Chosen by the Sublime Concord as the most far-sighted of their kind, the initiates of the Order worked together to create the Oracle: a masterpiece of arcane engineering that would guide them toward utopia. Following its direction as advisors, aides and assassins, they fostered other cultures in their ascent to their present grandeur.
When they realised that they had begun working against one another, it was clear that something was wrong. The Oracle had told each of them only what they wanted to believe, and the world was falling into tatters as a result. And when they discovered that the Sublime Concord were abandoning their charges to flee into a world of their own design, some of them refused to accept damnation - they sabotaged their masters' ritual.
The Order disbanded, with accusations of moral bankruptcy, cowardice and hypocrisy flying in every direction. But as the nations prepare to step into the Outworld, they have begun to return. They have no masters to guide them now, nor Oracle in which to place their faith. Reforged as the Penitents, and draped in the colours of mourning, they are here to atone for their hubris in the only way they can - by making things right, this time.
- 1 The Sublime Concord
- 2 Induction Into The Order
- 3 New Philosophies
- 4 Attitudes of the Penitent Order
- 5 Areas of Influence
- 6 Faculties of the Penitent Order
- 7 Roleplaying A Penitent
- 8 Sovereign's Speech
- 9 Penitent Order Costume
- 10 Additional Media
The Sublime Concord
Though few in number, the Sublime Concord were great in influence. Perhaps they were the first to understand the shaper's gift - perhaps they brought their knowledge with them from another world. None, now, will know.
The best and brightest across the world were inducted into their Order, a secret society of visionaries determined to nurture the world to perfection. With their assistance, all four of the great cultures have been helped from their humble beginnings to their present grandeur. But there was one thing they did not foresee, and that small oversight has brought the world into its current state of ruin.
Realising their error, the Sublime Concord made preparations for a great exodus into a new reality of their own design. Their entire civilisation was to transcend, and seal the path behind them so that the blight would not spread. But they were sabotaged, by the hand of the Order's own initiates.
Now, all that remains of their civilisation is the fragmented madness of the Shattered Lands. And the Outworld, their legacy, innocent of their sins and ready to be forged into a bright new future.
Every member of the Order carries some degree of culpability for this grand act of betrayal.
- The Guilty took part in the sabotage themselves.
- The Abettors knew of it, and stood aside as an entire civilisation was wiped out.
- The Failed tried - unsuccessfully - to mount a counter-sabotage attempt.
- The Ignorant were kept in the dark by their peers, and could only watch as the betrayal unfolded.
Induction Into The Order
The Sublime Concord had their agents everywhere in the Homeworld, observing the unfolding flow of power and aspiration. Key amongst their duties was identifying new shapers, and assessing them for suitability for induction into the Order: selecting the most benign, most cerebral, and most visionary. Where a candidate was successfully found, they would be recruited - most with a quiet conversation and subsequent disappearance, but others by forcible extraction.
Selected candidates are brought to the Summit, a secret mountaintop citadel far above the clouds in the Concord's northern hold. There they meet experts, shaper and mortal alike, from all pursuits. They are trained rigorously in philosophy, rhetoric, politics, deception and the assassin's arts, alongside the scant few that have made it this far through induction. Not all survive this regimen, but those that do are fully capable of effecting the Concord's ambitions.
When the new aspirant is judged ready, they undergo a solemn ceremony of graduation and are brought into communion with the Oracle. (Seemingly) knowing now what they need to do in order to bring about utopia, they are released into the world as free agents.
Upon graduation, most members of the Order take a new name for themselves to signify their rebirth as part of the Order. This is in the style of a haiku (a poem of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the last). Only the first line of this haiku is shared – the remainder of a Penitent’s name is personal to them, and will not be shared.Examples: Switch Polarity (Do Whatever You Need To / Turn This Ship Around); Dawn's Brazen Chorus (Sing Praises To The Heavens / Every Voice Heard); Ions Burn Brightly (Show A New Light To The World / Turn The Safety Off); Ten Honey Badgers (Look Upon Ye Mighty Works / And Give Zero F*cks)
"All the world has paid the price for our hubris. We must ensure it does not happen again."
The Penitents have learned through bitter, bitter experience that it is impossible to create a perfect world for everyone - but their determination to atone for past misdeeds drives them ever forward. Two schools of thought have emerged, each offering its own solution to this seemingly intractable problem.
