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The Society of Winetasters
Posted on Wed, August 01, 2012 by Ullmaster
Sutemi writes "A top-secret, Flanaess-wide secret society of the good that watches the watchers. Infinite knowledge of secrets, plotting against the forces of evil and good wine. No headquarters, no leadership, you’re on your own. Sounds good? The Society of Winetasters awaits for you.

Synopsis: The Society of Winetasters is a secret society of good-aligned sages, heroes and keepers of lore.

Origins
The creators of the Society are unknown. Right from the start the Society has done their best to erase themselves from the history and vigorously planted false information about their origins. At the moment the Society has as many backgrounds and creators as there are people talking about them. Many people consider the Aletasting song as their personal favorite. It’s a song about the Society of the Aletasters and the unknown cleric of Olidammara who created the society. The sorted details mixed with battling the evil orc-women always earn a silver piece or two in the City of Greyhawk and help to keep the Society as a myth.

 The Society was created in CY 500 by a splinter group of the Old Lore. The splinter group saw that the power of the Old Lore had seriously waned due to the stringent entry requirements and they saw that there was a demand for a scholarly organization devoted to the defense of good.

The original group was sages without lot of options to strike against evil. They were also afraid that they might be captured and all the secrets from their studies and from the Old Lore would fall into the wrong hands. Together they designed the structure, rules and sign language of the Society of Winetasters. Apparently only one thing about them is certain: They were as passionate about wine as they were about the defense of Flanaess.

Thereafter the group has grown immensely and now there are hidden Winetasters in all the parts of the world and in virtually every major organization.

Membership
Members of any race and class are invited to the ranks of the Winetasters. A candidate is a learned individual who must tell a secret to the Host.  If the secret is new to the Host and a valuable asset in the defense of good, the candidate is accepted to the Society and begins his or her training under the tuition of the Host. In some cases the Host may be omniscient and it’s nearly impossible to tell a secret which he or she doesn’t know yet. In such cases the requirement may be waived.
The candidate is elevated to the rank of Winetaster after learning the necessary skills of winetasting ceremony and sign language.
Any fully trained Winetaster may invite new members.
Members are encouraged to reveal almost everything to each other but also to keep some secrets. It’s vital that no one holds all the information. It’s a bit unethical but acceptable to give false information to another Winetaster, if that doesn’t jeopardize their war against evil.

Structure
Winetasters work alone or in pairs. They often work in other organizations of good or in adventure parties but keep their membership as a secret. The Society has no headquarters, libraries or leadership.

Each Winetaster has a contact person called the Host and an emergency contact called the Secret Host. Winetasters are only aware of their Hosts.

The Winetaster and the Host regularly meet each other to share knowledge and to coordinate their activities. After they have shared their knowledge, they agree a new place and a time for their next meeting but never arrange anything too regular or predictable. In order to ensure the privacy, the Winetasters do not mention any names out loud (occasionally they say names out loud if it’s a decoy or an emergency or if they are confident of their privacy).

Winetasters have developed a secret sign language which only consist alphabets and a limited punctuation. They use a cup of wine in their sign language, so to a casual onlooker it appears as if the Winetaster is simply playing with the cup in an elitist, neurotic or nervous manner.

Once a Host has taught his skills to new Winetaste he must immediately contact another Winetaster (usually his own Host) and reveal the identity of the new Winetaster. This person is henceforth known as a Secret Host and only steps in to replace the Host if the Host is dead or disappeared. This is done in order to avoid losing contact with Winetasters and thus breaking the chain of information. Secret Host also observes the Winetaster and ensures that he/she remains loyal and abides the nine rules. This is easier for the Secret Host than it is for the Host, because the Winetaster isn’t aware of his identity. A Secret Host which becomes a Host must assign a new Secret Host to replace him.

Information between the members is spread through the Hosts. Each Host knows at least one other Host, which helps to establish a link of information. Many secrets and plots against evil are spread through this chain.

