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  • Maagal HaBaal VehaAshera [Dark Eras- Book of Judges]

    The Canaanite Priesthood/ The Collective of the Fertile Crescent

    ​[the face of a marble statue with eyes made out of gemstones and with hair made of silver and gold]

    God is distant. He has no shape, no face, no name to be called. Sure, some would say He has many shapes, faces and names- but in truth the many is just meant to hide the empty. Today, when humanity was able to touch the stars, cross the seas and borrow to the depths of earth, in an age where we can see more, hear more and touch more, where there is a place for such a distant being? Probability? Dark Matter? The axis of time and space upon the world is built? Doesn't it take too much of blind faith? In modern times, you don't even have prophets to speak that God's will- only priests and clerics who interpreted thousand years old texts in order to justify their own religion.

    It was not always the case. When the ancient Israeli entered the Promised Land and started to settle there, they were led by certain, powerful individuals- people who carried the word of God in their mouth and fought to accomplish the vision of their deity- the Judges. Under their leadership, they managed to conquer the new land and establish their presence in the early middle east. However, even in the birthplace of the faith which would cause countless of world changing events, it had to fight for its life. For while the Judges were mighty, the original people of the Levant- the Canaanite- saw the nomads who have just crossed the desert and started fighting in the name of the God's promise as crazies. While they didn't minded adding one more god to their pantheon, who was that God to come and force his will upon them? Where was he? How can they claim him to be so powerful, when no one can see it- unlike their own gods, which were formed out of shiny gold and precious jewels.

    During the time of Judges, however, those gods has failed their followers- and more then once. The people of Israel not only won against their armies with the help of the hidden god, but they have also shattered their idols and burned their gods. However, after the ash cleared and the blood was washed away, the locals were able to convince the new comers that maybe they were wrong- perhaps they can worship their own Jealous God with others. After all, how can they trust a single deity to be powerful enough to protect all of them, forever and ever? Slowly, the Israeli would forget their obligations and seek after the priests to make them their own gods- Baalim and Asheroth, carved out of stone and wood and covered with fine cloths and colours. Still, once one of the Cannaite would gather an army against the Israeli, it didn't took long for a new Judge to rise, banish the enemy and break down all the gods he could find.

    While no one was happy from the way life went during that time, one group especially despised it. Their name was Maagal HaBaal VehaAshera- or simply the Circle. While the many folks of Canaan were a tribal society, with each city operating on its own, the Maagal worked as a united priesthood dedicated for maintaining their gods and protecting their land. They were the ones to build the gods, and as such they knew their secret- that without their touch, the lifeless clay and metal would stay just clay and metal, no matter how beautiful they would look. No- in order to give the empty statues life, it needed will, hard work and faith, and by using the ancient secrets of Kothar was Khasis they were able to trap the godly essence inside its new home.

    While making new gods for their people was their main job, they had other duties as well- first, they had to tend the said gods. Just making a new idol was not enough- it had to be placed in the right place and the right time in order to create a great weave of power, so the more complicated rituals could be worked in a matter of seconds. Second, they had to protect their people- there were monsters in the dark, after all. The children of Yam and Mot walked the earth, bringing terror to anywhere they went. Demons flew upon the nightly winds, bringing plagues and death. People who carried the blood of the gods in their vines couldn't handle their heritage and went mad as man-beasts. By calling the name of Anat they banished those horrors and destroyed their enemies.

    Their third responsibility was protecting their people- not from monsters, but from gods.

    The Circle has kept ancient texts- tablets so old that there was almost no other record of the events written in those stones. It told a story about a dark time, in which a great nation from beyond their lands sent great armies to battle against the first people of the area. Their ancestors fought well and their gods has supported them- but the foreigners had more powerful gods, ones which were not made out of stone and metal but of flesh and blood. To their command, the earth trembled and the skies spit fire. For many years the darkness ruled the land- until eventually, it collapsed into the hungry mouth of Mot, who swallowed it whole. While it looked like the end, the wise men kept the old traditions, until years later they met new gods, gods who carried the same aura and horror of the old invaders.

    Knowing that they could never defeat those gods, the Maagal has found a different plan- they placed their gods in a special way and gave them certain attributes so they would create a great network of force through the land, this time not in order to bring rain or help the earth sprout wheat, but in order to create a mystical barrier which disrupted the power of any outsider god. Their blessings won't work, and they would fall to death-like sleep in a matter of days, leaving their believers powerless. That way, no god defile their lands other then their own.

