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.”
Erathis is the god of civilization. She is the muse of great invention, founder of cities, and author of laws. Rulers, judges, pioneers, and devoted citizens revere her, and her temples hold prominent places in most of the world’s major cities. Her laws are many, but their purpose is straightforward:
-Work with others to achieve your goals. Community and order are always stronger than the disjointed efforts of lone individuals.
-Tame the wilderness to make it fit for habitation, and defend the light of civilization against the encroaching darkness.
-Seek out new ideas, new inventions, new lands to inhabit, new wilderness to conquer. Build machines, build cities, build empires
That’s the extent of the Player’s Handbook information on Erathis. Let’s see where it takes us.
The Fable of the First City
Once, it is said, Erathis walked the world and saw much chaos and strife. She empowered mortal champions and bade them unite this chaotic land, and they did so by founding the first city, Erath. She gave unto the city‘s rulers the commandment of unity and left the world once again. They welcomed all faiths, all peoples and all ideas to it and united them, seeking to make them into one whole.
At first, all went well. Soon, however, the differences began to mount. The Evil gods compelled their followers to disrupt society, and the clergy banished them from Erath because of their threat to their unity. Then the good gods demanded that their moral imperative was above law, and were also banished. Soon after, the many races seperated into districts as tensions rose. One by one the other deities and races were banished from the city as their differences caused strife, until at last only those who followed the church were left in Erath. But even then, it was not enough. Soon the different ideas within the church caused strife, and the church itself split.
At this, Erathis became greatly angered. She commanded that the city be emptied of life, and smote it so hard that no trace of it remained. Even then, some of her own followers chose to stay, their conviction compelling them to hold on to their ideals. Erathis was saddened and decided to leave the mortal world forever, but as she rose to the sky her eyes encompassed the world. The many faiths and peoples of lost Erath had not splintered back into tribes but united into cities and nations of their own, and though they struggled they all enjoyed the benefits of civilized life. Her heart gladdened, Erathis descended on her followers once again and gave them not a commandment, but an idea of Unity; that all people are different, but are stronger working together than alone. Her own church split into orders that each order might pursue its own goals but work with the others in greater strength, and the church worked by this idea thereafter.
The Commandments of Erathis
Erathis has straightforward commandments, all centered on one goal; build and maintain civilization. Her commandments do not command behaviour from individuals, but instead motivate the whole towards a purpose. She commands society, not the person, and even pits societies against one another for the sake of simple testing.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the church of Erathis has a rather strict internal order based on a rigid military structure, but the leeway given to the individual members to pursue their own goals does come as something of a shock to new recruits and visitors. Responsibility to a society begins with responsibility to the self. The Erathian philosophy of Unity exhorts members to do what is best for the whole by enriching themselves, though always in the context of assisting others.
The Knightly Orders of Erathis
The church of Erathis is formally divided into four knightly hierarchies, each of which commands its own force of willing recruits of various stations. In practice the four orders overlap considerably, and someone who is nominally a member of one order can receive rank and accolade from another for exemplary service. Each one is associated with a certain class, though in reality their distribution is mostly even across the orders.
-The Order of the Sword are explorers and conquerors who forge into new lands without fear, associated with Invokers.
-The Order of the Coin are bankers and traders who are as comfortable in an ancient treasure-filled ruin as they are behind a desk, and are associated with Paladins.
-The Order of the Hammer takes on the role of policemen and lawmakers, both external and internal, and are the first line of defense against attack. They are associated with Avengers.
-The Order of the Gear are inventors, both of grand new machines and of political strategy, and are associated with Clerics.
The Order of Sword make it their business to forge into the wild, uniting disparate faiths and tribes under one rule and laying the foundations of a grander society. Before the world fell to darkness, the Grand Master Sword was considered the leader of the church as a whole and commanded unrivalled power. He could call upon the armies of a hundred nations united under a single empire and throw it against the unconquered wild. In modern times, these operations are limited to assisting smaller kingdoms and warlords in their efforts for unity. The glory days of grand wars led by the chosen of Erathis are past, though the church must work ceaselessly to see them once again.
For now, the Swords must contend themselves with subtly or overtly steering expeditions towards minor victories or serving the efforts of other deities, such as Bane. Indeed, the greatest successes of the church in modern times are attributed to their efforts with Bane‘s church, which in turn credits the funding and careful groundwork laid by the Erathian faithful. The relations of Erathis with other faiths are stretching thin as a result, and will soon come to a head unless a better way is found. The order is split over the issue of Bane; all agree that working with his faithful helps the church achieve its goals, but many are unsure of how long this relationship can last and what effect it will have in the long run.
Of the orders, the Swords are the most likely to be found in adventuring parties, though almost no Erathian would travel alone if they could help it. Not only does exploring conquering wild and unknown lands appeal to them, but they also face an increasingly hostile reception in their own church as the pressure to choose a side mounts.
