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Mephibosheth
2006-08-09, 03:37 PM
The Order of the Hidden Fire

http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h197/Mephibosheth85/Flame.gif
Note: This is an organization created for use in the Tears of Blood (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590) campaign setting, currently being created here at Giantitp.com. The above link contains summaries of many of the setting-specific information used in this write-up.

It is said that a lamp that is covered is useless, giving light to no one. But no one can see a flame that is covered, except he who covers it. Sometimes, this can make all the difference, for a covered fire still burns.
- Henri B'Artaign, founder of the Order of the Hidden Fire

General Background
In the wake of the ravages of the Weeping, a new and oft-persecuted minority arose; the Plaguetouched (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=0#9). These shaken survivors of the deadly disease carry with them the permanent scars of the Weeping as blood flows periodically from their eyes and their bodies and minds bear the lingering effects of the disease.

Along with the physical and mental aspects associated with their condition, the Plaguetouched must contend with the societal prejudices brought about by the Weeping. Anything associated with the deadly plague carries immense social stigma, and many people are unwilling or unable to look past the link between the Plaguetouched and the Weeping, persecuting the Plaguetouched as carriers or causes of the deadly disease. As the disease subsided and the population began to heal, organizations have sprung up seeking to combat the plague by eliminating the weeping, and stories of Plaguetouched killed or driven into exile by angry mobs have become commonplace.

In this situation, many of the Plaguetouched and a few of their supporters have banded together, forming the Order of the Hidden Fire to work towards the safety of the Plaguetouched and all others scarred by the Weeping. The Order works in secret to establish safehouses and resources for Plaguetouched in trouble, and works publicly (through “face” organizations) to educate people about the Weeping as a way of changing perceptions of the Plaguetouched.

The Order of the Hidden Fire uses symbols as means of recognizing each other and communicating with members. Almost all members of the group eventually acquire Plaguefire Rings, a unique magical item created by members that produces a small green flame on command. Members of the Order use this flame as a signifier of their membership. The symbol of a hand holding a tongue of green flame is also used in a number of ways to denote Order safehouses and locations friendly to Plaguetouched. Some members draw or tattoo the flame symbol on themselves to serve as an indicator of their membership until they are able to acquire Plaguefire Rings. Flames of all kinds have become symbols for the Order, and everything from candles in the window of a home or store to bonfires on the hills surrounding a town can signify the presence of the Order of the Hidden Fire.

Purpose
The Order of the Hidden Fire exists to protect Plaguetouched from persecution. It also develops methods of disguising the marks of the Plaguetouched and works to reverse the ravages of the Weeping on its members.

History
The Order of the Hidden Fire was formed during a period of chaos when the ravages of the Weeping threatened to end peace and order almost the world over. Few were able to survive the plague, and even fewer were able to come through unscathed. Many that managed to survive were permanently scarred by the plague, becoming Plaguetouched and suffering from a variety of afflictions as a result of their brush with death.

Early on, the Plaguetouched became associated with the suffering brought about by the Weeping, and almost as soon as their existence became known, people began to discriminate against them, chasing them from settled areas in disorganized mobs, killing them on sight, and even forming complex organizations bent on promoting the “greater good” by exterminating the Plaguetouched as carriers of the Weeping. Many of the Plaguetouched had to go underground (both literally and figuratively) to survive.

One day, in the land known as Pahal, where the ravages of the Weeping were seen as a device of the civilization's enemies to weaken its defenses, a Halfling merchant named Henri B’Artaign witnessed the persecution of a Plaguetouched man while on a visit to the city of Milanaa. The Plaguetouched, bleeding profusely from his eyes and convulsing from a combination of his plague-weakened health and the persecutions of the mob, tried to fight them off by shooting rays of fire at the mob, evidently hoping to reduce the mob’s numbers and weaken it’s resolve. However, he was in danger of being overwhelmed by the angry citizens. Outraged and appalled, Henri and his crew ran forward, grabbed the man, and swiftly carried him aboard their ship and set sail from the harbor. On board the ship, the man (whose name was Zukam) told Henri of the persecution of the Plaguetouched in his homeland. Henri, who had heard similar stories and seen similar occurrences in other ports, decided to try and do something to protect the Plaguetouched and their allies. They realized that where overt fire had failed Zukam in Milanaa, perhaps a hidden fire, solidarity and stealth, might be able to save many of the Plaguetouched from death and exile.

