Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Cult and Conspiracy of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has existed since before the dawn of the Ranathim Empire, making it older than even humanity’s time among the starts, and among the oldest continuing institutions in the Galaxy. While it has changed somewhat over history, adding new ideas and changing form, it has always paired religion and its secret mysticism with real political power, and understands the importance of secrecy in achieving mastery of both.

Stark philosophy lies at the heart of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. This philosophy drives its members, who seek to master themselves and thus master their own psionic power and learn to express their inner divine will through the force that others call “Communion.” The greatest masters achieve transcendental mastery and learn to rewrite the very laws of nature for their own benefit. The cult seeks to spread its philosophy, but only to the worthy, and to induct them into their ranks so that they may guide and shape the masters of a new generation and, perhaps, find the next transcendental master.

The philosophy of the Mystic Tyrant serves a purpose, and that purpose is power. The members of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant are, in keeping with their philosophy, deeply ambitious men who believe that only they have the capacity to rule the galaxy, and that the galaxy must be ruled. The cult might be better described as a conspiracy of powerful men who meet behind closed doors to kneel at the feet of a psychic master and then divvy up the thrones of the Galaxy amongst themselves. The Cult seeks to empower its members and those who learn of it often seek it out, eager to bend knee to its masters in hopes of being set up as a warlord or corporate master or to learn what real, ultimate power feels like. That they become slaves to dark lords with powers beyond their ken is, often, seen as a worthwhile trade.

The Cult knows the important difference between power wielded openly and power wielded secretly. The masses naturally seek strong leadership, but they recoil at the costs and horrors of true leadership. Understanding this, the Cult sets up powerful and obvious leaders, and then retreats in the shadows to perform all of the dark deeds necessary to maintain that power without besmirching the clean image of their chosen leader. This secrecy also serves their mystical pursuits, as the uninitiated neither understands, nor respects, the true power of the Mystic Tyrant. Because of its long history of secrecy, many of the great secrets of the Cult lie buried in ancient ruins or hidden in encrypted tomes with codes known only to the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant.

To maintain their secrecy and power, the Cult maintains a layer between itself and the rest of the world, which it calls “masks.” A Mask of the Tyrant is a conspiratorial cell that infiltrates other organizations. It manipulates the infiltrated organization, subverting it and turning it to the needs of the Cult. Posing as a secret society, it also recruits new members, including the rich, powerful and influential, as well as the psionically talented. Low level initiates know nothing of the true purpose of their new secret society (They believe they’ve found “the” secret heart of the organization they were recruited from); only the leadership interacts with the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant at large, though members occasionally find themselves visited by mysterious, dark-clad psions who may have special orders for their eyes only, or who may wish to recruit them into the Cult itself, revealing the true extent of the tyrannical conspiracy.

Those who achieve ultimate mastery of their inner self and of Communion itself gain the right to call themselves master (or “Thamara” in Lithian), and in some traditions, take a new (usually Lithian) name and the title “Thamet.” Those who serve the cult typically serve a specific master, and each master forms his own sub-faction within the cult, commanding lesser conspiracies and his own cadre of psionically trained spies, inquisitors and assassins. The greatest masters come together to form the Inner Circle, which ostensibly governs the Cult, but in practice, acts as a safe place where the most powerful Masters of the Cult may come together to bicker and negotiate about the future of the Cult and where their resources will go.



The Schisms of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult has existed for millennia and in that time has changed and splintered. The Cult prefers to present a united front, but precisely how united it is depends on the GM. There may be a singular cult that quietly rules the Galaxy with the Emperor as their puppet (or true master), or their may be a variety of Cults, all competing with one another or unwittingly united behind a True Secret Master.

The Cult of Anthara: The first Divine Emperor of the Ranathim, the Cult of Anthara follows the original genius of the Cult’s founder. It is an exclusively Ranathim cult, one that more closely resembles the Nadomen of the Divine Mask and focuses heavily on the ritualistic nature of political rule.