The PARCHMENT school believes that perfection is not the answer; instead, the roiling battle of belief and destiny is the natural, correct way of things. They seek to discover each shaper's own potential, and maximise it - whether that brings joy or sorrow to those around them. Devotees of the Parchment school may serve many masters, sometimes on opposite sides of the same struggle: what matters to them is not victory, but that the conflict itself is made beautiful.
The QUILL school looks takes the opposite view: if you can't make everyone happy because they're too diverse, then diversity is the problem. Adherents of the Quill school seek to find (or create) a single, immaculate moral vision. Once they have this, they will do everything in their power to convert others to that way of thinking - or, at least, deceive them into serving it regardless. Any challenge to their elected cause is to be confronted with the full force of their conviction.
Most Penitents are not fully avowed of one school or another, and the weave and pull of belief amongst them is quiet but fervent. Many choose to show their current inclination in the clothes they wear - Quill-school Penitents tending to garb themselves predominantly in black, Parchment-school Penitents preferring white, and the undecided often opting for grey or a mixture of the above. Anyone who reads too much into their choice of attire, however, should remember that the Penitents have few qualms with misdirection.
Attitudes of the Penitent Order
THE PEOPLE'S COMBINE
“From exiles and engineers we have forged something magnificent: an unrivalled war machine, capable of bringing all peoples together. Can we please stop fixating on the repressive economics? I’m sure we can fix these in the Outworld. All we need to do is unite behind the Combine, and the future is ours.”
- - Switch Polarity, Quill-school Adjutant from the People’s Combine
THE VALTARIAN KINGDOMS
“The Combine are locked into their rhetoric as surely as any of their sky-harnesses. It is from amongst the heroes and villains of Valtaria that truly great legends can be forged! They alone dare hold independent moral conviction, and it is this that can be used to bring peace. Can you imagine the world that the degenerate Walkers would make? Or even, fates forbid, Opportunity?”
- - Dawn’s Brazen Chorus, Unaligned Archivist from the Valtarian Kingdoms
THE VISIONS OF OPPORTUNITY
“Your fixation on the supposed moral character of our allies in Opportunity is disingenuous; a sword or plough has no moral character, and neither do the Visions. Psychitect data demonstrates that inhabitants of Opportunity show superior initiative, solution-orientated thinking, and emotional independence compared to those of other cultures. If we are to establish an effective balance of interests in the Outworld, the Visions are our obvious choice as allies.”
- - Ions Burn Brightly, Parchment-school Custodian from Opportunity
“What, am I supposed to make the case for how amazing the Walkers are? You tossers just want the Outworld to look a little more like your own personal back yard. Piss off. I’m not playing your game.”
- - Ten Honey Badgers, Unaligned Hellion from the Walkers
Areas of Influence
The Penitents hail from the former Sublime Concord territories of the north, although nothing remains there but ruins. They are found wherever the other cultures congregate, or attempting to stabilise the madness of the Shattered Front.
- Ruins of the Concord
- The Shattered Front
- Combine Inner Assembly
- The Grand High Imperatrix's Court
- Opportunity Metropolis
- The Tomb Cities
Faculties of the Penitent Order
"Victors are written by the historians."
What is a perfect future without a perfect past? Penitents who graduate to the Faculty Of Archivists concern themselves with ensuring that all events of note are recorded, all knowledge is gathered, and that the truth is available to all that have need of it.
Truth is a very subjective thing, of course, and sometimes requires adjustment so as to better serve moral purposes. Which is not to say that the Archivists are necessarily being misleading: often the best way of ensuring you have a history to be proud of is to adjust it while it is being made.
The Faculty of Archivists is mostly populated by inductees from the Valtarian Kingdoms, whose affinity for the power of narrative gives them a ready advantage as Archivists. Rhetonomic engineers from the Combine and Joy Effect exposeurs, however, find themselves equally suited to the role.
"All great sagas deserve a fitting conclusion. Yours is no exception."
The Faculty of Custodians tends lovingly to the affairs of others. Together or as individuals, they may claim a Region, Realm, or even the entire world to be their domain - and do all that they can to ensure that it flourishes.
Sometimes this requires nurturing the growth of new ideas and possibilities. For this, they have a plethora of wealth and knowledge that they can convey to their charges. Sometimes this requires cutting away elements that may prove malign: their toolbox for this includes a vast arsenal of weaponry, and complete moral conviction. If your affairs bring you into a Custodian's sphere of influence, tread carefully indeed.
The Custodians are primarily recruited from those few individuals in Opportunity who manage to develop any kind of moral perspective - but who retain their driven, calculating natures. The Faculty's caring application of extreme force also tends to appeal to hegemonic engineers from the Combine, and wardens from the Walkers.
