Rontra

The Goddess of the Earth The Goddess of the Earth
The Foundations of The Foundations of Rontra Rontra
Rontra (RAHN-tra) (Grandmother, Venerable, the Earth, the Wellspring, the Earth Rontra (RAHN-tra) (Grandmother, Venerable, the Earth, the Wellspring, the Earth
Mother, the Foremother) Mother, the Foremother)
Myths
The Fate of Durgas the Unmerciful
Long ago, when the world was young, as were the children of the Tree,
there arose a leader and warrior among men who was a scourge to the
earth. His countenance knew only rage and his hands bore naught but
death. Durgas the Unmerciful he was called, may his name forever
be accursed, for he cut a bloody swathe across the land. All who dared
oppose him were crushed beneath his might; his cruelty and malice were
unrelenting and only exceeded by his hunger for power. Those conquered by
the Unmerciful found their lands, their homes, their very families, pillaged
ruthlessly.
Durgas had fought wars on many fronts, but he had never extended his
conquests eastward, for that way lay a powerful nation that opposed him
bitterly. After a time, the wicked warlord became determined to conquer
his Eastern neighbor, and focused his forces for an all-out assault. This
was no normal confl ict. The pride of Durgas was unending, and he felt it
an affront that this nation had opposed him for so long. He therefore had
no plan to capture and keep his enemy’s lands; his mind was on far more
sinister machinations. He would kill these Eastern people, make their King
eat his own family, destroy their cities and homes and sow salt into the
earth. If he were successful, there would be nothing left but desolation and
death. Then all would know the price of resisting Durgas the Unmerciful.
The campaign began as had so many others. Armies of men started out
strong against his onslaught, but soon retreated, hoping to fight another
day. The horde of Durgas soon set about slaughtering those left behind.
Homes were burned, crops destroyed, and the earth poisoned; the stench of
death and roasted fl esh was everywhere.
Then he saw her.
She was a solitary figure, standing alone, silhouetted by the fires raging
behind her. She stood stooped over a cane, seeming ancient and tired. As
Durgas road forward to strike her down, the old woman uttered these
words: “Hold, warrior! Stay your hand! You must relent on this path of
murder – destroying the people and their lands. Remember, warrior, the
earth gives life and life it can take away.”
Durgas roared back, “You are a fool, woman! Death is before you and
all around you. Only I can give you your life now, but I choose to take it
away!” With that the Unmerciful beheaded the old woman
Her head rolled on the ground and turned face up. Durgas saw the eyes
of the old woman staring right at him. Then the lips moved, speaking
thus: “You have made your choice, Durgas the Unmerciful. We shall see
who lives and who dies.” With that, the head and the body turned to dust
before him.
The campaign continued, as Durgas and his army moved further and
further into enemy territory. Again, they destroyed everything in their path,
leaving nothing but death and destruction behind them.
And again, he saw her.
Venerable Rontra, though Durgas still did not know who she was, stood in
the center of a burning field. Heedless of the destruction around her and
the approach of Durgas, she stood patiently, waiting for him to approach.
At first, Durgas thought it a coincidence, but when she spoke, he knew it
to be the same voice he had heard before.
“Durgas,” Rontra the Wellspring said, “You have yet to learn. I ask you
again to give over your war and go on your way. Only your doom awaits
you along this path.”
Durgas hesitated for a moment this time, looking down from his saddle
at this stooped grey woman who spoke with such authority. His men were
stunned, for they had never seen him think over a killing blow. But if there
had ever been a place in Durgas’ heart where mercy might find root, it was
now as scorched and barren as the lands he had left in his wake. Raising
his blade, he hewed that old grey head, saying, “You will not stop me,
woman. I am Durgas! I am invincible!”
Again, before turning to dust, the last words of Grandmother Rontra were,
“You have made your choice, warrior. We shall see who lives and who dies.”
Now Durgas was filled with an incredible rage. A fey light was kindled
in his eyes and he drove his men to unspeakable acts. No home was left
standing, no field left unburned, no life untaken in his path of destruction.
Again he saw the old woman!
She waited for him as before, though now she seemed not so frail. She
stood unbent and unbowed at the crest of a hill. As Durgas approached,
his men fell back, for whispers of this old woman had now spread through
the camp and even the Unmerciful’s mightiest captains feared her. Only
Durgas dared approach, and he dismounted to climb to the top of the hill
and stand face to face with the Earth Mother.
She spoke to him: “Warrior, I ask you now only for the sake of the
earth, provider and nurturer of all life, stay your hand. Leave this place
unharmed. It is in your power to do this. All you need do is walk away.
Think ere you strike.”
“I do not need to think, old woman,” responded Durgas. “You have been
unable to stop me and you will not stop me now, so close to the end. On
the morrow, I will have the king of these lands beneath my heel. Durgas
stays his hand for no one! I strike you down for the last time. Begone!
Trouble me no more!”
This time his cruel stroke split the old woman in half. There were no words
from her, and her body dissipated into dust.
Durgas continued his onslaught, cruelly destroying his enemies and their
lands, making them uninhabitable. When there was no one left to kill and
nothing left to plunder or pillage, he turned his tired army toward home.
The march was long and the land was dry and parched. There was no
water and no food – for all around, in every direction, was the destruction
that Durgas had wrought. One by one his men died, as they had nothing
to eat or drink. At last, only Durgas was left.
As he stumbled forward and fell to the ground, he looked up and saw the
Foremother standing before him, her cane in her hand. She was robed now
in purest white, and her old grey hair shone in the light of the day like
threads of pure silver. “Help me!” he said to her. “Please help me.”
The old woman looked down on him, and even for this worst man among
men, there was pity in her gaze. But there was no sorrow in her voice
when she spoke: “Look now on the mighty Durgas. The Unmerciful!
The Invincible! Look how you have been laid low. You did not heed my
warnings. You did not respect the land. Now you taste death, not at the
hands of another warrior, but at the hands of the earth you so sorely
abused. For behold! I am Rontra, the Earth, and had you obeyed me, I
would have nurtured and sustained you as I do all others who respect me.
