We have just emerged from the darkest period in recorded history. With the vanquishing of the Triad of Evil. We need no longer anxiously watch our backs for fear that evil will fall upon us in the first unguarded moment. The stability achieved by the New Age seems to herald a Golden Age of Peace and Prosperity.
What kind of people will inherit this New Age? Surely our destiny is not to perpetually fight as warring tribes throughout all time. Is there not a higher calling — one worthy of our efforts and capabilities?
If one accepts that the next area of human growth should not be fostered through aggressive territorial expansion, then a possible answer emerges — we must turn inward. Of late a small group of inquisitive philosophers at the Lycaeum have been asking such questions of each other. While their musings seem quite radical and new, they are worthy of consideration:
Meditation seems to hold the key to perspective. In the transcendental state one is freed from the shackles of modern living. The whole of the universe resonates with the individual, and one feels, for the fleetest of moments, a sense of belonging to a greater whole. Yet all too soon the meditation ends, and the walker returns from this brief glimpse of the sublime to the daily need for survival.
It is time for all to put aside their warlike ways and begin fighting the evil that lurks within themselves. It is far too easy to sit and espouse the path of Virtue, yet never set foot upon it. The ancient rule of treating others as you would be treated yourself takes on new meaning when put into the context of universal harmony. We must become living examples of our beliefs!
How does one begin to first walk along this new way? Do road markers exist if we but open our eyes to see them?
To be at peace in all areas is a state only achieved by an Avatar. Is such a state attainable by any human, fallible as we all are? The true answer can only be found by those who quest forth in search of it - for who can see the end of the Path before beginning the journey? Yet it is also written that for each person the Path is different. Perhaps the seeker of wisdom and enlightenment should begin by visiting Lord British, for his knowledge of the ways of the land is great. Conversing with him may help one to determine where lies the centers of the Eight Virtues of the Avatar.
Many philosophers hold the opinion that the Path is in reality but a series of separate small paths. Each minor path leads to the fulfillment of an aspect of ourselves. Treading one of these minor paths may be construed as a life's goal, and many people have debated which is the most advantageous to follow.
Yet is not the whole much greater than the sum of its parts? Take up the challenge and tread not one but all of the minor paths in the search for enlightenment and perfection. Perhaps only then will you find the beginnings of the great Path. The Quest of the Avatar awaits. It is not your heritage that you seek, but your destiny!
Each of the eight virtues is made by combining the three basic principles of Truth, Love and Courage.
The principle of TRUTH means being true to oneself, as much as to others. It points the way to enlightenment and self-knowledge. Truth is opposed by Falsehood, which is self-deception and delusion masquerading as wisdom. Falsehood is expedience, justifying evil deeds for good ends. It is hypocrisy, demanding of others what you do not demand of yourself.
The principle of LOVE rejects any distinction between the self and others. It means doing what is right for its own sake, not in expectation of reward; it sustains the soul on the path to enlightenment. Love is opposed by Hatred, which is both self-hatred and the hatred of others, even one's enemies. Hatred is corruption, destroying that which you love even as you seek to preserve it. It is despair, seeing only the evil and not the good.
The principle of COURAGE means having the strength of will to master one's destiny. It means fighting evil, both within and without; it provides what is necessary to make the final step to Avatarhood. Courage is opposed by Cowardice, which is self-doubt and lack of resolve. Cowardice is cravenness, the failure to stand by one's beliefs when put to the test. It is weakness, choosing the easy path that leads to destruction.
After years of meditation and thought, after hundreds of quests along the mental, physical and spiritual path to peace and fulfilment, a person might reach near perfection in the eight virtues of Avatarhood. Only while an individual continues to strive against the external and internal forces of evil, can he or she be said to be on the path of the Avatar.
Each of Britannia's eight leading cities and towns celebrates one of the virtues of Avatarhood, and each has raised a shrine to that virtue. The shrines are located in retreats to ensure tranquility in natural settings, so travelling to some shrines requires a considerable journey from their towns.
