The Brotherhood of the Cosmic Order
"Being a member of the Brotherhood of the Cosmic Order is about realism. Some people who call themselves druids seem to think that Nature is fluffy bunnies and everything will turn out all right. Others seem to think that they know how to cheat their way around the consequences of their actions. Not even magic does that. You can't beat the laws of nature -- and why would you want to? Pain and conflict are what happen when you're grinding against the gears, turning out of sync with your world.
"Our job as druids is to correct that wherever we find it. To help the individual parts of the world find their place in a dance so vast that mortals can barely comprehend its existence. All of history has been the raising of a universe of form and function out of the primal chaos, and we of the Brotherhood have devoted our existence to that first and greatest quest.
"There is reason, and there is madness. Which side are you on?"
The theology of the Order is centered on the absolute Law of nature. It also takes the harmony and balance of cycles in nature as a primary theme.
Conceptions of good and evil will change tomorrow, or with the next turn of the war between Heaven and Hell. Gods and their faiths rise and fall with the passage of time. What was yesterday a holy war or divine inquisition is today an abomination against peace and justice. The Cosmic Order lets others get on with struggles for power or honor or righteousness. They have devoted their existence to making sure that these concepts still have meaning.
The worldview of the Brotherhood of the Cosmic Order is centered around the Chaoskampf, the story of Creation as the act of bringing form out of primal Chaos, and subsequent existence as the sustenance of reality against the ever-present threat of falling back in to formlessness. The world is thus both impermanent and permanent: chaos would win if the forces of order ever ceased their battle, but those forces are so constituted that the continuation of their efforts is assured. Mortals have the opportunity to assist materially in the progression of this eternal act. Perfection can be understood by mortals in the timeless, unbiased, perfectly balanced harmony of physical law. One should strive to act in accordance with this law in order to avoid pain and achieve one's potential.
On the Prime, the Cosmic Order is the standard druid order on a somewhat smaller range of worlds than the other druidic traditions. It tends to be the dominant druid order on more thickly settled worlds where the balance between man and nature is more managed. On worlds where it has a strong presence it often preaches doctrines of social stability, caste systems, and divine right, making it popular with rulers who give it their blessing and support, both financial and legal. (Of course, in D&D, many rulers do rule by divine right, with the explicit say-so of the divinity in question!) As scrupulous observers of tradition with a firm interest in the orderly transfer of authority and power, in many countries on such worlds the Order is legally endowed with kingmaker responsibilities: choosing successors to thrones in case of disputes, and being a required imprimatur for royal weddings and legitimate births. Whether a ruler is likely to be a good one or a bad one matters less to the Cosmic Order than who has the best legal or divine claim to rule: the Order prefers that rebellions and wars of conquest not start, but when they do, they also don't involve themselves in picking sides.
This extends even to matters of the war between Good and Evil: the Order officially regards the claims and counterclaims of Heaven and Hell to be irreducible to mortal minds (there is some slight theological debate within the order as to whether this is a matter of mere historical contingency or a philosophically necessary condition of existence), and believes that mortalkind is wisest to pay attention to its own society and homes. Demons, on the other hand, are to be combated at all costs, and the devils do the world a favor in doing so. The fey are liars and tricksters that men should avoid lest they be spirited away for seven years under hill; the eladrin, for the most part, are not as destructive as demons and therefore not typically a high priority. A slaad on the Prime is to be contained and banished at all costs, for it is a danger to society and the functioning of nature. Guardinals, yugoloths and hags can get on with their business, unless they start breaking local laws and raising a ruckus -- since for the most part it is the evil exemplars that do so, the activities of the Order regarding outsiders do end up having a slight tilt toward Good. The growing body of lore concerning the Far Realm has the Cosmic Order as worried as any other sane organization, though they tend to categorize its conditions and denizens as a type of "super-chaotic" threat to existence.
NPC members and non-adventuring activities
The rank and file of the Cosmic Order are the confirmates. Non-spellcasting confirmate clergy of the Order can be found on both the good and evil sides of the lawful axis, but their most common personality feature is a sober adherence to tradition and a desire to uphold the rules. In their communities, members of the Order often serve as impartial judges of disputes and probates of estate. They are also often to be found as librarians and schoolteachers. Their most important sacraments are naming children and solemnizing marriages (and, if necessary, divorces). Death is a phase of existence; reincarnation is preferable to an afterlife, since it is living beings that have the greatest effect on the world.
A chapter of the Brotherhood of the Cosmic Order generally exists openly. The area around a small village may have a single druid local to the region who knows it well, probably not a spellcaster, who lives in an isolated area away from the village (for example, in a stand of forest in a temperate region) and visits from time to time or makes his rounds of individual dwellings. He will make sure to be available for births, weddings, and funerals. One druid may oversee two or even three small villages, especially when a neighbor has died or left (for instance, if the neighbor suddenly becomes a PC!). He will teach likely youths a bit of natural lore, and one who shows interest may be groomed as a future druid. He will survive off the land to some extent, and usually receives regular donations from the locals. His daily activities are devoted to sustaining the productivity of his region; for instance, he will suggest managing a forest for maximum long-term productivity. A forest he oversees may end up as more monoculture than the wildness of a forest overseen by a different order of druids. Unlike many other druids, Cosmic Order druids are more often comfortable finding the rhythms and balances of life in an urban environment, and are willing to help a city integrate with its surrounding world.
