Throughout Vinramar, there are organizations whose power and influence extends into most regions of the world. These factions pursue goals connected to a particular philosophy, deity, or agenda, and represent the groups that have at least a minor presence in any region where you choose to set a campaign.
Once a sacred order of knights-errant, Avan enclaves have become a secretive and widely misunderstood group. Their operatives valiantly combat slavery and injustice from the shadows, running underground communities where escaped slaves and Jharric worshippers can live a relatively peaceful existence.
Members of this faction espouse the ideals of Ava, goddess of love and courage. They condemn slavery and swear themselves to the protection of life and innocence. Where either are threatened, they bring deliverance, justice, and healing.
Avans cleverly hide their enclaves in secluded, defensible locations—forests, ruins, or caves—where enemies are unlikely to dig around. The location of this hideout is a closely guarded secret, revealed only to a Devout whom the Seneschal, or enclave leader, has approved. Those liberated by the enclave are offered a place to live among the Avans, but they must come and go blindfolded with an escort until they prove themselves worthy of the rank of Devout. Most enclaves consist of living quarters, a shrine or chapel, and an orphanage where members care for rescued children.
Once operatives advance beyond the initiatory ranks, they join one of two affiliations within the enclave: the Order of the Rose, which oversees and defends the enclave, or the Order of the Thorn, which conducts missions outside it. It is common for enclaves to include operatives devoted to other Jharric deities, especially Iala, the goddess of light and healing.
The highest ranking and most senior member of the enclave is named Seneschal and entrusted with the oversight of all business, direction over ritual observances, and the locations of the other Avan enclaves. The female Seneschal with the highest renown is named Matriarch, and charged with coordinating the actions of the many enclaves.
At times Ava herself reincarnates to lead the faith personally as a mortal of a given race. At such times she chooses a male husband to lead alongside her, known as the Consort of the Mother. Such a man commands unrivaled status among Avan devotees.
Typical Quests. Common Avan enclave efforts include seizing the supplies of a local tyrant to support the poor, protecting a jhareth from the Eitharmos, returning a stolen child to her parents, and escorting escaped slaves to freedom through a trail of hideaways and safe houses.
THE BLACK DANS
The King’s Army and Navy of Trentsmund is the foremost military force in the world. Its soldiers, known as the Black Dans for their iconic sable uniforms, can be found stationed across Vinramar fighting for the glory of Trentsmund—and the occasional spoils of war.
As a military outfit, the Black Dans are highly structured around a central command. From the capital at Forteth, the King of Trentsmund commands his forces through military councils, but the true power of the Black Dans lies with the company and field officers themselves. To the extent they keep their superiors happy, these characters live above the law in foreign lands, pursuing what action and renown they can within the bounds of military hierarchy.
Little stands in the way for any man or woman to join the Trentsmunder military. The King has offered 1 silver penny’s pay (sp) per month to those who don the Black of the Dans. If they join the Army, they become privates. If the Navy, they become seamen.
A private or seaman earning 1 renown is elevated to the position of sergeant or master-at-arms. Pay increases to 1 gold dollar (gp) per month, then doubles each time he or she moves up a rank, to a total of 256 gp per month for a general. With enough distinction, a doughty soldier can make a fine living. But getting those promotions takes grit and daring. Many die in their pursuit.
Alternatively, a character of sufficient means and reputation can purchase a commission in the Black Dans by paying the equivalent of 25 year’s pay at the desired rank. A captain’s commission totals 1,200 gp, while a colonel’s reaches 9,600 gp. This dubious practice has occasionally put a brainless dandy at the head of a column, it’s true. But a fool that daring usually dies as quickly as he buys his rank.
Each rank comes with an assigned command, a number of privates, ships, or other duties in the officer’s charge. These appointments are made by ranking officers, and can be favorable or not. Some soldiers are green or unruly, and some ships are cursed.
The exact duties of an officer depend not only on rank, but on the objectives of the engagement and his or her particular assignment. Intelligence officers and elite unit officers get the greatest share of adventure as they trek beyond enemy lines for tactical missions and espionage. Elite units are usually made up of a small detachment of privates hand-picked for specialized objectives like diplomacy, reconnaissance, science operations, or guerilla maneuvers. These are the daring men and women who win wars.
Some officers might pursue appointment to an intelligence position, chasing agents and manipulating the flow of information to gain the King an advantage on the field. Each position has a required rank, allowing a promising spy to eventually command a network of operatives in all manner of subterfuge.
Service in the Navy is more insular than the Army, with seamen generally confined to one vessel and captain. Officers in the King’s Navy are personally chosen by their captains, who frequently promote friends and allies. Rivalries aboard a navy vessel can be bitter, all the more so when the ship is alone at sea for months.
