Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Scamandros to Big Freeta, a letter

 Scamandros to Big Freeta of the Rootless,

------

Nigh five weeks have passed since I came before you with the hope to reconcile your old claims to the Halls of the Ancient Fathers and the present situation for you within those halls.

You asked two things of me in hope for your deliverance from the straits of hardship into which you and the Rootless have been thrust:

First, to deliver a letter from you to the Imperial Mother, seeking a reconciliation between your people, their ancient claims, and her "imperial" airs;

Second, you gave me a certain amount of gold to acquire insect repellent in the markets of Orm, thus to shield your people from the bloodsucking swarms that hound you, there in the depths of the Ancient Halls.

Allow me quickly to dispose of the second question: Bartamus Fludge, proprietor of said repellent, has not since returned to Orm, and thus have I not spent anything given me for the sake of acquiring that repellent. Therefore, I return the gold, not even a penny touched; and further, I would have you know that I have embarked on a process of research and manufacture myself, in order to create a salve of equal potency against the insectile devils. I hope soon to be able to provide you with a supply that will secure you against the bloodsucking swarms crafted by my own hand.

As to the first question, it may also be a means of deliverance from the horrible insects: for the Imperial Mother has granted you and your kin vassalage, that is, the possession for yourselves of a certain territory within the Halls of the Ancient Fathers in return for your fealty. This "holding", centering around a so-called "Pool of Life" (as named by my comrades), was formerly held by a rebellious sorcerer-king, now dispossessed and exiled (I do not know the particulars of his fate).

This vassalage seems not of little importance to me, centering around the aforementioned Pool; it seems indeed to possess strange power over the vagaries of life itself. And let me also say that I belief this "fief", as it were, should be somewhat secure against the foul insects that plague you, as the sorcerer-king and his minions who once held it were able to keep it secure against the swarms for themselves.

------

Now, as to how this offer of the "fief" and attendant "vassalage" came to pass, allow me to explain.

In the company of my associate Journeyman Crannoc (and his raptor-retainer, Plumes); Wolfgang the swordfighter; Betina the Blind (and an amazon hireling); the Bard Fancy and his cat-and-dog companions; and GaWoosh, Champion of Gnomes; we descended into the Halls of the Ancient Fathers seeking the Imperial Mother to deliver your letter and seek resolution of your claims.

We passed a strange chamber containing a one-eyed gaoler abusing (demonic?) snake-tailed women of many arms with a magical flail. He helpfully gave us directions to the Imperial Mother's territory; alas, our progress was impeded by a trap that ended with an arrow through the heart of Plumes, instantly killing the huge raptor.

A detour was agreed on--to seek the Pool of Life, and attempt to restore Plumes to full verve within its depths. It was explained to me that certain mercenaries once employed by us had observed the servants of the sorcerer-king who had possessed the Pool dipping comrades into its waters to restore them from death, and had thus restored several of their own ranks by imitation. (Such is the strange power over which you might soon hold fief).

The Pool was quickly come by; Plumes dipped into it; and lo! the terror bird came forth, though a little daft for the experience of death.

Thence we returned to our purpose, seeking the Mother. Through twists and turns, we came to a library containing certain of her servants; they directed us to her throne room itself; and therefore we came before the great Mother in all her regal glory, flanked by Imperial guards with the regal heads of great lions.

I presented your case, in conjunction with Crannoc and Betina; unfortunately, the grandeur of the Imperial presence intimidated GaWoosh, and he offered the Mother insolent reply. From her throne, she ordered him reprimanded, but I took the reprimand myself, I being he envoy, and he coming along at my behest (you may see the result of the reprimand in the black eye I still bear; I find it unwise to insult a ruler upon her throne).

Despite the proffered insolence; and I hope in large part because of our arguments for your people, the Imperial Mother thence relented to offer you the terms presented in this companion letter, bound by a strand of her own hair, offering you the fiefdom around the Pool of Life.

I hope that you find the terms acceptable! But I am willing to champion you and yours regardless, however you best find yourselves and your home within the Indos na Egra Eithog.