Unique skills
Winetasting ceremony. An intricate ceremony exclusive to the Society. Every winetaster is taught all the major wines of all the realms. In the end of the ceremony each participant has to mention one distinctive quality of the wine, using the lingo of the Society. This is the primary method of recognizing Winetasters.
Winetasters’ sign language. Their sign language only consist basic alphabets and punctuation (Common). You need a cup to use the sign language.

Roles
Candidate = A member of Society without the necessary skills in winetasting ceremony and sign language.
Winetaster = A member of the Society with the necessary training.
Host = A winetaster who has trained another Winetaster and acts as his/her contact.
Secret Host = A winetaster who is prepared to take the role of the designated Host in a case of an emergency. He/she also acts a secret police, judge and jury.

Goals
Society’s main concern is to prevent the total destruction of Flanaess, acting a secret society of good prepared to take the last stand against evil.

In Flanaess heroes are few but easy to find. They have temples and headquarters.
However, the forces of good need to fight fire with fire. The rise of Iuz and evil high magic make the defenders of good extremely vulnerable if they just stand in the open and sometimes walls and fortresses are useless. Evil infiltrates, subverts and corrupts the good which doesn’t have the same tools at their disposal.

The Society of Winetasters hides from the general populace and governments, trying to do the works of good in secret. Their decentralized organization structure makes it hard to hunt them down. They hide even from the forces of the good, because nothing makes a worse enemy than a fallen paladin and corruption is everywhere. Even the most benign ally can be captured and tortured, so it’s better not to trust anyone. An important event in the history was the fall of Saint Kargoth and the Knight Protectors. The Society feels that this could happen anytime anywhere and are quick to remind of that.

Society keeps many secrets and they have a vast amount of knowledge. They don’t have any libraries. Most of their knowledge only exists as a verbal tradition but lesser secrets are sometimes written in hidden and encrypted tomes.

Current operations
It’s impossible to determine what the current objective of the Society is. Because the Society lacks leadership, their efforts are hardly coordinated. Mostly the Society observes everyone and everything, especially the supposedly good-aligned people in important positions. Anything relating to the fall of the defenders of good or corruption within lawful and good organizations, armies and governments is always close to the Winetaster’s heart. The Society is relative passive in its efforts and likes to work in the background but nothing however prevents the members to take up arms against evil if they choose to.

Enemies
The Society has no formal enemies but they are occasionally found destroying the cults of Vecna and fighting guerrilla wars against tyrants such as Iuz.

Allies
Good-aligned clerics of Olidammara tend to support the Society. Also some clerics of Fharlaghn secretly support their effort. The Society never keeps any formal or even informal ties with any organization.

Rivals
Majority of the high-ranking members of the church of St. Cuthbert do not appreciate secret societies of any kind. In the past there have been some scuffles, arrests and simple misunderstandings between them and the Society.

The Nine Rules
The Rule of Candidacy: Only non-evil and intelligent beings may be invited to the Society. Every creature must know a secret unknown to the Host.
The Rule of Winetasting: Once a candidate masters the sign language, the eight rules and the wine ceremony, he or she earns the name Winetaster.
The Rule of the Name: You can mention the name of the Society once to a candidate. After that it must not be mentioned ever again.
The Rule of Knowledge: Everyone must know something but no one should know everything.
The Rule of the Flowing Wine: You must not have a sedentary lifestyle.
The Rule of Secrets: Write things down as little as possible and always encrypt your secret texts.
The Rule of Three: No more than three Host or Secret Hosts must gather together.
The Rule of Sacrifice: Do not allow yourself to become captured.
The Rule of Action: Hide in the crowd, gather knowledge, keep secrets, fight evil.

The Great Offense
The greatest offense is to enquire about a Winetaster. All Winetasters must always react to people asking questions about them or at least flee soon as possible. The innocent and curious should be dealt in a soft manner. Possible spies should be dealt with harder measures. No Winetaster may ask questions about another Winetaster.
The only exceptions are the Secret Hosts. If they need to replace missing or dead Hosts, they are permitted to commit a great offense.

