Thursday, June 24, 2010

Acolytes of Misrule

"Then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

- H.P. Lovecraft, "Call of Cthulhu"
Almost as feared by the denizens of the City as the Reds, are the Anarchists. Before the War, they were probably even more feared. Yet the Anarchists are even less understood, if possible. Few have guessed at the true motives of the forces behind the mad bombers of popular imagination.

"Anarchist" is actually a term used for a wide variety of groups. Some are largely peaceable groups, philosophically opposed government. Others are absurdist or surrealist artists dedicated to breaking down authority in a variety of ways. The ones that get the most sensationalistic media are terrorists attempting to destabilize governments by destroying the populous' faith in said government's ability to protect them. All of these groups are fertile recruiting grounds for the most insidious and dangerous faction.

The truth is that anarchist philosophy and action are secretly promoted and supported by extraplanar forces. Anarchists claim communion with beings of raw chaos, crippled and lobotomized by the irruption of crude matter and banal casuality into their realm. These ultimately formless beings, are often portrayed (or disguised) in anarchist works as vaguely unsettling frog-like creatures, or sometimes seemingly innocuous cartoon characters of various sorts. These beings want nothing so much as to destroy the irritant that is the Prime Material Plane.

Why would any intelligent person choose to serve these nihilistic creatures? First, since the chaos null-gods have no concept of time, their victory may be temporally remote enough for anarchists to enjoy the benefits of their service for quite some time. Second, a lot of anarchists have been driven utterly insane by their brushes with their master's alien minds.

Part of this madness may be caused by the alien code called aklo, which is learned by all anarchists during their initiation into the secret doctrine. Aklo allows them to decode the messages from their fellows and from their null-gods--often found in nonsensical graffiti, banal but odd posted signs, and surrealist/absurdist comic strips. The mental restructuring it causes is also the source of the ability of advanced adepts to manipulate magical energies with frightening power.

Anarchist initiates and potential recruits may serve or aid anarchist masterminds in their various schemes, which are often ill-conceived and needless complicated, but always promote fear and sow discord. Masterminds are a diverse lot (their masters place no premium on conformity, after all)--some appear as scientists others masquerade as normal criminals, while still others dress and act like sorcerers out of old legends.

Anarchism is more popular in Ealderde, particularly in the east, but Anarchists have been known to effect outrageous accents, regardless of their true origins.

Symbol: A featureless black flag, or a stylized eye.

Special Benefits: The induction into true anarchism is the learning of aklo--which allows interpretation of anarchist messages and communication with the chaotic null-gods (Aklo can't be learned without becoming an adherent of the chaos beings, attempts to do so will lead to conversion). More advanced followers may develop boons, which are magical powers which often take on an unwholesome or disturbing manifestation. Anarchist magic-users essentially become something like 3e sorcerers--they don't require memorization or spell components. However, every spell casts requires the caster to make a saving throw, with every failure resulting in some sort of physical manifestation (a skin lesion, tic, change in color of one eye, etc.). Every two failed saving throws in a row deal 1d4 points of damage. One of these manifestations will "heal" for every 24 hours without magic use. Any game effects of the manifestations are at DM discretion.


John Matthew Stater said...

I like the description, and the special benefit for the magic-users. I can picture a normal person seeing a magic-user looking rather grotesque after a busy night, only to be surprised a few days later when they once again look normal.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you outdo yourself on awesome posts. This is one of them. Crossing genres to bring some real weirdness to your setting.

I thought of two things as I read this:

1) Those new Allstate insurance commercials with the strange guy and the slogan "Mayhem is coming". That guy would be an awesome leader.

2) The Seven Samurai, as wandering forces of Law, trying to root out the Anarchists, but being seen as strange and otherworldly themselves.

netherwerks said...

Aklo-speaking Anarchists! Brilliant, positively brilliant. This would be such a blast to play, or to fight against, either way. Excellent stuff.

Fran Terminiello said...

Excellent. Anything to do with the planes I find very unsettling anyway, this ramps it up a notch.

Trey said...

@Matt - Thanks. You hit upon exactly what I had been thinking of: "No Thurston Throckmorton can't be Dr. Death, because when we removed Death's hood he was hideously disfigured!"

@Vaults - Thanks! Glad you like it. I think I may know the commercial you meant but "mayhem is coming" would be an swesome bit of grafitti to appear in places in a campaign as things build toward a confrontation.

And the Seven Samurai as agents of law is an awesome idea. Particularly if they were clockwork samurai...

@NetherWerks - Glad you like it. I've been trying to come up with sort of hero/ weird menace pulpish "re-imagines" of various D&D tropes. I'm gratified that folks have been responding the result.

@Dungeonmum - I think I may have some more planar stuff coming up soon--I still haven't really dealt with the Hell Syndicate and their war with the Army (Armies) of Salvation.

Anonymous said...

Clockwork Samurai! GAH! THAT IS TOO AWESOME!

And yes, the "all caps" was necessary there.

Trey said...

Of course, I quite understand. ;)

Anonymous said...

I went to buy the S&S book posted about on Beyond the Black Gate and instead got the collector's special edition of the Seven Samurai and 100 Yokai Monsters.

Oh, yeah...