Monday, June 24, 2013

Campaign Design - The Grym

The Grym (also y'Grym)

Followers of the druidic tradition believe that the most powerful force in the universe is the world power, specified by the faith as the Grym, which represents the very shape of creation. While the devotees of the Lords of Heaven (and their evil opposition among the cults of the Lords of Hell) ascribe divinity to ethereal spirits divorced from, but holding authority over, the mundane world, those who follow the druidic teachings see the divine in the very elements of the world: The sun, the sky, the water, the earth, the trees and the other elements of the natural world. Druids consider the various spiritual beings honored by other faiths simply to be subordinate manifestations of the Grym. Although most common among shifter communities, where it is often the dominant faith, the druidic tradition has adherents of all races, mostly humans, halflings, and dwarves, but also including giants, gnomes, goblins, and orcs among others. Druids are almost all unified by their shared knowledge of the ancient Aralaic language, but on most other issues one can find few commonalities that could credibly be said to extend throughout the faith.

Druids teach the power of the natural world, and claim they draw their abilities from it. According to the druids, only by unlocking the secrets hidden in the mountains, forests, and rivers can true understanding be gained. Like the devotees of Füllar, druids believe that prophecy can be found in the movements of the stars, but they also believe that omens and portents can be found in the sounds of the wind, the fall of rocks from a mountain, the shape of a tree, the currents in a lake, and the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Druid shrines are typically sacred groves, hidden pools, natural springs, or rock formations, but adherents to this faith also erect henges, dolmens, menhirs, and other arrangements of standing stones to mark important holy sites. Detailing all of the druidic beliefs is impossible, since they share so few universal tenets, and many druid circles oppose one another; in rare cases, opposing circles have been known to settle their differences via bloodshed.

Druids believe that a number of religious rites must be performed to honor the Grym, and if done incorrectly will spell disaster. Druids lead and direct these rituals, which constitute an important part of daily life in druidic communities, usually involving complex invocations. These rites are learned during the long years of training. While performing the rituals a druid must not eat or drink, must wear the correct clothing, and must follow a variety of other specific taboos. Unlike most other churches, there is only a loose governing authority over the druids, and the rites vary from place to place, and some druid circles have dark and sometimes frightening interpretations of the appetites they attribute to the Grym. Druid practices come in a variety of forms: Because the Grym is an all-encompassing entity, circles can be found that variously espouse the divinity of the orderly, random, benevolent, or even malevolent nature of the world power.

In organization, druids are far less centralized than the priesthoods of other faiths. Each druid begins his career as a member of a druid circle (and unless he becomes a hierophant, may stay one), a loose collection of like-minded druids connected by ties of family, clan, tribe, philosophy, or merely locality. Some druid circles are tied to a particular location, and thus they may have many members located in a single area; others may be devoted to a particular belief or philosophy, and thus be comprised of a handful of members scattered across a vast area. Once in a while, a druid finds that his beliefs conflict with those of his circle, and in such cases a druid might seek out a new circle to join or, rarely, establish a new circle. While some details of practice and minor tenets of belief vary from circle to circle, the similarities generally far outnumber the differences, a condition probably attributable to the overarching authority of the hierophants, a council of powerful druids that theoretically has authority over all of the various circles. Within druid circles, there are generally four ranks of members. Although these ranks roughly correspond to the druid class level of the member (due to the requirements of the ordeals), the correlation is not exact, and some junior members of druid circles may not even be members of the druid class at all – adepts, bards, and rangers are the most common non-druid members. Some druids transcend their circles and are elevated to the rank of hierophant, but there is no formal procedure for choosing a hierophant, and the entire process, such as there is, is shrouded in mystery. The ranks are:

Initiate: Initiate are those members studying to enter the ranks of druids and become ovates. They spend much of his time studying under more experienced members of the druidic order. They are not considered full druids until they complete their basic studies and undergo the ovedic ordeal, at which they must demonstrate their skills and learning. Before an initiate may attempt the ovedic ordeal, he must spend at least seven years in study, but some circle members remain initiates throughout their careers, for example, a ranger who is a member of a druid circle might remain an initiate his entire life.

Ovate: Ovates are members of the first level of a druidic circle that is actually composed of individuals who are considered priests of the druidic faith. An ovate has learned all of the legends, stories, histories, and myths that make up the religious foundation of the druidic faith, and has mastered the ability to tap into the power of the Grym and wield power as a result. Ovates are usually members of the druid class, but on occasion, a powerful adept, bard, or ranger might pass the test and become an ovate.

Ollave: An ovate who has trained for fourteen years may undertake the ollave ordeal. An ollave is regarded as a full priest, and accorded significant authority in druid circles. Authority does not come without responsibility, and an ollave is expected to act as a judge, counselor, mediator, or diviner if requested. Ollaves are expected to lead community rituals, and interpret omens, dreams, and signs. Ollaves are almost always members of the druid class, the requirements of the ollave ordeal virtually preclude members of any other class from passing the test.

Druid: While ovates and ollaves are accorded the rank of priests in the druid circle, and thus are technically druids, only the highest ranking priests bear the title druid. An ollave who have trained for at least seven more years (for a total of twenty-one years of training) may attempt to become a full druid. This requires yet another, more difficult ordeal and the assent of the other members of the circle. All members of a circle of druid rank are members of the druid class, and are usually significantly powerful members as well. Full druids are responsible for the governance of their circle, and charged with overseeing the most important issues confronting the circle. Druids are the judges of last resort, the diviners and soothsayers of the most important portents, and so forth.

Hierophant: The hierophants are a shadowy group of powerful priests that transcend the normal circles that druids normally work within. The exact number of this secretive rank is not generally known. Though they are "above" the druid circles, they don't really exert authority over them, but instead seem to be primarily concerned with pursuing the hidden esoteric and obscure mysteries rather than engaging in power politics. Once in a great while, the ranks of the heirophants gather together to debate some pressing matter, and on even rare occasions they have been moved to act in concert to stave off some dire threat, but these instances are so uncommon that none have taken place within living memory.

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