    Until the Israeli came.

    When their people just entered their land, the Circle wasn't scared- they can speak of their invisible god as much as they like, yet he has no power in their land. Surprisingly, not only that their Judges were able to call upon their god's miracles- that god was even more powerful then theirs. A god without a name or face has defeated the most powerful of the Baalim the Circle has built- and after each victory the zealous Judges would shatter their statues and burn their idols, destroying the ages old barrier and allowing other gods to enter their land. Some claim that considering the place the Israeli has came from, their god must be one of the old gods of the south who wished to allow itself and the other gods to enter. Others argue that it is impossible- for their barrier should have stopped that god from doing miracles in the first place. What ever the truth may be, it is too late- the barrier has broken down, the Israeli keep destroying their statues and the Judges win against any effort the Priesthood tries in order to defeat their enemies.

    During the Time of Judges, the Circle is still a powerful organization. Some of its members try to recreate the barrier or enhance it out of hope it would stop the stranger god, yet many have given up. After all, that god has already won, and many new gods has entered the land while the web fell down. The new gods try to use the guise of the local gods in human flesh in order to draw believers to them, and it is working. Their presence disrupts the network even more, making the establishment of the barrier into an impossible task. Thankfully, the Judges are not too happy of the presence of the new gods as well, and while they don't officially work together they do happen to accidentally help each other, just like when they fight against the dark Cult of Moloch. As long as the Israeli are divided, the Maagal didn't feared losing its grip over the Levant- until one day, their enigmatic god has chosen a King. Since then, the love-hate relationships between the Israeli and the Canaanite went down the hill. Yet, the Circle didn't died out quickly even when Alexander himself step on its throat, and it spread together with its people to beyond the sea, until it finally became a power to reckon with- in Carthage.

    The Carthaginian Empire is an whole other Era, however, and all that is needed to know is that after years of fighting against both the Cult of Moloch in the inside and shapeshifting gods of Rome on the outside, the city fell, taking the Circle with it. For centuries it looked like the group would be lost forever- until like its enemy gods, the group rose from its grave. During the early days after the establishment of Israel, a group of Israeli named as the Council for Coalition of the Hebrew Youth- or Canaanite, as they were more commonly known- wished to detached those Jews who already came to Israel from the rest of the Jewish community by delving deeper into the past and establish the connection between them and the land through the traditions of the pagan people of ancient Canaan, especially through ancient texts about the goddess on Anat.

    While the majority of the group has more or less died out, not all has given up on the dream. A group of artists discovered a text which the others didn't has access to- the old tablets of the Maagal. Following its instructions and their own skills, they managed to do build a true Baal- which has showed that maybe, just maybe their dream of creating a new nation can come true. Slowly and surely, the group has built more and more idols, hiding them as artistic creations or architectural projects. They have even established themselves beyond the sea, making contacts with other artists who believed that by creating their own gods from nothing they could make the world into a better place. While the conspiracy was young, there are not prophets or Judges in modern times, and God was silent. There was no one to stop them from creating the massive ritual they planned for...

    Until Sothis risen again, and the old gods awakened.

    The Maagal is weak, while the Deathless are great in both power and influence. The Arisen hunt down after their gods, and if they are not properly protected the mummies would destroy them and absorb their divine essence. For now, the Arisen hasn't made the connections needed to understand that the Maagal exists, so the group has some time- but if they won't manage to decipher and build the protective barrier once more, their headquarters in Israel would be vulnerable, and the group would once again sink into oblivion. They have only one shot.

    They are not going to mess it up.

    Status:
    0- you are a young biblical priest or a modern new artist. You can spend Merit points of the Idol Craft Endowment
    000- as a priest, you have crafted many gods and gained the respect of your people. Get the Fame merit for 3 dots. As an artist, you have exposed to so much information about arts that some of that knowledge feel trivial to you. Get the Artist's Sense merit (which is like Common Sense, but for art)
    00000- after channeling the essence of the gods for so long, some of it became part with you and gave you one of their gifts. Choose Quick Healer, Striking Looks for 4 dots or Hypnotic Voice

    Endowment- Idol Craft (0-00000)
    Through the secret knowledge of the Maagal, a member can shape the very nature of reality in order to create a special kind of Relic- an Idol. In order to craft a new Idol, a member must first make a regular Craft roll. If the creation of the Idol succeed, he must then use an [Occult]+[Intelligence] roll to enchant the Idol and make it into a true Baal or Ashera, and expand one Willpower point. The dice gets a special modifier which depends on the quality of the materials used- the gods prefer a body made out of gold and silver than one made of clay and wood. If the materials which were made to use the Idol needed Resources of 3, get +1 modifier. If 4, +2. If 5, +3. The results of the enchantments are the followings-

