Friday, 1 February 2013

The Brothers of the Skull

Wrote this ages ago, back when Carcosa first came out as a pdf by Geoffrey Kinney. Been sitting on my hard drive for ages so I thought I'd stick it out there. A bit long.

The Brothers of the Skull are Carcosa’s answer to monks and paladins. Anyone can join the Brotherhood if they are not a Bone Man, are not psionic, have no mutations and are willing to swear a dire oath never to use a sorcerous ritual not sanctioned by the order. On occasion interlopers try and infiltrate the Brotherhood, and former sorcerers lapse, but they have various methods for sorting the wheat from the chaff and never fail to take revenge on backsliders and infiltrators.

The Brothers are based in the Fortress of Skulls, a delightfully grim edifice at the head of a rugged canyon in the Mountains of Mankind. Much of the structure is made of skulls, and the mortar that holds them together contains ground bone. The outer walls are made of heat-fused basalt boulders, surmounted with a more conventionally constructed basalt wall with skull shaped merlons with embrasures in the eyes for archers.

The Brothers do not worship a deity. They know that there is no supernatural ally humanity can call on to oppose the Old Ones and their minions. However they do have faith that humanity can eventually overcome these cosmic foes by dint of developing their own potential and by eliminating the sorcerers who allow these cosmic horrors to come forth into the mundane world.

The founding of the Brotherhood is shrouded in mystery, but their current base is about 2000 years old, created after they were exiled from the long defunct Brown Lance Empire. There are about 250 people resident at the Fortress, 30 Brothers including five Immortal Elders, 60 highly skilled but conventional soldiers and 160 lay servants of the Order and their dependants. There is room for over a thousand people within the fortress and the ruined villages and towns further down the Valley of the Brothers of the Skull could house thousands more, but the Brotherhood has waned over the centuries.

There are perhaps 100 more Brothers roaming the lands of Carcosa fighting the cults of the Old Ones and the wretched Sorcerers who attempt to use them to further their own ambitions. A few of the larger and more organised lawful towns and cities have Brothers as counsellors to their lords and leaders of their armies.

The Immortal Elders of the order really are immortal. The rituals of the order stop aging and even reverse it (see below), and the leaders all look like physically perfect youths, though their eyes betray their long history of unending warfare against mind-warping foes. The senior-most Elder at the Fortress is Elder Dorn, 1041 years old and of 21st level. Stories abound of the foes he has fought and the massacres he has perpetrated. His role in the infamous Third Bone Crusade, which attempted to exterminate all the Bone Men from the land of Ghentheras, has made him a major historical figure. There are older and more potent Brothers than Dorn even, though they keep their names and true identities secret as there are many Sorcerers and demonic deities who want them dead.

Becoming a Brother
Applicants must present themselves at the Fortress of Skulls in groups of four at midday on the winter solstice. All must be of the same gender, but otherwise they may be of any level and of any class. Each must first prove their dedication to the cause of the Brotherhood by undergoing a surgical sterilisation. They must then pass a physical and spiritual examination (add Str, Dex, Con and 1 dice per level and get a score of 50 or over). During the examination Elder Vagrus tests the applicants for mutation using the 10th Ritual and Elder Worthan tests them for psychic ability using the 22nd. All mutants and psychics are slain on the spot, and surviving members of the application group interrogated under torture to ascertain why they assisted these foul perversions of humanity to try and infiltrate the Brotherhood.

If any member of the group refuses the operation or fails the test, all four are told to leave. Those who passed the physical exam can reapply next year as part of a new group of four, those who failed cannot take it again until they have gained a level.

Once admitted to the Fortress as Oblates, none can leave until the first two Rituals of Infinity have been completed. If one member of the group tries to leave at this point, all four are slain.

The First Ritual of Infinity takes several months and involves an intense programme of self-criticism, self-denial, and ritual humiliation designed to drive the subjects to suicide. The group are locked in the Tower of the Lost until one of the four has killed himself. The remaining three consume part of his body and his cleaned and preserved skull is added to the fabric of the Tower of the Lost. All surviving members of the Receptacle gain one point in Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma, depending on which was their deceased comrades highest of these three statistics.

