Post by ancientempathy on Aug 10, 2008 18:29:08 GMT -5
Monks of the Dark Moon
Dark Moon (Evil) Deity: Shar Multiclass options: May multiclass as sorcerers so long as their monk level and socerer level stay within two levels of each other. Races: Human mostly, occaisionally half-orc, shade or drow. Background Info: Maintain open temples only in lands ruled by eveil overlords. Otherwise temples are out in remote locations, back alleys or the underdark.
The monks of the Dark Moon are an elite sect of Sharran agents. They serve the Mistress of the Night by carrying out tasks that she prefers not to assign to her ordinary clergy. From their temples located in lands where evil rules the day as well as the night, monks of the Dark Moon strike at Shar's enemies with lightning swiftness and terrifying lethality. Whether her whim is espionage, sabotage, or murder, the Lady of Loss can be certain that her monastic order undertakes to fulfill it with extraodinary zeal. The monks of the Dark Moon have proven to be Shar's ace in the hole on a number of occasions, most particularly when fightning agaisnt her hated sister, Selune, and her rival, the deity Loviatar.
In addition to its fortified temples, the sect also maintains shrines dedicated to its patron deity in Underdark caverns, and it has established safe houses and boltholes in the unsavory quarters of larger cities where Sharrans are not welcome. While the monks of the Dark Moon sometimes work jointly with agents and members of the church of Shar, they are not considered part of her normal clergy but rather an autonomous organization. This status enables the monks to remain free to train in their particular skills, to focus on their devotion to their deity, and to ready themselves for the instant Shar calls them to action.
Over the course of the last decade, Loviatar has been making inroads into part of Shar’s traditional territory (principally, the domain of Suffering). Due to her ordinary clergy’s apparent lack of success in halting the incursion, Shar decided that she required a different kind of fighting force for certain types of mission. She conceived a disciplined and loyal monastic order that would serve as her elite force when her earthly needs included subtlety, infiltration, or assassination.
To create her monastic order, Shar turned to her most trusted and devious mortal servant, Alorgoth. Heeding his deity, the Bringer of Doom journeyed far beyond his normal wanderings in the eastern portion of the continent to the Lands of Intrigue. He went first to the city of Purskul, where he commissioned the construction of the imposing, grim edifice that was to be the order’s first monastery (much to the alarm of other religious factions in the city). While the stonemasons and carpenters labored, Alorgoth visited the cities of Athkatla, Crimmor, and Keczulla to begin recruiting the order’s first members from among Sharran cells in those cities.
He sought among these cults for folk who met three principal criteria. First, they must be young adults. Second, they must not have yet been ordained into Shar’s clergy. Finally, they must have demonstrated some manifestation of sorcerous power or potential. Within a year, he had invoked his particular brand of subterfuge and manipulation to gather several dozen ambitious young men and women who apparently met his requirements, and who were eager to gain the secrets of personal power that their new mentor had promised them. Making their way to Purskul, they entered the monastery and began their training. None of them have been seen since . . .at least, not in any guise recognizable to those who knew them.
The Bringer of Doom made good on his promises to his young disciples, after a fashion. The young adults who followed him to Purskul learned many secrets, but they also paid a high price for their knowledge. Becoming a monk of the Dark Moon requires the utmost dedication to purpose. Some of the initiates were unable to withstand the grueling physical punishment and mental rigor demanded of them. Some did not actually possess the sorcerous abilities they had claimed, and a few simply could not reconcile the vile acts they were expected to perform as part of their training with their moral conscience, despite what they had believed was a strong faith in Shar. Alorgoth eliminated these failures as a matter of course. He could not afford to permit the washouts to return home to their friends and family with news of what was taking place inside the forbidding structure. Most of these were killed by their fellow disciples in the first year of the monastery’s operation, either as human sacrifice during religious ceremonies dedicated to Shar, or as victims in live training exercises. A few Alorgoth destroyed himself, purely for the pleasure it gave him.