When they next landed in port, Henri and Zukam sought to find the communities of Plaguetouched and to find allies. The two traveled throughout the world, seeking out Plaguetouched and sympathizers and establishing networks of safehouses. It is during this time that Zukam developed the spells allowing the creation of the Plaguefire Rings and the symbol and methods of the Order of the Hidden Fire were developed.

Since its founding, the Order of the Hidden Fire has grown quickly as Plaguetouched everywhere joined in hopes of living safe lives once again. The leaders of the Order (such as they were) also expanded the scope of the Order, tacitly encouraging research into methods to aid Plaguetouched (spells, medicines, etc) and subtle education campaigns aimed at promoting acceptance of the Plaguetouched. They hope to use the metaphorical light and heat generated by their hidden flame to bring about enlightenment in the populace and provide comfort and succor for Plaguetouched.

While the Order is widespread and well-known among Plaguetouched and their supporters, it has been remarkably successful in staying under the general radar. Many only know of its existence as a shadowy rumor, easily discounted. In many cases, those members who have turned traitor have been dealt with swiftly and brutally by those they sought to betray.

Ideology/Imagery
In the main, the Order of the Hidden Fire seeks to protect, heal, and succor. It normally is a non-violent organization, though it will sponsor adventuring parties and certain limited violent actions from time to time. These actions are usually initiated by local chapters of the organization and hope to accomplish local aims (assassinations, thefts of important artifacts and documents, etc).

The Order of the Hidden Fire seeks to keep Plaguetouched hidden and safe, much the way a guard, soldier, or thief keeps a flame within a lamp to protect it from the elements and to prevent its light and heat from aiding those he would keep blind. They also seek to shed light on the true nature of the Weeping and the Plaguetouched, much the same way a lamp or torch reveals that which is hidden by darkness. Finally, they seek to assist the Plaguetouched in disguising their condition or alleviating the negative symptoms, much the same way a fire provides comfort in the cold.

Alignment
Individuals are brought to the Order of the Hidden Fire of necessity, and the Order in its very nature is loosely organized and decentralized. As such, members of the Order run the gamut of alignments and worldviews.

Resources/Benefits
The Order of the Hidden Fire is a diffuse organization. It has little by way of a central treasury, relying mostly on the resources of its members to accomplish its goals. Thus, the resources available to members are highly dependent on the location and circumstance of the member(s) contacted.

Members of the Order of the Hidden Fire can access the resources of the members of the Order in a given location to get protection and hiding places. Often, members will provide goods and services to other members at a discount (usually 1d6+4 percent), including the sale of magic items and spellcasting.

Gather Information/Knowledge DC’s
DC 15: “Yeah, I heard something about the Order of the Hidden Fire once. Something about those *spit* Plaguetouched creatures. Sounds dodgy.
DC 20: “Ah, the Order of the Hidden Fire! I’ve heard that they actually try to protect the Plaguetouched! Think that they’re not actually responsible for the Weeping. Load of nonsense if you ask me.
DC 30: “The Order of the Hidden Fire! No one’s asked about them in a while. I heard that they’re behind all these guys trying to teach us about the Weeping, and that they operate an extensive network of safehouses and secret research facilities. Bet they’ve got some pretty heavy disguise spells in the works. Maybe even a cure for the Plaguetouched or for the Weeping itself!”
DC 40: Names of the Order’s founders or of specific members in the city
Note that discrete use of flame symbols will lower these DC’s by 5 and will result in a 20% chance of contact by a member of the Order. Use of a Plaguefire Ring will lower the DC’s by 10 and result in a 40% chance of contact by a member of the Order.

