The Krosven Steppe
Humans worship Padora, the monotheistic goddess in whose infinitely-large lungs we all live. Elves are Skallanites, who worship the Old Gods: the Father, the Mother, the Child, and the Trickster. Most other races are Skallanites as well, favoring specific deities within that pantheon, though more favor has turned toward Padora in the last few hundred years. (Also, the term “Old Gods” doesn’t refer to them being old and Padora being new, but more that those gods are older than time and stuff like that.)
Monsters and other non-benevolent races (like goblins, etc) worship various gross, malevolent deities that nobody who is a civilized person would even think of remembering. The most common deity mentioned is Zek, known as the “otherworldly,” who exists beyond the veil of darkness.
Padorism is a new religion which believes that we all exist as a tiny speck inside the infinitely large lungs of the monotheistic goddess Padora. At least one Messenger of Padora, Tavot, has descended to speak this truth to the prophet Datorya in the Third Era. Padorism is the primary religion of humans, after Queen Savosa had a vision of her own roughly 300 years ago and changed the official religion of Eora.
Padora has four official, religiously sanctioned sects: Inhalers, Exhalers, Skeptics, and Peacekeepers. Within these sects however are various subgroups, known as “cults.”
Inhalers believe that Padora is breathing in—that the world is just beginning and will exist for a very, very long time. They are altruistic, hyper-benevolent people who believe in sacrifice for the greater good, delayed gratification, and constant spiritual connection with Padora.
Exhalers believe that Padora is breathing out—that the world is ending and that we should get the most out of it while we can. They are generally self-serving, crass, and brash people, who regularly use others to get what they want in an attempt to fulfill their lives before the world ends, which is always “soon.”
Skeptics, also known as Questioners, follow a specific part of Padoran dogma which encourages “heightened thought.” One of Padora’s Messengers, Tavot, speaking to the prophet Datorya long ago, told her Padora wanted her people to experience “heightened thought,” because mortals possess the gift of “the question,” as opposed to the burden of the answer (which Padora possesses). It was one statement in a holy book’s worth of dogma, but the Skeptics took it to mean that they should question everything. So they do—even Padora’s existence. They are, effectively, proto-scientists and philosophers. They are generally annoying, snooty, and always act like they’re better than you.
Peacekeepers are the military force of Padorism. Because Padora expressly forbade violence, specifically the “killing of my kind,” Peacekeepers take a “breaking” oath at the beginning of their service, swearing to never worship Padora or any other god so long as they live. Padora then blesses them with a small amount of divine magic, and then leaves their lives forever. They are essentially paladins without a god, but work in the service of Padora, indirectly. It’s hard to explain. But if they do ever worship or pray to Padora, they lose their magical ability and are banished from Padorism.
Cults of Padorism are unofficial or unsanctioned, yet religiously-accepted (or tolerated) subsets of the Padoran faith. There are dozens if not hundreds of cults within Padorism, some larger than others. In general, cults attempt to exert a will or dogma not in line with traditional Padoran sects. The biggest example of this is with regard to violence. While Padoran dogma specifically forbids violence, many cults eschew this dogma, citing the relatively weak powers of the Peacekeepers when compared to Padoran paladins or clerics. While these cults do seem to obtain divine favor from Padora in terms of magic, it is unclear how or why Padora gives them this power. This tends to cause a lot of tension between the four sects; the Inhalers believe that cults that invite violence into the faith will bring about the end of the world, while Exhalers believe the world is already ending, and thus don’t really care.
Here are the four largest cults of Padora:
The Right Hand
A subset of Inhalers, the Right Hand (or just “The Hand”) believes in protecting Padorans during the chaos that is set to begin once the people of the world realize it’s going to end. They consider themselves the “right hand” of Padora. The Hand produces the most paladins within the Padoran faith, warriors who devote their sword to Padora and the protection of her people. It is important to note that the Right Hand began as a rebellious cult that was all but shunned by the Inhalers, but over the years grew to such a size that the Inhalers were forced to recognize them and commend them on their pursuit of justice and order, especially in various skirmishes against Exhaler cults.
