The Land of Dungeons and Dragons
THE BARD OF RAGE
Madgod, Lord of Nightmares, Joybringer, the Shattered Smile
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic; see below.
PORTFOLIO: Passion, Insanity, Devotion, Unmaking
DOMAINS: Destruction (Rage),
FAVOURED WEAPON: Club, or Improvised; Instead of a favoured weapon, Clerics of the Bard choose Tavern Brawler.
THE BARD OF RAGE is a god of whimsy and horror, joy and terror, laughter and fury, the chaos within his shattered mind reflected in the unpredictability of everything and anything around him.
The lore associated with the Bard is messy and inconsistent at best, but the picture it builds is an unsettling one. In the tales which have survived for study he wears one of three faces, which his followers once called the Child, the Puppeteer and the Monster, and nobody can know which one they are dealing with until it is already too late. He is the god of innocence, but this includes innocence lost; rarely does any civilization remember both these truths, and few have ever welcomed his worship.
PANTHEONS AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Bard of Rage appears in the worship of two different pantheons as well as individually.
In the PANTHEON OF BLOOD, he is the god of miracles and enduring faith, scorned by most of his allies for his apparent lack of power but smiling nonetheless. It is said that the Bard will love you even if none other will, and yet his love is rarely sought- for although he is cheerful and hard to offend, only the KNIGHT OF BLOOD can calm his murderous rage once madness takes him.
Within the STARWALKERS, a pantheon whose worship has faded in all but a few lands, he is both the trickster and the traitor, an unpredictable element in the plans of both Seers who sometimes helps and sometimes hinders his supposed allies. Whether he loved the KNIGHT OF BLOOD or duped him into providing aid is a matter best left to theologians and storytellers, but he hates the KNIGHT OF TIME and the SEER OF MIND. It is said that he drew her from her true calling into the darkness, where he hides from the other gods. In this pantheon he is the God of Death as it was he who slew the children of the SYLPH OF SPACE and put their bodies in the sky, where they light the world below and let him dance at night.
Alone, he is a deity of cults, of madmen and mendicants and murderers. Scattered superstitions and customs the world over are thought to be lost fragments of his worship and yet few will admit to being his followers. Tales that are known of him or thought to be of him tell of his lonely wanderings, his whimsical encounters, and his love for the light of the moons. He avoids other gods, and they spurn him; the SEER OF MIND is often his adversary and at times his lover, but aside from the KNIGHT OF BLOOD the only other god who seems to tolerate his presence for long is the SEER OF LIGHT.
As an antagonist to other pantheons or deities, he is often cast in the role of the traitor or deceiver, often working in service of a great and unknowable evil. His presence in the legends of others has long proved unsettling to students of the divine as he suggests the existence of something greater than the gods and deeply inimical to them. Many scholars argue that this being is simply a creation of his own insanity, but either way, the actions of the Bard as an enemy of other gods are only for the good if it serves a greater evil.
APPEARANCE AND EMISSARIES
The Bard of Rage has the most varied depictions of any god, taking the appearance of any that would follow him. He is most often tall and thin with wild hair and shadowed eyes. Depictions show his face painted- sometimes as if for a carnival, sometimes as if for war- and sometimes with three long scars across it. He is frequently shown with clubs, either holding them as weapons or juggling them as toys, and whatever clothes he wears he dresses in black, grey and purple.
Few things are sacred to the Bard of Rage, and this extends to living creatures. It has however been noted that although the god generally appreciates blood sacrifice, he will grant disproportionate favor for a goat and appears to be angered if a bull is killed as an offering. He also takes an interest in performing animals or those who are used for entertainment- which can mean breaking the chain that binds the dancing bear, or causing the pit dog to turn on its master.
This eerie puppet is associated with three different deities and thus cannot be considered a true servant of the Bard. To those who follow the teachings of the Cults of Rage, Cal is a sign of approval and a directive to action; those who see him are considered chosen for a mission. What that mission is and how lethal it might prove are entirely debatable, but to refuse such a calling is to draw the wrath of the Bard himself.
The Mask of Madness
This accursed mask, marked by three gouges across the face of the wood, is said to grant the wearer great power- but that anyone who wears it is slowly driven insane. Tales tell of the voices that whisper to those foolish or unlucky enough to gain possession of this artifact, urging them to abandon rationality and do the bidding of the mask’s true master.
