The final instalment of background information for my future campaign, this chunk talks about the main cultural factions on Ix. Including part 1 (nature) and part 2 (history), this now comes to a total of three sides of A5 (yes, I'm laying this out in booklet format). This feels to me like a manageable amount of information for players to read, and enough to give lots of flavour for the world.
Note that, following yesterday's revelation about the name Zyklon (thanks to those who pointed that out!), the God-Emperor of Ix has been subtly renamed to Zyklor.
Also note that the reference below to the Sisters of Mercy is deliberate.
The God-Emperor and the Templars
The desert cities are ruled by the Templars, with a Hierophant as the regent of each. The ranks of the Templars act as priesthood, police, military and judges – maintaining order with an unwavering precision and a cold brutality.
The Tear of God (also simply known as “Tear”) is ruled by the Arch-Hierophant, under the divine guidance of the God-Emperor Zyklor. Zyklor himself remains abstruse – dwelling in the vast Palace of Radiance upon the plateau of Tear.
The Sisters of Mercy
Founded by the semi-mythical Sister Jadeth, the Sisters of Mercy are a secretive sect of ancient origin who study the sciences of the psyche. While the Sisterhood is allied to the God-Emperor, their private purposes remain an area of speculation. Members of the Sisterhood are found in the employ of many noble houses, as their psychic training produces advisers and diplomats of great talent. The Sisterhood is also rumoured to possess subtle devices of a strange psionic technology, the secrets of which only they know.
While most of humanity lives in the desert cities, some tribes remain who wander the barren dunes of the desert. Collectively they are known as Sandestine. They have their own language and culture, and while they are notionally allied to the God-Emperor, their loyalty is often seen to be only to their own kind.
The Slavers' Guild
Slavery is a common fact of life in the desert cities of Ix, and is a cornerstone of the economy. The Slavers' Guild rules the high roads between the cities, policing against bandits and incursions of abominations from the deep desert. In essence this means that it is impossible to travel the roads of Ix without the cooperation of the Guild of Slavers – thus all mercantile houses are in their sway. It is, of course, always possible to travel through the pathless dunes of the desert, bypassing the slave-roads, but this brings its own hazards.
The Prismatic Order
Rumours in recent times have spoken of a sect of anarchists which is directly opposed to the iron rule of the Templars. Their membership and true purpose are unknown, but it is said that they harbour escaped slaves and are attempting to build an underground army. It is suspected that some hidden power lies behind the so-called Prismatic Order.
Despite the divine rule of the God-Emperor, the general populace are free to perform whatever religious observances they wish – a sign of the absolute security the Templars have in their rule. Thus a diversity of cults flourishes, many led by oracles or shamans who can communicate with spirits of nature and the dead. Some cults even occasionally begin to worship the demon idols of old, but these are watched carefully by the Templars, and are mercilessly crushed if they appear to be gaining in power.
The Imperial Academy of Sorcerers
Since the reign of the God-Emperor, the practice of sorcery has been conducted solely through the officially sanctioned Imperial Academy. The ancient magicks of life and death are studied anew, but are kept under the watchful eye of the Templars. Sorcery is generally regarded with suspicion, but some noble houses make use of the services of the Imperial Academy. Most magic-users are initially trained by the Academy or one of its affiliates.