Few places are as evocative as a temple, particularly an ancient one. Whether large or small, ornate or spartan, these timeworn edifices are monuments to religion, faith, and dedication. Temples can be a refuge for the hunted and the lost, and a bastion against tyranny. Bur tl1ey can also be the source of tyranny, d1e headquarters of a religion determined to conquer and rule.
Adventurers and scholars often seek out ancient temples, for a variety of reasons. First, these temples can reveal a great deal about their former (and current) occupants. When dealing with a lost religion, that faith’s last temple might be the only source of real knowledge about their beliefs and practices.
Second, ancient temples were often the warehouse for knowledge in their area, either because the priests actively gathered information or because it was the only place people could safely store such knowledge. If an ancient sickness is sweeping a continent, and the last known outbreak occurred in an area dominated by a particular religion, the temples of that religion might have information about the illness, including possible cures – or how to produce the illness upon command. Finally, temples were the center of faith and religious devotion, and in many cultures that meant that worshippers lavished money upon the temple to demonstrate their piety. Some ancient temples are filled with treasures, including holy artifacts. These could be worth a fortune in the modern world, as much for their history as for their materials.
Temples vary widely in size and shape, but each shares certain features. The most important and largest area in the temple is the worship chamber, and it is dedicated to worship of the faith’s major deity or deities. This layout of the room focuses on an idol, image, or some representation of the deity. The representation could be an abstract one, like a simple stretch of white sand, but there is always something the worshiper can use as a focal point. Most often these rooms contain benches, pews, mats, or cushions, somewhere for worshipers to sit or kneel while praying, and an area set aside for the actual priests, like a raised platform or a screened corner. Since priests tend to live and work at the temple all the time, most temples also contain dormitories of some sort, whether a single large room with bunkbeds along the walls or a series of small bedchambers. Kitchens and dining halls are also common, as are lecture or meditation rooms where the priests can study and offices for those in charge.
Depending upon the age of the temple, and whether it is still actively in use, you are most likely to encounter priests, worshippers, or scholars while wandering the site. Even if the temple is no longer active, priests may still keep watch to prevent looting, and worshippers may visit the ruins to pay their respects. Scholars, particularly archaeologists and anthropologists, cluster around ruins and other former temples.
Ancient temples represent not only faith but also mystery, particularly if their religion is no longer active or well-known. The temple can provide clues to some ancient riddle, or treasures from a lost world, or an entry into a long-forgotten civilization. They can be the goal in a long quest, or the stepping-off point for a new adventure.
Temples can have almost as many variables as there ways of worshiping. The temple can be still in use, no longer active, long since abandoned, or in ruins. It can be very visible, largely hidden, or completely lost. Its architecture can match a known culture, like the Aztecs, or it can be completely unique and even a bit alien. It might be large and solid, almost a fortress, or small and humble, or open and designed to blend with its surroundings. Inside, the trappings can be rich and heavily ornamented, extremely plain, or well-crafted bur simple. It may be the temple to a major religion, or to an ancient and forgotten god. 1he priests can be kindly old men, arrogant young fanatics, or sensuous women. The temple can be set almost anywhere, from the middle of the desert to deep in a jungle to the heart of a large city.
When introducing an ancient temple, the trick is to know its history. What religion created this temple, and when? Who was it dedicated to? What were the goals of the priests? How did they relate to the people nearby – did everyone worship at this temple, did the priests dominate the locals, or did they hide their presence and refuse visitors? What treasures were here, and which ones still remain? If the temple is no longer in active use, when did the priests leave and why? And was it only the priests who left, or did the temple’s gods abandon it as well? Knowing all of these derails can help the Game Master decide which clues to leave for the players, and make the temple an interesting location that firs well in the campaign.
Don’t Miss …
The House of Lucan is hidden deep within the jungle and dedicated to a local warrior god. Most of the locals have long since forgotten Lucan’s name, though rumors of a strange temple remain. The temple itself is still intact, and still active, though its priests rarely leave the temple’s confines, and do not discuss their home or their calling when they encounter strangers.