Your friend,
Riverborn Scamandros
Σκαμανδρος Ποταμογεναιος 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Certain Notes Hastily Scrawled by Scamandros, Glimpsed by Fellow Burning Witch Patrons

[the map attached to these notes--all absently left at the table by Scamandros as he and Kiddo (and others?) collect another round at the bar of the Burning Witch before returning to rehash what transpired--anyway, the map is clearly incomplete, and merely adds to one already sketched by Scamandros on his first foray into the Complex in the area near the Auditorium and the black vines and fruit (once?) guarded by Cronk]


Phasmo advocates for adamantium doors with cranks on 2nd level
Shadow monkeys and mosquitoes potential obstacles
Crannoc--take the grain ladder down, approach doors from north, maybe miss monkeys
I offer 3 z. insect repellent (hope Fludge returns soon) to deal with mosquitoes

Stairs into Complex have new look ... edgy (not unlike Frim); Phasmo interested in black grass, reveals he was recently robbed--strange
New door blocks way--Crannoc familiar with it as Brothers' work
Piked heads by stairs are gone; Crannoc collects nearby slime at my behest
Thru arch & north, 4 suck-clouds block way; confusion; retreat to elevator
Collect black fruit (10 altogether, Phasmo has 1; will petition party for fermenting some into more wine)

Further north, urbane ghouls eating gnome; claim bibulous nose as most delectable, but the gnome is not Brian
Avreml offers beets, ghouls disgusted; conversation distracted by memories of Brian and his involvement with the "Evil" Stump (possible new avenue of research?)
Accord reached by offer to return with a corpse; thru corridor, adamantium doors, black jungle beyond & S.
E. door filled with coppery machinery, tubes; W door too; a beet is placed into one machine; investigations interrupted by Valtropis' minions; diplomacy prevails
All investigations for naught; egress by grain ladder agreed

doomed!

Not quite doomed. Lion-automatons now leading us thru complex. Phasmo suggested surrender. Diplomacy worked before

1/2Elves=peace?

1) Gnomes
2) Red Hive
3) Valtropis

[afterward, a series of phrases written in Gnomic, possibly relating to Scamandros' known research into the Gnomes of the Complex, their claims within, and the "Clause of Abandonment"]

Monday, June 1, 2020

Scamandros to Kiddo, who has been healing this past week

[At the Burning Witch tavern, Scamandros and Kiddo share a pitcher of chestnut ale, and the Seer relates to his young lictor something of the deeds done Friday last, while Kiddo was resting a-bed to the heal the hurts that nearly laid her low last expedition they'd shared within "the Complex"]

Well, the stairs don't meet as you'd hope they do, between the first level of the Complex and the underground shore of the lizards. There's some kind of gate, and demi-Dwarfish warnings to "Keep Out" if Fergus is as fluent as he claims to be. Whoever was behind was cooking up a stew and otherwise most unpleasant, and would not allow us to pass. Fancy, with some chalk, added some edification to the gate for future expeditions if they pass by.

No, not "the old familiar suggestion", something milder. Though I wish you'd been there to suggest it!

Anyway, that meant the same as last time--ropes lowered into the same well to the water, and clambering down and all, and with the added awkwardness of the canoes. Yeah, we had three of them, all told, in part because of the addition of Fancy's lot to our crew--you remember them, Turq, Terwin, and Glys. We'd lower a canoe, lower its crew, and then the next boat. I think we got a neat order to it, before all was done.

All said, I'm glad that three sufficed! Pak-Pak didn't want to row (nor would I want it, him being a kobold with little leverage for a paddle), but was pint-sized; and Hate Pit the vatspawn possessed the strange power to acquire the properties of something touched by their hands, thus able to become buoyant cork with a mere wine-cork! Marvelous indeed.

The waters weren't quite the subterranean lake I was expecting; they branched here and there, with various shores. A maw opened into the depths on one beach, but we agreed to continue our watery explorations instead. On the next beach we heard skittering footsteps--

--you guessed it! When Betina called for him, Brian the Gnome answered. He was wary at first, but warmed up quickly to our company when I offered him some wine (he admitted to a fondness for strong drink, and his great nose shining in the lantern-light confirmed the truth). Well, Betina and I pressed on him our former brief acquaintance, and he admitted some information: over yonder, and across the bridge, we might find certain "lovely ladies" to admire (and why not, when come all this way??)

