Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 6:19:26 GMT -5
As presented in Lords of Darkness +With additional notes from: - Dragons of Faerûn - Champions of Ruin - Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
It should be noted that what is included in this thread is Source Book Material. It is not meant to be directly quoted in game. This knowledge may be accessible to various degrees to characters through their background or in-game exposure, however one must always recall that characters do not have access to source books. Please use appropriate discretion when deciding what your character is aware of!
Some information has been omitted. Omitted information is available on request via private messages.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 6:22:59 GMT -5
The Church of Cyric
The church of Cyric is a fanatical organization devoted to the deity of murder, treachery, and deception. The most devout followers of the Prince of Lies are willing to give their lives for their cause, and often do so if they can take others with them. Worshipers of Cyric include murderers, liars, spies, traitors, and assassins with no loyalty to anyone except themselves. Even loyalty to their church is tenuous at best in the face of destruction. Others embrace this dark deity because they hope his philosophy of supremacy and power will empower them as well.
Cyric’s church is a large cult with members in every city. Because it is by and large a chaotic organization, its members often act independently or in small groups with little or no knowledge of each other, making the church very hard to combat. Likewise, its members are hard to predict and incorrigible in their evil, some willing to betray their fellows for their own gain, others more likely to lie their way through a situation until they can murder their captors and escape.
Born to a lower-class woman in Zhentil Keep (presumed by Cyric’s detractors to be a prostitute), the mortal Cyric never knew his parents and was sold into slavery after his mother was killed when he was very young. As a young adult, he fell in with a thieves’ guild and learned to fight during his travels. During the Time of Troubles, he rose to godhood and inherited the divine portfolios of Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, the deities of tyranny, murder, and death. His meteoric rise from orphan to deity would eventually suffer several dramatic plummets before his power stabilized at its current level.
Through divine events he himself orchestrated, Cyric lost the portfolio of tyranny to Xvim, much of Myrkul’s portfolio to Kelemvor, and caused the destruction of Zhentil Keep, at that time one of the largest concentrations of his own worshipers. This weakened his power and the authority of his church. He later made the mistake of reading the Cyrinishad, a magical book of his own creation that caused the reader to believe that Cyric was the most important being in the universe. The madness and megalomania this caused weakened him further. Since that time he has regained his senses, consolidated his power, and encouraged a renewed fervor in his church. Bolstered by their evil deity’s new focus, the Cyricists work harder than ever to promote his goals.
Headquarters: The church maintains no true central headquarters, although several outposts vie for the title.
Members: Roughly 12,000 clergy and 250,000 worshipers.
Leader: Cyric (the deity himself holds power over the entire church).
Alignment: CE, NE, CN.
Symbol: The symbol of Cyric is a white jawless skull centered on a black or purple sunburst. He kept this symbol even though it originated from his ownership of the portfolios of death and the dead, which he no longer has. Some of his temples display minor variants on the symbol, such as a sword under the skull, flaming eye sockets, or even multiple skulls.
Cyric still has a few worshipers who converted to his church from Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul when those deities died during the Time of Troubles. These worshipers use the symbols of their original deity (an upright black hand on a red shield for Bane, a skull surrounded by streaming teardrops for Bhaal, and a skull on an inverted shield bordered by finger bones for Myrkul) or a combination of the old symbol and Cyric’s. Most of these splinter cults have been eliminated or absorbed into larger groups.
The church of Cyric is cellular in structure, with different groups of Cyricists keeping their location and agenda secret and often even working against each other. These habits stem from the Dark Sun’s former period of madness, when he would give conflicting information to different high priests, causing them to turn their temples against each other. Cyric has stopped doing this overtly, but his chaotic nature and the fact that he embodies lying and intrigue attracts people of similar character who regularly betray their allies, which makes eliminating the problem difficult.
A Cyricist temple is led by the most powerful cleric of Cyric present (usually the one with the most cleric levels, but sometimes a cleric/blackguard takes this role). The temple’s hierarchy is based on power and personal influence, with the most charismatic and dominant leaders taking positions of authority. Regular turnovers in leadership ensure that those who manage to stay in power tend to be very paranoid, often controlling their immediate subordinates and allies with magic to prevent betrayal.
The church’s fractious nature leads to the creation of numerous splinter groups and cults, such as the Flames of the Dark Sun, an order of assassins devoted to Cyric and based in the Cloud Peaks Mountains. The order is allied with the Mountain of Skulls temple in Amn and dedicated to the destruction of “heretical” sects of Cyricists, such as those located at the Twin Towers of the Eternal Eclipse.
Motivation and Goals
The Cyricists wish to destroy anyone who opposes Cyric, eliminate rival churches (of their own religion and others), kill those devoted to good, and take over the world. They pursue these goals with many different methods, sometimes at odds with the plans of other Cyricist temples. Some start armed conflicts against temples of other deities. Some quietly assassinate influential beings of good alignment. Some promote banditry. Some take over guilds and cause economic destruction. Kidnapping, murder, and espionage are also common activities. Because of their fragmented and independent nature, the cells of the church might be plotting just about anything that furthers the cause of the Prince of Lies.
