ALLEGIENCES IN WEIRD WAR II
Basic RolePlaying does not use an alignment system the way Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder do. Rather, a character has multiple allegiences and builds up points in them depending on his actions. To use D&D as an example, the GM might decide to create five allegiences; Good, Evil, Law, Chaos and Neutrality. A character would typically start out with 1d6-2 pts. in each and then gain more points in one or more of the allegiences through the campaign. If one allegience exceeds any other by 20 pts. or more, that allegience becomes dominant and may attract the attention of powers who share that allegience. For example, a novice cleric of a lawful diety might not attract much notice from either his god or the hierarchy of his church. However, if he acts in an exemplary fashion and accumulates a lot of points for his Law allegience, he may be rewarded for his piety. Of course, if he acted in a chaotic manner and his Chaos allegience began to overshadow his Law allegience, the resulting attention he would receive would not be welcome. Furthermore, when a character reaches 100 pts. in one of his allegiences, he may be approached by a supernatural agent to recruit him to serve as a champion for some diety or similar powerful being.
In my upcoming Weird War II campaign, I will be using the Law-Balance-Chaos allegience system introduced in the Stormbringer role-playing game. Although, Good and Evil are not explicitly represented in this arrangement, it is generally accepted that the closer one gets to perfect Balance, the more “Good” characteristics one displays. Extreme Law is oppressive and hidebound, while extreme Chaos is anarchic and destructive. To illustrate this, I have created a graph showing where all the various powers in the campaign fall along the Law-Balance-Chaos axis:
As you can see, I’ve added a Good axis projecting from Balance. I define Good as respect for life and beauty and a capacity for self-sacrifice. Those organizations that demonstrate such qualities tend to cluster close to Balance, while the more evil and destructive organizations tend to find themselves at the chaotic or lawful ends of the scale.
MORE ON ALLEGIENCES
In the previous post, I talked about earning points in allegiences in order to define your character’s motivations. Now I’ll discuss what sorts of actions earn those points. As one might expect, it is easier to earn points for a Chaos allegience than either Law or Balance. Betrayal, wanton violence and vandalism are all ways that can potentially earn Chaos allegience points. Another way is the use of sorcery. Sorcery is inherently Chaotic, although there are a handful of Lawful spells and runes. Ironically, even the casting of Lawful sorcery can earn Chaos points, unless the sorcerer atones afterwards. A sorcerer with a Lawful allegience has to walk a fine line, using his powers reluctantly and always mindful of his allegience budget. Needless to say, demon summoning and necromancy are extremely Chaotic forms of sorcery and should never be pursued by Lawful sorcerers.
Law stresses self-discipline and respect for authority. A character with a Lawful allegience will depend on skills rather than sorcery or supernatural aid. Advancement of skills to high levels will earn Law allegience points. Other Lawful actions include obeying one’s superiors and destruction of obviously Chaotic constructs such as summoned demons and animated corpses.
Balance is, perhaps, the most difficult path to follow. It demands much of its followers, including, sometimes, the ultimate sacrifice. An adherent of Balance must be merciful and a defender of the weak. He must resist both tyranny and anarchy without resorting to either. He may use sorcery as long as it serves the greater good, but must never dabble in summoning or necromancy. Any effort on the part of a character with a Balance allegience, either through the use of sorcery or skill, that prevents death and destruction will be worthy of allegience points.
SORCERY IN WEIRD WAR II
Sorcery, as it’s presented in the core rulebook of Basic RolePlaying, is actually a small subset of a much larger set of options broadly outlined in the Stormbringer and Elric! roleplaying games. For those familiar with Call of Cthulhu, which also uses sorcery, the biggest difference is the variety of offensive, defensive and utility spells available. CoC tends to view sorcery as something performed under special conditions, requiring detailed rituals and much preparation. Except for a handful of offensive and defensive spells such as the Elder Sign, most CoC spells involve contacting various Mythos entities or summoning/binding servitor races. For this reason, sorcery is a pursuit best avoided by most right-thinking characters in Call of Cthulhu, except in cases of extreme duress. And, of course, the very act of performing sorcery in CoC has a corrosive effect on one’s sanity.
