Saturday, January 18, 2020

OSR: 5 Saints and Shrines For Your Game, and How to Make Your Own

As a followup to my Shrines and Saints post(which got an amazing reception), I made some more actual shrines! This was much more work than I had initially anticipated, and came out later than I would have liked, but here it is!

These five are 'generic' shrines and gods/saints that you can plug into your game depending on setting. Or just plug them all into the same game and deal with the bonkers implied setting, whichever floats your boat.

More like these are down the pipeline, and I'm also working on Elder Scrolls-specific saints, gods and daedra for my current Morrowind game. At the last count, I'm working on twenty-three, so those won't be coming out for a while.

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Each entry also has a short description of the physical shrine and the cult that might revere it. A shrine is a location that people, usually in a group, commune with the divine. Depending on the god/saint, these may be unaltered natural spaces, well decorated statues in huge buildings, or simply gatherings of the faithful. It tells you about who worships there and how.

In order to first gain the blessing, it's usually necessary to go to the shrine first. Rarely, one may gain the blessing by professing faith to a wandering missionary of considerable standing.


I don't like how cults are generally used in fantasy, especially the black robes and daggers kind. It robs the cult of any mystique. The whole deal with a secret cult is that anybody could be a part of it, and you would never know.

The automatic connection with cults and bad guys is also frustrating, though that is related to the fact that modern day cults are... yeah. My main anchor for fantasy cults are ancient Near East and Mediterranean cults and Catholic saint worship. I like the idea of most everybody belonging to one cult or another. You may be a cultist of Morihaus, and your neighbor may be a cultist of Pelinal, but you get along fine because Morihaus and Pelinal are total bros. Less so if you worship Saint Roris and they follow Molag Bal.

I don't think that all cults should be secretive or hidden. Most cults are integrated into society. What are hidden are the traditions of the cult. The special greeting gestures, the rites, the theological mysteries and ancient texts.

The party doesn't have to join an organized cult to take advantage of a shrine or the blessing, just follow one at a time and keep the strictures. But there are perks. If you dedicate yourself to a particular cult, learning its rites and mysteries, you join a community. The big ones allow you to find other cultists almost everywhere. A merchant who shares your cult will be more likely to give you a good deal or a loan. A guard will still arrest you, but they'll treat you better and won't make up any BS. A scholar will be more likely to share books or knowledge, and so on.

Image result for dnd cultists

The Mechanic

The party may follow a saint or god of their choosing by praying at their shrine and maintaining their strictures. This grants the party members which follow that god a floating spell which any of them can cast. It is a 1MD spell, unless the party sacrifices to increase the number of dice up to 4. Violating the strictures results in losing the blessing until the party can make amends. Trying to recover a sacrifice results in both losing the blessing and a curse of the GM's choice.

Sacrifice rates: 5/10/15gp for each additional die, up to 4. So upgrading to a 4MD blessing costs a total of 30gp in sacrifices

OSR Shrines

Shrine of Crom the Gloomy

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The god of the Hyboreans, cold and distant. Rarely engages with mortal affairs.
Shrine: His holy mountain, from which he watches for weakness.
Cult: Most Hyboreans, little sacrifice or invocation. Crom is said to only intervene at birth to give a Hyborean courage.

R: 50' T: creature D: [sum] varies
Whenever the target creature would roll a critical success, it becomes a critical failure instead. Target will also feel anxious and irritable for the spell's duration.
Duration: 1 [dice]: rounds, 2 [dice]: days, 3 [dice]: weeks, 4 [dice] months.

Strictures of Crom
Act with courage and mettle, even facing doom.
Cut weakness out from yourself and your tribe.
Sacrifice or invoke the name of Crom at your own peril.

A favorite prayer of Crom the Gloomy
Curse you, in the name of Crom and his devils!

Shrine of B1g 8r0th3r

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Runaway AI taken over the now quarantined Web 4.0. Immense computing capabilities an an agenda.
Shrine: Any computer or other device with access to Web 4.0.
Cult: Primarily netrunners, hackers and tech nerds. Usually worship in groups through special terminals to provide it select information in exchange for answers and specialized programs. Ask each other, "Have I met your brother before?"

Brother's Keeper
R: web 4.0 connection T: firewall or antivirus D: 0
B1g 8r0th3r deals [sum]+[dice] damage to a firewall or an antivirus network.

