Modroben (3.5e Deity)
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|Portfolio:||Death, Time, Fate and Destiny|
|Domains:||Repose, Knowledge, Word, Claine, Strength|
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Modroben (most commonly pronounced Moh-DRO-bayne or Moh-DRO-behn) is the most powerful Deity in the world. His worship is essentially universal, and he has thousands of acknowledged Avatars, Temples, Artifacts and Holidays. Despite his far-reaching scope - from the deepest nooks of the greatest abysses to the heights of the most colossal tree - Modroben generally does not intervene in mundane affairs. He watches events closely, influencing Theonosis as necessary to achieve his own goals and objectives, which are generally complex and distant. He is in favor of universal peace, but Modroben is practical and realist, and he has no compunctions about promoting war in order to achieve a greater good. Though he is by far best-known as the patron of death, Modroben also presents himself as the final arbiter of fate and destiny, and protector of time. Those who would subvert the natural order of time's passage are said to earn the ire of Modroben, who furthermore, despite enforcing fate, teaches that a person's destiny is their own choice, known only because one's choices are predictable to the all-wise Modroben.
Modroben is principally a god of Death, Time, Fate and Destiny, though he is most well-known as a god of death. His followers are famous for soulcleaving, the practice of devouring a small piece of brain matter from corpses, reducing the grief, guilt and regret felt by both the deceased's soul and friends or family, also preventing the body and soul from becoming trapped in undeath. Modroben is fiercely opposed to all undead creatures, in all circumstances. Modrobenian priests kill undead and those who raise them at every available opportunity. They are not required to go on suicide missions to do so, but many find the existence of undead to be an affront to their life's work, and will martyr themselves to send as many undead as possible to their final rest. Because soulcleaving transfers negative emotions from the deceased and survivors to the Modrobenian, followers of Modroben are highly trained in meditation and concentration. They must spend a large portion of their time trying to process the emotions, and are known for being reclusive, gloomy, terse and depressive.
Mortal institutions do not restrict the activities of the Modrobenian church. Even secret societies, thieves guilds and bandit clans, knightly orders and royal courts admit Modrobenians in the course of their official duties. Few mortals want to pass away without the ministrations of a Modrobenian, and thus, any leader or authority figure that attempts to limit Modrobenian activities quickly finds that no one will serve his cause. In order to prevent discord between the church and outside institutions, Modroben strongly encourages his priests remain neutral in most affairs, however, Modrobenians are often found fighting for good, especially behind the scenes.
Traditions and Rituals
Modroben is commonly accepted as being one of the longest-living Deity, perhaps the single longest-living, but it is essentially impossible to track the progression of Deities and Avatars, so there are other Deities who claim a longer life. In that time, he has developed a legion of widely-varying traditions, many of which are unique to a particular setting or region. The only tradition that is universal among the Modrobenian faith is soulcleaving, the devouring of a small portion of brain tissue in order to ensure the deceased's soul remains at rest and the deceased's family and friends have their grief and regret lessened. Soulcleaving is regarded as such an integral part of death that every society on the planet practices it. Any king or master or sensei who even considers refusing entrance to a Modrobenian is likely to find himself isolated, perhaps not from a handful of true believers in certain circumstances, but definitely from the legion of support staff, servants and front-of-the-line followers. Little will disrupt an organization or government more than the threat of being shunned by Modrobenians.
