Age of the Apocalypse
The gods have failed. The wizards have failed. The Shaper Plague stalks the land both figuratively and literally in the forms of the Infected and the Contaminated. Thus, a few—in the darkest pits of despair—have turned to the most powerful living creatures on Abaddon: the dragons.
Alignment: Because the alignments of dragons vary across the spectrum and the Draconic Disciples take no moral or ethical position, as an organization they are neutral. An initiate may be of any alignment.
Leaders: Enlightened Master Grimak Sharptongue
Prominent Members: Arcane Master Atrillya Redscale, Divine Master Damyra Graysheen, Material Initiate Yudnik Azurefist
Resources: The Draconic Disciples have an unusual relationship with material goods. On one hand, they collect everything they can and are often the wealthiest group wherever they are. On the other hand, they never use anything they collect. Instead, they are building a hoard to offer to their draconic overlords.
Structure and Leadership
The founders of the Draconic Disciples spend a great deal of time studying all they can learn about dragons. They know much about dragons in general and may also know great amounts about specific dragons in the region. Typically, when a non-member expresses despair about overcoming the Shaper Plague, an initiate of the cult approaches that person and speaks of how smart and powerful dragons are, and about how their breath weapons can sometimes damage the Contaminated. If the non-member becomes enthusiastic, the initiate begins to train the non-member. Mystery cults like the Draconic Disciples require initiation tests at various levels. Although no one can buy advancement in the cult, being able to increase the cult’s hoard is a prerequisite for advancement, as is passing increasingly difficult tests of the initiate’s knowledge of dragons.
The Draconic Disciples wish to ally with a great wyrm dragon to destroy the Contaminated.
The Draconic Disciples are a small group and not well known (DC 20 for any Diplomacy check to gather information). There is no strong public perception of them. Initiates do not discuss the cult with non-members. At best, people who know of it think of it as a silly waste of time. At worst, they are seen as a group of people who would make any sacrifice to get a very powerful creature involved in the affairs of mortals. And that makes them very dangerous indeed.
Inter-Sanctuary Messenger Service
During the retreat, many family members became separated. Once they settled into the sanctuaries, the survivors began reaching out to other settlements, trying to reunite families. Out of this need grew a courier service. Once the courier service came into being, it was a small step for the sanctuaries to start using it to share information about the Contaminated and about the Shaper Plague. Even the Purifiers found use for it by sharing information and sending reports to their headquarters at the Immaculate Castle.
What isn’t known outside the Service is that, even from its very beginning, it is a cover for smuggling valuables from Sanctuary to Sanctuary, and even from the Tainted Lands to the markets in the Purified Lands. Since its inception, the Service has expanded into fencing stolen goods and even commissioning some thefts.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Leaders: Rutilus Smokepeak, Commander; Boudra Splinterhoof, Captain of Horses; Iandoli Snowgrace, Captain of Riders
Prominent Members: Hakon Boltcutter, Abroshotor Frothelthimble, Maraedlara Swiftmare, Yantur Freeroad
Resources: A branch of the Inter-Sanctuary Messenger Service is likely to have 1d3 items worth 10% more than the purchasing limit of their Sanctuary, including magic items from one category higher than is typically available in that Sanctuary.
Structure and Leadership
Each messenger service office has a boss and two lower-ranking members, one in charge of mounts and vehicles and the other in charge of couriers. Beyond that, rank mostly comes from seniority and accomplishments. There is no difference between couriers as far as illegal activities go. If the Inter-Sanctuary Messenger Service accepts an individual as a member, that person starts with smuggling assignments. As the courier successfully completes assignments and earns trust, he or she gets more valuable assignments.
The primary goal of the Service is profit. The secondary goal is secrecy.
The public sees couriers of the Inter-Sanctuary Messenger Service as valuable and important members of the Sanctuary. At times, public perception approaches hero worship, and the couriers love it. They maintain a swashbuckling, heroic image in their clothes, speech, and behavior whenever possible.
The founders of the Purifier faction were individuals who felt strongly that uniform action had to be taken in all cases of infection in order to protect the uninfected during the retreat. By the time the refugees crossed the Great River and began founding the sanctuaries, the Purifiers were part of the political structure of those settlements. As the sanctuaries formalized, the Purifiers reached out to each other and compared techniques to create the Purification Protocols.
Because the arrival of the refugees and the founding of the sanctuaries disrupted pre-Intruder political boundaries, some castles became unnecessary—and others simply too expensive to maintain. The Purifiers occupied one, christened it the Immaculate Castle, and set to building their political power. For the common good, of course.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Leaders: Cardinal General Olhas Firechosen
Prominent Members: Each Sanctuary in the Purified Lands has a Purifier Chapter run by a Bishop Captain.
