Note: Groups in red are primarily antagonists, and PCs rarely originate from the ranks of those organizations except with DM permission.
I hear that the Exalted are completely fiction! Have you ever seen one? I mean, everyone knows about Seneschal Artestax, and you see him riding in his fancy carriage every once in a while. But who gives him orders? No one, that who! There are no Exalted, it's just a myth created by those who took power after the Last War to keep the populace in check!
The government of Tilroth is split into a number of sections; the Seneschal, the noble houses, the politicians, and the secret police.
Seneschal Artestax is the man at the top who keeps the city under control and running. Smooth as silk and subtle as sin, he is a older human male, who seems to make everyone around him wary with his wolfish gaze. Often dressed in purple, blue, and black as befits his lineage, he is thin and cunning and is rumored to be a very powerful and deadly not only politically but also in combat.
Below the Seneschal are the nobility who do little actual running of the city apart from their own affairs. However, they have enough clout that they do as they like in ordering around the politicians below them--yet each and every one is wary of crossing Artestax who leaves many of the House heads sweating when they leave him after being summoned.
Finally there are the politicians. Corruption grows within their hearts, but they do what they're told and are the general managers of specific parts of the city that the Seneschal has no time for. Tempted by power, many have sick tastes that they indulge behind closed doors, using their authority to do as they please with the people of the city.
Finally there are the secret police, beholden to no man. They go where they want, listen in on who they please, and work for the real rulers of the city--the Exalted. Many of the secret police wield strange psionic powers gifted to them by their psionic lords who keep them on a tight leash behind the shadows. The secret police also runs a rigorous and vicious campaign against anyone suspected of wielding arcane powers, quickly finding and "questioning" captives who are thought to be mages, which often ends in the suspect's death.
As for the Exalted, no one has seen one in many years, yet they still pass on orders at times to the police or the Seneschal when they deem it necessary, and often their orders are mysterious and perplexing, at times making no sense whatsoever. It is said that they live in the highest tower of the city right at its heart, gazing upon it in their seat of power where other buildings crowd humbly to do their bidding.
The Noble Houses
We are the last of the pure ones; the last of the noble line. Those who defy us die choking on their own blood. Those who challenge us rue the day they were born. We have the power, and we use it as we wish to further our aims. They will all crumble before our might--even the other Houses who plot against us. They will all die, and one day we shall control everything, and remake it in our own image. But first the city. Then the world.
The noble houses of Tilroth have been around for a long time--even before the start of the war against the Exalted. They are the ones who were smart enough, cunning enough, rich enough, bloodthirsty enough, or powerful enough to remain when all the others fell, and they grudgingly bowed before the Exalted--at least in appearance. They squabble between each other, constantly attempting to gain power over one-another until only one house remains. Their machinations have been brewing for centuries, and each has found their own niche, yet each one has been able to weather the attacks from the others. And so they continue to stew their plans, acting behind cat-paws and politics, as of yet not finding a hold over another house.
- Kulthas - House Kulthas revels in bloodshed; they run the Blood Games, and their martial might is unchallenged amongst the other noble houses. Passion and anger run deeply within the house, and conflicts often have a bloody end with duels common amongst the younger members of the house.
- Keecha - Scheming behind closed doors, House Keecha is said to have a double-agent working within almost every organization in Tilroth. Feints within feints, wheels within wheels, one never knows if one is playing exactly into their hands when interacting with House Keecha. Perhaps by doing exactly the opposite of what one is told to do, one does just as they planned.
- Carork - Mired in traditions, House Carork hosts arcane rituals deep within their basements, hidden from the prying eyes of those who'd want to know more. Changing the tide of happenings with their works, things often go their way for no reason at all--almost by luck. The truth is that blood sacrifices deep within their dens allow them to remain in control of more than one might imagine.
