“…he must pay God a twofold adoration, one spiritual, which consists in the interior devotion of the soul, the other corporeal, which manifests itself in the outward form of worship, for there is no inward sentiment or feeling which man is not wont to express outwardly by some suitable gesture or action.” (Contra Gentiles, III, cxix)
Ritual is the ceremonial practice of beseeching a higher power for intervention on your behalf, or on behalf of another. Rituals are intimately tied in with the philosophy of the religion from which they spring, and often seek to venerate and aggrandize the central figures of that religion in exchange for some consideration from those forces. The venerated texts of those religions are poured over for centuries to discover the hidden truths and meanings of the parables and stories within, to give some insight into the hidden workings of the world and its sacred or profane powers. Over time, the secrets of ritual are learned through study or revelation, and the practices of the faith are determined.
The life of a priest is one of devotion and discipline, but above all, service. Priests are members of a church or temple of some kind and not only subscribe to the same faith, but also serve as part of that organization. As such, priests have duties within their church, and these duties come with authority. The authority of a priest is both temporal and spiritual, and as such the Rank of a priest within their church also lends their prayers a measure of that divine voice. As Priests ascend in Rank, they gain access to new rituals from their gospels and the effects of the miracles that may be granted at their plea may become more pronounced. A priest performing rituals above their station is considered Vulgar.
Ritual ceremonies attempt to invoke miracles from powers unimaginably powerful in nature, and as such must be approached with the utmost care, detail, and humility. Rituals have a set of requirements that must be met, be they material, spoken, performed, or otherwise. These requirements are often difficult or expensive, and in some cases may be impossible to meet correctly. If an element is missing from the ceremony, it must be somehow replaced with the best suitable alternative and the ritual can proceed but is considered to be vulgar.
For each Vulgarity, the ritual in question is treated as if it were one Rank higher than normal for the purposes of its performance. Every individual word or significant element replaced from the “Ritual” portion of the description is another vulgarity.
For instance, a ritual might call for four white candles to be burned. If the candles you have access to are brown, the ritual is vulgar. If you don’t have candles at all and burn pine resin instead, that is two vulgarities – one for the color, one for the candles. If the Priest can’t burn anything, they cannot perform the ritual. If the change represents an especially critical factor, or is changed by an order of magnitude, such as hours to seconds, the ritual will not function.
Priests may learn rituals above their station with no special restriction, but actually attempting them is considered to be Vulgar for each step above their station the ritual is. Repeating a Ritual looking for the same result immediately after a failure is Vulgar. If a Ritual is raised above Rank 5 by Vulgarity, it cannot be performed successfully.
MASTERY OF FAITH
Zeal 1: Gain 2 Mastery, maximum 5
Zeal 2: Gain 2 Mastery, maximum 10
Zeal 3: Gain 2 Mastery, maximum 15
Zeal 4: Gain 2 Mastery, maximum 20
Zeal 5: Gain 2 Mastery, maximum 25
Mastery is gained in three ways. First, Priests gain Mastery when they gain ranks in the Zeal Skill, and the Priest’s Zeal also determines the maximum amount of Mastery they may gain. Second, Each level of the Faith Attribute grants an additional 3 Mastery. Lastly, a Priest may use Priest Achievements to purchase additional Mastery, up to the maximum defined by their Zeal.
Rituals marked as Ceremonial Rites do not require a Ritual check to perform, but they cannot be performed Vulgar.
Rituals marked as Hallowed Rites have a specific prayer that accompanies them. The prayer must be spoken as part of the ritual, but if spoken in Aldersabin, also provided, the rite is treated as Ceremonial.
SPIRITUAL FAITH VS PRAGMATIC FAITH
Every character either holds a Spiritual or Pragmatic world view. This is a fundamental paradigm about how they view the world and the consequences of action and inaction. A Pragmatic farmer with believes that if their crops failed, they must not have planted early enough, or the soil might be rotten. A Spiritual farmer believes that if their crops failed it was because they are being punished for sin, or that the crops failed in order to facilitate some other virtue elsewhere needed more.
This affects how Ritual functions as well. Characters with Spiritual Faith , even if the higher power they serve is not the same as favored by the Priest, believe in the power of miracles and are open to accepting their power in their lives. When a Priest, or even a necromancer or demon worshiper, calls down the power of their supernatural benefactor upon them, they know that this can and does work, and their Faith helps make it so. A Pragmatic character does not see the world in such terms, and rituals just don’t have any meaning in their life.
In game terms, for good and for ill, characters with Pragmatic Faith can’t be affected Rituals that are performed directly on them or have them as a participant. Pragmatic characters simply call “No Effect“. Items created by rituals or other kinds of secondary effects also do not work for Pragmatic characters.
Over time, Priests often identify those of little faith and exile them to the sidelines of the community as interlopers who impede the blessings of their Lord through their weak spirit.
THE HOLY CHURCH OF MANKIND
The liturgy of the Holy church is written into a series of gospels authored by various saints and priests. Each gospel imparts the specific philosophies and stories of its originator. The given works themselves rarely explain the specific prayers and actions that eventually become the Rituals, but instead provide a philosophical basis for those Rituals. Over the course of centuries, religious scholars have scrutinized the holy texts for every detail and inference, taking meaning from the number of letters in a passage, the exact phrasing of a verse, and every other kind of esoteric extraction and hidden clue that can be found within the language of the gospel. From these, they have extracted the ceremonial supplications of the Canon, the rituals that are performed by each of the Covenants.
