I sometimes browse the forums over at The Giant in the Playground (home of the Order of the Stick, a fantastic D&D Web comic). Last month, I entered a design contest held on the boards. The contest's theme was Summer. Here is my entry.
Name: The SummerKin
At dawn on the longest day of the year. dancing feet and thundering paws pound the earth in an ancient rhythm, and the SummerKin rejoice! All that long day, these sun worshippers -- wemics and humans, mostly -- gather to celebrate the summer's bounty, to court and to trade, to sing and to play. The LightSisters plan how best to guide the clans and prides over the coming year, and the LightBrothers bask in the sunshine.
But at sunset on the shortest day of the year, voices lift in prayer, and the SummerKin grieve. The LightBrothers sing to coax the sun to return, and the LightSisters huddle close by to keep warm during the long night.
All year long, the SummerKin thrive under the sun, growing strong in the light. And that is good, because those who follow newer gods often persecute them and drive them out.
General description: The SummerKin are a survival of an ancient culture that worships the sun as a diety. They use only bronze, copper, and gold metals, which they view as holy, disdaining iron, silver, and others. They stand out from other folk with their flowing white, yellow, and red clothes; with their white tents and wagons; with their strange wild music, with their ornate and beautiful copper rings and bracelets. They never wear hats or helms, not wanting “protection” from the sun. They are often nomadic, wandering from place to place selling humble wares, performing as street entertainers, or following herds that they tend or hunt. When they settle in one place, they are often scorned or abused, so that they tend to distrust outsiders and move on at any sign of trouble.
Purpose: The SummerKin are sun worshippers who harken back to an older time. In their small numbers, unusual beliefs, and dedication to keeping apart, the word "cult" is not inaccurate. Their traditions are rooted in ancient wemic beliefs: they live for the day, dance in the light, and rejoice in nature. But they are mocked and persecuted, both for the cultural practices that set them apart, as well as for the “heresy” of sun worship. Their goal is to simply live in a hostile world, to be at peace under the sun.
Alignment: The SummerKin are primarily good in alignment, although those who are born into the organization can be of any alignment. Most of those who do not agree with the ethos of the cult, however, strike out on their own when they come of age.
Economics/Benefits/Restrictions: The SummerKin are usually dirt poor (individuals have the expected value of possessions based on level, see DMG), but members do gain some advantages and suffer under some penalties ...
Membership Requirements: Any person wishing to join the SummerKin must declare this intention at a Summermass festival and live by the cult's restrictions for an entire year, until the next Summermass. At that time, if four SummerKin speak in favor of the candidate, then the person is accepted. There is no formal hierarchy for advancement, but one gains great respect by learning the Wemic tongue and becoming a LightBrother or LightSister.
- Restriction 1: SummerKin must celebrate two holy days. Summermass, the longest day of the year, is a day for celebration. Wintermass, the shortest day, is a day of contemplation and mourning. If possible, a member must gather with other SummerKin on these days.
- Restriction 2: SummerKin must not use any taboo metals – that is, any metals other than the holy metals of gold, copper, and bronze. They may use only bronze weapons and armor (see DMG, page 144). They may not use magic items that are made from taboo metals. They can use nonmetal items freely. Taboo metals can be traded, if handled with blessed leather gloves.
- Restriction 3: SummerKin must keep their heads uncovered. They cannot use hats or helms, and they cannot use magic items that fill the hat/helm or goggles body slots.
- Restriction 4: They may not honor any other god than the sun.
- Benefit 1: News from far off places travels among the SummerKin’s far-flung clans and prides. DMs might award members a bonus to Gather Info and Knowledge (Local) rolls of +1 or +2 if there are NPC SummerKin nearby.
- Benefit 2: Smiths in the cult retain knowledge of how to make bronze weapons and armor; SummerKin can purchase those from NPC members. Seers in the cult are somewhat rarer, but when available they are usually happy to tell fortunes or share stories from days gone by (for example, via bardic lore).
- Benefit 3: The SummerKin have a tradition of dance and music. They are lovers of the outdoors, and they know how to live off the land. Members can take ranks in Perform and Survival as class skills.
