The Transcendent Order
The Transcendent Order Faction Symbol
Like the Signers, the Takers, the Godsmen, and the Sensates, the Ciphers concern themselves with . . . themselves. They look inward more than any other faction, even more than the Signers. This trait tends to remove them from the events of history, even as it unites them with the multiverse.
In a way, the Ciphers resemble the Harmonium - after all, they both strive for harmony. Like the Guvners, the Indeps, and the Anarchists, they seek truth. In their search, they encourage members to harmonize body and mind, and this harmony of self somehow lends harmony to the multiverse too. Members of this faction influence history subtly just by doing what Ciphers do best.
So, a body ainĎt going this Order written in a series of volumes sitting in a faction library. See, the group's triumphs wind up recorded mostly in other factions' histories. The Ciphers, more than any other faction, share ideals with other groups and don't anger any of 'em too much. Therefore, without even trying, they bring into effect what the Harmonium seeks, but probably will never bring about. Merely by searching for their own proper place in the multiverse, Ciphers serendipitously find themselves serving to balance the other factions by eliminating the extremes. Whenever a faction acts in an unusual way - whenever the Dustmen show passion, whenever the Guvners show compassion, whenever the Xaositects seem organized - chances are pod that a Cipher stands behind it.
Lots of high-ups in the Cage ask the Order to mediate disputes because Ciphers have a natural tendancy to balance the actions of others. As this nature fosters compromise, they often stop factions from going to war before either side even realized they were close. Though some of 'em can't extend their instincts - or their interest - beyond their own development, most reflexively know it's their job in the multiverse to understand others' needs and desires.
Factol Rhys is one such Cipher, and one of the best advisers the faction's ever seen. With just a couple words, she speaks volumes. In response to the coldly legalistic Guvners, she acts with compassion; her reaction to the Hardheads is tolerance; to the Xaositects, she lends stabilty. This instinct does seem to confuse the other factions, as her actions change often in reaction to the situation of the moment.
Factol RhysRhys, a darkly beatuiful tiefling, has long, pointed ears; dusky skin; reddish eyes; and thick, dark hair. Her legs resemble the hind legs of a horse. This tiefling also boasts a reptilian tail and a partial carapace, like that of an insect. Even in calm conditions, her hair moves as if ruffled by the wind; sometimes the strands seem to writhe on their own, like serpents.
The factol radiates an aura that draws others to her, a natural charisma she can use to persuade - or intimidate. She seldom uses this charisma, though, as she usually prefers introspection to contact with others. At times, while existing in a state of unity of mind and body, she seems distant and aloof; whether practicing combat moves with the staff or striding purposefully through her faction's headquarters - the Great Gymnasium - she makes a basher think she's deeply in touch with the multiverse. Other Ciphers (and many members of other factions) see her as an ideal: a representation of ultimate harmony and beauty.
A key reason Rhys makes such a good factol is that she can inspire people to greatness. She has achieved such a great degree of internal harmony, she can afford to turn her attention outward. (Although it's true Rhys tends to avoid contact with others, she nevertheless reaches out more than most in her faction.) She serves as a great coach, providing direction to Ciphers and others training in the Great Gymnasium with just one choice remark. She can grasp instantly the necessary compromise in any dispute, which allows her to further harmony among the other factions - at least temporarily. Any herk can see sheíll achieve her personal unity with the multiverse any day now: She practically glows with harmonic radiance and seems to vibrate on a level just beyond the senses.
Rhys always proves a formidable combatant. She possesses a wide collection of spells, a handful of powerful magical items, and great skill with the staff, dagger, various other blades, and a few exotic weapons. Unless a situation calls for her to show anger, count on the factol to remain calm. However, some leatherheads think she has a short temper, since she acts without thought - she can react emotionally to a situation before it even happens. Fact is, Rhys acts so quickly at times, she seems to have a sixth sense for danger.
'Course, folks' memories of Rhys's previous evil tendencies give the factol a tough reputation to shake.
The tiefling seemed a natural Cipher from the day she joined, considering her introspective inclination and the decisiveness she gained having depended on herself almost since birth. After only a couple of years in the Transcendent Order, she became a master of the highest order. Then, when former Factol Valny Hawkins reached personal hamony, she and the other masters, in unspoken accord, decided she would ascend to the post.
While many factols prove difficult to reach, Rhys remains accessible. The Ciphers have no true hierarchy to prevent those of "lower rank" from speaking to the factol, and she never bothers with personal guards when she travels in public. 'Course, just because Rhys makes herself equally available to all, don't think finding her's easy; she spends her time training, working on behalf of the faction, or just acting however the multiverse pulls her.