But in your pride, you destroyed all you saw, and now you will return;
from dust you were born, to dust you will return. Go, and be judged!”
Finished, the Wellspring plunged her cane into the earth before him.
With that, Durgas faded to dust and his remains seeped into the earth.
The cane remained, marking the spot of the demise of Durgas. It grew to
a mighty oak tree in time, as the earth around it recovered, spreading out
from the spot like ripples in a pond.
Associations
Rontra is the goddess of the earth, plants, farms, dirt, gems, metals,
farmers, miners, and all others who revere the earth. She is associated
not only with the earth above, upon which all things grow and live,
but also with the places beneath the earth. Rontra stands for the
fertility of the land as well as the people that inhabit it. She is the
grandmother of all people and of the gods themselves, having grown
the great tree Eliwyn in her soil. She is, therefore, the patron of
grandmothers and old women. She is known as the Foremother, as
she offers the gods and the mortal races the loving embrace of their
ancestral mother.
Rontra is often linked with the animals of the deep places and caves
of the earth, including moles, voles, wolves, and cave bears. Of all the
animals of the earth, though, she is most closely associated with rabbits
and hares, which live in warm homes in the earth; they are gentle and
fertile creatures, as Rontra is gentle and stands for the fertility of all the
creatures and plants of the earth, and they desire nothing but peace, yet
they will not hesitate to protect their young, even against impossible
odds, if they must. Among mystical creatures, she is often associated
with treants, which some say are her children but were actually born
of the blood of druids (see the church of Eliwyn). She is actually most
closely tied to the divine and gentle celestial animal spirits called pookas
that sometimes aid humans in need.
Rontra is worshiped by farmers and others who work the soil, who
pray that their fields will yield a rich harvest. Miners honor her for her
gifts of precious metals and wondrous gems. Women pray to her when
they desire children, because it was within the bosom of Rontra that
the great tree Eliwyn grew and gave birth to the wondrous diversity of
life in the land. Her worship is popular among all fi ve races, though
for different reasons – the elves love her natural splendor, the dwarves
love her deep and rich caves, the gnomes love their homelands in her
hills, and the halflings love her rich soil for farming; humans love her
for all these reasons and more, depending on their culture. Half-orcs
rarely worship Rontra, as they are considered unnatural by her church,
the product of a sinful union. Any character who comes from a
farming community is likely to have been raised worshiping Rontra,
though most of her adventurer worshipers are rogues (who specialize
in scouting), rangers, the occasional druid, and barbarians.
Note: The worship of Rontra, Morwyn, and Anwyn are all very closely
integrated, as they are three generations of the same line of women, and
are often shown together: the grandmother, the mother, and the maiden.
While Morwyn is the patron of pregnant women and those giving birth,
it is Rontra to whom people appeal when they desire children, for the
Grandmother is the giver of fertility. Similarly, while Morwyn is the
patron of mothers and those raising children, it is Anwyn, the daughter,
to whom they appeal for a quiet and restful home.
Alignment
Rontra is lawful good. She seeks the greatest good for the greatest
number of her children through an ordered and structured society.
Grandmother Rontra says, “You do not cast your seeds to the wind
and hope they grow; you must plan, and plan well.”
Representations
Over the centuries, Rontra has been depicted in icons as an elderly
woman of the race worshiping her. Whatever the race, she has grey
hair, approaching silver, and in her face there are thousands of wrinkles
like the furrows of the earth and the farm. She is usually shown in
robes of flowing white, though when she is prayed to for fertility, she
may be shown in robes of red. Her eyes are always black as coal with
flecks of gold, silver and iron. She is always shown in unshod feet, to
remain always in contact with the earth.
In ancient times – and some of these icons and primitive statues
remain – Rontra was shown as a heavyset woman with five exposed
breasts. These represented the five mortal races; further, they
represented fertility and life, signifying that mortals suckle at her
breasts and take life-giving sustenance from the earth.
The symbolic representations of Rontra’s church vary slightly, with
different regions using different symbols to honor the earth. Those
who revere the strength of the soil and its life-giving power represent
Grandmother Rontra with a bundle of corn or other crop appropriate for
the locale. Miners use the symbol of a sparkling diamond, shining as if
lit by a bright light, to represent the treasures of the earth. All recognize
the simple shorthand of a single majestic mountain on a field of white,
however, and if there is a “universal” symbol of her church, this is it. It is
often rendered simply as a tall triangle, though only in times of haste.
Purpose
Rontra has seen what strife and hatred can do to the land and its
people. She knows that constant vigilance is needed to make certain
that the gods, as well as mortals, do not turn toward destruction and
death over petty squabbles. To this end, she views herself as an advisor
and nurturer of her people. She seeks to counsel her grandchildren and
show them the paths of righteousness. Together with Morwyn, she is
the conscience of gods and mortals alike.
For Rontra, there is only one way, and that is the good way, no matter
how difficult. She is uncompromising in this and does not equivocate
or believe that good ends can ever justify ill means. That said, Rontra
is the most “natural” of the gods – while she mourns the terrible events
and crimes of the world, she does little to stop them. As is shown in
the myth of Durgas, Rontra may warn and cajole, she may plead with
the wicked to find the right path, but she will rarely oppose them. A
the earth, she sees that all things happen for a reason and all in the
world is part of a great cycle of life, even destruction and war.
Rontra will protect life in all of its forms through subtle means
whenever she can. Legends are filled with families strangely overlooked
by marauding armies because a small copse of trees obscured them,
or a cave they had never noticed suddenly appeared near their home
and was obscured from the raiders. Of all the gods, Rontra moves in
the most mysterious ways, rarely showing her hand, rarely making her
intentions clear. But those that worship her and study her ways know
that she values all living things, from the least insect to the greatest
god, as sacred and worth her attention. Whenever life is taken for
granted or wanton destruction is spread, her agents are there offering
an alternative and attempting to convince those who destroy that the
path of life holds more value.
