believe Ember though herself a god.  So why the pretentious titles?  That alone would sanction her execution.

     

    Nearly four and there was no escape from the heat on the street. Trying to put together any coherent thoughts seemed doomed to circular logic. Sweating and staring down the street at the oncoming bus I felt like a line assembler in one of the big auto plants. Only my one arm, the one that screws down the frame’s bolts is malfunctioning. It keeps tightening down, and I can hear the frame grinding in my mind.

     

    The bus arrives with a wave of heat and dust and neon adverts for some casino down the line in Little Osaka. Wiping the sweat from my face, my palm comes away wet and dripping grey. Automatic doors swing open and I go from the hell of a jungle’s fires to bitter snow. The blast of control air jars me, turns me into brittle and I can hear little chunks of myself breaking off as I stand to get into the bus.

     

    What part of me was being left out in the morning heat? I needed to think, and to do that, I needed to understand who Ember really was. I needed to know what it meant to be Nephilim.



  • Lucid Tales – Coins

    There was a distinct smell to a junk squat. It was a chemical smell that hung in the air, a smell that sober people knew instinctively to avoid. These instincts were cooked off, boiled from the primal lizard brain of a junkie’s mind. The smell of baking benzo carbazole meant pleasure not death to those so far gone they could be here.

    Pushing through the hall of addicts there was a different reaction. Those that still had mental faculties that extended beyond how to get their next fix scattered back into the walls. Feral eyes waiting for a badge, the swarm of armored men to come flooding in behind me. I wasn’t a cop. At least not in any sense they might comprehend judging from the state of this place.

    The carcinogenic stench was enough that I could smell it from the street. A late stage chemical hive, ready to burst, overflow spilling the death packed inside this worn out husk out into the world. Judging from glazed over faces from those too stoned to run I knew I was in the right place.

    Already I could hear people getting out of her way behind me. Turning into the stairwell residual training kicks in and I’m sprinting. Hand moves to where a shoulder holster had formerly resided. Cigarettes slap against the hand from inside the coat pocket as if to remind me I didn’t use a gun anymore.

    Rounding the fourth floor I gag gasping for air. There she was. Standing expressionless at the top of the stairs she waited for me.

    “How?” I hear myself say. Confused for a moment as to where the word came from. This wasn’t where we were supposed to meet. Worse she knew exactly where I had been going and now blocked the roof. As she sat at the top of the stairs her canvass jacket pooled, dripping down.

    “What do you think I am agent Harker?” She was in no hurry. Her words cold and smooth like polished steel. She knew my name and that made things worse. The only identifier I had for her was a case file number. “Ember, if that makes you feel more comfortable.” It didn’t.

    “What do you mean?” Trying to blank, words stumble out of my mouth. Can’t fight the training as the mental picture I had of this woman is updated from her display. The file had assumed she had been some low end fixer that had gone vamp. If that’s what the file said, I knew now it was only because she had wanted it too.

    “I had heard about you, the killer of Nephilim known to look the other way.”

    “Keepers.”

    “You are killers agent Harker, tell me why.” What good were any words I could muster?

    “I want to hear them, your words.” The stench of the drug lab, wherever it was in this building, seemed to thicken. Was someone starting a fresh batch of BCKD? It became hard to focus now. “Sit agent Harker, the fumes aren’t as bad.”

    Squatting back to the wall one leg eased out into a half slump on a stair. The other leg, two steps down, supported my weight. Hand clutching the railing I watched her, watching me. Pulling the pack of cigarettes from my pocket I offer her one. She shakes her head no and I go about the ritual of lighting my own.

    “Well.” Letting out a long exhalation of grey smoke I tried to put my thoughts together. “Well, you say killers, seems like your mind’s already made up. Maybe some of us are. I don’t know. Not if I can avoid it, but yeah, I’ve gotten burned for that.” Turning from her to the orange tip of the cigarette; ash drops onto the stairs below.

    “I don’t know who’ve you’ve dealt with in the past. There are always those that want power for the sake of power, to lord over someone. I know the Keepers, or the ones I’ve met, they’re not that type. It’s not about us, you know. It’s those people stuck in the real world, like that guy from tonight.”

    “Do you know what he wanted?” The calm in Ember’s voice turned arctic.

    “No.”

    “He wanted as many ampoules of ketamine as I could give him. You see agent Harker, he’s grown apart from his wife. Despises her now. She gets off on boys she brings home from the rave circuit. While K went out of style years ago he didn’t know that. What he did know is that his wife had talked about one of her partners ODing. A sad cuckold who’d rather see his wife dead, than live with the shame. That’s who you saved tonight agent Harker.”

    “How did you know?” A stupid question but I couldn’t help myself.

    “We are the children of gods; his sins are no mystery to me.” There was something about the way she spoke. “Nephilim.” Listening to her was like watching a period piece movie, but the dialog was sideways.

    “How old are you?”

    “Does it matter?”

    “No, I guess it doesn’t. So what happens now?”

    “That’s up to you.”