The Cyricists welcome new converts. They see their deity as the one true divine authority, and thus joining Cyric’s church is the only sensible choice. Even defeated enemies can buy themselves time if they volunteer to convert. However, conversion to Cyric under such circumstances usually involves torturous rituals and horrible evil rites (including human sacrifice) performed by the would-be converts to prove their devotion, so anyone of good alignment who uses such a ruse needs to escape before such events occur or risk a forced alignment change.
Some temples recruit people, brainwash them into fanatics, and then send them on suicide missions. These converts are particularly dangerous because they have been convinced that their deaths advance the cause of Cyric. In their minds they win either way, since martyrdom brings them favor in the afterlife.
Although the temples have gained many new recruits, because the church was initially formed of worshipers of three other deities, Cyric has been known to call for purges to eliminate heretics. He has done so at least twice to remove those with allegiance to Bane (while that deity was dead) and sometimes calls for a purge simply to stir up his followers. Those who flee such purges (whether justified or not) often start their own cells and recruit more followers to the cause.
The church is fond of disguising agents as benign parties, then having these agents pay good-aligned adventurers large amounts of magic items (typically scrolls and potions) to undertake a quest. When the quest proves to further the cause of the church or is an outright evil act, other agents surprise the adventurers and either slay them or attempt to gently convert them to the cause of Cyric. These methods have resulted in several powerful adventuring companies turning to Cyric.
In addition to the people who revere Cyric out of genuine devotion, Cyric has many worshipers who pay him lip service in the hope of staving off his attention and wrath. The devout of Cyric look upon these weak-willed folk with contempt, but are not above taking advantage of these lay worshipers if necessary.
Cyric’s church allies itself with monsters that have similar interests or creatures that are easily dominated or bribed into service. The church is particularly fond of demons, undead, evil humanoids, and chaotic and evil outsiders. In wilder lands where it has no need to disguise its allies, the church employs creatures such as athachs, chimeras, giants, hieracosphinxes, howlers, minotaurs, ogres, ropers, wyverns, and young dragons. The following creatures from theMonsters of Faerûn accessory are also common allies: banelars (although some zealous Cyricists dislike their lawful nature, the banelars are loyal), black unicorns (only in Thay), dread warriors, and yuan-ti tainted ones (in Calimshan, Chult, Hlondeth, and Tashalar). Some powerful clerics keep a high-level summon monster or planar ally spell or scroll in reserve just in case they need backup. Most clerics also keep a few skeletons or zombies in their lair.
The church sometimes supports cells of the Cult of the Dragon (although this is less frequent since Cyric lost the portfolio of death), monasteries of the Long Death (again, not as common since Cyric lost that part of his portfolio) and other evil organizations on a small scale.
Currently the Zhentarim forces in Darkhold are in chaos due to infighting between followers of Cyric and worshipers of Bane. Fzoul Chembryl of Zhentil Keep has encouraged this strife by sending unruly members of the Zhentarim or those who openly worship Cyric to this western castle, because he sees Darkhold as a place to weed out the weak from his organization. His plan may backfire if Cyric’s devout take charge, and several cells of Cyricist cultists have been supplying aid to their comrades in the castle. Should Darkhold turn to Cyric, the Zhentarim will lose their western arm and Cyric will gain a large and established military force and fortification in the Western Heartlands.
Though Cyric is opposed to nearly every other deity, Shar has been tempting Cyric with the power of the Shadow Weave. This power would allow his clerics to sever the ties they have with Mystra to cast their spells, which he finds abhorrent.
The best ally for a single member of the church is an associate from a nearby allied temple. If a temple can be convinced that a particular group (such as a band of heroes) is a threat to the church or an affront to the holy power of Cyric, a Cyricist is almost guaranteed assistance from that temple, even if it’s only in the form of sanctuary, supplies, and information.
Because he opposes everything good and considers all other deities either beneath him or rivals for his power, Cyric is an enemy of nearly every organized benevolent group and the churches of all other deities, including evil ones such as Mask and Bane. His rivalry with Bane is especially fierce now that the Black Hand has returned. Cyric also particularly hates Mystra and Kelemvor and directs his church to eliminate worshipers of these deities at every opportunity. Because of these conflicts, followers of Cyric rarely work with those of other deities.
The Cyricists oppose the Zhentarim because of the latter’s alliance with the Banites, although followers of the Dark Sun usually don’t go out of their way to attack Zhentarim troops since both groups promote evil.
No group hates the Cyricists more than the Banites. They consider Cyric a usurper of Bane’s portfolio, and only the fact that Bane reclaimed much of his power from Cyric has prevented an all-out holy war. As it is, Bane sees Cyric as an annoying cur who once stole a piece of meat from his table, and when he finds it convenient Bane will have that cur put down. The followers of the Black Hand treat the Cyricists in a similar manner, not going out of their way to find the servants of the Prince of Lies, but wasting no time slaying them if they are discovered. The Cyricists are more active in their pursuit of the Banites, but the feeling is otherwise mutual.
Individual members of the church of Cyric tend to have many enemies, particularly within their own organization. Fortunately, these feelings shift quickly at all but the highest levels of power, so someone who is an enemy one day might not be one the next.