If there is anything that Rontra does actively oppose, it is the
unnatural forces that pollute her lands. The Earth Mother despises
the undead and their masters. They represent unnatural life not
born from the earth. Her servants seek them out to return
them to the peace of death.
Servants
Rontra has four main celestial servitors, her allies
and friends who do her bidding when she calls.
They are listed below:
The Shepherdess
When she needs to take shape,
this servant of Rontra appears as
a tall female of an appropriate
race with flowing robes and
long golden hair. In her hand is a
shepherd’s crook carved out of fresh
oak. When the land is being desecrated
or otherwise misused, the Shepherdess
makes subtle appeals to those responsible to
change their ways. She is called the Shepherdess
because she is the figure credited in most legends for
subtly herding those in danger out of trouble (such as the
folk who suddenly find shelter in a cave they never noticed
before). Some believe that the Shepherdess is actually Morwyn and
not a servant of Rontra at all. That is considered foolish folklore by
scholars, though, who know the Shepherdess by the name Gwainlath,
who was said to be a great leader who served Rontra in the earliest
days of the five races.
The Miner
Known to dwarves as Barik-tharn, the Miner invariably appears as a stout
dwarf with a pick made of pure light. He is the protector of the earth’s
treasures, but most importantly he warns those who are beloved of Rontra
when they are in danger of delving too deep or too dangerously. The flash
of gut intuition a miner feels telling him his tunnel is unsafe is said to be
Barik-tharn whispering to him over his shoulder.
Saint Marlessa
Reputedly the founder of the first Rontran foundation, St. Marlessa is
the ear of Rontra, walking at the Grandmother’s side and listening to
the pleas of her worshipers. She only brings the most pressing to the
goddess herself. She is invoked as “Saint Marlessa, sister of the people”
by common folk and is often named in private prayer by Rontra’s
followers.
The Serpent
The more mystical worshipers of Rontra believe that the surface
of the world is actually an enormous serpent biting its own tail
(sometimes called Ouroboros). They believe that the serpent is the
chief of Rontra’s servants and that all strength and power, particularly
the power of fertility, is given to mortals through the serpent, which
contains in it the power of life and death. Most legends of the serpent
are not so grandiose. The more common belief is that the Serpent was
created by Master Korak, who ripped off its legs in an effort to woo
Thellyne (see the church of Korak in Chapter VI). These legends hold
that it came to Rontra in terrible pain and she took it to her bosom.
The Serpent now visits those in mortal agony and eases their pain,
for Rontra cannot abide suffering.
The Church The Church
Church Description
The foundations of Rontra, where the Rontrans
worship, are spread throughout the land. Her
followers are quite numerous. In rural areas,
where farming and living off of the land
are a necessity, there is almost always a
Rontran foundation present. Here,
farmers pray daily, so that Rontra
may bless their crops and they may
feed their families.
In cities, the foundations of Rontra
are far less widespread. When they
are found, they are most likely concerned
with her fertility aspect. Women (nobles and
commoners alike) pay homage to the Wellspring
of Life hoping that they will be able to bear fruit
as the tree of life that sprang from Rontra did. Quite
often, the churches of Rontra and Morwyn are linked, as
they are considered the grandmother and mother of the people,
respectively. In Great Church cathedrals, their altars are always
found together.
The main temporal goal of the church of Rontra is to sustain life and
the earth that supports it. Those who kill and maim for no reason
or pillage the earth without cause are enemies of the Rontran faith.
Rontran foundation elders view themselves as counselors of the people
more than leaders. They seek to provide guidance to the faithful and
maintain the health of their flock through wisdom and advice. They
will lay down their lives if necessary to defend the land or the living
things that derive sustenance from it, but they rarely will tell people
what they should or must do.
Most Rontrans take pleasure in the treasures of the earth, such as gems
and precious metals. They often craft these into beautiful valuables as a
way to honor their goddess. There are many among the Rontran faith
who are expert at such matters, and in mining societies the worship of
Rontra is closely tied with worship of Korak, the artisan, who taught
mortals to craft such wonders.
The foundations of Rontra are always constructed from stone or
brick, derived from the strength of the earth. The Rontrans never
raise their buildings more than one story above the ground, and they
often construct many subterranean levels and chambers. The floor of
Rontran foundations is always bare earth. Those entering the temple
must remove their footwear out of respect and walk barefoot. Thus,
they are always in close contact with the Earth Mother. Many faithful
Rontrans avoid wearing shoes so that their flesh is in constant contact
with the earth.
Church Structure
There is no centralized hierarchy in the Rontran foundations. Each
is independent, run by its highest-level clerical member, though it is
possible for the foundations in one kingdom or geographic area to
form a council. Even without central authority, each member knows
who is above and below her in the foundation hierarchy.
There are three holy orders within the Rontran church: the sowers
(clergy), wardens (holy warriors), and gleaners. Sowers have three
levels of status – prelates, grand prelates, and great elders – while
the wardens and gleaners have only one each. The sowers run the
foundations and are the authority figures in all matters concerning
the Rontran faith.
The average foundation will have at least five prelates and one grand
prelate (a foundation cannot be established without a grand prelate).
Larger foundations will have three or four wardens in residence.
Gleaners are almost never found in foundations, and are instead
found at the most rural shrines.
Doctrine
“We cannot mourn that we die, for all things die. It would serve us
just as well to mourn birth. The fi elds are planted and grow full, and
then they are harvested and made bare. They are planted once more,
and again harvested. Do not mourn the cycles of life; do not resist their
wonder. When we are at peace with life, then we will be at peace with
each other. This is what our Grandmother wants for us.”
– Great Elder Grombir Ironbrand’s “I Have Seen the Glory”
Rontran teachings are not universal; each foundation focuses on the
aspect of the faith its sowers consider most important. For example,
inside a dwarf hold there may be a foundation that dwells on the
beauty of the earth’s treasures and ministers mostly to miners. In
this foundation, there would be no mention of planting crops at all.
