There are no preferred classes. However, advancement in a cult of a hero of a different race is slower if you are multi-classing. A 10% penalty applies to advancing in a cult of a different race if you are already a member of another cult.
Advancement is based on performing mystical initiation rituals that bond you to a cult's hero. The abilities gained are those possessed by the hero. Some heroes had more than one profession or class. These allow advancement in multiple ways. The ritual is chosen by the initiate that stresses one profession over another. An initiate of Enkidu can choose to emphasize his combat ability and advance as a fighter, or his ties to nature and advance as a druid. On the other hand, some heroes were in similar lines of work. Thus, one can gain similar abilities from advancing in the cult of Tomkins or Hikitami, advancing in rogue in either cult.
Most abilities are not affected by the cult they were gained in. A rogue who advanced once in Tomkins and once in Hikitami is a level 2 rogue. However, it will have a major impact in how the character is viewed and what resources will be available to a character. In particular, their are strict social divisions between commoners, initiates and avatars, those with nine initiations in a single cult.
The following are gained through natural learning practice, and toughening, not through initiation: A ``to-hit'' bonus at least that of a wizard of your level. 2 skill points plus your intelligence modifier per level, plus one for humans. Your con modifier in hit points per level, if positive. One ability point every four levels. This is based on these being the ``greatest common divisor'' of advancement in all classes. Other abilities are only gained as a result of intitation.
A minor initiation is one that does not result in a new spell list or level, a new feat, or a new extraordinary ability. Minor initiation rituals last one day, and cost 25 gp/level. Otherwise, a major initiation is required, taking 3 days + 1day/level and costing 50 gp/level. Your first and ninth initiation rituals in a cult are special and can only take place on Sophia Island. The first costs 100 gp plus any incidentals, such as a spell-book, a familiar's costs, tools, etc... It takes a month of preparation, usually. The ninth costs 5000 gp and takes a month of preparation. After the ninth initiation, the initiate is referred to as an ``Avatar'' and has higher prestige in society. (There are Avatar-only businesses and areas.) Note that being an avatar requires nine initiations in a single cult, not nine initiations total.
There are no hero-cults for barbarians or monks. I prefer that PC's not choose these classes; if you really, really want to start as a barbarian or monk, your character will be a literal barbarian. They will start having some training in their chosen profession from a distant culture, but will only be able to progress through multi-classing via initiation.
Sorcerors seem underpowered compared to wizards, so starting at 2nd level, sorcerors' spells known and spells per day are as if they had one additional level.
Prestige classes are not available, except for Avatar classes and Yaga classes. Avatar classes become available as the ninth or higher initiation in a cult with a multi-classed hero. They are designed to remedy some of the drawbacks of multi-classing. For example, the avatar class for cults with two spell-casting professions counts towards the caster level in both (and may count towards spell progression in both). Yaga classes are warped versions of the standard classes, gained by Yaga cultists. Yaga classes are based on different kinds of monsters, and cultists become more monstrous with each level gained. Most Yaga cultists are evil, and becoming a Yaga cultist is highly illegal. However, Yaga cults are common among the savage humanoids; PC's will almost certainly encounter Yaga cultists at some point.
You gain 2+ your Int bonus, +1 if human per level from training and routine exercise of skills. If you are in a class with more than 2 base skill points, the remainder are gained as part of the initiation ritual. Your character specifies which skills she wishes to gain to her cult mentor before the ritual, and the ritual is tailored accordingly. (I prefer it if only class skills are gained in the ritual; non-class skills can be gained as part of day-to-day experience. Exclusive skills can only be gained in the initation rituals.)
See knowledge skills for a revised list of knowledge skills appropriate for the campaign.
Feats are always acquired as part of the initiation ritual. They usually refer to events in the lives of the heroes, and the ritual will involve symbolic recreation of these events. The same feat may be available from different cults, but the names the cults use for these feats and the events they refer to will be hero-specific.
When gaining an item creation feat, an item of the appropriate type is created during the ritual. This item is chosen by the initiate, and must be within the initiate's ability to create (with the feat.) The usual cost for the item is in addition to the normal initiation costs.
