Enormous thanks must be given to the RPG.net poster “Wields-Rulebook-Heavily” for creating this truly impressive mythos.
Used with implied permission.
“You know what the best kind of flattery is? Finding bits of my stuff being yoinked for people’s campaigns all over Obsidian Portal.”
I’ll start us off with a quote.
Originally Posted by Player’s Handbook 2
An avenger might serve any deity, but an avenger is more likely to worship an unaligned deity than a god of good or lawful good. Avengers of Ioun are among the most common, fighting a war of knowledge against the servants of Vecna.
Whoever wrote this line is a genius. It alone completely sells the class to many people, myself included. Moreover, it pretty much sold me on Ioun as a deity and faith. It’s inspired me to write up a ton of words on the church of Ioun, its philosophies, functions, titles and, of course, secret librarian ninja wars.
Originally Posted by Player’s Handbook
Ioun is the god of knowledge, skill, and prophecy. Sages, seers, and tacticians revere her, as do all who live by their knowledge and mental power. Corellon is the patron of arcane magic, but Ioun is the patron of its study. Libraries and wizard academies are built in her name. Her commands are also teachings:
-Seek the perfection of your mind by bringing reason, perception, and emotion into balance with one another.
-Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore.
-Be watchful at all times for the followers of Vecna, who seek to control knowledge and keep secrets. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and blind them with the light of truth and reason.
The Meditations of Iounites
Ioun is a curious deity by the standards of the divine. She prefer to communicate to her followers through prophecy and almost never issues commands. Instead, she expects her followers to act indipendently and on their own reasoning and judgment. It is said that Ioun is often pleased should her clergy accomplish their tasks in ways she did not expect.
Her divine commands are also teachings, but they are also the only hard and fast commandments that her servants must swear to uphold. All of her other pronouncements are designed to be interpreted by her followers, and they are thus called meditations. There are many meditations, but four in particular stand out in importance and each of the four arms of Ioun’s church- The Avengers, Paladins, Clerics and the rare Invokers- identifies primarily with one meditation.
The meditation of the Avenger is as follows; Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
The meditation of the Cleric reads; There is one truth; There is no truth.
The meditation of the Invoker is; There is no darkness.
The meditation of the Paladin; Knowledge is nothing without the knower.
The faithful are invited to interpret and consider these meditations on their own and to reach their own conclusions, but they are also sternly reminded that they are all to be taken in context with the rest and with Ioun’s commandments. There have been many minor schism in the church over differing interpretations (most famously the Avenger’s and Paladin’s meditations), most of which arise when a student forgets to consider them in context.
Nothing is True; Everything is Permitted.
This meditation is by far the most controversial, and often doubles as the Avenger’s Oath which only complicates matters. Firstly, it reminds the Avenger that he can never see the whole truth of anything by himself; his eyes are fallible and his mind full of preconceptions to be cast away. Secondly, it states that anything is possible and permissible, a double warning. The Avenger’s Creed states that the world is an illusion created by ourselves, both individually and as a whole, and that we can either submit or transcend. On a more superficial level, it reminds the Avenger to never assume anything, and to always look beyond the surface. Everything is permitted; Nothing stops you but yourself. The Avenger is guided by their reason and conscience first, all other concerns second. It reminds them to choose their targets wisely and never falter in their mission, but also to never fall into the trap of fanaticism and inflexible dogma.
The order of Avengers is proactive. In every library operated by Ioun’s clergy is an outpost were the Avenger’s information scouts (or more derisively “informants”) work ceaselessly to acquire new manuscripts or discover the location of older ones. Should such a work be found, the agents will do their best to recover it on their own before calling on higher-placed members to assist them. However, they are also free to act on their own conscience. Outrigt stealing is frowned upon, but offering a “reward” for a “lost” manuscript known to be in the hands of a recalcitrant pivate collector and paying it out with no questions asked should a “generous soul” deliver a copy is perfectly permissible.
It’s rare for such a bureau to target individuals, but it’s not unheard of for high-ranking Avengers to follow sages of obscure subjects and adventurers who have stumbled on some scrap of knowledge for days on end to see wether they have connections to Vecna’s cults or are approached by their agents. Thus are innocents often caught up in the holy war of knowledge.
Avengers use their meditation as an oath, but it’s also common for Avengers to use their own personal oaths derived from whatever doctrine or personal goal they’ve set themselves upon. Ioun favors independence of thought and action.
