The Red Cloud Brothership, Mystics of Krondahar

tiger nest monastery

[This calls for an explanation. Among other RPG related things I have been doing in my long abstinence from the blog, I have done some reading of the beautiful retroclone Dark Dungeons, by Blacky the Blackball, which I like a ton and I am likely to review here soon. At the same time, I am browsing through my official WotC PDFs of the old GAZ series, and an idle thought crossed my mind. If you wanted to find some use for the Mystic class that sort-of fitted in the already eclectic Known World setting, where could you place them? So here it is, my little homage to BECMI, Dark Dungeons and campy Asian fantasy.]

Glantri’s law condemns the worship of Immortals in any form. Ethengarian immigrants, thus, had to renounce the ancient cult of spirits and ancestors as practiced in Ethengar. Under the influence of the powerful magic practiced by the Virayana family and other secular lore, a tradition of mysticism developed that emphasised the power of mind over matter and the transcendence of human limitations by relying solely on mental discipline. Besides more contemplative activities, a group of such scholars oriented more strongly towards the martial arts. Their training takes place prevalently in one of a small number of secular monasteries in the principality. Mystics who wander around in search of challenges can carry on their instruction autonomously or under other brothers that they meet in the world. These Red Cloud Brothers, as they came to be called, are now a precious resource for the small principality of Krondahar, in that they make excellent elite troops and unrivalled body guards and security officers. Like the textbook mystics of DD, Krondahar mystics swear a vow of poverty, so mystics who work in the capital or elsewhere in the above mentioned capacities transfer most of their income to their monasteries.

As a general rule, the level of mystic NPCs must be set as follows:

Apprentices (lvl 1): Young students at the monastery, occasionally on guard duty.

Disciples (lvl 2-6): Common members of the brothership, often employed as irregular troops or mercenaries all around the country.

Champions (lvl 7): Mature disciples, with exceptional abilities, they can often be met as they wander looking for a challenge.

Sifu (lvl 9): True masters, they can take disciples of their own.

Grand Sifu (lvl 16): Keepers of the most secret techniques.

Mystics have no official titles, and regardless of their level they address each other as Brother/Sister. Only at level 9 they earn the title Sifu (Master), and can officially take apprentices of their own: before, they can only offer informal assistence in another’s instruction. A Sifu has mastered all the more “mundane” abilities their mystic tradition has to offer, but the path to the most esoteric techniques is long. The only known Grand Sifu (expert, among other things, of the legendary Dim Mak technique) is the Grand Sifu of the High Monastery of the Red Cloud in Lhamsa (see below). Higher level mystics are rumoured to exist, but it is generally assumed that they start wandering in far away lands and savage places in search of higher challenges and enlightenment.

Combat-wise, the greatest emphasis of the training is on unarmed strikes, but armed fighting is taught as well. The first weapon taught is invariably the staff, but the one-handed (“normal”) sword, the spear and the dagger are also commonly taught.

The alignment of young mystics is usually Lawful, and they are generally assumed to be loyal and deferent servants of the Prince of Krondahar (in spite of his many quirks!). Wandering mystics, especially the most powerful, often change their alignment to Neutral, as a result of their ever increasing detachment from the material life. A Chaotic alignment is incompatible with the mental discipline of the Red Cloud mystics: mystics who happen to change their alignment to Chaotic immediately lose their abilities. With GM permission, these characters might be converted to Thieves of equivalent XPs.

Grand Sifu Thokmay (Mystic 16, AL:L). STR 12, DEX 16, CON 10, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 13. HP 42. AC -8. Weapon Feats: Staff (Master), Sword, Normal (Expert). Special Abilities: Strike to Kill (Unarmed): 3d12 x 4 Attacks; Alertness; Self Healing; Speak with Animals; Resistence to Spells and Breath; Smash/Parry; Speak with Anyone; Mind Blank; Fade; Dim Mak. Thief Abilities: Find Traps 76%, Remove Traps 70%, Climb Walls 102%, Move Silently 72%, Hide in Shadows 60%. Special Items: Staff of Dispelling. A mature-but-not-exactly-old-looking gentleman of Ethengarian descent, Grand Sifu Thokmay  has unassuming manners and demeanor. He always carries his staff, but in the rare occasions in which he has to defend himself in a fight he opts for his dazzingly fast and powerful punches and kicks, which can harm even the toughest magical opponents the Princes can send after him. Like others before him, Thokmay is tempted to pass the monastery onto another Sifu and retire himself somewhere in the wild, but he is under the impression that the Machiavellian politics of Glantri are constantly endangering Krondahar and its people, so he tries to hold on and do his best to maintain peace and order in the principality. The Grand Sifu is respected and feared by the magic-users, not only because of his fighting prowess and spiritual force, but because of the Staff of Dispelling that is inherited by the Grand Sifus of the High Monastery. This object, bestowed to the founder by the then-rulers of Krodanhar, makes it very hard for a magic-user to harm the Master with spells or magic items.