Conversely, a foundation in the middle of a farming community will
spend most of its time focusing on the health of the local crop and
not on the precious metals and stones that lie beneath the earth. As
mentioned earlier, foundations in cities usually dwell on fertility.
But the treasures of the earth, farming, and fertility are all merely
aspects of Rontra’s love for those creatures that live on and in the
earth; on this all sowers agree.
From this understanding, a core philosophy of the Rontran faith has
emerged and can best be understood as “peace through acceptance,
sharing, and love.” Rontran teaching focuses on the ramifications of
wanting more than is rightfully yours – as with Durgas in the myth
above, it invariably results in downfall and sorrow.
We each have our place in the world, and we must learn to accept
it. We will die; this is inevitable, and the greed and pride that
moves some to seek to extend their lives is wrong and will end badly.
We will all meet with tragedy in our lives, perhaps the death of a
loved one or the theft of something we prize. To rage against these
tragedies and try to achieve vengeance against the person responsible,
or worse, against the world that makes such tragedies possible, will
result in even greater tragedy.
Only when all people accept their place and learn to share with
others, to love their neighbors and to be kind and gentle with one
another, will we have peace. And peace is what Rontra desires for all
people.
The Rontran philosophy is a gentle one and is accepted by many
people for its simplicity and comfort. It is easy for those who live
small lives without pretension to riches or glory to see themselves,
through this teaching, as fulfilling their place in a very holy order.
Beyond these teachings, the Rontrans have some basic
commandments that all Rontrans must follow. To disobey these
teachings is a grave sin, and one must seek out a religious leader of
the foundations to seek atonement if one does so:
• Do not consort with devils or demons or other evil creatures
that are not of this earth.
• Do not create the undead, or consort with those that do.
• Do not join in physical union with any race not born of the
tree of life.
• Do not eat the flesh of any creature not born of the earth;
only natural beasts and fowl are appropriate meat for a Rontran.
• Do not sow the land with salt or any other substance that will
ruin it for planting.
• Do not waste seed – either that for planting or your own.
• On the first day of each week, in remembrance that the beasts
of the earth came from the same fruits that gave life to the
mortal races, eat no meat whatsoever.
• If you have food that you can spare and others are hungry,
share.
• If you grow food from the earth, one-tenth of all you grow
must be given to those who are needier than you, unless none
are needier.
• If you pull treasures from the earth, two-tenths of all you
make in wealth from the Earth Mother’s treasures must be
given to those needier than you, unless none are needier.
Common Prayers
There are many common prayers used by sowers and worshipers of
Rontra, and part of a sower’s training is learning the hundreds, if
not thousands, of traditional invocations that have been written over
the years. One of the first they learn is the prayer of sowing. This is
invoked by farmers during planting seasons to help ensure the strength
and fertility of the soil.
The Sowing Prayer The Sowing Prayer
“Great Earth Mother, hear my prayer.
With these humble hands I till the soil,
Prepare the earth for the seeds of life.
“Great Earth Mother, hear my prayer.
I place each seed within your embrace
And ask that you welcome each into your arms.
“Great Earth Mother, hear my prayer.
As Eliwyn grew within your life-giving bosom,
So, too, I pray that my seeds will grow.
“Great Earth Mother, hear my prayer.
As I water the earth in due time
And tend the crops with loving care,
May your blessings be upon the land.”
This last stanza of the Sowing Prayer is commonly used by farmers
to ask for Rontra’s blessings in their endeavors. Many say it almost
absent-mindedly as a common invocation.
Holy Days
There are three main holy days of the Church of Rontra. These are
the Fertility Festival, the Sowing of Seeds, and the Harvest Festival.
Depending on the particular church and its locale, each holy day or
period takes on more or less significance. For example, the Sowing
of Seeds and the Harvest Festival are very important to farmers. A
description of each holy day can be found below.
The Fertility Festival
This festival takes place on the first day of spring.
This is normally an all-day affair to celebrate the
end of winter and the hope and life promised
by the coming spring. Most farming villages will
shut down during this day, as everyone gathers
in the town square to eat, play games, and attend
services to honor Rontra. The young perform
tests, usually physically rigorous, to prove they are ready to be adults.
In more “civilized” areas, the Fertility Festival is an excuse for a day of
parties and revelry. The test of adulthood is often reduced to showing off
one’s prowess with a sword or bow or besting someone at a game of chance.
The Sowing of Seeds
The Sowing occurs at the start of the planting
season. This roughly coincides with the months
of March and April in the real-world calendar,
depending on the climate of your campaign
world. During this holy day, members of rural
communities attend services at the local foundation
to ask Rontra to bless the coming planting.
It is customary on this day for each farmer to plant a young sapling to
repay and honor Rontra for her annual gifts of crops. Devout farmers
protect their trees with religious zeal, often hiding them away in secret
groves.
The Harvest Festival
This week-long affair occurs during the harvest full moon that roughly
coincides with October on the real-world calendar. The festival gives
thanks to Rontra for the gift of the harvest and is an opportunity for
farmers to celebrate the successful completion of another season.
The festival is marked by daily worship. This
is followed by contests that award prizes for
agricultural products, such as the best pie, the
biggest pumpkin, or the sweetest corn. Dancing
is also popular, and many a barn is lit up and
cleared to make room for the revelers. The long,
hard winter is ahead, and this festival allows
the people to enjoy themselves before the struggles begin. This is a
favorite among halfling worshipers of Rontra.
In mining communities, this festival refers to the harvest from the
earth and is celebrated with displays of prize lodes and stones.
Saints
Since the church of Rontra lacks any centralized hierarchy, there are no
universal rules for naming saints. By popular acclaim, a person may be
named a saint after her death by a unanimous body of prelates. They
are normally known only to the local area foundations where they
lived and worked.
