(A treatise, by Anasmath of Kai-Tan, the Wicked City.)
It’s long been the nature of the ‘civilized’ peoples to become disaffected with the world, and seek to change it in huge, dramatic ways because they don’t like the gods, or dislike how reality works, or even simply hate their neighbors but lack the power to do anything really nasty to them without being squished like ants.
To these people, the cultist job is a glittering lure, attracting them in droves to reject prosaic reality and substitute their own.
Well not their own. Invariably, like clerics, cultists draw their power from otherworldly entities of nigh-unimaginable vastness and influence.
But unlike clerics, the entities called upon are not necessarily amenable to the world, the people in it, or even the fabric of reality as this plane knows it.
These entities are not meant for direct contact with the world, the gods say. And when they stray into the plane that mortals know as Generica, it can cause disastrous results.
This is known; the gods of Generica dwell in a place they have referred to as the Nephs, which is why the servitors that venture forth from such places are sometimes referred to as Nephilim. These servitors may be called by Conjurors who have invested in Oracle or Clerical jobs, or instilled into holy relics by Saints, but only with the permission of the managing god in question. Though the gods have rivalries and can be petty, they generally work together to uphold the structure of reality, do good for their worshippers (however loosely good is defined in some cases,) and promote the general weal of civilization.
However, the three known dark powers (There may be more, as yet undiscovered, at least by this august researcher,) dwell in very different places. Furthermore, each power offers their servitors only to those who become a cultist and choose to ally themselves to one of them. They are jealous, and do not tolerate each other, no more than they do the upstart gods.
Furthermore, adding to the confusion, each dark power is made up of a miniature pantheon within itself, that CAN work together within its unholy court, but is under no obligation to do so. Oddly enough, each miniature pantheon contains three things which could be considered to be gods.
As there are twelve living gods, it’s long been thought that there are in fact, twelve dark gods, which hints at the existence of a fourth dark power. But this has never been conclusively proven, and this researcher cautions against seeking symmetry where there may possibly be none.
In theory, it IS possible to be a cultist of a dark power without choosing one of its three god-equivalents, but doing so effectively makes one of their skills useless, thus lessening the degree of power they can bring to bear. And this researcher has never known a cultist who ever willingly chose to go for the option that gave them LESS power.
THE DARK POWERS
The known dark powers are threefold. The Daemons, the Djinn, and the Old Ones.
The first are the Daemons, sometimes called demons by the unenlightened. They are led by the daemon lords Cron, Vhand, and Nephzed. Daemons profess to only wish to strengthen mortality by driving the powerful to acts of pragmatism and tormenting the weak until they get stronger or perish and stop sucking up resources that could strengthen the powerful. However, this researcher has heard conflicting stories… in essence, their true goals, at least those of the upper echelons, seem to involve eliminating mortals altogether, and going back to a far less chaotic world.
Daemonic Servitors come in a huge variety, but most are specialized in one role, and only really skilled at that role. Hellhounds are guards, imps are unobtrusive messengers, succubi are lovers, shadowfiends kill, and so on, and so forth. You CAN use a daemon for different things than its skillset, and in time they may develop some useful skills toward it, but generally they are best suited in their original role.
Daemons are said to dwell in a place called Far Rhun. No mortal I know of has ever been able to return from attempts to visit this realm. Daemons say it is an orderly place, pleasant, with much free space and only populated by daemons and their subjects. Each subject rules over lower daemons, and obeys a higher one, and it is of the highest ones I will speak.
Cron is the lord of entropy and punctuality. By enforcing entropy, making ruins and laying low powerful organized structures and hierarchies, you earn Cron’s approval. Nothing lasts, Cron knows, and he wants everything non-essential cleared so he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. The changeover has irritated him, and he wants his followers to simplify it, by the most brutal means possible. His Darkspell is ArcKill, which inflicts unpreventable damage.
Vhand is the lady of deception and theft. She’s particularly interested in muddling mortal knowledge, and is said to be filled with glee when her followers steal books or falsify them, or both. She is said to have been working overtime when the changeover struck, ensuring that the flow of information between various lands contained an excess of falsehoods and misunderstandings. Her Darkspell is Pagestealer, which allows the cultist to mimic a foe’s simpler skills.