(You get zero points if you spot what I based this on.)
There is one truth; There is no truth.
This meditation is a contradiction, because for one half of it to be true the other must be untrue. However, which one is more true is unclear because logic and argument supports each side, and each with multiple interpretations. Debating the merit of each side is common among the followers of Ioun. The meditation reminds the Cleric that there is more than one side to every problem or argument, and to consider everything from all possible angles to reach a full understanding. This makes them excellent diplomats and careful leaders who will readily listen to advice and lead with confidence in their plans.
If the church of Ioun can be said to be a university, its Clerics can be said to be its professors. Clerics are the most likely of Ioun’s servants to engage in original research alongside those Wizards who worship the goddess, and they take the role of proselytizers and teachers within the clergy as well as its most learned healers. Clerics are usually called upon to run sponsored schools and libraries and to liase with leaders and other faiths, and tend to be the most politically involved of the orders. They are trusted to bethe keepers of the faith, able to go into the world and survive its rigors as better people.
Although the clergy concerns itself with the theoretical more than the practical, it’s most famous for its work on curing epidemics. New diseases attract healers of Ioun, eager to examine and if possible cure the new strain. The church doesn’t maintain many healing houses, but those are always of the highest quality and brimming with the most brilliant minds in medicine.
There is no Darkness.
This meditation is an absolute, as pure and blunt as the Invoker’s power. Darkness is not a condition or material of its own; it’s merely the absence of light. Darkness is not evil, because it is empty and nothing; light is not good, because it simply is. The Invoker is a channel of power and knowledge, but merely having knowledge or power does not make him better than those who don’t. The Invoker is thus reminded to be guided by reason to use his powers responsibly and that his role is not to destroy ignorance, which cannot be destroyed, but to bring knowledge. It also reminds them to never be too proud to reconsider their own reasoning and a reminder that not knowing something is not a failure, but instead an opportunity to learn.
As rare as Invokers are in general, they are even more rare in the ranks of Ioun. Invokers are changers, makers, movers and shapers, and are more likely to make history than to record it. The Invoker’s official duties are to interpret, collect and, most importantly, to act on prophecy. Many of them are seers themselves, and are expected to not sit idly by as watchers but to go forth and take active part.
The actual number of Invokers tends to fluctuate wildly with the years, but it’s said that Ioun makes sure that there are as many as are needed at any time. Curiously, there are more active Invokers in modern times than at almost any other point in the church’s history. It seems that great events are in motion.
Knowledge is nothing without the knower.
This meditation reveals another paradox of knowledge; that unless someone knows and understands it, it is useless and even forgotten. This meditation exhorts the paladin to safeguard knowledge, but also to make knowledge freely available and to actively use it. The Ioun paladin’s unofficial motto is to learn by doing and teach by doing. The paladins also safeguard knowledge that is not easily recorded, such as of martial arts and athletic skill, through regular competition and constant practice. It’s not unusual for Ioun’s martial followers to use exotic or ancient weapon designs in an effort to preserve them in action, and they will even reenact famous battles with the help of volunteers on occasion. This meditation is also commonly credited as the one that makes the knowledge and use of rituals popular among Ioun’s followers.
The Paladins of Ioun are not only the martial arm of the church, but also its librarians and archivists. Those few paladins who live to a considerable age are usually given this duty, which is considered amongst the highest of honors. When an Iounite asks you to be quiet, you listen because the paladin behind the desk has more than likely seen more combat than even the hardiest of veterans. A common joke has elderly paladins of Ioun confront dragons just to retrieve overdue library books, and this is honestly not too far from the truth.
The Great Foe
A good conflict is defined by your enemy, and Ioun’s enemy is Vecna.
Ioun’s libraries are the greatest centers of knowledge in the known world. In a twist of cosmic irony, this also makes them among the greatest targets and even gathering places of the various cults of Vecna, who will try to infiltrate libraries and slowly eradicate choice bits of knowledge or take it for their own use.
