The Cult of the Blue Toad

From: Stephen P Martin (ilium@juno.com)
Date: Sun 12 Jan 1997 - 10:24:47 EET


Happy Saturday! Well, actually its Sunday now, but who's checking?

I was going to make one last posting of excerpts from the next issue of
Drastic, a couple of Spirit Cults I am including. However, instead I
decided to submit the full cult version from which one of these is drawn,
the long-rumoured and much-feared Cult of the Blue Toad.

I wrote this a few years as background for an adventure which I ran at a
convention. As I only run games to get into cons for free, you can
understood why I am not a very good GM, though this adventure went
passably well.

I won't apologize for this cult, though it contains more bad jokes than
even _I_ am now comfortable with. Indeed, it was basically written to be
a big Shaggy Dog story, right down to the cult runes. But I think the
major Divine spell is cool, so here it all is. My apologies to the
Lovecraft Mythos. And Sting. And a certain trademarked mouse who shall
therefore remain nameless.

THE CULT OF THE BLUE TOAD

"Then did I see a great spirit, which came upon me as I slept, lost in
the depths of the Devil's Swamp. It was boundless, blue as the depths of
the sea, with a ruby fire brighter than the Sun burning upon its brow. It
guided my spirit to a ruin deep in the Swamp, and told me that I would
find shelter, and my destiny, there."

Thus did Glaati the wise, the magnificant, first gaze upon the visage of
the Blue Toad.

from The Revelations of Glaati

MYTHOS AND HISTORY
The Blue Toad was one of the many spirits which were unnoticed and
unknown until the coming of chaos. He encountered a chaotic remnant and
swallowed it. From it he learned some of its secrets, and taught himself
how to be like it. When next chaos came he imitated it, and so was
ignored. He encountered some of the children of the Frog Woman, mutated
by chaos, and used his knowledge to cure them. When he tired of the
eternal struggle he hid himself in the waters, and remained there until
the Dawning, when he rose to greet the Sun with the rest of the world.
  The place where the Toad hid is near the Sounders River, and ended up
at the southern edge of the Devil's Swamp after Waha dug the Good Canal.
His followers founded a temple there, and revered his ability to deceive
the monsters which come out of the swamp. By the end of the First Age,
however, the cult had died out, and the swamp reclaimed the temple.
  In the Third Age, an exiled High Llama tribesman was wandering upon the
plains, and became lost in the swamp. Fearing for his soul from chaos,
and weak from hunger and exhaustion, he collapsed. While he slept, he
received his famous vision (called the Dream of the Blue Toad by the
vulgar) which is mentioned in the Book of Dale, and is fully described in
the eleven books of the Revelations of Glaati, the holy texts of the
cult. He was guided to the abandoned temple, and in 1523 began a
recruitment campaign which reestablished the cult in just under two
years.
  Members of the cult are given to the swamp in special burial grounds,
which are constantly guarded to keep them free of chaos. Worshipers
believe they will join the Toad in the Godtime, hiding with him from
Chaos. They will eventually be reborn into the cult, usually as a
newtling.
  The Blue Toad was a minor spirit of the waters, and was associated with
the powers of illusion as well, and so possesses the runes of Water and
Illusion. From Chaos he formed a rune unique to his cult, called Entropy
(or illusory chaos). It is similar to the Chaos and Illusion runes: the
horns of the Chaos rune are enlarged and circular, so that the whole rune
appears as a swollen, upside-down Illusion rune. He was only called the
Blue Toad after his encounter with Frog Woman's children, and does not
have a strong affinity for the Beast rune.

CULT ECOLOGY
The worshipers of the Blue Toad are mostly newtlings (not normally
counted among the newtling renegades of the Plaines), who claim descent
from the children of the Frog Woman. Occasional ducks and humans are
found (with the latter race slowly increasing in numbers), but neither is
common. Other races might be accepted, but no other race has been known
in the cult in living memory.
  The Blue Toad's relations with Chaos are strange and widely
misunderstood. Most creatures of Chaos normally sense members of the cult
as Chaos, and so often leave them alone; those that try to attack usually
have a hard time finding or following them, for they are experts at
hiding and navigating in the swamps. Relations with others are more
complicated. Members are often detected as Chaos by Sense Chaos skills
and spells, but most of the time they are not. Members are sometimes seen
to have Chaotic Features, which are never there the next time they are
met or seen. Reactions to this vary with the observer. Highly civilized
and developed cults understand this, and view them as highly-specialized
foes of Chaos. This view includes the local Orlanth cult and most local
city-cults; the Lunar Empire is included here because it does not care if
they are chaotic or not, so long as they do not oppose the Empire.
  Most others cannot prove the matter one way or the other. Given the
cult's track record, they are willing to take their word for it, but they
do not trust the Blue Toad. Others, notably the more primitive or
anti-chaos cults (such as Storm Bull and Kyger Litor) believe the Blue
Toad to be one of the more subtle (and therefore despicable) forms of
Chaos, and war against it accordingly. They are rarely any more
successful than are chaotic creatures.
  The fact that the Blue Toad does not allow overtly chaotic creatures to
join does not affect these views. Other chaotics simply view them as an
elitist cult, or one that is only reluctantly of Chaos, and usually
ignore it as of little use or power. Other races and cults view this
denial in terms of their own attitudes, and are not surprised by it.
  The Blue Toad's holy day is Waterday, Disorder Week, Dark Season,
celebrating the day he swallowed part of chaos. The Waterdays of Illusion
Weeks are special days of worship. It is interesting to note that Glaati
died on a cult holy day. A few contemporaries claim that he was corrupted
by chaos, and swallowed by his god; this is denied by the cult.