Entry to a shrine is limited to those who possess a Rune of passage, while proper meditation requires knowledge of the mantra for that virtue. A mantra is a sound repeated continuously during meditation, helping to clear the mind and focus the spirit. Each virtue has a specific mantra that works best for it, and sincere meditation can bring great wisdom. Seek out a peer in the virtue to receive the Mantra and Rune for a specific shrine.
|HONESTY — Integrity; truthfulness; sincerity. Honesty is more than telling the truth. It means refraining from self-deception as much as it means not deceiving others. Honesty is the most important virtue, because without self-knowledge, there can be no possibility of enlightenment. The shrine of Honesty is located on Dagger Isle, north of Verity Isle.|
|COMPASSION — Unconditional empathy for others. Compassion requires one to refrain from adding to the pain and anguish in the world. Compassion is the most important virtue, because alleviating suffering is the ultimate aim of good. The shrine of Compassion is located south of Lock Lake, and west of the village of Cove.|
|VALOR — Moral as well as physical strength; the courage and dedication to fight your enemies, no matter the odds. Valor is the most important virtue, because evil must be defeated before good can triumph. On an island near the fighter's city of Jhelom can be found the shrine of Valor.|
|JUSTICE — Upholding the rule of law, without which the weak are helpless against the strong. This means opposing tyranny just as it does fighting crime. Justice is the most important virtue, because it underpins how we should treat each other. Far to the northeast of Yew, on a marshy peninsula, is the shrine of Justice.|
|SACRIFICE — Seeing the plight of others as your own; giving of the self to aid those in need. Sacrifice is the most important virtue, because all worthwhile things can only be obtained through it. The shrine of Sacrifice is located in the wild lands in the northeast part of Britannia.|
|HONOR — Duty, loyalty and trust; integrity; comradeship. Upholding the values that bind society together. Honor is the most important virtue, because without it, society could not function. Nestled in the coastal mountains south and west of Trinsic is the shrine of Honor.|
|SPIRITUALITY — Realising the unity of all things that exist, have existed, and will exist; seeing a dimension to life beyond the tangible or material. Spirituality is the most important virtue, because acknowledging the reality of the transcendent is necessary to experience it. The location of the shrine of Spirituality is a mystery, but perhaps the folk of Skara Brae can provide a clue to its whereabouts.|
|HUMILITY — Knowing one's place in the grand scheme of things; seeing the corrupting potential of self-righteousness. Humility is the most important virtue, because it is the one most easily forgotten by the great and powerful. The people of New Magincia say that the shrine of Humility is located far to the southeast of their isle. Those seeking it out should be on their guard, as it is believed to be guarded by the self-same demons that destroyed Old Magincia.|
In Britannia, enlightenment is not merely metaphorical or a philosophical fancy — it has real, tangible effects. As a character progresses along the path to full Avatarhood, her newfound wisdom improves her abilities, grants her unique powers, and aids her in overcoming the challenges facing her.
All characters and creatures with at least 3 Intelligence have a rank in each of the eight virtues. These ranks range from 1 (least virtuous) to 5 (most virtuous); this is similar to the Honor system in Rokugan, except that instead of a single rank, there are eight. Most characters in Britannian society have a rank of 1 to 3 for all virtues. Acting in a manner consistent with the virtues increases your ranks, while behaving in selfish, cruel and generally villainous ways reduces them. Alignment is not explicitly linked to virtue, although virtuous behaviour tends to correlate with good or neutral alignment. Evil characters who attempt to follow the tenets of the virtues will usually find it hard to remain evil; conversely, if they remain true to their alignment, they will find it hard to be virtuous. Some magic items and spells may have special effects on characters, depending on their virtue ranks.
Fiends and other irredeemably evil creatures have a rank of 0 in all virtues. These creatures normally cannot improve their virtue, nor do they wish to, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. It's also possible, though rare, for a mortal character to have rank 0 in one or more of the virtues. This can result from a long and infamous history of malevolent behaviour, making a pact with a demon, or using an evil artifact like the skull of Mondain. Animals and unintelligent creatures such as vermin and constructs do not have virtue ranks, because they are incapable of ethical and moral choice (how you treat animals and vermin, however, can still have consequences on your virtue).
A character who makes rank 5 in a particular virtue, and then spends at least one day in meditation and contemplation at that virtue's shrine, is said to have achieved partial Avatarhood in that virtue. This grants a benefit that depends on the virtue:
A character who attains partial Avatarhood in all of the virtues deriving from one of the three principles also gains the following benefits, as appropriate:
Furthermore, a partial Avatar gains access to exalted feats and spells (from the BoED). She can use such spells up to a spell level equal to the number of virtues in which she has attained partial avatarhood, and may take up to an equal number of such feats.
A character who achieves partial Avatarhood in all eight virtues is an Avatar: an enlightened individual, one who has transcended her mortal self to gain a special relationship with the cosmos. She gains the following benefits:
It's possible to fall from Avatarhood, just as it's possible to gain it. A character who falls below rank 5 in a virtue in which she is a partial Avatar loses her status as such. Any special abilities or benefits she gained are lost as well. She must atone for her misdeeds before she can attempt to regain her former status.