Monday, December 31, 2018


Somewhere - no, everywhere - the earth trembles. This is not an earthquake, the planet itself is shaking very slightly. If the party is near an active volcano, they see this, otherwise the perspective shifts to a poor sucker near a volcano somewhere. Animals flee away from it. They are followed by a series of increasingly fearsome monsters. A hand grips the rim of the volcano. The primordial spirit of earth and fire, worshiped and sacrificed to for millennia, crawls from its home. Standing upon the naked earth, it points to the sky. In the noon, a star becomes visible, shining more brightly than the sun. The volcano spirit pupates, splitting in half. With a scream like the crashing of continents and a blast that levels the ground for miles, it explodes upwards, achieving escape velocity. The being of magma streaks towards that bright star. It grows dim, and disappears. 

 Other stars become visible around the world, regardless of time of day. Each star is the heavenly representation of a spirit; this has always been known. Everywhere, beings worshiped as deities in their own right look towards their stars and prepare to depart the planet. Sylvan creatures look from the nighted glades. Supernatural beasts of the wide desert shake the dunes off their backs. The cult-gods in caverns beneath the greatest city in the world tear their way to the surface. One by one, spirits of every size and level of power, variously called demons and angels, all ascend to the skies. Some stop briefly to speak to their most devoted. Goodbye they say, and thanks for all the prayers. Within two hours of the first tremors, there are no more stars in the sky. 

That is when Cthon awakes.

The sentient power source in the earth’s core has been waking up for the last ten thousand years. The spirits have been trying, and failing to keep it slumbering. With its awakening inevitable, the spirits leave to save their own hides. 

In that moment, Cthon’s supersentience tears through the planetary psyche. A third of the sentient population (humans, animals, most plants, some of the larger fungal colonies) have their astral selves forcibly ripped from their bodies. Most don’t make it back in. Another third of the planet goes immediately and irreversibly insane. The remaining third maintains their sanity, at the cost of immense torment and pain. Five hours from the tremors the world is one part comatose, one part mad and one part suffering horrendously. 

In the heavens beyond, in the void between planetary rings, among asteroids and comets, the Five True Gods of Man battle outsiders, as they have for ten thousand years. Their ancient enemies abruptly disappear. In an instant, they have realized there is nothing left to fight over. For the first time since their ascension, the True Gods turn their full attention to the planet. 

From each of the planetary poles, Cthon bursts out. For hundreds of miles about each, the matter of the Earth is ejected in a cone. Geometric smoke sparking in colors beyond human senses floods out. Tayv, Goddess of Human Life, Tubul, God of Just Death, Karn, God of the Deep Ocean, Saris, Goddess of Knowledge and the Skies, and Jalla, God of Dreams and Magic, prepare to battle the being. Eight hours from the first tremor, the True Gods are utterly destroyed by its passing.

The Moon, caretaker of the Earth, shifts within herself to trap Cthon. It grasps the Moon and shears her in two. From her carcass, Osis appears. Osis, the Cosmic Child, who seeded first life on the planet when Cthon slumbered a hundred million years ago, who elevated the Five with a fragment of His power. He takes a colossal human form hewn from star-silver and void-black. He bathes in the power of the Moon, His most steadfast ally and oldest friend. With a blade shaped from a still-spinning neutron star, he attacks.
Cthon rips out His heart. 

Unopposed, Cthon eats the sun. The power gained allows it to undergo rapid growth. It was a spore, around which a planet formed, billions of years ago. Now, millions such spores blow into the wide cosmos to begin the cycle anew. 

Twelve hours since the first tremor, humanity is decimated, the powerful spirits we appealed to and appeased are gone, our defenders against the Outside are shattered and the Outside is no longer interested in us. The being responsible for creating life as we know it was curb-stomped by the galactic equivalent of a dandelion. The sun is gone, and within a day of the tremors, the Earth has frozen over.

Night fails to care.

What the fuck just happened?


Based on Arnold K.’s take on a post-Cthulhu apocalypse, this is my campaign world after the end. Frankly, it’s pretty mild as apocalypses go. Probably a Class 5 according to TVTropes. Of course, there are some more interesting wrinkles. 

