Factions of the Flanaess: The Old Faith

In a short series of articles, I will detail six examples of Factions that are appropriate for the Greyhawk setting. Some of these might be old hat for setting purists, but are written up in the somewhat simplified, player-friendly manner of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition factions. Others are heavily modified or all-new creations, meant to provide a few more widespread organizations as options, but keeping them relatively loose-knit so their sudden appearance in the setting isn’t jarring if you’ve already spent a lot of time using the Greyhawk setting.

Remember, these are just examples. Use them to your own ends, whether it’s whole-cloth or as templates for your own factions!

This article looks at The Old Faith, using the Emerald Enclave as a template.

Holy Symbol of Beory, and insignia of The Old Faith

Holy Symbol of Beory, and insignia of The Old Faith

The Old Faith

The Old Faith is a far-ranging group that opposes threats to the natural world and helps others survive the many perils of the wild. A ranger might be hired to lead a caravan through a treacherous mountain pass. A druid might volunteer to help a small village prepare for a long, brutal winter. Barbarians and witches who live like hermits most of the year might defend a town against marauding orcs or barbarians. Members of the Old Faith know how to survive, and more importantly, they want to help others do the same. They are not opposed to civilization or progress, but they strive to prevent civilization and the wilderness from destroying one another.

Members of the Old Faith are spread far and wide, and usually operate in isolation. They learn to depend on themselves more than others. Survival in a harsh world also demands great fortitude and mastery of certain fighting and survival skills. Members of the Old Faith who dedicate themselves to helping others survive the perils of the wilderness are more social than others who are charged with defending sacred glades and preserving the natural balance.

Beliefs

  • The natural order must be respected and preserved.
  • Forces that seek to upset the natural balance must be destroyed.
  • The wilderness can be harsh. Not everyone can survive in it without assistance.

[ED. – Much of the following information comes from the article Living Greyhawk Column: Power Groups – Druids of the Old Faith, written by Eric Menge. The text is reproduced in part here due to Wizard’s of the Coasts habits of deleting or weirdly re-archiving articles.]

At the core of the Old Faith is Beory the Oerth Mother. She is the wellspring of all life and some druids consider her the manifestation of Oerth itself. Additionally, the Old Faith believes that each season has a deity who acts as steward for that portion of the year. The identities of these gods vary, depending upon the faithful. Like nature, the Old Faith is very adaptable.

Among the Flannae, Ehlonna is the Spring Maid, Obad-Hai is the Lord of Summer, Berei or Beory is the Lady of Autumn, and Nerull is the Winter King. At the center of the yearly cycle is the sun, symbolized by Pelor, who ensures the change of the seasons. When the Old Faith spread among the Oeridians, Procan birthed five children to assume these roles – Atroa (spring), Sotillion (summer), Wenta (autumn), and Telchur (winter) – while Velnius, lord of the sky, fills the same role as Pelor. Though the Old Faith has only a small following among the Suel, Bralm (spring), Llerg (summer), Phyton (autumn), and Vatun (winter) are the stewards of seasons among communities with significant Suloise presence, while Lendor keeps the cycle. Other nature gods have devotees among the Old Faith, as long as the druid remains of purely neutral alignment.

The Old Faith of the Flanaeess is not about the temporal power of a church but about truths present in nature. The druids, rangers, monks, and others within the Old Faith seek to understand these truths, internalize them, and preserve them. Four truths permeate the philosophy and teachings of the Old Faith.

The Eternal Circle: The central belief of the Old Faith is that of the Eternal Circle. Spring blooms into summer, which fades to autumn and then descends into winter before winter gives rise to spring. The moon waxes, wanes, and waxes again. Life gives way to death, which leads to rebirth. The root of all druidic philosophy is grounded in the belief that the Eternal Circle continues without end, and all that is will pass away before being reborn.

All Things in Balance: For the Eternal Circle to turn, all things must exist in Balance. There is a place for everything natural somewhere in the world. Death exists because it must, and winter comes because it is part of the cycle. Nature is wild and dangerous, and the predator is just as much a part of the world as the prey. Old Faith druids constantly strive to maintain the Balance of nature through their actions and in their thoughts.