Adventure Hooks
Zukam has become increasingly reclusive in recent days, disappearing from sight. Henri is worried about his old friend, and asks the PC's to find out what happened to Zukam.
Important members of the Order in the city in which the PC's are currently staying have been captured by an anti-Plaguetouched organization. The PC's must rescue them before they are forced to divulge information that could spell doom for the Order.
An agent of the Order of the Hidden Fire has infiltrated the royal palace and attempted to kill the King, who barely escaped. The King asks the PC's to hunt down the order in his realm and eliminate it.
An anti-Plaguetouched riot breaks out in the city. Will the PC's join in, or will they attempt to aid the Plaguetouched?
Henri asks the PC's to travel to a particularly dangerous area to investigate the state of things in the region, possibly starting new chapters of the Order if none exist already.

Mephibosheth
2006-08-09, 03:38 PM
Membership Requirements
For those who find out about its existence, joining the Order of the Hidden Fire is rather easy. *The only real requirement is that the members actively work to assist Plaguetouched and other individuals persecuted because of the Weeping. *This assistance may take many forms, including providing sanctuary, resources, spellcasting, and other services.

Authority Figures
While there is no official hierarchy for the Order of the Hidden Fire, there are a few individuals whose importance and power has placed them in a position to direct the general activities of the Order. *These individuals were all instrumental in the founding of the Order, and continue to work to further the goals of the Order.

Zukam (Plaguetouched Human [Pahali (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=30#30)] Wizard 10, Lormaster 5)
http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h197/Mephibosheth85/Zukam.gif
A powerful and wise wizard, Zukam was a member of the formative cadre of the Order of the Hidden Fire, and was the first member to undertake magical research to disguise the effects of the Weeping and to work to cure the afflictions of the Plaguetouched. *Over time, he grew increasingly paranoid and reclusive, gradually withdrawing from open work for the Order. *He currently organizes the research into new spells and items to help members of the Order.

Henri B’Artaign (Halfling (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=0#6) Rogue 6, Legendary Captain 9)
http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h197/Mephibosheth85/Henri.gif
Henri’s intervention in Zukam’s life and his cooperation with Zukam to help Plaguetouched sparked the formation of the Order of the Hidden Fire. *While the diffuse nature of the Order makes it difficult to truly lead, Henri is able to nudge the Order in the direction he feels best. *He has astounding influence among members of the Order, and he and his crew constantly sail the world, helping existing groups of Order members and establishing new safehouses.

Angelos Theopoulos (Human [Phoedran (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=27#27)] Bard 8, Virtuoso 4)
http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h197/Mephibosheth85/Angelos.gif
Angelos was a highly skilled poet who was one of the few in his hometown who was able to overlook the physical disabilities of the Plaguetouched and see the internal beauty that resided within their broken frames. *When Henri and Zukam first traveled to Phoedra, he was one of the few non-Plaguetouched to join the Order of the Hidden Fire. *Since then, he has focused his considerable skills in persuasion, rhetoric, and leadership to spearhead the Order's efforts to educate people about the Weeping and the Plaguetouched. *His subtle campaigns have been crucial to maintaining the secrecy surrounding the Order while simultaneously spreading their message throught the world.

Other Important Figures
The diffuse and informal nature of the Order of the Hidden Fire tends to reduce the importance of all but the most influential. *However, see below for an example local chapter of the Order of the Hidden Fire.

Racial Makeup
Humans: 40%
Feldarin (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=0#2): 25%
Halflings: 20%
Dwarves (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=world;action=display;num=1121098590; start=0#5): 10%
Other: 5%Of the race included in the Tears of Blood Campaign Setting, only Humans, Feldarin (half-elves), Dwarves, and Halflings have any significant presence in the Order of the Hidden Fire. *Elves are too reclusive to join the Order, Giantkin do not contract the Weeping, Gnomes are too wrapped up in their own concerns and were lightly struck by the plague. *Occasionally members of these races will join, either as outcasts from their communities or in order to help Plaguetouched.