    Dramatic Failure: you have lost control over the powers of creation, and angered the gods. You suffer 1 level of Bashing Damage per dot in Idol Craft. You can not try to enchant that Idol ever again, and so those anyone else.
    Failure: you fail to draw the powers of the gods into the Idol, and the ritual fails. You can try again, but you suffer -1 die penalty per use upon the same statue in the same 24 hours.
    Success: the gods listened to your prayer, and the Idol now contain their spirit. You can give to the Idol a number of Influences which their total number can't exceed your dots in the Endowment (so 5 dots in the Endowment can give you 1 Influence in 5 dots or 5 of 1 dot). However, for every odd number of dots (1, 3, and 5) you must choose a certain Curse to give the Relic, as detailed at M:tC Storyteller's Book. Those Curses can be bypassed, however, as detailed below. The range of certain Influence is 2 meters per dot in the Endowment
    Exceptional Success: you have did a true miracle, and the gods are pleased as you look upon your creation with awe. You get you lost Willpower back, with an additional one.

    While each Idol by itself is a powerful tool, the most interesting effects happen when you combine them. In order to do so, you must stand in the range of a certain Idol's Influence another one of the opposite kind- that is, only a Baal can strength an Ashera, and the other way around. The decision if a certain Idol is a Baal or Ashera is decided while enchanting the Idol. If such combination is in work, the two following effects come to action- first, one Curse per "married Idol" is removed (there is no limitation on the number of Idols which can be combined, as long as they are in range and of the right type). Second, the "married Idol" now shares its "husband's" Influences, increasing the range of the said Influence. Doing so allowed the old Priesthood to cover the whole Levant and beyond it with the anti-Arisen barrier, and recreating such a structure may take years of work- but that's the plan f the modern Circle.
    Last edited by LostLight; 07-10-2015, 05:57 AM.


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  • #2
    Is there any mechanical difference between an Idol and a protection Amulet?

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    • #3
      and added the Endowment


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      • #4
        just wrote it down- you may say that Idols are Relics on Steroids :P


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        • #5
          Wait! don't influences cost essence? Shouldn't exist a mechanic about how the Idols get the energy to make their influences work?

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          • #6
            The Influences work constantly once enchanted without Essence. That's the bonus point. The problem is that they can't protect themselves. If you really want to harsh the conditions, you can toy with the combination rules to make it they are activated only when they are married, and require an additional Idol to remove the Curse, or maybe have you need to give them some sacrifice for Essence if you prefer it that way. Remember, they are not really Influences- it is just a quick and dirty way to describe their powers.


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            • #7
              I would add the sacrifice /offering rule, plus prayers for specific use of an "influence", like in Artesia.
              Overall, good work. I think I will watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom once again

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              • #8
                never saw the movie, so I can't say what inspired you to do so, but I'm glad you liked it :P


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                • #9
                  Gods in Human Skin- the Baalim
                  Traditionally, Idols are statues, carvings, paintings and masks. They are pieces of art, made out of long research and passionate love. For the priests of the Circle, giving life to an Idol is similar to giving birth- it is your child, your loved one, a piece of yourself who took life of its own. They dress their gods in the most beautiful flesh they can find and decorate them with precious items. They also cost quit a fortune to make, so even the most cold heart individual would feel the sacrifice he gives in order to awaken such a god to life.

                  you can imagine how painful it is when it fails.

                  Sometimes, the failure is easy to see- the artist wasn't talented enough. The statue was flawed. The body was not of the best quality the priest could afford to himself. Yet sometimes, everything is done right- and the ritual fails. And sometimes, it happen more then once, making the statue into a worthless piece of gold and gemstones. While an artist can understand a failure or two, if they keep failing again and again they start wonder what do they do wrong. Some give up, thinking that the problem is not in the Idol, but in themselves.

                  Others think the problem is in the statue.

                  After all, the materials they used for the Idol were precious- but not the most precious they could afford. After all, gold is just a yellow metal, and gemstones are just shiny rocks. Why would any god would wish to wear a body made out of stone and metal? Wouldn't it be better to give it a body made out of the most precious material upon earth? Wouldn't the gods prefer a body with eyes which can see, ears which can hear and an heart which can feel? Wouldn't a human body be better to host their Divine Fire?