Because they engage in murder and deceit across the continent, and because their deity is a foe of every other deity, followers of Cyric expect to be opposed by just about anyone that discovers their identity. Even followers of other evil deities have been known to interrupt a battle with heroes when a group of violent Cyricists arrives.
Cyricists prefer to travel alone or in small groups, because larger groups are more difficult to manage (with all the internal conflict and backstabbing) and likely to draw attention. A typical encounter with a group of Cyricists is a cleric leader of at least 2nd level plus a wizard or sorcerer and one or two barbarian, fighter, or ranger bodyguards each one level lower than the cleric, all worshipers of Cyric. Barbarian bodyguards are common in barbarian lands, fighters in civilized lands and on well-traveled roads, and rangers in forested regions. If the wizard and fighters are powerful enough, they may have levels in the arcane devotee or divine champion prestige classes. The wizards who work with Cyric rarely specialize in a school of magic, since they lack the discipline to focus on a single school.
Cyricists encountered on the road may be moving to or from a known temple, preparing to establish a cult cell, in the middle of a mission of woe, or fleeing persecution elsewhere. Those founding a cell or fleeing another place are more likely to be secretive and non-confrontational toward any they meet, not wishing to draw attention to themselves. The others display their allegiance openly and violently challenge any groups they think they can overcome, or whose destruction they think would benefit the church.
Combat and Tactics
The forces of Cyric are generally too undisciplined to formulate consistent group tactics. Each individual tends to act independently, trying to balance the desire to slaughter many foes in the name of Cyric and the fear that one’s allies will take advantage of the distractions of combat to eliminate a rival. Only in the presence of a powerful and respected leader are Cyricists able to coordinate their attacks. This does not mean they are stupid—they don’t interfere with each other’s attacks and take advantage of cooperative opportunities when they occur, but they rarely enter combat with these plans in mind.
About half of Cyric’s clerics use their spells to augment their physical prowess and attack their foes in melee, while the rest attack directly with their spells. Both types shout the glories of the Dark Sun while in combat. The wizards and sorcerers conceal themselves with illusions and defensive magic and attack suddenly with aggressive and destructive spells. Barbarians use their rage often and early, fighters focus on raw power over tricky maneuvers, and rangers optimize their two-weapon fighting abilities.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The church of Cyric draws power from its many worshipers, its magical resources, and its very persuasive and believable members. Cyricists are unpredictable, zealous, and even willing to die if it means they can destroy enemies of their religion in the process. This makes them very dangerous people to cross, and since their deity is a deity of illusion, lies, and murder, anyone who thwarts their plans can expect multiple assassination attempts, devious incriminating rumors, and haunting images in dreams and the waking world.
The greatest weakness of the church is its fractious and distrustful nature. Its low-level followers tend to be unruly and argumentative. Its agents in the middle ranks of its hierarchy distrust the leaders, exploit the grunt followers, and plot against each other. The leaders of the church are even worse than the mid-rank members, and different temples to the Dark Sun have holy wars against each other as often as they do against bastions of good such as Lathander and Torm. Sometimes the best way to defeat a group of Cyricists is to alert another group of Cyricists to its presence.
The Ritual of Honest Pain: The recipient of this ritual gains a +2 bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Handle Animal checks. The recipient’s lies cannot be detected as such by spells of lower than 5th level, and she can lie freely within the bounds of a zone of truth or similar spell. This supernatural ability functions automatically. The cost of this ritual is 2 points of Constitution, since the magical process causes great pain and trauma to the body. Restorative spells (such as restoration or greater restoration) do not reverse this Constitution loss.
The Ritual of Black Charms: This ritual gives the recipient the ability to use charm person (DC 11 + recipient’s Charisma modifier) and suggestion (Dc 13 + recipient’s Charisma modifier) each once per day as a supernatural ability. When used, the recipient’s eyes turn completely black for 1 full round. The recipient’s caster level is 5th. The ritual requires an opal worth 500 gp or more as a material component and drains 1,600 XP from the recipient.
The Ritual of the Dark Flames: This ritual was created while Cyric was still insane from reading the Cyrinishad. It allows the recipient to invoke black flames of negative energy from her hands as a supernatural ability. The flames are a ranged touch attack with a range of 10 feet that deals 1d6 points of damage per Hit Die of the user (undead are healed rather than damaged by this effect). Unlike the similar ability possessed by the Spur Lords (see below), this power has a cost: Each time the dark flames are invoked, the user suffers 2 points of temporary Wisdom damage. The ritual requires a black onyx worth at least 100 gp and drains 1,200 XP from the recipient.
Spur Lord Prestige Class
Cyricists who survive to reach higher levels usually show devotion to their deity by advancing in the arcane devotee, divine champion, divine disciple, divine seeker, or hierophant prestige class. In recent years a unique military order has arisen within the church called the Company of the Ebon Spur, composed of fighters and warriors of at least 3rd level who favor armor spikes and shield spikes. Fanatics to the extreme, this group is led by evil men and women with the ability to channel Cyric’s power. These strange and terrifying agents of the Dark Sun are called Spur Lords.