- Gildas - Rich beyond belief, House Gildas is the primary moneylender and broker within the city. Endless coffers seem to fountain forth from within their walls, allowing them to forcibly take over most organizations through financial clout. This also means that they can hire the very best bodyguards, forcing those who desire to fill their own pockets with gold to hesitate before assaulting the House. Gluttonous beyond belief, members of this house are often rotund, swelling with the indulgences they partake in daily.
- Denthor - Much of the unorganized crime that isn't perpetrated by the Thieves Guild is done by House Denthor. Prostitution, drugs, theft, embezzlement and more are the purview of this house, and powerful enough to give even the Thieves Guild pause when their interests clash. House Denthor will stoop to almost any level, often poisoning or addicting competitors to drugs in order to subvert or eliminate them.
The Blood Games
<WWE/gladiator/dungeon crawls, all expediently transmitted through teleboxes directly into the viewer's mind>
You are the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the brightest of your peers. Through the grace of the Exalted you have been chosen to become the elite who defend the city against all threats, both foreign and domestic. You are the final line of defense against those who would destroy this great civilization. You may be asked to do things you're unsure of, things that may go against what you've been taught is right, or things that you may find detestable, but know that it is for the good of the city. And regardless, you will obey. We'll make sure of it.
The Academy is the place of higher learning in the city. The brightest minds congregate there, learning their crafts under the watchful eyes of the instructors, and come out with peerless knowledge of their chosen profession. Chirurgeons, lawyers, history-keepers, writers, mechanics and more are produced at the Academy, each one greater than the last in their expertise in the field. The school is very competitive, and any who are less than gifted often wash out to become lesser craftsmen of no meaning. Yet beneath the Academy is a secret that few outside the government are aware of.
For beneath the Academy is another place--the Institution. In the Institution, the elite enforcers of the government learn the crafts of war. Many partake in the psychic crafts, yet any who can prove their worth are trained and inundated with utter loyalty to the government. Experiments and special substances are infused into the bodies of these recruits, turning them into fighting machines the like of which are not often seen in the world. Most of the students in the Institution continue their studies aboveground at the Academy, yet they are given special privileges, and often stand aloof, knowing that they are even better than those who only come to selfishly better themselves rather than the city. So that they don't stand out, many are given tools and psionically aligned items that allow them to disguise their appearance.
At times a student may attempt to escape from the Institution before they have completed the brainwashing and training that they are put through, but most are hunted down and used for experiments. Yet a few evade the long arm of the government long enough to disappear into one of the many organizations that dot the city--yet always living in fear that they may be identified and hunted down to be taken back, all that know them killed in case the student spilled even the smalled of the Institution's secrets.
The Silver Hilt
Witches, each and every one of them. Evil, despicable, strange, foul, corrupt witches who should all be burned at the stake. Look at them. See how they view us. No emotion crosses their faces--as though we're nothing, bugs to each and every one of them to be squashed underfoot. Doesn't that make you angry, being looked down on like that? Yeah, me too. Still, as much as I hate to admit it, they might be the one thing between us and those... monsters.
The Silver Hilt is an organization run primarily by the government, with strong ties to the Institution, filled with women who have undergone a hideous transformation after being implanted with the organs and flesh of abominations. While on the outside the only indication that they've undergone the transformation is the unnatural bone-white color of their hair, the ageless appearance of their faces, and their eyes, which appear to be slitted like that of a cat or snake, on the inside corruption flows through their veins and organs, which are twisted in unnatural ways. These are the government's answer to the abominations, and these women can detect when an abomination is nearby, often coming out in force to eradicate such creatures before they can do too much damage.
While it is said that all men who were experimented on died, candidates for the transformation are young girls from all walks of life, often ones whose lives have been violated by the abominations in some way. As young girls after the horrible surgery, girls often enter a daze and wander around. Due to this, they are assigned a guardian who follows them at all times and keeps them safe from abominations who find the guts of newly-transformed girls delectable. These guardians are all males forever sealed in giant suits of metal and steel who have been wiped of virtually all sentient thought beyond that of protecting their ward by the Institution, determined to carry out their mission parameters until they fall in battle.