There have been entire secret wars fough exclusively within lost and forgotten archives. One such dispute involved the paladins and avengers of Ioun on a search for an alchemical formula that could transform water into a flammable liquid and ignite it. The knowledge of this dangerous weapon, which at the time was theorized could transform the entire world’s oceans into flame, was lost with the fall of Bael Turath. Some research notes remained and came into the posessions of Ioun’s faithful, where they were moved from archive to archive until at last it came into the hands of a Vecna cultist who had infiltrated the fortress-library of Akka. He immediately recognized the potential of this formula, and over several years his agents were sent forth to destroy copies of the documents as well as records of their existance so that he alone would command the formula’s incredible power. It was by sheer fortune that one such agent was caught in time by an elderly paladin relegated to library duty. He took initiative and recruited the Avengers to find and destroy the cult, which had roots reaching almost to the highest echelons of the church.
Many of the battles that occurred exist nowhere today outside the Avengers’ private archives, but those documents tell a tale of stealth, guile, theft and murder involving hundreds of unwitting participants over a period of several years. The final confrontation with the cult destroyed what had become the only extant copy of the formula, but also eradicated the last known members of Vecna’s infiltrators. Many churches would consider such an event cause for celebration, but to Ioun’s chosen this was considered an overall failure because the priceless formula was lost.
This was not to be the last internal conflict with Vecna’s cults, which almost take a perverse kind of pride in infiltrating the strongholds of their enemies and causing division and doubt within their ranks.
Not all internal conflicts arise from Vecna. Sometimes, knowledge simply invites disagreement, much as the cleric’s meditation predicts.
The church of Ioun is not immune to schism. Each meditation has spawned multiple interpretations, and sometimes they gain popularity. These conflicts can manifest in any from, from hotly debated notices posted outside libraries to outright physical conflict. The meditation most infamously prone to this is the Avenger’s, but examples exist for all of them. The above interpretations are as “official” as such things can be in Ioun’s church, as their conclusions and teachings are drawn from Ioun’s own commandments, the only true commands she has issued to all her followers. Most schisms begin when a meditation is taken on its own outside the context of the others, which leads to what is commonly termed fallacy, which has come to be the most dire accusation that you can level at a fellow member’s work. Only once in the church’s history has a fallacy been considered more true than its predecessor, but that only drives ambitious scholars to attempt to formulate the second. Ioun’s own teachings forbids the church from clamping down on such speculation (by the terms of the Cleric’s meditation), so internal rivalry can become extremely tense.
It’s not unheard of for such a fallacy to form a secret cult around itself. Should it be discovered, the wrath of Ioun’s Avengers will know no bounds as secrets are abhorrent to Ioun’s commandments. Such a cult is said to follow the “path of Vecna”. The cultists are given one chance only to realise their error in the face of Ioun’s commandments before the Avengers come down upon them in full fury.
To outsiders, such an incredibly violent response to what is to them an academic curiosity often seems excessive or even grotesque. They are reminded that Ioun is not a force for good, but for correct academic principles. Truth and knowledge are worth the lives of those who’d corrupt them.
The Martial Fallacy
The only fallacy to become official is based on the meditation of the Paladin. Before what is called the martial fallacy, Ioun’s paladins sought to collect martial styles in an effort to create one ultimate style, encompassing the best of all others. This style would be called the Art of Ioun. A young paladin felt that this was a disservice to the Cleric’s meditation that teaches that what is best is different for every person asked. Furthermore, she felt that discarding martial arts out of hand and allowing them to be forgotten was in direct contradiction to Ioun’s calling. She discarded the teachings of her fellows and adventured as an outcast for years before returning to the order, whereupon she proceeded to challenge and soundly defeat every ordained master of the Art of Ioun, each with a different tactic and weapon. Thus was born the effort to learn many styles and to combine them as best fits the individual, and the effort to preserve techniques as best befits true defenders of lore.
On a game mechanical side.
Ioun’s followers are very prone to multiclassing, and her paladins and avengers do so in particular. They’re also fans of using exotic weapons.
Many wizards operate under the auspices of the church, and multiclassing to and from the various arcane classes is common. You’d better be very sure you’re not committing a fallacy should you try to make contact with strange entities for the purposes of becoming a Warlock, but the act itself isn’t considered against the precepts of the church. Knowledge can come from anywhere.
A disproportionate number of Iounites take the Ritual Caster and Alchemist feats, and all of them value skill training and focus in knowledge skills. Most will offer to freely share their rituals with those in need.
Iounite characters can easily justify the Blessed, Cursed, Omen and Prophecy backgrounds, as Ioun is the goddess of prophecy. They’ll also often be Scholars.