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The Church of Shar is an organization dedicated to spreading the dogma and carrying out the wishes of the deity Shar. Although the estimated one hundred thousand worshippers of Shar can loosely be deemed members, its true membership consists of the clergy of the church, who number around three and a half thousand. The faith is forbidden in many areas of Faerûn and this leads the church underground, practising in hiding much of the time. An element of fear is associated with the worship of Shar since many of her followers are willing to give their lives in her service.
The worship of Shar has occurred ever since mortals first appeared on Toril. After Shar's acquisition of the cavern portfolio from slaying Ibrandul during the Time of Troubles, she gained the worship of subterranean beings such as goblins, kobolds and troglodytes.
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The clergy of the Church of Shar use corruption and subversion to spread Shar's faith, but they must do this in secret in many places due to the religion being forbidden. The atmosphere of the organization is one of unwavering faith to its leader, Shar herself. Disobeying an order usually results in death. Although devotees are perfectly willing to give their life for Shar, she often does not intend for this to happen because it will deplete the number of her dedicated followers.
From time to time, Shar requests of her priests that a certain individual, usually a sorcerer or wizard who she deems to have misused the Shadow Weave, is killed. On the other hand, Shar can forbid such acts against specific individuals. It is not uncommon for the church to make use of the Shadow Weave itself, although Shar holds onto the deepest and most powerful secrets of the magical force.
The clergy of the church will travel in small groups or individually throughout Faerûn, often disguised as merchants or pilgrims to avoid detection. Their missions usually involve either espionage or murder.
The church is split into individual cells that can operate independently from one another, often having a temple or shrine as their focal point. Cells are linked by the leadership of a priest, and one priest will typically control the cells in a geographic area. Priests communicate with one another, but rarely reveal truthful information to their inferiors.
The intent of the Church of Shar is to spread the faith of Shar. This is achieved by undermining and corrupting individuals, governments and even other religions. This enables the subject to be more likely to accept the views and dogma of Shar. Because the most valuable commodity to the clergy of Shar is a secret, information is closely guarded and is only revealed when it is essential to be known. The clergy of Shar will expect that a secret is traded for another similarly prized secret.
By revealing secrets, Sharran clergy will attempt to incite bitterness and jealously within individual, such as telling a woman that her husband is having an affair. These emotions are strongly embraced by Shar and highly increase the likeliness of a successful conversion.
In order to become clergy within the church's organization, one must undergo tests of faith and commitment which would be likely to vile any good-aligned being, and any potential recruit incapable of murder is not admitted, and is subject to being killed. A few months after displaying a willingness to join, the new recruit has often committed many murders.
In order to become a worshipper of the Church of Shar, the tests are less strenuous, but nonetheless involve performing acts that would not be committed by any good-aligned individual. A later betrayal of the faith will result in the death of the worshipper.
One faction of the Church of Shar is dedicated to eliminating any knowledge of the Shadow Weave that did not originate from the church itself. They believe that anyone outside the church with such knowledge is a threat to security. They have been known to recruit adventurers for the purposes of eliminating the individuals in possession of such knowledge.
The Church of Shar occasionally works together with the Monks of the Dark Moon but Shar prefers that they work independently. The church will employ the services of undead, evil humanoids and young evil dragons if they can be bribed or coerced into service. Talona will ally with Shar, but only if the aim is causing harm to their common enemy Loviatar. There is the possibility of future cooperation between Shar and Cyric.
The Church of Shar is generally opposed to any good-aligned religious orders, but particularly despises the deity Selûne. Members are dedicated to hurting Selûne and her worshippers as much as possible and will even suspend other activities to pursue an opportunity to get at Selûne.
The Dark Embrace is a relatively new but powerful temple full of priests dissatisfied with how the church is run further south.
Thultanthar has been a centre for the worship of Shar since before Karsus' Folly. Since the reappearance of the flying city in 1372 DR, Anauroch has become the single biggest focal point of sharran worship over the last century.
The Sisterhood of the Black Veil is a small Sharran cell that operates under the guidance of the priestess Sennifyr.
The shade Volumvax runs a secret temple under the cover identity of a lighthouse off the coast of Saerloon known to those aware of it as the Darkhouse. Using portals and planar magic, Volumvax plots to kill Selûne herself! The influence of Shar's clergy became much more pronounced when Sembia became a vassal-state of returned Netheril.
- Dark Justiciars
- The Dark Justiciars was an honorary order or secret society within the priesthood of Shar. It was rumored that in order to gain admittance to the order of the Dark Justiciars, a priest of Shar had to have killed a priest of Selûne.
- Order of the Dark Moon
- Shar's secretive monastic order was referred to as the Order of the Dark Moon. They tapped into the Shadow Weave through their powers of sorcery.
- Nightcloaks, formerly known as Nightbringers were a group of particularly debased followers of Shar who, until the Time of Troubles were a separate entity, but since then have been absorbed into the Church as specialty priests.
- Beguilers of Shar
- An order tasked with keeping the existence of the Shadow Weave secret. When Shar publicly revealed the Shadow Weaves existence, the order was dissolved and its members were ejected from the church.
- Unusual among other orders in the Church, Darkcloaks were actually a compassionate group of oracles and care-givers who tended to those troubled souls who were emotionally damaged, often bringing the bliss of forgetfulness to soothe their pain. Their work did much to present the church in a positive light to the populace, though too often the reaction was still negative. This order included some of the few non-evil, non-neutral clerics in the Church.
- ↑ Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 122. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 123. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 124. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ Richard Baker (Nov 2010). Avenger. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0786955759.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 141. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ Eytan Bernstein (2007-02-14). Beguilers and Dragon Shamans. Class Chronicles. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-05-21.
- ↑ John Terra (February 1996). Warriors and Priests of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 103. ISBN 0-7869-0368-6.