The Cult of Satra Temos: With the fall of the Ranathim Empire, a Ranathim named Satra Temos revisited the theology of the Mystic Tyrant and stripped it of irrelevant ceremonies and rites and focused intently on the heart of the philosophy: power. Under his guidance, the Cult restored its dominion over the Dark Arm of the Galaxy, at least for a time, using covert, rather than over, rule; it uses control of criminal organizations and occult circles as a means of expanding its power. This is the most common version of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant (and the default)

The Cult of Revalis White: The first known human transcendental master once served Knights of Communion before betraying them to the last Alexian Emperor. He believed the Knights of Communion had reached a moral dead-end and sought out what he saw as the superior morality of the Mystic Tyrant, which he saw as necessary for saving the Galaxy. The Cult of Revalis White accepts that morality may be a lie, but that a true master can lend truth to anything and seek to create their own personal morality; they also seek to gain mastery over all forms of Communion, rather than limiting themselves to just Dark Communion. The Traitor’s Cult infiltrates religions, knightly orders and schools (where it recruits children) as the basis of its power, and maintains a strong presence in the Alliance.

Agendas of the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant


The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant prizes power, philosophical clarity and self-perfection, and secrecy. Each conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy performs its own roles within the Cult, and each master has his own personal agenda to serve, but ultimately all serve the might of the Tyrant, and all submit to the totality of the Cult’s vision for the future.


  • Treachery! A former slave of the cult has fled, carrying with her secrets of the Cult which she may offer up to the powers-that-be as a bargaining chip for her safety. The Cult must rally its resources to track her down, discover what secrets she has divulged and then end her life. After all, she swore an oath of secrecy to the Cult...

  • Discovery! The crypt of a lost Transcendental Master has been recently uncovered by a bumbling Imperial archaeologist who does not know what he’s uncovered. The Cult must move quickly to silence the discovery and then secure the crypt so that they may control the priceless secrets found within.


  • A young woman with prodigious ESP talents has revealed herself on the edges of Alliance space, and the Akashic Order moves to recruit her into their order. The Cult wants to get to her first and induct her into one of their conspiracies and begin to teach her how to access Communion. She can thereafter be kept as a powerful member of the Cult, or slipped into the Akashic Order as a plant.


  • A young firebrand has managed to gain sufficient popularity to run for election as a senator, but lacks the funds necessary to unseat his more entrenched but less popular opponent. The Cult could induct him into one of their secret societies, allowing him to rub shoulders with financiers and offer their services to “quietly influence” certain bureaucrats to make sure he has ever advantage he needs to become elected. Thereafter, he could do a small favor for his new secret society…


  • Rivalry! A rogue master has killed the apprentice of your master in blatant disregard for the commands of the Inner Circle, and they, cowards, do nothing, revealing their power for the farce your master long knew it was. Your master sees the opportunity to both gain his revenge and to move himself into the inner circle in one fell swoop, but he needs you to be the hand the wields a force sword on his behalf! Finally, your chance to be raised to the rank of apprentice.


The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant as Opposition

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has tied itself into almost every power-base across the Galaxy that it can. The Emperor himself subscribes to their philosophy. They have infiltrated criminal cartels and corporations alike. Even charities and religious orders aren’t exempt from their influence. They have power, they have prestige, they have secret knowledge of Communion and even darker powers. They represent one of the most competent threats in the Galaxy.

A Mask of the Cult, one of their secret societies, tend to make more modest opponents, typically representing BAD -2 to -5. The actual Cult of the Mystic Tyrant is BAD -8 or worse; in both cases, Psi-BAD is equal to BAD, as the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant is a fundamentally psionic organization.

When it comes to security, the Cult relies on layers of secrecy as their primary form of defense. Their secret societies aren’t as well-defended as the rest of the Cult, but nor do they keep any harmful secrets. Instead, the Cult uses them as catspaws, attacking and defending with them, and then letting them die if they become compromised, allowing their opponents to think they’ve defeated the menace while the real Cult continues its work in the shadows. Even so, most such societies have code phrases, excellent security (including privacy fields, cameras and traps), and their leadership are trained psions. The Cult’s secret societies prefer to “hide in the open,” by meeting in public to discuss matters in an innocuous manner, or by using other organizations as covers for their agenda.