In BRP and Stormbringer, sorcery is more common and has no sanity implications, although the requisite POW score is prohibitive, ensuring that sorcerers are a rare breed. There are three main types of sorcery and typically, a high-level sorcerer will be adept in all three. These are spells, runes and summonings. Spells represent the default form of sorcery, the type to which most low-level sorcerers will be limited. Spells have the advantages of being quick to prepare and demanding modest power point expenditures, although durations are quite short. This is the type of sorcery used most often in combat.
Runes, as the name implies, require the preparation of an inscribed symbol which will trigger a sorcerous effect when certain conditions are met. Runes can persist for days or even years until triggered, making them useful for setting traps. Some runes duplicate the effects of spells, while others offer unique options such as wards or alarms. Most forms of Lawful sorcery are runic.
In game terms, summonings work just like spells, except they are more detailed and require greater preparation. In that respect, they are similar to Call of Cthulhu sorcery. Sorcerers can summon demons or elementals. There are also some necromantic summonings which allow a sorcerer to summon spirits to inhabit prepared corpses or even living hosts. In the latter case, the spirit of the victim is destroyed and the summoned spirit takes possession of the body. The newly-created undead is then bound to the service of the necromancer. Summoned entities are often bound, either in their living state or as the animating essence of some powerful magic item. The summoner has to spend enough power points to define the summoned creature. A fully-formed demon servant will be more costly because points will have to be spent to define physical characteristics such as STR, SIZ, CON, DEX and Move as well as POW and INT. Such a demon would require far more power points than even the most powerful sorcerer would have available. Therefore, a means of storing power points is needed to cast summonings. This requires significant preparation. Also, binding demons, elementals and undead requires the sacrifice of POW points. This is a particularly demanding requirement and one only considered by truly powerful summoners.
WEIRD WAR II - THE THULE SOCIETY AND THE AHNENERBE
The Thule Society and the Ahnenerbe were both real organizations. The former was a secret society formed in Germany in the dying days of WWI. The Thule Society was created to advance a theory of German racial superiority based on the works of 19th-century mystic, Helena Blavatsky. Though never a large organization, several of its members would be influential in the early days of the Nazi party. Rudolf Hess and Hans Frank were known to be active members, while Dietrich Eckart, Heinrich Himmler, Alfred Rosenburg and Hermann Göring were believed to have had some association. The formal association between the Thule Society and the German Worker’s Party (later to become the Nazi Party) was severed at Hitler’s insistence in 1920 and the organization was dissolved in 1925. However, one of its founders, Rudolf von Sebottendorff revived it briefly in 1933. The Nazis moved to suppress the organization and von Subottendorff was imprisoned briefly, before being released and fleeing to Turkey. That is where the official history of the Thule Society ends and the unofficial history begins. Rudolf Hess still believed in the theories of the Thule Society, even if the Führer did not. Working behind the scenes for the next several years, he aided the Thule Society, providing documents and money to former members, allowing them to escape Germany and set up branches of the organization in Istanbul and London. During that time, Thule members delved deeper into the occult, learning about sorcery and psychic powers, parallel dimensions and extraterrestrial beings. The mysticism of Madame Blavatsky, the racist theories of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and the speculations regarding Atlantis advanced by Ignatius Donnelly, combined with their own occult experimentation and their sense of betrayal by Hitler, forged a powerful league of sorcerers determined to overthrow the Führer and bring about an Aryan superpower that would encorporate all the Anglo-Germanic nations of the world, including Britain and America.
The sorcerers and psychics of the Thule Society faced a difficult dilemma in the early stages of the war. They wanted to undermine Hitler, but the success of the military campaigns in Poland and France served their interests. Furthermore, what efforts they did undertake were easily countered by Nazi blood mages, who were far more numerous and powerful than the Thules realized. In fact, Nazi occult research had advanced far more than that of the Thule Society. A secretive bureau within the SS known as the Ahnenerbe, created by Himmler, was advancing the theories of the Thule Society far beyond anything that had been conceived of before. Formed in 1935, they had, by the start of the war, made contact and even alliances with extradimensional beings. They had learned much from these entities and their sorcerous knowledge had grown exponentially. Opponents, such as the Thule Society and the Sons of Solomon (descendants of the Knights Templar from which the OSI would be formed), were no match for the sorcerers of the Ahnenerbe. Indeed, only Aleister Crowley, Britain’s most powerful sorcerer, had any insight into what the Ahnenerbe was capable of and his grip on sanity was failing by then. Oddly enough, the Ahnenerbe and the Thule Society were working toward the same goal, removal of Hitler and the establishment of an Aryan empire that would span the globe. However, the Ahnenerbe had far more ambition and could see much farther into realms of space and time that were beyond the modest abilities of the Thules. They needed to keep the Führer around for awhile longer until their grand plan could be fully realized. On December 25, 1944 at a place of horror in southern Poland, the first stage of that plan came to fruition.