Shortly after the weak and useless were weeded out, Alorgoth turned the operation of the monastery over to three senior priests of Shar, newly arrived from the Temple of Old Night. The deity had directed these clerics to make themselves available at the monastery to finish the indoctrination of the monks started by Alorgoth, for whom she now had other tasks. Several monks who had long worshiped the Lady of Loss likewise joined the priests to continue the martial training of the initiates. The last members of the instructional team to arrive were a pair of sorcerers and an assassin, who would ensure that the monks developed their arcane talents and the killing skills they would require. The initial period of training concluded two years ago with a “class project”: the infiltration and mass poisoning of the entire retinue of Purskul’s clerics of Chauntea, whose temple has stood empty ever since.
By the time the period of instruction was completed, some five years after the monastery was built, Shar possessed a squad of well-trained martial and sorcerous experts, ready to attack, defend, live, and die at her command.
Headquarters: None. Members: 192. Hierarchy: Militaristic. Leader: Shar Religion: Shar Alignment: LE Secrecy: Medium Symbol: Shar’s symbol, a black disc with a deep purple border.
Like the church of Shar, the monks of the Dark Moon follow and obey a strict hierarchy. Failure to follow the orders of a superior is grounds for execution. Shar does not reveal all she knows to her monks any more than she does to her clerics, but this fact does not trouble the members of the Dark Moon order. They have faith that the Dark Deity will reveal exactly what they need to know to serve her well.
Most of the monks of the Dark Moon are human, but their numbers also include a few half-orcs, drow, tie flings, and a shade or two.
The rank-and-file monks refer to one another as “Dark Brother” or “Dark Sister.” Those who aspire to become monks of the Dark Moon must endure a year-long novitiate period during which they endure rigorous mental and physical training, as well as preliminary religious indoctrination under the watchful tutelage of the Dark Fathers and Dark Mothers of the monastery. If the novitiates perform well during this time, they earn the chance to become full-fledged members of the order. At that point, they are given their first missions, generally tasks of infiltration, espionage, or sabotage. If the initiates fulfill their individual tasks with distinction, they are made full members of the order. At that point, the intensity of all aspects of training only increases, and the missions they undertake become more demanding and dangerous.
Senior monks are known as “Dark Father” or “Dark Mother.” They are generally the most skilled monk/sorcerers in each monastery, responsible for training the initiates and the rank-and-file monks.
The most senior monk in a given monastery is “Dark Father Abbot” or “Dark Mother Abbess.” They are the leaders of the monasteries, and the hearts and souls of the order. They receive their orders directly from Shar and do not undertake missions personally unless she commands it. They convene once each year at the Temple of Old Night to meet with the ranking clerics of the deity.
Motivation and Goals
The monks of the Dark Moon exist to serve Shar. More fanatical than the members of her priesthood, they strive to emulate the important tenets of Shar’s dogma in all things. Hopeless and remorseless, they find spiritual fulfillment in acting as a weapon in the hand of the Mistress of the Night. Their only interest lies in striving for perfection according to their religious beliefs.
In practical terms, the monks of the Dark Moon share the same goal as the church of Shar. Their methods, however, are less obvious and more selective. Whereas the priesthood might be engaged in a long-term plan to topple a city government, the monks might be charged with slipping into that city’s chief government building and kidnapping or killing a designated target. A Sharran cell could sponsor a thieves’ guild to undermine a city’s social order and turn worshipers away from good-aligned deities toward Shar, even as a squad of Dark Moon monks waylay a cleric of Selune in that same city, murder him, and leave his body for the morning crows.
The monasteries are highly selective, preferring quality to quantity. Aspirants to the order must meet the criteria established by the Bringer of Doom for the original initiates. The monks of the Dark Moon fear infiltration even more than does the church of Selune, but the sheer difficulty of the Dark Moon training regimen, coupled with the standard practices of Sharran worship, almost always winnows out any unqualified applicatns.
