Individuals join animal cults because they already associate themselves with the ethos symbolised by the animal cult. Once they have found a cult and been initiated, they may try to rise in status (level) within the cult. This should be done by keeping a ‘shadow experience point total’. When the PC/NPC gains experience points, the DM must rule how many of these were due to actions that were completed in the idiom of the cult. These are then added to the ‘shadow experience point total’.
The comparative power of totem spirit is directly linked to the number of believers in the area. This will tend to make many animal cults local, ie amongst the Hurgilin of Northern Teddin, the cult of the basilisk is strongly represented. However high on the central plateau, away from the home range of the creatures, their cult powers are much diminished. The same applies to the northern Frunze and cult of the White Bear. Conversely, the cult of the Horse, although in practicality the preserve of the nobility and ilin classes and therefore not strongly represented, is nonetheless spread throughout the Perran Empire.
There are only seven levels of power within a cult; at the higher levels, members will be expect to assist with cult business and will become increasingly involved with other cult members, schemes and policies. Someone of seventh level will effectively be a priest of the cult and will lead a perhaps secret double life, pursuing their own profession and also devoting perhaps as much as half of their time to the cult. Of course, breaking free of one’s home area will avoid the need for this level of commitment. However it is also likely that the totem spirit will wax and wane as one travels. Therefore adherents should not expect their powers to work full when they are out of the normal range of their totem spirit.
Notes on Cult powers:
Level 0: Identify
This allows the member to identify the animal of the cult that he or she has just joined. Some cultures may have secret cults whose actual animal is unknown to any except initiated members. It would also provide a bonus to actually identifying the cult animal if one were disguised, hidden, cloaked or otherwise camouflaged in some way. It would also identify like creatures. Ie the Fox cultist of the Flanness would be able to identify the arctic fox of the far north and the coyote of the dry mountains of the south as being the same totem spirit. This power is latent and works regardless whenever the member is awake.
Level 1: Communicate
This power allows communication with the totem animalitself. Assuming the creature is predisposed to wait around, simple communication may be attempted; this can only be basic ideas within the experience of the animal, most will not understand anything more complex than ‘are you hurt ?’ or ‘run away’ etc. At higher levels when the totem spirit itself is contacted, this power is required in order to communicate effectively.
Level 2: Locate
This power requires 100% activity for each round during which it is attempted. The Character will pick up the nearest creature or strongest concentration first. The searcher will also have rough idea whether the contact is young or old, hungry, hunting, nursing etc. As a rough guide the DM should allow only two adjectives for the first contact and only one thereafter. If the power is continued to be used, it will seek out in a circular fashion with the searcher at the centre. The power will end at the extreme range of the totem spirit. The radius will increase diameter at a speed dependant of the area being searched and the number of successful locations. As the pattern is circular the rate at which the search is done will become progressively slower, this is left to the DM to adjudicate. This power could conceivably be blocked or hampered by other activity in the spirit world.
Level 3: Hold
This power will cause the animal to freeze on the spot and not move, attack or flee. It requires 100% activity during the first round and 50% activity thereafter in order for the creature to remain ‘held’. Touching the creature, regardless of who does it and why, breaks the charm. The creature does not get a saving throw against this power.
Level 4: Summon
This ‘locates’ the nearest creature/closest concentration, as described above. The nominated animal will then proceed at it’s normal travelling speed to the character. The animal will be generally well disposed to the cult member when it arrives, although this may fade as the animal’s true nature reasserts itself. This will be much quicker for example with aggressive predators than with less naturally aggressive creatures. ie, 1 melee rd for wyverns/basilisk, 1 turn for wolves/griffins, 10 turns for horses/deer. The creature does not get a saving throw against this power.
Level 5: Command
This enables the cultist to issue a one time command to the cult animal. The animal will then do it’s utmost to complete the task although not at the expense of it’s own live or that of any of it’s fellows. Attempting such a command is likely to gain the commander the enmity of the rest of the cult. This does not preclude commands to fight or slay, indeed they may be the very nature of some cult animals. The command must be an easy to understand, uncomplicated task with minimal abstract content. The creature does not get a saving throw against this power.