The Spur Lords are the elite zealots of the church, wielding the dark power of Cyric and commanding the attention of even the most fanatical clerics. Some consider them the future dark saints of the church, destined to become powerful extraplanar servants of Cyric after their deaths. Protected by Cyric’s power against threats within the church, the Spur Lords are free to pursue their agendas and watch over the trained soldiers in their care. Because they can ignore clerical powers with impunity, the Spur Lords work with the clerics without fear of betrayal to promote the cause of Cyric. Some Spur Lords pursue their own course, with a small contingent of Ebon Spurs in tow. When not acting as the martial arm of the unholy power of Cyric, a Spur Lord is charismatic, confident, and persuasive.
Most Spur Lords are fighters, rangers, rogues, or some combination thereof. Clerics have never been known to become Spur Lords, perhaps because their connection to Cyric prematurely spoils the part of their soul that Cyric must touch to create a leader of this caliber.
To qualify to become a Spur Lord, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.
Base Attack Bonus: +4. Skills: Bluff 3 ranks, Concentration 3 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 3 ranks, Sense Motive 3 ranks, Tumble 5 ranks. Patron: Cyric. Feats: Iron Will, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Quick Draw. Special: The character must have either made peaceful contact with an evil outsider that served Cyric or received a prophetic dream from Cyric.
The Spur Lord’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Swim (Str), and Tumble (Dex).
Gained Abilities: Dark Bond (Su): A Spur Lord is immune to any harmful spell, spell-like ability, or supernatural ability that originates from the power of Cyric. Such effects act as if the Spur Lord is not included in their area. This includes spells waiting to be triggered (such as glyph of warding) but not magic items created by worshipers of Cyric. Whenever this ability is triggered, a brief manifestation of a skull surrounded by black flames appears above the Spur Lord’s head.
Secret Blade (Su): At 2nd level, a Spur Lord has the ability to magically hide an item as if he were wearing a glove of storing. Only one item can be concealed at a time in this manner, although the Spur Lord can cause the item to reappear in either hand as a free action, regardless of which hand was used to store the item.
Dark Flames (Su): A Spur Lord of 3rd level or higher can invoke black flames of negative energy from his hands. The flames are a ranged touch attack with a range of 10 feet and deal 1d6 points of damage per Hit Die of the user (maximum 15d6). Undead are healed rather than damaged by this effect. A Spur Lord can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 1 + his Charisma modifier.
Cyric’s Glory (Sp): This ability allows a Spur Lord of 4th level or higher to temporarily increase his presence and determination to phenomenal levels once per day. He gains +4 to Charisma and a +2 morale bonus on Will saves. Cyric’s glory lasts for a number of minutes equal to 1 + the character’s (newly improved) Charisma modifier.
Flesh of the Prince (Su): Usable once per day, this extreme manifestation of Cyric’s power shows that the Spur Lord has reached the pinnacle of Cyric’s favor. When it is invoked, his skin turns chalk-white and his eyes turn dark and blaze with infernal energy. In addition to all the abilities of the Cyric’s glory ability, any weapon wielded by the Spur Lord becomes a +1 flaming weapon, trailing dark flames (this does not increase the bonus of a weapon with an enhancement bonus, but does add the flaming ability if the weapon does not have it). The Spur Lord also gains a +2 natural armor bonus and a +2 deflection bonus to AC. This ability lasts for a number of rounds equal to 1 + the character’s (newly improved) Charisma modifier. When the power ends, the Spur Lord is fatigued until he is able to rest for 1 minute. Using this ability does not count toward his ability to call upon his Cyric’s glory ability.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 6:23:52 GMT -5
The Cult of the Dragon
The members of the Cult of the Dragon believe that it is Faerûn’s destiny to be ruled by undead dragons. The Cult takes upon itself the responsibility of helping that destiny along, directing all its plans and energies toward gaining the wealth and magical power necessary to transform living dragons into undead dracoliches. Cult members undertake magical research, espionage, mercantilism, and a variety of criminal activities to fund and support their goal in anticipation of the day when the undead dragons will hold sway over the entire world. Many Cult members are therefore criminals, though in their minds and in the minds of their peers they are heroic and devoted individuals who take great personal risks on behalf of the organization.
More than one adventurer has remarked on the fact that the minds of the Cult’s current members (including the Cult’s founder, the archmage Sammaster) are not always entirely balanced. Indeed, some are quite mad, though their insanity makes them all the more dangerous in the deadly serious pursuit of their goals. The cultists venerate dragons to the point of worshiping them as deities, and certain dragons—lured by promises of eternal unlife and overwhelming power—revel in the attention.
Over four centuries have passed since the Cult of the Dragon first appeared in Faerûn, and another century before that since the Cult’s founder and first leader, Sammaster First-Speaker, was born. Sammaster was a powerful archmage who became one of Mystra’s Chosen, an honor that proved too great a burden. The archmage’s mind could not bear the divine power, and Sammaster eventually went insane. By the time the deity rescinded her gift, it was too late: Sammaster was incurably mad.