Like in Arnold’s world, volcanoes become the new centers of life. Humans and other sapient beings move into underground caverns nearby them, and bring as many useful life forms as the can with them. The ejection of Cthon was a messy affair, and a few globules of its power are still around, hence the volcanoes. Wizards may be able to use these as the cores of new cities, generating heat and light. Shards of moonstone have been falling to the ground ever since, and are valuable for both their metallic and magical properties.

The few sentiences that made it back into their bodies after being blasted out are now able to walk between the astral and material planes at will, and have new abilities on the side. These people, assuming they don’t get eaten before waking up, survive the next few months of cannibalism, and don’t get hunted down in mobs, become the prophets of new religions, now that the Gods are dead. Most of the ones you will interact with will be humans or demihumans, but by sheer mass there are more of these astralites in the animal and plant worlds. Somewhere, a psychic ant queen has united all the world’s ants into a supernation, currently at war with the psychic fungal colony that covers most of the remaining planet. 

Also, the astral plane is much more important than it once was. Remember all those ejected consciousnesses? Where once the astral plane was a hazy world of half-dreams and unconscious projections, it now has hundreds of billions of permanent residents, a whole ecosystem equivalent to a third of the original planetary biomass. 

Maybe some of the spirits stayed, unwilling to leave. Maybe some came back, after Cthon left. What effects they would have suffered it completely up in the air, but perhaps some adventurous youths climbs from their cave to see the frozen surface, and spy a lone star in the night sky. They travel by kite-pulled ice sled in the direction of that star like winter-punk biblical magi, seeking a creature that could well become the god of the new world. Hell, that’s a solid adventure hook right there.

There’s also the matter of spirits that couldn’t leave. Hell got pretty well emptied out that day, but there must have been some beings of power from the old days, likely malevolent, that were sealed in a can millennia ago by great heroes. Maybe Set the serpent-demon, maybe a lich or other such nasty. If cults would be trying to release them back into the world back when it was whole, then there’s going to be a rush to find and unseal them now that the world has gone to shit and there’s a power vacuum. 

Some will be trying to harness and control the power of such beings, others just looking for something greater than themselves, that they can worship in exchange for protection. Those creatures will find the world on a silver platter, assuming more than one of them wasn’t released at once (hello adventure hook). What would life be like under the lich-king after the apocalypse? It might well be preferable to stumbling about on one’s own, dodging grisly demise at every turn. Then again, is service really preferable to death?

The Gods of Man and their Followers

A digression on terminology

Alright, this is going to get a little weird. For the sake of familiarity, people who are granted divine favor and a small amount of power in exchange for service to that god are called clerics. Put what you know about clerics out of your mind. They’re not a pure support class that only ever heals the party. Depending on the god that you pledge yourself to, you can be anything from a scrying lightning user to an undead-turning warrior of justice. They are very rare, since the gods are quite busy doing something beyond Earth, and don’t have much power to spare. Clerics of any degree of power, of any god, are one in a hundred thousand people. And at any time, each of the Five True Gods has an avatar on this earth, that seeks out great evil and uses their body as a conduit to smite it with the full power of a god. They don’t live very long.

Clerics are voluntarily granted these powers by one of the Five, or more rarely by a major spirit. Although they can be priests, they don’t need to be, and may have little to no knowledge of actual scripture. They are able to communicate with their patron god, at first vaguely and through emotions, and later through speech and thought. They must always abide by the moral code of their patron, and will never be caught off-guard by an accidental breach (they get a head/stomach-ache whenever they so much as consider breaking the code).

About the Gods

The Gods of Man did not create the world. They are not omnipotent, although they are the biggest fishes in the pond that is our solar system (but not far beyond). They were once humans of great virtue who were empowered by Osis, the cosmic being that actually made (or rather, remade) the world. They were given the task of shepherding humanity towards virtue and against vice, and each stands in opposition to one of the five Devils. Their interests are always those of humanity in the long run.

Tubul (too-bull) - God of Death and Justice, the Wise and Terrible

Commonly depicted as a muscular nude man, with a face-covering helmet. He is shown with a bloody sword in his left hand, and in his right hand he holds a medallion or charm. Statues and paintings depict him in black.

Tubul is the god of death and justice, patron deity of all honorable combatants, (soldiers, knights, gladiators, honorable mercenaries) and judges. He shepherds human souls to an unknown, but surely peaceful and benevolent afterlife.

His enemies are dishonorable warriors (dishonorable mercenaries, bandits, traitors), criminals and necromancers. His nemesis is Baal, Devil of Deception.