The Order of the Coin, sometimes nicknamed the Bankers, is given the responsibility to safeguard routes for travellers and trade and to maintain economic stability. The order is associated with Paladins, although they‘re no more common than other members in the order. The Coins are by far the most powerful order currently in service as civilization has splintered into a thousand points of light in the wild, and their task is daunting. They must make dangerous treks to remote places several times a year, promote expeditions into ancient ruins in an effort to recover lost wealth and maintain the value of coinage to better promote economic unity, not easy when every nation insists on stamping its own king on metal, and there are few tactics they won‘t resort to in their duty.
The Bankers must contend with safely transporting gold reserves from place to place, travelling to remote areas to set up new teleportation portals to better aid future reclaiming and making roads secure for traders to travel. But it also falls to the bankers to keep safe their vaults, and here lies the order‘s greatest task. With the fall of empires, many vaults and their locations have been lost to time. A family of claimants (or even ancient immortal claimants themselves) might wish to reclaim items stored in such places centuries later, prompting the order to send forth an expedition into ruined cities to open a safety deposit box, assuming that some daring adventurers haven‘t claimed the articles already. The Order must occasionally hunt down adventurers who wield powerful items meant for storage, and reclaim them by force if necessary. The bankers will stop at nothing to maintain their reputation for reliability.
Of all the orders, the Coins are most susceptible to falling into the trap of Tiamat‘s greed and selfishness. They must make money for the church, but it‘s all to easy to skim profits or make shady arrangements for the purpose of wealth, actions which harm the whole. Wealth is the driving force of prosperity and conquest, so these unfortunate souls must learn caution should they wish to avoid the Hammer.
The order of the Hammer takes upon itself to maintain the laws of whichever society they inhabit, defend the strongholds of civilization and punish crime against society. They are are considered a rough lot, having long since come to face the realities of their work, and will stop at nothing in their investigations. They must also investigate their own church for weakness and are given invasive authority to do so, as personal freedom is sacrificed for the good of the whole. Moreover, they must uphold the law of the church which can create problems of jurisdiction when they overlap with the laws of a nation. The Hammers officially divide themselves into the Guard and the Arbiters, with the former serving a militant role and the second focusing their efforts on being neutral judges. Some cities fold the two together, forming a formidable police force which takes upon itself to arrest, judge and punish, while others abhor the very notion.
Avengers make up a disproportionate number of Hammers. They are uniquely suited to the rigors of the work and accept being the most unpopular arm of the church as their duty. They must uncover heresies of greed and selfishness within their own ranks, all while juggling jurisdictions and personal stress. Many of them simply burn out at a young age, even with the gifts their goddess grants them. When combined with endless temptation and familiarity with Tiamat‘s worshippers, the Hammers are ironically often in danger of seceding from the church. Wayward souls will stumble along this path all too often.
Hammers will sometimes swear a vendetta of justice upon a specific threat to law or a city, such as an army of invaders or an organized criminal gang. They drop all formal titles to Erathis and act alone as loose arrows, sometimes even uncaring of collateral damage as long as the job gets done. Their reasons are often personal, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a partner, but the end result is usually a flurry of daring heroics and massive bloodshed. Wether the church approves is another matter entirely.
The Order of the Gear is considered the strangest of the four hierarchies. It‘s their duty to not only find and invent new ideas and technology, but also to reinvent that which has come before in an effort to make it better. The inventions they take credit for may often be wondrous as their reputation demands, but the ones the order is most proud of are functional and effective, ranging from the letter of credit to a better kind of horse collar. They are also political activists, constantly reinventing social constructs and political theory. They tend to work closely with the church of Ioun, as long as their particular brand of historical revisionism doesn‘t get too much in the way.
The central philosophy of the Gear is not unity, but what they call the River. The Gears will patiently explain that their work is neverending, but also that their work can become meaningless in the blink of an eye should better ideas come along, borrowing earlier ones as tributaries form a larger stream. What they don‘t tell just anyone is that the same concept applies to societies; that some societies simply come to a natural end, while the surviving ones borrow traits from those that came before and start over. Essentially, the philosophy of the River is a direct contradiction to Unity in that it expects empires to fall, much as Unity impels them to rise. It‘s not unknown for other Erathians to look askance on this idea, and it has on occasion even been deemed heretical, leading to internal warfare in the name of unity. But as the Gears say, this is also the function of the River.
The Gears are deeply involved in politics wherever they go, be they interpersonal or national. They tend to interpret everything they see in a political slant, which annoyes followers of Ioun who value a neutral viewpoint, and will readily reinterpret history and even recent events to suit their views. Adventuring Gears will often dabble in useful alchemy and delight in finding new societies and learning about them as much as they enjoy immediately meddling with them. They are also explorers, and often travel with settlers who wish to form a new community.
The idea of unity is this; Order returns to chaos.
Ideas diverge. Nations split. People disagree. There is no level of society not affected the the principle of chaos. The philosophy of unity does not make its business to force everyone to agree; this is impossible. Instead, it encourages understanding, that two people who disagree might still work together to better each other‘s lot. Such understanding must be reached at a personal level; only you decide to follow and recognize laws, respect your fellow citizens and work with them for greater good. Most do this unconsciously, never even thinking about it; these are deemed truly wise. But the faithful of Erathis must test themselves against strange ideas and come to understand them and act on them consciously, and thus become great.