The Literacy Ability and knowledge of Aldersabin, the language of Holy Lethia, are required to learn these Rituals through direct study of the Testimonium. Holy Ordination contains the training to extract the Canon from the Testimonium, which, in its divine perfection, acts as an Instructional tome for every Canon Ritual, the Faith Attribute, and the Zeal Skill when being used by a Priest of Mankind. An illiterate Priest cannot benefit from the holy Testimonium, but may still learn through Instruction.
Priests of Mankind use their Mastery as liturgical codes, which are represented as letters of the alphabet. When performing a Ritual, the Priest of Mankind performs Bibliomancy, shutting their eyes and pointing to a random letter from a random word on a random page from their Testimonium. If the letter pointed to is one of the codes that they know, the Ritual is successful. If not, the Lord does not see fit to grant the miracle besought. Rituals of higher Rank require additional accuracy from the Bibliomancy.
If the Priest’s Zeal or Faith artificially increases or decreases due to factors such as Hope, Devotion, or Despair, simply add or subtract codes as appropriate from the string.
Rank 2 Rituals: The selected letter, the two adjacent letters
Rank 3 Rituals: All letters in the selected word
Rank 4 Rituals: The selected word, the two adjacent words
Rank 5 Rituals: The selected sentence.
It is advised that the string of codes be written in the front cover of your Testimonium so you may keep track of your own codes easily.
Covenants and RANK
When a Priest of Mankind attains Holy Ordination, they also swear a sacred Covenant to live their life in according to a specific promise to the Lord. This Covenant is the foundation of their Priesthood, and if they betray the Lord by breaking it, a Priest of Mankind automatically fails all attempts at holy Rituals. If the Covenant is broken, the Priest is guilty of Mortal Sloth for breaking a sworn vow, and must complete Atonement from a superior of their own Covenant. Priests of Mankind swear one and only one Covenant with the Lord, and must be inducted into the clergy by a Bishop or higher from their Covenant.
All Priests may perform Rituals from the High Canon, those rituals derived from the veneration of Benalus himself, as well as the Canon of their own Covenant.
Rank within the Church is a matter of social standing and authority, as well as the Priest’s authority within the faith as a religious figure. Rank carries responsibility with it within the Organization, and thus is granted by one’s superiors in the Church. Rank is also the level of the sacred with which they are permitted or endowed, on a spiritual basis, to have interactions with, and while supplicating above one’s station in higher level Rituals is possible, such requests for divine intercession are much more often ignored.
Rank within the Holy Church of Mankind carries across the Organization and is held equivalent between Priests of different Covenants.
Priests are eligible for Promotion to higher Rank once they have purchased at least twice their new Rank in Rituals.
The Aa’boran Faith of the Shariqyn people has no official clergy, but instead recognizes the station of Magus, a kind of theological expert who may act as a guide for themselves and others of their faith. There are three kinds of Magi in Shariqyn culture – Magi’tariq, Magi’biraq, and the Indr’atma.
Aa’boran Ritual Implements
Incense: +3 Mastery
Musical Instrument: +3 Mastery
21 Candles: +3 Mastery
Ritual Chanting: +1 per Aa’boran Spiritual Character
Aa’boran Rituals are not in Ranks. By default, Aa’boran Rituals require Mastery 15 to complete, though some are more difficult, with a target number listed in the Ritual description.
THE OLD WAYS OF THE NORTH
Rituals are rated from least to greatest, and require appropriate sacrifices. The appropriate Offering must be made, but a weaker Offering can be made as Vulgar, or a stronger one for a +5 bonus to Mastery.
As well, each Ritual is governed by a certain set of runes, and the Wise One must draw a set of runes when they perform the ritual. The Wise One gains a +1 Mastery Bonus for each rune that they cast, and a +3 Mastery for the favorable Rune. If one of the unfavorable rune appears, it indicates that the Old God that was invoked has become angered at the insolence of the mortal who dared to grovel before them. The ritual is ruined, and the Wise One takes Despair.
The Wise Ones of the North, called Goði in their own tongue, do not have a formal structure or ranks, and while they keep their traditions orally and write on ancient runestones, learning the ancient Rites is difficult without a direct teacher. When one becomes a Goði through initiation and mentorship by some other Wise One, they usually hungrily learn whatever Rites they can, not knowing when they will get another chance.
The Old Ways, a collection of rites that are in general use across the Rimelands, are safe to use by any Wise One, but there are some that invoke the power of a specific Old God. Wise Ones almost always dedicate themselves to only one of these sets of Rites (and usually the one that their teacher had done, as they know these Rites to teach) and dedicates themselves especially to that one Old God. Once a Wise One has begged to be spared from one Old God using these rites, using the Rites of any other causes Despair with each use.
Lesser Rites – Food, wealth
Common Rites – Fresh Blood (1 wound or animal worth)
Sacred Rites – Human Sacrifice
Great Rites – A mighty person, a Branded Man
Terrible Rites – A legendary person or creature
After Character Creation, learning more Rites will become more difficult without access to more experienced Goði as mentors.
The Altar of Vecatra
The ancient rites of the three-faced Goddess of the world are older than anyone can remember, practiced since the Age of Heroes. The oaths and bindings made in those primeval times still hold sway, though it seems the old faith is wilting. Its rituals require increasingly esoteric things such as unicorns or ancient potions no one knows how to brew. The rituals that still survive are likely largely corrupted from their original forms, but those who worship Vecatra in secret vales and woods call to her still, and sometimes she answers.
The Rituals of Vecatra are performed with no particular system, and do not use Vulgarity and Mastery the way others do. Instead, the ritual is simply performed, and it may or may not work. Staff should be notified when Rituals of Vecatra are attempted.
The few Ceremonial Rites work if performed as described.