This ritual can be role-played, or resolved by rolling 1 dice plus Wisdom for lawful characters, 1 dice plus Wisdom/2 for neutrals and just one dice for chaotics, the lowest scoring character dies by his own hand. Those of non-lawful alignment who survive must roll 8 dice and score under their Wisdom plus Charisma or change alignment to lawful.

The group then move to the Tower of Sacrifices for the Second Ritual of Infinity, which can be short or long, depending on the participants. One of the three surviving members must be murdered by one or both of the others. Since no weapons and no armour are allowed to Oblates this means cunning and ruthlessness play more of a role than weaponry. Again there is a cannibalistic ritual feast and the cleaned skull of the victim is added to the fabric of the Tower. The survivors gain another point in Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma, depending on their deceased comrade’s statistics.

The two survivors are now Novices of the Brotherhood and may leave the Fortress if they wish and become 1st Level Brothers of the Skull. They start their experience point score again from zero, but retain all their old hit dice and fighting ability. They do not progress in either until their level as a Brother passes their previous class level.

Learning Rituals
Novices and other Brothers may learn any Ritual of Infinity but they must usually undertake quests for the order or make gifts of magical and technological items to the orders treasury before they can persuade an Elder they are worthy. Each time a new ritual is learned, neutrals and chaotics must roll eight dice and score under their Wisdom and Charisma or change alignment to Lawful. One may not teach the rituals one knows until 12th level is reached, and the Third Ritual completed. These rituals are detailed in a series of grimoires kept in the most secret and secure vaults of the Order. Many of the books are no longer intelligible, many are so ancient and fragile that they cannot be touched and some Rituals do not seem to have been written down. The Red Book of the Skull, so called because of its binding of red-man skin, is a list enumerating the titles all those currently known, and admits to many gaps in the knowledge that the Order once commanded.

Becoming Immortal
The Third Ritual of Infinity is carried out when a third member of the original application group dies. The last member must seek out and retrieve part of his deceased colleague's body, preferably the skull, and take it to the Fortress. The cause of death may be anything, but no Brother may directly or indirectly procure another Brother’s death after the first two Rituals have been got out of the way. Once the Third Ritual is complete the last member of the group no longer ages. He shaves his head and body, the hair never regrowing. He no longer ages and bar violence, poison, disease, being eaten by Old Ones etc. he will live forever. He again gains one point in Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma.

Gaining Level
Hit points and fighting ability are as the standard Carcosan Fighter and Brothers of the Skull may use any armour or weapon, though as they progress and learn certain rituals they may take on some limitations in weapon use return for bonuses in other areas. Though the Order is not limited to lawful alignment, lawfuls adapt better to its strict discipline and single minded dedication to the cause; neutral members of the order have a 10% penalty to earned experience, chaotic ones a 20% penalty.

Level                            Experience
1 Novice                       0
2 Initiate                       2500
3 Brother                     5000
4 Battle-Brother         10 000
5 Brother Superior     20 000
6 Disciple                   40 000
7 Knight                      80 000
8 Crusader                160 000
9 Commander           320 000
10 Master                   480 000
11 Grand Master       640 000
12 Elder                     800 000

Those who have passed the Third Ritual of Infinity add ‘Immortal’ to their title, eg Immortal Knight, Immortal Commander and so on.

The Rituals
As noted previously, the Rituals of Infinity are taught at the discretion of the Immortal Elders, usually in return for carrying out a specific mission on behalf of the order or making a gift of some precious object to the treasury at the Fortress of the Skull. Factions have built up around certain Elders who act as patrons of their own sub-group of Brothers, but no internecine fighting or splits in the Brotherhood have ever occurred; none are recorded in the archives anyway. Certain rituals are mutually exclusive and thus certain ‘schools’ favouring one approach to ultimate herodom over others have arisen.