In the heart of the Cult itself, cultists make extensive use of both psionic powers (especially Telepathy) to ferret out who they can trust and who they cannot. They also use Communion to gain insights into potential threats and then move to act against them. The Cult generally relies on individual skill over technology for security. They tend to meet in either places of obvious power, such as corporate headquarters or in ancient temples, and in such meetings speak openly and brazenly of their objectives. They trust their minions to keep such meetings and their archives or facilities secure, and this generally works well; non-psions tend not to see the agents of the Cult coming, and even anti-psions tend to be blindsided by the inviolate power of Dark Communion, which is immune to anti-psi. Only other masters of communion really pose a serious security threat to the Cult, hence their hatred and fear of the Knights of Communion.

Serving in the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant

Religious Ranks

Ranks:

Religious

8

Emperor or Tyrant

7

Inner Circle

6

Master

5

Apprentice

4

Slave

3

High Priest

2

Priest

1

Initiate




The Cult arranges itself in degrees of initiation, one religious rank per degree. No “Rank 0” exists. Many unknowingly serve the Cult, but they cannot call upon its resources. Only those who have been inducted into the cult itself may call upon its resources. Traditionally, these titles had Lithian names, but most modern Cultists use Galactic Common terms, but some still use the Lithian names in formal settings. Power outside of the Cult does not necessarily translate into power within the Cult. Some members of the Cult may have high rank within the Cult and be virtually unknown outside of it, and some members of the Cult may be powerful men outside of the Cult and have very little sway (or rank) within the Cult. This also applies to the associated organizations of the Cult: a CEO of a corporation fully under the sway of the Cult may have little or no rank in the Cult at all!

All members of the Cult, whatever their rank, are sworn to secrecy upon pain of death. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot reveal the existence of the cult or their membership in it, but does mean they cannot reveal the secret dealings of the cult. Those who do so are invariably hunted down and killed by the inquisitors of the Cult.

Rank 1: Initiate (Khaftilin)

The lowest level of initiation within the Cult, such members are brought into one of the Cult’s secret societies and are shown only fragments of the real truth of the Cult. Such an initiation typically begins with a careful recruitment process, with a recruiter offering the character favors and suggesting the possibility of a secret society. If the character expresses interest and shows trustworthiness, the secret society kidnaps the target and gives them an initiation rite, during which the character swears an oath of secrecy and loyalty to the cult.

The degree of initiation represents, by far, the most common rank within the Cult. The Cult tends to part powerful men at this rank. The Cult expects initiates to bring information to their secret society and to perform favors and, in return, can expect the cooperation of the Cult in securing their power and position. This is the highest rank a non-psion can aspire to in the Cult: the Cult wants men of power in its rank, but it’s more interested in men who can impose their vision upon the world. Initiates typically learn nothing of the greater Cult, though they might be spoon-fed some of its philosophy to see how they take to it.

Rank 2: Priest (Chiva)

The title of the second rank varies depending on the position or role of the character, but the common term is “priest,” a holdover from the old era when the Cult was a strictly religious organization. A priest is expected to preside over rituals and ceremonies within his secret society. Priests also tend to be naturally psionic and the Cult might help hone their psionic power.

Priests tend to be Initiates with psionic potential who seem amenable to the Cult’s philosophy, or who are especially useful to the secret society. They tend to be openly approached about their interest in a higher position by the leadership of their secret society, and if they agree, once again undergo an initiation ritual, though usually one with more direct symbolism pertaining to the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant. This step is taken as a way of slowly revealing the Cult to the initiate and making him more comfortable with the Cult as a whole.

When the Cult sends agents to approach one of its secret societies, they most often deal with the leadership directly, but might also deal with its Priests.

Rank 3: High Priest (Chivaga)

The third rank within the Cult is the highest position within their secret society, and always commands the secret society (if secret societies have an alternate ranking scheme, the High Priest may or may not be the visible leadership, but the Cult will always contact and command the secret society through the High Priest, whatever the “actual” leadership structure of the secret society).

The High Priest is chosen by the Cult itself from among the Priests of the secret society, generally from those who seem most aware of the existence of a greater society, and who remain discrete about the Cult’s existence. They will be approached by higher cult leadership and asked if they wish to command the secret society, usually when the previous leadership has been given a position within the cult itself, or when it has been disposed of in some means. If they agree, they undergo an initiation rite, but this time they must explicitly swear loyalty to the Cult itself, and they are shown true imagery of the Cult.

