The idea behind this is to give you a subversive group to add to some city, kingdom, or other location in your game, and to potentially tempt your players with. In the interest of usability, I’m going to try to stick to the basics, and keep time-sensitive material (i.e. swords, lasers) out of the picture. Feel free to use this in a game set in any time period.
The Ouroboros is a depiction of a serpent – and sometimes a dragon – eating its own tail, and in doing so making a cycle. It is a symbol of eternity, of the cyclical nature of life, and of something that lasts forever because at its end is its own beginning.
Ouroboros is the symbol of the Cult of Eternity’s Path, and all members must wear its mark on some part of their body. Some choose to do this with jewelery, rings and medallions (being the most common and popular). Some choose to do it with tattoos, permanently marking their body with the symbol of their devotion. Others, from the more extreme camp, ritually burn and scar the symbol into their flesh, marking themselves with their devotion through a sacrifice of pain. The cult itself truly does not care which way any particular member chooses to show their membership, provided that they do in fact show their membership.
It should come as little surprise that the Cult of Eternity’s Path are snake worshippers. Snakes have long been symbols of fertility, eternity, creation, and wisdom. They are associated with water, life giving and pure; and with the underground, shelter from the harsh elements that would do us all in.
The Cult believes that it is only when shrouded in night’s gentle cloak that we are truly free to be ourselves, free from shame and the judgement of others. They take as proof of this that man has always felt more free to indulge his baser nature at night, and that many of the things that make us, as humans, feel the most alive are best suited to the night.
The Cult believes that it is the subjugation and the oppression of those in power, those who would shackle humanity as slaves, that have dragged man out into the unforgiving heat and light of the sun. That it is because of those people, that man is shackled to his, or her, work and made to only feel value through toil and struggle on another’s behalf, and not from the exultation and experience of all that life has to offer.
The Cult believes that it is the repression of those who would enslave mankind that is responsible for the most abhorrent crimes in human history. That it is repression of the self, that makes the repressed become more and more debased, and less and less human. They believe that it is through enjoying life, exulting in its activities, and feeding one’s dark and more base cravings that will bring about understanding and true peace to the world. That it is only when people are not afraid to be themselves, that they will truly be able to feel accepted and loved, and through that love they will be healed.
Finally, the Cult believes that they are merely harbingers for the change to come. Their job is to recruit all those who would listen, to join them in the dark of night and live life as it was meant to be lived. When the world is ready, when they have spread the word far enough, then the Great Serpent’s chosen will walk the earth and free humanity from the tyranny and oppression that it has suffered under for millennium, and on that day, the gift of eternal life will be given to us all.
The temples, shrines, and gathering places for the cult are all underground, where the oppressive gaze of the sun can not find them. Rituals and devotions are led at night, but they are not the strictly organized and orderly ceremonies of other religions. Instead, the Cult exults in chaos, randomness, and impulse. They express their spirituality and beliefs through temptation and giving in to the desires of the flesh. In short, they are hedonists and as such believe that pleasure is the highest calling in life. It is a calling they intend to answer as well.
To the uninitiated, it would not be hard to misconstrue what was going on at a cult meeting as a simple orgy of sex, drugs, and violence, and yet there is more going on than just that. While there is sex, there is no rejection among the members and all are accepted. While there is drug use, without the pressures from society to escape from, and the acceptance of the other members, there is very little in the way of overdosing and other members of the cult watch over to ensure that doesn’t happen. Finally, while there is violence, it is never armed combat and there is rarely anything worse than bruises and scratches to show.
It is in these ways that the cult reaffirms its beliefs that the removal of repression will set humanity free. After all, they have allowed their members to indulge, and have had nearly no problems with over-indulgence.
All of this isn’t to say that the Cult is just an excuse for hedonism. There is still a strong spiritual nature amongst their membership, and devotional services are performed and led by higher ranking members of the cult. Such services often denounce the oppressive regimes that humanity finds itself under, and the need for acceptance of not just each other, but of life and the pleasures it has to give.
While there is a mixture in the higher rankings of the cult, at the very top the cult is matriarchal. It is in the mother’s embrace, and only in a mother’s love, that true acceptance can be found after all, and the cult uses this to ground their beliefs in the oldest and most primal of humanity’s religions.
Promotion within is based on performance for the cult. Those who take on a role of helping their fellow members, and of leading others to the path that will save humanity, find themselves raised up by their peers to the higher status. It is only after a person has been unofficially elevated by those equal to them, that they are officially elevated to further help guide those whom they are already helping.
Despite the ‘all accepting’ nature of the beliefs, membership is still a selective process. One can not ask to join the cult, they must be invited inside. Often, this will happen when a member of the cult opens a friend, relative, or other social connection’s eyes to the truth of the world and how so much of existence is denying what it is that makes us human. Afterwards, the recruiter will speak to a higher member in the local chapter of the cult, and bring their recruit to meet with this member. From there, the person will either be invited to join, or deemed unready to receive the full revelation. No one is ever turned away forever, but the cult claims it will not accept those who are not yet ready to have their eyes fully opened.
The cult claims it is a good thing, and so far everything has been from their perspective. However, it should be unsurprising that the cult has enemies. Their actions are decried as subversive and corrupting. Members of the cult often pedal wares (sex, drugs, etc) that society has deemed unacceptable and undesirable. Their recruitment processes are considered little more than a seduction of the innocent.
All of these claims are even easier to claim when you also account that the Cult are snake worshippers (often seen as a deceiver and manipulator) who hide from the sun (light is good, remember?), and feel that people should explore their baser nature to be who they really are. Compared to those, the drugs, sex, and violence are almost paltry side affairs.
I leave it up to you to decide if the cult is up to something more sinister (setting up a power base for a revolution of some sort perhaps, or just making tons of money for drug cartels and prostitution rings), or truly believes and act as laid out here. Don’t be afraid to twist it up and use them as a wholesome group that is truly just trying to help. Odds are, your players will never see it coming.