                  Those individuals leave behind the more traditional ceremonies of the Priesthood. Instead of working with the forces of creation, they seek after the power of the heavens themselves, making a perfect vessel out of the body parts of those found worthy. Than, out of pure inspiration, they call down the fires of Resheph and make a god for themselves- a god which is truly worthy for worship, a real Baal.

                  While the Priesthood forbid the creation of such "Baalim" and claim that they pose a threat for the nature of both gods and man, not all listen. During the Time of Judges, more then a few Baalim walk the promise land, with each such Baal having a small cult around him. Those cults almost never end up well, and usually end up with blood and death, but their makers don't mind- after all, if they cared about human life so much, they wouldn't have made the Baal on the first place. Where did you thought they got all those body parts from, ha?

                  for the (half written) writeup of the Baalim Lineage of Prometheans, look here

                  Stereotypes:
                  Faithful of Shulpae: "they have their own gods, and we have our own. Thankfully, they eat their divinities, something which saves us the trouble, and they cant eat our gods. Apparently, stone and metal are not that easy for digestion"
                  Lucifuge: "from time to time, we meet with those who have demonic blood in their vines. They claim us to be demon worshipers, and seek to shatter our gods. They need to understand that their demons stole our gods' name, and they want it back"
                  Habibti Ma: "We have drawn their attention once or twice. They thought that we worship the old gods and wanted to free us from their cult. After talking with them a bit, they understood that we have a common enemy. I've even offered making one of them a body of their Lady Justice, but they refused. Nice people, but still ignorant"
                  Ahl al Jabal: "the Middle East is falling apart. Ancient histories stand in danger, and mad man butcher one another in the name of an invisible god. Those guys should pick a side- and stop breaking down our statues"
                  Cult of Moloch: "Since the days our group was young, they had to fight against their dark influence. While they did everything they could, they feel together with Carthage- while the dark rite carried own. They had a thousand years of advancing their goals without anyone to stop them. This is no longer the case"

                  "Tell me who are your gods, and I'll tell you who you are"
                  Last edited by LostLight; 01-05-2016, 03:09 PM.


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                  • #10
                    Hm. So do we conclude that these would be the kinds of people Mummy talks about as making relics and wielding sorcery? Cool. And with Yahweh inserted into that mythos somehow? Also cool.

                    I can't be the only person who sees:
                    Their name was Maagal HaBaal VehaAshera- or simply the Circle.
                    ... and thinks "Over the centuries and millennia, a faction of the god-blooded would become converted to the beliefs of the Circle. While they would never master the arts of their priestly counterparts, they would still find purpose with which to control the madness in their blood and derive their own ways to worship the gods of clay and gold. Their history would diverge far from the Maagal, though they too would have their conflicts with followers of the Israelite god."

                    I was also going to say this:
                    Their ancestors fought well and their gods has supported them- but the foreigners had more powerful gods, ones which were not made out of stone and metal but of flesh and blood.
                    ... and pictures a line of Tammuz coming from a misguided attempt to emulate these new and powerful gods.

                    ... but you beat me to it.

                    This group doesn't have plot hooks, it has setting-history hooks. I love it.

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                    • #11
                      The only thing I have to say for all of those is "yep". Just one big "yep". The very in-depth setting-history material is because I really wanted to write down the Book of Judges as an Era, but my brain is thinking in characters and organizations, not in setting, so I've expressed the setting through the Maagal. Maybe after writing the Cult of Moloch I'll write a proper Dark Era in Carthage. That could be fun.

                      Anyway, I'm glad you like it


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                      • #12
                        Hunters of the First Turn: The Theocrates of Ebla
                        As Irem grew in power, it devoured many new nations. And with its collapse, those conquered territories and vassal countries were free once more. For many years, the people of the Nameless City saw those cultures as barbarians, and their holy tyrants led them to battle against those enemy cultures - yet they never quite managed to educate them.
                        Eventually, the Empire crumbled (into the hungry mouth of Mot, if the stories to be believed), and the once bound nations were free to practice their old traditions again. Some turned to dark magics and demonic summoning. Others worshiped the ghosts of their own ancestors and practiced necromancy. One of the groups, however, returned to the ways of worshiping "False Gods”... or, as they called it, man made gods, the only gods which are worthy to be worshiped.