There are 129 rituals enumerated in the Red Book of the Skull (so-called because it is bound in Red Man-skin), including a number which are now lost. The Red Book contains full details of only the first three, the rest are written in other grimoires of the order or are passed on only by oral transmission. The Red Book states that there are in fact an infinite number of Rituals of Infinity, and that the creativity and genius of man will eventually uncover them all. The Order also has books containing certain sorcerous rituals used as reference by researchers examining the methods of the Enemy and seeking to thwart their dark designs.

A partial list of the Rites of the Brotherhood

Red Book Number
Brief Description
Rite of suicide and cannibalism associated with entering the brotherhood
Rite of murder associated with entering the brotherhood
Rite that confers immortality on last surviving applicant of a group
Lost ritual
Never written down, allegedly known only to the founder of the Order and his first circle of followers
The Lesser Purging
Rite required of all sorcerers who wish to join the order
The Greater Purging
Enhanced version of the Lesser Purging
Vomition of Taint
Reverses mutation in self
Detestation of Taint
Gives resistance to radiation
Eye of the Taint
Enables detection of radiation
Finger of the Taint
Detection of mutants
Expurgation of the Taint
Only the title now known, but allegedly this is a method for removing radiation poisoning from an area
Chromatic Transition
Enables a brother to change the colour of his skin
Lost Ritual
Was allegedly part of the Jale Book of the Skull, pages now ripped out for reasons unknown
Emulation of the Serpent
Enables shedding of the skin and rejuvenation
The Rite of Flaying
Enables taking on the skin of another and their appearance
Emulation of the Saurian
Enables rebirth into a new body
Vagary of the Androgyne
Enables the Brother to change sex
Emulation of the Dust Devil
Enhances dodge ability
Emulation of the Newt
Regrow lost limb or digit
Vow of Lasers
Give up use of laser technology, enhance use of other simpler weaponry
Gap in the Skull
Gives ESP-like abilities to spot liars and cheats
Reverberation of the Skull
Enables master of ritual 21 to extend detection to psionicists
Wall of the Skull
Resistance to psionics
Emulation of the Droid
Attach plates of armour to ones own flesh
Lost Ritual
No clues as to nature of this ritual
Lost Ritual
No clues as to nature of this ritual
Elixir of Foeti
Enables reversal of ageing, but requires a very unpleasant sacrifice
Eye of Xygon
Gives ultraviolet vision
Ear of Xygon
Gives enhanced hearing
Voice of Xygon
Can broadcast radio
Soul of Victory
Trades Charisma points for Intelligence
Triumph of the Will
Trades Charisma points for Wisdom
Voice of Mankind
Trades Intelligence for Charisma
Rite of Iron
Adds 1 point to any physical stat
Tempering of Steel
Reduces Charisma but adds to Constitution and Strength
Forging of the Skull
Reduces Intelligence but adds to Strength and Constitution
The Running Rite
Reduces Strength, adds to Dexterity
The Taste of Vengeance
Enables a Brother to track a lapsed colleague by scent and taste
The Thrice Thirteenth Ritual
According to the Red Book of Skulls the carved human pelvic bone on which this ritual was inscribed was thrown into a volcano, no reason recorded
Forging of the Bone Sword
Creates a weapon from one of the Brother’s own bones
Moulding of the Carapace
Creates a piece of armour from the Brother’s own bones
Lost Ritual
Elders speculate that this ritual involved further manipulation of bone and muscle from the brother into useful tools.
Duplication of Heroes
Cloning technique, abandoned due to rate of mutation in duplicated brothers but still on the books
Encapsulation of Venom, aka The Wisdom of Toads
Causes any systemic poison to be encapsulated in a wart on the skin and removed
Exudation of Beneficent Slime
Uses extracts of slimes to enhance healing of flesh wounds and stop bleeding
Breath of the Frog
Allows underwater absorption of oxygen through slime on skin
Path of the Slug
Allows walking up vertical surfaces through use of sticky slime
The Great Encapsulation
Allows use of a cocoon of slime to enter a state of suspended animation as per the Australian lungfish
The Little Encapsulation
Details lost, but apparently allowed the brain to survive even where the rest of the body withered and died
Chant Against the Grey
Enables sonic assaults on Greys using a brain scrambling noise
Dissolution of the Deep Ones
Uses an acidic sweat or saliva to protects against or assault Deep Ones
Binding the Familiar
Control one animal by transplanting part of the brother's brain into it
Lost Ritual
Use of hypnosis to control other humans; deemed to close to psychic power and ritual abandoned
Frenzy of the Righteous
Enhances function of adrenal gland to turn the Brother into a beserker
Rite of the Chameleon
Gain chameleon skin

