Themes: Acolyte

I’m really iffy about the name of this theme. “Acolyte” means different things to different people, and it doesn’t help that the first thing I think when I read it is “professional wrestler”. But it’s the least religion-specific word I could find that wasn’t already an in-game term.

I almost included a series of abilities for being a lapsed member of a particular faith, but after further thought I think that would be better as a separate theme. Putting it here didn’t make sense to me. Imagine the character progression: “I am trained in Pelor’s weapon of choice.” “Pelor gives me the strength to stand strong in the face of enemy magic.” “Never mind, screw Pelor! I get bonuses to opposing him.” “I take that back! Pelor aids my magic. I’ll keep those bonuses to fighting him, though.” It felt weird.

You were raised as a follower of the gods, devoting your life to their study and service. Like many you may have joined a church or monastery and studied among those like you, or you may have just been a member of a particularly religious family. Whether your faith was the most popular in the country, an official religion begrudgingly accepted by its followers, or a secret cult constantly under threat of exposure, you held fast to your beliefs and use them as your guide to this day.

Theme Skills: Diplomacy, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), Sense Motive, Spellcraft
Theme Feats: Blind-Fight, Eschew Materials, Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, Spell Penetration

Theme Quests

Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.

  • Ordinary people are starting to receive visions, purportedly from deities touching their followers’ lives directly. But the visions are instructing people to do things the deities in question normally would not support. Local priests and disciples are trying to instruct their flock on the proper ways to follow their deities’ teachings, but they cannot maintain order when they disagree with what seems like a god’s direct instruction.
  • A small town has spontaneously converted to a faith opposed to the acolyte’s. It’s people seem unusually committed to the change, discussing their new faith in loud, awkward voices whenever they are in public. This may have something to do with the popular travelers who came into town right around the time of the conversion.

Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.

  • The acolyte’s faith has been banned in a small area. This may be due to the political influence of the faith’s enemies, or because members of the faith have been causing problems. Normally this would be an upsetting but manageable problem, except this area contains a site important to the faith, and the ban is making life hard for pilgrims.
  • Somebody is attacking places of worship, burning them to the ground in the night. Places that cannot be burned are collapsed, ransacked, or defaced. No one faith is affected more than any other, leading to widespread paranoia about what the aggressor’s goals are. Some say he or she wants to drive people away from worship entirely, while other suspect he or she is looking for something only found in places the gods are felt most strongly.

Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.

  • Two branches of the acolyte’s faith are having a heated argument over specifics of their theology. What began as lively debates have progressed to shouting matches during the rare instances when the branches are not shunning each other. Physical clashes may not be imminent, but the rift is growing rapidly, far faster than seems possible. In short order the branches may split entirely, creating a schism that will damage the faith far and wide.
  • Word is spreading of a god or goddess who only recently ascended to the pantheon. His or her teachings are popular with the masses, the services and feasts are easy to follow, and the representatives of the faith are always willing to teach and help. But there remains something slightly off about their teachings, something only an expert would notice, and it presents the possibility that this is a smokescreen to drive people to accidentally worship a powerful, destructive entity looking to ascend for real.

Legendary Quest: Divine magic is failing. At first it affected only those on the fringes, like those advocating drastic, almost heretical changes to their faiths. Over time it began to touch casters closer and closer to the wills of their gods, leaving only the incredibly devout capable of using divine magic at all. The gods remain as active as ever, but they remain completely silent on this matter, as do their messengers. Only an extremely powerful effect could block even divine power, unless this is part of a test of faith or a game to which the gods agrees centuries ago.

Theme Abilities

Cultist (Ex): You’ve grown used to hiding your faith from others. You gain a theme bonus to Bluff and Disguise checks when actively hiding your faith. The bonus equals half your theme tier (minimum 1).
Defender of the Faith (Su): Your religious upbringing included martial training. You gain proficiency in your deity’s favored weapon, or proficiency in a weapon based on your alignment if you have no deity, as per the spell spiritual weapon. If you are already proficient in this weapon, you gain Weapon Focus for it.
Enemies of the Faith (Su): Your deity guides your blade when it strikes your enemies. You gain a bonus to damage rolls against creatures whose alignment is the opposite of your deity’s or, if you have no deity, your own. This bonus is equal to one-half your theme tier (minimum 1). If your alignment or your deity’s is neutral, select any one extreme alignment (lawful good, lawful evil, chaotic good, or chaotic evil) and apply the bonus to creatures with that alignment. Once you select this alignment it cannot be changed. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the defender of the faith ability before selecting this ability.
Conviction (Ex): You remain strong in dire circumstances. Whenever you take a morale penalty, that penalty is decreased by 1.
Hardened Spirit (Ex): You are resistant to fear. You gain a +2 theme bonus to saving throws against fear effects.
Iron Spirit (Ex): Things that would terrify a normal person barely affect you. Fear effects on you are reduced by one step: if you would be panicked you are instead frightened, and if you would be frightened you are instead shaken. You take no penalties from being shaken. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the hardened spirit theme ability before selecting this ability.
Power in Words (Ex): Your speech has magical ramifications. When you cast a spell with no verbal components, including a spell modified by the Silent Spell feat, you can add a verbal component. If you do, increase the spell’s caster level by 1.
Sacred Scriptures (Ex): Holy books lend you power. You can use any book of scriptures, prayer, songs, or a similar religious aid as a holy or unholy symbol as long as it aligns with your deity or training.
Theologian (Ex): The gods touch all things, as do their teachings. You can make a Knowledge (religion) check in place of any other Knowledge skill, but you take a -10 penalty on the skill check. You must be at least 4th tier before selecting this ability.

Advancement Abilities

Steady Will (Su): No mundane effect can sway you when the gods are on your side. At 4th tier, once per day as a swift action you can become immune to mind-affecting spells and effects. This lasts for a number of rounds equal to your theme tier.
Divine Inspiration (Su):Your teaching applies at opportune times. At 7th tier, once per day when you make an untrained skill check, you can make the check as though you had training in the skill. You gain a theme bonus equal to your theme tier on this check.
Divine Intervention (Sp): Your deity has a vested interest in you. At 10th tier, once per day you can cast any spell of 3rd-level or lower that does not have expensive material components.

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One Response to Themes: Acolyte

  1. MisterBlake says:

    Here’s a thought. Does the ability to substitute “alignment worship” for that of a proper deity belong in this theme?
    This substitution is standard rules convention for D&D in order to afford the players and DMs maximum flexibility in their character and world building; Clerics don’t function so well in a deity-less world or players may not be able to find the deity that perfectly fits the character they want to make. In other words, a class with story-based class-ability limitations is at a disadvantage to most classes like fighter or wizard that largely don’t have those limitations. The alignment-worship substitution exists to mitigate that disadvantage.
    However, themes are entirely story-restricted. That’s their point. The reason for the loose mechanical tolerance of divine casters doesn’t seem to necessarily apply. If you don’t have a particular religion in mind for your character, you are unlikely to choose the Acolyte theme. Plus, some abilities of this theme make questionable story sense with an acolyte of an ideal (Divine Intervention, Defender of the Faith) and a lot of the quest examples also may become a bit hard to spin into, “The church/cult of Lawful Neutral is having such and such crisis.”
    I might suggest the devotee of an alignment or non-deific ideal should be its own separate theme.

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