Thursday, December 14, 2017

Symbolism of Mystical Tyranny

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant originally draws most of its imagery and symbolism from the Divine Masks system, though it treats its symbols as just that: symbols. For the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, symbols exist to help frame your mind, or to fool the poor, ignorant masses. No true master of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant truly believes in the symbolism of the Cult.

Divine Mask Imagery

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant began as a Ranathim Dark Communion cult, and it tends to retain that imagery. The Ranathim have a powerful cultural impact on much of the galaxy and modern humanity tends to be impressed by their exotic, ancient imagery. That doesn’t mean that the Cult won’t co-opt imagery and symbolism from other philosophies; the Cult believes in focusing your mind, and symbolism acts as tools to do just that. If a dacifferent culture has different symbols that would better suit them, the Cult borrows those. The same goes for language: while many rites and rituals in the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant were originally in Lithian, the Cult translates them into other languages as necessary, and Galactic Common is, by far, the most used language of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant.

Common Divine Mask imagery includes:

Fire: The Divine Masks makes use of brazier and incense to represent the presence of the divine, preferring to light their temples with the “divine light” of fire rather than artificial, electric light. The Cult prefers this approach, but also use fire as a symbol for passion, and “burning away” distractions, or to teach lessons about the importance of embracing pain.

The Gate: The Divine Masks philosophy often has symbolic gates and doorways that separate the sacred space of the temple from the mundane space of the outer world. The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant is less concerned with the concept of “sacred space,” but uses gates, labyrinths and thresholds as metaphors for hidden self-knowledge and power, and the means by which one may acquire them.

The Lash and Scepter: Traditionally held in the hands of the divine emperor of the Ranathim empire, with his arms crossed over his body, the scepter represents power and the lash represents submission. The original imagery was meant to convey that the emperor represented both the enslaved classes and the master classes, but for the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, they represent the fact that all men must choose between self mastery or service to another, and that both principles reside within all people.

The Crown: The Divine Emperor of the Ranathim wore a complex, composite crown that represented all people that he ruled. Since the fall of the Empire, the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant continues with the tradition of a crown, but typically simpler, usually just a circlet with a psionic-boosting gem, worn by those who symbolically represent the Mystic Tyrant, such as those leading an initiation rite.

The Psi-Sword: Originally, the royal guard of the Divine Emperor wore these powerful weapons, but after its fall, all members of the Cult began to practice with them. They represent a natural focus for one’s psionic potential, and directly manifest that as physical power. Those taken as an apprentice by a Tyrant, or inducted into the Cult directly, typically craft (or steal!) their psi-sword themselves. With the increasing inclusion of humanity into the Cult, the force sword, or the combined technology of both, has become more common.

The Tower and Throne: The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant never had an idol to their “God,”for their “God” was a living and breathing Emperor. Likewise, they lack temples and replace them with places of political power. The most iconic image of this is either a tower or throne (a tower or throne surmounted by a crown of fire is a common pictoral symbol for the Cult). Such towers tend to naturally accumulate sanctity to Dark Communion, and their thrones are often built with psi-booster technology.

The Bones of Tyrants: Because a tyrant is a living embodiment of the divine power of the Mystic Tyrant, and because the Cult seeks to find some means to transcend death, they often treat the bones of their dead with respect… and fear. Dead tyrants tend to be interred in strong, fortress-like mausoleums… often with safeguards meant to prevent some unexpected force from either getting in to steal those bones, or from the Tyrant using some means to rise again and getting out (especially if he was an unpopular Tyrant). Devoted apprentices and slaves often carry fragments of the bones of their masters in phylacteries worn around their neck.

The Many Worlds: The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant does not believe in other worlds, but finds the imagery of the many worlds to be a useful parallel to self-understanding. Those who understand physics and mundane concerns have gained mastery of “Jenteku,””or the physical, while those who have mastered psionic power have gained access to “Akaleku,” or the “Astral, those who have mastered Communion have mastered “Falineku,”and those who have transcended all limitations to become a true tyrant are said to have mastered “Lithe,” to have become “Divine.”

The Labyrinth: The Labyrinth is unique to the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and a late addition to its imagery. It represents the mind, set against itself in turmoil. The Tyrant must “delve into the labyrinth” to become a master of his own mind and passions, and finds at the heart of the labyrinth his truest desire, which becomes the burning flame the consumes all other passions and ambitions.