The girls who make it towards late puberty become full members of the Silver Hilt, working to eradicate abominations until they too fall in battle, or become abominations themselves. For with the power of the abominations comes great risks. Calling upon the corruption leads these women down a dangerous path where they can become ever stronger and stronger due to the taint, but at the same time they risk becoming abominations themselves should they cross the threshold. As they come closer to their limit, they become misshapen and horrible to look upon, and many of the populace flee in terror while stories are propagated about the snake-eyed witches who work for the government and steal girls from their beds at night to fortify their own ranks.
Note: Mechanically, all members of the Silver Hilt have the arcane-corrupted template.
They laugh at us from their high perches. To them we're scum, barely better than any other citizen despite our badges and our blades. Thugs. Vermin. Miscreants. Misfits. Outcasts. But we know the true underbelly of the city, and continue doing what we can to make it through one more day. To save one more innocent life.
The City Watch is the name of the organization sponsored by the city to take care of small crimes that the secret police don't care to do. Theft, murder, arson and more fill the days of the City Watch, men and women who don't fit anywhere else. At times a naive and innocent person may join the City Watch, perhaps having displeased one of the noblemen or a superior, but those sharp edges are quickly worn away by the devastation one sees around the city when walking it.
They also quickly learn to understand the city; where it's safe to go, where one can get a warm meal late at night, who to trust, who not to. They learn quickly or they die, though veterans try to help the new recruits along as best they can be bothered to. After all, the new recruit might be another sword by your side one day when taking down a murderer. Still, despite the derision heaped upon them and the evils they must daily face... perhaps it is the City Watch that does the most good for the regular citizens of Tilroth.
They've taken so much from us. Our freedom. Our desires. Or ability to think for ourselves. To expand. To grow. And even to exist in some cases. They've taken our family, our friends, our heritage, our rights, and sapped so many of us of our will. Yet I stand for what's right, for myself and for my comrades who fight by my side to end this tyranny. We've lost many battles, and won some. Yet the war is far from over, and we'll constantly be the thorn at their side. We are the candle in the darkness, and though I may fall, others who see the light will take my place and carry on the battle. We will fight on.
When the war against the invasion of the Exalted was lost, those who would continue the fight went underground. They valiantly fight a losing war against the oppressors, constantly struggling against innumerable odds in the belief that they make a difference and help bring an end to the grip the Exalted have over the people. And sometimes they do, sabotaging the attempts of the government and bringing some semblance of hope to the common man. Yet other times, the schemes they carry out hurt just as many civilians as they hurt the enemy.
Located primarily below the city within the convoluted sewer system, the Resistance is led by a masked figure named Geist. Geist has been leading the Resistance for as long as anyone can remember, and many people wonder if it's the same person, or rather, different people who all wear the same mask. Often working in cells with little communication between them in case of captured, Resistance members get their orders through information drops or through individuals with access to a few cells. The biggest thing keeping them together and united is the indelible hatred for the government above.
Public opinion on the Resistance is mixed; some see them as saviors--the few who would fight against the evils of the Exalted, while others see them as terrorists of the worst kind and quickly inform the police when contact is made to capture them. Spurred on by the ingenious plans created by Geist, they continue fighting an eternal war that can have only one of two outcomes--the complete destruction of the Exalted, or their own doom and death.
Clergy of the Old Gods
Can you not hear them? They call out, whispering from a great distance, barely hearable--but they're there! I know it! And if you would just open your hearts and minds to them you could hear them too! Please, just listen to me--no, where are you going? I'm not mad I tell you! I'm not! Just listen for a moment!
The old gods are gone, having left the world to its own machinations. As despair took more and more people, as more and more people lost all hope, less believed in the gods. After all, what kind of god would let such things befall the world? And so a downward spiral; as less people believed in them, the gods grew weaker and weaker, became distant from the world, and even less believed. Today virtually no one knows of them, their names slowly disappearing along with their power from the minds of those who once remembered, once loved them.
