[Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Mezo-American adventures in Maztica, the True World.
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Jürgen Hubert
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[Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:27 pm

Another entry in my Returned Maztica series, this thread will discuss assorted groups and organizations which can be either allies or enemies for the player characters.


Sword Brotherhoods

The bonds of kinship are strong in Maztica. Everyone but uncouth foreigners and the lowest of slaves is expected to be loyal to their clan, their village, their calpulli. Yet even these bonds can fray - because of crimes, intrigues, or passion. And when someone is exiled and ends up without friends or kin in the world, there is no one willing to take them in - except for the Sword Brotherhoods.

These bands of mercenaries arrived with the Dragonborn on the shores of Maztica and can now be found everywhere where battles rage. Whether rooting out bandits, guarding caravans, or raiding rival merchant houses, Sword Brotherhoods will fight whenever there is money to be made, the fighting is good, and the cause fits their personal definitions of honor. And the Sword Brotherhoods are willing to accept almost everyone into their midst - criminals, escaped slaves, even the occasional monster that knows how to follow orders.

Any applicant who wishes to join is interviewed privately by the Battle Master, the chosen leader of the Brotherhood. The applicant must explain who they are, where they came from, and why they wish to join. If the Battle Master detects any lies, the applicant will be rejected. Most Battle Masters also try to dissuade applicants who have misguided (often romantic) notions of a life in a Sword Brotherhood, laying out clearly what is expected of them - but those who are not dissuaded will eventually be accepted.

After that, the applicant swears terrible oaths forsaking all kinship beyond the Brotherhood, all home beyond the Brotherhood, and all loyalty beyond the Brotherhood. Then the Brotherhood welcomes the applicant as one of their own - and if the new member betrays them, they will hunt them to the ends of the world. The Sword Brotherhoods take care of their own, one way or another. If the new member does not have any skills at fighting, they will be taught quickly - the Sword Brotherhood have no use for dead weight.

While Dragonborn might grieve at a former clan member joining a Sword Brotherhood, they see it as a honorable choice they can respect, and they treat the former clan member as dead to them. The humans of Maztica are frequently less understanding, seeing this as a betrayal of their kin and sometimes seek to avenge themselves - which frequently ends in disaster, for the Brotherhoods defend their members fiercely from outsiders. Still, even many humans get caught up in the perceived romance of the way of the Sword, and many youngsters who find their old lives oppressingly dull run off to join them every year.

All Sword Brotherhoods take pride in their history and the glorious battles they have fought - in some case dating back centuries to Old Abeir - and usually maintain elaborate heraldry that makes each Brotherhood recognizable. Maintaining these traditions is the responsibility of the Brotherhood's Loremaster, usually one of the older members who has participated in many of their battles. Other positions depend on the size and primary focus of the Brotherhood (whether they are cavalry, skirmishers, archers, and so forth) - each Brotherhood has its own structure and traditions.

Most members of a Sword Brotherhood die in battle, but sometimes members wish to retire. In such cases the Brotherhood holds a funeral retelling the deeds of the retiree - if someone has only been a member for a short while and wants to retire because they could not stomach their way of life, the speeches will be mocking and sarcastic, but for elderly veterans the other survivors will try to honor their bravery and their contributions as best as they can. After a final feast, the rest of the Brotherhood will march away, never looking back - and the retiree will have to live with the fact that they are now all alone in the world. This second loss of kinship is the reason why so many veterans will try to stay with a Brotherhood as long as they can, even as their health is failing.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Big Mac » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:55 am

Interesting. Are the Sword Brotherhoods the Dragonborn answer to Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights?
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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:04 am

Not exactly. The Eagle Knights and Jaguar Knights are, or at least were, the elite warriors of the major city-states, who only accept the best candidates and give them very specific training - they are part of the established social order.

The Sword Brotherhood, on the other hand, stand apart from society - including the traditional Dragonborn clan and their warriors. They are strictly mercenaries, and despite the name will accept anyone with any fighting skills - so any class can be found within their ranks.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Thu Nov 30, 2017 8:02 pm

The Court of Night

Scholars have long wondered why the cities of the Payit have declined so rapidly after the end of the Golden Age of Payit - why the people of these lands would abandon their beautiful city-states and flee into the forests. Some have linked this to the Red Wedding of Ulatos, where Prince Tacal of Tulom-Itzi slew the beautiful princess Aliah when he couldn't abduct her.

This is true, but the truth behinds this tale remains concealed to this day.

For near the end of the Golden Age the cities of Payit became infested with vampires. First they were few in number and remained carefully hidden, but over the years they became ever more gluttonous and sired many offspring. Eventually, they divided themselves into different groups and lineages that fought for dominance in the shadows of the cities. The mortals sensed that something was amiss, but nobody dared to say something out loud, out of fear of vanishing in the middle of the night.

Then the vampire prince Xetl desired to make Aliah into his vampiric bride, and prepared for an elaborate, macabre "wedding ceremony" where he intended to turn her before the entire enthralled court of Ulatos. Tacal, who was one of the few mortals who understood the extent of the vampiric menace and was willing to fight them, raced to Ulatos to prevent the deed - but he was too late and could only cut off her head to end her suffering, paying the ultimate price for his deed.

