Lanterns Organization in Scarterra | World Anvil


Zarthus ' core followers are nicknamed “Lanterns” because the moon is viewed as a metaphorical lantern and a lot of services are held at night with lots of literal lanterns and most of Zarthus’ temples have lots of lanterns in them.   Zarthus and Geo-Politics     One of Zarthus’ core commandments is to oppose tyranny wherever it is found. The Lanterns have a culture of distrusting “the Man.” A lot of successful and failed coups alike have Lanterns involved in their conspiracies. Even if a prince is not a tyrant per se, they can expect Lanterns to complain about every controversial decision and tax hike. Scarterra is not medieval Europe but ask yourselves. Even if the Lanterns like the local ruler, they tend to view the ruler’s commands as suggestions. “How many medieval European kings were fond of freedom of expression for their subjects?”   You can guess that the Lanterns are rarely well-liked by the ruling elites.   Most princes view the Lanterns as adversaries within their own people. Unfortunately the Lanterns love glorifying martyrs. If princes respond to the Lantern with a ruthless iron hand, they may get the opposite reaction they were intending. On the other hand, rulers who constantly give in to every demand the Lanterns make appear weak and will only invite Zarthus’ followers to walk all over them. Most princes try to seek a middle ground of sorts.   Rather than make Zarthus worship illegal outright, some princes will try to limit the time and place Lanterns can gather. They frequently try to limit their rituals to within the Nonagon Plazas or only on Zarthus’ holy days. This doesn’t always work. Most areas with these rules have two temples, a public temple and a secret ”real” temple.   Princes that want to placate the Lanterns may accept Lantern advisers who their court (and they sometimes even listen to them!). A lot of court jesters are either Lanterns themselves or they were trained by Lanterns. Other princes try to win the Lanterns favor becoming patrons of art and music. Some kingdoms have a Zarthus friendly festival where they make the court jester King for a Day and the court goes through the motions of following the jester’s inane proclamations. Sometimes the king will let commoners address him with complaints at this time.   One compromise between princes and Lanterns that is growing increasingly popular is to have a suggestion box in the Zarthus temple and periodically give it to the prince’s ministers. For the prince, this preferable to people criticizing him openly in the streets. For this Lanterns this is preferable to being ignored altogether.   I haven’t figured out which lands have peasants and which lands have serfs, but rest assured, the Lanterns hate the practice of serfdom.     Most Lantern backed coups fail. Most of the coups that actually succeed collapse within ten years when their new government collapses. Apseldia is the largest and most powerful nation to claim Zarthus as their spiritual patron and their government has been intact for roughly two centuries. Apseldia is mercantile city state that is predominantly run by half-elf half-humans. They are not feudalistic and do not have hereditary titles (apart from rich land owners). The top political body is the Apseldian Senate which is loosely modeled after Ancient Athens in the real world.   Zarthus is not the preeminent god of many large realms but the wood elf nobles usually respect Zarthus and are fond of patronizing arts and music. The nation of Mondert respects him as a valuable addition to their communities.   Uskala is the most hostile place for Lanterns. The Lanterns are barely tolerated on Zarthus’ main annual holiday there, but Lanterns that make themselves known the rest of the year can expect to have the boots of oppression either metaphorically or literally kicking their faces in. The Elven Empire is not particularly Zarthus-friendly either, but the grey elf princes prefer to use red tape to keep the Lanterns in line as opposed to using naked force. Ironically, before they called themselves the Elven Empire, the nation of Lunatus was one of the few Second Age nations that claimed Zarthus as a state patron. The Lanterns have not forgotten this.   