Detailed descriptions of selected rituals

5. The Lesser Purging. Required of any Sorcerer who applies to the Brotherhood upon his entry to the Fortress. Unless the Sorcerer has carried out this ritual he is not allowed to take part in the Second Ritual, and if he refuses then he and all members of his Receptacle are slain. The Oblate tattoos his name on the skin of his left little finger, then it is flayed, the skin being removed without anaesthetic by the Immortal Elder in charge. The finger is then flensed and the tissue macerated with volcanic sand in a pestle and mortar and the bones torn off one by one and ground similarly. From the resultant paste a tiny stylised human statuette is made and clothed in the flayed skin. This is set in a niche in the wall of the Chapel of Fraternal Vigilance and should the ex-Sorcerer brother ever use sorcery again the statuette will weep tears of blood alerting the Elders of his lapse.

6. The Greater Purging. Some especially hard line Elders will require ex-Sorcerers to use this ritual to eliminate all their knowledge of sorcery before teaching them the more powerful rites of the Brotherhood. The Brother enters the Chapel of Detestation of the Loathsome Traitors to Mankind and sits naked and unmoving for three days and nights while he is scourged and spat on by his brethren. He then dons a collar made of Niobium, Zirconium and Molybdenum alloy and proceeds to the Crypt of Purgation where he lays himself on a guillotine and pulls a lever to sever his own head. He then has twenty seconds grace granted by the collar to recover it and place it back on his body. Unless he saves vs Death Magic he will fail and die, but he can be assisted by fellow Brothers who have undergone the same rite, each giving +2 to the save. The knowledge of the sorcery will have left his brain along with the blood he spilt in the process and he will have lost one point of Intelligence and all memory of 1 dice years of his life around the time he learnt the ritual as well. The spilt blood must be soaked up in volcanic ash, and the place where it lay on the floor of the chamber cleaned with soap made from the fat of a Spawn of Shub-Niggurath and water from the Bottomless Lochs. All residue is then thrown into the volcano Thyroth at the southern end of the Mountains of Mankind. The process must be repeated for each ritual known, one being removed at random each time. Note that in some cases aggrieved demons may take the opportunity to get their revenge on a sorcerer who has abused them in the past once they know that their foe has lost the knowledge to harm them.

7. Vomition of Taint. If a Brother for any reason acquires a mutation he stops acquiring experience and must either return to the Fortress of Skulls to be cleansed or renounce his membership of the Brotherhood and face their wrath. The Rite of Vomition is known only to Immortal Elder Vagrus and takes place in the Crypt of the Azure Tank. The Azure Tank is an artefact of Grey technology which causes all cells which have damaged DNA to die and be replaced by clones of healthy cells, a process requiring several months in all but the most superficial cancer or radiation burn. It also requires many complex nutrients which the Brotherhood lacks the knowledge of Bio-alchemy to make synthetically as the Greys do. They get by with liquidised human tissue, one adult person per month of tank time required. As a side effect the person cured loses 1dice years of physical age.

8. Detestation of Taint. Immortal Elder Vagrus knows of another rite he will perform on those who are willing to go into the Blighted Lands, Radioactive Desert and Mutated Forest in pursuit of mutants on his behalf. This requires one minim of the Grey Goo, an elixir found in small quantities in medical facilities in Grey domed bases (in fact a suspension of microscopic nanites). The Goo is processed by Vagrus to create Pink Goo, which is then injected into the thighbones of the brother to be protected. The nanites then supplement the action of his own immune system, seeking out and eliminating mutated cells and rewriting their DNA as it is damaged, giving +2 to any save vs radiation or mutation, doubling the healing rate of radiation burns and sickness and enabling superficial mutations to revert to normality over time.