After that, the vampires could no longer hide, and the mortals fled in terror. As the food supply in the cities dwindled, the vampires turned upon each other in genocidal frenzy. Finally, one group - calling itself the "Court of Night" - defeated their rivals and took stock of their situation. It was grim - while they could have ruled over a much-diminuished Payit, their true nature was known and thus they became vulnerable to mortals who had learned their secrets - and all the luxuries they were accustomed to from the old days were gone as well, and were unlikely to return as long as merchants feared to come here. Thus, they formed a plan - they would seal themselves away below the great pyramids of Payit and give the mortals time to recover. From time to time, one of their members would awaken and take stock of the world of the living - and if they judged the population to be sufficiently large again, they would awaken the others and restore the Court of Night as rulers from the shadows.

The arrival of multiple waves of foreigners - first the Amnish, and then the Dragonborn and the genasi - has allowed the cities of Payit to grow to their old size during the Godless Time. But the vampires did not expect the dragons - and the few that were awake during that time decided to wait for better opportunities rather than wake their brethren.

And these better opportunities have now come - perhaps. Most of the dragon overlords of Maztica have been slain, but the Queen of Fang and Poison remains - and she rules over the lands where many of the most powerful vampire lords still sleeps. Moving to quickly might attract her curiosity, and eventually, her wrath - and thus, the active members of the Court of Night move against her in secret while deciding which of their elders to wake up next.

But perhaps there are other opportunities beyond Payit lands - many of the western nations have grown in power and wealth since the Court went into their long sleep. Perhaps one of these younger lands will be more amenable to ambitious cabals of vampires. Or perhaps the Court could ally itself with the deathless elite of Huacli and jointly rule over the living. Time will tell.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:51 pm

God Seekers

The Gods of Maztica wear a thousand masks. Each of the gods may have different guises or aspects that take on different roles, are of different genders, or pursue different goals in the world. Most priests do not question this - "The Gods are as the Gods are, and it is not for mortals to know their ways." But the philosophers of Maztica have wondered about the true nature of the Gods for centuries - about what makes them divine, about what their powers are, and how their very souls are structured. Sometimes these philosophers run afoul of Temple orthodoxy and suffer for it, but the questions remain.

The sect known as the God Seekers claim that there are at least two souls parts to every God - the eternal Divinity within that gives the deity its power, and the Incarnation that gives the God its personality and identity. One of the most prominent examples is the succession of Sun gods throughout the different ages of the World - Tezca is now the current incarnation of the Sun just like Qotal was the Sun in the Second World. This phenomenon is also observable in other pantheons on Toril - for example, both Lathander and Amaunator were incarnations of the Sun, just like Mystra incarnated Magic after the earlier Mystryl, and was later supplanted by Midnight in turn. Not to mention the successions of different Incarnations of Death in the Faerunian pantheon...

These ideas would merely cause for raised eyebrows among the priesthood. Where the God Seekers enter heresy is their claim that even mortals can become new Incarnations - effectively becoming new Gods, or new aspects of existing Gods.

First, they claim, the aspiring Incarnate must possess some inner spark of the Divine. This is most evident in those sorcerers known as Divine Souls, who are already predestined for the path of Incarnation, but any form of Sorcerer has that inner spark - and the Good Seekers claim that they can awaken that spark in others with the right methods and spiritual exercises.

Then the Aspirant must focus on a particular deity they wish to become an Incarnate of. They must understand that deity and all its aspects, and emulate it in all their deeds, following their heroic journeys in myths and legends.

Finally, as the Aspirant grows in power, they must form themselves into a new aspect of the deity - a new interpretation that nevertheless fits with the greater whole. Eventually, they merge with the deity and become one of its Incarnations - possibly even a dominant one if their cult grows.

And in times of crisis, when existing Incarnations die due to some cosmic catastrophe, it may be possible for Aspirants to merge with the core Divinity itself and become its primary Incarnation.

The God Seekers claim that they have succeeded before in helping their members become new gods, and while the Godless Time provided little opportunity for new Incarnations, they feel confident in succeeding again. But their claims are hotly disputed by most Temples as blasphemy and thus they remain in hiding, only approaching sorcerers and others who they feel might make worthy candidates.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Sturm » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:30 am

That could create some interesting cult :) Indeed mortals became gods during the Time of Trouble, so this belief has some foundation. This also has potential to create a connection with Planescape's Believers of the Source, as the previous idea could create an interesting connection with Ravenloft!
Just other possible ways to connect Maztica to the rest of the universe.

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:17 am

While I haven't made the link explicit, a connection to the Believers of the Source would indeed fit.

And it also emphasizes that Maztica is a D&D setting, without denying its Mesoamerican roots - and that's one of my major design goals.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

Jade Knives

In the early years of the Godless Time, a new guild of assassins rose beneath the ruins of Nexal. Calling themselves the "Jade Knives" for that precious substance associated with Mictlan (the Shadowfell), they were allegedly led by a being only called "Grandfather" - reputedly a mixture of man and spider. They were trained in many ways of dealing death to the unwary and the prepared alike, from the traditional throat-slitting to exotic forms of unarmed martial arts that could kill with a touch, and even musicians who could steal the very identity of their victims.

