To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The Athar: Bane to the Gods
The Athar believe that the gods are frauds, unworthy of worship, no matter how powerful they may be. While possessing awesome might and near-limitless resources, gods are not the all-knowing, all-powerful progenitors of the multiverse – they are beings that make mistakes, and they can be killed. The false hierarchy of worshiper and deity serves only to bolster a power‘s ego and reinforce the inferiority of a worshiper. No, the gods are beyond the understanding of mortals, if they exist at all. What exists now is nothing more than an elaborate scheme that ends up with worshiper getting the short end of the stick. There is enough hardship in a person‘s life without the need to cater to a power‘s whims, and the Athar believe it is their duty to inform everyone they don‘t have to.
Philosophy: the gods are frauds.
Nicknames: Defilers, the Lost.
Factol: Jaya Forlorn
Prominent members: Caylean, Hobard.
Home location: The base of the Spire, in the Outlands.
Alignment: Any, with chaotic tendencies.
Goals: Spread their message, and take back the Shattered Temple.
Related skills: Religion, Stealth. A player may start the game with skill focus with either skill if they choose not to pick a skill related to being a Primer, or Planar.
Faction bonuses with the Athar will confer abilities such as:
- bonuses to will defenses and saving throws against powers that daze or charm
- resistance to radiant powers
- abilities that help disguise or hide their presence
Special: clerics and other classes with channel divinity power that are part of the Athar faction do not worship a god. Instead, they worship the great unknown. Channel Divinity powers that targets undead creatures instead target elemental creatures and creatures with the divine power source instead.
The Philosophy of the Athar
The gods are frauds, not because they aren‘t powerful – they are; there is no denying it – but because they present themselves as more important than all other things in the multiverse. They demand worship and obedience, but they grant only a tiny measure of power to a select group of worshipers, mainly clerics, in exchange for a lifetime of devotion and service. The bulk of the population receives no acknowledgement, let alone benefit, for their piety. Most creatures live and die without knowing if their god truly existed. Such deception is unconscionable and inexcusable, and must cease.
The Athar belief is simple: the powers are not true deities. A deity should be above the necessity of mortal worship, should be above all mortal mistakes, and most of all should be above death. If they suffer from these flaws, if they are truly so limited, how can they be the absolute forces that created and guided the multiverse? It simply can‘t be true. The powers that exist on the Outer Planes (and the few that live elsewhere) must therefore not be gods at all. Of course the Athar aren‘t blind, deaf, or dumb; they fully acknowledge the strength and ability of the powers. They just don‘t believe any amount of power short of true godhood is worthy of worship, and they refuse to participate in any act that reinforces that sham.
There is ample evidence the gods are frauds. Many can duplicate the divine abilities of clerics without swearing fealty to a power, and more and more clerics are surfacing with spell abilities that spring from ideals, philosophies, and other less tangible sources. Indeed, the Athar have clerics within their ranks that draw upon the Great Unknown, a force they believe is beyond the ken of mortals and gods alike. On the Outer Planes the difference between a power and a mortal is even less defined, for everyone with sufficient belief can alter their reality to meet their expectations. Sure, they may not be able to do it with the dazzle of a power, but the process is the same.
Why, then, is the message so hard to deliver? The Outer Planes are home to the gods, and nobody likes being called a liar to their face. While the Athar do their best to not directly provoke the powers (they‘re not suicidal, after all), sometimes there is no easy way to tell the truth, and the messenger suffers as a result. This is the current state of the Athar, and a great concern for the faction‘s members. How can one shed light on the truth of the powers, when the powers themselves wish it to remain hidden?
Before the tumultuous events of the Faction War, the Athar used the very nature of Sigil as a buffer between themselves and those they disparaged. Whispering runes – talking leaflets that delivered the Athar message to the illiterate – were a main weapon in the faction‘s war against deific oppression, with the multitude of portals providing a ready means of distribution. Gods could not enter Sigil, and their agents were easy to track and eliminate, so the Lost were secure in their position.
History recounts the meeting of two men, Dunn and Ciro, who encountered each other at the location of the Shattered Temple in Sigil and formed a friendship based on their mutual disregard for the powers. The two parted with a solemn vow to find like-minded individuals and bring them back to the ravaged temple, forming the basis for the Athar as they are known today. Disillusioned clerics, dishonored paladins, and discontent commoners swelled the ranks of the Lost, eventually attracting the attention of the Harmonium. A war between the factions ensued, stopped only by the intervention of the Lady of Pain.