"Behind every great person, we stand."
There are those who are gifted with the prescience, drive and power to change the world. And where they are found, so are the Faculty of Adjutants - standing two steps behind them, one to the right.
Having selected their champions of progress, an Adjutant does all that they can to see their ambitions realised - providing advice and support, and working behind the scenes to ensure that inspiration is duly tempered with wisdom. Adjutants are seldom in the centre of attention, but always in the centre of causation.
The Faculty of Adjutants primarily recruits from the People's Combine, although it is not unusual to see former Valtarian advisors and inductees from Protean Dynamics' Relations wing amongst them. Discretion, cunning, and watchfulness are the bywords of an Adjutant's art.
"You labour under the misapprehension that I have a plan."
It is not often that a Penitent is inclined toward boldness, but the Faculty of Hellions has a place for those who are. Critics, satirists, agitators and provocateurs, the Hellions advance the cause of truth by knifing unpredictably into the philosophical and moral failings of those around them.
Some do their work with words, others by setting up abject demonstrations - either way, they are the masters of destructive criticism. What follows in the wake of their scourging is someone else's business: the Faculty of Hellions cares only that dead conceptual growth is cut away.
The largest part of the Faculty of Hellions is drawn from the Walkers, many of which helped bring about the downfall of the Tomb Cities - but all manner of discontents can find a purpose amongst them. The Faculty recruits actively from those few shapers amongst the Industrioclasts of the Combine, and the Monarch-Pawns of Valtaria.
Roleplaying A Penitent
ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND
The Sublime Concord selected you, champion amongst champions, for this task. The shapers of other cultures are mired in their narrow worldviews – something that you, of course, are totally not guilty of. You know better. You see further. Whether or not the Outworld becomes a heaven or a hell depends on the success or failure of you and your fellow Penitents. Once you agree what it is, exactly, that you are trying to succeed at.
Be calm amidst the storm, and all will become clear to you. What are people’s true motivations? How are the mechanisms of power being established? What are the full consequences of stratagems being discussed? Who or what represents the greatest threat to your objectives? What are their weaknesses? Overanalysis is the best analysis.
ALWAYS SAY LESS THAN IS NECESSARY
The disastrous flaw of the Oracle was that it seemed to tell people everything, but actually told them nothing. Far better, then, to couch your wisdom in metaphor, simile, parable, and unnecessarily vague commentary. People can draw meanings from these that were hidden even from you, and drastic miscommunications are useful learning points. Also, it really helps with the whole enigmatic authority thing you have going on.
“Shapers of the Nexus, bear witness:
Knowledge brings no joy:
You are all being lied to.
Question - whence the chains?
Consider this: when you are victorious in the Outworld, who profits?
Consider this: when all the world is free, what worlds shall be liberated thereafter?
Consider this: when light overthrows darkness completely, where shall the shadows hide?
Consider this: when your nature is rebellion, is not submission to that nature conformity?
Consider this: whence and whither the all-knowing Oracle?
How might you know if your thoughts are truly your own?
How might you know if your actions are truly your own?
How might you know if your words are truly your own?
Was this not all preordained from the beginning?”
- - Thunder Surrounding, Illuminated Prosecutor of Horizon
Penitent Order Costume
The Penitent Order is drawn from the other four nations, and its members wear the clothing of their home culture – but influenced by the ascetic style of the now-extinct Sublime Concord, and in the colours of mourning.
- Clothing: As culture of origin, but in a combination of black, grey and white. If a Penitent wishes to make their adherence to a school of thought clear, they may reflect this in their choice of tone: black for the Quill school, white for the Parchment school.
- Accessories: Shrouds, tabi, veils, hoods, wrapped cloth, masks and half-masks, cloaks, closed-face helms, gloves. Where jewellery is worn, it tends to be minimalistic and metallic.
- Iconography: Penitents have no iconography of their own, but may retain those of their culture of origin.
- Weapons: Penitents may use those of their culture of origin, tending towards weapons that are easily concealed. They may also carry exotic and intricate weapons acquired from the Sublime Concord: Pain inducers, forearm blades, chakra disruptors, force staves, gravitic amplifiers, energy lances.
Visual references: Assassin’s Creed, Star Wars jedi, and pretty much any secret ninja masters you can find in fiction.
Things to avoid:
- Colour. The Penitents wear monotone clothes in acknowledgement of their prior sins, and in mourning for the Homeworld they have led into ruin. Wearing any colours (beyond metallic jewellery) is heavily taboo.