9. Eye of the Taint. Another speciality of Immortal Elder Vagrus, this requires a dye compounded from phosphorous, fluoride salts from the flats of the Blighted Lands and tar from the oil seeps under the Swamps of the Black Delta. This phosphorescent yellow dye is injected into the aqueous humour of one eye rendering it blind to normal light, but turning it into a biological scintillation counter. If any radioactive particle hits it there is a flash of bright light, and the Brother soon learns to recognise the intensity and frequency of flashes that indicate dangerous radiation. The flashes also continue while the eyes is closed and the Brother is trying to sleep, so they often make a lead lined eyepatch to block out the effect when not wanted. Having one eye blinded reduces the chances to hit with missile weapons by 2.

10. Finger of the Taint. It sometimes happens that mutants infiltrate villages of the Pure in the hope of passing their corruption on to others, but a Brother who has the Finger of the Taint can counter this. Again under the supervision of the invaluable Immortal Elder Vagrus the flesh of the index finger of the right hand is removed and a hole drilled in the final phalange into which half a minim of Pink Goo (see the Eighth Ritual) is placed along with a delicate electronic device crafted from Titanium, Osmium and Tantalum and a red light emitting diode scavenged from a piece of Grey technology. The flesh is regrown through use of the Azure Tank or one of the other methods of regeneration known to the Brotherhood. The finger is simplicity itself to use, the Brother scratches the suspected mutant with the sharp pen-nib-like fingernail on his index finger, if the blood deviates too far from the human norm the Pink Goo activates to correct it, passing an electric current to the LED which then glows under the skin of the finger tip. The intensity of the glow indicates the degree of mutation and thus the amount of torture required before the mutant is publicly burnt at the stake. This device also detects disguised Bone Men.

12. The Chromatic Transition. A Brother who has studied the Green Book of the Skull and has never used the 17th Ritual can learn to change his skin colour to any other except Bone by using this ritual over a period of three days meditation and fasting. To learn it he must spend at least one month living as each of the other colours, using a pint of blood from a person of the colour transformed. The rules of the ritual stipulate that the blood must be donated freely, but some Brothers take sanguinary shortcuts and seem to get away with it. Once a Brother has moved through all 12 colours and returned to his own he can change over three days to any colour he pleases without the blood sacrifice. As the skin colour changes the personality also changes subtly, and once a Brother has experienced all the options he may decide he prefers to be a different colour to the one he was born into. On completion of the ritual roll 3 dice and if the score is under the Brother’s Wisdom he gains one Charisma through greater empathy with his fellow men of whatever colour. Each time a colour transformation is made there is a 1% chance of a mutation resulting in the skin becoming permanently transparent. This can only be corrected by replacement of the skin.

14. The Emulation of the Serpent. A Brother who has mastered the Twelfth Ritual may learn this one, which enables him to shed his skin like a snake over a period of six hour. This refreshes the complexion, removes scars, even those involving the loss of tissue from a fleshy part of the body such as a cheek, ear or the tip of the nose and whole skin thickness burns. The new skin is very tender for a week after shedding and AC is reduced by 1 and rolls to resist disease and contact poisons are reduced by 2 until it matures. It also reduces the physical age of the Brother by one dice years to a minimum of twenty years younger than his true age, or 18 whichever is the higher. Each use involves a save vs Death Magic or lose one point of Constitution permanently.

15. The Rite of Flaying. Once a Brother has mastered The Fourteenth Ritual he may learn this variant. He may skin a captive alive and preserve their skin and blood in a jar containing an extract of the leaves of a Liver Tree from the Mutated Forest. This will only keep it fresh for a day or so, so the Brother must act quickly to perform the Fourteenth Ritual, donning the flayed skin as soon as his own has been shed. He then sits in a darkened room for a week, drinking the blood of the skinned victim and chanting over their skull; if he emerges into sunlight at this point the stolen skin will die and he will be left skinless. At the end of this period their skin will become his and he will look and sound exactly like them until such time as he repeats the 12th Ritual and regrows a skin of his own. This cannot be used on a victim of the opposite sex and does not work with the skins of Bone Men.