I made certain arrangements with him, concerning the Indos etc.--we'll hash them out before our next delve, when you're all healed, I expect.

Anyway, after that we followed Brian's guidance and came to a bridge overarching above the water, with ingress from the southern shore. Landing our craft there, we crossed the bridge north and discovered a chamber filled with wonderful statues of the Empire-that-Was--in particular of ladies and ladies-in-waiting, all in their finery, cut most exquisitely from finest stone-and-marble, and all covered over with the growths of algaes and other slimes.

Fancy expressed a general distaste for the images, the algaeic coverings, and the suggestion of the gnome that brought us thence; and my comrades were eager to depart for more interesting parts; but I persisted in inspecting the statues, and though I did not dis-cover the secret door, I did detain us long enough that it be discovered.

For of course, amongst such a display, some secret must be found; and what was found was a sarcophagus, ancient and reptilian. Banx (the illusionist in service to Hate Pit), possessed of witch-sight, was able to discern a corpse within the sarcophagus. All was made ready, as well as possible, for the inevitable animation of the horror, and lo! it did arise with pale fires in its eye-sockets, and a pale sword in its hand, when Fergus ventured to overthrow the lid of the sarcophagus.

Our weapons found no purchase against it as it arose, but Fergus was able to smuggle the sword from its hands before it could react, and pass the pale blue blade to Hate Pit. Hate Pit then struck the horror, and the sword bit as others did not, but to little avail. Then Fancy, taking up a vial of holy water from his pack, smashed it well against the thing's skull, and the water hissed most vilely, staggered, and collapsed.

But of course you'll receive some of the lucre from this adventure! Do you think that I, Riverborn Scamandros, am stingy with lucre well-won? Only heal well, and together, we will dis-cover ever greater treasures, both material and immaterial!

Rosey! Another pitcher! And share out a bottle of your finest for those in the house tonight!

Friday, May 29, 2020

A Will, Proffered by Scamandros to the Impossible Fortress and the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun

I, Scamandros--borne of the ancient River Scamander through my great-great-great-etc-grandmother, the Naiad Idaea, mother of Teucer--acknowledging that I am sound of intent, mind, and body, do set down this living will, in full understanding that continued delves into the area known locally as "the Complex" may result in my death, or worse, dismemberment, and that my interests may best be guarded in this writing.

To this end, I declare the inheritors of my worldly lucre, goods, and possessions thus:

1) A tenth portion of the value of my chattel goods and liquid lucre shall be delivered to the Rani of the Impossible Fortress, in tribute to her Excellence, and for surety in the discharge of this document.

2) A tenth portion of same (goods and lucre) shall be reserved for funereal purposes, including the costs of woods for the pyre, the purchase of a fine silver funereal urn for the ashes, and the disbursement of much wine for those attendant. It is hoped that enough lucre be acquired that some form of games be contested, and a fine prize be offered the winner, in keeping with the ancient ways of fallen Heroes

3) A fifth portion of same (goods and lucre) shall be reserved for the Athenaeum of the Dying Sun, of which I, Scamandros, am a "founding member". The use of these funds is left to the final decision of the remaining members (Phasmo, Journeyman Crannoc, and the Half-Elf Sergio Cankersore), but I would urge those surviving me to use them in the further development of our library, e.g. the acquisition of new works, the preservation of those possessed, and perhaps even scribal copyings for the expansion of the Athenaeum.

4) A fifth portion of same (goods and lucre) shall be paid to one "Kiddo" (an orphan[?] of Orm) whom I, Scamandros, have taken into service as retainer. Well has she served me as lictor and spear-arm! The usufruct of what I leave her is hers alone (though I do hope she aims rather for the philosophical and metaphysical, and not the crass material, in her use of it).

5) Finally, the remaining two fifths of same (goods and lucre), plus the fruits of any personal projects I have engaged in, as well as the capital I have in invested in for the brewing of interesting drink, in addition to the copy-right to any left-over notes (including in my spell notebooks) I leave behind, as well as any extraordinary items that have come into my possession during expeditions into "the Complex" or beyond--all this I leave to my Cousin.

For myself, I am without issue, and without siblings, by whom I might leave all to Niece or Nephew. Therefore, it is only right that, should news of my (merely hypothetical) death be bruited about, that my nearest, eldest Cousin should inherit the greatest portion of my wealth.

