Posted in Pantheon

Rhoga Jezeda – Goddess of the Eleventh Hour

Rhoga Jezeda

Goddess of the Eleventh Hour, Queen of Witches, the Crone
Goddess of witchcraft, revenge, disease, death
Alignment: NE
Domains: Death, Evil, Knowledge, Magic, Repose
Favoured Weapon: Magic or sickle

From a young age children are taught to fear Rhoga Jezeda, lest she come in the night and eat them. But as the children grow into adults their fear does not fade. It is said that Rhoga Jezeda knows the time and circumstances of the death of every living thing. She is also called the Goddess of the Eleventh Hour, as it is believed that she can hold back and divert death or bring it swiftly down upon her victims before their proper time.

Rhoga Jezeda is the most powerful of all witches and her sway over death does not end at preventing or hastening it. If the whispers are to be believed, followers of the Queen of Witches can beseech their goddess to raise the dead, imbuing a body with a mindless spirit, enslaving the walking dead to the witch’s will. Some believe that Rhoga Jezeda lays claim to the souls of the wicked, those who are not given proper burial rites, and those who die of disease, as a victim of vengeance, or with a desire for revenge in their hearts.

Rhoga Jezeda is the mistress of disease and those witches who take up the mantle of plaguebearer are said to bring living ruin to their bodies and devastation to all they meet, spreading infection and pestilence wherever they go. However, as she spreads disease, so can Rhoga Jezeda stave it off.

Poppets are the tools of the goddess and carers of the sick who are out of hope may fill one with spices, flowers and some small portion of the person they wish to heal – blood, nails or hair – and hang it above the bed of the stricken, offering prayers to the Witch Queen, begging her to draw the sickness away. Rumours say that if such prayers are successful the disease does not disappear but is sent down on the head of another. Others say that a prayer answered by the Goddess of the Eleventh Hour draws death closer to the one who called upon her, shaving years off their lives. Despite this, many who fear Rhoga Jezeda still turn to her in times of desperation.

Revenge is another tool of the Queen of Witches and she hears the dark desires of those who seek vengeance. Some even say that thoughts of vengeance are the whispers of Rhoga Jezeda and that each act of revenge makes her stronger. Those seeking revenge craft a poppet to represent a specific person and fill it with a portion of themselves and of the person who they wish to harm. Afterwards, they inflict on the doll the harm they wish to see befall their foe. If the desired fate cannot be depicted this way, strong thoughts are said to suffice.

Many pursue this path as a method of private revenge, not believing that their acts of violence on the poppet would actually manifest on their victim. Most often, the poppet is filled only with straw, eschewing the supposedly vital elements. However, when ill fortune befalls those who are known to have wronged someone, whispers of poppets and witchcraft are usually quick to follow. Some say that the Witch Queen revels in revenge and asks no payment for it. However, like with the casting out of disease, other rumours persist that the Witch Queen cuts short the lifelines of those who call upon her for revenge.

For those who pray to Rhoga Jezeda not to placate the Crone, but in true worship of her, the spreading of disease and practice of witchcraft appear to be the common means of veneration. Rhoga Jezeda sees and manipulates the threads of the future and her followers often seem to have a strange assurance of what is to come. Some say that her followers spend much of their time ensuring that the future Rhoga Jezeda favours comes to pass. Witches who reside near other settlements often also craft poppets, charms, tonics, powders, cure-alls and elixirs to offer to those in need, furthering the influence of witchcraft by preying on desperate souls.

Rhoga Jezeda is depicted as an ancient wrinkled crone, often holding a poppet and an hourglass and peering into a black cauldron.  The Goddess of the Eleventh Hour is also commonly shown brandishing a gleaming pair of silver scissors and contemplating an intricate web of threads of lives and fate. She is always depicted with a clouded right eye which is blind to the present but with which she sees the future.

The Queen of Witches features in many children’s stories and is usually shown living in a deep dark forest, the crowded shelves of her hovel lined with books of witchcraft and vile recipes as well as jars and bottles of horrid ingredients. Rhoga Jezeda has no true symbol by which her servants recognise each other, but the blinding of the right eye and wearing a poppet or a pair of scissors around the neck or waist is a common sign of a devoted witch.

