Englightened Fist; Master of Mastery; The Strategist
Symbol: An open eye on a closed fist
Home Plane: Mechanus
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Cleric Alignments: Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral, Lawful Evil
Portfolio: Unarmed martial arts, martial discipline, strategy, tactics, military defense.
Worshipers: Monks, defenders, strategists and tacticians.
Domains: Nobility (Leadership), Preservation, Protection (Defense), War (Tactics)
Favored Weapon: Unarmed combat or shield bash (cleric chooses one)
Astra normally appears as an ordinary male of the viewer's race with salt-and-pepper hair (when hair is appropriate for the race in question), wearing a rather plain uniform of an unknown military company. Despite his unassuming appearance, he has a strong air of command in his voice and actions, making it hard not to obey when he gives orders, simply because the sheer brilliance of those orders is immediately apparent to all.
Description of Nature, Personality, and Dogma:
Astra is a war deity for those who prefer peace. While he was still mortal, Astra was a genuine military genius who abhorred warfare, but found that he excelled in the matters of war above all other professions. Fighting is something Astra regards as an unfortunate necessity in a world riven by conflict, and so he promotes strong defensive tactics and avoiding being the aggressor at all costs in any conflict. Besides this, Astra is a firm believer in the idea of mutually assured destruction, the philosophy that fighting only leads to more fighting, and so strongly encourages his followers to resolve conflicts peacefully whenever possible. Of course, such conflict resolution tends to be much easier if done from a position of strength, and so Astra also strongly encourages his followers to be strong in military matters, all the better to avoid using that strength except in legitimate need.
Clergy, Places of Worship, Important Rituals, and Servitor Races:
Astra's clergy are all supposed to be as much warriors as they are priests, but despite their martial focus, they are not supposed to be aggressors. Instead, they are supposed to act as one of the first lines of defense wherever they may be, and as leaders of the common folk when they have need of guidance to keep them safe from attack. Clerics of Astra often start life as mercenaries or other sorts of dealers in blood and violence, but who gain an epiphany as they realize that bloodshed only begets more bloodshed. This epiphany can come to any martial artist or warrior at any time. In this moment of vulnerability, when they realize that they need to change, but don't know where to go, they are visited by Astra, either in person or in a dream, though few of them realize they are in the presence of a deity until long after he departs. Astra offers the potential cleric a book filled with defensive military tactics, and then directs them to a place in need of their skills in combat, where they have the opportunity to help those in need of a defender. Should the acolyte rise to the challenge, the aspirant will suddenly discover that Astra has granted spells to aid the new cleric.
A typical temple to Astra is actually the outer walls of the cities and towns where he is venerated. These walls are typically decorated with statues and symbols dedicated to Astra (on the inside, so that they are less prone to being damaged by invaders). Each morning, Astra's followers, as well as anyone interested in the defense of their homes, meet near or on these walls (if they are wide enough on top), and perform a series of exercises intended to strengthen their bodies and clear their minds, giving them a good start for the rest of the day, and helping to ensure good health for the rest of their lives.
Rhek and other lawful outsiders serve Astra, as do a great many deathless who are still devoted to the defense of the living.
History and Relations:
One of the very first great tacticians of the mortal races, Astra's original race is unknown, though each mortal race claims that he was one of their kind, and it is known that he first began to be worshiped not long after the humans settled on Therafim. A genius of military strategy and tactics, Astra is said in all his legends to have been unbeatable, and the inventor of most of the military maneuvers used today by modern scholars of the art of war. He is also said to have never been an aggressor in any conflict, and when the great nations of the world at that time came to him, demanding that he serve them in their quests for conquest, he refused, choosing instead to withdraw from the world and spend the rest of his life as an ascetic, founding the Sha-Hai monastery as a place where all seekers after the disciplines of war, without seeking to misuse such disciplines, could find enlightenment and peace. In his quest to transcend the trivia of mortality, Astra eventually succeeded, ascending to godhood as the patron of defensive warfare, honorable and just command, and the practical application of the martial arts.
As might be expected, Astra is on good terms with most of the other martial deities, including Dan Dao, Gun, and Jyn, though he considers himself their student, and treats them with the utmost respect. In return for his respect and friendship, these three have trained Astra in all that he knows of the weapon arts (though not all that they know of these arts). On his own, however, Astra is regarded as the founder of the unarmed martial arts, and their ultimate master, and for this he is regarded with equal respect from the three divine masters of armed combat. On the other hand, Astra regards Lugscar and Bellakadina with disgust, and finds Velsang abhorrent, and often finds himself firmly opposed to the actions of the former two, while he does all he can to avoid the latter, and encourages his followers to do likewise.
Favored Offerings and Justifications for Direct Intervention:
Offerings that are acceptable to Astra are practical in nature, and intended to bless his followers. He prefers that those who wish his favor spend their money on building up defenses, escape routes, and emergency backup plans for their homes, their cities, and their nations. Providing pro bono aid to those in need of military assistance is also considered an acceptable offering.
Astra is interested in impossible odds, and most especially in beating them. Mortals waging a battle where they are not the aggressor, and where they have done all they could to prepare for the fight, but where all their efforts are still not going to be enough, can call upon Astra for aid. Astra's aid in these cases is generally not to provide any obvious intervention. Instead, he acts to inspire those caught in these hopeless situations with flashes of insight that allow them to devise plans using what they have to pull off fantastic tactical maneuvers that give them an advantage, and may well win even the most hopeless of battles. Alternatively (or sometimes in addition to the former blessing), Astra might inspire allies that might otherwise be unaware of the petitioners' hopeless situation, or who might otherwise be unable to reach their allies in time, and give them awareness of the situation, and just barely sufficient speed to help those in need before it is too late.