In most cases, saints were outstanding sowers or wardens who served
the community and Rontra in an extraordinary way. On occasion,
a member of the congregation who has made an incredible sacrifice
for the church will also be so honored. The title of such a saint is
normally her name followed by the phrase “Defender of the Earth” or
“Protector of the Land,” determined based on the deed that resulted in
beatification.
The Rontran foundations do have one famous saint in Saint Marlessa,
who established the foundations and has the ear of Rontra.
Rontra’s
View of the Church
Rontra never believed in actively influencing events or telling mortals
what to do, even in the time of the div, but since the Compact she has
become even less involved in the daily lives of mortals. Though she
is as bound to the sphere as the land itself, she observes mortals from
afar.
She is pleased with most aspects of what her church has become,
although she thinks that more focus should be put on the overall
welfare of people throughout the world. She thinks that the faith has
become too focused on farmers and those that work the land. While
she appreciates the reluctance of her faithful to instruct others and
to lead them toward the right path – they are taking a page from her
book, after all – she does pressure the most powerful of her followers
to take a more active hand in the promotion of peace among all
people.
When she can, she sends her servants, the Shepherdess or the Miner,
into the mortal sphere to right a grievous wrong, stop the wanton
destruction of the earth, or (most commonly) subtly influence mortals
to do it for themselves.
Preferred Weapon
The preferred weapon of Rontra is the flail, which represents the
tool used by farmers in the threshing of wheat from the harvest. Any
version of flail may be recognized as a weapon of Rontra: light, heavy,
or dire.
Holy Orders Holy Orders
Clerics: Sowers of Rontra
The Order
The sowers are the clerics of the Rontran faith. Their name comes
from farming, but not because they are all farmers; it is a reference
to what they do. The sowers plant the seed of Rontra’s wisdom and
goodness in the hearts and minds of all they meet. But just as a
farmer cannot make a seed grow, so are the sowers unable to make
this seed of peace take root; that is up to the people.
Most sowers reside in foundations, ministering daily to Rontra’s
worshippers. There are those in the order who eschew connection
to any establishment, seeing the earth as their ministry; these
wandering sowers are usually quite popular, as they heal the sick and
the maimed, always seeming to show up just when needed. Since
the Rontran faith has no higher order, a sower is not required to
work at a foundation, though most do because it is the best way to
learn and to perform Rontra’s works.
There are many small farming villages across the land that
benefit from the largesse of the Rontran foundations. Often a
foundation will build small shrines to the Earth Mother in outlying
communities, stationing prelates at these shrines for periods up
to five years. The prelates often train acolytes to take over their
ministries once they move on to other duties.
Wherever a sower is stationed, whatever his duty, the order sees his
function as offering all people, common and high, a helping hand
and sage advice so that they may come to accept their place in
the world and be at peace. Sowers sometimes speak in what
seem like riddles in an effort to avoid telling people what
to do; they are a decidedly non-confrontational order
when dealing with people who are good of heart.
When confronted with
evil, however, particularly
unnatural and outsider
forces, they are
implacable foes.
Titles
At 1st level, a sower is named a prelate, a title he will bear for the
first many years of his career. A prelate is addressed as “brother” or
“sister,” and introduced by full title. To become a prelate, a person
must show a gift for understanding Rontra’s teachings. While there
is no formalized hierarchy of the foundation system, the faith is
complex, with thousands of recorded prayers and three different forms
of ministry (farming, treasures of the earth, and fertility). A prelate
must understand all of these things and be just as prepared to tend to
the spiritual needs of dwarven miners as to the needs of young wives
hoping to get with child. The training usually takes five years, though
quite wise candidates have been admitted into the clergy in only two
years. A prelate may serve in a foundation, wander, or even run a
small shrine.
The Rontrans hold that all prelates are equal; once a prelate is
admitted into the order of the sowers, he is free to go where he believes
Rontra wants him – unless commanded directly not to by the grand
prelate of his foundation. A prelate cannot order another prelate to do
something, even if he is six levels higher. The foundations are lawful
good in feel and tone, however, and most obey instruction even if it is
not required (they call it “heeding advice”). Obviously, this is all an
extension of the Rontran hesitance to command.
The only person in a foundation empowered to order others is the
grand prelate. When a foundation loses its grand prelate (through
death or departure), or when a new foundation is established, all
of the local prelates gather for a great council to name a new grand
prelate. All voices are equal in these councils, called moots, regardless
of age or level. The moots are run in a very orderly fashion, with every
attendant getting a
chance to speak,
rebut and debate
the matter before
them, and they
may take as long
as a month.
Together
these
prelates eventually agree unanimously on the new grand prelate of
the foundation. In general, a prelate must be at least 7th level to be
considered for the position (though strange things happen). The
grand prelate is undisputedly in charge of the foundation and, since
there is no higher authority, he becomes the area’s arbiter of religious
law. Prelates will obey a grand prelate from their foundation, even
if they don’t want to. A foundation must have a grand prelate to be
considered a foundation – otherwise it is a shrine. If a grand prelate
cannot be decided on, the foundation is reduced to a shrine and put
under the authority of the nearest foundation with a grand prelate. A
grand prelate is addressed as “mother” or “father” and introduced by
full title.
Whether he is a grand prelate or not, eventually a sower becomes so
powerful that all recognize him as an elder of the faith. At 15th level,
a sower is understood by all Rontrans to be what they call a great elder.
These venerable leaders have usually performed great quests or other
monumental tasks in the service of Rontra. It is considered odd for a
great elder to continue to serve as a grand prelate if he is one to begin
with, and most give up the position. They travel throughout the lands
visiting foundations, lending their wisdom and aid when required, and
harrying the foes of Rontra that weaker members of the faith simply
cannot approach. A great elder is addressed as “grandmother” or
“grandfather” and introduced by full title.