Signed,
Σκαμανδρος Ποταμογενος

Witnessed:





Friday, May 22, 2020

"To the Company!" Scamandros Toasts the Dead and the Living

[Returning from "the Complex" after another successful expedition--the returns of which included the bodies of former adventuring-comrade Feeble Finn, and Finn's compatriot, the dragon-knight Castora--Scamandros organizes an impromptu wake for the fallen in the Burning Witch Tavern, spending 20 of his own gold for free-flowing drink, and inviting others to pitch in as they wish ...]

Let's pour one out for Finn, once Fleet-of-Foot, then called Feeble, and another for Castora, a Dragon-Knight I never knew! Aye, I doubt I'll ever see Finn's debt to me repaid; about 60 gold for arms and armor I bought him before our last venture into the Complex, because I was loath to venture in with a comrade denuded by carousing-debts. But double that would I have paid, for better armor, if only Finn were still here amongst us, and nor would I have asked him the recompense!

I was there when the Fleetfoot lost his right leg to un-dead corpse of Way-Loon, down there in the Complex, and after which he jokingly called himself "Feeble". But he sought out the services of one Dr. Fortunius, and soon had a prosthetic made for himself, and if he wasn't yet as quick on his feet as before, still, he was fine-footed! Finn was a fine adventuring companion, and I myself will sorely miss him amongst our company here at the Burning Witch. Here's to Finn!

Fancy, can you not recite Finn's "Ode to a Dwarven Foot"?

[and Scamandros pours out a glass of wine on the fire, which sputters, and then burns more brightly for a moment]

As for those who knew Castora--we presume the other body we recovered is indeed his--ye may add your recollections of him as you wish, but for myself, alas, I never ventured forth with him.

[an interlude for any who would so recount]

Well, we did dis-cover them on the shore of an underground lake on the second level of the Complex, them alongside the corpse of a terrible lizard some eight-or-more feet long. Our getting there was most circuitous, but of little consequence; know just that there is an open well, in the caverns north of "the Pit", which overlooks as it were a great underground lake.

By intelligent use of ropes and physics, my trustworthy companion Betina the Blind was able to swing herself to a near-shore. But no sooner had she secured the rope for others to follow (Frim Frimerson and Phasmo went next) did the fighting-woman call out, "There's something moving down here!" (she of course could not see it).

Well, with Phasmo's light, another--living!--lizard was seen creeping up to eat Betina! Fortunately, Phasmo was able to blind the beast with his magic, and as the rest of us descended (minus Ornie Coldcut, who remained above to watch our ropes), and we cornered the beast in a further chamber and slew it by main force.

That chamber yielded certain secrets to us (mainly enjoyed by Journeyman Crannoc, our expert Librarian of Licentiousness), but also included the pair of skeletons you see thrashing there in the corner, bound by so many feet of copper wire. Yes, they are indeed metallic, though who knows what substance in particular is alloyed to the bones??

Well, we managed to extricate all the treasure, ourselves, and the metallic skeletons by our ropes through the well above.

But almost we would have poured more out to another comrade, if not for the liberality of Journeyman Crannoc! For in our haste to egress from the Complex, we were ambushed as a party by a band of dog-faced kobolds--and though the magics of my companions, Phasmo and Crannoc, were able to throw the sands of sleep over the kobolds, it was not before the same wretched creatures had stabbed Kiddo fully through the midriff with their spears!

And she and I had only just crushed the black fruits of healing in my possession into a cask with sugar, to be fermented at the Athenaeum, over the course of a month! I cried out to my compatriots--"Can no one save her?"

But Crannoc stepped forth, with bread baked from black bananas within the complex, and the eating of it did magically close the wound and save Kiddo's life. Something he whispered into her ear in the last moment between death and life; certainly something to the effect of, "Scamandros looks out for you!" I am sure of it. For myself, my heart is glad that you, Kiddo, remain among us the living, to share in our joys, rather than eating the dust of the grave!

Well, I have gone on too long! Friends, eat, drink, and remember to yourselves Finn, Castora, and whatever others as you will--Kay Em Dee we should also recall, I fear that I did miss his death earlier--let us all live fast and hard! To the company!