Classes
The membership of the Order of the Hidden Fire includes members of every class. *Rogues, rangers, bards, and arcane spellcasters tend to be slightly overrepresented, as their talents naturally lend themselves to the secretiveness of the organization, but anyone can be a member, so long as he/she is loyal to the organization and willing to pitch in. *Also, the percentages below are based on the number of members with PC classes. *The Order's membership also includes many members with NPC classes.
Barbarian: 5%
Bard: 15%
Cleric: 5%
Druid: 5%
Fighter: 10%
Monk: 5%
Paladin: 5%
Ranger: 10%
Rogue: 20%
Sorcerer: 10%
Wizard: 10%

Mephibosheth
2006-08-09, 03:38 PM
Plaguefire Flame
Evocation [Fire]
Level: Brd 0, Clr 0, Sor/Wiz 0
Components: S, V
Casting Time: 1 Swift Action
Range: 0 ft
Effect: A small tongue of flame in the palm of your hand
Duration: Concentration (up to 1 round/level)
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistence: No
This spell was developed by Zukam, both as a utility spell and as a method of identifying members of the Order of the Hidden Fire. *Armed with this simple spell, he and other spellcasters crafted many rings that allow the spell to be used by non-casters, making it a functional badge of membership (so to speak) into the Order of the Hidden Fire.

When you cast this spell, a small tongue of bright green flame appears in the palm of your hand. *This flame sheds light as a candle, and can be used to set easily-combustible objects on fire (paper, dry wood, cloth, etc). *This flame cannot be used to set a creature on fire.

In addition to its utility for starting fires and providing light, the flame produced by this spell can be caused to flicker in any pattern the caster desires, allowing it to function for the transmission of short coded messages.

Mask*
Illusion [Glamer]
Level: Brd 1, Sor/Wiz 1
Components: S, V, F
Casting Time: 1 Standard Action
Range: Touch
Target: 1 Creature Touched
Duration: 1 hour/level
Saving Throw: Will Negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)
This spell was developed by Order of the Hidden Fire researchers to provide a quick, easy, and cheap way to disguise the facial features of Plaguetouched. *When cast by a powerful enough spellcaster, it even allows them to cover the bloody tears that mark the Plaguetouched.

This spell allows the caster to alter the minor facial features of the creature touched. *Changes are limited to; changing eye color, covering or adding scars/birthmarks/etc, tweaking the shape of facial features, and other minor changes of a similar scope. *The appearance of the target’s face is altered at the time of casting the spell, and does not change (however, see below).

In addition to altering already-existing facial features, this spell allows the caster to attempt to anticipate future changes in appearance. *Whenever the facial features of the subject of this spell change (i.e. gets a scar or a burn, eyes bleed, etc.), make a Spellcraft check using the modifier of the caster of the spell. *The DC to successfully cover the change in facial features is 15 + 2/hour since the casting of the spell. *If this check is unsuccessful, changes appear on the target’s face as normal.

This spell only changes the appearance of the subject’s face. *It does not disguise the texture of the subject’s face, nor does it prevent any other senses from detecting the subject’s true features. *This spell grants a +5 bonus to Disguise checks when used to create a disguise.

Focus Component: A mask of any type

Obscure Symptoms*
Illusion [Glamer]
Level: Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 2
Components: S, V, F
Casting Time: 1 Standard Action
Range: Touch
Target: 1 Humanoid Touched
Duration: 1 hour/level
Saving Throw:Will Negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)
This spell was developed as a more robust version of Mask to obscure some of the more dramatic symptoms of the Plaguetouched.

This spell can be cast on any humanoid that has been affected by a disease or is currently suffering from a disease. *The spell seeks out the remnants of the disease, determines the external, physical symptoms of that disease, and masks those symptoms so that it appears to all observers that they are not occurring. *This spell only obscures visual evidence of the symptoms. *Other senses may register the symptoms as normal.

This spell grants the target a +10 bonus on Disguise checks to appear whole and healthy when his/her symptoms would otherwise be apparent.

Focus Component: Some bandages or other health-related material taken from the target *

Suppress Symptoms*
Conjuration [Healing]
Level: Clr 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 Minute
Range: Touch
Target: 1 Creature Touched
Duration: 10 minutes/level
Saving Throw: Fortitude Negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)
One of the greatest breakthroughs of the Order of the Hidden Fire’s researchers, this spell can be used to suppress the symptoms of any disease for a period of minutes, allowing Plaguetouched to exist in normal society for a short period of time.