Suffering from terrible delusions, the mad archmage insisted that he possessed special insight into the future of Toril, its people, and its deities. He began collecting both wellknown and obscure works of oracular knowledge and translating them (or reinterpreting them, as the Cult’s detractors and enemies would have it) as validation of his claims. In the pages of one of these tomes, Maglas’s Chronicle of Years to Come, Sammaster discovered a cryptic prophecy that he believed predicted that undead dragons would eventually rule the world. Thus inspired, the irrational archmage gathered a band of followers and persuaded them that his foretelling of the future was accurate. In 902 DR the “Cult of the Dragon” created its first dracolich, using necromantic formulas that Sammaster inscribed in his magnum opus, Tome of the Dragon. Sammaster eventually died—or, as some Cult members believe, became a lich and disappeared.
Today, the inheritors of his terrible knowledge continue to carry out his legacy.
- An extensively expanded history of the Cult of the Dragon can be found in The Dragons of Faerûn.
Headquarters: The members of the Cult do not presently maintain a central headquarters. However, they are in the process of constructing one—a mighty fortress in the Western Heartlands, built over an extinct volcano that houses the fabled Well of Dragons.
Members: Nearly 1,000 individuals are knowing, willing, and active members of the Cult. Countless more serve the cultists without suspecting who they serve.
Leaders: The Wearers of Purple (formerly the name used by leaders of the Sembian cells, now adopted for the organization as a whole).
Religion: None, though the Cult’s few clerics primarily worship Bane, Shar, Talos, Talona, or Velsharoon. A handful of others venerate Cyric, Gargauth, Malar, or Tiamat.
Alignment: CE, CN, NE.
Symbol: The Cult uses the symbol of a flame with eyes burning above a dragon’s claw, but cultists display it openly only when a cell or individual member can be sure that it will not attract the attention of the Cult’s many dedicated foes. Because some groups of cultists sometimes take it into their heads to work at cross purposes with their fellows for reasons ranging from madness to pure contrariness, the exact appearance of this symbol varies from cell to cell.
The Cult of the Dragon continues its founder’s work by organizing itself into a number of independent cells, each with a specific purpose and role to play in the group’s larger plans. The teachings of Sammaster have attracted a limited number of followers, some of them as delusional as he was, others lured by the promise of great rewards gained by means other than honest toil. Many of the Cult’s current members are sane (so far) but exhibit other defects of mind or character that convince them that the Cult offers a path to their desires that is quicker and easier than any other. Virtually all cultists are human.
Joining the Cult of the Dragon The cult’s recruiting efforts are scattershot at best; they direct most of their energy toward criminal endeavors and maintaining relationship with the local wyrms. Those in charge of the organization’s criminal branches realize they need fresh recruits to replace those killed in action or taken prisoner, but they usually recruit under the guise of an outlaw band rather than a cult. In the past, cult activities have been severely disrupted by the Harpers and other enemies, who pose as new recruits to gain access to the group’s inner workings. Despite these troubles, the cult has a very lax policy on welcoming new recruits. It believes that anyone wise (or crazy) enough to follow the words of Sammaster should be allowed to share in his glory.
Recruits come from all areas, but regions with more active criminal networks account for the bulk of new members. The Sembian cell actively seeks raw, inexperienced recruits who are then sent to cells throughout Faerûn. They look for those with nothing to keep them tied to a single location, and who are weak-willed enough to be indoctrinated and sent on their way. More experienced recruits usually stay with the Sembian cell, increasing its power; the other cells are left to their own methods to recruit more experienced members. One advantage of joining the Cult of the Dragon is that advancement and status are tied to one’s abilities—the recent ascendance of cult member Vargo Kent to proprietorship of the Well of Dragons is one such example.
Joining the Cult of the Dragon requires only that one find a cell, or one of its front organizations, and petition its leader. The group will ask for a demonstration of abilities and ask some general questions meant to gauge the person’s character. If these two trials go well, the character will be invited back for harsher questioning to make sure he is not a spy—if a cleric is available, this questioning might take place within a zone of truth. The second round of questioning might be, and often is, skipped in favor of just indoctrinating the new member and getting him or her active in the cult’s endeavors. Sammaster prophesied that the enemies of the cult would become known to them and be crushed in the jaws of dragons, so most of the cult’s leaders just trust in this, and are happy to use traitors in the meantime.
The cult needs wizards and clerics who can aid in the ritual outlined in the Tome of the Dragon, but warriors and even rogues are necessary for the day-to-day operations of the group. Most of its members are inexperienced and looking for a place in the world, but sometimes adventurers and powerful spellcasters will come to the cult to fulfill their own ambitions. Many of the cult’s cells (particularly desperate ones, such as the group in Westgate) will accept just about any prospective member who comes along. Those who would infiltrate dragons’ lairs to make new contacts for the cult are especially welcomed, as are those rare dragon hunters who target the good-aligned dragons standing in the way of the cult’s success.
Costs and Benefits of Membership Once you join the Cult of the Dragon, it becomes your life. With few exceptions, cell members live in the same area, work together toward the cult’s goals, and interact with those outside the cult only when they need something. The cult’s cells remain somewhat secretive in this regard, and thus a new member must leave most of his old life behind him forever. All of a member’s effort goes toward the advancement of the cult’s goals, whether it be the creation of weapons, the preparation of arcane rituals, or the defense of the cell and its membership.