(I lately remembered this excellent song which would be relevant: "Here's a Health to the Company"; I don't know the singer, but he's better by a long draught than even the professionals like The Chieftains)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Agony of the Drow

I've been running a different game than usual, trying to drag the player-characters into the weird Underworld ... a new opportunity for this arose with the death of one character, and me suggesting that the player roll up a Drow as replacement.

Which means that suddenly I'm grasping through mists, trying to draw together something suitably interesting for a culture of Drow as I envision them, and for a PC to be embroiled in that society.

So I hit on the idea of repurposing the Ancestry and Birthright tables from AD&D Oriental Adventures, plus plundering the concept and table for Honor ... What I've put together is still just a rough draft, but I need to use it before the end of the week if I'm going to run the game this week, so I'm going to vomit forth what I have now for the player to use, and maybe return to write a new post later.

------

In Greek, an agon is a contest, often physical (a footrace, boxing match, or chariot race), but potentially literary, or otherwise. One in agony, therefore, is someone experiencing the contest as a competitor. I envision it as the pain or anguish one feels when uncertain of victory, or even the trouble at heart in knowing that someone else is better than you.

Thus "agony" for the Drow: the acute sense that all is conflict, and that every competition--even a simple conversation--creates the opening for victory or defeat, and that victory is rewarded with greater status and appreciation, while defeat brings revilement from those once deemed your betters or equals, or worse, those formerly beneath you! The honey of success is vanishingly sweet, while the gall of humiliation hangs bitter in the throat forever.

For a Drow, then, agony is an inverse score from 100 (essentially an outcast, reviled by everyone) to 0 (the height of status, envied by everyone--and the target of every assassin's blade ...). Individuals have their own personal sense of agony, but derive a base value from their House; the individual sisters mostly seek their own betterment, but clear victories on their own part also reflect well on the House, while terrible individual defeats also reveal to all just what a failure the individual's House is. Any change in agony during the course of adventure by a single Drow in multiples of ten reflects on her House in the same way (positive or negative) in increments of one (so -20 agony for the individual grants the House -2 familial agony).

For an individual, shedding certain amounts of agony come with rewards (and envy) ...

At 25 agony, a Drow is allowed to participate in the Troll-Bacchanals, rather than creating offspring merely through parthenogenesis or the use of male slaves. This increases the likelihood of "breeding-true" and having an actual Drow daughter to continue the House. Naturally, I'll need to write something like a carousing table for this, and it will involve bonus xp.

At 20 agony, she becomes "the talk of the town". Assassination attempts against her become more likely, and other Drow wishing to prove themselves may challenge her to duels or drinking contests, or whatever. The base suggestion from OA is a 10% chance per week.
Having written this after the table below, I'm already going to have to rejigger the table to include more of this, but not right now, because it's almost 2 am. Regardless, refusing a challenge causes a +10 increase in agony, while surviving an assassination attempt would naturally cause a decrease in same, depending on the potential effectiveness of the would-be-assassin and her plan.

At 15 agony, a Drow may be sought out by a cousin of a lesser House, or even one of the slave-races that serve the Drow, essentially to establish a patron-client relationship between the Drow and the person seeking her out. Recognized as a creature of status, the character basically has the sway to change the fortunes of those less glorified than herself. My immediate thought would be to create a relationship or institution which the character could begin to cultivate, and reap reasonable rewards from, so long as her agony remains low.

At 10 agony, a Drow is approached with various offers of alliance. These need not all come strictly from Drow Houses; there's no reason that Duergar or Serpentfolk wouldn't necessarily court powerful Drow for semi-mutually-beneficial alliances. The referee should make some interesting pitches from likely enclaves, and generally write them to be mutually incompatible. Accepting any one alliance should be beneficial in particular ways, but invite greater envy/enmity from other factions ... assassination attempts or open conflict could well follow!

At 5 agony, a Drow is able to cut herself off from her own House and establish a House for herself and her own descendants, if she wishes to cut ties with her own sisters, mother, and grandmother ... this is, of course, both dangerous and exhilarating! Creating one's own lineage comes with a variety of assassination attempts by those hoping to inherit/take one's possessions and inheritances for themselves, but also comes with the advantage of being the Great Grandmother of a House, and able to decide one's own path and alliances without the interference of older generations ...