Alignment is a function of one's supernatural bonds, not one's personal morality. Unless the character is magically influenced, or takes extreme actions in a contrary direction, her alignment (for spell and supernatural purposes) is that of her dominant hero, or a combination of the heroes she follows. Magical corruption or extreme actions that change alignment may make it difficult or impossible to advance in the chosen cult. Neutral means not having alignment, so non-initiates register as neutral. (In contrast, initiates of Sophia register as having all alignments, Law, Chaos, Evil, and Good, in balance, regardless of personal morality.)
No permitted hero cult is of Evil alignment. However, the Cult of Yaga has classes with Evil alignments. Cultists of Yaga become monstrous in a way that reflect their profession. Fighters grow into giants, clerics become undead, etc. Many, but not all, of these monster types are inherently evil, and so cultists of Yaga frequently register as of Evil alignment. Needless to say, the Cult of Yaga is illegal and the minimal punishment for membership in such a Cult is death.
I prefer that no character start as a Yaga cultist. There will be opportunities for characters to ``go to the dark side'' during the game, if you really want. (However, this is probably suicide for the character, at least as a player character.)
The traditional religion is to respect and honor all god and heroes. Usually, only clerics will pick specific gods to be affiliated with. Clerics are affiliated with two matched, oppositional gods, viewed as a married couple.
Advancement is based on the character's emulation of the heroes through adventurous and worthy deeds. The character has a mentor within the cult that must be kept informed of her adventures. The mentor decides when the character is prepared for advancement. If the character is actually not worthy, the initiation ceremony fails. This is a humilation for both mentor and initiate. No refund of initation fees is made. It is also possible (but unusual) to gain more than one level in a ceremony if advancement is delayed. This reflects badly on the mentor, so the mentor is usually zealous in promoting the character at the appropriate time. No additional charges are due for multi-level initiations.
Any deeds that the character chooses to withhold from the mentor will not be included in the mentor's tabulation of the time for advancement. Such experience will be kept, but not used for the current advancement.
Experience from deeds contrary to the spirit of the hero cannot be used to advance in that cult; however, they may be usable for a different cult if appropriate. Thus, if a cultist of Raq tortures captive prisoners for information, leading to a successful mission, the character gains experience. That experience is not usable to advance in the cult of Raq, but may be usable to advance in the cult of Hillesa or Hikitami, if the character chooses to multi-class. The DM will tell you if experience is not usable in your current cult. You may want to hide such deeds from your current cult mentor, since they will not reflect to your credit in that cult.
Commoner and Warrior class levels are the result of mundane experience. A character can choose to advance as a Commoner and then later undertake an initiation to transfer this level to a PC class. A character can do likewise as a Warrior, but can only transfer the level to Fighter, Paladin, or Ranger. Aristocrat and Expert NPC classes are gained through initiation, just as PC classes are. PC's may choose to advance in these classes if desired. NPC's can accumulate experience through non-adventuring deeds, practicing their chosen fields dilligently. Non-elven characters can accumulate non-adventuring experience at the rate of 5 + wisdom mod xp/week if practicing their professions dilligently; elves gain at 5+ wisdom mod xp/month, but gain even if they do not focus on their professions. Non-adventuring experience can be used to advance in Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, Cleric, Wizard, Druid, Bard, or Sorceror. However, no to-hit bonus or hit points are gained by advancing using non-adventuring experience.
The Avatar prestige classes are designed to take away some of the disadavantages of multiclassing for characters in cults of multi-classed heroes. For example, avatar level counts towards caster level for all appropriate spell lists. They are only available as the ninth and higher initiations in these cults.
Casting too many spells is confusing and fatiguing, and can lead to mistakes, often with serious consequences. In the past, catastrophic spell mishaps occurred. Through testing over time, the cults have established safe limits for casting. These limits are conservative, but enforced rigorously. Mentors have some small flexibility in relaxing the limits for initiates with high talent, e.g., bonus spells. Characters that go beyond their limits may risk catastrophic spell failure, although this is unlikely unless the trangression is severe. More probably, they risk being expelled from the cult with consequent loss of all privileges, future advancement, and spell-casting rights.
As each level is gained, the character gains a token that must be presented when learning new spells. ``Free'' spells are learned as part of the initiation ceremony.
Excessive item creation is frowned upon. It is thought that binding too much of one's magic into objects weakens one's ability to control magic. Thus, item creation slows one's advancement in the cult. If item creation does not exceed 5% of total xp (or roughly, 50 xp per session), it is not necessary to keep track of xp costs. Otherwise, the usual xp costs apply. Characters who hide item creation from their mentors risk expulsion.
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