Priests of Tubul often serve as judges and arbiters within nations. They have no direct connection to Tubul, but know intimately the extensive moral and penal precedents set in scripture.

His clerics are commonly called Justicars. They have a direct connection to Tubul and his wisdom. They are called to service to solve particularly thorny moral and legal problems. They don’t have all the answers, however. When dealing with problems without clear morals, such as political disputes, they have no comment. Though they are sometimes offered official positions, most Justicars wander from place to place, knowing that Tubul will guide them to their next trial.

They have the deep respect, though not always the liking, of all people, as death speaks through them. In times of great crisis, Justicars are known for deputizing people, from farmers to town guards to whole legions against a common foe. They are martial combatants, experts in their chosen weapon and style. They have literally no fear of death.

It is also their duty to deal with the undead. Creatures such as revenants, mindless raised flesh, are put down immediately. Other undead, such as ghosts are more sympathetic, and Justicars may actively quest to finish their unsolved work. For their perversion of the natural order, necromancers are hunted and executed with great prejudice.

The ultimate goal of a Justicar is to be selected as a Reaper. If they have served with true talent and zeal in life, they are offered the option of continuing their service in death. As Reapers, they track and recover the most wicked and elusive souls, such as those of liches.

Saris (sare-is) - Goddess of Sky and Storms, the Diviner

Commonly depicted as a woman in flowing robes wearing a blindfold. She is shown with bolts of lightning in the left hand, lifted upwards, and a crystal ball in her right hand held over her stomach. Statues and paintings depict her in light blue.

Saris is the Mistress of the skies, patron of astronomers, diviners, soothsayers and prophets. She seeks the truth of the world, reveals the secrets of the cosmos and serves as an intermediary between the earth and the stars.

Her enemies are false prophets and destroyers of knowledge: book burners, those who impede teaching and dishonest soothsayers. Her nemesis is Flauros, Devil of Wrath.

Her priests are often librarians, teachers, philosophers and natural philosophers, especially astronomers. They follow their goddess’s example in studying both their world and the beyond.

Her clerics are questing scholars who search for hidden knowledge. Whether deciphering ancient texts or exploring ruined cities, their hunger for discovery is insatiable. They often step on the toes of those who would much rather such secrets remain. Attempts to bribe them rarely work, unless you are willing to give up another secret.

Saris is often considered first among the gods, since she is the contact between the mortal world and the beyond. As such, her clerics are responsible for dealing with spirits and creatures of outer origin.

They have the ability to scry objects and people, and even see flashes of the immediate future. They are often adept with bows and have wind and lightning magic at their disposal.

There are grand mysteries which the followers of Saris have been invested in solving for centuries. Most notably, the true origin of the earth and the means to travel the cosmos have been the subject of research and study as long as recorded history.

Karn (karn) - God of the Sea and Secrets, the Keeper

Commonly depicted as a stout man bearing a spear and a sea lotus. Statues and paintings depict him in dark blue or turquoise.

Karn is the god of the sea, secrets, sailors and guardians. He governs the open water, from grand lakes to the oceans, which are the resting places of hidden and secret things.

His enemies are seekers of dangerous and forbidden knowledge, betrayers of trust and spies. His nemesis is Zagan, Devil of Treachery.

His clerics, though they have their own sects and groups, are commonly called ‘Keepers’. Though followers of the water god, they keep temples and monasteries in many secluded places, such as high mountaintops, dark caverns and, some rumor, at the bottom of the oceans. Their mission is to secure and protect the most dangerous knowledge and artifacts in the world, only destroying them in the most dire circumstances.

His priests often seclude themselves in the same monasteries, aiding the Keepers’ work.

His worship is most common on the coasts, where fishermen and sailors are protected, unless they search for the hidden things that are safe on the ocean floor. His name is also invoked to hide secrets, bind people in an oath, and for protection from the horrors that lie in the dark and deep settings of the world.

If you need to hide an artifact of tremendous power, prevent forbidden knowledge from spreading, or seal a terrible evil away, call upon the followers of the sea god. They are everywhere. And if they throw something into the sea, don’t be offended. There is no place safer.

Tayv (tayf) - Goddess of Life and Fertility, the Gardener

Commonly depicted as a homely woman carrying a quiver of arrows and extending a hand outwards. Statues and paintings depict her in light green or gold.