The Tetrahedron: Usually just called a “Pyramid,” the three-sided pyramid contains the rich symbolism of all three forms of Communion, each represented by a side, with each side containing three points, which represents the three paths of each form of Communion. The base of the pyramid represents slave and the masses and the pinnacle of the pyramid, where all forms of Communion join, which looks down upon all the rest, represents the transcendent master and the ultimate goal of all cultists of the Mystic Tyrant.
Game of Thrones Redesign by tryingtofly

The Aesthetics of Power

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant understand that power is perceptual. If one believes that one has power, one does. They use their symbolism and their philosophical aesthetic to emphasize this. They build vast buildings with steps that raise the tyrant over those who approach him, surround him with banners and dress in garments that project their own majestic power.

The Colors of Tyranny

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant uses color in its decoration and fashion both as a symbol for self-understanding, and to signal to others one’s level of initiation, or one’s purpose in the Cult.

Black is the color of the physical world and the color of shadows. It represents the lowest level of initiation and the blur of shadows that cloud the minds of men. It is worn by the lowest initiates, but also by those whose role is stealth, obfuscation or hiding the Cult from outsiders, such as enforcers or assassins.

Red is the color of the astral world and the color of fire and passion. It represents those initiated into the deeper secrets of the Cult, those who have gained sufficient passion that they can drive themselves towards greatness. It is worn by the apprentices of masters, but also those who wage war on the behalf of the Cult, its foot soldiers, agents and guardians.

White is the color of Communion and the color of clarity and ashes; it represents those of the highest degree of initiation, the leaders and masters of the cult, and whose wisdom has given them clarity to see the truth. It also represents those who keep or advance the knowledge of the Cult, such as archivists or archaeologists.

Gold is the color of the Mystic Tyrant, and the color of the divine; it represents those who have transcended the limitations of the Cult to become true tyrants. Cultists with a strong religious devotion to the Cult often wear gold as a reminder of their faith, but most who wear it do so to express power. They tend to be the absolute leaders of the Cult.


Names, in the Divine Mask system, have power. The Divine Emperor would take a new name upon his ascent to the throne, representing his ascension to a divine state. The Cult continues this practice: those initiated to a sufficient degree gain a new name from their master, typically a Lithian one, and the title “Thamet.” In this case, it represents his parting from mundane ignorance and his first steps onto a path of true enlightenment. Those who claim to have achieved transcendence take on a new name of their own, representing how they forge both the universe and themselves with their new vision.

Oaths, and Master/Slave relationships

The concept of slavery and mastery is central to the Mystic Tyrant ideology, as represented by the scepter and lash. Each Tyrant must make himself a slave to his own ambition and passion, and thus becoming his own master, and anyone who can master himself can master others. Slaves shelter in the power of their master.

A master/slave relationship is one of patronage rewarded with obedience and vice versa. A slave bends knee to the master, and the master may do with the slave what he wishes. In turn, the master trains and protects the slave. The greatest of slaves is the apprentice (sometimes called a “prince” or “princess”), the right-hand of the master, who is groomed to take his place, or to join him as a master.

The Cult treats the master/slave relationship very seriously, and makes a show of dominance and submission. Those who are slaves often wear the sigils or names of their master and other items displaying submission, such as slave colors, chains or constricting (or revealing) clothing. They must supplicate themselves before their master and refer to him as “master” (or, in Lithian, “Thamara”) For his part, the master is expected to maintain an air of regal dignity, and to refer to his slaves by their position, rather than their name (the exception is the apprentice, who has earned a position of importance).

The Rituals of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

Meditation (“Delving into the Labyrinth”)

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant concerns itself with self-mastery above all other things. Only those who master themselves can master others. They define this self-mastery as the elevation of one passion over all others, or the alignment of all desires in a single, central focus. This allows the achievement of greatness. The Cultist achieves this alignment through self-knowledge, which includes harrowing inner journey using meditation.

The Cult typically describes the journey as “wandering through a labyrinth.” The character confronts his own weaknesses and passions, often in vivid, hallucinatory detail, and must wrestle with them, flee from them or negotiate with them. They often describe some of their own passions as “monsters.” Some argue for battling and conquering one’s inner demons, but many suggest, instead, submitting to or sacrificing yourself to your inner demons; after all, they’re the most powerful passions and drives within you.