16. Emulation of the Saurian. This ritual is detailed in the Jale Book of the Skull and can only be used by female, hermaphrodite and syncarp Brothers (see the 17th ritual below) who have never used the 12th Ritual. The ritual must begin in the Temple of the Tyrant Lizard in the ruined city of the serpent men with the sacrifice of a hadrasaur or ceratopsian by laser fire to the brain. The Brother is subsequently seized with a great hunger and over the next three months he/she/it? must eat five times the normal amount of food or go into a feeding frenzy lashing out and eating anything that comes into reach including comrades. The Brother, grossly overweight, then lapses into a coma, and is taken to the Hall of Transovulation in the Fortress of Skulls where they spend the next six months wasting away while a great leathery dinosaur-like egg forms within them. They then awake and lay the egg, inevitably dying in the process. The egg hatches after a further months care in the Hall, and the brother is reborn as a baby. The child has all the memories and knowledge of the original brother, but only one point in each characteristic. It grows quickly, gaining one year of chronological age per month and one point of each stat per month up to the Brother’s original total, but obviously discounting any penalties due to ageing incurred in the previous body. The new body will eventually become identical to the old one as it was at the age of eighteen and then age normally. Those Brothers who know the 17th ritual can choose which gender they are reborn as. Any biomechanical enhancements such as those granted by the 8th, 9th, 10th, 24th, 28th and other such rituals are lost, and any mutations, scars, illnesses, lost or maimed limbs are now corrected and renewed. There is a 1% chance that the Brother’s eyes will be of reptilian appearance with slit pupils after this ritual and that their skin will show faint scaling. This will result in the gain of +1 AC and a penalty of -2 to any save vs Cold attacks. These mutations are permanent and cannot be corrected by any means, resulting in the expulsion of the Brother from the Order. The Elders will usually give the pseudo-baby brother to a family far away to adopt and allow two years for the brother to mature before hunting them down and killing them. The author of the Jale Book says that there is a variant of this ritual that enables a Brother to lay a clutch of four eggs, each of which will hatch into a clone of the original brother but ‘of lesser spiritual stature’ (ie half level), but does not say how this is done.

17. The Vagary of the Hermaphrodite. This ritual from the Jale Book of Skulls enables the Brother to change sex. The initial ritual involves consumption of an elixir concocted of several fungi, lichen and moulds from the Caves of the Scaled Ones, the Blighted Lands and the crevasses of the Thaggasoth Mountains. The Brother then eats a special diet for the next six months, gradually changing gender as they do so. Eating meat from male animals will turn the Brother from female to male, meat from female animals changes from male to female, a mix of both results in development of hermaphrodite traits and a vegetarian diet results in the Brother becoming a neuter with no distinctive sexual characteristics. This ritual can only be used by those who have never altered colour via the 12th Ritual. The anonymous author of the Jale book states that Red and Blue Men can only become males or females, in his opinion indicating the primitive nature of these colours which he regards as ancestral to the other ten. He also says that by using other dietary regimes Ulfire and Green men can become ‘hipes’ or ‘syncarps’, two extra sexes, in his opinion presaging the humanity to come which will all be naturally four-sexed. He neglects to mention the diet required however, and the physical appearance and attributes of these sexes.

18. Emulation of the Dust Devil. Allegedly passed down to the Brotherhood from an ancient tribe of Orange desert nomads, this is as much a combat technique as a magical ritual. The Emulator must walk, alone, across the Stinging Desert from the Monolith of Jahaleer to the Wadi of Kumsh, dressed only in a loincloth and equipped only with a length of hellthornwood. If they succeed in surviving the scorpions, pteranodons, sandstorms and heat exhaustion they gain +1 AC as the scars and abrasions on their body heal into a mystical pattern ‘written by the desert’. They also double their armour bonus from high Dexterity and for each level they gain after completing the ritual they gain another +1 AC. These benefits are all lost if they use any from of armour other than a shield, lose the pattern due to changing their skin or renewing their body or using ritual 24.