Tayv is the goddess of cultivation, gardens, birth and motherhood. She is the patron of healers, midwives and farmers.

Her enemies are those who would harm children and the defenseless and destroyers of crops. Her nemesis is Astaroth, the Devil of Poison.

Her priests preach her word while serving as physicians, surgeons, midwives and  orphan-wardens.

Clerics of Tayv fall into two camps. They may be wandering mystics who travel from town to town, maintaining the physical and spiritual health of the people; or they may be Rangers, traveling into the wilderness to explore, tame and civilize it. Tayv is not the goddess of the woodland or of nature, but of human life and the sown earth.

Her worship is found everywhere, but is strongest in rural areas, where her priests are pillars of the community and centers of town life. She is at once the giver of life and the purifier. Fire is a favored tool of her clergy.

Jalla (yah-la) - God of Dreams and Magic, the Mad Sage

Depicted as a wizened man in a long robe carrying a walking staff and a large book. Statues and paintings may show him in red, white, purple, blue or orange, as artists can’t seem to agree on a single color scheme.

Jalla is the god of dreams and magic, guide of mages and sorcerers. His enemies are nightmares, insanity, and the people who bring them into the world. His nemesis is Andras, Devil of Madness, although some scholars believe that the two have a more dual relationship.

Jalla is the strangest and least worshiped of the gods. However, his acolytes make up some of the most influential and powerful individuals in the world. He has no priests, clerics or scripture. Instead, he has the grudging respect of magic-users, for he was the first of them. He receives the prayers of artists, inventors, mystics and wizards, all of whom ask for inspiration.

This inspiration comes in their sleep, chaotic, unpredictable and unreliable. But those who manage to parse the dream-signs can access a sliver of a god’s unbounded creativity. The most willful of his followers can take control of their own dreams, explore them, and unlock the great potential that exists within the human mind.

In recorded history, there exist five mages so powerful that they uncovered the secret of magic, virtually becoming gods in their own right. They have been called to the personal service of Jalla, and are rarely seen back on Earth.

Many believe that dreams exist in a physical place, and that it is possible to enter it while awake. It is called the Faery, and is the home of the Fae (can be used as either singular or plural, also called Faeries, literally “of the faery” and sometimes misspelled ‘fairies’). Like dreams, the land and people of this place are mercurial, capricious and incredibly strange. They are caught in a tug of war between the creative energy of Jalla and the maddening nightmares of Andras.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Court of Cats

The baron sits in his drawing-room, dipping his quill in ink without setting it to paper. This wasn’t what he had in mind when the took these lands through strength and guile. The family cat wanders in. He could have sworn the door was closed. It jumps into his lap, and sleeps there with not a care in the world. Only with that warm weight, can the baron begin to write his declaration.

Outside the supervision of an overworked milkmaid, the baron’s youngest daughter climbs up to the balcony. She balances, toddling about on it. Before a gust of wind may blow, the cat meows loudly from the door. She jumps down and chases the creature, which playfully runs about from the grabby child.

In the fortress basement, traitors gather their stock. Crossbows, poison in vials, messages declaring their intent. The cat slices their bowstrings, knocks over their vials, and, grabbing a quill from the nearby table begins to forge messages.

Folk tales tell of Old Tom Timson, who ascended to the throne of cathood from Tim Tomson, who died peacefully. Folk tales tell a good deal less about Old Tom’s court. Every law abiding cat in the world pays their respects to King Tom. From the country mousers to city strays, even the tigers of the deep jungle bow before him. His decree is enforced with claw and tooth. And he is a just king. Tigers do not eat men, and only hunt them when their territory in intruded on. The city strays and country mousers have free reign on the birds and rodents that fail to escape their grasp. Contrary to folk tales, the rat and bird kings were long ago deposed, and their people now survive as long as they can breed and do not irritate King Tom. 

He keeps regular and mutually beneficial diplomatic arrangements with the kingdoms of the fae, and respects the territories of the wild spirits. Any cat may be called to service as courier, ambassador, agent or assassin, according to their talents. The activities of the wild cats are largely unknown to mortals. But the purpose of house cats is widely known. They protect their human charges. They keep plagues and famines at bay. King Tom and his court have grown prosperous, and only slightly fat, on human labor, and they support their two-legged friends. Feline nobility are often placed in a position to care for noble human families (who perceive the relationship the other way around). Such cats ensure the wellbeing of the fief in their own subtle way. They have special relationships with children, who have not yet lost their ability to perceive the true world, and see to their proper upbringing as much as any servant or relative. 