Rank 4: Slave (Seva)

Technically, all cultitst below the rank of Master are “slaves” in the eyes of the Cult, but the term “Slave” most often applies to those Cultists who have graduated from their secret society but have not yet been taken on as an apprentice yet. All slaves serve a master, rather than a secret society, and they tend to act as agents for the Cult, and may carry official titles such as Inquisitor (who ensures ideological purity and loyalty from the membership), Hound (a foot soldier for the Cult) or Eye (a spy for the Cult), and tend to be associated with their Master (“I am a Hound of Satra Temos”).

Slaves have real access to the information and power of the Cult, and often act on its behalf. By the same token, the Cult is quick to offer its resources to slaves who need power for the completion of their mission. Slaves also typically begin to learn the ways of Dark Communion (though some Priests and High Priests might already have instruction in Communion). While they might be degraded and called “slave” and even dressed in a demeaning or understated manner, they have far more power at their fingertips than those who rule the Masks of the Cult, and many initiates express fear and surprise as they watch their high priest, in all his glory, bowing before a mere slave.

A master chooses his slaves and recruits them directly. Most slaves arise from the ranks of priests or high priests, as they have proven their usefulness to the Cult already, but an especially promising character might be recruited directly by a master and bypass secret societies altogether! Typically, the master approaches the character directly and if the character is amenable, they undergo an initiation ritual that involves a test that would kill any normal, non-psionic person; if they succeed and survive, they swear an oath of loyalty directly to their specific master.

Rank 5: Apprentice (Petale)

An Apprentice (sometimes a “Hand” of the Master) is technically a slave who has been elevated by a master to represent him in all cases where he is not present. A Master only has one apprentice, but an apprentice is also on the fast-track to becoming a Master himself. He is introduced to the Masters of the Cult and allowed to see and interact with the Inner Council, etc.

An apprentice is anyone a master wishes to be his apprentice, though generally they are drawn from among the ranks of the slaves, and an apprentice who has not gained access to Communion is a scandal (or sign of weakness in the master). An apprentice has no special initiation ceremony (assuming he’s already been initiated as a slave; otherwise, he is initiated as a slave); instead, a master simply declares before the Cult that a character is his apprentice.

Rank 6: Master (Thamara)

A master is not recruited, nor inducted or initiated. They are self-made and self-evident. Anyone can declare themselves to be a master, but to be recognized by the cult, one must prove their mastery. Some members of the cult will submit their petition to be recognized as master before the Inner Circle, wheerupon they undergo a potentially lethal test that someone without a strong connection to Dark Communion would surely fail. The presentation of new transcendental powers, or the killing of one’s master also serve as acceptable credentials, under the right circumstances. What matters is that one can prove oneself master.

Masters have the right to take slaves. Most masters have, by this point, accrued enough contacts, friends and experience that they already have an entourage of allies, but if they do not, they begin to build them now. Their power within the cult is less a representation of the cult’s willingness to help them, and more their own considerable assets within the cult moving to help them. A master is the Cult!

Rank 7: The Inner Circle (Gemile)

The most powerful masters serve in the inner circle of the Cult. They represent its leadership and, as with Mastery, are self-made rather than chosen. The inner circle has a limited number of openings (typically 12) and a master who wishes to rise to a seat at the inner circle must ensure the retirement of one of the existing members of the inner circle and then assert his right to join them. This is typically the focal point of numerous shadow wars fought within the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant, though part of the point of the Inner Circle is to keep such conflicts from becoming excessively bloody, so when several contenders appear the Inner Circle usually negotiates a contest between the two, with the winner gaining a seat on the Inner Circle.

The Inner Circle wields power over the entire Cult and, more importantly, must be seen as wielding power over the entire Cult. A weak master on the Inner Circle invites strife and war which, while it might be good for the cult, can be very disruptive.