The exact experience varies from person to person and is entirely a metaphorical journey of psychological self-discovery. The Cult may speak of this as “a journey into inner worlds,” but they don’t actually believe this.

Rite of Initiation

Horus by Merl1ncz
The Cult has always kept secrets from outsiders, whether it was the political decisions of the Divine Emperor, or the conspiring of the cult that came after his fall. Those who wish to gain access to those secrets must prove their worth to the Cult through an initiation ritual.

The exact parameters vary based on the specific cult and the level of initiation the initiate is achieving, but certain commonalities pervade all such rituals. First, the initiate is kidnapped and blind-folded and then brought to an undisclosed location where he is confronted by black-clad masters. First, they demand to know his name. Then they test the initiate. The exact nature of the test varies; at the lowest levels, these might be simple questions about Cult doctrines or tests of loyalty; at higher levels these might be extremely demanding riddles, extreme demands (such as killing a loved one) or extreme, nigh-lethal tests. Once these have been surmounted, the initiate is walked through a threshold and before a crowned master, typically with the lash and scepter and seated upon a throne. The crowned master issues an oath of loyalty (to the Cult) and secrecy to the cultist, and when the cultist has completed his oath, the crowned master grants him the color appropriate to his initiation and, if appropriate, pronounces his new name.

Oath of Submission

When a cultist swears an oath to the Cult or to a Master, this is called an oath of submission. To perform an oath of submission, the cultist kneels before his new master, or a crowned master representing the cult as a whole (depending to whom the cultist is swearing loyalty). The cultist states his name and makes a solemn oath (“upon punishment of death”) to absolutely obey the commands of their new master and to keep their secrets. They then make an offering to their master, typically an offering of their own blood, but possessions or wealth are also acceptable, or an offering of a symbol prepared for the occasion. The Master then accepts the offering, accepts, states his own obligations (to protect and guide his new slave/apprentice) and then offers a hand to lift the slave up.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Metaphysics of Mystical Tyranny

The Principles of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

  1. There is no truth; the true nature of reality cannot be understood by mortal minds, nor express with mortal language.
  2. There is no morality; morality is a lie told by the weak to the weak to justify their weakness, and to the powerful to hobble them. The only true “good” is power. True power lies in the knowledge of what you want, and the strength to seize it.
  3. The world has no purpose; The world is chaotic, primal and unfathomable, and it is the only world that exists; there are no supernatural worlds, nor an afterlife. The only purpose the world has is one imposed upon it through will.
  4. All that matters is power; power is the expression of will and knowledge; All living beings have the ability to express will; the greater the being, the greater the will. Thus, psionic beings are inherently better than non-psionic beings (they have “greater will.”)
  5. Passion and pain indicate our true desires desires and thus our will. True power requires the alignment of all desire and will in the same direction; to impose your vision upon the universe, you must first impose your vision upon yourself.
  6. Those too weak to impose their vision on the universe crave having the vision of others imposed upon them. Through the power of the state and the submission of the people to the vision of a powerful tyrant can order be brought to a disordered universe.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Cultural Context of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has its foundations in the Divine Masks philosophy of the Ranathim Empire. Early in Ranathim Culture, the race of psychic vampires stumbled across the phenomenon of Dark Communion and began to embody and worship the various archetypes, paths, of Dark Communion as gods. Among these paths was the path of the Mystic Tyrant, and the ritualistic priesthood of the Mystic Tyrant became indistinguishable from the rulers of the Ranathim people, forging the role of the God-Emperor of the Ranathim ultimately codified by their greatest ruler, Anthara.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Patreon Preview: Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

A space opera setting inspired by Star Wars wouldn't be complete without a Jedi and Sith stand-in, and today, I've started the series on the first of those two: the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, a philosophy dedicated to the transcendence exemplified by the Dark Communion path of the Mystic Tyrant and to ruling the Galaxy from the shadows.  The Emperor himself subscribes to this philosophy, perhaps explaining his lightning rise to dominant force in the Galaxy.

