Thursday, November 9, 2017

1d20 +1d6 Cults

+Joseph Manola had a really good post about cults recently, and I wanted to make a follow-up to that.

If you find yourself in need of a quick cult / new religious movement that's more than just scary guys in scary robes, roll below.

There's no prize for guessing the origins, but feel free to try.
  1. Indigenous religion decapitated and banned by colonial occupier. The old ways die out slowly as the younger generations are educated in the ways of their colonizers.
  2. Foreign religion deemed dangerous to the political and social order due to widespread popularity with the underclass. Believers are driven underground, practices are carried on in secret and undergo syncretic mutation over decades of isolation.
  3. Modern resurgence of previously extinct historical religion.
  4. Tax haven founded to exploit the ennui and disenfranchisement of the nobility. Aggressive policies towards any party deemed even a minor threat.
  5. Demagogue exploits nationalist narratives, racial tensions, lingering resentment over economic misfortune, occultism and pseudoscience to gather support. Scapegoats are named, violence breaks out.
  6. Ethnic and religious minority targeted with persistent slander by majority group: blood sacrifice, desecration of holy sites, conspiracy against the state, spreading disease, and so on. Claims are easily disproven, but damnably and dangerously persistent.
  7. Group leader orders series of murders in attempt to trigger wide-scale conflict across social fault lines. Beliefs based on interpretations of popular song lyrics and apocryphal symbolism of mainstream religion.
  8. Approaching celestial event claimed to provide passage to paradise in reborn bodies. Believers gathering in isolated compound to await the end.
  9. Ultraconservative reading of scripture used as justification for reign of terror. "Sinful influences" banned and punished by death. Widespread and violent oppression of women, scholars, homosexuals, political dissidents, foreign influences, and all of the above.
  10. Millennial microbranch of mainstream religion. Strange beliefs and practices that are often distrusted and mocked, but generally harmless and permitted free practice. Send people door-to-door with literature.
  11. Subvertive / transgressive movement targeting mainstream religion by positioning itself as the opposition. Adversarial imagery adopted to this end.
  12. Non-religious works of dead, foreign philosopher treated as holy writ. Orthodoxy enforced with brutal efficiency. Leader treated as god-king despite disavowal of religion by both the group and the founding document.
  13. Native religion of slaves mixes with beliefs of their masters. The resulting faith retains strong ties to a specific, limited geographic region even after emancipation.
  14. Traveler returns from a distant land with incorrect but enthusiastic recollections of religious experiences. Half-informed variant takes off like wildfire, bearing little resemblance to its parent.
  15. Group declares distant king to be a god-on-earth. The king in question does not encourage this belief.
  16. Practitioners proclaim in-depth knowledge of the secret manipulators of the world and all the schemes and conspiracies thereof. They obsess over revealing truth to unthinking masses: Hidden celestial bodies, secret races of puppet-masters, false histories, impossible geographies, and all the things they don't want you to know
  17. Parody religion emphasizes absurdity, chaos, and disorder. It's all for a good laugh.
  18. Scripture interpreted as associating material wealth and financial success with divine blessing and moral uprightness. Tends to ignore the parts of the book about taking care of the poor.
  19. The world operates according to a grand order, but is also filled with all manner of bizarre and obtuse spirits that must be dealt with appropriately. This calls for some creative use of ritual.
  20. It was aliens all along.

Bonus Table

  1.  An adoring crowd has formed a commune near a dragon's roost, wishing to witness its power and majesty and seek to expand their consciousness through their proximity to such a creature. In truth, the dragon is neither powerful nor majestic and is going about the ordinary dragon business of hunting, shitting, and sleeping, but that's celebrity for you.
  2.  Leftover war materiel from a distant superpower's arcane conflict has formed the basis of a new mythology. Old gods have been retired, a new age has been declared, mutations from thaumaturgical runoff are now considered blessings, totems and images of weapons used as major symbols of good fortune, mock-battles attempting to re-enact the distant battles of gods held.
  3.  Bored temple-goers begin carving graffitti faces into the pews during sermons. Several centuries later, these have evolved into detailed characters who have filled books of parables and religious commentary. Theological academia scoffs, the common folk love it.
  4. Ad hoc messianic prophecies spread between dungeons to give the monstrous humanoids hope that they will not be utterly destroyed, may be exploited by canny warlord later.
  5.  Apocalyptic cults are just maintenance crews for the turning of the Wheel. Gambling karma on what disaster ushers in the new age is a popular pastime for rival cultic schools.
  6. A single god has thousands of facets, and all must be worshiped according to the proper forms, no matter how bizarre the form and what it represents might be.


    1. I have 19 Wikipedia tabs open right now because of this post.

    2. 1: Could be lots of things. Let's go with Druidism after the Roman invasion of Britain.
      2: Christianity in the Roman Empire.
      3: Contemporary neopaganism.
      4: Scientology.
      5: Nazi fascism.
      6: Judaism in medieval Europe.
      7: Manson family.
      8: Heaven's Gate.
      9: ISIS.
      10: Jehovah's Witnesses.
      11: Modern Satanism.
      12: Stalinism.
      13: Vodou.
      14: Yoga and other forms of modern 'New Age' spirituality.
      15: Rastafarianism.
      16: UFOlogy
      17: Discordianism.
      18: Prosperity Gospel Christianity.

      Not sure about 19 or 20...

      1. 19 is Shinto, 20 is Raelism, and 2 can be either Christianity in Rome or Japan.