Level 6: Assume form
In order to use this power the cultist must be naked apart from their cult symbol. The transformation takes one turn of 100% activity. Changing back into their natural form does take 100% activity but only takes one round and does not involve the massive outlay in power points that the initial transformation does. However it should be noted that should the cultist run out of power points whilst in animal form, involuntary reversion to one’s normal form is not avoidable. This should be an especial cause for concern for cultists of avian life forms. The transformation does turn the cultist into the actual animal of the same sex and equivalent physique. The attributes are then the cults to employ, poison for snake and wyvern cultists, the power of flight for avians, enhanced senses for wolf and fox cultists. Some cult rituals will require the animal form to be assumed.
Level 7: Perform ritual
Different cults will have their own unique rituals that should be performed at certain times. This power is needed for those rituals to be effective in powering and sustaining the cult. The most obvious use is the initiation of new members. Without this power, no new members can be added and therefore the cult will die out. Teaching this power for the first time disconnected the totem spirit and forced it into the spirit world permanently (unless allowed to manifest itself though other means, eg the cult)
A cult member should carry the symbol of their cult with them, preferably wearing on their person, be it openly or not. This symbol is often a part of the actual animal itself. This may be one of many such fetishes gathered by the higher level members of the cult form dead animals for this purpose. Occasionally the cult symbol will be more symbolic and made out some other material that may or may not have any connections to the cult. Receipt of such a symbol is the culmination of the initiation ceremony.
The symbol is required as a focus for all off the cult powers except identify. Some may be magically enhanced, either as deliberately created magic items, or because of the long history of being used as a ritual focus.
Sometimes an animal cult will become pre-eminent in an area. These people will then become known as the dog/eagle/goat people. Their totem animal may become part of the tribe and the bones of the animals may also find their way into the communal tomb, further tying the people to their totem spirit. The Flanne do not have any qualms about this practice as they already live in symbiosis with the animal (indeed, with all animals, plants, rocks etc) and so mixing the animal spirit world with the collective of their tribal dead is viewed as strengthening both parties.
Baklunish and Oeridian Cultists
The Baklunish and Oeridians have a much more animistic belief system than the Flanne. As such, in the PEP it would have been perhaps unusual for individuals not to have been in an animal cult. However in, for example, the middle kingdoms or central Flannaess, urban life had relegated the importance of cult membership to a point where many paid only lip service to the idea and so membership was not strong in those areas. On the northern steppe, the Baklunish horse nomads were the very strongest supporters of the wolf and tiger cults, despite the fact that the tiger is a mythological creature. With the defeat of these peoples and the scattering of their people, the power of their cults and therefore of their totem spirits went into decline. Today the wolf and tiger cults are still strong, but no more so than any other cult.
Elves and animal cults
Where animal cults are followed in elven culture they are normally practised as an allied aspect to one of the Gods of the Seldarine. This is either in concert with their patron deity, augmenting their ‘normal’ religious natures or as a counter-point, to more fully round out their spiritual development.
There follows a table of the major animal cults followed in the empire an around it’s edges. There will almost certainly be others but these are the major ones.
Notes for chart:
Animal: The animal cult with the totem spirit
Attributes or Virtues: The basic attributes that membership of the cult will bolster. It is important that members only join cults where these virtues are in step with their own. Generally, for as long as a character is a cult member, they will receive a bonus equal to their existing stat bonus (if applicable) or number ranks in that area. It would apply to all areas where the cult’s interests coincide with the character’s abilities. If they leave the cult, they loose this benefit permanently. If they loose their symbol, this benefit is lost until it is recovered or a replacement obtained.
Symbol: The badge of the cult, which is borne by all cult members. Sometimes worn openly, sometimes hidden. Of course, carrying a buffalo horn it would be hard to hide such an object. And it’s carriage will mark the bearer as a cultist. A symbol may be stowed or hidden but the cult member needs to have possession of their symbol to perform any of their powers other than identify.
Area of Primacy: The areas where members might expect their cult to assist them (or at least the totem spirit to take a passing interest). It is in these areas that the character will accumulate shadow experience points.
Ethnic Prevalence: This is rough indication of the majority membership of any particular cult in 3150. The totem spirit, being ‘paw and claw’ does not care who it’s ‘thumb and fist’ cult members are, particularly. However long association, ie elves and the Griffin totem spirit; would mean that the totem spirit would be unlikely to understand (and therefore support) an orc initiate. Where two groups are shown, the first one appearing will have primacy in the cult, where they are one. In some instances, such as Dolphins and Wyverns the cults will run separately, although there is only one totem spirit.