The competition between the calpulli of Maztica allowed them to grow rapidly and they soon created new branches in other regions of the continent. However, eventually Fire of the Mountain, the draconic ruler of Nexal, saw their presence as a challenge and razed their lair with dragonfire. Grandfather was assumed to have been killed in the conflagration, and soon the leader of the other regional branches started to claim the title of "Grandfather" for their own - but despite an ongoing shadow war between these branches, none succeeded in reuniting the guild, and eventually their secret arts spread outside of the guild thanks to renegades fleeing their confines and taught them to their own apprentices.

However, shortly after the end of the Godless Time and the death of Fire of the Mountain, rumors spread that the original Grandfather had returned to Nexal, and that he desires to unite the Jade Knives under his own banner again. His ambassadors have sent words to the other assassins - join, or die. A few independent agents who are practicing the formerly-secret arts of the guild have been made the same offer. So far, they have made few converts, for the other guildmasters are loath to surrender their independence to someone who might be a pretender. A demonstration of power and competence will be required before they take him seriously - and such a demonstration will likely paint the cities of Maztica with blood.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:36 pm

Heart Seekers

While the people of Maztica were unable to withstand the might of the Seven Storms until the very end, their minions were another matter. Resistance groups lurked within cities and villages, deserts and jungles, and while their ultimate goal - the overthrow of dragon rule - might have been the same, their capabilities, tactics, and strategems were as varied as their members. Some focused on strategic raids for gaining supplies for the cause, or protecting the weak. Some, however, were focused on spreading terror among the Dragonborn, and these groups became known as the "Heart Seekers" due to their grisly methods.

Pretending to be ordinary citizens during the day, at night they would dress in elaborate costumes of the Maztican gods and abduct Dragonborn, collaborators, and those close to them. The boldest would go after administrators and military leaders, but other groups without the resources would go after ordinary clan members and dependents. Once abducted, the captives would be sacrificed to the Maztican gods in the old ways - the heart cut out for Zaltec or Tezca, or drowned in the fashion of the cult of Azul. The bodies would then be left somewhere in public where others could find them in the morning, and the Heart Seekers would hide their costumes and return to their ordinary lives - until the next mission and the next sacrifice.

While many who had suffered under the leash of the Dragonborn were sympathetic to the Heart Seekers, others condemned their methods, and even applauded the Dragonborn when they rooted out a cell after one more drowned child had been left on a clanhold's doorstep. The Feathered Champions themselves condemned their methods, and even those who once thought their actions necessary now feel that the time for such grisly sacrifices has passed. Yet many Heart Seeker cells are still out there, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies - whether those enemies are actually oppressing anyone or not. Indeed, while some cells still pursue former collaborators and one-time allies of the dragons, others use their disguises and tactics to go after their own, personal rivals instead. Today there are still many towns and villages living in fear of such cults - most people suspect some of their members, but none dare speak out against them in fear of becoming their next victims.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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Re: [Returned Maztica] - Organizations of Maztica

Post by Jürgen Hubert » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:47 am

Children of the Long Wave

During the Godless Time, people all along the Gulf of Maztapan began dreaming of the ocean depths, and of a vast wave that would emerge from it and sweep away anything unclean, impure. What precisely was believed to be "impure" depended on the dreamer, but it was usually whatever "kept them down" - the priests, the nobles, the family elders, romantic or business rivals. Many also believed that the Long Wave would embrace them and give them power - to transcend the limitations of their fragile mortal forms. Soon, cults to the Long Wave began to form, and warlocks appeared among them - capable of summoning giant squids and other denizens of the depths. Those who progressed into the deeper mysteries of the cult learned of the source of the Long Wave - Teamauhtia, an ancient kraken that swam through the oceans while humanity was still young.

Teamauhtia came from the depths of Abeir's ocean, but migrated close to Maztican shores when that continent appeared, and traveled to Toril in the wake of Maztica's subsequent return. It desires nothing less than the subjugation of all people living near the ocean's shores. Beyond fostering cults, it also sends minions abroad that attack villages and ships that haven't pledged their loyalty. The most dramatic of these are swarms of squid of all sizes that emerge from the depths every decade or two and menace coastal waters. Its current main focus is the conquest of the sahuagin of Itzcatli, who had previously sworn their loyalty to Terror of Sky and Ocean. While the old priesthood is still holding out, its own cultists are spreading terror among the fish-men population - and soon, he will come to live among them openly.

So far, only few land-dwellers suspect the true scope of the threat. The Kultakan war chiefs know of the sahuagin of old and have contingency plans for threats from the seas, but they underestimate what they are capable of. The Flutists watch the growth of the cult with worries, but they have too many other battles to fight. The Hesjintur Clan of Dragonport knows most of all thanks to their association with the Dolphin Lord - a bitter enemy of all kraken - but they are hindered by both their inclination towards secrecy and the crippling loss of much of their treasure fleet. And while their enemies bicker and focus on other concerns, the Long Wave grows and grows - until it finally crashes.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!

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