WEIRD WAR II - THE SONS OF SOLOMON AND THE OSI
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as the Knights Templar, was a powerful Christian military order charged with the defense of the Holy Land during the Crusades. From humble beginnings, the Knights Templar grew to become a wealthy organization, with holdings from the eastern Mediterranean to the British Isles. With the fall of the Crusader States in the late 13th century, the Knights Templar lost its primary function as an order of fighting monks, becoming, in effect, a multinational bank with a standing army. This was a situation which caused both envy and fear among the kings of Europe. In 1307, King Philip IV of France, with the grudging support of Pope Clement V, brought the hammer down on the Knights Templar, executing its leaders and seizing its assets under trumped up charges of heresy and corruption. The Templars were no more, or so the official historical record says.
During the time the Knights Templar resided in Jerusalem, they were exposed to the ancient knowledge of Greece, Persia and Egypt. They learned of prophecy and the mysteries of the world beyond the frontiers of Christendom and they grew powerful in the practice of sorcery. Although their accusers did not realize it, some of the Templars really were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused. Forseeing their own demise, they orchestrated events to ensure the survival of their inner circle of sorcerers and their most valuable and potent treasures and magicks. Escaping to Scotland, which was under papal excommunication at the time, the surviving Templars eventually made their way to North America. Abandoning their old name and their association with the Roman Catholic Church, they became the Sons of Solomon, a fraternal order of sorcerers dedicated to understanding the true nature of the universe and defending humanity from the horrors of the void. They remained very secretive for centuries, but questions persisted. Only a handful of Templars were executed and a minority were absorbed in other orders. This still left many hundreds of Templars unaccounted for. Rumours of a secret order circulated and it was assumed, of course, that much of the wealth of the Knights Templar remained in the hands of that group. As the population of the United States grew, it became more difficult for the Sons of Solomon to keep their activities secret. So, they created Freemasonry. Purposefully secretive and incorporating many symbols associated with the Knights Templar, the Freemasons drew the attention of those who believed the Knights Templar persisted. They were well-funded and they attracted a lot of powerful men, especially in 18th-century America. Once fully-established, the Sons of Solomon drew away from the Freemasons, secure in the knowledge that they could retain their anonymity. In truth, the Freemasons, though steeped in mystical traditions, never had much understanding or belief in the arcane basis of their rituals. They were little more than decoys, providing cover for the true power, the Sons of Solomon.
Throughout their history, the Sons of Solomon have fought many evil sorcerers, who sought power through alliances with horrors of the void. The most prominent include Vlad Dracul and his son, Vlad Tepes, Countess Elizabeth Báthory and Rasputin. Throughout the centuries, their power was always sufficient to ensure the enemies of humanity could not establish a foothold in our dimension. However, the seers of the Sons of Solomon saw a rising darkness as the Nazis rose to prominence in Germany. Their visions were cryptic and hazy. A great, malevolent force was rising in the heart of Europe and for the first time, the Sons of Solomon felt their power was inadequate to contain the enemy. Using their Freemason connections, the Sons worked to influence the US and UK governments and militaries. They arranged for the creation of the OSI to serve as their eyes and ears on the battlefronts of Europe. Embedded within the Allied armies, but not part of them, the OSI would investigate incidents of a weird or supernatural nature, always seeking to ascertain what Nazi sorcerers were doing. They even recruited the great British sorcerer, Aleister Crowley, despite his unsavoury reputation and far too public profile. Crowley’s sorcerous delvings proved immensely invaluable, giving the OSI much-needed intelligence into the activities of the Ahnenerbe. Sadly, his scrying efforts would eventually cost Crowley his sanity, but without him, the Nazis would have surely proved victorious in the war.