Shar’s allies are the monk’s allies. The decrees of the deity motivate and drive the monks of the Dark Moon. They do not seek alliances or make enemies except as directed by the Lady of Loss, and then only so that her evil may flourish. Even so, the Dark Abbots and Abbesses do not countenance the purposeful alienation of the common folk who dwell near their monasteries. The work of the Dark Moon is best accomplished under the cloak of secrecy, and blatant maltreatment of commoners merely attracts self-righteous do-gooders who must inevitably be eliminated lest they endanger the security of the order. Some Dark Moon strongholds strive to convince nearby communities that their members are merely a group of peaceful ascetics. Cultivating friendly relations with the native people often provides a level of camouflage that cannot be achieved even through magical means.
Shar’s enemies are the monk’s enemies. The Dark Brothers and Sisters strike when and where they are commanded, and do not dwell on ethics or morals exterior to Shar’s dogma. The Dark Brothers and Sisters harbor special hatred for those who serve Shar’s sister. The monks’ discipline permits them to resist the temptation to indulge in personal vendettas or any other types of activity not prescribed by their missions.
((From the Lords of Darkness, pgs. 159-163))
Last Edit: Aug 11, 2008 17:25:40 GMT -5 by ancientempathy
Post by ancientempathy on Aug 10, 2008 18:37:28 GMT -5
Monks of the Long Death
Long Death (Evil): Deity: None. Worship priciple of Death regardless of deity with Deat portfolio. Multiclass options: May multiclass freely as fighters, assassins, and blackguards Background Info: Strong order in Thay, not sanctioned by Red Wizards. Clerics of Kelemvor should hate this order, Velsharoon, wishes to use them somehow, and clerics of Myrkul see them as part of the previous lord of the dead's plans.
The monks of the Long Death are members of an old order devoted to the concept of death, and they are masters of using natural means to inflict death upon others. They care little for what deity holds the portfolio of death, serving Cyric briefly before Kelemvor, Myrkul before Cyric, and Jergal long before Myrkul.
This order of the Long Death dates back to the early days of Calimshan after it was freed from the rule of the genies. It was founded as a means for the slaves of the genies to develop the ability to defend themselves and strike out agaisnt their elemental masters, but as time went on the monks became obsessed with killing and death beyond their original purpose. Since being driven out of Calimsham, they have been chased away several times from places they try to settle in, but always find a place where they can take root again. The monastery in the Lake of Steam is nestled in the Firesteap Mountains southeast of Innarlith and is over one hundred years old. Founded by a devout worshiper of Myrkul, the moanstery still bears many symbols of that dead deity.
The monastery could be considered a place of peace if not for all the combat practice. When not sparring, the monks of the Long Death are quiet and contemplative. One ritualized combat every year on the feast of the moon determines who leads the monastery for the next twelve months. This combat is often to the death, although sometimes a victor inflicts a very painful wound on the loser as a reminder and a lesson. These competitions are the only time when the monks of the order are allowed to fight each other to death.
At least three monasteries of the Long Death are rumored to exist in Faerun, each of approximately the same size and population. (The following statistics are for one of these monasteries.) In addition to the monasteries, there are probably dozens of smaller cells of wandering monks and their handfuls of students.
Headquarters: Firesteap Mountains, Lake of Steam. Members: 100. Hierarchy: Militaristic. Leader: Lenet the Cold. Religions: Varies. Alignment: LE, LN. Secrecy: Low Symbol: The monks prefer images of skulls, often with a black diamond on the forehead. Many adorn their bodies with tattoos or scars with this symbol.
Three individuals of importance administer the monastery. The remainder of the monastery residents are treated as equals, although the lesser students battle each other for informal differentiation of rank.
Motivation and Goals
The monks seek to understand death and hope to achieve a perfect death. None are really sure what that means, but they believe that by inflicting pain and death upon others with their bare hands, they gain an understanding of what they need to do to achieve their own perfect deaths.