Upon completion of casting, all disease symptoms suffered by the target are suppressed. *Any physical evidence of the disease temporarily disappears, and all ability scores are temporarily restored to normal. *Sores recede, tremors cease, any seizures that would be suffered during this time period do not occur, etc. *This spell effects even diseases immune to Remove Disease. *At the end of the spell’s duration, the symptoms return.

Material Component: Healing oils and ointments

Plaguefire Ring
This simple pewter ring is set with a small piece of circular green glass. *They are commonly used to indicate membership in the Order of the Hidden Fire. *Whenever the command word is spoken (usually something simple and unobtrusive that can be whispered), it allows the wearer to cast Plaguefire Flame.
Faint Evocation; CL 1st; Forge Ring, Plaguefire Flame; Price 900 gp

* Indicates spells submitted for judging. *All other crunchy things are purely to flesh out the organization.

Mephibosheth
2006-08-09, 03:39 PM
Sample Chapter of the Order of the Hidden Fire

The Order of the Hidden Fire located in the town of Brasov (located to the north of Osijek in the midst of the Kvrinzemya Mountains (http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f273/Tantolian/Maps/TOB-MC7a.jpg)) is a typical rural chapter of the Order, focused on providing safehouses to Plaguetouched that pass through the town on their way to other locales as well as protecting the identity of the few Plaguetouched who have remained in Brasov. *The town itself is intensely prejudiced against Plaguetouched, having suffered heavily from the Weeping and from an intense bout of thievery perpetrated by Plaguetouched driven out of the surrounding communities.

The members of the Order in Brasov are very careful to maintain a low profile, and are very reluctant to attempt the type of education campaigns going on in other cities. *They focus on getting Plaguetouched safely through the town, hiding them from the authorities, and supplying them with provisions and necessary items. *They even have a small stock of Plaguefire Rings to give to new members of the Order. *They also maintain a bonfire on the hills above town indicating their presence. *This bonfire occasionally flickers green for a few seconds, ensuring that the message is communicated.

There are a few members of the Order in Brasov that chafe under the secrecy and relative inaction required to survive in the town. *A few prominent members have begun to contemplate violent action in retribution for offenses against Plaguetouched.

Overall, around 20 people in Brasov are members of the Order. *Most merely provide supplies and services to the Order, but a few operate safehouses in their homes and in the surrounding mountains.

Important Members

Andrei Alexandru (Male Human [Kvrin] Wizard 8 )
Andrei was among the first non-Plaguetouched in Brasov to join the Order of the Hidden Fire, and has since risen into a leadership role, providing guidance for the policies of the Order as a whole in Brasov. *He’s a very cautious man, advocating secrecy above all other goals. *Some of the younger members of the Order chafe under his leadership, wanting to act more openly and aggressively.

Bogdan Cezar (Male Plaguetouched Human [Kvrin] Rogue 6)
Bogdan is Andrei’s most trusted agent, acting as a second-in-command when required and helping Andrei communicate with the other members of the Order. *He too recognizes the need to be exceedingly careful, having had a few brushes with discovery himself.

Ioana Laurentiu (Female Human [Kvrin] Expert 2, Rogue 2)
Ioana operates Brasov’s largest safehouse for Plaguetouched in the secret basement of the prominent inn she owns and operates. *A complex series of secret passages have been constructed to hide this safehouse, which can easily accommodate 15 people, 25 in a pinch. *Ioana falls into the same camp as Bogdan and Andrei, believing secrecy to be paramount. *She’s paranoid of being discovered and sometimes regrets joining the Order, but she remains committed to the cause (though how far her loyalty goes is unknown/up to the DM to decide).