20. The Vow of Lasers. This vow covers more than just lasers, it is a blanket declaration that the Brother will use no craft or technology not developed by a human; in the current state of Carcosa that means being limited to iron age equipment and even abandoning those rituals and rites of the Brotherhood that utilise technology recovered from the Greys such as Rituals 7-10, 24 and 28-30. The Brother practices all the more intensely with his current weapons and chooses one category to specialise in from: swords, daggers, axes, maces and clubs, staff, spears and bows. The Brother gets +level/3 (rounded up) to hit when using a weapon he specialises in, with a minimum of +1.

24. Emulation of the Droid. The Immortal Elder Haghadar and his master smiths at the Fortress of Skulls can take a plate of Manganese- Cobalt doped with crystalline Yttrium and Technetium and vapour-plated with microfibrils of Germanium and create an armour plate which will bond directly with human skin. These metals are not exactly easy to come by and the usual procedure is to make small scales and graft them in a pattern that allows for expansion once more material is obtained. Very occasionally a Grey warbot will be found that has a casing made of this alloy and a whole slab can be crafted and grafted on. A complete covering of this armour confers an AC of -3, lesser coverings give proportionately lesser protection. In addition for each 3 AC worth of armour gives a bonus of +1 save vs electrical, laser, X-ray attack due to the conductive and reflective properties of the armour, but -1 vs microwaves, and the Brother loses one Dexterity.

32. The Triumph of the Will. A Brother can use this ritual once per year at the winter solstice to permanently reduce his Charisma by one in return for a gain of one Wisdom point. To learn it one must return the skull of a sorcerer of at least sixth level sheathed in lead to the Fortress for inclusion in the Chapel of Detestation of the Loathsome Traitors to Mankind, and then memorise the 32 verse Hymn to Harden the Cortex, found in the Black Book of the Skull and taught by some masters of the order. One must then make thirty-two successful saves vs Spells, following each one with a stanza from the hymn, and upon completion of the last stanza, one become able to enter the necessary trance state. The only limit to this ritual is when the Charisma reaches one – reducing the Charisma to zero will make the person a semi-catatonic schizophrenic with no emotional affect or ability to empathise. Wisdom may go as high as one pleases, with ever increasing benefits in resisting mental magic and the fear induced by supernatural monsters.

Using the above rituals as a model, the GM will be able to develop detailed desriptions of further rituals in the Brother's canon.

Sample Brothers

Tranak, Disciple of the Skull (level 6), Colour: White, Age: Physical 45 Actual 52
Str 12 Int 21 Wis 8 Dex 12 Con 18 Cha 1
AC 3 HD 6+6

Rituals of Infinity
5 The Lesser Purging, 12 The Chromatic Transition, 14 Emulation of the Serpent, 31 Soul of Victory, 35 Tempering of Steel

Banish the Nighted Essence, The Glyphs of the Ebon Lake, Canticle of the Crawling God

Plate Armour, Double-handed sword, Logic Blaster – pistol, 45 charges, emitter, logic

Ganak, Disciple of the Skull (level 6), Colour: Black, Age: Physical 37 Actual 52
Str 19 Int 13 Wis 18 Dex 10 Con 14 Cha 4
AC 3 HD 6

Rituals of Infinity
12 The Chromatic Transition, 14 Emulation of the Serpent, 9 Eye of the Taint, 10 Finger of the Taint, 23 Wall of the Skull, 32 Triumph of the Will, 34 Rite of Iron

Plate Armour, Double-handed sword, 30 point Force Field, 4 Acid grenades

Tranak and Ganak are two survivors of a set of Blue quadruplets who joined the Brotherhood together. Neither is yet immortal, but will become so upon the death of his brother. Tranak is deep into the rite of the Soul of Victory and is a hard faced tactician who gives not a damn about the lives of any individual human, not even that of his brother, not even his own, but weighs all with an eye to the ultimate victory of humanity over the alien. Ganak is not much better, a dedicated warrior but arrogant and abrasive, forcing people into following his brother’s heartless plans by bullying and threatening them. On the other hand they stopped Faghahan the Foul from calling up the Nighted Essence to aid his campaign to become Autarch of the city of Vaskemanie, and helped obliterate three thousand Deep Ones and half-Deep Ones in the Purging of Kvansch, so they can’t be all bad. Currently conducting purges of mutants in the fringes of the Radioactive Desert, looking for a three-eyed skull to allow Tranak to perform the 21st Rite, the Gap in the Skull.