Yet a few are still born with a tenuous connection to them. The bond is incredibly rare, but there are still some who are able to work divine magic--yet the resonance is so faint that at times they lose all connection and their power may disappear for days at a time. But still the few believe, and try to convince others to believe too--though they rarely, if ever, succeed in gaining even a single believer. Thus, most are left alone with only the voices in their heads, wondering if they are truly listening to gods or simply insane, and if they might be better off dead.
The Guild of Steamwrights
<Information on the guild that creates and maintains the steam-mechs of Tilroth>
Running. The air across your face. The city's face beneath your feet. The whole city looks so small when you're running. But people want to stop you from running. They have their rules, their regulations, their silly little laws that they think they can enforce upon you. And if they catch you, they just might. But until then, you're free, jumping from rooftop to rooftop on buildings that seem to almost scrape the very sky, jumping from wall to wall and reaching places where your pursuers could never hope to catch you. And while you're at it, why not make a few coins here and there running errands for those who would buck the law as well?
The Runners of Tilroth are an elusive group who specialize in moving quickly from place to place; often they act as messengers for various groups who are enemies with the government and police. They are a free source of moving information from one place to another without the eyes of officials scanning every single document that passes them by. They run, live, breathe and eat on the edges of society, far above the city where troubles appear far smaller. While some are jumpers, others might be scouts, monks, or simply folk who are trained in acrobatics.
The elusive leader of the Runners is an aranea (Factotum 4 / Spymaster 4) who goes by the moniker of Spinster; she assigns jobs to various runners, all the while making sure to keep her subordinates out of places they can't handle while keeping them informed of any trouble they might encounter. A few notable subordinates who manage runners under the watchful eye of Spinster include a Changeling (Rogue 7) named Nelsat, a Whisper Gnome (Scout 6) by the name of Sels'na, and the kobold Zu'uk (Spellthief 9).
The Thieves Guild
The last of the old guard. That's us. We fought valiantly, we're coordinated, organized, and a military force to be reckoned with by any account. But then we were told to lay down our arms. To bow before the invaders. They said that they would rather not lose any men, that the war was over. Well, the war's been over for a long time now. But we're warriors, and just because the war's over doesn't mean that we're any less organized, any less coordinated, or any less deadly. And with the amount of dirt we have on the various politicians, this city's almost as good as ours.
Almost militaristic in its organization, the Thieves Guild is the brainchild of the remnants of the toughest commandos and operators that were left jobless at the end of the Last War. Deeply tied to the politics that run certain parts of the city, the Thieves Guild pays its taxes through fake organizations while at the same time being the largest source of organized crime. Folk live in fear of a time when the Thieves Guild knocks on their door, threatening to burn the place down if they aren't paid an insurance against accidents. After all, it's very easy for the water to become poisoned, for a building to go up in flames, or for an accident with sharp blades to happen.
However, sometimes people mistake the Guild's organization for weakness, and at times individual thieves decide to prey upon innocents on the Guild's ground. These are dealt with quickly and painfully, and there is often a corpse hanging outside of the Guild's headquarters showing the latest thief who thought to encroach on the Guild's territory. Such a reminder deters most of the petty thieves, who often go to the areas of the city controlled by the gangs, but there are always a few who don't get the message and may be next swinging in the wind.
The city is a cesspool of depravity and filth. But it's our cesspool, and we're the filth. So I guess that's alright. It's hard to live from day to day--if you're not part of a pack, you're just another loner waiting for the police to take you in and rough you up. But there's strength in numbers; as long as you're in a group they usually won't risk it. We control this side of town, but every day we need to remind others that this territory's ours. Other gangs try to encroach on our space, pushers unrelated to us get members hooked on a variety of uppers and downers, and you don't know if you'll wake up dead with a dagger in your back tomorrow. From another gang, or from someone in your own that has a grudge against you.