  • Land of Confusion 4: The Religious Void

    Before the Purge no one outside the Reclaimer Church realized how large their numbers had swelled. Everyone was too busy fighting wars to check on splinter religious groups. While one could argue part of the reasoning behind the Purge was to consolidate power under a single religious banner it is unlikely the real reason will ever be known. However, when the Church was finally crushed by financial and political powers in 2136 the spiritual shock waves were felt across all religions.

    The countries most impacted by the Church, the ASA, parts of the EU, and Africa, devises new laws stripping religions of many of their rights as non-profit origination. While not involved with the Reclaimers the Vatican was nearly razed in the Orthodox Uprising. Soon other countries followed suit to avoid tariffs or political sanctions. This was not simply governmental regulation but on the streets and the towns across the world many turned from older religious institutions seeing the price of blind devotion.

    Of course, this would never really last. As with spiritual matters these things have a way of finding a balance. In the last thirty years there has begun a religious resurgence. Not just with the rebranded Redeemers and older faiths but new religions began to spring up. At first it was one of two a year that made the news. Today there are at least fifty seven channels covering emergent religions.

    These new religions are often cobbled together fragments of half understood older beliefs. Common elements include new interpretations or links between older religions. Some incorporate outdated or unproven scientific theories. Laws around these religious groups have also eased over the years allowing those with sufficient followings to obtain tax exception and possible corporate status.

    Today’s Current Trending Religions Include:
    Disciples of the Hackwrench, a technological order devoted to the Goddess Mouse.
    The Holy Order of Sin and Salvation, a matriarchal order that sees infidelity, and seduction as a woman’s right and purpose, unlike other transitions women of the Holy Order embrace their role.
    Particle Principle Preservists, dedicated to the belief that God can be found in particles yet undiscovered and too small to be perceived.
    Primal Deists, Old Testament purists that hold that as an evangelical religion they cannot be held accountable for the high death toll caused by the policing of their own flock.



  • Adventure Seed 6: Succession!

    Adventure Seeds explores the setting of Fractured Kingdom providing story ideas for new Players and GMs that introduce them to the world. Each Seed is designed for fast play over one or two game sessions.

    Succession!

     

    Setting Up

    This Seed requires the Characters to be in an ethnic or religious ghetto. This may be where the Characters live or they may simply be traveling through the district. Here are some ready made micro-religions that may spring up around the Characters:

    Divine Informationalists

    There is no greater freedom than what can be found in one’s mind. While naysayers claim that their church was founded around protecting information pirates as clergy with religious immunity the Informationalists argue that the world has forgotten how to learn and to think and without free information the mind can never be free.

    Observers of the Dead Cow

    To covet the flesh is to sin.
    To consume eat of the flesh is to sin.
    To find purity one must purge these carnal thoughts.
    The Observers of the Dead Cow have elevated intercourse as the highest sin linking it to the root of all other sins. To purge themselves of all carnal desires they are also sworn to pure vegan diets. Observers routinely protest butchers and supermarkets. More extreme members scrub their bodies nightly with pumice stones wearing white robes to show their dedication to the purging of the flesh.

    Primitive Reclaimers

    When the Church fell in 2136 AD there were many hard line members that refused to accept reconstruction and the Redeemers. The Primitive Reclaimers see themselves as descended from these hardliners. The only difference the Primitive Reclaimers see virtually all technology as a sin and want to see it all destroyed or Purged to make way for a pure worship. Of course they are not above using things such as computer viruses to shut down negative websites or firearms to get their message across.

    Any of these micro-religions can be used with the trigger of loosing their religious status to spark their reaction.

    Events

    Lock Down

    Extremest members of a religious or ethic faction have occupied a nine block area claiming it sovereign territory. Streets have been blocked and are guarded by armed extremists.

    Of course the Player Characters are trapped within this burgeoning nation. The faction will lock down the streets on the boarders first along with the center block where they are operating from. The foot soldiers in this siege use the values listed for Mercs operating in three man teams. During the initial siege there are three groups at each intersection before fanning out leaving a single team to hold the barricades.

    Riots

    There is no way the siege is gong to last. the police are coming, in force. When this happens no one on the street is safe. The riot squads will march through the district using teargas and combat shotguns to eliminate any possible threats.

    Replace the Police Officer’s normal gear with Riot Gear, 1D6 Teargas Grenades and TKX Riot Stoppers using Sabots. There are at least 10 Police Officers for every entrance to the district.

    Complications

    The timing of these events are up to the GM. Depending on the Characters some possible Complications include (Use only the Complications that are fitting for your Campaign.):
    Save The innocent: This is a poorer district and there are a lot of people from street vendors to transients who are now trapped.
    Stop it Before It Starts: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this is going to end. The Characters may try and take the “Action Boy” approach of doing the cops job for them and taking out the extremists first or even negotiating a stand down with the Succession’s leadership.
    My Beautiful Home: The Secessionists have planted bombs around the district. As they are being overwhelmed they will detonate these explosives as a distraction for the leadership to escape. This includes whatever building the the Characters are hiding in or are by.

    Note: There are no Supernatural elements to this Adventure Seed. This is just life in the big city.