Typical Quests. Standard quests in the Black Dans include capturing a strategic fort or town, negotiating an alliance with local factions, gathering critical materials or information on enemy movements, and piloting a blockade run.
The Eitharmos is the last vestige of an ancient crusader cult sworn to purge the world of the jharethil and those who associate with them. Its warriors are called forth from time to time, mustering from the fabled city of Rhûminos like spectral hunters arrayed for war. The old tales rehearse the pursuit and slaughter of the heretics with fascination and dread.
The truth of the Eitharmos myths lies in the forgotten past. Etholchan teachings hint that Arrochimeir, eldest son of Daemoth, was slain with seven wounds in a cataclysmic battle now only half-remembered. In reverence to him, the hunters of the Eitharmos are inducted by the Wounding Rite, in which seven deadly cuts are made in the novitiate’s flesh. By the dark blessing of Arrochimeir, these Seven Wounds suspend the hunter from aging.
Crusaders are drawn in by this promise of eternal life through inquisition. Unlike other Daemothites, they concern themselves deeply with questions of purity and absolution. Their overarching goal to cleanse Vinramar of those they consider heretical is a twisted reflection of their need to be accepted by divinity.
Once a novitiate undergoes the Wounding Rite, he or she ascends through four ranks of military and religious training to become an Otu’lesk, one of the elite commanders overseeing 500 Arui each. The Otu’leskim are permitted for the first time to meet the Ouleithirim, the circle of seven supreme judges, and take instruction directly from them. With every mission, every kill, their devotion and absolutism grow. By obeisance to the Ouleithirim, their demonic strength becomes indelible.
While the most radical among them carefully amass power over hundreds of years, weak and disaffected hunters are punished as savagely as the heretics they stalk. Hundreds of deserters from the order live throughout Vinramar, lingering in a half-waking perpetuity for as long as it takes the Eitharmos to root them out. Deathless exile gnaws at them with torturing questions about right and wrong. When given a chance at redemption, these forsworn crusaders often rise to the occasion.
Typical Quests. Typical Eitharmos quests include tracking a fleeing jhareth, sifting clues to the location of a hidden Jharric chapter house, negotiating with a reluctant informant, and gathering novitiates from the four corners of Vinramar.
THE ETHOLCHAN CHURCH
The more orthodox followers of Daemoth belong to the Etholchan Church. This sect preserves many of the religious traditions of Ancient Mohtra, including ceremonial dress, child sacrifice, and a code of fraternity that encourages loyalty to the Church above all else.
Etholchan priests are respected throughout the West as a symbol of pre-human heritage and embassadors of the most powerful religious organization in the world. Though most don’t openly wield divine magic, a priest who does display the miraculous power of Daemoth becomes a treasured—or sometimes hated—figure among Daemothites.
The core Etholchan philosophy is that Daemoth (to them the supreme Creator) asks nothing but obedience to his authority. Rather than a set of commandments or code of behavioral expectations, the Church rewards those who follow the specific instructions of their god, as voiced by church leaders. The phrase, “It is God’s to sacrifice,” is a common adage among Etholchans, implying that Daemoth doesn’t care how you live, so long as you act when he or his representatives call.
While obedience is their chiefest virtue, weakness is the Etholchans’ deadliest sin. To show frailty, fail, or fall behind is to become unworthy. This doctrine has been championed by the Etholchan Inquisition over the centuries, justifying (in their minds) the systematic execution of heretics, including the jharethil and Jharric followers. To most Etholchans, the punishment of weakness is a law of nature.
All of the Etholchan hierarchy answers to the Hohram, a divine seer that is the sect’s central figurehead. Commanding the absolute obedience of every Etholchan in Vinramar, the Hohram is perhaps the most powerful person in the world.
Followers and priest alike wear the ritual dress of the Etholchans whenever in public, as a symbol of Deamoth’s constant hold over the life of the wearer. The dress consists of a tunic that laces up the front, worn with a wide purple girdle trimmed in black. Both are often worn in conjunction with other clothing, but are required public dress for believers in good standing.
Typical Quests. Common quests in the Etholchan Church include investigating the a person’s claim to be a daemon, rescuing holy writings or sacred ground from being defiled by Jharric believers, running the political campaign of an Etholchan political candidate, and establishing an Etholchan mission in the outlands.
As the most prominent network of Senfaerist temples, the Humenhi Wayfarers have their Sacred Mysteries throughout Vinramar. Each of these doctrines corresponds to one of the 36 Methods of Liung Do, an array of martial arts techniques developed by Humenhi, the founder of the discipline. A wayfarer’s training begins with the simple virtues of restraint, discipline, modesty, and mutual trust.