Any nation built on slavery can be safely assumed to not be a Lantern friendly place. In Kahdisteria, there are secret Zarthus cults as well secret Nami cults and Mera cults pulling the strings of many slave uprisings. Because of this, the Colassian Confederacy usually honors the Lanterns among them. In fact, the Lanterns claim to be instrumental in founding of the Confederacy. They were there, but their role was somewhat exaggerated. East Colassian Lanterns in human nations are more likely to work within the system than outside it. At the moment the East Colassian leaders and the Lanterns are united by a common enemy. It is speculated that if Kahdisteria falls, the marriage of convenience between the Lanterns and the East Colassian princes would collapse in less than a day.   Many nomadic barbarian peoples honor Zarthus, but it is rare for Zarthus to be a clan or tribe’s primary divine patron.       The Clergy   Most Scarterran priests and priestesses were formally trained, but all nine priesthoods give out honorary priest titles. It’s common to give out honorary priest titles to adventurers and long-term volunteers. Less commonly, nobles are made honorary priests or priestesses as a political move, but in general, honorary priests and priestesses are fairly rare.   The Lanterns are different. They give out honorary priesthoods like candy. The Lanterns have more honorary priests than conventionally trained priests and priestesses. Outsiders joke that a typical Zarthus religious service of fifteen people has twelve clergy and three parishioners.   One side effect of their mass recruitment is that only about a third of Lanterns have any divine magic powers, but about a tenth of the Lanterns wield arcane magic. That’s more than any other priesthood save Greymoria's.   The vast majority of formerly trained Lantern priests and priestesses join up as adults or adolescents. Lanterns are free to take whomever they please as an apprentice and tailor the training however they see fit. New recruits generally learn on the job.   Whether they are formally trained or made an honorary priest, the requirements are fairly simple. They need to know the basic catechisms (which generally translates into having two dots of Theology or one dot of Theology and a high intelligence score). Zarthus’ priests and priestesses are required to have two unrelated useful skills. Commonly one of these skills is a form of art (painting, singing, poetry) and another skill is a either a practical trade or basic combat ability. Being able to cast magic, either arcane or divine is considered a useful skill.   It’s pretty easy to qualify, but a good Lantern is not expected to coast on her two useful skills. Most Lanterns prefer to become generalists with a wide array of talents rather than become exemplars in a single field.   It is commonly for Lanterns to sew all their proficiencies into their clothes (think of a sash of merit badges). A few Lanterns even mark their proficiencies with tattoos. Some critics, including some Lanterns, believe it is unwise to broadcast to your enemies what you can and cannot do, but the intent is to broadcast to a Lantern’s friends what they can or cannot do. The Lanterns are such a diverse group that it can embarrassing or even dangerous if a parishioner goes to a lantern for healing when the Lantern has no ability in mundane or magical Healing. Likewise, the Lanterns don’t want people running to non-combatants for protection.   In addition to wearing their proficiencies on their sleeves (sometimes literally), the Lanterns have a well-deserved reputation as being a braggadocios lot. Lanterns are often a competitive lost. Think about Gimli and Legolas trying to kill more orcs than the other. You get a bunch of Lanterns together and you can expect to find dueling guitar solos, arm wrestling matches, and a wide variety of friendly challenges of all sorts.   Most Zarthus festivals include art contests, music contests, and even cooking contests. Sometimes the competitors work on their masterpieces for months in advance. Formal contests like this are usually determined by voting. Ideally there are nine neutral judges (or as close to neutral as the Lanterns can find).   Competitive boastful Lanterns is the norm, but it’s not universal. In areas where Zarthus worship is restrictive, the Lanterns develop a culture of subtlety.     favored souls   Zarthus has about three theurgists for every two favored souls, more than most of the Nine, but the world isn’t exactly drowning in Zarthusfavored souls. I haven’t come up with a nickname I like for Zarthusfavored souls. That might be for the better. The Lanterns make very little social distinction between Zarthustheurgists and Zarthusfavored souls. It’s almost impossible to tell one from the other if the divine caster doesn’t tell you.   A few favored souls opt to be independent agents, but most will eventually join the priesthood of Zarthus. It’s not particularly hard to qualify as a Lantern priest or priestess.   