The Datoryan Sisterhood
Despite the name, the Sisterhood welcomes both men and women into their ranks. A subset of the Exhalers, the Sisterhood believes in the “divine line,” linking Padora to Tavot, and then to Datorya. Datorya of course had a family and children, and her granddaughter Lilian founded the Sisterhood to pay homage to her family line, and to welcome a new view on Padorism, which has become, in a way, a bridge between the Inhalers and Exhalers. The Sisterhood believes that everything happens for a reason and thus attempting to sway events one way or another is pointless. Tavot was destined to meet Datorya; Padora was meant to breathe in and give life to the world; and so humans and the races are meant to live their lives and to not “make waves,” so to speak. It is from the Sisterhood that we find the rise of the Padoran cleric, who grew out of this desire to remain neutral in the world. Clerics are often healers and divine fighters, but some are also neutral, and others even align themselves with more evil intents. These are all welcome in the Sisterhood, being branches of the same tree, so to speak.
A subset of Skeptics, the Breathless simply believe that Padora is holding her breath, that she has inhaled and is (pardon me for this) waiting to exhale. The Breathless believe that she can hold her breath for eternity, and so have begun the insane challenge of extending their lifespan indefinitely. This has led to other alchemical pursuits which in the long run made the Breathless a very strange, very controversial cult.
Padora’s Blood is a joint subset of Exhalers and Skeptics devoted to “harming” Padora, so that we can be sure she exists. The Blood’s ranks vary from benign empiricists to evil motherfuckers who would destroy the world if they could. Darker members of Padora’s Blood delight in torture and mayhem as an “indirect” way of harming Padora. Others are attempting to build what is essentially a rocket ship so they can fly to the edge of her lungs and “cut her open.” Padora’s Blood is a dangerous cult and is not to be trifled with.
The Padoran faith does not include any lesser spirits or demigods. The only other supernatural beings within the faith are the Messengers, winged creatures who speak for Padora. The only Messenger we concretely know of is Tavot, who spoke to Datorya and told her the Truth of Life, but there is evidence of other sightings in the past.
Datorya described Tavot as sort of an insect creature: “Her head resembled that of an ant almost, though white or beige instead of black, and where her mouth would be were instead two thick mandibles. Her eyes were black as coal and five long thin braids spouted from her head and descended down her back. These braids were not hair, however; they moved independently. She had no ears and no nose. She wore long golden flowing robes, and from her sleeves were two white, slender arms, and at the end of each arm was a claw-like hand with two fingers. From her back protruded two enormous wings, like those of an insect, which were translucent and leathery in appearance.”
In other words, Tavot looked like a giant white ant with long antennae that drooped down her back. Similar looking images have been spotted in old art and pottery from as far back as the First Era. But if Messengers existed that far back, why didn’t they speak to us then? The answer is: who knows.
The Old Gods
Skallanism is the worship of the Old Gods, who descended with Covoran the Builder thousands of years ago. These gods are thought to be from “beyond the void” like Zek, and are considered a family. Many people believe that Covoran is the Father, but that is untrue. It is also important to know that the Old Gods did not create the world, but merely inhabit it. Enormous Titans created the universe thousands of years ago (in Old Gods theology).
Artok, the Father (the Worldshaper): Artok is known as a tall, broad-shouldered man, with an ox head and legs that end in ox hooves (but aren’t bent backward like a satyr). He is seen with an enormous haybale hook, which he supposedly used to pull Father’s Fire (the enormous volcano in the south) out of the ground. His icon is a volcano with a large plume of smoke coming out of the top, and his favored weapons are his hook (sub sickle stats) or a longbow. He is the god of Justice, Creation, Nature, and War.
