By Doug Dawson.
Here's a bit of twisted history I've been playing around with. The inspiration for this was some Templar hijinks going on in my 7th Sea game...it occurred to me that in the world of the Shadow War, there's got to be significance to the Templars.
What follows is a hodgepodge of ideas.
In our current timeline, the Templars were wiped out in the early 14th century, accused of all sorts of mystic rituals and devil worship. This is not long after the point at which the proto-Ascended and allies struck to wipe out the Four Monarchs timeline.
The connection is that the Templars were secretly acquiring feng shui sites in order to lift the magic level of the world. Originally, they succeeded, producing a magic-rich world by the 16th century and setting the stage for the Four Monarchs. The initial sites grabbed by the proto-Ascended were enough to prevent the Four Monarchs, but it took a while longer to smash the Templars and ensure that the world would be Transformed Animal-friendly.
Now, how can this have influence on the game? Well, there can always be a Templar or two hanging around still...secret descendants of the original order, or perhaps a few who wandered into the Netherworld while the 13th century juncture was open, or you could even have the 13th century juncture reopen. I'm currently working on a Fu Path for the Templars...possibly the only path designed to be used in full armor.
Scattered Templars aren't the only possibility, though. Let's look a little deeper. One of the most famous accusations against the Templars was that they venerated a severed head, often referred to as Baphomet. In our timeline, this has been thoerized as being anything from a reference to Mohammed, to the head of John the Baptist, to an allegory for the power of the human mind. In Feng Shui, though, why not an actual, living, severed head?
Ancient Chinese myth is rich with immortal beings, including those with never-healing wounds (note the Five Who Will Not Die in Thorns of the Lotus). So, let's say we've got a wizard who can't be killed...but his enemies do manage to cut off his head. Through a thoroughly impressive series of adventures, the head gets carted all over Eurasia...maybe somone vows to take it as far away from China as they can get, finally burying it in England (tieing in to the legend of the head of Bran the Blessed, which could prophesy and was supposedly buried outside London to protect England from the French).
Thanks to the lowered magic levels, the head can't do anything other than speak, but eventually someone finds it who's willing to listen, and with the head's advice, begins to build an organization...
After the Ascended destroy the Templars, they've got to do something with the head. The head is especially dangerous because it's thoroughly saturated with magic, and its very presence causes a risk of Reversion. So, they bury it. Over the centuries, however, it keeps popping back up, so they keep moving it around and reburying it...until the players find it.
At the moment, I'm thinking that the Ascended currently have the head buried below Alcatraz. Alcatraz is not a positive feng shui site... in fact, attuning to it is a good way to never be able to escape! (Native Americans sent exiles to Alcatraz a long time before the US decided to use it as a prison...) The tours and museum on alcatraz are all run by Pledged enforcers of course, drawing an important (though boring) duty.
Last modified: July 13th, 2000; please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.