Rank 8: The Mystic Tyrant (Reluke Lithe)

Only a transcendental master may hold the title of Mystical Tyrant. Transcendental Masters always have at least the rank of Master and typically sit on the Inner Circle, and may be rare enough that only one exists within the cult at a given time. In such a case, they become the Mystic Tyrant (in the case of two more more Trasncendental Masters, the most powerful, by right of strength, takes the position). A Mystic Tyrant has total control over the Cult. The Inner Circle acts as his advisory body and serves his commands enacting his vision. The relationship between Mystic Tyrant and Inner Circle is not one of slave and master, though smart masters will choose to swear an oath of direct loyalty to a transcedental master in hopes of gaining transcendence themselves, but of first among equals. The transcendental master is what all masters of the Cult aspire to be, and thus the masters naturally serve him, but ultimately so that they can be like him.

Rank 9: The True Secret Master?

The Cult trades in secrecy and influence, so some wonder if secret powers influence the Cult in some hidden way. If multiple cults exists across the galaxy, a rumor may persist of a single unifying force manipulating all of them. Such a master would necessarily be a transcendental master, typically with powers most members of the Cult can barely conceive of. While no real rank of “True Secret Master” exists, conspiratorial whispers like to suggest that one of the ancient masters, Anthara, Satra Temos or Revalis White, have found some way to cheat death and that they manipulate the entire Cult from beyond the grave.

Favors of the Mystic Tyrant

The Cult of the Mystic Tyrant has numerous, far-reaching assets at its disposal. It excels at covert activity requests (PR 14), especially Cover-Ups, which it is preternaturally good at. It has access to psionically trained super-assassins and space-knights, which make for exceptionally powerful Violence favors (PR 19). As an ancient conspiracy with tendrils in nearly every part of the galactic economy, it has vast sums of money available, which can help a great deal with Material Aid requests (PR 16).

However, it’s truly unique strength lies in the supernatural favors it can offer, as well as its more conspiratorial ones. These favors include, but are not limited to:

Dark Miracles: Slaves of the Cult can petition their masters for a Dark Miracle. In general, a Minor Blessing is +5, a Major Blessing is +2, a Miraculous Power is -2, and a World-Shaking Miracle is -5.

Places of Power: the Cult has access to many temples and places where the Sanctity of Dark Communion is High or Very High. Treat requests for access to such places as requests for access to Facilities (PR 18)

Relics: The Cult has knowledge of and access to many ancient relics in its vast vaults; generally such relics seek out their destined masters naturally (the Cult likes to put them on display before newly recruited cultists, praise the virtue of the relics, and then deny the cultist access to them, to see which cultists have the strength of purpose necessary to align their destiny with the destiny of the relic). If a character temporarily needs a relic, though, treat it as a Gear request (PR 16).

Dark Secrets: The cult knows many ancient secrets. They can Consult (PR 15), typically with Expert Skill (Conspiracy Theory), History, Hidden Lore (Places of Power), Hidden Lore (Communion) and Occultism at skill 18-21. If they know something outright (such as requesting access to a specific file that contains some dark secret), threat this as a Files request.

The masters of the Cult have access to unique powers and martial arts, which they will train students in. Treat this as a Services request, though Transcendent powers apply an additional -5 to gain access to.

Conspiratorial Power: The Cult has access to numerous sub-conspiracies and to the organizations they control too. They Cult excels at Introductions and Invitations (PR 18); at the GM’s discretion, characters in the cult may attempt to use their Cult connections to make a request from subordinate organizations; typically this applies a -5 if it goes beyond a mere introduction and into the cult as the whole strong-arming an organization into assisting the character.

Cult of the Mystic Tyrant Character Considerations

Requirements: Characters serving the Cult of the Mystic Tyrant must have Secret (Cultist of the Mystic Tyrant; Potentially Lethal) [-30], representing his oath to keep the secrets of the Cult. They must also have Duty; initiates and masters typically have it to the Cult and have it at 9 or less, while Slaves have extremely hazardous duty to a specific master at 15 or less. Finally, all characters need Religious Rank (Cult of the Mystic Tyrant) 1 at a minimum.

Characters who serve a specific master may have him as a Patron. Most Cult Masters are Patrons worth a base of 15 points, though Transcendental Masters typically have access to special abilities and cost at least 25 points!

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