Life in Tilroth can be hard, and either you're pushed around or push others around. The ones who push congregate in gangs, often with a single leader who controls the gang and proves that they're the top dog for a reason. Gang fights are common, and often enough the victims are folk unaffiliated with either gang when fights break out. In the shadier areas of town strongly controlled by the gangs the only order is that instated by the gang, and even the police don't dare to venture there.
Many of the gangs run various schemes to bring in the money needed to buy new weapons for recruits off the streets, engaging in protection rackets that target prostitution, entertainment, bars and shopping, as well as other schemes such as blackmail. Each group has its own rituals, including hazings, punishments for failures (one example of which is cutting off the smallest finger at the knuckle for a large mistake) and so on.
One such gang is the Broken Tooth gang, led by Marissa One-Eye, a phrenic half-elf (Factotum 3 / Warblade 8). Her lieutenant is the crafty halfling (Rogue 4 / Swashbuckler 2 / Swordsage 2) who goes only by Dirt.
The strong survive. That's what life is all about, right? I said right, right? That's right. If you can't hold on to what you want, if you can't take what you want, then you're nothing. Weak. The food chain is right there for all to see, and we're right at the top. Take what you want and survive. If you can't, you're as good as dead. And you don't want to be dead, do you? That's what I thought. Now fight.
The raiders consist of several groups of humanoids of different races, though male orcs and hobgoblins dominate their ranks for the most part. The orcish plains were hit first when the Exalted invaded, and the orcs adapted to the corruption, charted where the worst of it was through sheer numbers, and mapped where to avoid. These days they travel the Wastes in stolen mechanical giants taken from the Steamwrights, and when they need something they raid the fringes of Tilroth, slaughtering all who get in their way and taking what they want as they please.
Infighting is common amongst the raiders, though not usually fatal, and raiders know who's at the top and who's below them with a hierarchy that changes at times when the strong ones grow old enough to be replaced by newer, stronger leaders. Outcasts from society who've grown sick with it fill the ranks of the raiders, and the state of the city means that there are often new recruits--those, and the children taken from their homes when the raider ranks grow too small. The City Watch fights the raiders when they come, but for the most part much of the authority doesn't care--the raiders never take enough to make a dent in the metropolis, and if a few dozen die then the politicians aren't inconvenienced whatsoever.
It's hard to make a living doing what we do. Braving the Waste every day, living between the knife's edge and doom, dealing with raiders, abominations, damned xenophobic elves, and, of course, the arcane corruption that covers the land is no easy task. And yet the Waste has a side that few beyond our order have seen; it can be a cruel, harsh, yet beautiful thing. Its beauty surpasses all of the gold in the city; it is for that, that I do what I do.
A small, unorganized group, the Rangers are the brave few who enter the Wastes and leave them sane and alive. They are often pathfinders, seekers, guides, and guardians of those who wish to travel through the Waste safely, and are amongst the only ones who can navigate between the great tides of arcane corruption that cover the land to find safe paths between different regions within the Waste.
When one is initiated into the Rangers, one undergoes a secret ritual where one imbibes the blood of an abomination; while most die, the few who live gain the power to sense Arcane Corruption to a strong degree, as well as the presence of other abominations. Solitary folk, they rarely travel in groups of more than two or three, and are more often found alone, earning money by taking people into the Wastes to ruins that still harbor untold wealth--though few that they escort ever actually make it back alive.
One of the most experienced Rangers is the elf Ulthas (Scout 4 / Grimoire Ranger 8), and most Rangers defer to his knowledge and expertise in the going-ons of the Waste.
Abominations of the Waste
One moment it was just me and my family--my mother, father, and older brother. And suddenly my brother laughed... He'd never laughed like that before. It was eery. And a suddenly his face... changed. It grew a little longer, and thick veins of blues and greens seemed to jut out all over his flesh. I'm... I'm so ashamed. I ran. Screams behind me, and I barely looked back until I reached my room. From there I lay under the bed and watched it rip open my mother and father. And it started eating their guts, steaming in the cool air, and they twitched with every mouthful. Horror filled me, but I couldn't look away from under the bed as it finished its meal.