Exceptions are granted to adventuring members, who are given far more leeway in exchange for their silence as to who they work for and what their goals are. These members usually move from cell to cell, finding adventure on their travels and aiding any cell in need of muscle or magic. These adventuring members get to keep whatever treasure and magic they feel is necessary, but must pass on lore and unused magic and treasure to whatever cell they make contact with next. Complete loyalty is unusual for these adventuring bands, which often refuse to aid a cell in trouble—but the cult as a whole rarely pays attention to who is doing what and where. It is usually much too focused on its own far-reaching concerns to hold a grudge against someone who has not hurt the cult directly.
Becoming a member of the Cult of the Dragon has different benefits, each depending on the strength and skills of the new recruit. Wizards are granted access to necromantic lore gathered over the past five centuries that nonmembers might never gain access to; just to be able to study the Tome of the Dragon fulfills the lifelong quest of many new members. In addition, a cult wizard attempting to attract a draconic cohort gains a +2 bonus on his Leadership score for that purpose, and cult wizards wishing to have a draconic familiar act as if they are two levels higher for this purpose. Clerics who join most often do so at the behest of their gods for one reason or another, or to minister to their faithful. The most common religions found within the cult are those dedicated to Bane, Shar, Talos, Talona, and Velsharoon. Other faiths, sometimes represented by only a single cleric, include those of Cyric, Gargauth, Malar, and Tiamat.
The cult offers little besides protection and kinship to those without the abilities necessary to bring undeath to a dragon. It is not particularly well organized, nor does it have its own access to weapons or equipment. The best it can offer is some limited protection from dragons in the area, a place to sleep and food to eat, and a steady supply of work, whether it be in the construction of the Well of Dragons, taking part in one of the group’s many criminal endeavors, or protecting cult leaders and sites of importance.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Champions of Ruin
Post Year of the Rogue Dragon (1373): The Cult of the Dragon is a sprawling, schismatic, secret society composed of insane fanatics who embrace Sammaster's vision of undead dragons ruling the world and power-hungry pragmatists who see membership in the Dragon Cult as an avenue to greater personal power.
Followers of the Scaly Way are divided into autonomous cells. Each cell is made up of recruits, known as Followers of the Scaly Way or Dragon Cultists, and the senior leadership, known as Keepers of the Secret Hoard. The former group, dominated by individuals who see the Dragon Cult as a road to personal power, is composed primarily of fighters, rogues, and barbarians who feed the Dragon Cult's coffers through banditry, blackmail, drug running, extortion, and kidnapping. They also run the Dragon Cult's mercantile operations an d vice dens (gambling and prostitution). The latter group, dominated by true believers, is composed primarily of wizards, a handful of clerics, and the most ruthless warriors and thieves to rise up through the ranks. They control the cell's treasury and the cell's copy of the Tome of the Dragon.
Each established Dragon Cult cell is ruled by one or more Wearers of Purple. There is a great deal of overlap between the Wearers of Purple and the Keepers of the Secret Hoard, but the two terms are not strictly synonymous. A Wearer of Purple is always accorded the rank of Keeper of the Secret Hoard by other cells.
Following the death of Sammaster, many Keepers of the Secret Hoard as well as a few of the Scared Ones made a bid for overall leadership of the Dragon Cult. After the Great Bone Wyrm's bid collapsed, an uneasy trumvirate seized power. The trio includes Augloroasa "the Sibilant Shade", now known as the First Whisperer; Daurogoth "the Creeping Doom", now known as the First Reader; and a humanoid lich, known only as the First Interpreter. (The Identity of the first reader is known to only Auglorosa and Daurogoth. Before his own destruction, Sammaster secretly brought Alagshon Nathaire back from the dead as a banelich.)
Already their alliance shows signs of strain. Daurogoth is suspected of witholding arcane lore he has leaned, while Auglorosa is thought to be witholding secrets her spies have unearthed. Neither dracolich trusts Al the First Reader, despite his efforts to blunt efforts by the Church of Tiamat to subsume the Dragon Cult, sine both suspect the banelich still works to incorporate the Dragon Cult into the Church of Bane.
Membership: 5,730. Mixed (Human 4,527, dragonkin 516, draconic creature 286, half-dragon 178, dragon 57, dracolich 51, other 115). Mothly dues: 100gp. (300gp to join.) Requirements: You may not divulge secrets of the Dragon Cult to outsiders. You must obey the leaders of the Cult, hold dragons in great esteem, and revere the Sacred Ones (dracoliches). You must tithe 10% of your wealth to the Dragon Cult.
- Source: Forgotten Realms, The Dragons of Faerûn.
Individual cells comprise the basic units of the Cult’s organizational structure. Even as each cell is specialized, so too do rank, function, and purpose differentiate the members’ roles. Any given cell normally has from ten to one hundred members, depending on its relative importance in the Cult’s great schemes. The cell’s hierarchy is based on a structure followed throughout the Cult.