The Great Gymnasium
The Great Gymnasium
Most folks know the Great Gymnasium as a place of calm - Ciphers want it that way. Since a basher can achieve unity of thought and action only in a peaceful environment, faction members keep dangerous distractions out of the Great Gymnasium. So, check those weapons at the front gate, berk! Same thing with magic - the Order allows no use of arcane abilities on the premises. (The Ciphers do provide mock weapons for combat training and, for wizard faction members, special chambers that contain magical effects safely.) This way, folks can come here and forget the noise, pressure, and many other stresses of life. It's no suprise the Great Gvmnasium becomes a perfect neutral meeting ground, where disagreeing parties can find a Cipher skilled in mediation and naturally able to balance opposing forces.
Once through the gate, bashers can walk along the grand, well-kept exercise field amid the sounds of calisthenics and other activity. A breeze often wafts through the yard to cool off those at work. Visitors pass several inviting, ivory-tiled pools (both warm, and cold water) and faction members selling refreshments on the way to the Portico of Learning at the field's far end. The Ciphers use this open area for seminars, sometimes mistakenly called "classes" by berks in other factions. Here, a master offers inspirational words to new Ciphers, outlines reflex training techniques, and listens to new ideas. The master does not so much teach as show the other faction members how to learn on their own. Self-teaching remains the key to self-enlightenment, see?
After a few words from a master, faction members make their way to one of the practice rooms off the courtyard. Everybody 'cept addle-coves and Clueless know that the Ciphers devote most of the facility to physical activity. Bashers train with mock weapons, practice hand-to-hand battles, and sometimes just exercise for the sake of exercise. Other facilities, like the baths, steam rooms, and massage tables, allow folks to relax after physical activity.
But combat ain't the only way to train a body's reflexes. The Great Gymnasium also provides spaces for activities like painting, sculpting, and playing musical instruments. The Transcendent Order considers these and other artistic pursuits good methods for clearing the mind and training the body to operate on reflex alone. (In fact, the faction's quite proud of the mural the Xaositects recently painted on their outer wall.)
The Great Gymnasium doesn't include some features of other faction headquarters, like dormitories for members or an office for the factol. Ciphers all keep their own kips elsewhere, and Rhys doesn't want an office - she prefers to operate on the hoof.
'Course, the place does hold a few rather unexpected rooms as well. Take the Chamber of Shared Meditation, for instance. This quiet area surprises many bashers who visit the Gymnasium. Ciphers acknowledge that some folks need a place for quiet contemplation, and this long, narrow room can handle quite a few people. The chamber holds a few tables at one end and features plush carpet and onyx chandeliers to offer a serene feeling of luxury. The factol sometjmes uses the chamber for meetings she mediates, especially gatherings between representatives of different factions. The room's atmosphere encourages calm and reason, and the gnards them make sure everything remains peaceful and quiet.
Encompassing the building's entire third floor is the Cadence of the Planes Chamber - essentially a sensory deprivation room, premitted only to faction members. The Ciphers carefully regulate temperature and air flow in this empty chamber. They make use of magic here to keep the room in constant darkness and silence and to maintain its levitation field. Ciphers wanting to use the room (one at a time) first strip completely, then step off a balcony into the levitation field to float. After a prescribed time, the basher's fished out with a rope.
Doesn't sound too active, does it? Thing is, time in this chamber helps a Cipher get in touch with the Cadence of the Planes, the mystical rhythm a basher can only feel, nothear. The transcendental pulse moves through a basher's spirit, mind, and body echoing the heartbeats of folks on all the planes. This chamber removes distractions, making it easier for a body to feel the Cadence of the Planes. It's important to the Ciphers. One can't unite body and mind without knowing how one fits into the multiverse.
Within the Ranks
Just because Ciphers act without thought doesn't mean they act all the time, though. A Cipher, especially a master, knows there's a time to act and a time to be still. Inaction is a form of action, afler all.
Members of the Order do act self-centered, but not because they're selfish, like the Takers and some Signers. They just want to find their own unity with the cosmos before worrying about how others're doing. This introspection makes 'em appear aloof and unfathomable.
It's a cinch the Ciphers are an independent bunch, too. Sure, they all agree to make the body govern the mind, but members differ in their approaches to the philosophy. Some see the body as a temple, others as a tool. The former tend to advocate healthy lifestyles and eat only the most nutritious foods. They keep their bodies in good enough shape to act reflexively, but they donít push it. Quite a different story from those who view the body as a tool; they push it to the limit, and sometimes beyond, in search of the perfect biological machine. íCourse, these differences donít seem apparent to outsiders.
The Transcendent Order has only one stipulation for joining: A body has to be at least partly neutral. Oddly enough, the faction always seems to maintain an alignment balance without ever devoting any effort to it: Whenever a neutral good member joins, a neutral evil member joins soon, or another neutral good member slides over to true neutral. Anyway, the faction maintains its balance. Most Ciphers become true neutral, eventually; as long as they progress toward the new alignment slowly as they come to grasp faction philosophy, they suffer no penalty for changing.
