|Calligraphic sufi dervish. He is the words that define him.|
One of the great divisions between the religions practised in the city-states along the Road, and the shamanic religions of the steppe and taiga, is literacy. The shamanic religions are transmitted through oral tradition and direct experience; their practitioners learn about the divine through trance states and vision quests, initiations and oracles. The city religions are religions of the book: their highest truths are recorded in holy scriptures, carried from distant kingdoms, written in the holy languages of far-off lands. In these days of printing and increasingly widespread literacy, almost anyone can read the holy books; but to read and to understand are not necessarily the same thing. Some amongst the devout seek to enhance their knowledge of the holy scriptures by reading ever more widely, mastering the old languages and the disciplines of theology and sacred history, and they become scholars. But others, instead, read more deeply: they spend years meditating on the scriptures, mastering the precise recitation of prayers and mantras, the performance of the holy litanies, and the sacred calligraphic arts. These language-mystics are the Disciples of the Word.
Each of the Disciples is a mystical religious scholar who has devoted themselves, for years or decades on end, to the intense and meditative study of a sacred text: something equivalent to the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, or the Avesta. They have memorised it. They are in love with it. They never tire of reciting its words. They can (and do) chant a single prayer or mantra over and over for hours, for days, entering into trance-states, coming to know every nuance of every syllable with the greatest possible perfection. They are brilliant preachers and enchanting singers of litanies and psalms. They have learned the proper pronunciation of great words of power: secret mantras, holy names of God, phrases from the primordial language of creation. Their hearts beat to the rhythm of the holy scriptures. They see the sacred calligraphy in their dreams.
There is a rumour that the Wicked King was a Disciple, once. He memorised a great and holy book, and meditated over it for decades; and when his mastery was complete he went to the top of a tower and called out each word of each verse backwards, from the end to the beginning, and when he finished his performance the book exploded into flames and was lost forever to the minds of men. His city had a name, once, a beautiful and famous name; but one evening the Wicked King wrote it on a piece of paper and ate it, and since that day no-one has been able to remember it, and now they refer to it only as the Wicked City. The Disciples of the Word hate the Wicked King, not just because of his evil and unholiness, but because of what he has done to language: in his city, all true and beautiful phrases are degraded into threats and jargon, flattery and lies. The bravest of them have sworn mighty oaths that they will not let this stand. They will go to the Wicked City, each with their holy book pressed against their hearts: and in its corrupted streets, they will fearlessly speak the truth.
To play a Disciple of the Word, you must have Intelligence and Charisma 12 or higher. Game information is as follows:
- You can only use simple weapons, and cannot use shields, or any armour heavier than heavy leather (AC +3).
- You get 1d6 HP per level.
- You gain a bonus to all attack rolls (melee and ranged) equal to one-half of your level, rounded down.
- You have an encyclopaedic knowledge of languages. You can speak and read all commonly-known languages, and can get by even in very obscure or long-dead languages by making ain Intelligence roll.
- You know a number of Words of Power equal to your intelligence bonus plus your level. You can use a number of Words of Power equal to your level before you have to rest your throat; this requires 4 hours spent without speaking at all. (Hours spent sleeping count towards this.) Pick them from the following list:
- Attention-Compelling Word: Everyone who hears the word must pass a save vs. WILL or stand and listen to you attentively, without taking any further action, until you stop speaking. This effect breaks if they are attacked or otherwise placed in obvious danger.
- Body-Mending Word: When whispered lovingly in someone's ear, this word will cause their body to heal at an accelerated rate, restoring 1 HP per minute for 1d6 minutes.
- Bolstering Word: Everyone who hears this word gains +2 to FORT and WILL saves for the next hour.
- Command: You shout a one-word command at one person, who must pass a WILL save or be compelled to obey this command for one round. (A command of 'die' just makes them play dead for one round.)
- Divine Confusion: A stream of glossolalia issues from your mouth, which makes everyone who hears it sink into a state of total confusion for 1d6 rounds unless they pass a WILL save.
- Lullaby: Any tired, sleepy, or naturally lazy person who hears this song must pass a WILL roll or fall instantly into a deep sleep, from which only loud noises or pain will awaken them. (Anyone who is in an obviously dangerous situation passes automatically due to the adrenaline flooding their system.) Anyone who hears this song while sleeping drops into an even deeper sleep, and is unlikely to be woken by anything short of actual injury or a trumpet blast nearby. If they are allowed to sleep uninterrupted for a full eight hours (or eight more hours, in the case of people who are already asleep when affected), they wake feeling refreshed and revitalised and regain 1d3 HP.
- Project Voice: For 1 minute per level, you may speak in such a way that your voice seems to be coming from somewhere else entirely: from a dark corner, an object, someone else's mouth, etc. You may also choose to have this effect distort your voice, so that it is not recognisable as your own. (It is still very obviously a human voice, though.) While this effect is active you can speak without moving your lips.
- Rending Word: You howl this word directly in someone's face. (They must be within melee range.) This howl strikes them with such force that they take 1d12 damage. (Passing a FORT save halves this damage.)
- Shattering Word: One inanimate object within 30' is struck with a powerful sonic blow, as though you'd just whacked it with a large hammer swung in both hands with all you strength. If it's an object which someone is holding, they must pass a REF save or drop it. If it's an object which someone is wearing, they must pass a FORT save or take 1d4 damage.
- Speech Bubble: You rapidly mutter a speech to yourself, of any length, under your breath; this takes about half as long as saying the same number of words would normally take, and is virtually soundless. Then you blow the speech out as a 'bubble' towards the person you want to hear them; it floats over to them, and a few seconds later they 'hear' the whole speech instantaneously, without anyone else being able to hear anything at all. If someone else comes unexpectedly between you and them while the speech is 'in transit', they 'hear' it instead.
- Stunning Word: This word, which must be shouted at the top of your voice, stuns everyone who hears it for 1 round unless they pass a WILL save. While stunned, they are unable to take any actions.
- Vocal Adaptation: For 1 minute per level, you may 'speak' any kind of sound you like: animal noises, the sound of running water, squeaky cart-wheels, clattering pebbles, whatever. (You cannot create any sound louder than a human scream, however.) These noises will seem to be coming from your location, unless this ability is used in conjunction with Project Voice, above.
- Word of [Emotion]: Pick one emotion. Anyone who hears you speak this word must pass a WILL save or be filled with this emotion for 1d20 minutes. The emotions must be within the limits of sanity - no berserker rages or suicidal depressions - but can definitely affect reaction rolls. Each emotion is a separate Word of Power.
- Word of Ascendence: You speak a word, and then vanish. (This isn't invisibility - you literally aren't there any more.) When you use this ability you choose how long to stay vanished for, up to a maximum of 10 minutes per level. When you reappear (in the same place you vanished from), you are unable to remember exactly where you were while you were vanished, but you always return feeling faintly euphoric and healed of 1d4 HP.
- Word of Enlightenment: You speak a word, which issues from your mouth as a stream of glowing runes which then fly up and float around your head. They shed light equal to a lantern, and remain for 1 hour per level.
Disciples of the Word Summary Table
To Hit Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
Words of Power Known
1 + INT bonus
2 + INT bonus
3 + INT bonus
4 + INT bonus
5 + INT bonus
6 + INT bonus
7 + INT bonus
8 + INT bonus
9 + INT bonus
10 + INT bonus
Starting equipment: Heavy traveller's coat (treat as buff jacket, +2 AC), staff (1d6 damage), holy book, 1d6 pieces of calligraphy you're particularly proud of, paper and ink, 2d6x10 sp.