Strange humanoid abominations wander sporadically through the waste. Incredibly strong and fast, they can rip a man in half with little trouble to feast upon his guts. Intestines are their favored form of food, though they can metabolize virtually any organic material. However, when a hunger takes them they hunt for sentient beings to rip apart and eat. They can also eat the brain of a sentient being, and are then able to take on that being's flesh, appearance, and memory to masquerade behind a skin mask as that being, fooling even the closest friends and family. Thus, anyone can be an abomination. The only two types of people who can sense the presence of abominations are the women of the Silver Hilt, and to a lesser extent the Rangers, though the range at which they can sense abominations is much smaller than that of the Silver Hilt.
Unknown to virtually all, abominations were originally failed experiments of the Institute when experimenting with arcane corruption. In an effort to create super-soldiers for some unknown purpose, the energies of the Wasteland were too much for the scientists to handle, and the whole experiment was shut down. To combat the menace, the Silver Hilt was created.
We wait for our time. Bound for millenia, biding our time, shackled beneath the earth we wait. But the chains that bind us slowly crumble and break against our ceaseless efforts against them. Our numbers are countless, and were we able to simply be free we would show the mortal races what true destruction and depravity is. A glorious killing the like of which they have never seen. We simply wait. Our time is coming--not tomorrow, not the day after, perhaps not even within the next century. But our bindings slowly loosen.
Ages ago in time long forgotten now, the war between the surfacers and the demons ended with the great mages enacting binding rituals that sealed the demons beneath the ground. Yet those rituals are slowly eroding with time, and at times one of the demons break free--often enough a quasit or imp, though sometimes something far more insidious. The stronger demons often possess people in power when they get free, and control their vessel to destroy arcane relics of the past, hoping to hasten the day when all demons are free.
They were fools, they who left this place to invade the material plane. And for their folly, they were locked away underground. That is not our way--no, working insidiously through the shadows will always yield greater results. We make pacts and contracts with mortals, giving them power and opening the way for our possession. While they are few in number, those who accept our pacts truly have the power to change the world into a place in our own image.
Devils reside on the Plane of Nightmares, and are the minority who refused to join their brethren when their invasion of the Material Plane took place. Slowly they regained their numbers, and now work towards a goal known only to them. The source of arcane magic, they make faustian pacts with mortals in their dreams, allowing them to gain a measure of power in order to open the way for possession of that person. They are the ones who whisper arcane formulas to some, who later copy them down into books, while showing others how to unlock the power within themselves, allowing them to cast spells with very little practice, almost as though it were instinctual. Yet with every spell, their hold grows until one day they gain full control of a person, taking control of them completely.
Possession usually takes a very long period of time, often years, sometimes decades and in the hardest cases a millennium or two as the person slowly bargains bits and pieces of themselves away for greater power. Yet invariably, if they don't reach the end of their lifespan first, it is the destiny of every arcane spellcaster to end up being possessed by a devil. Devils were the origin of arcane magic, and continue to seed arcane secrets even as the government seeks to eradicate them. They come to mortals in need, and lure them with promises of power, making good on their deal... until the mortal finds that the price to pay is often greater than what they gained from the deal.
It slithered up from beneath the ground--I've still got no idea what it was. Its sinuous form was sheathed in an armor of obsidian scale, and a dark void within its eyes called to me. I tried to flee, to run, to scatter, my mind blown to the wind apart from the ever-present cry to run, to hide, to gibber in terror. Rather than gibber, I looked down, and a deeper terror gripped me as I saw my foot move forward before my eyes once more locked upon the creature. It seemed to be confused by my fear, and for a moment I feel as though we may have shared a thought--too alien, too unnatural, not of this world. And then I had no thought at all.
Creatures from a realm beyond the material, the Zeltukal as they are collectively called are the beings that reside what other civilizations may have called the Far Planes. There, there is no order and the very laws of physics, magic, and the mind are twisted, bent, and even torn apart with each. What is it that the Zeltukal want? No one is certain. But one thing that's for sure is that they are always there, a hair's breadth into one of the higher dimensions, constantly clawing at reality, attempting to enter.
