This one may require a certain explanation. In RUNEQUEST, a fantasy roleplaying game, there are innumerable cults, each with its own rites, spells, and initiates. The following is written up in the form of a RUNEQUEST cult, although no particular knowledge of the game is needed to find it entertaining.
Knowledge of mimeography may be. Mimeography is, alas, a dying technology. During the middle of this century, it was the main method of duplication in offices, schools, and military bases across the country. It was also the main reproduction technology for science fiction and gaming fanzines. In my social circle, you didn't gain status by having a flashy new car or a flashy new girlfriend (okay, I admit it, we were geeks); you got it by having a nifty mimeo machine. Preferably a Gestetner. An electric one. Electrostencil optional.
In fact, sitting on the file cabinet to my left is my old machine, the Great God Gestetner, on whom many a fanzine was printed. It occurs to me, however, that it is now entirely useless. I no longer have even a dot matrix printer, let alone a typewriter; and my ink jet printer will surely not cut a stencil. Still, it stands there, silent, serene (and a heavy motherfucker, but that's another story), a fond memento of years past.
"In elder days, no rags were offset "Yet abysmal worlds spawned forth a horror! "Arise ye men of mildewed minds!
and Lord Mimeo reigned supreme.
Prozine was then a dirty word;
Urf Durfal... still a pleasant dream.
OFFSET, challenging mimeo's rule.
Clear printing, yes, but what price glory?
Dare we abandon our god-sent tool?
Destroy yon evil process offset.
There is no god but GREAT GESTETNER,
and Costikyan is his only prophet."
"Yet abysmal worlds spawned forth a horror!
"Arise ye men of mildewed minds!
Since the inception of publication, the worshippers of Gestetner, the god of Dark Duplication, have lurked in the crannies and nooks of the world, engaging in bizarre and horrible rites to show their devotion to their god. Temples to Gestetner tend to exist on the peaks of mountains, in the ruins of ancient cities, and other such desolate places. They can usually be told by the empty lead tubes of mimeo ink and mountains of discarded misprinted paper that surround them. Temples are invariably build in the image of Gestetner -- i.e., as a four-sided, round-topped monolith with raiseable paper and collection trays.
Members of the cult usually wear black, so that ink-smears do not show on their robes. Although they may use weapons such as swords, etc., they mostly used maces in the shape of a mimeo with an elongated handle. They are often to be found in the company of terrier-shaped familiars, who are actually children dipped in vats of mimeo ink at an early age, their growth and nature warped by the experience.
Membership in the cult is open to all, but a prospective member must bring a ream of paper to a temple of Gestetner to show his devotion. Most of the membership is human, although dragonewts and ducks are also common; others may be required to sacrifice as much as a square foot of their skin (flayed off them without benefit of anesthesia), to be used in the publication of especially holy works. Members are not permitted to purchase any book published by a non-mimeograph process (special dispensation may be granted to dittoed works). Members are also expected to destroy offset presses whenever they encounter them.
Gestetner is highly aligned with Order, for the temple hierarchy is rigid and bureaucratic. The cult generally supports the status quo with rigidity, except when it directly threatens the cult. The cult stands for monopolistic business practices, autocracy, and public education -- in other words, all the things which tend to destroy individual freedom and initiative in the name of Order. Sworn enemies of Gestetner are the followers of Offset, the goddess Eris, and the Green Flame. Friendly cults are Cacodemon (despite its alignment with Chaos), the Illuminati, and the Red Flame.
Because of their willingness to obey the laws and statutes of temporal powers, devotees of Great Gestetner are often welcome in many areas of the world; despite their nefarious dealings and their evil nature, they can mass-produce large numbers of books and pamphlets at low cost. Thus, their business is welcome even if their beliefs are not, and they are consequently tolerated.
Those who wish to progress in the temple hierarchy may desire to become Initiates of the First Page. (Depending on the size of the temple, there may be 6, 12, 24, or 36 pages, roughly corresponding to Masonic degrees. Note that 12 pages corresponds to one postal ounce, and thus small temples can be mailed for 15 cents, medium-sized temples for 28 cents, and large temples for 41 cents.) [Hmm. The article's age shows here in the outdated postal rates, I'm afraid.]
Initiates must sacrifice 1 point of POW each week (temporarily) and must also sacrifice one square foot of skin (unless they already did so when joining the cult). Initiates gain the use of two "battle" magic spells:
Initiates may progress from one Page to another by making some large offering or sacrifice to the temple hierarchy -- either in the form of money, human (or other intelligent) skins, the fulfillment of a quest, etc. Only Rune Lords and Priests may progress beyond the Third Page.
Members of the Third Page who have the necessary skills and qualifications to become Rune Lords may do so according to the usual procedures for such. Rune Lords may acquire iron or Rune metal maces in the shape of mimeographs, as described above; they may also be initiated in the use of other cult-related battle magic spells, at the discretion of the gamemaster.
Members of the Third Page with the necessary skills and POW may become Rune Priests according to the usual procedure. Rune Priests are anointed in mimeograph ink, and consequently their skin becomes a permanent black -- not a negroid black, but an inky and pure black which covers every part of the body, including the palms of the hands, the tongue, and so on. As a Rune Priest progresses from one Page to the next, his blood will become darker and darker until, at the 36th Page, a Rune Priest's blood has been completely replaced by mimeograph ink, and he will bleed black if cut. At the Seventh Page, a Rune Priest will gain a familiar who will be able to cast simple battle magic spells (roll 2D6 for all characteristics of the familiar).
Rune Priests gain the following Rune spells at the indicated Page:
Other spells may be available at higher Pages; their nature is left to the discretion of the GM. Consult your local temple.
The cult gains most of its cash by selling printed material. Members of the cult may wish to make a bit of cash on the side by retailing cult-related material. Almost every temple has at least one mimeograph, and probably has an electrostencil machine as well.
The cult holds a worship meeting at midnight on Wednesdays. At these meetings, sacrifices occur -- human sacrifice, unless banned by the laws of the state, animal sacrifice otherwise. The sacrificed beings are inserted into the mimeograph, where they are miraculously transformed into high-quality paper (their POW stolen by the god), and published with messages from Gestetner printed on them. Worshippers may file questions and prayers with the temple hierarchy on Tuesdays, to be tattooed on the sacrifices; sometimes, Gestetner will deign to answer them. Copies of the words of the god printed during a sacrifice are available to all attendees.
The great High Holy Day of the Devotees of Gestetner occurs on June 15th of each year. At this time, the temple opens its doors to all who dare enter, and holds a great bachannal at which ditto fluid flows like water and Rune Priests are available to answer questions from prospective members of the cult. Much printing is done on this day, and the mimeo machines operate continuously. Members of the cult are asked to contribute a page or so of material to a one-shot magazine which is printed during the festivities and distributed to the membership. Those who come to the festivities will leave either as converts or as pieces of paper.