- Benefit 4: If at least 100 SummerKin gather for a Summermass festival, there will be enough people present to Weave Sunbeams. This ceremony creates magic items by weaving sunbeams together. A SummerKin willing to sacrifice gold and experience points can make magic items at Summermass even if the he or she has no item creation feats and even if the SummerKin is not a spell caster. Actual gold (not gems nor platinum nor other items) in the required amount is distilled into the making of the item. At any given Summermass, a SummerKin can make one of the following items in the feast's single day, spending the usual gp and xp: a Sun Blade, a Fire Elemental Gem, a Gem of Brightness, a Gem of Seeing, any Ioun Stone, a Luckstone, a Lens of Detection, or a lesser or standard Strand of Prayer Beads (not the greater strand). These items are made of a golden-colored diamond-like substance that has the properties of adamantine.
Authority Figures: The LightBrothers protect and sustain the SummerKin (see associated prestige class). The LightSisters guide the SummerKin with wisdom and foresight (they tend to be druids, bards, sorcerers, and seers).
The foremost LightBrother is a wemic named Liram the Peaceful: If you use a stock 5 hit die wemic like the one from Monsters of Faerun, then he is a Wemic5/Ranger2/LightBrother10; if you use less powerful liontaur rules, then he is a Ranger5/LightBrother10. He is calm and careful, seldom resorting to violence, striving to keep the peace among wemic tribes and with outside enemies.
The most respected LightSister is a human named Calo the Far-Seeing, a Druid3/Sorceer4/Seer6. She is known for the truth of her dream-visions, as well as for her skill in interpreting omens.
Racial Makeup: Wemics 63%, Humans 35%, Others (gnomes, halflings) 2%
Class Makeup: Experts 40%, Commoners 15%, Warriors 15%, Rangers 10%, Bards 5%, Druids 5%, LightBrothers and LightSisters, 5%, Other 5%. Experts tend to be hunters, peddlers, crafters, animal handlers, and performers.
Wemics are known for their bravery, hunting prowess, and nobility, but not for embracing new things. While humans and other two-leggers created empires and intricate works of magic, wemics lived the same way for thousands of years, thriving where the land was too hot or dry or dangerous for weaker races. The SummerKin are the ancient remainder of a bronze-age wemic belief in the divinity of the sun.
Historically, the cult survived only among certain wemic tribes, isolated from other races. But as human populations grew over recent centuries, pushing against wemic territory, more humans encountered wemic SummerKin, either in slave pits, passing through liontaur territory, or in meetings of adventurers. Ever willing to try new things, some of those humans learned the wemic language and adopted the old religion.
- DC 14 - SummerKin are wandering folk with strange taboos who tell fortunes, sing and dance, and peddle simple wares.
- DC17 - Summerkin hate to touch iron, although they will trade it. They wear white robes and copper bracelets, and they never cover their heads. Some call them heretics because they worship the sun.
- DC20 - There are many liontaur SummerKin as well as humans who are members of the cult. Some say that there are more liontaur SummerKin than humans, and that the Cult started among wemics.
- DC25 - The leaders of the SummerKin are called LightBrothers and LightSisters. Their holy days are at midsummer and midwinter, and at the summer festival they weave sunlight into magic items.
Low Level: Clerics of Pelor have been sermonizing against local SummerKin. A mob, inflamed by the preaching, is set to lynch two SummerKin families. The party can intervene just in time, and then escort the families safely to a new home. As a reward, the Summerkin give the PCs copper jewelry and tell their fortunes.
Middle Level: A wemic LightBrother meets the party and offers to join them. A LightSister told the wemic that he was fated to meet these heroes and help them save the tribe from a rampaging herd of gorgons. What she did not tell him was that he was destined to die (or be stoned?) in doing so. Reward: Several charged magic items made at Summermass celebrations.
High Level: An evil theocrat has initiated an organized nationwide persecution of hundreds of SummerKin, who are being rounded up and massacred. The PCs must convince the theocrat to change his dictum, or they must rescue the SummerKin, or overthrow the despot, or save the day in some other way. Reward: Sunblades all around!
Next time: The LightBrother Prestige Class.