So called because of their purple ceremonial robes, the Wearers of Purple are the chief authority in every cell. Small cells have only one Wearer of Purple at the helm, but larger cells can have several, all acting (theoretically) in concert as part of a coalition. More than a few Wearers of Purple are necromancers who seek out Cult of the Dragon cells for the specific purpose of joining their ranks. These necromancers oversee the complex process by which a living dragon is transformed into a dracolich. They also create magic items, both for use by Cult members and as gifts and bribes to evil dragons. It is additionally their burden to make up the shortfalls faced by the Cult due to the scarcity of clerics among its membership. These wizards cannot afford to be armchair generals if the Cult is to achieve its goals: When a cell faces danger from enemies, the Wearers of Purple must lead their forces against the enemy.
The Cult offers necromancers access to the otherwise difficult-to-find research conducted by Sammaster, and the chance to work directly with some of the most powerful undead creatures in all Faerûn. Others join to further their own ambitions or because they found the endless internal conflicts of other organization (such as the Zhentarim) unsatisfactory to their tastes.
Below the Wearers of Purple are the lesser members of the cell, their designations determined by the cell’s specific function
Mercantile Cells Some cells are devoted to pursuing completely legitimate business interests as a means of generating cash flow. The lesser members of these cells tend to be merchants, many of them quite wealthy. These cells take advantage of their trade contacts and communications to gather and pass along interesting information to other cells.
Criminal Cells The majority of Cult cells generate the needed coin through illegal means, and the schemes in which they are involved are as varied as the members themselves.
Banditry Cells sometimes engage the services of bandits, brigands, and highway robbers to relieve travelers of their excess cash. Raids on merchant caravans can be extremely lucrative, both in gold and trade goods (later sold by mercantile or smuggling cells). These cells are small, consisting generally of a Wearer of Purple and perhaps half a dozen subordinates who deal with the local bandits. The outlaws who do the actual work usually do not know who hired them, and they usually don’t care.
Protection The Cult of the Dragon generally avoids protection rackets on the small scale. The organization isn’t large enough to dominate the underworld in most major cities, which is where protection money really pays off. It leaves such pursuits to local thieves’ guilds and unscrupulous merchants. Instead, it engages in grand-scale protection rackets, threatening carefully chosen merchants with draconic intervention should they fail to meet the Cult’s demands for money, goods, or services. Once a merchant so approached realizes exactly whom he’s dealing with, he usually pays the demanded price: Everyone knows, after all, that you can’t bargain with insane people. These cells usually consist of a Wearer of Purple who deals with the dracolich or dragon muscle, and a dozen or more operatives who deal with the merchants themselves. The cell may also employ laborers or traders who handle any illgotten merchandise for a fee.
Kidnapping Abducting wealthy nobles and ransoming them back to their families can generate a large amount of gold. Many aristocrats pay up less out of any desire to regain the kidnapped member of the family, and more out of a more profound desire not to suffer the embarrassing notoriety of being the targets of a successful kidnapping plot. The Cult almost always releases its hostages after the ransom is paid; otherwise, other victims’ families might start refusing to pay, and that would end this particular line of handsome profit very quickly.
The lairs of evil dragons make very convenient and secure holding places for kidnapping victims who might be located by friends or allies before their ransom is paid. The Cult’s few rogues generally work within kidnapping cells, along with several fighters who take care of the actual kidnapping as directed by the Wearer of Purple.
Blackmail and Extortion Here again, the desire to avoid scandal generates a good deal of money. Few people want to see their dark secrets publicized, and some folk possess secrets that are more dangerous than they are embarrassing.
Blackmail is a delicate business, because it involves continuous regular payments. Cells engaged in this activity must use care not to demand such a high fee that they kill the golden goose, or that the goose decides that exposure is less expensive than payment.
Extortion, on the other hand, requires only a one-time payment and is therefore preferable in situations where the target has a limited amount of ready cash. The cells that engage in these activities generally have only a very few actual cultists, but large numbers of paid spies and informers, most of whom sell information not only to the cell but to anyone who can pay. Some cells boast their own private spy networks, but competition for genuinely blackmail-worthy secrets is so stiff that this is a rarity.
Smuggling An old favorite not only of the Cult but many other criminal groups, smuggling is a thriving industry. Stolen magic items make up the bulk of the Cult’s smuggled goods, though poisons and illicit drugs are also popular. These cells can be quite large: The Cult’s Sembian smuggling cell has more than one hundred cultists.
Vice A very few cells possess enough control over the criminal element in some smaller communities to run secret (and therefore untaxed) gambling dens, drug parlors, and festhalls. These cells rarely boast more than a dozen members, though they do employ several times that number of hired muscle. The employees of the vice establishments almost never know who pays their wages.
Post Year of the Rogue Dragon (1373):
In the wake of Sammaster's Rage, three dozen or so active Dragon Cult cells of any significance are scattered across Faerûn. Several of the most prominent cells are the Dragonwell cell, Mourktar Cell, Sembian cell, and Wyrmsmoke cell [See below]. Other known, active cells are based in the Dragonjaw Mountains, Elversult (and Pros), Hlondeth, the Rockshaws of the Northern High Moor, the ruins of Peleveria along the Landrise of the Shaar, and Yartar. Until recently there were also active cells in the Bloodstone Lands, Leilon, Westgate, and the Pirate Isles of Tan, but all have collapsed in the wake of Sammaster's Rage.