Resources: Equipment limited to what is available in any Sanctuary, but able to rally the entire populace.
Structure and Leadership
The Cardinal General is elected by the Bishop Captains. Since each Bishop Captain’s appointment by the Cardinal General must be approved by the other Bishop Captains, this creates a tense political game whenever a Cardinal General retires. Although the system is unwieldy, it has not been used often enough to generate the kind of resentment that leads to change.
New members of the Purifiers begin as Initiate Soldiers. Bishop Captains promote those who demonstrate true zeal and understanding of the Purification Protocols to Novice Knights. It helps if the candidate is wealthy or from an important family. Novice Knights may be promoted further, to Deacon Sergeant, if the Bishop Captain feels the chapter is large enough to need additional leadership.
The goal of the Purifiers is two-fold. In the short term, their goals are codified by the Purification Protocols, described in the following section. In the long term, the Purifiers seek to purge the Shaper Plague from Abaddon. They seek weapons and spells to accomplish this goal, but most of their efforts go toward figuring out why and how the Shaper Plague keeps appearing in sanctuaries.
The Purification Protocols
In the short term, the Purifiers seek to root out the Shaper Plague from the Sanctuaries. The primary tool for this is the Purification Protocols.
1. Educate: Learn the signs and progress of the Shaper Plague, so that you know the difference between it and other diseases. Teach these things to others. Hold community meetings to share the knowledge.
2. Observe: It is the duty of every Purifier to know his or her neighbors and the neighborhood in which he or she lives. Any unexpected absence or change in routine may indicate an infection. Look into such events immediately.
3. Cooperate: Purifiers must work together to contain outbreaks of the Shaper Plague. Be available to each other, and render each other all possible assistance.
4. Isolate: In the event of an outbreak, immediately quarantine the suffering person and all immediate family. To reduce risk of additional infection, use the immediate family to move the infected person. Quarantine must be in a free-standing building, clearly marked so that none will approach.
5. Communicate: Report all outbreaks to your Purifier superiors. Bishop Captains send all outbreak reports to the Immaculate Castle for review and further action. Report as necessary from that point on, at least once per week, until the outbreak is over.
6. Investigate: You must discover if anything unusual happened prior to the outbreak, or if the infected person encountered anyone new. In addition, you must learn who the infected person contacted immediately prior to the sickness.
7. Prepare: You must have a funeral kiln ready.
8. Monitor: Without coming into physical contact with the sick person, monitor his or her condition and that of the family. Make sure they have sufficient food and water. Continue to enforce the quarantine. As the sickness runs its course, light the funeral kiln and heat it until it will melt iron.
9. Burn Immediately: If the person suffering from the Shaper Plague dies, burn the remains immediately. If the person suffering from the Shaper Plague survives and is contaminated, he or she must be burned immediately. Use whatever force is necessary to protect the Sanctuary.
10. Enforce the Choice: If the person overcomes the Shaper Plague, he or she must still face a choice. Because all who are infected carry the plague, they must either go into the kiln and be burned or leave the Purified Lands completely. If the infected individual chooses to leave, your Bishop Captain will assign a troop of Purifiers to escort that person. The escort will ensure that no one comes in contact with the infected individual, and will provide all food and water for the infected individual.
Why the Protocols Fail
Despite the Purification Protocols, people in the sanctuaries still occasionally come down with the Shaper Virus. This happens for several reasons.
• Inattention to or sloppy enforcement of the protocols
• A lack of understanding about how infections work
• Interference with the protocols—a local official may deem someone who contracts the Shaper Virus and recovers to be too vital to the Sanctuary for exile. Those who recover are still infectious.
• Rebels often circumvent a Sanctuary’s gates. Guilds of thieves and smugglers often bring in goods from the Tainted or Contaminated Lands, not realizing that they are also bringing in the virus. While such violations are punishable by death, greed and rebelliousness often overpower the risk.
Contaminated vs. Undead
The viral invader from the gulfs behind the stars acts as if corporeal undead are a nuisance at worst and raw material at best. Whether intelligent or mindless, the undead hold no interest for the Contaminated. Incorporeal creatures, whether living or dead, seem beyond the understanding of the Contaminated. They ignore incorporeal creatures.
Public perception varies by social class. The ruling classes of the sanctuaries chafe at the constant presence of the Purifiers. They see the Purifiers as a nuisance, believing that they can enforce the Purification Protocols themselves. The Purifiers drain resources, including wealth, from sanctuaries. They interfere with legitimate Sanctuary activities by constantly judging whether those activities pose a risk. They insist on inspecting all goods and travelers coming into each Sanctuary, which the ruling class believes discourages trade.
The middle and lower classes, on the other hand, generally see the Purifiers as harsh but necessary. No one likes to see them on his or her doorstep, but they keep the sanctuaries relatively disease-free.