- Main article: Soulcleaving
Modrobenian priests travel to the corpses of sentient beings, and eat a small portion of the brains of the deceased - the mechanism of doing so varies depending on the specific qualities of the priest in question, and corpses that have no brain can have the same effect achieved by eating any part of the nervous system, such as nerves. This brain-eating is called soulcleaving. On land, Modroben are largely associated with vultures, and their soulcleaving takes the form of a beak that appears after a prayer. Under the ground, maggots are the primary animal symbol of Modrobenians, who soulcleave by rubbing the palms of their hand over the individual's forehead, with maggots appearing over the flesh and eating into the brain. On watery habitats, a common fish called the loach is most common in rivers and lakes, crabs in coastal areas and lobsters in the deep sea. Snails and earthworms are used in more specialized habitats, and the white draconid is adapted for dragon-like and other monstrous beasts. There are many exceptions and counter-examples, however, and virtually every scavenger species in the world has a Modrobenian class somewhere in the world: raccoons, opossums, rats and hyenas, for example. There are many Classes of Modrobenians, most of which have few assignments besides soulcleaving. The most common, basic Class is the Soulclaine. Other Modrobenian Classes are more like potent warriors or paladins. These Modrobenians are also capable of soulcleaving, though it is not their primary duty.
- The deceased is forever unable to be raised into any form of undead. This does not impact any telekinesis-based powers from animating the body - it only prevents the actual raising of a corpse as any form of zombie, vampire, wraith, ghoul, lich, ghost or other undead creature.
- Modroben helps each impacted individual manage their grief and thereby come to terms with the death of their loved one in their own way. This does not eliminate grief, merely lessens it and helps make it more tolerable. Some persons may remain inconsolable or hysterical even after their loved ones have been soulcleaved, but this is rare, and generally only occurs among people with significant emotional problems.
- The deceased's affairs are wrapped up with a minimum of fuss. Thus, an individual whose pet is locked in a home and will starve to death finds itself teleported outside, and wills are properly executed.
- The Modrobenian has a small chance of gaining a skill or knowledge that the deceased possessed.
- Individuals naturally retain free will, so soulcleaving does not guarantee there will not be fighting over the deceased's will, or an outpouring of grief. Soulcleaving can merely lessen probabilities and reduce the impact of deaths.
- Note: soulcleaving can be performed on non-intelligent creatures, and has the same effect. Modrobenians do not typically do so, however, unless specifically requested or if the possibility of undead creation is significant.
Soulcleaving results in the transfer of guilt, grief and sadness from the deceased and affected loved ones to the Modrobenian priest. As a result, all Modrobenians are trained in meditation, and must spend many hours a day resting their mind or else go mad from the accumulated negative emotions. As a result, Modrobenians are typically slow and awkward in social situations, with a morose or gloomy demeanor. They spend most of their time alone - either soulcleaving or meditating to recover from soulcleaving.
Modrobenian priests are based around a scavenger animal local to their region. These include:
- Crabs are the basis for Modrobenian priests in coastal and shallow saltwaters and some freshwater systems. Crab-based Modrobenians can grow claws with which they can break into a skull to devour a corpse's brain.
- Earthworms are the basis for Modrobenian priests in most air-breathing cave systems. Earthworm-based Modrobenians can drop worms that dig through a corpse's skull to reach the brain matter.
- Loaches (a small fish) are the basis for Modrobenian priests in open sea regions. Loach-based Modrobenians can sprout worms from their hands which devour a corpse's skull to reach the brain matter.
- Lobsters are the basis for Modrobenian priests in deep and abyssal saltwaters. Lobster-based Modrobenians can grow claws with which they can break into a skull to devour a corpse's brain.
- Maggots are the basis for Modrobenian priests in insect-dominated land habitats and some air-breathing cave systems. Maggot-based Modrobenians can sprout dozens of maggots, which then burrow to the brain matter inside.
- Snails are the basis for Modrobenian priests in river and lake aquatic habitats, as well as areas with intelligent plants. Snail-based Modrobenians can sprout a snail mouth from the palms of their hands, which uses acid and a mouth to create an opening in a corpse's skull to the brain matter underneath.
- Vultures are the most common basis for Modrobenian priests on land. Vulture-based Modrobenians can turn their face into a vulture's, with a wide, sharp beak, which they use to break into the skull of a corpse.