There are other ideas interwoven with this basic principle, such as the concept of natural chaos (which covers things that a stable society must simply acknowledge as true and ostracize or make criminal as antithetical to order), but the basic idea is what gives the faithful their guideance. If an organization is too big, split it in two; if several are too small, unite them. Always encourage teamwork, and seek to improve yourself as much as the society. This is the reason that the knightly orders are based on military hierarchies, to better remind members that they are part of a whole, but still allow members great leeway in their individual pursuits, to better strengthen the whole.
That is not to say that there haven‘t been Erathians who violate this principle. The Erathi Movement is a recurring political ideal which seeks to create a perfect city, nation or empire, by force if necessary, interpreting Unity as a drive for conquest over chaos. Some orders, particularly of the gear, have been made heretical several times in many cities over the centuries, but the church eventually unites once again. In modern times, however, such unity is not so assured. Worse still are the everpresent temptations of selfishness, which makes sacrifice for the greater good unappealing. This is called the curse of Tiamat, whose agents are often found attempting to subvert the Order of the Coin to line their own pockets with ill-gotten gains. For the sake of unity, the members of the church often sacrifice their privacy and freedoms in exchange for security from internal dispute and infiltration.
The church of Erathis takes money very seriously. Coinage is a living record of civilizations past and present, wealth funds new conquests, and the gears of civilization depend on a strong and stable economy. Indeed, coinage itself is considered somewhat holy in and of itself, and the popular belief goes that as long as a civilization‘s coinage is circulated, a piece of it lives on. The church of Erathis has therefore kept a longstanding tradition of accepting all coins from all lands, dividing their value not by denomination but by metal. Merchants feel safe in accepting strange coins with unfamiliar markings when there‘s an Erathian enclave in town, and conquerors can safely plunder another civilization‘s wealth with minimal fuss – the Erathians there will have seen to it.
The methods the church uses to acquire more money are sometimes underhanded. For example, they run homes for older people, offering to take care of them in exchange for some commodity or, more commonly, a parcel of whatever land they may have owned. On the face of it, the church seems generous and compassionate in rewarding citizens for their faith and preserving their knowledge for future generations. However, the church also subverts the normal lines of ownership. Land would usually be divided among the children of the previous owners at their natural end, but what belongs to the church stays with the church. Donated parcels of land reaching back before the rise of even the oldest empires are recorded and claimed by the church, which keeps the records safe, manipulates law into recognizing their claims and then loans them out whenever those lands are again pacified and ready for resettlement. This makes the church immeasurably wealthy, and that wealth will in theory never decrease.
Of course, things are not always so rosy. These records, called the writs of ownership, can be lost for decades or even centuries at a time to thieves or simple accident. The church has posted a permanent bounty on lost writs to encourage those who find one to return them. To further confuse the issue, the churches of Avandra and Sehanine in particular make a concerted effort to destroy the writs whenever they are found, seeing them as symbols of oppression or stagnation. Vecna‘s clergy will use them to tempt Erathians into heresy and Tiamat‘s clerics will even claim them for their own selfish greed. Such acts should be taken with great care, lest they be discovered and harshly avenged.
The church doesn‘t always get along with itself. In these darkest of times, the church has become splintered across the remnants of civilization. A network of teleportation circles connect them to some extent, but each city is largely left to fend for itself. This is a dangerous situation for the Erathian faithful, as this prevents the church from effectively operating on a truly large scale. The temples now identify themselves by what city they serve, and sometimes the different city temples clash. Without a proper viewpoint to go by, how can the faithful of one city know who to assist in conquest or when? In ancient times they often didn‘t, leading to such extremes as near genocide for the sake of unity and greed, and Tiamat still motivates conquerors to go to terrible extremes. As a response to such temptations, the church of Erathis long ago decided to have an active hand in deciding such conflicts.
Since those early days, it‘s been tradition for the church on opposite sides of a conflict to meet and discuss the relative merits and strengths of each civilization and to covertly assist whichever one seems better suited for stable rule. The losing side will find their funding cut drastically and their Erathian clergy coming down with mysterious injuries or illness, as well as a thousand other little things going wrong at every level in command. Some Erathians do disagree with this broad consensus and die fighting for their nations, but to sacrifice the self for the whole is a holy act and these are remembered as martyrs.
But these lines are not so clear today. Two cities might be at war, and each temple supports its own side, Erathian killing Erathian in furious competition to see which side is most fit. This is not in and of itself forbidden by the church, and is in fact commendable, but it is seen as a tragic lack of unity. Without a uniting factor to drive them, the church may come to splinter apart entirely once again.
Members of the Order of the Gear often take the Alchemist feat and delight in inventing or refining new concoctions, and are alongside the Order of the Coin the most common users of rituals. The Bankers tend to focus on utility or travel rituals, notably the portal spells.
The most notable trend in terms of class features among the church of Erathis is that her Avengers will almost always choose the Censure of Unity.
Erathians tend to take their roles in parties very seriously. They deviate as little as possible from their primary chosen purpose, and multiclass only to enhance it on the expectation that their allies will perform where they can not. They tend to be popular leaders as a result.