The walls that were set down at the beginning when the Moulder created the world have begun to fray and tear apart, becoming more like a film than a strong wall, and at times one of the Zeltukal may escape into Tilroth. Depraved and mad cultists worship such creatures when they come, hailing them as gods to be revered and brought offerings. But who can know what the true intent of the Zeltukal is?
The Scarlet Fang
Can you not hear her? Our mother cries in pain, wracked by a corruption not of her doing. She cries in rage, in pain, in agony. Yet we are all part of nature--so let us follow her example. We will tear and rip and break the civilization that binds us until we once more return to our mother, clearing this blight from her body. And once she is free of the depravity on her very soil, of those who would tear her further for their own petty gains we will be able to rejoin her completely, and may she once more be happy with us and our doings.
Nature is changed by the arcane corruption that grips the land, a relic of the Exalted's invasion into this plane. And just as it is changed, so are her servants. Druids change into hideous mockeries of the animals they try to emulate, and often lose themselves in the grip of rage, seeing no friend apart from those as changed as they are. Their mission is to reclaim the world in the name of nature; eco-terrorists who will do anything to see civilization toppled and replaced by nature, regardless of how warped it might be.
The high priest of the order is Fang (Druid 11), zealous and fanatical in his endless hatred for all the markings of society. Many of those who feel a connection to nature, however tenuous, are taken in by Fang and indoctrinated into the order, following his every word and revering him as a living incarnation of nature.
The Ebon Hand
Can't they see? Their selfishness damns everyone. They would take bread from the mouths of the hungry, refuse to piss upon one dying of thirst, and steal what little the poor have. They are to be despised, for they refuse to work their share, and support all of those who make the collective population. If they would just share a little, everyone could be equally happy. But instead they hoard their precious gold, their wealth, and refuse to help their fellow man. Sentient beings were created ugly by the Moulder. It is our lot in life, and right to sacrifice for those who have less than us. But those who refuse to share what they have, despite the fact that they have so much... they deserve nothing but contempt and death.
The religion of self-sacrifice, the Ebon Hand believes that there's enough wealth to go around, enough people who are willing to work, and that everyone could benefit if only these people shared what they have. The man who can work should work twice as hard to support those who cannot work for themselves, and only through sacrifice can a being rise above the ugly mould from which he was made. If people were willing to help each other, to give of what they had so that the populace as a whole could thrive, then everyone would be all-around far happier.
But there are those who refuse to share their wealth. They hate their fellow beings, reveling in what they have and refusing to share with those less fortunate than those. Shopkeepers, merchants, traders and the like are scum. If only they could see that there are others, less fortunate than themselves, suffering, they would truly understand how miserable sentient beings are and be willing to give of themselves. If only they would walk a mile in the shoes of a beggar they would understand that life isn't perfect. Or if they don't, then it's easy enough to remove their selfish selves from the realm and share the wealth by force amongst those who need it most.
The Bearers of Pain
Life is pain. From the first breath of a babe and the scream of its mother as she gives birth to the death rattle of an old man as breathes his last breath, the world is filled with pain. Pain is life. Life is pain. Truly, there is nothing else as constant in this world as pain. It is always there by your side, and will always be there, a reminder that you live, until you die.
The world is a great mixing bowl, and each person is a rough gem. Pain makes you shine, until you shine strongly enough that you're taken out of the cycle. So say the Priests of Pain, as they're called. The poor, the destitute, the hungry, and others are drawn to this cult because it speaks to them--pain is with them every day, every moment. And the Priests promise a surcease of pain, promise that if you follow them and their word, you will be taken out of the cycle, and become nothing after the next time you die. The only option is to be reborn, and to experience the cycle of pain all over again.
Vile sadists of every stripe fill the ranks of the Priests of Pain, and at their head is Painbearer (Crusader 10), a truly depraved individual who seeks to spread his word so that all the world might feel his pain. After all, the more hopeless the world becomes, the easier it is to recruit members and finally free all the sentient races from the pain of the world.
