The Order of the Pariah are my favourite faction, but not for the reasons you might expect. I think most players read about the Order of the Pariah, their religious fervour, militaristic outlook, animate armors and Monastery Cruisers, and picture Games Workshops’ Space Marines in their head. And frankly that’s not a bad shorthand, but I like to think of them as more nuanced.
The Order of the Pariah are the Third Horizon’s first freedom fighters, leading the uprising against the First Horizon, and their agents, the Sacrifice of Nazareem. And of course when independence was won, and the portals closed, it was the Order that carried on the fight, seeking out the vestiges of the Nazareem’s Sacrifice while the other factions thought the war was won. In doing so, they are more true to their origins than the other first come factions, who were “fortune seekers, religious dissidents and rebels” from the First and Second Horizons. So, unlike the 40k Space Marines, the Order not only don’t have imperial ambitions, they seem more willing to isolate than to spread their creed. So what is behind their lack of missionary zeal? Having defeated the forces of the First Horizon in the Portal Wars, why did they not use their military might to spread the word of the Pariah across the third Horizon and cast out the false Icons? Do they not want converts? Indeed you have to be born of Zalos to live on Zalos – offworlders are restricted to the moon, Karrmerruk, the City of Foreigners. Are they as racist at the Zenithian Hegemony?
Their activities on Coriolis would suggest not. Apart from the famous Sanatorium, they run a network of soup kitchens and other poverty relief charities. Anyone (or at least anyone with the grades) is free to study at their Medical Academy. And yes, they become neophytes of the order while they train, but are free to seek work for other factions when they graduate. The Academy, and the charitable work of the Samiritans seems at odds with the reputation they earned during the portal wars. And their scientific advances, including biotechnology and antimatter propulsion suggest they they are not by any means dogmatic primitivists.
I like to think of the monasteries as places learning, the the sword of the judge, or the Sickle of the Martyr, is equivalent to Occams Razor. If you have read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, you have an idea of how I imagine the monasteries of concentric circles of learning… Here too is kept the memory of the all the Third Horizon knows about the old enemies, Al Ardha and the First and Second Horizon.
In the cities, the plebeian population worship the Judge/Pariah of course – what choice do they have? But their jobs are like any others, the industries servicing the great monasteries at each city centre. To truly become an adherent of the faith your must enter and monastery and learn. Monks are the equivalent of stationaries and their priests, prophets and elders are Privileged. There is no inheritance of title or estate. Everything is given to the Order when you die, but poverty is reduced to almost zero.
So I argue that their reputation as religious zealots that cry heresy at every new thing is in fact carefully crafted. Not for nothing do they consider the Foundation their biggest rival. Within the Zalosian monasteries are repositories of truth and knowledge. Knowledge which the Foundation wants, and which, given their isolationist stance, the Order believes no one should have. Yes, a fierce war rages against the “Heretics” of Zahardan, or Zalos-B, but the rest of the Horizon knows little about it. What is the nature of their Heresy? Personally I like to think that the population of Zahardan are even stricter religious zealots than those on Zalos A, but the Nomad Federation speak darkly of a war crime committed against one of their clans on that planet (core book p211), so it seems that Zahardans are at least less isolationist than the Order of the Pariah. Perhaps they do want to proselytise, to recruit new followers and to kill those who don’t covert… perhaps they are more dogmatic, less pragmatic than the Order of the Pariah. And the true Order are the misunderstood good guys – friends of all Firstcome genuine seekers of truth.
And therein lies a way to play some of the concepts that you might not quickly associate with the Order – as an Operative or Data Spider, you could be a spy on the Foundation, checking up on what they have found out, and how close they are to the hidden truth. As scientis, you could be a priest-researcher looking for evidence of portal builder technology in all the secret places of the Horizon. As a Negotiator you could be a diplomat, steering the other factions away from a Truth they could not stand to know.
Think about it, Zalosian Monastery ships, heavily armed scientific vessels. Remind you of anything? Its crazy I know, but I am going to say it – if you want to play the Crew of the Starship Enterprise in Coriolis… maybe they should come from Zalos.