Most of the time, Zarthus favored souls are born into families of devout Zarthus worshipers. They are roughly equally likely to be born in civilized lands or barbarian tribes. A disproportionately high number of Zarthus favored souls are orphans or half breeds. Zarthus spirits are more affectionate than most of the Nine’s spirits. Half-spirit favored souls are fairly common. In many cases they are both orphans and half breeds because spirit moms and dads rarely stick around.   During ZarthusZodiac year, all normalcy goes flying out the window. Most of Zarthusfavored souls are born into families that are hostile to Zarthus’ values. Sometimes traditional and conservative families have a wild eyed maverick child who wants to be nice to the peasants and introduce reforms. That’s annoying enough but if the black sheep of the family has divine magic powers that becomes worse than annoying. It’s dangerous. It’s said that in Uskala, noble families often abstain from sex from nine months before ZarthusZodiac year through the first three or four months of ZarthusZodiac year…just in case.     Factions, Schisms, and Heresies   Lanterns are an individualistic lot, and many Lanterns refuse to sully themselves with factional politics, but informal divisions have arisen. Zarthus has three broad missions for his followers (not necessarily in this order). 1) Help communities become strong, safe and self-sufficient. 2) Spread artistic creation and beauty far and wide, and 3) Oppose tyranny and expose hidden evils to the light.   Those who prioritize the first directive and nicknamed Homesteaders. Those who prioritize the second mission are nicknamed Patrons. Those who prioritize the third mission are commonly called Vindicators.   Both Homesteaders and Vindicators chastise the Patrons for being soft and weak. Instead of helping people in need they are spending their time and money on vanity projects and cozying up to princes and wealthy merchants who are hardly paragons of Zarthus’ noble ideals.   Both the Homesteaders and the Patrons chastise the Vindicators for aggravating people and monsters. When a tyrant king or an angry dragon vows vengeance on a Vindicator they normally don’t say “The Vindicators have wronged me; the Vindicators must pay!” They say “The Lanterns have wronged me; the Lanterns must pay.” Given that the Vindicators have more combat and stealth training, reprisals often hit the Homesteaders and Patrons because they are softer targets and they are easier to find.   Both Patrons and Vindicators sort of view Homesteaders as ignorant hicks who miss the forest for the trees. Sure, you can watch over a village of a hundred farmers all your life or you can create sweeping government reforms to help millions of people or become immortalized through grand works of art.   Not every Lantern identifies with one of these three groups. Given that Lanterns like to be jack-of-all-trades some view the factional name as insulting forms of address, but it’s the best way to categorize the uncategorizeable. It’s possible for a well-traveled Lantern to be called a member of all three factions at different times in different places based on what she is doing.       Apseldian Lanterns   There is some tension between the Lanterns of Apseldia and the Lanterns of everywhere else. Usually Apseldia is celebrated as the greatest political success of the Lanterns. A Zarthus backed coup has created a non-feudal state that has survived enemy invasions as well as famines and other hardships.   Lanterns are generally used to complaining about the government, but in Apseldia, the Lanterns essentially are the government and this has caused them to change and driven a wedge between Apseldian Lanterns and Lanterns elsewhere.     Lineage   Most Lanterns are all too eager to name their full spiritual lineage. Spiritual lineage is different from someone’s family ancestry. As far as Lanterns are concerned, your lineage is your mentor, and your mentor’s mentor, and your mentor’s mentor’s mentor. And so forth and so on. If the Lantern is a spirit Loa, they might even be able to literally channel the power and wisdom of their past lineage.   Lanterns love to explain how they carry the legacy of famous heroes of yore, usually Lanterns are so individualistic they don’t go too deep into their famous spiritual ancestor’s philosophy, but a few do. Two lineages that are well known world-wide are the Lineage of Gariel and the Lineage of Tabrath. I will come up with more lineages as needed, but most famous lineages are local phenomenon not spread around the world like those of Gariel and Tabrath.   The lineage of Tabrath is losing prestige. Tabrath was a legendary warrior famous for slaying many deadly monsters. The old stories have Tabrath rescuing elderly villagers, young princes, and fair maidens, but Tabrath’s spiritual descendants sometimes lose sight of why they fight monsters. Some of them just want to collect trophies from monsters and show off their scars. Not all monsters act monstrously. Some dragons that are attacked where just minding their own business. Sometimes the local monsters only start attacking an area in response to some Lanterns poking them with sharp things.   The practice of boasting about one’s lineage is slowly fading away in Apseldia. 90% of Apseldia’s Lanterns all have the same lineage, so it’s kind of redundant to boast about it.   Mask Breakers   The Mask Breakers represent a really loose association of militant Lanterns who really hate the Masks of Phidas.     The Lantern's Material Needs   Most of the Lanterns’ core followers are poor, so there are not a lot of donations filling the temple coffers. If a Zarthus worshiper is financially well off, they are probably going to funnel their donations to the Patrons to sponsor public works of art. That’s nice and all, but the Lanterns are so decentralized that it’s very hard for the Patrons to funnel any excess coins to the Homesteaders, Vindicators and countless roving iterant Lanterns.   That’s a large part of the reason the Lanterns want all their members to have at least two useful skills. A lot of Lanterns sing for their supper in taverns or hunt for the supper in the woods. Others can get work in a blacksmith’s shop or apothecary   While the Lanterns do not have as many spell-casters as they would like, most of their spell-casters learn how to craft magical items, at least simple ones like potions. A lot of Lanterns have substantial wilderness survival skills. Put these things together, and the Lanterns have a lot of herbalists that are good at finding reagents and willing to travel to dangerous areas to get them. That makes the Lanterns a competitor against the Masks and Children for the local @reagent and potion trade. They might not have the selection of the Masks or the Children but most adventurers are less likely to assume a Lantern is automatically out to cheat them.   Some Lanterns moonlight as pickpockets, con artists or burglars, often viewing theft from wealthy Phidas or Khemra worshipers as a noble act. Other Lanterns view theft as a very serious crime and would not engage in theft if they were literally starving.     Priestly Ranks   Apprentice: Non-ordained member Cleric: Full priest or priestess Elder Cleric: Priest or priestess with a long tenure. Sometime this is used as an insult to mock someone for being over the hill. “I am honored to work with a Lantern of your…experience.”   That’s it, the Lanterns aren’t big on ranks and titles. What they are big on is bragging about their mad skillz.   A “proficiency” is generally considered to be something the Lantern has two or three dots in.   A “mastery” is generally considered to be something that the Lantern has three or four dots.   An “assembly” is generally considered to be three or more tightly related skills. One common assembly is to have Healing magic, a high rating in Medicine, and Hearth Wisdom. Another to have a high rating in Brawl and Melee while also possessing some combat magic.   Even among the braggart Lanterns, it’s rare for a Lantern to rattle off all his proficiencies, masteries, and assemblies in one go. Usually they pick one and stick with in each verbal exchange. Charlatans and fakers are socially shunned if they are caught boasting of a skill they don't have.   More than rank, more than accumulated skills, the best way to get status among the Lanterns is to be popular and charismatic and that is hard to measure in concrete titles and slang terms. Because Lanterns love to boast (and they love to rib each other over failures) and because Lanterns are often bards and storytellers, it’s a good bet that most Lanterns already know of the reputation of outsider Lanterns long before they meet face-to-face.


Outside the few areas where the Lanterns wield official state power, most clergy are recruited from marginalized groups. Zarthus is the protector of bastards, orphans, and half-breeds, so it should suprise no one that bastards, orphans, and half-breeds make up a large demograhic of the Lantern's ranks and are often some of their most zealous members.

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Cover image: Crude Lantern Icon by Me


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