I've been wanting to work on this particular philosophy for ages (it was one of the first philosophies I had a rough draft for even before I started working on the Philosophy sub-iteration), so I'm pleased to present the Patreon preview of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, which is available here for all $3+ patrons.  This includes:
  • A look at the beliefs, history and symbolism of the Cult
  • A look at the core organization of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant and it's secret "face" organization
  • The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant as an Esoteric Skill
  • The Schisms of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, including 
    • The original Ranathim God-King, Anthara
    • The criminal philosopher, Satra Temos
    • The True Communion Traitor Knight, Revalis White
I still have yet to complete additional psionic styles, martial arts, alternate paths and, most critically, the transcendent principles.  These will be available later.  In the meantime, thank you, Patrons, for supporting me, and be sure to check it out! 

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant: an Intro

Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me. -The Sith Code, Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars follows a very simple sort of morality. On the one side, you have the good guys, the Jedi, who are good, and on the other, you have the Sith, who are bad. The films rarely stop to discuss the inherent morality of one side or the other. Even when the Jedi are at their most decadent and corrupt, all that really means is that they lose their ability to oppose the true source of evil, and at their best, the Sith can only offer lies. The latest films seem to suggest an effort at “balance,” which we’ll have to wait to see, but only in video games, where players may want real choice, do we get a glimmer of value or worth from the Sith philosophy, and even there, I often find how it’s treated to be incoherent (and I’m not the only one). I find little true balance in how Star Wars treats its philosophies.

That said, Psi-Wars needs their Sith. We need a dark, conspiratorial force that seeks to undermine the moral systems of the Galaxy and throw everyone in chains. We need a reason for our not-Jedi to keep their tradition alive and a force for them to defend against. We need the sort of villain who draws upon Dark Communion and TK-Squeezes the throats of his enemy while wielding a terrifying, red force sword.

But I personally find the black/white morality of Star Wars limiting when it comes to setting design. I do not object to GMs wishing to make True Communion the good guys with the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant as the bad guys. After all, that’s my default stance! And it’s likely the stance of anyone hewing close to Star Wars as inspiration. But I find that mustache-twirling villainy to strain plausibility for most mature audiences and, on the flip side, I see many players who chafe at the false choice presented by the Jedi/Sith split. Why would you, as a player, ever choose the dark side if it isn’t better, demands you kill a loved one, and leaves you irredeemably corrupted? For cool powers? Speaking of which, why precisely must one kill loved ones and become irredeemably corrupt to gain access to force choke? And if the GM is going to include dark villains who choose this dark path, he may want better motivation for that choice than “Mwahaha, I’m so evil!”

At the same time, a GM who doesn’t want the black and white morality of Star Wars may well want to make the “Sith” the legitimate good-guys without turning them into Jedi who just wear black. What does that look like? What options does he have? I’ve not spoke of him much, partly because I liked him so much, but a character like Vesper Tane, who embraces Dark Communion in his effort to end the Empire should be a feasible choice. What sort of philosophy might he follow?

To me, choice is the heart of an RPG, not just the choice of a player, but the choice of a GM in how he wishes to depict his setting. I know players will want to choose the dark side, and I know GMs will want a more nuanced and sympathetic depiction of its villains. As such, I feel that the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, while dark, should be potentially seen as not villainous. One should be able to see their perspective and, with a few tweaks, make them into the good guys, if one wishes.

So, here begins the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, a cynical path that denies morality, that denies truth, that seeks to enslave others, and to become master over everything in the Galaxy. It hides in the shadows and builds its power while whispering honeyed words into those who will listen and then, like a parasite, co-opts the philosophical system of others. This, then, is your villain’s philosophy. But it’s a philosophy that strips away the comforting lies we tell ourselves and forces its practitioners to either admit their cowardice or face the full, terrifying truths of reality head on. It demands individual responsibility from those who would be king, and demands that those who seek answers forge them for themselves. It embraces the here and now, rather than promising a fairy-tale where everything’s gonna be okay. This, then, is a philosophy of misunderstood heroes, men who lead when the rest of the world cowers at their feet.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

State of the Patreon: December

Another month, another State of the Patreon.  Where are we as 2017 closes out?

November, for views, was a disaster.  I haven't been this low in views since I started Psi-Wars (perhaps the first couple of months were worse, but this is definitely the worst month of 2017).  Why was it so bad?  Well, I cut my posting rate from 4 a week to 2 a week, and for a few weeks in the middle, due to illness, I failed to promote my posts across various social media platforms, and with the Philosophy series I've been giving all of my material to my Patrons up front, which means they don't view it as much.  It might also be that Divine Masks was just a less interesting philosophy for most people, but I've heard some vocal interest in it, so I suspect it's more the first three.