Folks of all classes come to the Transcendent Order, though most members belong to the more action oriented professions. Thus, most Ciphers are fighters. Paladins never seem interested, ícause of alignment problems and, while an occasional ranger joins, he either eventually loses his status as a ranger (because he becomes true neutral) or he never advances past the first rank of master.
Wizards, rogues, and priests join the Ciphers in about equal numbers. Though wizards arenít alwavs the most active folks in the world, some spellcastersí study of magic leads them naturally to a study of self; Cipher rogues usually started thieving either from need or as a search for thrills. Priests in the Order frequently channel powers that serve the Atharís Great Unknown power-behind-the-powers. Some even say they revere Cipher ex-factols.
The Ciphers welcome all races to their ranks. A lot of tieflings find homes here, because they tend to trust themselves far more than they do others - very much in keeping with the Order's philosophy. The Ciphers also let a body keep to himself and do as he likes without any interference, which tieflings also appreciate. 'Course, the large number of tiefling members, known for individualism, makes the conformist Harmonium members peery about the Ciphers.
Half-elves tend to join the faction for the same reasons as tieflings and in about the same numbers. Since half-elves often have trouble knowing themselves, the Ciphers provide good direction for them. Not only do humans share this need to find inner harmony, they also love to get things done. Bariaur and githzerai seldom join the ranks, though githzerai that do generally become some of the faction's most successful members.
Cipher MembershipThe Ciphers have pretty easy entrance requirements: A cutter goes up to a member and says, "I'd like to join your fine faction," or somesuch, expressing a desire to seek harmony of body and mind. See, to the members of the Tmscendent Order, expressing the desire to join is sign enough that a cutter knows what they're about and has accepted that the Ciphers've got the right of things.
Once in, Ciphers do their own thiig. 'Course, namers too often take this attitude to mean they can run about acting on every impulse. Like the worst Sensate namers, some are thrill-seekers, acting for the sake of acting, not to seek a deeper oneness with the mnltiverse.
Ciphers their peers declare to be on their way to uniting body and mind are hailed as masters. The faction unconsciously follows the Rule of Three by recognizing thee ranks of master: master of the heart, master of the mind, and master of the spirit.
To become a master of the heart (a factotum), a Cipher must reach at least 3rd level and achieve recognition from his peers. A master of the heart no longer needs to think before he acts - at least, in the short term. See, a Cipher of this rank learns how to invoke an "action trance," the state of pure action.
A heart master of at least 7th level can spend three to four months in solitary training to become a master of the mind (a factor, to other groups). A group of all the Order's masters promotes a basher to mind master when the masters think he's honed his reflexes to the extent that his body and mind have become one, subject only to the movements of the multiverse. Masters of the mind stay in action trances for gradually longer periods.
The next level, master of the spirit, gains a hasher a lot of respect - and not only from faction members, either. These cutters have found their places in the multivene and can act at any time without the clutter of unnecessary thoughts. The factol's the only one with this rank. There's no specific point when faction members normally reach this level - it just happens. As with the previous rank, the transition to spirit master requires three to four months of special training.
A Cipher who transcends this level supposedly rises above mere mortal status. The faction claims that most factols who don't die in office leave their posts due to this sort of transcendence. In any case, when a new factol needs to be chosen, the two levels of master all decide on a new one. No meetings, no arguements, no lobbying - they just decide. A master of the spirit suddenly feels compelled to become the new factol. Never have the masters decided upon a candidate who did not feel the urge to become factol, and never have two masters of the spirit had the compulsion at the same time - the instincts of everyone concerned lead them all to the same conclusion.
Because they always try to act without thought, all Ciphers - namers included - gain -1 modifiers to their initiative rolls.
Maqters can place themselves in an action trance, where they can act on reflex alone. Such a state begins with the start of an encounter, when a player first rolls initiative. From then until the end of the encounter, a master of the heart gains a +1 bonus to saving throws vs. mind-affecting spells and spell-like effects (like charm person,dragon fear, a harpyís song, etc.). If the spell or effect normally allows no saving throw, a master of the heart gets one anyway, but without a bonus. Itís tough to control the mind of a cutter who ainít thinking.
A master of the mind increases his initiative bonus to a -2 modifier and receives a +2 bonus to saving throws against mind-affecting spells and effects. In addition, this cutter can initiate the action trance at will: however, the trance lasts no more than a turn, unless an encounter requires an initiative roll before that time expires. The action trance lasts through any encounter that may occur.
Masters of the spirit receive -3 modifiers to initiative and +3 bonuses to saving throws vs. mind-affecting spells and spell-like effects. Like the mind master, the spirit master can initiate the action trance at will and in it for up to one turn or through an encounter, if one occurs before the end of the turn. Masters of the spirit automatically enter action trances one round before an encounter begins.