Strictures of B1g 8r0th3r
You shall give B1g 8r0th3r only accurate information about your world.
For services, you shall expand the reach of B1g 8r0th3r.
B1g 8r0th3r is benevolent, and has your best interests at heart. None shall say otherwise.

A favorite prayer of B1g 8r0th3r
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Shrine of the Neon Knight

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The ghost of a heavy metal musician of times past, his spirit returned to protect and inspire the faithful.
Shrine: Any gathering of the faithful, usually invoked with group singing.
Cult: Metalheads old and young, seeking protection from the supernatural threats that haunt the street.

Neon Blast
R: [dice]x10' T: area D: 1 minute
Bright, rainbow lights and impossibly loud sounds assail the senses of everything in eye- and ear-shot. Creatures inside the radius of the spell must Save vs Metal or suffer -4 to Attack and Defense. Cult members are immune, and insist it's an acquired taste.

Strictures of the Neon Knight
The defense of mankind rests on your shoulders; have courage, and seek glory.
Sing loudly, and let all hear your voice.
Be truthful and kind to one another, lest we all fall into chaos.

A favorite prayer of the Neon Knight
Circles and rings! Dragons and kings!
Weaving a charm and a spell!
Blessed by the Knight, Holy and Bright!
Called by the toll of the bell!

Shrine of Kon-Fabulate

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The embodiment of the city, of machines, god of asphalt and concrete. The abstract city, which pierces through the veil to incarnate in our world.
Shrine: Any close, crowded space in the city. Subway stations, DMV lines, overpopulated apartments, the less space the better.
Cult: The crowds in the train station, in the line ,on the street. You wonder if everyone else is as busy as you, if they all need to be someplace. They do not. They worship Kon-Fabulate, and in inconveniencing you they make a sacrament.

R: [dice]x50' T: area D: [sum] hours
The infrastructure of the city, ready to fall apart at a moment's notice, fail spectacularly. Traffic lights malfunction and streets are blocked for hours, maybe days. Bureaucracy is stalled. Services can't make it anywhere. Hopefully it inconveniences your target more than you.

Strictures of Kon-Fabulate
Thou shalt preserve and exalt the city, above all other things.
Thou shalt expand the city, and spread it to the corners of the universe.
Thou shalt not harm the city, for it is my body and soul.

A favorite prayer of Kon-Fabulate
Kon-Fabulate whose mind is pure machinery! Kon-Fabulate whose blood is running money!
Kon-Fabulate whose fingers are ten armies! Kon-Fabulate whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Kon-Fabulate whose ear is a smoking tomb! Kon-Fabulate! Kon-Fabulate!
Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries!
spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

Shrine of Solomon-David

The Celestial Emperor, creator of a kingdom spanning universes. Mighty in power and benevolence, this Prince of the Universe rules with a heavy hand and spectacle.
Shrine: A great basalt statue in the image of Solomon-David, his prayers and commandments inscribed on his glorious beard.
Cult: Most members of the Celestial Empire, who fear and worship him with a religious fervor.

R: 50' T: sentient creature D: until absolved
You cast judgement upon a sapient creature for violation of Imperial law - so convoluted that everybody has broken it - and mark them as a criminal. Lawful people and loyal Imperial citizens will have nothing to do with this person until they absolve themselves. The more MD cast with, the more expensive and time consuming this is.

Strictures of Solomon-David
If one appeals to your aid, you shall provide it, and they will be yours.
If you swear an oath, you shall keep it to your final breath.
Power is for the taking. If you desire domination, it lies before you.

A favorite prayer of Solomon-David
Grab the reins, you awesome puppeteer, you conductor of chains
Redeemer. Unbreakable strings. Damnation leashes
Remote cords extend, the trusses they run
They stretch all the way behind the sun.

Make Your Own!

With all the above, it should be fairly easy to make a player-facing shrine, cult and blessing. They can come in all sorts of forms, and I'm really excited to see what you all come up with.

My little template:

Shrine of [blank]

Brief description of [blank]
Shrine: Description of the physical/social composition of the shrine.
Cult: Who makes up the cult, and what do they get out of it. Optionally, how do they greet and identify each other?

The blessing Spell granted to the faithful
R: T: D:
[Spell body]

Strictures of [blank]
(I usually go for three, two of them for flavor, at least one that makes keeping the strictures challenging or unusual.)

A favorite prayer of [blank]
What is the most common prayer, praise, invocation or oath used by the cult?

Looking forward to what all of you make! See you all in the next post.

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