The humans think they have domesticated cats the same way they have dogs. King Tom is content to let them think that. He is sad for the kingdom of Wolves, which has grown unbearably factionalized since he was a kitten. He remembers the last Wolf King, savage and dignified, and had close friendships with his pups. Now the humans have split them into innumerable clans, barely united by blood or behavior. He does not begrudge the humans this. By their nature, they know not what they do, but it saddens him. 

The rare cat that violates his law, or other creature that breaches the accords set by King Tom meets swift punishment. The cats have succeeded in delegating many of these responsibilities to other beings; humans who kill or mistreat cats are cast out of society, though humans do not fully understand why they do this. Other animals understand why they do so; to hunt is acceptable, but to kill cats cruelly or without need would bring the terrible wrath of King Tom on hundreds of their kind. 

In a space that lies behind curtains and between cushions, one may find the Palace of Cats. Its outer gate is surrounded by harsh wilderness, guarded fiercely by great predators. Its inner gate holds the court itself, lions, linxes, leopards, jaguars and ocelots who luxuriate in every comfort brought to them by human hands. Outside the inner sanctum are posted sphinxes, chimerae, manticores, one of every dread beast that holds Tom as its liege lord. Within, the personal court resides. Graymalkin oversees the affairs of thousands of mages, acting as the court wizard. Cat Sith is the king’s personal executioner, and he hungers for hot blood. 

And past a nondescript oak door one may, if he were to somehow bypass every other obstacle, find a cozy, candlelit room where a tawny house cat rests on a single satin pillow, pocked with claw marks from long use. King Tom Timson is the most dangerous creature in the entire palace. He must be, since cats are predators despite their pretenses to civilization, much as their human servants are. 

And he has held his throne for a long time. He yet remembers the wedding gift he offered to a young, starstruck couple named Titania and Auberon (a wreath of three-hundred herbs, if it interests you). For cats live short lives, but Tom Timson is said to be ancient by most immortal beings. Indeed, we have only folk-tales to show that there was once another king, named Tim Tomson. He sees through a hundred million eyes, feels their slicing claws and tearing fangs, and the backrubs. Yes, King Tom especially feels the backrubs. 

The New Moon

There are three kinds of people. The young, wise and foolish. The young and wise both fear nights of the new moon. If you ever hear a drunkard boast of not being afraid of such nights, you can safely consider them a fool. They only ever convince other fools anyway. 

The moon is something deeply imprinted onto people. It is, of course, central to scripture, but even wild children raised by animals have been known to revere the moon, and keep close track of its phases. Unlike its golden counterpart, the silver is not so constant. Full moons are nights of celebration, festivals in honor of the light that protects humanity. 

New moons are the opposite. Even the least superstitious bar their doors and windows on such nights, and many draw lines of salt and flour on thresholds, the most desperate slaughtering a sheep or chicken and warding their doors with its blood. Only the very brave or the aforementioned fools stay out beyond sunset. If you remain awake outdoors without breaking down, you’re unshakeable. You’re never the same after that. 

This is when nightmares come out to play. When demons walk the streets of the world’s noisiest and busiest cities, silent and deserted. By the dawn whole fields are blighted, nobles poisoned, homes burned, entire families torn to bloody viscera. Violent crime skyrockets. Even behind bars and salt-lines, safety cannot be guaranteed. More than one family has locked up for the night before finding one of their own struck with madness. 

Solstices are stranger. If a new moon falls near the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, this is taken as a sign of divine aid, a horrible situation ameliorated. But if it falls near the winter solstice, as it does once every generation, all hell breaks loose. Often people brighten the longest, darkest night of a decade with bonfires; they either burn out of control or get used to burn heretics and warlocks at the stake. 

In point: be afraid of moonless nights. 


The Night doesn’t care about us. That’s a good thing.

The Sun cares about us. The Moon cares about us. The stars, if nothing else, engage with humanity. The Night doesn’t. 

Calling it ancient doesn’t cut it. Night is an elderly matriarch before which the Sun and Moon are petulant children and the Earth is a newborn infant. Humanity doesn’t even factor in. We aren’t insects or parasites living on the Earth. We are the ephemeral breeze that blows for a moment and dissipates. Even if we could make ourselves noticed, we would be gone before anything could be done. 