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Posted in Pantheon

Istrilonius – God of the Long Game

Istrilonius

God of the Long Game, The Great Strategist
God of planning, strategy, foresight and cunning
Alignment: LN
Domains: Knowledge, Law,  Nobility, Trickery, War
Favoured Weapon: Ranseur or crossbow

Istrilonius is the patient far-seeing god of planning and strategy. He is slow to anger and slow to act. He takes stock of the situation at hand and considers all possible outcomes and futures before putting the first stages of a detailed plan into action. Istrilonius’ followers pride themselves on always being a few steps ahead of the game, and always having one or more contingency plans.

It is difficult to catch one of the Great Strategist’s followers off-guard. While they are not adept at reacting quickly to unexpected situations, the number of these they encounter are few, as they learn to expect the unexpected. They may be seen to react quickly, but in truth, this is simply the enacting of a plan they have prepared earlier.

Politicians, nobles, lawyers, generals, warlords, investors and con artists all seek the favour of the God of the Long Game as they cast their eyes to the future and play out their moves while making educated guesses at the future moves of their opponents. Many of Istrilonius’ followers are patient and slow to speak, carefully weighing their words before opening their mouths. His faithful also tend to come off as arrogant and self-assured, yet many prove these attitudes to be well-founded.

Many of Istrilonius’ followers are ambitious, hungry for power or other gain, but others are not so self-serving, working for the greater good, such as generals holding off invading forces, investors trying to keep a small village or business afloat, and shrewd nobles lobbying for policies to benefit the public.

Some of Istrlionus’ followers lament the fact that their lives require such great forethought, but many revel in it, finding glee in their ability to outmanoeuvre opponents, especially when they work them into a corner or no-win situation. As such, they favour what many would consider dirty tactics, seeing them instead as the weapons of the intelligent strategist. Ambushes, traps, bottlenecks, misdirection, blackmail and other such approaches are all part of the arsenal of Istrilonius’ faithful.

Istrilonius’ favour is far-reaching and difficult to predict, but always requires further planning or strategy to take advantage of. Istrilonius’ favours are offers or opportunities – an overheard conversation of a proposed coup or murder that provides the opportunity to plan for it and defuse the situation, a misstep or red herring that allows the strategic culprit to frame another, a distraction that allows a plan to be enacted to cover up damning evidence. Similarly, his wrath is served cold, difficult to avoid and strikes at the worst possible time, as well-laid plans unravel due to an unseen loophole or cunning opponent, or the final contingency plan has a great unexpected cost or falls through entirely.

Prayers to Istrilonius usually come in the form of talking out loud or silently to the god, using him as a sounding board for planning. Followers often find that targeting their preparation towards their god brings epiphanies when they have otherwise not been able to see the way forward.

Istrilonus is said to have invented the game of chess, and many of his followers play the game with religious zeal, often as part of prayer. Istrilonius himself is never depicted, but his holy symbol is a chess board four squares long turned on its corner like a diamond, to represent that he sees all things and considers them from all angles.

Many of his faithful carry and contemplate a chess piece or a carving of his holy symbol while strategising. Istrilonius has no official garb or holy weapon, though his faithful often favour polearms, such as ranseurs for the reach and options they allow and crossbows that allow them to take careful aim and bring down their opponents from afar. His followers often wear clothing of black and white or sport chequered patches or patterns on their clothing or shields. Many also model the hilts or heads of their weapons to resemble chess pieces.

When it comes to Istrilonius’ shrines, they are as varied as his followers. Built to last, they are often made of stone or steel and placed in strategic locations – either easily accessible to the faithful, or hidden from those who do not understand the importance of planning. Depending on where the shrine is located, it will serve a different purpose.

Followers seeking their god’s favour will place useful goods in a shrine and even notices for services – when several followers do this, the shrine itself becomes a place that is prepared for whatever is to come, allowing the faithful to visit it for provisions, always trading, never simply taking. Shrines on the road through barren wilderness will contain food and water or notes about where these can be scavenged, shrines on battlefields will contain the notes and maps of generals past, while shrines frequented by con artists may contain passwords, notes of how to contact fences and information about guard patrols.