The House of Lucan is a single long, low building carved from local limestone and covered in vines that help it blend into its jungle surroundings. The massive wooden doors lead into a single large antechamber, where people can prepare themselves for prayer by dipping their hands into the shallow wooden bowls against the wall and splashing the water (or, during certain rites, blood) onto their face and chest. Past that, the long, wide nave has rough wooden benches on either side. At the far end is a low wooden dais, with the altar of Lucan at the center. To one side of that, a small door leads into the head priest’s private chamber. On the other side of the dais is the room that holds Lucan’s armor, helm, and sword, which are brought our for each service. These are the temple’s greatest treasures and are said to still contain the touch of the god. The temple also has bedrooms for the priests, plus a refectory and a kitchen and a small library. Behind the building is a large clearing, where the priests practice their fighting skills, with each victory dedicated to Lucan himself
Things to See
+ Religious symbols, statues, and icons made of wood, ordinary or precious metal, marble, stone, or another substance important to the deity, possibly encrusted with jewels
+ Metal oil lamps or lanterns on metal poles
+ Heavy tapestries, colorful if new or faded with age, depicting abstract designs or significant religious scenes
+ Wooden benches, fabric cushions or mars, or other means of designating places for the faithful to seat or kneel
+ Ornate seating for the priests and religious ministers, which may be similar to or different from the seating for the faithful
+ Large candles on heavy candlesticks, created from the same material as or from complementary material to that of the religious symbols
+ Books, scrolls, or tables inscribed with information about the religion, its deity or deities, its rituals, and the like
+ Temples still in use would have furniture and other appropriate accouterments in the priests’ personal quarters (cots, dressers, tables, chairs or benches, lights, eating and cooking utensils, etc.)
People to Meet
Active temples have priests, supplicants, temple guards, and humble workers. Priests have 3D or higher in Knowledge and Presence and at least +2D in willpower and scholar: (religion). Warrior- priests also have 2D+2 to 3D in either Reflexes or Coordination, and up to +2D in brawling, acrobatics, melee combat, or missile weapons. Temple guards have the same as warrior-priests, plus +1D in throwing and running. Humble workers have at least 20 in Physique and an extra pip or two in lifting and other necessary skills. Supplicants have no particular skills or attribute levels.
Inactive temples may host scholars and treasure seekers. Scholars should have at least 30 in Knowledge and +20 in a scholar specialization for their particular field and pips in languages, while treasure seekers need at least 20 in Knowledge and Perception, plus pips in investigation, languages, scholar, search, melee combat, and marksmanship.
Warrior-priest: Reflexes 2D+2, brawling 3D+1, melee combat 3D, Coordination 2D, missile weapons 2D+2, throwing 2D+1, Physique 2D, lifting 3D, running 2D+1, Knowledge 3D, scholar 3D+1: (own religion) +1D, Perception 2D, investigation 2D+1, Presence 2D, command 2D+2, persuasion 2D+2, willpower 2D+2. Move: 10. Strength Damage: 2D. Body Points: 12. Wound levels: 2.
+ The lost temple has been found at last! Which means its greatest treasure might soon be recovered – but by whom? Whoever gets to the treasure first will be famous. The players’ character might be the ones to find it – or they might be hired to protect its location.
+ A man staggers into town, strange purple welts covering his body. He gasps out “the … temple … awakens” and collapses, dead. What did he mean? And what temple? There are no religious houses anywhere nearby. At least, none that anyone can remember.
+ The priests of the temple have declared that their time of waiting is over, and the time of celebration is at hand. They throw open the doors of the temple and invite everyone to enter and rejoice with them. This is the first time in recorded history that this has happened – always before this, the priests have kept to themselves. But now they are enthusiastically meeting people and showing them around the temple. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the inside of this ancient and holy place. But what are the priests celebrating, exactly?