The headquarters of Humenhi Senfaerism is the Liung Do Temple in Aldalar. From its secluded monasteries—and smaller temples scattered across the world—rise highly capable monks of every order. These enlightened warriors champion Senfaer’s charge to protect the four worlds from threats beyond the stars.
To join a temple and become a Peregrine, aspiring wayfarers need only prove their earnest determination to receive training. This is often done through an initiation quest such as delivering a message to a faraway monastery, caring for monks mutated by aberrations, or learning the first four Methods of Liung Do. Once the quest is complete, the aspirant takes the Humenhi vow and dons the robe of the wayfarer. The vow includes a promise to refrain from indulgence, deceit, intoxication, sensuality, and flippancy.
A wayfarer advances within the temple where he or she is accepted. Time, experience, and rigorous training all factor into this progression. With each rank are taught additional Methods of Liung Do and their corresponding Mysteries, through ritual, martial arts drills, and practical application. It’s common for some to find the higher-level doctrines bizarre or distressing.
Typical Quests. Common Wayfarer quests include closing dangerous portals, hunting intrusive aberrations, harvesting ingredients to cure a plague, and erecting waypoints for others traversing the Darkplane.
The Infernossos is a network of covenanted signatories—damned souls who have contracted their services to the archdevil Gauren. Most signatories are clerics and warlocks looking for unholy power, but there are also rogues who serve the archdevil as spies and assassins.
With written covenants serving as the basis for all service within the Infernossos, the organization uses complex bylaws to enforce fealty, encourage patronage, and strengthen its interests throughout the world. Its operation often resembles a crime ring dependent on reciprocity of services. Authority within the Infernossos resides with a system of courts, whose Provosts and Prelates exact the terms of each signatory’s pact.
Precise goals and duties within the Infernossos depend largely on the agenda of the individual devils to whom a signatory has sworn service. Often they involve the wielding of political, economic, or social influence in a manner beneficial to others within the network. Control over mortal affairs is endlessly appealing to the fiends that hold sway over the infernal courts, but above all, the Infernossos seeks recruits. To that end, signatories that reach the rank of Notary are charged with headhunting new members.
Typical Quests. Common quests within the Infernossos include stealing or replacing official documents, assassinating disruptive individuals, punishing other signatories for disloyalty, and gaining the favor of an influential politician or merchant.
THE JHARRIC FAITH
Historically, the Jharric Faith was a highly organized religious tradition with strong connections to the ancient jharethil. Millennia of persecution have reduced their congregations to small groups that pray together at hidden mountain shrines. Secrecy is all that stands between them and execution by the Eitharmos.
The Jharric Pantheon is comprised of Jharus, Loragg, Ava, and Iala. Three of these four are served by a single religious hierarchy which mediates between the gods and the Faithful that revere them. Ava, however, is represented by her own operatives within the Avan Enclaves, somewhat apart from the other Jharric gods. Within the Jharric Faith, priests that reach a renown of 10 pledge themselves to one deity, whether as Ensigns of Jharus, Abbots of Loragg, Ialhalil of Iala, or joining an order within a local Avan Enclave.
In the secret cities of the jharethil, hidden from the sorrows of the world, the church is still organized as it was of old. The reigning king or queen serves as High Priest or Priestess over the city, heading both a political and a religious council. A Lansarus sits on the religious council with all others of that rank, and the Elders each govern one congregation of the Faithful, called a chapter. Chapters meets in their own chapter houses, and employ a number of Priests and Votives relative to the size of the congregation.
The Faithful are deeply concerned with the principle of mahat, which represents the five keys of the natural universe: balance, justice, life, purity, and truth. Mahat is both a concept and a force. According to the teaching of the Jharric Faith, it is what protects the four worlds and all natural life from the infectious influence of the Darkplane. It emanates from Salvendum, sowing life and ordering matter by natural laws.
Members of the Jharric Faith are expected to preserve mahat by embodying its five keys—maintaining personal balance, sustaining order and justice, preserving life, encouraging moral rectitude, and speaking only truth. Of course, this is far easier said than done, especially since much of the world sees the Faithful as unclean heretics.
Priests of Jharus. Among the priests of the Faith, those that serve Jharus are the quickest to action. The elite of their order, the Ensigns, train in both combat and the channeling of divine magic. Those who follow Jharus are expected to uphold his tenets and succor the weak. Though they embrace all five keys of mahat, Ensigns tend to place more emphasis on justice than life, and consider sin or oppression sufficient justification for capital punishment.