Table 4-4: Table 4-4:
Sowers of Rontra Titles Sowers of Rontra Titles
Minimum
Cleric Level Title Requirement
1 Prelate Two to Five Years Training 7+ Grand Prelate Unanimous Naming to Head of Foundation by
All Local Prelates
15 Great Elder None (Cannot Continue to be Grand Prelate)
Domains
Sowers of the Rontran church can choose between the following
domains: Earth, Healing, Good, Law and Plant.
Spell Preparation Time
Sowers pray for their spells at dawn, but they must be in contact
with the earth at the time.
Alignments
Most sowers are lawful good and, like Rontra, they believe that there
must be an order to things and to peoples’ lives for the world to be
at peace. They desire the happiness of all people, high and low, and
they work within the established order to promote it. While they
will oppose tyranny, they see nothing wrong with a system of peasant
farmers and wealthy landowners – in fact, they convince those who
want to rebel against this established order that they must accept
their place in life. This is one of the cores of their belief – accept
who you are and what you are, and you will find joy unbounded.
They are good, though, and will oppose any effort to oppress the
people or steal from them what is theirs.
The neutral good members of the order are more ambivalent about
established orders. They see many cases where change can improve
lives. However, they continue to adhere to the basic tenets of the
faith and do not command good-hearted people to change their
lives; they work through advice and wisdom. Many neutral good
sowers are wanderers, less interested in the foundations than their
counterparts, and far more excited about getting themselves to the
world’s most dangerous areas, where they can do the most good.
Lawful neutral sowers are considered odd by most of their brethren.
While prelates need not obey other prelates, the lawful neutral
members of the order seek authority and obey authority almost
compulsively. They create hierarchies where none exist. Most sowers
with this outlook believe that the flaw in mortal reasoning is easily
found – dissatisfaction with order. If everyone accepted their place
unconditionally and performed their role properly, the world would
function perfectly and at peace. The lawful neutral sowers spend
their time trying to guide those who have fallen out of their place
back into it and waging personal crusades against forces outside the
natural order (such as the undead).
Holy Warrior Class:
Wardens of Rontra
The Order
Wardens are holy warriors dedicated to protecting the earth from
those who would abuse her gifts, but primarily from those powers
that would pollute her natural order. While the sowers are concerned
primarily with the mortal races and their protection and guidance,
the wardens are wanderers seeking out the incursion of unnatural
forces. These are primarily undead and evil outsiders, particularly
demons and devils. While they will take orders from grand prelates
or great elders, in general the wardens are inveterate wanderers on a
lifelong mission against evil.
Their mandate is fairly simple to understand; there are natural and
magical beasts that are a part of the mortal sphere and were meant
to be a part of the mortal sphere. Those evil creatures that invade
the mortal sphere from without are a scourge that poisons the
Earth Mother and must be removed and destroyed. From this the
order gains its name, for they are like the wardens of the wood who
preserve its purity for hunting.
Titles
At 1st level a warden is admitted to the order under the title of
warden, addressed as “sir” or “dame,” and introduced by full title.
She maintains this title and address throughout her career. To
become a warden is a very simple process and requires no training
(though most are wise enough to seek out martial training). Rontra
calls those who serve her and they can feel the call in their very
bones. They know it is their duty to oppose the unnatural forces
that inhabit the earth, whatever the cost. Many leave behind
established trades and lives to heed this powerful call.
A warden is named such by another warden, and the induction
process and ceremony vary from warden to warden, usually based on
the personality of the prospective member. Many are taken out into
a secluded area by their sponsor within the order and there told tales
of Rontra’s splendor for many days, with little to sustain candidate
and sponsor but talk. Others lead an entire foundation in prayer for
days on end. There are even wardens who were inducted into the
order by being buried in dirt up to their necks for three days and
nights. Regardless, after some ceremony the newly named warden
is master of her own destiny and may wander the lands freely on the
quest of her order: the destruction of the unnatural.
Table 4-5 Table 4-5
Wardens of Rontra Titles Wardens of Rontra Titles
Minimum Holy
Warrior Level Title Requirement
1 Warden Induction Ceremony
Additional Class Skills
Wardens of Rontra are close to the earth in many different ways. Some
understand the things that grow upon the Earth Mother; others know
well the many caves and wonders in her bosom. For this reason, they
choose two of the following additional class skills. The skills (and the
key ability for each skill) are listed below:
Appraise (Int), Intuit Direction (Wis),
Knowledge (nature) (Int), Wilderness Lore
(Wis).
Domains
A warden may choose two of
the following Holy Warrior
domains: Earth, Life, and
Creation.
Gifts of Rontra
Beginning at 3rd level, the
warden can meld into stone, as
per the spell, once per week,
with a caster level equal to
her class level. She can use
this ability more often as she
advances in levels (twice per
week at 6th level, three times
per week at 9th level). Meld
into stoneis a spell-like ability
for wardens.
Beginning at 12th level, her Gift
of Rontra allows her to dismiss
unnatural creatures, as per the
spell, once per week, with a caster
level equal to her class level. She
can use this ability more often as
she advances in levels (twice per
week at 15th level, three times per
week at 18th level). Dismissalis a spell-like ability for wardens.
Spells:
1st level – bless, bless water, bless weapon, create water, cure light wounds,
detect poison, detect undead, divine favor, endure elements, magic
weapon, protection from evil, rontra’s blessing, resistance, virtue
2nd level – remove paralysis, resist elements, shield other, delay poison,
consecrate
3rd level – cure moderate wounds, plant growth, dispel magic, greater
magic weapon, heal animal companion, magic circle against evil,
prayer, remove blindness/deafness
4th level – cure serious wounds, death ward, dispel evil, freedom of
movement, holy sword, neutralize poison
Mount/Animal Companion
Upon reaching 6th
level, a warden calls a powerful animal
companion, usually a celestial wolf or celestial cave (brown) bear, to
accompany her in her lifelong quest against the unnatural. Wardens
rarely ride horses, as they prefer to stay in contact with the earth.
