CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Make Friends and Meet Interesting People

Cults and You

The Sacrifice by Luis Perez
This year for our Halloween month we’ve spoken a lot about monsters. A lot of times, though, the true monsters are people. You can have your psychotic serial killers and sadistic politicians but these folks are usually just one-off villains that are dealt with when they are killed and captured. More insidious than these are groups of like-minded psychopaths, especially when they form into single minded cults. This week we’re going to take a look at incorporating cults into your game.

I think that one of the best things about cults is that they can be incredibly hard to root out. Arresting or killing just one member will not stop their nefarious plans. With cult members it can become much like cutting off the head of a hydra. This gives the GM a lot of ways to react to the inevitable, outrageous idea that the PCs came up with, that actually worked. Even if the PCs kill the cult leader, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t step up and continue the group’s mission.

There are many ways for cults to form, as many as there are ways to make characters in a game. Not all of them have to be based around something occult either. Cults of personality are a great way to add a human face to your villains. These kinds of cults aren’t looking for some secret power or fostering a deity’s will, they are just sucked into the incredible charisma of another human being. It could be a politician, a would-be crime lord, a younger noble not set to inherit his family’s estates, or really any kind of megalomaniacal person with an incredible force of will.

Some interesting cult leaders for Pathfinder could be a fallen paladin who doesn’t believe his former deity is doing enough and has taken matters into his own hands. Bards make excellent cult leaders, the Celebrity and Demagogue archetypes make excellent leaders of men. Although any class could be the leader of a cult, a high charisma and ranks in social skills like diplomacy, bluff, intimidate, and sense motive will be important to your force of personality.

Divine influence is probably one of the major way cults are formed. Technically followers of the Empyreal Lords are members of mystery cults as these beings have no true churches. We don’t think of these cults of good beings in the same manner in which we look at cults of evil deities, Demon Lords, Daemon Harbingers, and Archdevils. Devotees to these sources of divine power can either follow the being’s general philosophy or dedicate themselves to one aspect of being’s portfolio.

Leaders of these dark congregations are usually imbued with some kind of divine power. Clerics, anti-paladins, oracles, and warpriests are all excellent choices for leaders of these factions. Warpriest in particular has a great archetype specifically called Cult Leader. Since each of these classes rely on charisma in some manner it’s simple to see how they might gather a following for their chosen deities.

Some cults won’t be based around just humanoids seeking temporal power or the will of a godlike being. These oddball societies can have just about any focus. Perhaps a group looking to plump the meaning of life by delving into the occult might fill you cultist needs. The mesmerist Cult Master  archetype works well for this kind of grouping. More powerful but not quite deific beings might have sects of worshipers, perhaps a powerful dragon could be the leader of his own cult of personality. Other cults might just worship something as a god even though it has no real power. An unintelligent monster, the husk of a fallen starship, a giant stone that glows in the right light can all be interesting things to have (probably insane) people follow almost religiously.

There are a million and one other ways to form cults in your game, but hopefully the creative juices have started flowing. Have you used cults in your games before? Who have been the leaders of the sects and splinter groups? Why would you choose a cult over a single BBEG (big bad evil guy)?

If you have been inspired to add a cult to your game or expand upon one you already had, please consider becoming a contributor to my Patreon. If you’d like to join the ever growing CRB community you can find me and other like-minded individuals (no we aren’t a cult I swear) on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. As always my inbox is open on all platforms for questions, comments, and further discussions.

The opening illustration was created by artist Luis Perez. You can find him on Twitter and on Instagram at luisperezart.

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