                        If you ask the Maagal, they'll say that the reason the Empire (they don't know the name of Irem) invaded their lands was to steal that old secret of dressing formless gods in gold and gemstones. That's, after all, what the sacred Tablets of Anat claim. While some of the people of the Levant are nomads, Ebla stands strong in Syria, and the Maagal of the Baal and the Ashera are their priests and spiritual protectors. For many years they walked in and outside the city, crafting their gods in order to enrich the land and fight against any sign of cults who commune with "stranger gods", keeping true to the words of their ancestors who wished to protect their land from a similar disaster as once happened.
                        And they were right.

                        When the Sothic Turn started, the Maagal felt it. Throughout the Levant, their mute gods sang songs in a terrible language, a sign for the rise of their old enemies. How their old forefathers knew such disaster would return is unknown, but the ritual meant to craft their idols contained such a delicate protection inside of it. Following their old scriptures, the Maagal quickly rearranged their idols, using the confusion of their old enemies to ready themselves for their coming. And when the Arien were finally prepared to see enter Ebla, they discovered they could not set a single foot into the city. The protective barrier was established, and the gods watched those who stood in their gates.

                        For the Deathless, Ebla is a mystery. They can feel the Sekhem burning in the kingdom, yet they are simply unable to enter, like a child who was locked outside of an amusement park. Weirder still, they have found all kinds of strange idols crafted by the Maagal scattered through the land, and they can feel how the Sekhem covers it like a great Lifeweb.
                        They destroy and devour the idols they find, of course, but Ebla is too much for them. They send their cultists into the city, and they are accepted as part of the connections they have with Kemet. They even allow them to add their gods to the local pantheon, but only after they craft them a suitable body, usually of clay and wood (just out of spite). Anyone who dares to touch the idols is banished from the land. Those who harm the gods are killed on the spot. As far as the Maagal is concerned, the city is safe.

                        Yet, everything has an end. Eventually, around 2000 BCE, the first Kingdom of Ebla would fall in a mysterious disaster. While it won't take long for the city to rise (and be destroyed) twice more, the long struggle shows both the displeasure of the Judges of Kemet and its living gods, and the power the Maagal hold over the land.

                        But then, new Judges would come, and nothing would stay the same afterwards.

                        Maagal Exclusive Lifeweb Benefits (written by Arcanist, to be used with Lifeweb mechanics)
                        • Married Idols: By rituals known only to the priests of Canaan, they have found a way to negate the curses of Relics within their precincts. Within the perimeter of the Lifeweb, so long as a pair of Idols that have been 'married' are within (Dot rating x Maagal Status) yards of each other, their wielders may ignore the Relic's curse as though they were a Mummy of the appropriate Guild that spent a Pillar point to subdue it.
                        • Gate of the Gods (Overwhelming Geometry orOverwhelming Relic): Beyond the walls of Ebla the gods are wild, untamed, free to do as they will with no consideration for the people- but within the precincts of the Maagal, the gods may be barred from entrance or given an open door. For every dot of Geometry over Relic, increase the local Gauntlet strength by one. For every dot of Relic or Geometry, reduce the local Gauntlet strength by one. This can effectively turn the local Shadow into a barren wasteland, or make the whole range of the Lifeweb into a single enormous verge. If the Maagal reconfiguring the Lifeweb so chooses, this can alter the Manifestation Modifier for ghosts as well.
                        • Mantle of the Baali: The Lifeweb is not a terribly vast structure- a single Lifeweb, no matter how puissant, cannot protect an entire city, let alone the territory of a city-state, but there is a way that the priests of the Maagal can protect all the lands of Ebla, and perhaps even all of Canaan. Much like how they may marry Idols, they may ceremonially marry the great gods that support the Lifeweb. Every time they take this advantage, a Lifeweb may merge with a single overlapping Lifeweb instead of overwhelming or being affected by it. Only one of the two Lifewebs needs to possess this advantage, and merged Lifewebs share all of their Benefits.

                        (for more information about vampires, hunters and more in the First Turn, see the Age of Azar)
                        Last edited by LostLight; 03-17-2016, 12:52 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Hey there.

                          Currently looking through my copy of Cursed Necropolis: Rio. You might expect me to put a sidebar on how to apply the rules for the Lifeweb and sacred architecture in relation to the Maagal. Looking forward to putting that together when I have the free time.


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                          • #14
                            Yeah, once I've heard about that this book has magical architecture rules, I've immediately thought about the Maagal potential. I hope I'll be able to buy the book soon so I could also try and think how to adapt their Endowments according to those rules


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                            • #15
                              So wait, are these guys still around today by default?


                              A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"

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