Symbolism through Nature: The druids of the Old Faith hold great store in symbolism and respect oracles, auguries, and omens. Animals and plants both represent philosophical truths, and druidic auguries are centered on observing natural phenomena – such as what kind of birds fly overhead or the pattern formed by dropping a stone into a still pond – and interpreting the meaning rather than asking a god’s servants directly. Druids often keep oracular animals to assist with the divinations. The elemental weirds (described below) are greatly revered, and many druids seek their advice.

The Power of Four: The number four has powerful significance in the Old Faith traditions. There are four seasons in the year. The family has four roles – mother, father, daughter, and son. There are four great celestial bodies – Oerth, the Sun, Luna, and Celene. The four elements – fire, water, earth, and air – are the foundation of nature.

Goals

To restore and preserve the natural order, keep the elemental forces of the world in check, keep civilization and the wilderness from destroying one another, and help others survive the perils of the wilderness.

Member Traits & Typical Quests

[ED. – Nearly the entirety of this section stems from the social and organizational elements of the druid class as written by Gary Gygax in AD&D. It has been repurposed to be less class-specific.]

The Old Faith accepts folks from all walks of life that have a love of the natural world, though it obviously has its origins in the teachings and ways of the druids. Rangers, bards, elementally-focused wizards, monks, and totem-worshipping nomads and barbarians are among the most numerous members, but anyone can join. Confusingly, most folk that become members of the Old Faith refer to themselves as druids (and this is reflected in the beliefs section, above).

Members enter the Old Faith as Ovates, where they assist more senior faithful much as acolytes assist priests. Above the Ovates are the Nine Circles of Initiation. When members first become Initiates, many take an appellation based upon an aspect of nature that speaks to them (for example, “Dorendel the Hawthorne” or “Jolene the Hare”) and symbolizes their dedication to the neutral path of the Old Faith. Above the Ovates and the Initiates are those with the title of Disciple, who hold responsibility for a grove (which can be any tract of natural land, really), a shrine to a deity of nature, or a megalithic circle. The Disciples must answer to the Hierophants who oversee one of several larger geographical regions of Oerth (such as an entire forest or mountain range). Because of the vast distances involved, each Hierophant is assisted by three Masters. The near-legendary Grand Druid stands at the ultimate head of the Old Faith.

Members arise from the rank of Ovate through the Nine Circles of Initiation by means of a series of trials and ceremonies that test their wisdom and understanding of druidic and natural lore. Common challenges include riddles, races, wrestling (while in wildshape, for druids), or chess-style games, but any form of challenge is possible as long as both contestants face the same danger. If successful, the challenger ascends in rank.

The Great Druid for the region that encompasses the Dominion of Greyhawk is said to be Hildefer Paravis (N female Suel human archdruid [Volo’s Guide to Monsters]); the name Paravis being Ancient Suloise for “the Feathered”. She is said to make her home in the Gnarley Forest, where she is on excellent terms with the rangers, swanmays, and fey.

Recently, the Old Faith’s members have reclaimed several megalithic circles in and around the Gnarley Forest. They seek to cull back the bracken and restore the menhirs to their former glory. This activity has attracted a lot of attention among the fauna and fey of the Gnarley, who have been gathering at these points. The Greyhawk militia is watching these events carefully for fear that she make take a strong stand against their incursions into the ancient forest for logging and other materials.

Ranks

  1. Ovate
  2. Initiate
  3. Disciple
  4. Master
  5. Hierophant

As a reminder, this article is not meant to be official and does not accurately reflect the most up-to-date or detailed Greyhawk lore. At its heart, it utilizes information from The City of Greyhawk box set for AD&D 2nd edition, as well as scattered bits of lore from Gygax’s home campaign mixed with some of the early AD&D and AD&D 2nd edition events (pre-Greyhawk Wars). Please use or abuse this information as you wish!

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neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He’s been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

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