Like many Rontrans, wardens often go barefoot.
Code of Conduct
Wardens of Rontra seek to defend the earth from the depredations
of the unnatural. They consider all life sacred and strive to protect
and nurture Rontra’s children. A
warden must always remember
that the reason for her struggle
against the unnatural is to
protect the innocent life of
the earth. Any warden who
kills another without just
cause or defiles the earth and
its treasures immediately
loses her special abilities and
is considered a fallen holy
warrior. A warden must never
imagine that the ends justify
the means – they do not for
Rontra, and they do not for her
servants.
In determining what is
“unnatural,” the simple rule to
follow is this: If it’s good or was
born on the prime material, it
is not “unnatural,” per se. So
while wardens do not like orcs,
they do not see it as a lifelong
mission to eradicate them; they
are part of the natural order. If
it is undead or if it is evil and
has the designator “outsider,”
it is the warden’s mission to
destroy it. They do not oppose
neutral and good outsiders
because they are not actively
polluting and destroying the
natural order.
Associates
Wardens enjoy the company of any who oppose evil through just
means. They are closely tied with Morwynites and other lawful
churches, and also enjoy the company of other divinely powered
characters. They will leave the company of those who resort to
torture or brutality in the name of what they perceive to be good,
however, and they will certainly depart from any company that
knowingly commits evil acts. They will actively oppose anyone who
raises or creates undead or summons evil outsiders.
Alignment
Wardens must be lawful good.
Prestige Classes
and Other Orders
The third holy order of the Rontrans has little to do with the
foundations and spends its time in small farming communities.
They’re called the gleaners, and they take their name from the
poorest of the poor; at harvest time, after the reapers cut the wheat
and take it be stored, gleaners come in and pick up the small pieces
of grain dropped in the process. They live off these scraps, and a
more wretched people cannot be found in any countryside.
The gleaners are a holy order of mendicants, living on what scraps
they are given by nearby farmers. They live on the outskirts of rural
communities and ponder the nature of Rontra’s teachings while also
protecting the land from evil incursions – natural and unnatural
alike. The order came into existence on the uncivilized fringes of
society long ago when the greatest threat to farmers was roving
bandits that came to take their crops. The gleaners were warriors
inspired by Rontra who arose
from the farm communities
and drove off bandits in
exchange for food.
Eventually, they became formalized as an order in their own right,
and now they are respected, if little heard from, members of the
faith. The gleaners do not have titles, and many cease to even use
their names. They are simply called “friend” or “brother” by those
they protect. Admission to the order does not require any rite of
passage; a person is simply called to serve the order and takes on the
mantle of gleaner.
It is not an easy mantle to wear. The gleaners have no property, no
families, and often no homes. Eventually, they become tied to the
land they protect. While there are certainly traveling gleaners, seeking
out rural communities in need of aid, by the end of their careers
(should they live long enough), they invariably settle in a single region.
Prestige Class:
Gleaners of Rontra:
Gleaners are warriors who use simple farm weapons and other
means to protect Rontra’s countrysides. They are the guardians of
farmers oppressed by tyrants, attacked by bandits, or terrorized by
beasts and undead. Gleaners are unshakable foes, greatly skilled at
fighting against impossible odds and unmoved by even the most
frightening foe; they are so imbued with the strength of the earth
that they will flee from nothing. They are mendicants, meaning
they live off the charity of others and do not keep any possessions,
giving away all they own but their weapons and the clothes on their
backs. The gleaners are essentially the legendary protectors of the
world’s peasantry, lent great strength by the
earth and protected mystically by her dust.
What drives a person to give up all of his
worldly possessions to protect farmers
is hard to say. Most are religious zealots who believe that by fulfilling
their duty as gleaners, they are truly performing Rontra’s way – and
it’s hard to argue. After all, what could be holier than giving up your
entire life and becoming an utterly wretched and impoverished loner
in service to your god?
Fighters, rangers, barbarians and monks from rural regions are all
reasonably likely to become gleaners, and more than a few rogues have
become gleaners as well. Anyone who has a love for common people
and is prepared to take up arms to defend them and their lands might
make an appropriate gleaner. It is unheard of for those who require
books and other trappings of civilization, like wizards and bards, to
become gleaners, as it is a solitary calling.
Common examples of gleaners are the strange old woman at the
edge of town who lives in a shack and has no name, or the wild-eyed
barefoot man with dirt on his hands who never speaks but shows up
at just the right moment to save a small village from a fire. They live
on the outskirts of things, alone, watching over a small community
(or a group of them) unbeknownst to many of its residents. If there
is a village in a “trouble area,” for instance near an area infested by the
undead, a gleaner is likely to wander into town and establish a home
on its edge. Many gleaners have no names and go by simple honorifics
like “brother” or “wisewoman.” They are often unappealing to the eye
and the nose, as they bathe little and do not bother with the trappings
of holiness; they are an utterly impoverished order and are happy to
live by foraging in utter squalor.
Abbreviation:Gle
Hit Die:d10.
Requirements
To qualify to become a gleaner, a character must fulfill all the
following criteria.
Alignment:Any non-evil.
Base Attack Bonus:5.
Feats:Blind-Fight, Iron Will.
Rontran:A gleaner must be a faithful devotee of Rontra.
Vow of Poverty:A gleaner may not own anything other than what
he can carry. He may never have more money than required
to purchase one month’s room and board; all excess must be
given to charity.
Class Skills
The gleaner’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance
(Dex), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Jump (Str),
Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Spot
(Wis), Swim (Str), and Tumble (Dex). See Chapter 4: Skills in the PH
for skill descriptions.
Skill Points at Each Level:2 + Int modifier.
Class Features
All of the following are class features of the gleaner prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
Gleaners are proficient with weapons found in agricultural settings:
club, dagger, flail (light and heavy), handaxe, javelin, kama, nunchaku,
quarterstaff, trident (pitchfork), scythe, sickle, and sling. Gleaners are
proficient with light and medium armor, but gain no proficiency with
shields.