Priests of Loragg. Abbots oversee the preservation of religious and historical records, as well as the defense of sacred relics. Their work often requires seclusion, prompting the building of separate abbeys where they can organize, translate, and transcribe the sacred writings of the jharethil. The largest abbeys house hundreds of Abbots, Priests, and Votives, all in the sacred charge of the Head Abbot. Abbeys are rare outside jhareth cities, with the Abbots instead acting as wandering scribes and scholars.
Priests of Ava. In many ways, Ava is a goddess apart from the other three, but a priest of the Jharric Faith can use renown gained from that organization to advance within an Avan Enclave.
Priests of Iala. Iala’s shrines are often arranged beside those of Jharus, since light and purity are precursors to justice and life. Priests who focus their faith toward Iala are promised virtue, clarity, and health. To the Ialhalil, nothing is more important than the capacity to forgive and mend.
Typical Quests. Quests typical among the Faithful include performing healings in a plague-infested village, smuggling holy relics out of an Etholchan city, interrupting a demonic ritual, and cleansing a desecrated temple to Jharus.
THE MOZRALCHIC ORDER
The Mozralchic Order is a circle of agents specializing in witch-hunts, slaying monsters, and protection against the dark arts.
Mozralchic agents train dutifully to combat evil and unnatural influences through investigation, diplomacy, and subterfuge. Aberrations, monstrosities, primordials, and undead are their primary targets, though they are often consulted in the detection of fiends and the Black Arcane. Perhaps because they consider themselves to serve a greater good beyond the rivalries of nations, agents of Mozralchi have a history of acting as unofficial advisors and ambassadors between polities. To formalize their role as diplomats, members of the order dress in white and wear the Hamzara, or black seal, a ring or amulet engraved with a protective sigil.
In their ambition to cleanse Vinramar of all that is unnatural, the Mozralchic Order dabble in the very practices that they combat, including those traditionally forbidden by most societies. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak, is a tactic the order considers heroic. Agents without the grit to endure the consequences of such perilous endeavors often meet a woeful end. The order isn’t delicate about punishing its own.
Mozralchic agents are required to learn the speech of ravens, using the birds as messengers that can’t be intercepted or interrogated. At times the need for secrecy extends beyond their quarries—the Etholchan Church and nations traditionally under its influence are highly disdainful of the Mozralchic agents, disrupting their operations and imprisoning or executing them with the least excuse. Outside the region of Motta, most rulers at least begrudgingly respect the order.
The newest initiates of the order are simply called Brother or Sister. After a period of trial as an Agent and receiving the ceremonial vestment as a Scapular, the novice is accepted as a fully gazetted member. The order is governed by the 13 most senior Hallowed Intercessors, called the Council of Thirteen.
Typical Quests. Standard quests of Mozralchic agents include infiltrating a coven of witches, tracking the movements of a vampire, interrogating a necromancer, negotiating terms of surrender from one ruler to another, and coordinating a nationwide response to an onlaught of primordials.
No mercenaries command so fearsome a name as the Goltari soldiers known as the Nusalmatma. Under the banner of the shedu (a winged bull with the head of a telmatra) they hire out their services as scouts, bodyguards, law enforcement, and elite military units.
The sheer number of Nusalmatma mercenaries is a testament to the organization’s legacy and stability. Satellite camps across Arrochule, Arwest, Syrikhal, and the Norlythe function as recruitment and deployment centers, shipping out hundreds of Nusalmatma to quell rebellions, rout levied troops, and keep the peace across Vinramar. It’s a life of discipline and prestige.
These mercenary practices are rooted in the traditional telmatra warrior culture of the fifth century. The name Nusalmatma originates from the caste of slave soldiers called nusalham-atra (literally, the people of the chain and sword), that seized power over the telmatra in the wake of the humans’ arrival in Goltaraim. Mercenaries track their kills—even those they’re not proud of—with trophies from the bodies, and are paid a correlating commission. With the wrong temperaments present, this system can easily turn a peacekeeping force into a death squad.
As might be expected, the first goal of a mercenary is cash. The most coveted jobs are those that pay handsomely, such as the household guard of a wealthy patron. But even the richest noble can’t match the commissions that a genuine war brings.
The organization as a whole, however, does place value on the good of common folk. When a job demands the Nusalmatma take a stand on behalf of decent, ordinary people, its soldiers truly shine in their duty. Captains take notice of this sort of honor, fostering and promoting recruits that display it.
Typical Quests. Typical Nusalmatma quests include defending a food store from bandits, training a force of levied farmers to fight as a column, suppressing riots, and setting up a constabulary in a frontier city.