The Fourth King
(Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, the Ancient)
Description: Many human households across the land engage in ancestor-worship. Whole communities may venerate a likeness of a particularly influential figure from their area’s history even when there is no family connection. Most such divinities do not even achieve the power or presence of common spirits, but at least one dead human has reached practical godhood. This is the so-called Fourth King, although most inhabitants have no idea what his name was or what kingdom he might have ruled, long before the archipelago was unified under the Imperial throne.
The Fourth King occasionally appears as a shadowy figure in his shrine, or riding within his (closed) palanquin during the parade at the culmination of his annual festival, and many agree that the outline shows a wise, bearded man wearing the clothing and bearing the bronze accouterments of old. He is a simple ancestor-deity, conferring mild aid on those who worship him and apparently taking no other interest in earthly affairs. He cannot communicate directly with humans, although the priests who serve at his shrine will consult him through various oracular methods.
Worshipers: Yes. The Fourth King’s worship centers in a particular village, where his festival is held and his shrine maintained, but families across the region practice his worship, and a significant number of them claim to be descended from the aristocracy of his kingdom.
Servitors: No. Some ceremonies of the Fourth King’s worship involve abstracted courtiers who no doubt have real identities as other worshiped ancestors in the region, but none are powerful enough to lend him meaningful aid or even present enough to communicate outside of rare cryptic omens.
Confrontation: The Fourth King is immaterial at the best of times and cannot be harmed directly, although those who oppose him can certainly get caught up in a protracted battle with his worshipers. Aside from human retribution against his enemies, the Fourth King has the capacity to hinder those who displease him in myriad subtle ways. This manifests mechanically as a -1 penalty to all rolls, or -2 while in his home village. These penalties double when the character is acting directly against the interests of the King, and double again if they are acting specifically in opposition to one of his followers.
The Fourth King may be attacked only through the tokens of his worship: the artifacts of his shrine and festival, and the images or statues through which people honor him across the land, especially the oldest likenesses possessed by his actual descendants. Destroying or consuming enough of these will break his power, and count as destroying or consuming the god himself.
Aspect: Family, history, kingly skills. Those present at defeat may boost their Life meter by one.
Powers – Tier 1: The character gains access to several of the Fourth King’s skills. They may add +1 to six of Concentration, Craft: Calligraphy, any local Language, any Lore, Medicine, or any Combat skill. They also add +2 to Leadership and gain the ability to comprehend the old tongue of the king’s realm.
Powers – Tier 2: The character gains access to the Ancient’s knowledge and understanding of his domain. For all rolls concerning the history, culture, or geography of the region, the character doubles their skill points and then adds four. They also gain another six skill points as above and another +2 to Leadership, and gain the ability to speak the old tongue of the King’s realm.
Powers – Tier 3: Anyone who has lost more than half of their Humanity after embracing the Ancient’s essence becomes more monochromatic and abstracted in appearance, and begins to smell faintly of funereal herbs. Any (former) follower of the Fourth King may, once in their lives, be subjected to a command, suggestion, or offer by the character. The follower will find it strangely reasonable and do their best to fulfill it (i.e. the character gains a +10 bonus to one roll made to persuade each target). The character also gains another six skill points as above, and another +1 to Leadership. Finally, they can now read the old tongue of the King’s realm.
Powers – Other: The character is always aware of the status of the Fourth King’s shrine (or to any shrine devoted to themselves, if they are being actively worshiped). This will be most useful to them if they manage to convert the shrine to their own worship, of course.
Example Checks: Anyone who has absorbed part of the Ancient’s essence must check to refuse a request made in his name. The check is more difficult if it involves ancient traditions and protecting the well-being of what were once his lands and subjects.
Notes: Again, we’re trying something a little different here. The Fourth King is literally impossible to defeat in combat and, despite existing within an animistic world, is relatively abstract. Where with other deities I’ve let it be sort of implicit that research, planning, and other forms of preparation are the best ways to defeat a god (rather than sheer combat strength), in this case it’s explicit: a party of PCs who go up against the Fourth King will need to discover his weaknesses, then systematically hunt down the tokens of his power – possibly while suffering his curse, if they’ve been unwise enough to anger him through direct confrontation in the meantime. Another intentional aspect of this hunt is that it can be spread out over a long period of time: it can be the pot on the back burner while the party focuses on other tasks. I like that defeating the Fourth King can potentially involve a whole lot of socialization and politicking as the PCs attempt to gain access to his tokens of power.