Any Drow who achieves 0 agony and dies with the same is able to pass her success in life on through "genetic" memories to any newly created Drow character by the same player (or in the same House). There is a formula for this in OA that basically allows one to bump up ability scores and such, though no greater than +3 to any one roll. So that's the general idea there ...


Some ways to affect agony:

Agony --- Action
-5 --- avenging a Sister
-2 --- avenging a Cousin
-7 --- avenging an Elder
-1/HD --- taking a prisoner (Drow)
-1 --- taking a slave
+10 --- taken AS a slave/prisoner
-6 --- defeating an Ancestral Enemy / Feuding House
+3 --- calling in a Favor
+2 --- entering into Debt
-2 --- reaching Name Level
-2 --- being asked a Favor
-4 --- successful Assassination
-8 --- successful Assassination in-House
+8 --- failed Assassination
+20 --- failed Assassination in-House
-variable --- attaining Noble Title
+variable --- losing Noble Title
+4 --- losing House Heirloom
+6 --- causing a Feud through blundering
-3 --- creating a Feud strategically ...
+12 --- defeat by an Ancestral Enemy / Feuding House
-2 --- forging an advantageous Alliance
-1 --- acquiring Property
+2 --- losing Property
-1 --- lending Money
-1/2000 xp --- defeating a Monster
-1/coffle --- purchasing Slaves
+8 --- regularly associating with Slave-Races (non-Drow)

This isn't exhaustive ... like I said, it's a rough draft, and largely culled from the Honor table in OA. I expect it'll need fine-tuning with play, and expansion as the mists obscuring Drow culture clear for me through running this thing.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Allegiance instead of Alignment

I was asked today to brainstorm some ideas for "vows" for the Natural Cult like the three I wrote for the Good Cult of Alignment in my game some time ago.

I wrote up my ideas; I'll post them here soon. But first, the request and my daydreaming together led back around to my original frustration with Alignment as expressed in later D&D ... and with a new idea for something different: Allegiance!

Very original, I know.

I'm going to draw up some rough rules for one Allegiance here now, with suggestions for further types. The justification/argument will follow behind, in contradiction to the way I used to write things.

-------

"Allegiance" as written here is not a "moral" characteristic, but a metaphysical/eschatological choice for your character and whom they would back during the Final Battle at the end of time.

Today I'll be rough-drafting what Allegiance to Dragons could look like, given that just about all my characters worship "the Black Dragon" and so that's honestly what I've given most thought into when justifying my alignment, even before this "new" idea.

So:

Characters allegiant to Dragons prioritize the acquisition of wealth above all things, whether they merely find that admirable in itself, or wish to actually acquire wealth for some real or imagined Dragon, or even believe in their own possible "apodrakosis" in which they literally transform into dragons through their acquisitive nature.

To this end, a character so allegiant gains 1 xp for every 1 gp value of treasure nabbed above/beyond that nabbed by the player-character with the next highest gp count of treasure.

(Simple example: Xanthos, Henry, and Shoopie are on an adventure together. They find a treasure chest; Xanthos investigates it alone and finds it full of 1000 gp; secretly, he skims 100 gp, and reports back to his comrades the other 900. When they split the loot up back at town "honestly", each character gets 300 gp. At the same time, ostensibly, each character would earn 300 xp, but Xanthos will earn an extra 100 xp from the gp he "siphoned off" from the others. [My personal game would have slightly different xp, but the reasons create a math digression])

These characters are also incentivised to maximize (or steal) treasure because if they return from an expedition with more treasure than other characters (even if it's just 1 gp, or an item), they would then earn an extra 5% xp from the expedition as a whole, calculated the same way as a Thief with high dexterity, or a Fighting-Man with high strength.

But alas (and of course) these benefits come with restrictions: a character allegiant to Dragons cannot give away or lend wealth (unless the interest rate is ridiculous, like 25% or so, to be repaid in a month) or items, without reneging their Allegiance. Obviously, characters who renege cannot gain their associated xp bonuses; but they are also reviled by anyone else who may be allegiant to Dragons,  causing -2 on reactions with such (other than PCs, who can form their own relationships ... though other Draconic PCs would probably face social repercussions for continuing to associate with such reprobates).