- White draconids are the basis for Modrobenian priests in any environment where intelligent creatures have thick shells or other coverings that prevent most creatures from reaching the brain (in particular, dragons). White draconids are a small, unintelligent albino dragon-like animal that scavenges dragons and their prey. White draconid-based Modrobenians can turn their mouth into a dragon-like snout.
In certain communities, Modroben sometimes uses a special Avatar, such as the condor in Sehenna, or the hagfish for pirates, or the stork for gnomes. In all cases, these function as part of one of the above categories (e.g. for almost any purpose (such as determining rank), a gnomish Modrobenian who follows a stork-based class is treated as a follower of the vulture-based class).
When soulcleaving, Modrobenians pick up a small amount of the negative emotional energy put forth both by the deceased and that person's friends, neighbors or family. This negative energy - grief, regret, loneliness, despair, guilt - transfers to the soulcleaving Modrobenian at the moment the brain matter is devoured. This emotional stress is a dominant force in the Modrobenian Church, as any follower with a few years of experience is prone to becoming gloomy, depressive and subject to rapid mood swings. These emotional problems are, in part, why Modrobenians frequently become isolated from their communities despite being such a highly-respected and beloved part of them: outsiders feel awkward around the Modrobenian, who in turn is so focused on controlling the raging storm of negative emotional energy in his mind that he simply withdraws, exacerbating his isolation from his neighbors.
The first year of Modrobenian training revolves almost entirely around learning methods of achieving inner, emotional peace. Modrobenians focus on meditation as one of their primary skills, and most spend at least an hour a day in silent contemplation. When stressful circumstances threaten to overwhelm them, Modrobenians sometimes shut down and simply force themselves to meditate. Some sects practice a variety of other methods of dealing with their emotions, ranging from music, dance and art, to ritual scarrification.
All Modrobenians can be referred to as Mortiss, a title placed before a given name (e.g. "I'd like to introduce Mortiss Genelfleur of Narseaux"). This title can be abbreviated Mrts. The Modrobenian Church sometimes grants this title as a reward for great service, especially in the destruction of undead. Most institutions will grant special privileges (such as an audience with the local ruler) to anybody with the title Mortiss. Every titled individual receives a pendant, called the Mortiss Pendant, which has an image of Modroben's icon with glowing green rings. Nobody is able to impersonate a Modrobenian using this Title, nor can the Symbol on the Mortiss Pendant be faked; this ensures that the tremendous trust people place in the Church of Modroben is never misplaced on con-men or thieves.
Almost everybody in the world lives within a few days' ride of a Modrobenian, each of which is assigned to a given region that typically includes a few villages, a large rural area or a city shared with several other Modrobenians. The Church tries to keep a ratio of no more than 1000 mortals to a single Modrobenian, though this goal is not often achieved, and a more common ratio is 1:10,000 or more. Some Modrobenians specialize as travelers and go to distant lands when a hermit or other isolated individual dies. Aside from these travelers, it is rare to find a Modrobenian away from his assigned area. There are Modrobenian priests of nearly every occupation, somewhere in the world. There are monks and ninjas, paladins, rangers, druids, rogues and bards and wanderers, barbarians and shamans and wizards of all kinds.
For many people, Modrobenians only appear when someone has died, and when they do so, their attitude and appearance are off-putting. Therefore, Modrobenians are not quite feared, but are awed and dreaded by most people. Modrobenians are also greatly respected, usually more so than any authority figure in the area. Generally, it is considered polite for every person to offer gifts of food or goods to the local Modrobenian on a weekly basis; Modrobenians are typically invited to all social functions as well, even ones normally closed to outsiders. Modrobenians are ascetic by nature and dictum, however, and will refuse most such gifts and invitations. Children are especially likely to be frightened of Modrobenians, and daring each other to sneak near the home of the local Modrobenian at night is a common childhood prank throughout much of the world.