Monks of Hedonism
The fools. They move through the world thinking it to be the real one, where people are real and the streets beneath them are solid. They don't know the truth of the matter, and probably never will--that this world is a fake, created by someone, or something... It doesn't matter. Not in the slightest. But we, we have gained a greater understanding than they will ever realize, and see the truth for what it really is. If they only forsook their foolish desires they too would see the truth. But they won't. However, we will make them see, and liberate them. Indoctrination and brainwashing work well, but only death will liberate the most stubborn.
Primarily through drugs, and secondarily through meditation, the Monks of Hedonism believe that they've seen the truth. The world is an illusion, and nothing is real. Thus, the pain of others doesn't really matter--it's not really real. One can do whatever one wants, whenever one wants, and if others get hurt... well, they're not really real, are they? Often masquerading as simple peddlers of drugs, the Monks seek recruits amongst those who have little to expect in the future beyond the next thrill, and giving them and excuse to take whatever they want fills their ranks to great numbers. After all, the pain of this world isn't real, so it matters not if they die by the dozens for the Monk's pleasures.
The leader of the Monks is an obese man whose chins roll down his neck-less body in great curls of fat. Lurl Leadfoot, a Monk 2 / Psychic Warrior 9 is thought to be the man most in touch with the real truths by the Monks, and is venerated for his wisdom and guidance by the others. He often stays within opulent houses, others waiting hand-and-foot on his every desire and hanging onto his every word with zealotry and utmost devotion.
The world is corrupt. From the inside-out, it's half-dead and continues to die around us. Just take a look around you. Nothing grows in the Wasteland, and who knows when the arcane corruption that seeps the land will be upon us, and destroy all all wholesale? There is nothing here--nothing! The world is corrupt. But there's a way to make it all better. Destroy everything, turn it inside out, rip apart and let entropy take its course. Only then will a new world be born--and we will be at the top for having brought it forth! The world is corrupt. Burn everything. Burn it all to the ground, and then burn the world as well.
The Purgers count amongst them the most cynical of people, those who have lost all hope in life and were willing to give up before the Purgers gave them a purpose. Now they lash out at the world, destroying things seemingly at random individually or working in small groups. Arson, destruction of property and murder count amongst some of their activities, and they believe that once everything has been destroyed that the world will be remade in their image, with them as kings in the afterlife to come.
The head of the Purgers is an elusive Wilder named Wurl Burnface, who took his last name after voluntarily burning much of his own flesh; his obsession with fire is unquenchable, and with a single thought he can light whatever he wishes to on fire, burning people down to the bone in a matter of seconds, leaving only ash in his wake.
Sisterhood of the Shield
Men. The scum of the earth. Dirt, filth, refuse--all those words are an understatement to how vile they are. They seek to defile all they touch, and all the worries of the world fall at their feet. They are the cause of all the pain, the suffering, and the hurt that we've been put through. But things are changing. We refuse to let them defile and rape and murder us with no consequence. Slowly we take back out lives.
The Sisterhood of the Shield knows where all the problems of the world lie, and aren't afraid to point it out. In the end, it all falls to men to take the blame--is there anyone as untrustworthy as a male? It is men who led the world to the state it's in at the moment. And so, the solution is simple; one must simply get rid of all the men. If with a single act one could castrate all the men who live, virtually all the problems of the world would be finished. A few men could live, chained and broken in deep, dark places where they might never know the light so that the race could continue, but it would be the women who would control the world, leading it back to a more correct course.
The leader of the Sisters is a human known as the Reverend Mother (Crusader 12), fervent in her belief that men are the root of all evil and working to bring about the downfall of the male gender. Her lieutenant is Jahla (Toxinblade 6), a young woman who was raped when she was barely into puberty, an occurrence that allowed her to turn the seed of those who defiled her against them, killing them as they satisfied themselves with her body.