Nephzed is the daemon of legions, who organizes and is involved somehow with planar access. Nephzed lurks on the borders of the Nephs, challenging the forays and excursions of the gods in inscrutable ways, but is usually forced to grudgingly retreat and let them through after battles unimaginable by mortal standards. But the war is never completely lost, and Nephzed cannot be brought to heel permanently by the gods. Nephzed asks that his followers slay holy monsters and clerics and oracles, and bring low the gods and those who support them. The changeover has meant the opening of a whole new battlefront to him, and a corresponding rise in both power and risk… he was practically unknown before it, but now his stature grows to rival Cron and Vhand. His Darkspell is Denial, which, though difficult to use, can counter a divine spell. Or another dark power’s spell, for that matter…
Beyond the Nephs and behind it, lies the elder realm that djinn call the Dev. It is said that in the early days of the world, after Konol hauled creation out of chaos, that the inhabitants of Dev were employed by powers inscrutable to forge the physical laws and elements and lands of the world itself. Whether it was the gods or other powers is up for debate, but what IS known is that the Djinn are jealous of the gods, and scornful of the power that the gods refuse to apply directly to Generica. (Which for some unknown reason they refer to as Prahd.)
Individual Djinn say many things, most of them conflicting with other djinni, but never contradict themselves. They seem overall to be confused by how the world is now when they touch it directly, and eager to find their niches by helping their followers better than the puny gods ever could.
And that eagerness is often doom for those who follow them, and anyone within a pretty big blast radius. The djinn are eager to improve this world, and in doing so, can accidentally break fundamental laws. Unless tightly bound and monitored, and placated with flattery and constant company, djinn can become chaotic, frustrated, and ultimately destructive.
Djinn, oddly enough, have very few varieties of servitors and all of them are some degree of humanoid that utilizes spells and similar magical effects. The servitors are best treated as friends and companions, although they often need to be restrained. It is not good to order a djinn about, when you could cajole it instead. They don't do well with rules and boundaries. And although they may seem friendly and innocent, realize that they are not and never will be mortal. A djinn who laughs heartily at your joke will laugh heartily if you die in an ironic way, and never understand why he or she should not do so.
Every Djinn I have spoken to assures me that Dev is a wondrous place, and indeed, I know mortals who have visited there and returned alive. They have confirmed it is wondrous, and almost seems to be a mirror of their own lands, at times… but dangerous, because the physical laws that seem to hold sway in Dev are inconstant, sometimes fatal when they go wrong, and subject to change without warning. When asked about this, djinn shrug and say they’re working on those glitches. Should be ironed out in a few millennium.
Though chaotic in the extreme, three Djinn have emerged as nobility among their fractured and strange society; Anjuuta, the Lady of Winds, the entity known as the Inscrutable Vastness of the Cerulean Carp, and G’laad, lord of the Gnomes. (It’s worth mentioning that most Gnomes, when told this, mention that they’ve never heard of the guy.)
Anjuuta, the Lady of Winds, is free-spirited, and seems to want her followers to be unbound by rules, and work to eliminate laws that hold them back. Very reasonable at first, but she seems to hold no distinction between good laws and bad; all are anathema to her. Even the simplest of societies eventually earns her ire, for being too inflexible. The changeover has made her very upset! There are so many rules now, and she can’t stand it. No, it simply has to stop. Her Darkspell is Fool’s Gold, that Grifter trick that has earned the class so much scorn.
G’laad deals with information and improvement. G’laad thinks information should be free, and that pretty much everything dealing with mortals can and should be improved. To that end, he drives his followers to higher and higher standards, simply to make them better. He doesn’t care if they actually USE their improvements for anything, and gets irate if they, for example, break a stringent exercise routine to fend off an attacking band of monsters. The changeover mostly makes him happy, since mortals are much more focused on improvement now, but y’know, the system’s not NEARLY good enough. If he could just kick those lazy gods out and take some of their power, oh the wonders he’d work! Like that time thing. It takes so long to do things! Why not let people go as fast as they want, really? G’laad’s Darkspell is Obsessive Compulsion, which allows the Cultist to share some of G’laad’s perfectionism with others. To G’laad it’s a benefit. To most noncultists hit by it, it’s a serious debuff.
The Inscrutable Vastness of the Cerulean Carp is… strange. It’s said that the entity delights in showing its cultists new lores and vistas of places unimaginable, and creatures which may or may not exist. Many of the visions the entity sends its followers are inscrutable, and some are just plain silly. Others, though, others have been known to drive its cultists mad. The Carp cares not, and focuses on showing its visions to as many mortals as possible. The changeover seems to have been the point that this djinn gained in prominence, as before he was much more limited in his audience, for reasons inscrutable. The Cerulean Carp’s Darkspell is Phantasmal Picture, allowing the cultist to conjure an illusion comparable to the lowest accessible by novice Sensates.
THE OLD ONES
The old ones are, the old ones were, and the old ones shall ever be. They are not from the planes known to the scholars of Generica, but from places beyond, of which even the gods will not speak.