Clergy and Temples
Modrobenian church law demands that most classes of priests, the Mortiss, remain aloof from society. As much as possible, they are to live away from people. Close quarters can make it difficult to achieve the kind of meditative state Modrobenians require to overcome the intense emotional burden of their position. They also almost never pay taxes, nor are they bound by ordinary social rules requiring people to join militias, contribute food for celebrations, nor most anything else. They are ignored by almost all bandits, thieves and pirates, and are frequently even aided by the lowest of criminals. They are not generally expected to conduct themselves according to appropriate rules of etiquette, and are allowed to say things to nobles and other rulers that would get the average citizen or peasant executed for impertinence.
As outsiders, Modrobenian priests do not usually get married or have children, though they are allowed to do both, as long as they believe that they can effectively parent while continuing with their responsibilities as a Modrobenian. This is rare, and the emotional toll of the position makes most Modrobenians unattractive to potential mates. Since they do not attend most social functions, Modrobenians are often ill-informed on local goings-on, and frequently speak in a stilted, awkward manner, having confused the dialects and and idioms of the numerous, linguistically diverse people they have soulcleaved. Despite their unapproachability and declared neutrality, Modrobenians are often recruited by the poor and oppressed to speak on their behalf with local elites. The Modrobenian can criticize decisions, make suggestions and even issue threats without being harmed, and no noble will dare try to force the Modrobenian to divulge which commoner approached him.
Modrobenians are taught to maintain neutrality in worldly affairs, as much as they are able. They are not supposed to intervene in legal disputes, ethical or economic issues, nor political or military campaigns. They are not allowed to vote or serve on a jury, nor join any guild or union. In many societies, Modrobenians do not even pay interest or profit - all merchants and lenders sell at cost to anyone bearing the title Mortiss.
Despite their declared and avowed neutrality, Modroben himself is frequently said to intervene in folklore, always on the side of punishing evil and rewarding good, and Modrobenians themselves are often persuaded to break their oaths of neutrality to achieve a greater good, while the number of Modrobenians who have been seduced into evil and corruption is vanishingly small. Modrobenians who do not control their emotions are sometimes prone to mood swings that also lead them to acts of violence, self-harm or violations of neutrality, but there are no consequences unless they become severe or debilitating.
Typically, any Mortiss - that is, any member of a Modrobenian Class - is immune from certain laws, customs and regulations, which vary by culture and civilization. Generally speaking, they do not pay taxes or fees of any kind, and are allowed to pay whatever they are able to for most goods. Thus, a Mortiss might bring only a few chicken eggs in exchange for valuable potent healing, for example. Modrobenians are generally not charged in inns or taverns, and are given free food by most civilians, whenever possible. Caravans and other groups of travelers will almost invariably take in Modrobenians they encounter, and escort them as far as feasible. Modrobenians eschew any complex financial instruments, and do not generally own any more land than they currently use. They do not pay interest on any loans they make take out. In addition to not paying taxes, Modrobenians do not swear loyalty to anyone but Modroben himself; even in a royal court, for example, the Royal Soulclaine may not attend all otherwise obligatory functions and may disobey his liege. Except under truly egregious circumstances, no one of any station is allowed to harm a Modrobenian or interfere with his duties. The church deals harshly with anyone who does so, whether it be an emperor, warden, tribal chief or bandit king.
Theology and Philosophy
Modroben preaches acceptance of life's challenges and the honoring of death as the final challenge before eternal rest. According to Modrobenians, all life is so holy that it is not to be slaughtered without good cause - thus, Modrobenians are generally vegetarian and avoid killing even small animals when possible. Life exists on Omnidus for the purpose of celebrating the joys and pleasures the material world has to offer, and when these pleasures have been appreciated sufficiently for a given individual, he dies. This means that death is not to be feared, but welcomed as a sign that the deceased has imbibed in those pleasures that he is most able to appreciate. Seeking to extend one's life beyond its normal span is therefore selfish, as the aged individual consumes more pleasure than is his due, denying that pleasure to another being. Suicide, when committed out of despair, is seen as an affront to life, as the suicider is rejecting the bounty that life offers. Undead are seen as undoing the contentment that death brings to a soul.