Clerics would lose spells ... in B/X D&D I think the other classes would be generally unaffected, other than the social/xp troubles. Honestly, alignment/deity/allegiance is more of a cleric function anyway, so that's not unreasonable.

Atonement for such transgressions is of course possible, per the spell and D&D rules, and the terms would adhere to the severity of the transgression (10 gp is not 10,000 gp), and the nature of the particulars of the Dragon cult ...

So, this is already longer than I was shooting for, but I still want to say that declaring one's Allegiance to Dragons doesn't necessarily mean any Particular Dragon. My own characters generally worship "the Black Dragon". I made that up of old, in a moment, because a "Black Dragon" god was something I knew I could work with metaphorically.

My expectation/hope as referee would be to ask a player, "Your character is allegiant to Dragons; so is there a real dragon that your tribe worships, or is this some kind of metaphorical dragon-god? Or ... ? Who is it, what's the name, etc?" It doesn't matter much to me if you're the only worshiper, or if you claim to be one of an entire country, but the idea of "Dragon" is that you can at least narrow down some particulars of your cult to the idea of the Draconic, and act accordingly.

------

Allegiance in this sense is not merely the kind of obedience offered a liege by his vassal, but something of Cosmic significance. The kind of Allegiance under discussion here is eschatological; when the Rainbow Bridge is overthrown, when the Gjallarhorn is winded, when the Nailship sails from the Mist-Realm, your character's Allegiance determines whether he or she stands with the Gods and the Honored Dead, or if he or she marches with the Giants and Titans to overthrow the halls of the Gods--or if they stand aside altogether as the Final Battle rages, and instead look to the regeneration of the World Tree itself ...

I still don't give a crap as referee if you want to play a "lawful good" character but end up doing some larceny, or if you play a "chaotic evil" character, and lend a little charity to some orphans. What I want is for "alignment" to have some bearing on the world--and for characters to not have to worry about it if they don't want to!

And, if the players' visions of philosophy differ, for the "alignment" to be something "metaphysically true" in the game world that I as the referee can point to, regardless of what players may think, thus to adjudicate whether someone is acting "within alignment" or not.

I once considered abandoning the traditional Law-Chaos/Good-Evil schema of D&D alignment for completely made-up cults in my world, and decided that I liked the elegance of the traditional D&D scheme as shorthand for people familiar with it, and for those who have a vague sense of it.

"Shorthand" turned out to mean, in practice, that virtually everyone would write down their "alignment" on their character sheet as envisioned by themselves, and then ignore what I'd written for what that alignment actually meant.

"I'm Chaotic Good" they'd declare, and then neither seek (chaotically) to get ahead of everyone else in treasure or kills, and also not NOT get into fights (those who are Good are obliged not to start fights). "I'm Lawful Good," they'd say, but then not use the means laid out to gain extra xp by donations to either cult of  Law or Good. "Alignment" generally has continued to mean nothing other than something written on a "character sheet" for basically no reason.

Well, I once dreamed of writing a specific Cult for each of the nine possible alignments in AD&D. My frustration has driven me back to a version of that--getting rid of the "moral" dimensions of "Chaos" or "Good" will unfortunately cut out certain shortcuts that I liked, but those shortcuts turned out to be so particular to me as-such, that I think abandoning Alignment altogether and writing something new will actually be the most fruitful way to go about this kind of "fictional positioning" of characters.

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"I don't want to have my character be part of a cult to be Good!" someone once said when I proposed my changes to alignment, back in the day. (what, 2012?)
I didn't make the argument correctly then; but the thing is, BE the nicest, best-mannered character you want in my game; BE unaligned, or be Good, or be Evil, or whatever.
But, after listening to (and causing, and I'm sorry) hours of arguments about "alignment-as-morality", I'd like to play a game where IF alignment matters (enough to put it on a character sheet) then it MATTERS, and there'd better be some rules about it.
Otherwise, who gives a shit what the difference is between Chaotic Good and Neutral Evil?
No rules? No worries. I'll be Chaotic Lawful! Or Good Evil. Who cares what I write on the character sheet when it's meaningless?