Unlike the daemons, who seem to wish pain and suffering upon mortals, and the djinn, who wish to improve their lot regardless of the cost or safety of the improvements, the old ones seek entry into Generica. They were here once, long ago, before Konol did his work, and they know that when the stars are right they’ll be here once again. Unfortunately for everyone who ISN’T an old one, their presence has disturbing and horrific effects on the fabric of reality.
They are feared because their influence and presence can even corrupt the immortal souls of mortals who stray too near them, ensuring they are never logged in the gods' archives. Even daemons cannot touch souls, and djinn have no care for them, but old ones touch EVERYTHING. Usually with appendages that for sanity’s sake we pretend are tentacles, though if we were to truly understand them we’d see that even that was an abstraction.
The old ones dwell beyond the boundaries, but some of their more human servitors refer to their collective realms as the Netz. Given the sanity-destroying habits of the old ones, it is impossible to believe any Generican mortal could survive in such a place for any amount of time. Although to that question, some servitors laugh, and say that anything that enters the Netz never truly dies.
The servitors of the old ones range from humanlike with a deep WRONGNESS to them in some fundamental way, to incomprehensible masses of flesh and tentacles or organs and appendages combined in ways that were not meant to be. All of them are disturbing in some manner, to any but old one cultists. Some work best with rules, others need to be directly managed, and some are just set loose on reality while the cultist who summoned them runs the other way quickly.
The old ones are nameless and varied and inscrutable, but three names keep popping up again and again; Great Cmpylyah, NIAL’https the Crawling CASE, and The Thing in Yellow (Who, confusingly, is also called Haskell, a name you should never say aloud.)
Great Cmpylyah played an ancient and inscrutable part back during the chaos, before Konol, it was said. In fact, many of his more scholarly cultists insist that Konol would not have been able to do his part had not Cmpylyah successfully navigated and tamed the ancient Sea that was once Generica, and wrought from it a pleasing form. The truth of the matter is not known, for Cmpylyah, like many of the notably-aquatic old ones that seem to be subordinate to him, slumber endlessly in alien seas. Occasionally lesser ones will stir, and spread some small amount of corruption and influence, but for the most part they merely ARE, vast and quiescent and alien. The Darkspell of Great Cmpylyah is Tentaclular, which calls up the least filaments of one of his breed of old one, to entangle and taste whatever their lashing appendages can find.
NIAL’https, the Crawling CASE, has been confused for a djinn before. He’s the most mortal of the great old ones, in semblance if not in truth. Though it’s been suggested that this is only a part of his dreaming mind, that the true bulk of him is as vast and inscrutable as the others, and that the humanlike form of the creature is nothing more than the equivalent of an angler fish’s lure… something to draw tasty mortals in while the brooding bulk of the predator seizes and consumes them. NIAL’https has been involved in the doom of three nations that I have managed to find, and rumors persist in the crumbling undead remnants of a fourth, that their true downfall was due to a man known as the Black Pharo, whose description and methods match the Crawling CASE almost perfectly. Of the three old ones, he is the most active and malign, though conversely, the easiest to deal with and probably the least damaging to his cultists. His Darkspell is Friendly Smile, which is used by skilled Merchants and Tamers as well.
And then there is the Thing in Yellow. It speaks to those who delve deeply into magic, wizards and enchanters and others fascinated by the lore of true power, seeking to draw them into the flows and places that man was never meant to touch. It lures them with pursuit of TRUE knowledge, and TRUE power, and asks the skilled and prideful why they limit themselves to the mere dabblings that the gods permit them? It presents itself as a thing of cold and pure reason, but at the same time drives its cultists to violence and illogical acts that seem to serve no purpose than to horrify onlookers. Or perhaps there is a deeper purpose? Perhaps the patterns have significance? Perhaps… but the deeper you strive, the more madness beckons. Eventually Haskell has his due. His Godspell is Knack for Languages, for no tongue is beyond the Thing in Yellow.
ONE LAST WARNING
A final caution, to all who find this information intriguing… the choice to become a cultist is permanent. Unlike clerics, who can shift from one god to another if they feel called to do so, cultists may never change their affiliation. Once selected, once the dark power is allowed to influence your job, they will never let you go. Even if you revile them, even if you forsake their existence, sooner or later the power beckons, and even by doing the simple act of casting their Darkspell, or speaking their blasphemous chants, you are loosing their power once more into the world. And thus, even in the most minor of ways, you have done their work and weakened the fabric of reality that binds Generica.
Perhaps the mysterious “Guilds” will clear this up someday, and allow alteration, even removal of the cultist job, thus truly severing these otherwise-inseparable ties. But until and unless this happens, the choice is permanent. And usually detrimental for everyone involved.