There are some particularly crazy wizards (in wizard circles the craziest tend to be right) who claim to have interacted with, spoken with the Night. It would be more accurate to say that they saw the Night’s reflection through a spyglass, and the experience just about broke them. They also claim that it is fighting a war against something, a war fought by flinging large moons at the opponent over the course of millennia. 

So be grateful it doesn’t care about us. 

Death Curses

The wizard’s death curse is a common superstition, used as a bogeyman by parents in the city and in the country, to teach children not to get on the wrong side of a mage. There are plenty of good reasons not to do that, but the death curse is not limited to wizards. Anyone, without any magical knowledge at all, can cast a death curse. It can be done once and only once, at a great cost. 

Death curses have a main effect and a side effect. The side effect is always the same. It destroys your legacy. Within a few days of your death your loved ones forget who you were. After some months any book that mentioned you or your works mysteriously burns or disappears. In a few years anything you built or accomplished falls into ruin, in one way or another. Your children become wanderers with no knowledge of you. And after a new generation is born, any evidence you ever existed is erased. 

Nobody knows if this is the work of a devil, a particularly strong spirit, or an immutable law of the cosmos. The phenomenon  is rare, and not well understood by anyone except wizards. None of the gods have fessed up to knowing anything about it. But it is known. Upon your death, you have a choice; let your death stand, or willingly erase your entire legacy to bring about one final, potent act on the person who wronged you most. 

This is the main effect. The curse is more powerful the more of a legacy you would have had. A peasant’s curse is not comparable to that of an emperor. But then again, the emperor has less reason to cast it. Such a hex is rare not only because it is difficult to cast, but because it is difficult to earn it. Even the most vile crimes are not expected to be repaid with a death curse. You’re already dead. It would cost you all you had left to cast it. The person who earns a death curse, no matter how horrible the consequences may be, is not a sympathetic figure. 

Appropriately, the curse most often involves the target’s legacy as well. Sometimes the effects are duplicated, so the target watches as everyone forgets him, and anything he ever did comes to nothing. Another favorite is the ruin of the target’s bloodline, cursing them to be monsters or pariahs. 

The Benevolent and Sinister Order of the Fox

They are everywhere. They know everybody. Their magic is powerful. If you’re a mage of any great talent in the city of Byzantium, you will soon have to deal with the Benevolent and Sinister Order of the Fox.

Of course, dealing with them tends to include being invited over for wine and cheese while they discuss the terms of your membership.


 The Foxes are a secret society of occultists. Most of them are aristocrats, with little if any magic talent of their own, for whom the Order serves as a social club. Knowing about the Order, let alone being a member separates the ‘real’ aristocracy of Byzantium from the pretenders. Some know, few are in it. It’s the city’s most exclusive and mysterious social scene. They put on feasts, concerts, and the odd orgy. They ply the more fashionable, mind-expanding drugs. They reveal spells and secrets beyond the veil (real magic, but rarely more than cantrips and knowledge trite to any wizard) to members. They do host the young, progressive elite, though many of the older and conservative nobles have been members for decades. If you’re not attending at least one of their parties a month, really, how are you spending your time?

Entry this way is quite difficult. On the other hand, mages of even moderate ability are actively sought out for membership into the inner circle. Even most members don’t know about it. It is composed of the magically gifted, as well as a handful of trusted aristocrats. They determine the direction of the organization, new memberships, and keep the mystique of the Order without breaking any laws. There are numerous conspiracy theories that posit the Foxes as the true masters of the city, or perhaps the world. Such rumors are mostly unfounded.

The Foxes, fundamentally, are built to benefit mages at the expense of the city’s upper crust. As such, their events often serve dual purposes. Their celebrations are often created to gather particular psychic energies for rituals. Their membership fees go to buying spell components, if they don’t receive these as gifts from the local merchant kings.

In Your Campaign

The Foxes slot in nicely to any large city with nobles and merchants aplenty. They’re not necessarily malevolent, but easily can be, or can be taken over from the inside by cults. They’re even more interesting as allies. Are your PCs invited to a feast where a ritual goes wrong, putting dozens of nobles in a coma? Has a member stopped paying his dues, revealing a doppelganger has taken his place?