Cultist of the Ash-Veined (5e Background)

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Cultist of the Ash-Veined[edit]

There exists a darkness at the edge of reality, the opposite of all things that exist. It is named the shadow which lurks at the edge of the light and it is the dark reflection of all that is. In a contradiction of everything logical, it is that which is not. The shadow hungers for the destruction of all things and the return of everything to the perfect, beautiful nothingness it knew at the beginning of creation. It is not 'evil', it is simply anathema to all life.

The cult of the shadow is one of the most insidious and far-reaching of any cult, mostly because the shadow offers the promise of near limitless power to its followers. As the opposite of what is, the shadow has oceans of strength to draw on- but it is a strange, unpredictable and dangerous strength, unlike any magic of any of the planes. Still, there are many who seek out such power for themselves. For this reason, the cult of the shadow is made up almost entirely of opportunists and greedy, power hungry individuals. They bow and scrape in faux-worship of the monstrous deity, but very few truly share the god's desire for the destruction of all things. For its part, the shadow tolerates them and might even allow them a snippet of its power. All depends on its fickle will. Ultimately, mortals are mere toys and their end is inevitable. The shadow might play with them for some time, but it will always ultimately discard them.

You are a member of the cult of the ash-veined, so named for the grey ritual marks they draw onto their skin, curling around their forearms. Only the affluent, powerful or unusually brutal are allowed into the cult. Perhaps you are a wealthy but bored and see the cult as a bit of fun. Perhaps you are ambitious, and desire to tap the shadow's strength for your own gain. Perhaps you wish to become a barbarian of path of the ash-veined, one of the cult's fearsome enforcers and hit-men. They are twisted by the power of the shadow, which they allow into their bloodstream. They are the ashen-blooded bogeymen of society and give their cult its name. While most of the cult lurks in the shadows, 'ash vampires', as they are called, are their terrifying face.

Skill Proficiencies: Religion

Tool Proficiencies: Forgery kit

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: A forgery kit, cult robes, A pot of ash, a set of fine clothes and a purse containing 25 gp

Civilian Identity[edit]

While you are a member of the cult, you also have a normal, unassuming identity- though in truth 'unassuming' is probably the wrong word: you are probably either rich or highly influential. The only other way in is to demonstrate such an overabundance of savagery as to seem useful to the cult as one of their flunkies when they need an 'inconvenience' removed. You can select your civilian identity from the Civilian Identity table or roll randomly. Your civilian identity also grants an additional skill proficiency.

d10 Civilian Identity
1 Wealthy noble with an inheritance to fritter away. (History)
2 Opportunist living off the wealth of another cultist. (Persuasion)
3 Academic responsible for the education of the wealthy. (Arcana)
4 A priest whose faith is corrupted by a lust for power. (Medicine)
5 A self-important merchant who has bought their way in. (Insight)
6 Unscrupulous mercenary who'll do anything for the cult. (Intimidation)
7 Captain of the town guard, offered membership to turn a blind eye. (Investigation)
8 Illegitimate child of a noble whose existence is hidden by their parent. (Deception)
9 Master thief whose services are very useful to the cult. (Stealth)
10 Bedraggled street-preacher whose ravings include strange insights. (Performance)

Feature: Slink into the Shadows[edit]

In any city where the cult has influence (which is almost all of them, their tendrils spread far) you are able to procure the assistance of your fellow members. They are unlikely to risk offering you shelter, since all fear the revelation of their dark secret. They will, however, give all assistance they can to those looking to 'disappear', helping other members escape the eyes of the law and forge new identities for themselves. They often have great wealth and political power and have an interest in preventing justice getting to any other cult members, lest they implicate the others under interrogation. They might supply a place to hide and rest, but only in desperate circumstances, never in their own home and usually in as squalid accommodation as they can find: they are loyal to the cult, not to you and often only barely to that. If confronted, they will deny all knowledge of your existence.

Suggested Characteristics[edit]

The cult of the ash-veined is filled with egotists, eccentrics and soulless killers. Their reasons for taking up the life of an adventurer are usually tied to the power that they so greedily grasp at. Not all members of the cult are 'evil', per se, but all are driven by the feeling that they lack something in life, whether it be power, respect, subservience or the sweet, sweet blood of their enemies. The cult is covetous, grasping and elitist by nature and may be the only religious organisation more wicked than its patron god. The shadow represents sublime, beautiful and eternal nothingness. Its cult, however, are the petty, backstabbing, money-grubbing and mortal 'corruption' of those ideals.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I study every stranger closely to slot them into the hierarchy of power and importance I hold always in my mind.
2 I'm accustomed to being flattered and adored. I don't truly worship the shadow: in a strange way, I worship myself.
3 I'll follow any order given by a figure of authority, conscience entirely numb to the brutal commands of the cult.
4 I am overly friendly with everyone, because you never know when you might need an ally in a tight spot.
5 I don't like being noticed. Lurking at the edge of the crowd, observing things, is where I'm most at home.
6 I believe anyone can be bought: no soul is too principled for bribery as long as the price is right.
7 I respect and value my enemies more than I do my friends, who are all grovelling sycophants who bore me immensely.
8 I really am a fanatical nihilist, devoted to the destruction of existence. All living things are my enemies.
d6 Ideal
1 Power. I will not lie about my aims. With the power of the shadow, I will rule continents. (Evil)
2 Tradition. The cult brings together the rich, powerful and influential, as things should be. (Lawful)
3 Brutality. The cult lets me do whatever I like, which is mostly bringing pain to my enemies. (Evil)
4 Authority. The laws of society always crumble to anarchy. The cult represents a higher sovereignty (Lawful)
5 Survival. The shadow will devour all that exists, but it will consume me last of all. (Neutral)
6 Annihilation. At the end of everything, the shadow will consume the universe. I glory in that. (Chaotic)
d6 Bond
1 I bought my way into the cult with money, but I'm still constantly trying to prove that I'm really worthy.
2 A cult member once helped me when in need, and I've deluded myself into thinking that I've a debt to them all.
3 A friend betrayed the cult and I'm conflicted over whether to hate or admire them, since I suspect they might be right.
4 A rich parent thinks me weak and feckless, but the cult will be my means of proving them wrong and rising even higher.
5 I want to reshape the cult to my own purposes, placing myself at the top of the hierarchy.
6 The shadow whispers to me in my dreams, and I'm sure it has a particular purpose for me to achieve.
d6 Flaw
1 I have a tendency to assume that others respect me, since my flunkies in the cult make such a show of it.
2 Everyone in the cult is perfectly willing to stab the rest of them in the back, so I'm extremely paranoid.
3 I'm often deliberately secretive, cryptic and obfuscating, even when it's in my interests to share my knowledge.
4 Non-cult members are infinitely inferior and mostly expendable: I'll happily sacrifice them for my own gain.
5 I've developed a taste for bloodshed after years of doing the cult's dirty work. I'm always picking fights.
6 The power of the shadow is like an exhilarating drug, and I've become dependent on feeding my addiction.

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