Druids from as many as two dozen small towns (or one very large city) will gather on significant holy days in a secret area, often a large grove, for ceremonies led by the area's Sealed Druid. The Sealed Druid is also a confirmate with their own village, but has been elected to this position, often because he exhibited spellcasting ability (and is thus strictly Lawful Neutral). He coordinates the confirmates in an area, is responsible for the examinations of new confirmates in the Druidic lore so that they can be confirmed as clergy, collects and distributes funds from donations and other sources. (The Cosmic Order is likely to have straightforward legal title to large acreages.) He works with higher-level public officials in the region regarding the Order's concerns about wild areas and natural resources, and the officials' concerns about the Order's activities. He also is responsible for hosting and overseeing PC druids who cross through his area; it is polite for them to inform him when they come through, although informing a confirmate is sufficient if the word is likely to get to him.
Sealed Druids of the Cosmic Order travel perhaps once a year to a central gathering of several hundred Sealed -- usually a hidden, isolated stronghold with a small number of dedicated year-round protectors, home to a few Sealed Druids with spellcasting abilities who see to the Order's business exclusively rather than ministering to communities. (PC Druids who developed spellcasting abilities early in their tutelage by the druid of their village may be associated with this setup at the start of their careers.) There they discuss the business of the Order, often the activities of PC druids, led by the Assured Druid, who was chosen from among their number by the Conclave of Arch-Druids who see to Druidry on this world.
Assured Druids are the highest-ranking members of the Order with which lords and even sovereigns deal openly. Arch-Druids are not elected at all, but are plucked from the ranks (even from Confirmates, although these are the rarest of occasions) by Signified delegates of the Transcendental Druids -- that is to say, the planar druids who coordinate the Order across the Multiverse.
The rites of the Cosmic Order take the form of long ceremonies with lead parts and responses from the other members present. The Order loves astronomy and astrology, and strives to keep accurate calendars on each world and among worlds. The Order often keeps accurate astrological records, favoring various versions of astrological divination on worlds where this is possible. It is a great builder of stone circles in regions where this is geologically plausible. In places where they have a firm footing, there may be as much as one stone circle per region of about 100,000 population.
On the Outer Planes, the Cosmic Order is strongest on Mechanus, with significant presences on Arcadia and Acheron. They coordinate all activities concerning Arcadia's ecology with the Storm Kings and their lieutenants. They were deeply concerned about the fall of Nemausus and were pleased to see it restored to its rightful place. The ongoing tensions between the formians and the modrons on Mechanus continue to worry them, and a stated goal of the Order is keeping the peace between the two races. On Mechanus, the Order is friendly with the gear spirits, as they share the goal of keeping the cogs of the plane in perfect working order. They are officially neutral on the legitimacy of the current power structure by which the modrons assert authority over the gear spirits.
They are surprisingly tolerated on Acheron, where they theoretically abide by a strict code of non-interference with the various armies. They are as well informed as any group concerning the current state of the endless wars, and they are reputed to know several secret portals for getting around and off the plane. Their penchant for astronomy becomes a bent for tracking the meanderings of the Styx and the orbits of significant cubes. They work mapping water sources and ensuring that provender trees remain widely available, making them a valuable neutral party to all sides. Of course, no one remains free of conflict on Acheron for long, and cycles of hostage-taking, rescue, vengeance, perceived favoritism, and other slights have led to a web of unspoken alliances and hostilities between the Order and various armies. There is no particular reason the Order needs to be on equally good terms with any two currently-allied armies, either, making negotiating the shifting terrain of politics a continual minefield for members of the Brotherhood on Acheron.
The Mechanus population of the Brotherhood of the Cosmic Order is the rootstock of the Order across the Prime. By use of the Labyrinthine Portal, high-level Cosmic Order druids from Mechanus, wearing the emblems that mark them as Transcendental Druids, ensure that druids on the Prime continue to work to advance and defend the universal Law, and hew to standards of conduct set down by the Order. As a group that naturally attracts law-abiding members, heresy and apostasy are fairly rare, and any honest mistakes in transmission of lore are usually easily remedied. Like all druid orders, the Cosmic Order has the advantage that significant deviation from the moral teachings of the Order tend to result in alignment shifts away from Lawful Neutral, with concomitant loss of spellcasting, unless the alignment change (if one step) was to true neutral.
Long-term goals (wild dreams) for devotees of the Cosmic Order may include:
* Discover the power source that turns Mechanus' gears
* Discover what the gears of Mechanus are doing
* Verify the hypothesis that the gears power all Multiversal activity
* Prove that even apparent Chaos is simply a highly complex law-abiding phenomenon
Other than having lived in an area where the Cosmic Order was the domining druid order, a frequent reason a planar has for joining the Order is a sense of impermanence: a loss, or a disillusionment, that led the seeker to search for something eternal. For many, that is the cosmic Law. Of course, many druids of the Order on Mechanus are also members of the Fraternity of Order, or the Mathematicians. Many druids of the Order are Athar, holding that the cosmic Law, to which even divinities are subject, is the most knowable aspect of the Great Unknown.