Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons: Priests of Chaos

I’ve been mulling the idea of putting together a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook for Wanderhaven, the campaign setting I use in my home game and in which I’ve set my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  I’m not looking to publish the thing.  First, because I don’t know what the rules about that are, and second, because I can’t see that there’d be enough interest in it to go through the ordeal of writing and rewriting a giant, monster-sized project like that.  But I like working on it, and it takes no special effort to collect the pieces and save them here on the blog.  Eventually I’d like to reorganize the blog’s Wanderhaven section to include both the sourcebook material and The Priest of Loki’s preview chapters.

I need the diversion.  I’ve been rewriting my book all week, and that’s great.  I’m making good progress on it.  But it’s tough to stay focused every single day.  I also work; I also have a family.  These things take time and energy.  Having something else to work on helps me clear my head.
This week’s diversion is the Norse (“Norglander”) god Loki and his priests.  
Loki and Sigyn (1863) by Mårten Eskil Winge.
I love this one.
Loki is a confusing figure in mythology.  He is something of an anti-hero; sometimes he’s on the side of the angels, sometimes he’s the villain responsible for Ragnarok and the End of the World.  But even the “good” gods of the Vikings were often violent drunks who killed, raped, and pillaged at the slightest provocation.  Against this, Loki is generally portrayed as thoughtful and intelligent.  He is an introspective individualist, and that makes him an outcast among the Asgardians, who are at best low and stupid but superhumanly powerful.  The sole exception is Odin, the All-Father, who respects Loki’s unique perspective and abilities but who also finds Loki a difficult subject to control.
Most ancient gods and goddesses represented either a primal force of nature or the personification of an abstract idea.  Apollo is the sun.  Thor is thunder and the power of the storm.  Genius is the personification of the intellect of humanity, the divine spark in each individual.  Loki is none of these things.  He’s not even Asgardian; he’s an outcast babe who is adopted by Odin and introduced into the Asgardian family by royal command.  This complicates his potential theology, but it’s also what makes him such an interesting mythological character.
Theology of the Chaosbringer
Loki is known to his followers as the “Father of Lies”, the “Trickster”, and the “Chaosbringer”.  He is neither good nor evil.  Instead, he stands outside the existing social order.  He rightly points out that society is neither just nor fair, particularly to those who’re born with nothing, and he therefore advocates change.  His followers come mostly from among the ranks of the lower classes and the dispossessed.  Over time, Loki works to radicalize his followers in order to prepare them to fight on the side of chaos during Ragnarok, the last battle.  
Loki’s theology is fantasy-based revolutionary Socialism.  He works to achieve the End of the World.  He will then build a new world atop the ashes of the old.  His followers support things like land reform and broad-based social justice initiatives, but their methods are violent, and their faith justifies all manner of antisocial behavior in the name of bloody revolution.  
Loki’s followers know no laws and respect no traditions.  This makes them enemies of the state in almost every state in the Known World, and for this reason, they almost always practice in secret.  There are no temples to Loki.  Instead, there are revolutionary cells scattered throughout the nations of the Known World, each quietly plotting for the day when the Revolution finally comes.
Loki quarreling with the gods (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Loki’s priests tend to be charismatic and persuasive.  They are fighting priests, but their weapons tend to be those that rely on quickness and ability rather than brute physical power.  Lokiian priests are not averse to healing magic, but their primary spells most often affect the mind or the subject’s perception of the world around him.  It is not uncommon for Lokiian priests to study arcane magic and to take levels of either Mage or Warlock to complement their priestly powers.  Similarly, priests of Loki may also learn the Thieves’ trade.
Domain Spells
Cause Fear, Color Spray
Silence, Blur
Speak with Dead, Blink
Confusion, Polymorph
True Seeing, Seeming
Bonus Spells
You gain the cantrips Thaumaturgy and Dancing Lights.
Bonus Proficiencies
You gain proficiency with the rapier, the hand crossbow, and the whip*.
Channel Divinity: Silver Tongue
Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity power to make yourself more persuasive to others.
As an Action, you present your holy symbol and speak.  Each creature within 25’ of you must make a Wisdom saving throw.  Creatures are either charmed or frightened on a failed save, your choice.  You must be able to speak, and other creatures must be able to hear and see you for this effect to function.  As an Action, affected enemy creatures can make a saving throw to end the effect during each of their turns.  The effect lasts for five minutes or until you end it as a free action.  

Attacking a charmed creature or one of its allies ends the effect.  Attacking a frightened creature or one of its allies does not.

*This build is not meant to stand in for a Forgotten Realms priest or priestess of Lloth, but I suppose it could in a pinch.  This is one reason for giving proficiency with the hand crossbow and the whip.

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