Monday, September 21, 2015

The Temple of Ulim and the Houri

The worship of Ulim is a strange, local cult, unique to Rastingdrung. It began a little more than a century ago. Religious practice at the time in Rastingdrung encompassed the usual polyglot stew of absolutely conflicting religious creeds, each backed by seeming miracles, deep coffers, and jealously guarded secrets. The strongest by far was the wholesome if tiresome faith of Mitra, the protectress, whose priestesses dispensed (mostly) justice from the white halls of their alabaster temple at the heart of Rastingdrung.

The Ulimite faith began, as they always do, with a prophet,one Albachus. A noble, he was sent in his youth to visit the City State of the Invincible Overlord to acquire culture and connections with other leading families of the Wilderlands. Previously a mild believer in Mitrian orthodoxy, over three nights he received The Ecstatic Visitations of the Shrouded Concubine, the strange herald of Ulim which speaks with a multitude of voices, the jagged harmony of which brings an agony of ecstasy, revealing visions of unknown appetites and hidden pleasures. Albachus was commanded to cast off his privilege and devote himself to Ulim, the one god and one true friend of humanity. He was to undergo a series of spiritual tests, plumbing the depths of desire. During his time in the city he traversed a series of perversities each more profound than the last, lying in gutters with child prostitutes, making an opium den of fresh tombs, and starving himself so that he might enjoy the succulent taste of human flesh.

When he returned to Rastingdrung he preached that all that was real was the satisfaction of mutable desire, the eternal moment of pleasure and joy. The human being, he taught, is a storehouse of slumbering appetites that wait only to be discovered and nurtured. Indeed, this is the true and never-ending work of humanity that has barely begun. All that stands in the way is the sense of disgust, and the unholy taboos, and restrictive laws propounded by the haters of humanity and their false gods. Armed with strange miracles and orgiastic rituals, he quickly developed a following, at first among beggars and lost souls, but soon among dissolute nobles and bored commoners.

This was too much, even for Rasingdrung. As the sect spread with alarming speed, Albachus and the early apostles were martyred by the authorities: Albachus was lowered feet first into acid; Saint Maurus was broken on the wheel and flayed; Saint Clebbard was covered in honey and consumed living by ants; Saint Balix was entombed alive, and gave birth to her twin daughters in a stone coffin beneath the earth, and so on. Such persecution served only to fan the flames of religious fervor and bestow a gory legitimacy on the Ulimites.

When the Chatelaine, then sorceress to the idiotic king of Rastingdrung, usurped the throne, she was naturally opposed by the ruling noble families and the religious authorities of Rastingdrung. She responded by elevating the Ulimite faith to the official state religion, handing over to the former temple of Mitra to them, and burning the rest of the temples. With the help of her newfound religious allies, she subjected her noble opponents to a series of show-trials for heresy.

Now the Temple of Ulim stands at the center of life in Rastingdrung. It is the one recognized and permitted faith of the city-state. Its priests, the Voluptuaries, dispense the many sacraments of Ulim to the population. It is said with only slight exaggeration that every pleasure is catered to at the Temple of Ulim for a price. Beneath the pleasure chambers where the ordinary sorts of prostitutes and drugged oblivion can be purchased, the so-called gaming rooms lie, where more adventuresome and costly experiences can be had. Beneath them further still lie the White Halls, the silent, padded dungeons presided over by the Scarlet Censors, the dreaded secret police of the Temple who watch with vigilance over the orthodoxy of the citizens. Although the Voluptuaries bristle under the yoke of the Chatelaine, and endlessly scheme, they continue to serve as her puppets, her eyes and ears in the city she has ruled for more than a century.

The Houri

Min Wis 9 Dex 12 Cha 14

The Voluptuaries purchase foreign girls and boys to serve as temple prostitutes from the constant stream of slavers who travel to hawk their human wares in Rastingdrung. They are raised to walk with grace the many paths of human desire, including the darker and less travelled byways. Many are trained in music and dance, and some are deeply studied in history, philosophy, and poetry so that they may serve as companions to scholars and aristocrats. Beyond their more obvious services, they serve as the eyes and the ears of the Voluptuaries, who in their maneuvering and constant surveillance crave a steady stream of information about the private lives of Rastingdrungers. Although they are slaves, and so officially outside of the hierarchy of the Church of Ulim, some win considerable power and independence through the influence of their patrons. Furthermore, all temple prostitutes are holy to Ulim, for whom the cultivation and uninhibited satisfaction of powerful appetite is a sacred duty. He shows his favor by touching a few, bestowing on them some of the miraculous powers of the Voluptuaries. These blessed few are also learned in the arts of subterfuge usual among the temple prostitute.

Note: (1) This class uses Chris Kutalik's nice B/X thief variant for its basis. See here for the details. (If you use the traditional thief than the Houri has the skills of a thief two levels lower.) It also takes inspiration from the Houri class in White Dwarf #13 and ESPECIALLY Jeff Talanian's and Colin Chapman's awesome Purloiner class for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, detailed in the AFS #4 (zine) available here.



Bonus Thief
Skill Levels

Cleric Spells

Backstab, Entrance
4, 400
1 - - - - - - -
2 - - - - - - -
2 1 - - - - - -
3 2 - - - - - -
3 2 1 - - - - -
3 3 2 - - - - -
3 3 2 1 - - - -
+2 hp
3 3 2 2 - - - -

Starting Thief Skills
Out of 1d6

Climb Walls
Pick Pockets
Find/Remove Traps
Hear Noise
Read Languages
Pick Locks

The Houri may wear only studded leather or lighter. He may use any weapons.

Class Skills 

The Houri saves as a cleric of the same level.

The Houri is unable to turn undead.

The Houri may use cleric scrolls, and magic items suited to thieves or clerics.

At first level the Houri may backstab as a thief.

At first level the Houri may employ his mystical abilities to entrance any subject that could conceivably be open to his charms with his beauty. This is a magical effect, and is not the result of a good come-on line. Affected subjects save vs. spells. If they fail, they are entranced and cannot act for 1d4 rounds. The effect is negated if they damaged.

At second level the Houri may employ his mystical abilities to beguile any subject that might ordinarily be open to his charms. This is a magical effect overcoming all other obstacles. Affected subjects save vs. spells. If they fail, they are hopelessly smitten and will act as though under a charm spell.

At ninth level the Houri may establish a salon. He will attract 1d6 Houri of 1st level, and a following of 1d6 1st level characters of diverse classes. They will love him, many quite literally, and treat him as their leader and comrade in mischief. There are, of course, limits to the honor of wantons.

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