Hagranai the Skull-Siren
Immortal Battle-Brother of the Skull (Level 4), Colour: Orange, Age: Physical 18, Actual 40

Str 14 Int 6 Wis 12 Dex 12 Con 10 Cha 18
AC 5 HD 4

Rituals of Infinity
16 Emulation of the Saurian, 17 Vagary of the Androgyne, 20 Vow of Lasers, 33 Voice of Mankind, 40 Forging of the Bone Sword

Chainmail, Two bone-swords made from her own tibiae, +2 to hit from Vow of Lasers, +2 to hit and +2 damage from being bone-swords, riding beast (Pithekoi).

Can use two weapons in combat at -2 to hit

Hagranai was originally male, but has become female through the 17th Ritual, and is leading a popular gang of rebels from the town of Ghulhulane. The ruler of this town, The Flesh-Sculptress of the Plasmatic Temple, is oppressing her populace and encouraging the worship of Shub-Niggurath. Hagranai was once captured and dismembered by this tyrant for sedition, but was rescued by her followers and regrown from the egg via the 16th Ritual. She even stole back the bones from her severed limbs to create two bone swords which she wields together. Little does the Flesh-Sculptress know that Hagranai was originally one of her own Sons of the Mighty Arm, who escaped from her clone pens before he could be grafted with the arm of a Pithekoi and lobotomised.

Number Appearing: 4-16 AC 8 HD 4 % in Lair: nil Treasure: nil

The Pithekoi roam wild in the southern plains and woodlands and are sometimes domesticated and used as pack and riding beasts. They are great apelike beings that walk on two bowed hind legs and two long arms with huge hands and horny knuckles. They are covered in sparse fur, predominantly dark blue, though other colours exist, and have large human-like eyes of deep mournful brown. They stand five feet high at the shoulder when hunched over, ten or more if they stand upright.

In the wild they are nomadic, wandering through places far from human habitation eating roots and fruits. Riding domesticated ones is not too difficult in ordinary circumstances, but when they face danger the ungelded males tend to rear up into an upright stance, beat their chests and holler. War trained Pithekoi will even punch and cuff enemies for two dice damage, but their riders must be very skilled and using a war-saddle with straps to hold them on. Pithekoi will even use huge clubs for three dice damage under the direction of a rider, but they are basically peaceable creatures and will retreat if wounded or even if their opponent manages to shout louder than they can.

The relationship between Pithekoi and man is very close. Slave merchants in Ghulhulane have cross bred Pithekoi and humans to create a low intelligence but thickly muscled hybrid which is fertile and breeds among its own kind, though rarely breeding true. These beasts fortunately inherit the peaceable nature of the Pithekoi and make poor soldiers.

Other pseudo-monastic orders of Carcosa

The Brothers are not the only Carcosan organisation to superficially resemble a terrestrial monastic or chivalric order. There are communities of followers of Nyarlathotep which follow a hierarchical system or novices, brothers and masters, usually surrounding the tomb-like home of a group of mummies. Another group are the Psionic Monks of the Cephalic Order, dedicated to extending and enhancing the use of mental powers, and the Bone Men are alleged to have an order dedicated to studying deception, political manipulation and assassination. A more militaristic group are the Adjudicators of the Norm, whose scared text defines the true nature of man and all other beasts and declares all humans not born a Red Man as lesser species to be expunged. All of these are dire enemies of the Brotherhood of the Skull and of each other.

Author's Note
The idea of the Brotherhood and details of the first two rituals were inspired by Robert Silverberg's novel 'The Book of Skulls', hipes and syncarps are from the Pirx stories of Stanislaw Lem.