Vlad Silvio (Male Plaguetouched Human [Kvrin] Rogue 5, Assassin 1)
Vlad recently moved to Brasov from a large city in the foothills of the mountains, bringing with him the more active tendencies of the Order in larger cities, where secrecy is easier to achieve. *He has become bored and angry at the Brasov Order’s inaction, and is something of a rabble-rouser for younger Plaguetouched in Brasov that support taking more overt action. *Currently, their violent tendencies are being kept in check by older and more powerful members of the Order, but who knows what tomorrow may bring…

Adventure Hooks
Andrei has become worried that Vlad and his followers will strike against the mayor of Brasov in retribution for a recent anti-Plaguetouched riot. *He asks the PC’s to watch over the mayor in secret and prevent any assassination attempts without the townsfolk being any the wiser.
The wealthiest landowner in Brasov (a noted hater of Plaguetouched) has recently heard a rumor about the Order of the Hidden Fire, and asks the PC’s to look for evidence of its existence.
The PC’s are Plaguetouched/supporters passing through Brasov on their way out through the mountains, and they need to access the safehouse run by Ioana. *In return for their stay, she asks them to help her construct improvements to the safehouse (perhaps requiring some exotic substance or long-forgotten documents).
The Order in Brasov has been exposed! *The authorities found a minor safehouse, and the PC’s have to rescue the captured member from the local jail/help preserve the secrecy of the rest of the Order.
Vlad comes to the PC’s with news that Ioana has buckled under the pressure and plans on turning the Order over to the authorities. *Is this true? *Is Vlad just trying to provoke violence? *What will the PC’s do?
The bonfire in the hills has gone out, and the two members sent to investigate have disappeared. *Andrei asks the PC's to investigate.

Mephibosheth
2006-08-09, 07:21 PM
So, the Order of the Hidden Fire is mostly done, I think. *I encourage people to examine it and provide feedback. *I have a couple of specific requests:

1. I'm unsure as to the balance of some of the crunchy content. *At this point, I'm unsure that 3rd level is too high for Obscure Symptoms, since it's benefits are very situational and specific. *On the other hand, it is powerful and can be extremely useful. *Any input?
2. It's difficult for me as someone involved with Tears of Blood to view this organization without the influence of my familiarity with the setting. *If those of you who don't frequent those boards would provide input on how to make the organization more well-defined and clear for those who aren't familiar with the setting. *Any assistance would be appreciated.

I may add some more crunchy content, and may flesh out the flavor, and add some more images. *I hope you like it. *Again, any comments are welcomed.

Mephibosheth

Blue_C.
2006-08-10, 02:47 AM
I suggest spells or a PrC for the plague-touched. I went a little feat crazy when I wrote the template, so I think they are covered.

I really, really like the direction you are providing for the plague-touched, and I can't wait to see what the final result looks like.

Mephibosheth
2006-08-10, 05:19 PM
What do you think of the spells I've posted so far? Any suggestions about how to improve them? Anything else you'd like to see, flavor- or crunch-wise?

Thanks for the comments and the vote of confidence!

Mephibosheth

Carmichael
2006-08-10, 06:54 PM
That the organization relies on wholly campaign material (i.e. it's that much harder to insert in my own game) is a bit of a turn-off. But I haven't been fair and need to fully read this first.

Mephibosheth
2006-08-11, 09:40 AM
Yeah, I know that it the Order of the Hidden Fire is pretty setting-specific and that not everyone is going to want to convert/use it, especially since it relies so much on the existence of Plaguetouched in the setting. However, I do think that you could adapt it without too much work, replacing references to Plaguetouched with some other oppressed group (say, half-fiends or gnomes) and have the organization work to protect them. Suppress Symptoms wouldn't be that useful in that case, but the other spells would, and I think that the conversion would be pretty easy.

But you're right, it is intended to be used in the Tears of Blood setting, and is written from that frame of mind. I guess I'll just have to hope that people can look past the specificity ;).

Thanks for your comments!

Mephibosheth

Meat Shield
2006-08-14, 10:00 AM
I can see your hesitancy with Obscure Symptoms, but since it solely works on obscuring visual symptoms, not audible or tactile symptoms, you may be able to move it down to Wiz2, maybe keep it at Brd3.

Compare to Suppress Symptoms, with removes all signs of infection and is also 3rd level (Clr3)