The Box of Miracles
Said to be the archetype for such items as the Deck of Many Things and the Rod of Wonder, this ornate and colorful box has appeared time and again throughout history and legend. According to the stories, when opened it causes something to happen- but exactly what happens is completely unpredictable. In one story it gives an entire kingdom blue hair and monkey tails; in another, it unleashes a storm that destroys a city in fire and rains of blood and stone. Only the truly desperate or foolhardy would ever open such a thing, knowing that anything could result.
Cults of the Bard have never had the social power or number of followers enjoyed by other gods, but then the god has never indicated any desire for such. Each of his cults exists in isolation and often in secret, following their own traditions and beliefs- it is not entirely unknown for two opposed cults to engage in clandestine, cloak-and-dagger warfare with each other. Since the fall of the Church of Blood the more prominent and benevolent cults of the Bard have faded, leaving only scattered and dangerous fragments to represent him in the world.
WORSHIPERS AND CLERGY
Clerics and most followers of the Bard of Rage are Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil only. It is unknown which of these alignments the god shares, and it is speculated to vary depending on his mood or which of his faces he wears.
Followers of the Bard are entertainers, lunatics, fanatics and psychopaths. He draws to him people who live in the moment and have little use for the laws of society, weaving instead worlds of fantasy for the mind to inhabit.
The clergy of the Bard are primarily Oracles, self-taught and driven by the fires of divine revelation, or Bards who weave myth and mystery together into magic. His devout followers are usually thought to be nothing but mindless, bloodthirsty marauders, but in fact there are cults of entertainers who follow him in secret and keep the old ways alive.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Places of worship for the Bard of Rage have never been permanent affairs, his believers preferring small shrines or portable tents in accordance with their needs. In recent times many of his good or neutral worshipers have given up on obvious places of worship entirely, in no small part due to the sinister reputation of his more malicious followers.
Every Cult of Rage produces its own book of teachings, generally written by one or more divinely inspired individuals. Many of these books were burned during the Purge and many more were lost, stolen or hidden away for safe keeping. However, from what has been recovered, it is apparent that the books can be divided into three categories swiftly distinguishable by the formatting of the title, and traditionally associated with one of the three faces of the god.
Distinguished by irregular or alternating runes or letters, HoNk texts are thought to relate to the Child aspect of the Bard. These accounts often take the form of childlike stories, sketches, and rambling diatribes on various things that could be considered wonderous. Despite the wide-eyed innocence and vivid imagination present in them, many of the Child texts contain an undercurrent of loneliness and bittersweet discovery. One of the most is a scroll ten feet long, on which is written a single poem following the life of the poet through the description of every beautiful, strange or sad thing they ever saw. It is considered one of the world’s greatest works of art, and yet is thought to have been the only thing the poet ever wrote.
Distinguished by runes or letters that are small or somehow “quietened”, honk texts are thought to relate to the Puppeteer aspect of the Bard. These accounts are most usually stories or letters which seem simple or even happy on the surface, but which with further reading and study hide terrible things under their unassuming surface. Several of them are rumoured to drive the reader mad, and even more disturbingly there are hints that many common folk tales may well have their roots in the Puppeteer texts- some of them barely altered from the original stories at all.
Distinguished by runes or letters that are large or somehow “louder”, HONK texts are thought to relate to the Monster aspect of the Bard. These tomes are the most varied of the books and yet all are alike; each is the author’s chosen literary expression of unfettered fury. Two of the most famous recovered Monster texts are on display in the Theology Department at the University on the Arcane Isle. The first is crudely sewn together from the tanned skin of sentients and written in blood, simply reading “HONK” over and over again for five hundred pages. The second is an elegant and understated book twice that size, in which each page is an impeccably-punctuated and stomach-turning description of what the writer did to a new and different victim.
Cults and temples of the Bard consider more or less anything to be an excuse for a party, although what precisely that entails varies depending on the nature of the sect in question. Intoxicants, company and a certain amount of gleeful abandon are generally considered essential, but this can range from a sugar-fueled childish paint-fight to a drug-hazed blood-soaked orgy.