Armor of the Earth (Su)
While the gleaners are able to use armor, most do not. If a gleaner
covers himself with dust or dirt (usually mud) and prays, the power of
Rontra protects him through the dust of the earth. The gleaner adds his
Charisma modifier (if positive) to AC, in addition to his normal Dexterity
modifier, and his AC improves as he gains levels: When he receives Armor
of the Earth +1, he is granted an additional +1 bonus to AC, etc. (Only
add this extra AC bonus if the total of the gleaner’s Charisma modifier and
the extra bonus is a positive number.) This bonus represents an aura of
the earth’s protection that surrounds the gleaner and is not lost, even if the
dirt is washed off of him (though he must renew his coating of earth every
24 hours). This ability stacks with protective auras based on Wisdom
modifier (such as the monk’s) or other stats, but will not stack with any
other ability that increases AC based on the gleaner’s Charisma modifier.
Greater Bond (Su)
Eventually a gleaner will decide upon a homeland, village, or rural area
that he wishes to protect for the rest of his life. Powerful gleaners may
bind their very souls to the land. Whereas powerful monks become
separate from nature, powerful gleaners actually become part of it. No
one knows what happens to the souls of such gleaners when they die
– whether they go before Maal like others, or whether they actually
pass into the earth itself, becoming a part of Rontra. Regardless, in
their lifetimes the power of their bond is clear.
A gleaner spends a month binding himself to the land he wishes to
protect. This is a permanent procedure and may not be reversed once
complete. The gleaner must pray every waking moment, pausing only
occasionally to eat, and every moment must be spent in contact with
the same ten-foot patch of land. After the lengthy ritual, the gleaner is a
part of the land. This has three effects as long as the gleaner is within a
15-mile radius of the spot upon which he performed the ritual:
At will, the gleaner may transform himself as though under the effect
of the righteous mightspell. This takes no time to cast. The gleaner
simply explodes with growth and might, a terrifying vision to any who
would desecrate the land he defends. This has limitless duration, as
long as the gleaner is within the radius of his home. Food the gleaner
eats that was planted and grown within the 15-mile radius functions for
him as though it is a heroes’ feast. This works like the spell, so the gleaner
must spend an hour eating the feast (meaning, also, that there must be
enough food to fill out an hour-long meal). The gleaner is under the
effect of a constant negative energy protection, as though cast by a 20
th
-level
cleric. This is because the gleaner is actually tapped into a massive positive
energy source: the earth itself. Only the most powerful negative energy
stands any chance of affecting the gleaner.
This power eliminates the Lesser Bond and makes it impossible for the
gleaner to establish one. The Greater Bond may not be undone by any
means short of a miracle.
Should the gleaner leave his home area he suffers 1d10 points of
damage for every 24 hours he is away. This damage cannot be healed
until he returns home. After 72 hours, it becomes 2d10 points of
damage and 1d6 Strength damage every 24 hours.
Lesser Bond (Su)
The gleaner eventually becomes attached to one town or another,
though early in his career this may be a passing attachment. He may
formalize his attachment, giving him power when in the area he wishes
to protect. If the gleaner spends a week without food, chanting and
praying while lying on the land he wishes to serve, he becomes bound
to the land itself. While the gleaner is within a ten-mile radius of the
spot he bound himself to, he gains a +1 sacred bonus to all melee attack
rolls and a +1 sacred bonus to all of his saving throws (though this will
have no effect on his Willpower save, which already receives a sacred
bonus from his Resolve of the Earth ability). As long as he performs the
weeklong ceremony, he may move this bond to another location.
Power of the Earth (Su)
If the gleaner is in touch with the earth directly (bare feet touching the
ground), he is unmovable and gains the strength of the Earth Mother.
Cobblestones and other stone floors do not count – he must be in direct
contact with Rontra. The Power of the Earth has three major effects:
Unmovable:The gleaner receives a +4 sacred bonus to his strength
statistic against trip, bull rush, and any other attempts to move him.
This bonus increases as he gains levels (when he receives Power of the
Earth +1, it becomes a +5 sacred bonus, etc.).
Tremorsense:The gleaner feels vibrations through the earth, making
him incredibly skilled at fighting multiple enemies. Anyone walking on
the earth cannot catch the gleaner flat-footed, or flank or sneak attack
him, as long as the gleaner makes a successful Listen check (see PHfor
sample DCs). As he goes up in levels, he gains a sacred bonus to this
check, but only for Tremorsense (when he receives Power of the Earth
+1, he gains a +1 sacred bonus to Listen for this check). Tremorsense
doesn’t work against incorporeal, weightless or flying enemies.
Body of Stone: The gleaner adds his Charisma modifier (if positive)
to his Constitution modifier while in touch with the earth. Any hit
points gained from this go away as soon as the gleaner breaks contact
with the earth. These hit points are not lost first the way temporary
hit points are. The gleaner gains a bonus hit point (not a bonus
Constitution modifier) for every +1 to his Power of the Earth ability.
Resolve of the Earth (Su)
Gleaners are as unmovable as the earth itself, and this extends to their
wills. A gleaner receives a +2 sacred bonus to his Willpower saves,
which increases as he gains levels (it becomes a +3 sacred bonus when
he receives Resolve of the Earth +1, etc.). Further, the Gleaner has SR
17 against any spell effect that causes fear. This increases with bonuses
to his Resolve of the Earth ability.
Shake the Earth (Su)
As a move-equivalent action, the gleaner may stomp his foot on the
earth and create a tremor that potentially knocks all those around him
to the ground. Anyone within ten feet of the gleaner must make a Reflex
save (DC 13) or fall down. He may do this as often as he likes. This is
one of the reasons gleaners can stand up against large groups of foes.
Skin of the Earth (Su)
The gleaner gains the might of stone itself, his flesh turning common
blades. He receives DR 10/
1.

Rontra

World of Tersa ThomasJones