The monks wander the land, accosting people in every part of Faerun with fist and foot. They have found that pretending to be beggars allows them a great deal of anonymity and freedom to move about. Ironically, many folk mistake them for the Broken Ones (monks of Ilmater), which outrages the worshipers of the Crying Deity.
The monks only accept about a dozen new students into each monastery every year. These students must be lawful neutral or lawful evil and must pass basic physical tests. The monastery also takes on older students, typically fighters with an interest in death or disillusioned monks of other orders. They are particularly fond of teaching worshipers of Loviatar that pain is just a short step away from death, and teaching followers of Ilmater that suffering is only the key to understanding mortality.
Some of the monks of the order are acquainted with worshipers of Cyric or Kelemvor because their pas association with Myrkul. Others have received friendly gestures from clerics of Velsharoon, who wishes to court the Long Death monks into his service.
The monks are opposed by benign deities of life such as Chauntea and Lathander, and are the enemies of the church of Ilmater, which sees their focus on pain and death as being only slightly less repulsive than Loviatar’s love of punishment. Kelemvor, the Lord of the Dead, would prefer that they not practice their skills on unwilling targets and encourages his followers to destroy these monks or convince them to fight undead.
((From the Lords of Darkness, pg. 166-167))
From the WotSC website.
Monks of the Long Death
Though the organization known as the Monks of the Long Death is strongest in Thay, it does have monasteries in several other parts of Faerun, including the Silver Marches. Some two dozen members of the order dwell in a hidden stronghold built long ago by unknown hands in the Turnstone Hills, not far from where the pass is blocked by a gigantic landslide. From here the monks pursue their one abiding interest: death.
These monks seek for the secrets of life by studying death. It is the condition of being dead that concerns them most, and not what lies beyond: The afterlife holds little interest for them. Their laboratories are full of decaying, dying, and dead animal and plant specimens that they study with detached interest; they frequently purchase rare specimens that they cannot obtain easily themselves from adventurers and merchants. But such studies are only part of the monks' daily life: They seek to understand death as it pertains especially to intelligent living beings.
To this end, they exhume corpses from crypts and graveyards, and then they transport the corpses to their monastery. There they examine the cadavers in their well-stocked laboratory and observe them as they decompose. They also -- and it is for this that they are most reviled and feared -- purchase living slaves and put them to death, slowly, recording their observations and asking the perishing slaves questions about their fatal experience. Slaves are hard to come by in the Silver Marches, however, because Lady Alustriel and her confederations condemn the practice. The order has been obliged to obtain its living specimens by other means, such as abducting them from outlying farmsteads and poorly-defended hamlets in the dead of night. The monks suffer no moral qualms about these deeds: Death is the most natural thing in the world, from their perspective, and to expire in service to its principle is the most profoundly holy experience any living being can hope to enjoy. It is for this reason that the monks themselves do not fear death, and while they may study the dead, they do not seek that state themselves.
Most of the order's members are either scholars who share mutual fascination with and worship of death and dying, or clergy who worship one of the deities concerned with death. Some of the monks consider themselves to be nothing less than visionaries whose work will pave the way for a better future for all Faerun: When death is truly understood, it can be harnessed and used as a tool for the betterment of all, or so they rationalize to themselves. Others who take the Vows of Death could not possibly care less about anything other than increasing their personal measure of understanding about their chosen subject.
The Monks of the Long Death are easily recognized by their pale skin and gaunt features. They eat little, and they spend most of their time inside their monasteries, in crypts and graveyards, and other dark places where there is little natural light. They affect the trappings of death in their garb, wearing long, dark robes and shroudlike hooded cloaks to hide their features. Though fearful of those who do not understand them and who might seek to thwart their studies, they can be civil hosts if approached by learned folk who offer to share knowledge or wisdom. Their narrow vision and single-mindedness makes them dull hosts, however, and the rigid structure of their society seems quite stifling to outsiders.