This conflict actually served to cement the Athar‘s faction-hood. The reaction of the Harmonium showed the message of fraudulent gods carried weight, and the support of the Lady was seen as an affirmation of that message. The fact that she was extremely powerful and actively discouraged worship of herself was also a boon to the Lost. Of course, more than just the Harmonium disliked the stance of the Athar; the Fated and the Mercykillers also opposed them. The Takers believed that since the gods could get the worship of mortals, they should be able to; the Red Death simply wanted to avoid adding ultra-powerful beings to a growing list of those deserving of justice.
The Faction War in Sigil dealt the Athar two heavy blows: first, when Factol Terrance disappeared near the beginning of the war, and second, when the Shattered Temple was razed in the war’s aftermath. Leaderless and homeless, the Athar rallied around Jaya Forlorn, a young protege of Terrance‘s and a cleric of the Great Unknown. Her calming influence coupled with the wisdom of Hobard, an ancient githzerai wizard, helped organize the group for a mass exodus from Sigil when the Lady‘s decree became known. The factions were no longer allowed to officially operate within the City of Doors, and the Athar could think of only one other place in the multiverse where the gods could not destroy them at their leisure – the base of the Spire. There, all magic would be suppressed, even that of the powers.
The bulk of the faction migrated to the base of the Spire. Hobard and a small group of militant Athar remained in Sigil and moved underground – literally – to plot the return of the faction to strength. One problem that immediately became apparent for the emigrants was the isolation. There was no longer the convenience of a plethora of portals; indeed, the dispossessed Athar had only their feet as reliable transportation for countless miles until the Spire‘s influence waned. They were secure from their enemies, but they no longer had the means to deliver their message. This both frightened and frustrated many members, and only the leadership of Jaya Forlorn kept the faction from dissolving altogether. The faction has since adopted a new symbol – a profile of the Spire crowned by a black torus – symbolizing the Athar journey from Sigil to the Outlands and their hope to one day return to the City of Doors. Members bear the mark as a tattoo or on an amulet but keep it secret, fearing the wrath of the gods and their servants.
The current goals of the Athar are twofold. First, they must find some means of continuing to deliver their message that gods are frauds, and second, take back that which was theirs – namely, the Shattered Temple. Jaya concentrates on the first while Hobard focuses on the second, and the two hope to reunite the faction when either goal has been accomplished.
Jaya‘s attention is currently focused on the Athar‘s new neighbors, the rilmani. Of particular interest is the Mirrored Library in the city Sum of All; if information on how to accomplish the Athar‘s goals cannot be found within, then a thorough study of the mirror magi might help solve communication and transportation problems. The rilmani are not forthcoming with any information, but they do not bar the Lost from entering the city or the library, so Jaya continues along this line.
Meanwhile Hobard plans a campaign of guerrilla warfare aimed at both the Garianis family and the temple of Hades now being constructed where the Shattered Temple once stood. Friar Murlov Garianis, a local crime lord and cleric of Hades, immediately took possession of the Shattered Temple and its surroundings when the Faction War ended, intending to build a grand temple that would elevate his own status and bring the glory of Hades to the masses of Sigil. The Athar consider this action a declaration of war, and no one involved with the temple‘s construction is safe from the vengeance of the Lost.
Of course, both these lofty goals have little impact on the average Athar member. Membership in the Athar these days involves work, and lots of it. Food and supplies must be carted to the base of the Spire on a daily basis, messages must be delivered to those Lost still lurking in Sigil, and allies must be sought among the planes if the Athar hope to return to their former power. Magic is of little use where the Lost currently lair, so skilled craftsmen and professionals are in high demand. Heavily armed parties escort the caravans necessary to keep the Athar alive, and the most trusted of agents act as go-betweens for Jaya and Hobard, sworn to take their own lives before revealing the faction‘s plans.
No one in the organization is idle; everyone has a part to play. Wizards are dispatched to the Mirrored Library in Sum of All to study the texts and unlock the secrets of mirror magic. Combat-oriented members act as escorts for all Athar, defending fellow members from the proxies and petitioners of the powers.
The Athar have no allies among the former factions, but they also don‘t have any enemies left with the strength to take action. While Jaya Forlorn courts the rilmani, there is little hope that enigmatic race will lend true support. Whatever the Athar hope to accomplish, they must do so on their own.
The gods themselves consider the Athar a threat, for the faction‘s words poison the faithful and leech away their power. The church of Hades and the Garianis crime syndicate are both targets of the Athar‘s wrath, although neither as yet knows of the enmity. As for the factions, each has its own concerns and no time to worry about the doings of the Lost. The Mercykillers and the Sign of One no longer exist; the latter merged with the Believers of the Source into a new organization called the Mind’s Eye, and it has no hostility towards the Athar. The Harmonium and the Fated both relocated to other planes and are no longer in such close quarters with the Athar; the Lost remain cautious around members of both factions, but neither group has the time or resources to mount a campaign against the Athar.