THE CULT IN THE WORLD
There is only one temple to the Blue Toad, hidden somewhere in the
southern reaches of the Devil's Swamp. It is a Minor Temple, tended by a
few priests and a larger number of initiates than would be suspected by
most of their neighbors. All of the cult's spells are available there.
  Since the temple is located so close to the holiest place of the Storm
Bull Berserkers (the Block), they have contact with that cult much more
often than they would like. Since being detectable by Chaos would not
help in any way, and the use of their imitation chaotic features would
only enrage their attackers further, they usually run or hide from them.

INITIATE MEMBERSHIP
Requirements are standard, except that no creature tainted with chaos may
join; in harder times, this has even been extended to exclude creatures
such as Trollkin, with whom the cult was once popular. Skills tested are
Hide or Sneak, Swim, Dodge or any Parry, and any one other skill deemed
appropriate, usually a Missile Attack or Swim Quietly.
  Initiates have access to cult Divine Intervention, but only to remove a
Chaotic Feature; it will not work for any other purpose. They may
sacrifice for the spell of Entropic Feature on a one-use basis; other
Divine spells are not normally available. They are taught the Spirit
Magic spell of Detect Chaos upon joining, and may purchase or earn other
spells from cult shamans normally. Other commonly learned spells are
Mobility, Shimmer, and Silence.
  Initiates are supported by the cult; in fact, they are required to live
at the temple barracks. They provide for the cult by hunting and trading
(they rarely have a problem with the local Issaries merchants). They must
slay any frog or amphibian with the Peaceful Cut, in deference to Frog
Woman; that spell is usually available from cult shamans.

SHAMAN MEMBERSHIP
The shamans of the cult act as priests as well. In addition to meeting
normal shaman requirements, they must have Dodge or Hide at 90% before
they will be considered to be a priest as well, and they must have been
an initiate for five years. They must always keep the spell of Imitate
Chaos in their or their fetch's memory; failure to do so results in
reversion to initiate status for one year. They are required to live at
the temple, and are provided for fully by the cult initiates. Other
requirements are as normal, but the Blue Toad's shamans are forbidden to
deal with chaotic spirits. Many spirits will refuse to deal with them if
they are identified as priests of the Blue Toad, due to its (perceived)
connection with chaos. This includes spirits which are rabidly against
chaos, such as cult spirits of most lawful/anti-chaos cults. They have
access to Divine Intervention as do initiates. Their fetch always appears
as a blue toad, usually riding on the shaman's shoulder.

Divine Spells: Breathe Water, Dismiss Magic, Entropic Feature, Find
Enemy, Worship Blue Toad

CULT SPECIAL SPIRIT MAGIC
Detect Chaos
1 point
ranged, temporal, active
This spell is as other Detect spells, guiding the caster to the nearest
source of chaos within range.

CULT SPECIAL DIVINE MAGIC
Breathe Water
1 point
ranged, temporal, nonstackable, reusable
This spell is as Breathe Air/Water in the Magic Book, but it can only be
used on an air-breather to allow him to breathe water for the duration of
the spell. If the spell is cast on a water-breather, there will be no
effect, although the spell is still used in that case.

Entropic Feature
(also known as Imitate Chaos or Illusory Chaotic Feature)
3 points
self only, temporal, nonstackable, reusable
This spell causes the caster to manifest an illusory Chaotic Feature,
(called an Entropic Feature by the cult). When the spell is cast, one die
is rolled. On an odd number, a roll is made on the Beneficial Chaotic
Features table in Lords of Terror; on an even number, the roll is made on
the Detrimental Chaos Features table. If the gamemaster does not have
access to Lords of Terror, the Chaotic Features table in the RuneQuest
rules and the Curse of Thed table in Gods of Glorantha may be used
instead.
  This chaotic feature is real for the duration of the spell, like any
other illusion. The caster has full use of the feature, and suffers all
effects, with the exception that chaotic features which reduce a
characteristic will not reduce it to 0: it will stop at 1 point.
  There is danger in casting the spell, for the forces of Chaos, even in
illusory fashion, have a tendency to corrupt whatever they touch. Thus,
each use of the spell after the first has a 10% cumulative chance to
bestow a true Chaotic Feature, permanently. The caster is then tainted by
Chaos, and must normally leave the cult (only one attempt at Divine
Intervention may be made; see below). This chance resets to 0 the first
day of Sea Season each year, at dawn. The spell is thus only used at
great need, such as to avoid attacks by chaotic creatures.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES
Divine Intervention
The Blue Toad is too weak to provide Divine Intervention to its cult
members, even the shaman-priests. The only request he will consider
answering is when a member becomes tainted with Chaos, from any source.
The Divine Intervention must be attempted immediately upon realization
(such as when an Entropic Feature does not disappear after 15 minutes),
and may only be attempted once. If it fails, the individual is
permanently tainted with Chaos, and is immediately expelled from the cult
(this is the reason Detect Chaos is a commonly-known spell, to detect
cult members who have been tainted and seek to infect the entire cult).
This ability of the cult to so easily and safely remove the taint of
chaos is not generally known to outsiders.

The Temple
The location of the Blue Toad's temple is a highly-guarded secret. It has
never been successfully looted, and many people believe that it is moved
whenever it is found. While rumors of its wealth are wide-spread, the
only item which has been reliably reported is the statue of the Toad.
This idol is made of a faintly luminescent blue stone, almost 40 feet
tall, with a huge red gemstone (probably a carbuncle (garnet)) set into
the Toad's "forehead;" the gem is reportedly as big as a man's head.
Cultists claim that this is not a statue, but the Blue Toad itself,
resting in safety until his worshipers should need him again.

------------------------------

End of Glorantha Digest V4 #66
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