Midya, the Mother (the Mason): Midya basically looks like a mix between a short, fat woman and a small bird, like a robin. She carries a bricklayer’s trowel in one hand and a wooden bucket of mortar in the other. Her icon is a brick wall, and her favored weapon is a sword (or “blade” in the old language, which referred to any type of bladed weapon, dagger to greatsword). She is known as the one who built Modvaya, the Golden Temple on Piquo Island, whose shining spire can be seen at any place in Iro. She is the goddess of Life, Cities, Technology, and the Ocean.
Goyen, the Child (the Bridge): Goyen looks very much like the Humanoid, an androgynous being frequently confused as either male or female. (Typical pronoun use is “he.”) However, he is also the most malleable-looking of the Old Gods, as he frequently changes his appearance to act as ambassador between god and mortal creatures on Iro. Thus, to the Dragonborn he looks more like a dragon, to halflings he is much shorter, etc. He carries no weapons and is known for his great wisdom, which he uses as much in battle as anyone would with a sword. His icon is a stone bridge with a star in place of the keystone. He is the god of Light, Knowledge, Language, and Wisdom.
Sut, the Trickster: Sut has many avatars, like Goyen, and it is generally believed that he is Goyen’s brother (much like Cain to Goyen’s Abel). His most typical avatar is a small, wiry half-man, half-lizard. He likes to undo the good things that Goyen has done in Iro, frequently by pretending to be Goyen, though no matter what shape he takes, he cannot hide the scaly skin that protrudes down his neck and back. These scales have formed the basis of countless cultural and social mores throughout Iro: when people greet one another, for example, they will always touch the back of each other’s necks to feel for the scales. (Also the phrase “check the neck,” used when one person feels like another person is being two-faced.) Despite his trickery, Sut is a favored god for many races, especially the gnomes, who fucking love tricking people. The dragonborn also believe Sut to be a dragon god due to his scales, and the elves worshiped Sut for hundreds of years while Valden was essentially a mafia state. His icon is snake scales and his favored weapon is poisoned darts. He is the god of Death, Deception, Entertainment, and, surprisingly, Love.
Skallanism requires only three things: a preacher, a pulpit, and a god. Thus, Skallanite worship is extremely varied depending on the race and the location. Worshipers are welcome to worship only one of the gods, or all four, or two or three. Most preachers are called priests, and generally every parish will have several priests and one bishop who oversees them. While the priests can worship whichever gods they please, the bishops must worship all four gods equally. As of this writing there are currently 982 bishops in Iro, and they all convene for one weekend once a year at the Morning Chapel in southwest Valden, where they vote on various things, retire old bishops, and promote worthy priests into the bishopry. The Morning Chapel is the home of the Midwarden, also known as the archbishop; he or she is the link between the Skallanites and the Old Gods, and the top floor of the Chapel is said to house a portal with which the Midwarden can communicate directly with the gods.
Skallanism and The Soul
Skallanite dogma teaches that all higher creatures contain a “soul,” or spirit, that raises them above the lesser creatures of the world. In a way the soul is our wisdom and intelligence. It is special because it is our link to the gods and is literally taught as a connection to them; when our soul is severed from the gods, we become terrible beasts or undead monstrosities. All creatures born from the Humanoid contain souls—when the Old Gods arrived in Iro they understood the disconnect between the mortal races and the beasts of the world, and wanted to commune with us, and so they gave us souls.
Now, did we not have souls before the Old Gods came? Most believe that no, we did not. Prior to the gods’ arrival, the races were brutish and short-tempered, and the Thousand Tribes would never have united without a higher sense of wisdom and purpose. Without our souls, we would have collapsed into wanton destruction, or at least, this is what the clergy would like us to believe.
OTHER SUPERNATURAL BEINGS
The titans were enormous world-building creatures who lived before time and created the world. They are not worshiped, however, as it is generally understood that they lack a divine component, and are not truly godlike in their power. The Titans created the Humanoid, an androgynous bipedal human-looking creature from whose corpse the races were born. Hundreds presumably existed in the Void, but only three are known to us.