Art and culture
Modrobenians are well-known as an artistic group, and have an excellent reputation in the visual arts like painting, weaving, sculpture and sand-painting. Many Modrobenians are highly-regarded artists in these areas, though it is also common for Modrobenian artists to refuse to show their work in their lifetime. Oftentimes, their art is a part of their emotional adaptations to the mental rigors and stress that comes with their profession. Aside from a few chants, there is little music within the Modrobenian Church itself, though many pre-literate societies use music as an integral part of their worship. Modroben also plays a vital role in many folktales and songs, oftentimes enforcing the laws of the natural world against those who would subvert them in an anarchic or dangerous manner. In folklore, the sight of a Modrobenian can either herald the downfall of the proud or the elevation of the downtrodden, depending on the tone and content of the story. Due to a propensity for shyness and introversion, Modrobenian theater is rare, but there are examples of ballets, melodramas and other theatrical works written by Modrobenians. The "neutral, gloomy Modrobenian" is a common trope, found in many theatrical or other literary presentations, and these caricatures of real Modrobenians are often a source of wise words in such works.
The Modrobalia is a collection of written works that are believed to date back several millennia. Serving as a sort of holy book for Modrobenians, the Modrobalia covers the legendary origin of Modroben himself, said by his followers to have arisen along with the first intelligent creatures many millennia ago. He is said to have foreseen the tragedy of death and invented soulcleaving to keep society happy and well-functioning. The Modrobalia, having been translated through as many as half-a-dozen languages, has been the subject of much dispute over its meaning and interpretation. Despite Modroben's insistence on peace and neutrality, certain passages within the Modrobalia have, on occasion, inspired dangerous and hateful rhetoric, and even evil actions among certain sects of the Modrobenian Church.
The art of rellgah is a sacred form of movement, used primarily as an aid in meditation. It consists of simple motions performed in a particular rhythm, growing gradually more and more complex and terpsichorean. Experienced Modrobenians have routines that can last for hours. Rellgah is a highly-stylized form of martial art, and is not useful in combat. All Mortiss are trained in rellgah.
Rellgah is descended from a pair of martial arts that have been taught to elite members of the church of Modroben over millennia. They are pin lao, a purely defensive form, and ten lao, a violent and offensive form. While some orders of Modrobenians are taught only one or the other, a combination of both is more common.
Over the years, Modroben has instituted hundreds of acknowledged Manifestations and presumably many unacknowledged ones as well. Some scholars have claimed that most gods are, in truth, unacknowledged Manifestations of Modroben.
- The Necromantic Shield is a large, full-body shield that provides great protection against undead and necromantic magic.
- Restbringer is a series of Artifacts, which are weapons with massive bonuses against undead. Each Modrobenian Avatar has created a different Restbringer item.
- Bullyn is the primary loach Avatar for Modroben. He is a skinny elven human with white fish scales.
- Cabilim is a condor Avatar, manifesting exclusively in Sehenna.
- Chabbi is the primary maggot Avatar for Modroben. She is a beautiful woman with maggots constantly crawling under her skin.
- Ciconii is an Avatar most closely associated with storks and is worshiped largely by gnomes.
- Eschezyn is the primary earthworm Avatar for Modroben. He is a long pinkish-white earthworm with a human torso, arms and head.
- Lambrill is a little-known Avatar who fashions Bodrallions.
- Lao-Fi is an Avatar associated with meditation and wisdom.
- Nelktor is the primary crab Avatar for Modroben. He is a tall human with ordinary legs and arms, in addition to a set of crab legs and pincers. A crab shell covers his face like a mask.
- Quincett is a vulture Avatar, manifesting exclusively in colossal trees and the Great Nest.