However, the shrines are not the community touchstones that they appear to be. In fact, they are but another way Istrilonius tests the cunning of his faithful. His followers are often very ambitious and so the shrines are usually filled with red herrings to mislead opponents and further the plans of whoever placed the goods or information there. Istrilonius actually enjoys such misdirection and power plays, and those who partake of a shrine’s contents should always do so with careful consideration.

Posted in Pantheon

Swift – God of the Moment

SwiftHoly Symbol of Swift

God of the Moment, Lord of Now
God of wit, swift action, living in the moment
Alignment: CN
Domains: Chaos, Charm, Liberation, Luck, Trickery
Favoured Weapon: Dagger

Hearing and deftly catching an unexpected projectile, responding spontaneously with a perfect witty retort, making a split-second decision and running with it to success – these are all times when Swift is with us. God of the Moment, Swift favours those who live and act in the now, not fretting, second-guessing and missing opportunities due to hesitation. It is Swift’s followers who most often make literal leaps of faith.

Swift has a simple outlook and discourages over thinking. His followers espouse the belief that the simplest answer is often the correct one. His doctrine is not lengthy or rambling; it is to the point like all of his teachings. Known as The Only Rules, the doctrine of the God of the Moment says to ‘trust your gut’, ‘seize the moment’ and ‘live in the now’. He asks little more of his worshipers than to follow and live by these rules, thanking him with spontaneous gifts when doing so benefits them.

Swift has no temples or shrines – or perhaps it should be said that he has an endless number. Followers of the God of the Moment who seek Swift’s aid simply utter The Only Rules as they follow them. When things go their way they sometimes scrawl Swift’s symbol on any available surface – in condensation from a mug of ale, with blood on a wall, or just with a foot in the dirt. It is a simple symbol, befitting the god and can be scribed with haste, drawing a quick zig-zag slashed with a single line separating the peaks and troughs. Swift’s followers do not contemplate the symbol in great depth, but most believe it represents the ups and downs and the many moments of life to be seized and lived.

Daggers are Swift’s favoured weapons due to their simple yet versatile nature, able to be used for slashing, stabbing, gouging, sawing and even throwing. He who wields a dagger or two can react instantly to any threat of violence. His followers also favour loose fitting garments that allow freedom of movement, portable food and drink, and temporary accommodation that allows them to come and go on a whim.

Swift’s worshippers are often terse or quick-witted when speaking and seldom labour the point or dwell on one topic for very long. Despite this, they are not all erratic flitting butterflies. Many live in the moment by savouring the now, tasting each morsel of food while watching the other tavern patrons, or sitting peacefully under a tree and enjoying every second of watching the clouds in their ever-shifting forms.

Many of Swift’s followers are beggars and the down-trodden, never sure of where their next meal is coming from, living every moment of their uncertain lives like it could be their last. Thieves just as commonly worship Swift, as they are often on the run and must live by their wits to survive, make snap decisions and throw themselves into danger with no assurance of survival. Thieves whisper to Swift as they pray that their timing is just right to rob a joint, take a mark, cut a purse or pick a pocket.

Swift is a subtle god who shows few overt signs. Instead, he offers opportunities for the quick and spontaneous. Hearing the snap of a crossbow string just in time to drop to the ground, sudden inspiration of just the right thing to say to the beautiful stranger or looming guardsman, the perfect distraction that lasts but a few seconds, a momentary setback for a foe who had the upper hand – these are the ways in which Swift shows his favour. However, they are fleeting and if the opportunity is missed or passed up, there are no second chances.

Similarly, those who wrong or anger Swift will feel his retribution in short sharp stings. Sudden disaster or ruin are the most common ways that Swift dishes out his wrath, often using someone who is living more in the moment than the victim to deliver this punishment. A successful venture unexpectedly falls through, a weapon jams or slips in the wielder’s grip, hesitation leads to greater trouble or makes things worse, someone else reacts quicker and gets the prize, the glory or the freedom – when such woes befall us, it is Swift’s hand that strikes.

(Compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)

Posted in Pantheon

Tarsis – Goddess at the Gate

I’ve recently been thinking about threshold or liminal gods. It’s a strange concept to have an entire god – or several – dedicated to doorways. However, liminality also refers to being “between” places, times or states. I created Tarsis – Goddess at the Gate – as an attempt to create a coherent threshold deity for use in roleplaying games. I’ve also included rules for using Tarsis with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and with Savage Worlds. If you find this article interesting, I suggest reading up about Hecate, who Tarsis is heavily based upon.


Tarsis

Goddess at the Gate, The Goddess Between, Watchgod
Goddess of protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
Alignment: LN
Domains: Animal*, Law, Protection, Sun, Travel
Favoured Weapon: Torch or mace
*canines only

Tarsis is a goddess of protection and vigilance. She is associated with thresholds, transitions and the between places, such as the wilderness and dangerous roads. Tarsis watches over all gates, doorways, thresholds and crossroads, though she pays special attention to those flanked by torches, adorned with her shrines or guarded by dogs.

Tarsis is able to avert demons and harmful spirits, but if offended she may refuse to avert these dangers or even drive them on against those who have wronged her. Tarsis is closely associated with dogs and they are her servants, acting as guardians in the mortal realm. It is said that when dogs howl, Tarsis is near.

Tarsis is depicted as a rugged and mature but beautiful canine-headed woman in a long dark travelling cloak, ears pricked up in alertness. She is usually shown holding a torch in each hand and is often accompanied by two ghostly glowing dogs on either side of her.

Tarsis illuminates the darkness and helps identify and protect against danger. She is the patron of guards and those who work at night. Due to her connection with the night, transitions and dogs, she is also associated with lycanthropes and it is said that those attacked by werewolves have fallen from Tarsis’ favour. On the other hand, some believe that lycanthropes are actually Tarsis’ favoured servants and being chosen to become one is a blessing from the goddess.

Tarsis is linked to transitional and transformative times in people’s lives, such as puberty, marriage, moving to a new area and starting a new venture. She is often offered prayers and small sacrifices of incense and candles during these times. Her primary sacrifice is the burning of such objects and the solemn sacrifice of dogs. If these sacrifices are carried out improperly, Tarsis can take great offense, but if done with the correct rites and respect, Tarsis will listen to prayers and bestow her blessings.

Tarsis’ holy symbol is a flame-eyed dog-head with raised ears and a ring its mouth, resmebling a door knocker. Physical holy symbols of Tarsis have hollow eyes and a place for oil, allowing them to be used as miniature lanterns. Dog-head shaped bullseye lanterns with light emanating from the eyes are also favoured by followers of Tarsis. Even the heads of the maces they use will often have a dog or flame shape or motif.

Tarsis’ shrines are never far from city gates and it is common to carve boundary markers, doorframes and gates with her image or holy symbol. Her idols and shrines are also found at crossroads, where the goddess is depicted several times, each representation watching over one of the roads. Such shrines in the wilderness always contain fires or torches and it is good luck to relight one that has burned out.

Tarsis’ servants light the streets, and none of her faithful are ever without some source of light. Tarsis often sends warning through her dog servants: the howling of a dog, a dog running from fire or a dog with a torch or lantern in its mouth. Other warnings include the banging of a gate, a flash of bright light in the darkness and the guttering out or sudden flare of torches.

Savage Worlds Conversion

  • Aspects: Protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
  • Powers: Armor, banishFC, barrier, beast friend (canines only)bless/curseFC, boost/lower trait, darksightFC, entangle, shape change (canines only), smite, speed, stun, summon allyFC (ghostly dog), teleport
  • Duties: Guard thresholds and crossroads, bring light to the darkness, keep streets and roads safe, protect those who cannot protect themselves
  • Sins: (Minor) Covering or extinguishing lights in the darkness, denying entry to people in need, allowing acts of cruelty to canines; (Major) abandoning guard duties, permanently blocking a gate or doorway; (Mortal) Knowingly allowing entry to harmful forces, killing a canine that is not part of a ritual sacrifice, defacing or destroying a shrine or carving of Tarsis.
FC = from the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion