Rise of the Runelords
Master of the First Vault
Abadar (AB-uh-dar) is a patient, calculating, and far-seeing deity who
wishes to bring civilization to the frontiers, order to the wilds, and
wealth to all who support the progression of law. He strikes a careful
balance between good and evil, seeing benefits of both sides and refusing to
endorse one or the other. His followers believe he is responsible for elevating
the demihuman races from simple tribes to beings capable of creating huge
cities. He puts words of diplomacy in the mouths of men, guides the pens of
those who write laws, and steers coins into the hands of those who practice
Abadar is the master and guardian of the First Vault, a magical trove in his realm where a perfect version of every creature and creation exists—a perfect sword, a perfect deer, a perfect wheel, and even a perfect law. His mortal artists and craftsman attempt to emulate these perfect forms, inspired by Abadar’s mentoring. Likewise, his arbiters and judges keep these idealized laws in mind when crafting new laws or ruling on existing ones. It is said that centuries ago he allowed mortals to visit the First Vault in dreams. There has been no record of this in a long time, perhaps because he has not found someone worthy, because he fears his enemies might steal the perfect forms, or because he is pacing the advance of civilization to prevent it from growing too quickly and dissolving before it is ready.
The god of cities is stern but rewards those who work hard and whose actions benefit others as well as themselves, though he is morally ambiguous enough to recognize that not every person can benefit from every decision. Misusing slaves or beasts of burden is a waste of resources and detrimental to the profitability of a farm and civilization as a whole, and using cheaply-paid laborers rather than slaves is a better option, but Abadar understands that the world changes in small increments and the most advantageous option for society is not always the most workable in the present. He respects cautious thought and rejects impulsiveness, seeing it as a base and destructive whim. He teaches that discipline, keen judgment, and following the law eventually leads to wealth, comfort, and happiness. He does not believe in free handouts, and because of this his temples sell potions and healing spells or scrolls rather than giving them to those in need. Any who protest are pointed at the temple of Sarenrae.
His primary worshipers are judges, merchants, lawyers, and aristocrats, all of whom benefit from established laws and commerce. Those who are poor or who have been wronged also worship him, praying he might help reverse their ill fortune, for most mortals seek wealth and the happiness it brings. He expects his followers to abide by local laws (though not foolish, contradictory, toothless, or purposeless laws) and work to promote order and peace. He has no tolerance for gambling or excessive drinking. Abadar’s personal intervention in the mortal world is usually in the form of hints or opportunities rather than direct gifts.
Worshipers who lose Abadar’s favor might find themselves short on money at a crucial time, tongue-tied in the middle of an important deal, or stymied in their craft or art. When he is pleased, deals are more profitable than expected, projects are completed early, and journeys to or within a city take less time than normal. His intervention is subtle, for he expects worshipers to do their own work. Abadar is depicted as a handsome man with black hair dressed in fine garments, often with a gold cloak over a golden breastplate and bearing many keys. Humans, dwarves, and gnomes show him with a beard, whereas elves show him beardless and with long braids tied with golden thread. His voice is pleasant and even, his words firm but not harsh.
Abadar is lawful neutral and his portfolio is cities, wealth, merchants, and law. His domains are Earth, Law, Nobility, Protection, and Travel, and his favored weapon is the crossbow. His holy symbol is a golden key, often with a city image on the head. Most of his clergy are clerics, with a small number of paladins. Due to the emphasis on cities and civilization, he has no adepts—even the most remote settlements paying homage to Abadar are watched over by a cleric or paladin. He is called the Master of the First Vault, Judge of the Gods, and the Gold-Fisted.
Abadar’s church is well organized and has a city-based hierarchy. The church in each city is independent, encouraging friendly competition between cities to promote trade. Church law forbids the clergy from attacking each other regardless of political, national, or financial motivations. If two rival cities go to war, the churches of Abadar often become neutral territory, not participating in the struggle and acting as safe havens and mediators in the conflict. Warfare creates instability and chips away at the foundations of civilization.
Ritual garb for religious ceremonies includes white silk cloth trimmed with gold thread, a belt or necklace of gold links bearing a golden key, and a half-cloak of deep yellow or gold. Ceremonial items are always crafted out of precious metals if available and often decorated with gems or inlays, though not to the extent that the item becomes fragile or unusable.
Services to Abadar include songs with complex harmonies, the playing of music (usually hammer-based instruments such as dulcimers and glockenspiels), and the counting or sorting of coins or keys (often in time with the singing or music). Services and ceremonies always take place indoors, representing the shelter of civilization. Faithful unable to reach an actual building make do with at least a crude structure or a even a sloping wall or cave that provides protection from the elements. Services usually take place in the morning and it is customary to thank Abadar after a profitable or advantageous transaction.
Abadar’s temples are elaborate buildings with rich decorations and high, thick stained-glass windows. These windows have small frames (to guard against thieves) and usually feature vivid yellow glass that casts a golden hue on everything within the church. Most temples have a guarded vault for church treasures and wealth, and many also rent space in their vault to those who wish a safe place to keep their valuables. Any temple in a small town or larger settlement also serves as a bank, currency exchange, and moneylender, which helps keep interest rates reasonable and consistent. The head of the temple (known as a Banker or Archbanker) watches the local economy and adjusts interest to stimulate growth, encourage investment, or help recover from a disaster. As priests often serve as lawyers and judges, the temples are usually built near courthouses.
Abadar’s basic tenet is simple—people should use their gifts to advance civilization in the world so commerce happens and people can go about their orderly lives and achieve comfort and happiness. His clerics are the agents of civilization, turning trails into roads and towns into cities while always enforcing law. They eliminate monsters and troublemakers in urban and rural areas, adjudicate disputes, make legal rulings, and reassure law-abiding people that the forces of order are watching over them. Many city-bound clerics work with the local legal system as judges, lawyers, and clerks (donating their services much as a healing-oriented church might run a hospice or give food to the needy), although they are not usually part of the city’s government. In wilder areas, clerics act as judge and jury, seeking out threats to civilization and eliminating them. Younger priests who are physically fit do many tours through smaller towns and frontier areas to carry news and make sure order leaves its footprint. As meters of justice each priest traditionally carries a single golden-headed crossbow bolt for when a criminal must be executed. This bolt goes to the dead criminal’s family as compensation for the loss and a means to make an honest living.
Although Abadar’s temples are mercenary when it comes to providing healing, as guardians of civilization they are more generous when protecting the public health. Likewise, when traveling with others (such as an adventuring party) they do not charge their companions for healing any more than they expect a fighter to charge for each swordswing or a rogue to charge for each picked lock. Like a business, questing and traveling requires teamwork, and it is part of the cleric’s responsibility to provide healing and magical support.
A typical cleric has at least 1 rank in Knowledge (local) in order to be familiar with the laws of his home city. Most also dabble in knowledge of local history and nobility or practice some sort of craft or profession—always something useful to a developing or established settlement. Clerics are not permitted to give money to those in need, only to lend it at a fair rate and record the transaction for the church’s record. They are required to tithe, and most clerics have small investments in local businesses that generate enough income to cover the tithe. Those with no mind for business but a talent for dealing with people often work as teachers, educating children and adults so they can advance themselves and better serve the community. Every cleric belongs to a city temple, even those touring remote areas. If circumstances warrant distant travel or a long period near another city, the home temple files paperwork transferring the cleric’s affiliation to a closer temple.
A typical day for a cleric involves waking, breakfast, prayer, reading or hearing the local news for anything worth investigating, and a period of work. At night, there is a brief prayer before the evening meal, and the evening is reserved for hobbies, family, or other non-work interests. Spell preparation takes place after morning prayers.
Paladins are not common in the faith (with perhaps one paladin for every 50 clerics), as their zealous push for good doesn’t sit perfectly within Abadar’s more balanced approach to ethics. As many frontier areas are plagued by evil monsters, though, and the forces of chaos are usually aligned with evil or are evil themselves, the god understands that an active force for good is sometimes best for the job. Abadar’s paladins are unusual in that they tend to be flashy in their clothing and equipment, as a way to inspire others to join the cause, and use their money and influence to extend the reach of civilization.
Because of their specialized interests and abilities, paladins of the Judge sometimes work behind the scenes in lawful evil nations where the leaders are exploiting the economy at the expense of their subjects. In such realms, the paladins’ primary goal is to balance the movement of wealth in the area, but if a few evil leaders fall and in the end the region is more skewed toward neutrality or good, so be it. Paladins tend to be more fiscally aggressive than clerics, willing to invest in promising enterprises, take a loss on a deal in order to motivate trade, and take greater risks with their money.
The followers of Abadar are meticulous record-keepers, and the general population regards most of their stories and parables as fact.
Eagle’s Eye: Eagles play a significant role in several Abadaran myths. The faithful honor them for their farseeing eyes that search for subtle details and the high flights that give them perspective. One prominent myth says that Abadar spends a day each year in the form of a two-headed eagle (representing his even perspective on both sides of every situation). He soars above the greatest mortal cities and observes their craft and commerce. If members of the faithful find and recognize him, he grants them boons that greatly profit them and their towns.
The First Vault: As nomadic tribes began to create permanent settlements, they established permanent places to keep important or valuable things. Sensing a need for a godly version of these caches, the young god Abadar sought a place in his realm where he could keep the perfect forms of anything ever created or witnessed by civilization. He found a deep cave with an even floor and used his powers to carve additional space and seal it with a huge door of gold. He placed within the vault pure, godly representations of the first mortal creations and was pleased to see that others appeared as mortals did their work. Abadar locked the vault with a great key so that if a civilization failed, its works would persist and could be taught to or discovered by those who came after. In honor of this great undertaking, the priests of the Master of the First Vault emulate him by keeping detailed records of their accomplishments.
Zorin’s Pledge: Long ago, an army of barbarians and undead besieged the home city of a priest named Zorin. Faced with grim odds and dreading the pillaging the army would bring, he swore an oath to Abadar that he would give his life and soul to protect his city from the raiders. When the horde charged the city gate, Zorin stepped forward to repel them, and with each hit he took more of his armor turned to gold. Even his skin took on a golden hue, until eventually he was transformed into the Lawgiver, the golden herald of Abadar’s faith. Zorin vanished after the battle, but he has been known to spontaneously arrive to defend a city in great need.
All of the Church of Abadar’s observed holidays have to do with trade or civilization.
Market’s Door: This holiday marks the first day the markets receive goods from the fall harvest. The actual date varies from year to year, but between historical trends and simple divination the church can announce the exact date a month in advance. Before the market opens, a priest blesses the market area and leads a group prayer for all present, thanking Abadar and asking for his eye to look favorably upon the season’s business. In cities where the vendors must pay a fee in order to use the market, the church usually subsidizes a portion of the fee on this day for the earliest arrivals.
Taxfest: The church views the annual collecting of taxes as a cause for celebration, seeing fair taxation as a necessary part of the building and maintenance of civilization. Whenever possible, the church sends a priest with each taxman to ensure that the process is respectful and to make sure the taxpayer knows the collection is being monitored. Once all monies have been collected, the church opens up its doors and invites the townsfolk to participate in an enormous feast with their civic leaders, both to help the experience remain positive and to give the commoners a chance to express their opinions on how the newly collected funds ought to be spent.
As Abadar is the god of cities, the sayings of his followers are commonplace in urban areas.
Used in trials to indicate Abadar’s approval of any verdict, this phrase is repeated for any legal proclamation or sentencing. It is also traditionally said at the end of any Abadaran prayer or blessing, weddings (a legal and religious matter), and funerals. Superstitious folk whisper it whenever an act in the natural world supports their idea of law and justice, and many gamblers say it when chance goes in their favor (a mildly sacrilegious jest).
Because the church doesn’t believe in giving handouts, most choose to celebrate holidays by giving practical gifts such as tools, musical instruments, or even simple services like chopping a cord of wood or watching children. These kinds of gifts strengthen community bonds and show the advantage of living like civilized folk. This phrase is said when receiving a gift as a way of expressing thanks while acknowledging the benefit the gift extends to the community as a whole.
Abadar understands that an advanced civilization has many spiritual needs, and different members of a society pray to different gods, thus he tries to maintain an approachable coolness where other deities are concerned. Only those who directly oppose his beliefs and purpose—notably Rovagug and to a lesser extent Lamashtu—are his declared enemies, and while he might be willing to negotiate with them for some purpose, they routinely refuse to do so. He is friendly with Erastil (god of farming, necessary for transitioning from a nomadic lifestyle), Iomedae (goddess of justice and rulership, necessary to preserve peace in a society), Irori (god of history and knowledge, critical for a stable civilization) Shelyn (goddess of art and music, excellent traditions), and even Asmodeus (although only for the archdevil’s belief in upholding contracts). Abadar knows that his pursuits frequently anger Gozreh (god of nature), who would like to see the natural parts of the world remain unspoiled, but he believes the two can eventually reach a compromise.
The average cleric of Abadar is rarely without numerous
documents related to the internal processes of the church,
but their holiest texts have a more educational focus.
This book reads more like a city charter or legal treatise than a religious text. It is the core book of the faith and most editions are elaborately decorated and exquisitely penned—usually a paid commission by the priest or temple, as this generates business in the community. In addition to more than two dozen chapters detailing the beliefs and taboos of the church, each copy has space for notes on local laws, how they interact with church doctrine, names of key figures in the city, and so on. Given its size, every copy has an index and includes pages at the end for the owner to note the location of favorite or commonly-referenced passages. The inside cover bears the name of the book’s owner, and possessing a book belonging to a prestigious family or passed down from a respected church official is a great honor.
This book is normally bound in heavy leather with bronze clasps and corners, designed for heavy use and frequent reference. It contains comprehensive advice on how to successfully found a town and build it up into a city, with sections on planning for water needs, sewage, roads, trade, defenses, and so on. Each section contains scriptural anecdotes bolstering the factual information, including prayers and blessings for each aspect of the building process. The church updates this book every few years with information it has learned since the last edition, and hence most older copies have an appendix for changes and footnotes. The oldest church in a city usually keeps its copy of this book on a special consecrated table, especially if the church was responsible for the city’s founding.
Justiciars embody law and civilization wherever they go, from the most corrupt depths of a city slum to the wildest frontier lands. They arbitrate disputes, deal with criminals, and establish law where there is none. In pleasant times they are diplomats, in dangerous ones they are judge, jury, and executioner. Their feet leave trails destined to become great roads, and their decrees carry the force of law. Being a justiciar is a serious duty and is not taken lightly—they tend to wear down over time, weathered not from travel and sunlight but from the heavy burden of carrying civilization forward into the future. A rare few pursue heretics of their own religion, keeping the faith stable and weeding out unruly elements. Each is sworn to uphold a religious or secular code.
Justiciars are usually clerics or paladins of Abadar, but order-minded individuals of other classes (particularly fighters, monks, and wizards) sometimes heed the calling to tend the roots of enlightened society.
While the even-tempered Abadar has few enemies, there are a few individuals who have particularly distinguished themselves as friends of the faith. Abadar’s herald, the golden titan known as the Lawgiver.
This celestial hippogriff is tawny with a white head, and normally appears wearing a set of mithral breastplate barding (which is light enough that he can still fly when wearing it). He is battle-trained and accepts a rider without question. “Old Cob,” as his friends call him, rarely speaks, but understands Common, Celestial, and several other languages. He loves eating deer or cattle, and presenting him with such a gift is a sure way to get on his good side. He has grown feisty in his old age and doesn’t appreciate “youngsters” talking down to him or treating him like a mere beast. He is lawful neutral.
This frail-looking, transparent man was once a wealthy priest of Abadar and now serves his god in death. When he was alive he frequently warned against overcrowding in cities and encouraged the faithful to found new settlements rather than pack in like rats. He sometimes appears in the mortal world as a harbinger of coming plague (intended as a warning to move out or improve living conditions) and as such is considered a “grim reaper” sort of figure by those who recognize him. He has all the abilities of a spectre except that he cannot create spawn; if summoned, turning him merely sends him back to Abadar’s realm.