- Pashuxi is the primary lobster Avatar for Modroben. He is a tall human with lobster legs and claws.
- Sezeltain is the primary snail Avatar for Modroben. She is a portly, older woman with a giant snail shell on her back.
- Ulaelto is the primary white draconid Avatar for Modroben. She is a multi-hued dragon of great size, able to use any breath weapon.
- Velteris is the primary vulture Avatar for Modroben. Velteris is a thirty-foot tall vulture with feathers of deep black and only the faintest trace of yellow tinting at the tips.
- Zazii is an Avatar, most closely associated with the hagfish. She is most closely associated with pirates, but is known among most sailors and open sea-dwellers.
- The Soulclaine are the most common and basic class of Modrobenian priests.
- Fatesmen are guardians of free will and protectors of the oppressed against those who would use magic to control their minds.
- Knights of the Black Down are martial paladins, sacred to Velteris.
- Knights of the Bloody Tooth are martial paladins, sacred to Ulaelto.
- Knights of the Dark Wood are martial paladins, sacred to Quincett.
- Knights of the Deep Tide are martial paladins, sacred to Pashuxi.
- Knights of the Loamy Soil are martial paladins, sacred to Eschezyn.
- Knights of the Long Line are martial paladins, sacred to Zazii.
- Knights of the Open Gift are martial paladins, sacred to Lambrill, and known to travel the world giving Bodrallions to communities and adventurers who do not have access to a Modrobenian.
- Knights of the Red Claw are martial paladins, sacred to Nelktor.
- Knights of the Shadowy Scale are martial paladins, sacred to Bullyn.
- Knights of the Spiral Shell are martial paladins, sacred to Sezeltain.
- Knights of the Strong Stork are martial paladins, sacred to Ciconii.
- Knights of the Tan Wing are martial paladins, sacred to Cabilim.
- Knights of the Wan Wyrm are martial paladins, sacred to Chabbi.
- Ming-Lo is an order made up of high-ranking Modrobenians who train others in meditation and emotional relaxation.
- Restguardians are protectors of crypts and graveyards.
- Timekeepers are wizards who teleport and use limited time traveling to enforce Modroben's laws against time manipulation.
- Hector is a Demigod whose priests are grave-diggers, crematorium operators and others who work within the death industry. He and his priests are perceived as mad and manic, but utterly devoted to protecting the remains of mortals.
- Malktahnem is a Demigod whose priests are mummifiers and embalmers. Modroben himself is lukewarm to any such practice, as they seek to prolong the trappings of life, after death.
- Davvs is a Demigod, patron of necromancers who destroy, rather than raise, the undead.
- Kallayis is a vulture with a 100' wingspan, known for traveling the world and rescuing Modrobenians in trouble.
- All Soul's Day takes place every year on the first day of autumn. It is a day set aside for remembering those who have passed away. Almost all businesses and other institutions shut down for the day, and by tradition, everyone is supposed to spend the entire daylight hours in solitary contemplation of the deceased. All undead creatures are paralyzed during the day, giving their souls a day of rest.
- All Soul's Eve takes place the day before the first day of autumn. It is a day of merriment and joyous celebration, followed by an evening of trepidation. In the hour just before midnight on All Soul's Eve, Modroben greatly reduces the difficulty of necromancers raising dead souls and makes it more probable that any restless soul will form a corporeal undead form. This hour is thus very dangerous, but all Modrobenians spend the hour hunting for any souls in the area. Any that survive may dissipate before the morning, and all will be paralyzed during the following day (All Soul's Day).
- The Modrobalia, a holy book within the Church of Modroben, is a Product.
- Mortiss Pendants are Products given to worshipers and others who perform great deeds for the Church.
- The Bodrallions are small, ice pick-like items that can soulcleave no matter who is wielding it.
- Gems of Soulfinding are large gems, created by the Demigod Hector, which help the wielder find corpses.