An example candidate:
Laranja Silfeim

Human Female 4th-level Expert LG
Initiative: -1
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 9 (-1 dex), touch 9, flat-footed 9
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+2
Attack: Mw. dagger +3 melee or ranged (1d4-1/19-20)
Full Attack: Mw. dagger +3 melee or ranged (1d4-1/19-20)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +6
Abilities: Str 9, Dex 8, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 12
Skills: Knowledge (geography) +12, Knowledge (history) +9, Knowledge (local) +9, Survival +7 (+9 to avoid hazards), Diplomacy +10, Gather Information +10, Listen +7, Sense motive +2, Ride +0.
Feats:Skill focus (geography), Negotiator, Iron Will

Laranja is a dark-haired woman with brown eyes who has a nice selection of dresses but prefers her light-blue scholar’s outfit. She is a sage in her early thirties and has a bit round physique.

Few weeks ago Laranja was approached by a woman called Celine. She was one her students in a class which she teaches at the local academy.

Celine seemed to only want to befriend her but later on it was revealed that she needed Laranja’s help. Celine was member in a certain secretive organization of sages which was dedicated to the defense of mankind. At first Laranja didn’t want to believe her but had a change of heart as Celine told her about their past operations and asked her to join their society to fight against evil and ignorance.

Laranja was both impressed and surprised. She felt that this was finally her chance to finally do something good. No other organization needed a geography-teacher. Knights and temples had no use for her but now she was given a chance to make difference. Her answer was an empathic “yes”.

There was just one obstacle: Laranja had to reveal an important secret that had to be unknown to Celine. Laranja knew one and was happy to reveal it. She had been giving private lessons to a local baron about a certain mountain area. This baron was disliked person and rumored to be corrupted, but there was no evidence against him. Celine was very happy about this knowledge and gladly accepted her into their fold.
Right now she’s learning their secrets slowly, bit by bit.

An example Winetaster and a Host:
Celine Carvatie

Human Female Bard 1st-level NG
Initiative: +5
Speed:30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+4 chainshirt, +1 dex), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/+1
Attack: Mw. dagger +1 melee or ranged (1d4+1/19-20) or shortbow +1 ranged (1d6/x3)
Full Attack: Mw. dagger +1 melee or ranged (1d4+1/19-20) or shortbow +1 ranged (1d6/x3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Saves: Fort -1, Ref +3, Will +2
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 13, Con 8, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 14
Skills: Bluff +6, Hide +3, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Perform +6,  Diplomacy +6, Gather Information +6, Concentration +3.
Feats: Improved initiative, Weapon focus (longsword).

Celine is a tall young woman in her early twenties. She has a long, wild, blond hair, blue eyes and slender physique. He likes to wear her chainshirt and dark traveler’s clothing wherever she goes.

A passionate defender of good and promising adventurer, Celine was glad to join the Society of Winetasters. She was indoctrinated into their arts and knowledge two months ago and has recently set on her own. She doesn’t want to stay too close to her Host because that is not the way of the Society. She’s on the move, taking life on the road and trying to find a suitable person to become a Winetaster.

Celine has now found a suitable person called Laranja and is currently training their secrets to her. Once finished, she will contact her own host and give him all the information she has about Laranja. After that Celine’s own Host will become Laranja’s Secret Host – her guardian and watcher – and thus the triangle will be complete.

Author: Tuomas Ali-Hokka, a Greyhawk-fan from Finland."
 
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Re: The Society of Winetasters (Score: 1)
by Phalastar on Wed, August 01, 2012
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Wow Sutemi, that was very interesting. I would love to see more societies on these pages, they are so much to the game. I love the concept you have described here. Thanks for a great contribution.




Re: The Society of Winetasters (Score: 1)
by Argon on Thu, August 02, 2012
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Sutemi,

Congrats on the submission. I told you they would make for an interesting need. Like you said your english is not that good but I think you still pulled the article together well. Keep them coming nice work.

Later

Argon




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