Am I worried?  No.  My Patreon is up again, which suggests to me that interest hasn't dropped.  I've halved the posting schedule and thus halved my views, I think it follows pretty logically. Moreover, there's nothing I can really do about this right now.  Slowing my posting schedule means I can take up side projects and continue to produce material at a reasonable pace while being a responsible husband and father. If circumstances change, I may go back to my previous pace, but I think I have to accept that this is the new normal.

Nevertheless, my approach is already paying dividends.  In December, I have the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant almost complete.  By "almost complete" I mean that I have more than enough material to fill up the month, but that I keep thinking of new ideas that I'm not sure if they should be Patreon specials, or if I should keep going with the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant into January.  We will see!

So, for you faithful viewers, I have the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant this month, including a minimum of:

  • An Introduction, including a discussion of the Sith, Thomas Hobbes, Friedrich Nietzsche and GURPS Cabal
  • Cultural Context, including how the Cult went from a Ranathim imperial cult to a pan-galactic conspiracy.
  • The Beliefs of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, which will dive into their moral and metaphysical nihilism as well as their views on the state.
  • The Symbolism of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, including their initiation rites and their master/slave relationships
  • The Cult and Conspiracy, a look at their global organization and their conspiratorial sub-organizations.
  • The three schisms of the Cult, including the imperial cult of Anthara, the criminal conspiracy of Satra Temos, and the grey path of the former Knight of Communion, Revalis White
I have more, but I'll get back to you on how I intend to release it.

For you, my dear patrons, I already have one post up for you on a new expansion for Anti-Psi, Negative-Psi, which seeks to expand the utility of Anti-Psi from just screwing with psions and moving it into something broadly useful, more closely themed with Broken Communion, and with a more complex relationship with the rest of Psi.  It was inspired by a discussion on Discord and, in part, by Darth Nihilus as a "wound in the Force."  This is available now for all $1+ patrons! Check it out!

Soon (at the latest, when the Intro for the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant drops), I'll decide how I want to put together the Mystic Tyrant document and it will be available to all $3+ patrons.  It will either contain the additional material that I'm working on directly, as an addendum later (when it finishes), or they'll be stand-alone Patreon specials for all $3+ patrons.  One way or another, you'll have them.  They may (no promises!) include:
  • Psionic Styles unique to the Cult
  • Martial Styles unique to the Cult
  • New Communion Paths carved out of Communion by the self-serving will of its Transcendent Masters
  • Transcendent Powers available to the Transcendent Masters of the Cult (I already have a first draft of this document).

By the end of December, I will have a poll on the fourth schism of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant: the current Galactic Emperor and the true power and philosophy behind his throne!  This will be available to all $5+ patrons!

So, I've been busy!  This month should be hopping! I hope you enjoy reading this stuff as much as I wrote it.  If you're a patron, my family and I want to thank you for supporting me while writing this blog, especially as the Christmas season comes up.  I hope you, all of you, enjoy what I have in store for you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Necro-Psionic Technology: The Legacy of the Dead Art

Necro-Psionic Technology

The Ranathim mastered the Dead Art and used it and its synthetic flesh to craft unliving biological machines that fed off of psionic energy to empower their uses. This technology gave them the edge they needed to forge their empire, but also had drawbacks, both in slowly twisting and corrupting their users, and in the intense specialization and skill needed to train necrocrafters. Thus, after the Ranathim Empire fell, most of its Necro-Psionic technology fell with it. Even so, some practitioners of the Dead Art still exist in the Galaxy, and many Ranathim relics still use this technology, or the living warmachines created by the Ranathim Empire still roam the decaying remnants of their great empire.

In essence, Necro-Psionic technology is bio-tech with a highly specific focus (synthetic flesh or dead flesh), and shaped with a specific technique (Necrokinesis). In a sense, it’s similar to “Variant Biotech” from BT 30, except that we use psionics instead of magic, and the Dead Art has a very distinc thematic flavor. Anything, from plague engineering to human engineering to bio-tech gadgets and bio-mods can be made using synthetic flesh or dead flesh and necrokinesis. The following represents a catalog of “common” technology as inspiration.

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