Each cell has its own perspective on several dogmatic issues, including whether to emphasize religious devotion or self-serving pragmatism, whether or not to engage in magical experimentation with new types of undead dragons, whether or not to emulate dragonkind by pursuing transformation into their number, whether or not to cooperate with various monstrous races, whether or not to apply the transformation to dracolichdom to those who are not true dragons, and whether or not to cooperate with or oppose the Church of Tiamat.
Dragonwell Cell: In the Year of Wild Magic (1372DR), the Sembian cell discovered the Well of Dragons in the caldera of an ancient volcano southeast of the Battle of Bones. After dispatching the undead draconic guardian, he Dragon Cultists established a new cell in this ancient draconic graveyard. The Dragonwell Cell currently controls only the Well of Dragons and its immediate environs, but it has begun to establish its claim to territory stretching from Evereska to the Sunset Mountains and from the Serpent Hills deep into the sands of southern Anauroch.
Plots - In the two years after Sammaster's Rage, the Dragonwell cell has transformed the Well of Dragons into a nearly impregnable fortress. Naergoth is very pleased with the progress and no longer resents this remote posting. However, he feels the cell lost an opportunity to recruit several new dracoliches to its service during the Year of Rogue Dragons, when the heretofore unknown King-killer shield over the Serpent Hills undrmined the cell's efforts to induce the large dragon population into dracolichdom. Undeterred, Naergoth continues to send emissaries into the Serpent Hills, now bearing gifts instead of threats, and he has begun to reach out to the large population of green dragons in the Forest of Wyrms.
Mourktar Cell: Founded in the Year of the Pillaged Crypt (1005DR) by a follower of Algashon, the Mourktar Cell achieved early success by convincing Alasklerbanbastos to embrace dracolichdom in the wake of Tchazzar's apparent ascension to divinity. The Mourktar cell has sine moved its base to the Great Bone Wyrm's lair beneath Dragonback Mountain but is still very active in Mourktar and the rest of Threskal, in Messemprar and occupied Unther, and to a lesser extend in eastern Chessenta.
Plots - The Mourktar cell is currently recrouping following the recent failure of its bid to install a draconic nobility in Threskel and Chessenta. Most of the nondragon members of the cell are consumed with the effort to maintain Messemprar's independence in the face of relentless Mulhorandi expansionism, while Alasklerbanbatos and his dragon deputies work to undermine the machinations of Tchazzar.
Sembian Cell: The Sembian cell is the largest and oldest Dragon Cult cell. Its territory encompasses Sembia, the southern Dales, the great forest of Cormanthyr, the Thunder Peaks, and the southern Desertsmouth Mountains, but its membership is concentrated in Saerloon and Urmlaspyr.
Plots - Although the Cult continues to seek new converts to dracolichdom among the dragons of the Thunder Peaks, the cell's leadership is focused primarily on reestablishing its leadership of the entire Dragon Cult and battling the church of Tiamat. The Wearers of Purple have not given up the hope that Aghazstamn and Shargrailar "the Dark" might someday be returned to unlife if their phylacteries can be found. None realize that both phylacteries lie hidden in the horde of Aurgloroasa.
Wyrmsmoke Cell: High above the western slopes of the Galena Mountains, halfway between Glister and Hulburg, floats and ancient and long-abandoned cloud giant citadel known as Wyrmsmoke Keep. From the aerial ramparts of this ancient ruin, a small Dragon Cult cell has long exterted influence over the great dragons of the eastern Moonsea and the Great Gray Land of Thar by blending the mercantile might of the Moonsea's cities with the martial prowess of Thar's elite warriors.
Plots - For decades, members of this cell have bribed dragons along the Galenas to target the black Network's ships, profiting from the "unexpected" shortage of goods that the sinking of a carefully chosen merchant ship can induce. Although it has suffered setbacks, the cell has never angered the Zhentarim enough to engender a full-scale counterattack. In the wake of Sammaster's Rage, such a response is seen as increasingly likely, so the leaders of the Wyrmsmoke cell have spent a good deal of their shared fortune to open negotiations with several candidates for dracolichdom among the surviving dragon population of the Galenas.
- Source: Forgotten Realms, Dragons of Faerûn.
Motivation and Goals
The senior members of the Cult are unequally divided into two camps: those who believe completely and wholeheartedly in Sammaster’s prophecies, and those who pretend to do so for their own reasons. The latter few are most often individuals who see membership in the Cult as a way to fulfill whatever personal desires they may have for power, wealth, self-importance, magical knowledge, or even amusement. What’s the harm in working toward a Faerûn ruled by undead dragons, they reason, if it makes me rich, powerful, and important along the way? These members suspect that the Cult won’t ever reach its goals, but there’s no denying that having a dracolich or two as an ally certainly makes a life of crime a lot easier.
The fanatics, however, are the really dangerous members of the Cult, and they make up the bulk of the membership at the higher levels. They believe so strongly and completely in their insane goal that they are willing not only to die for it, but also to take anyone else who may get in their way along with them.
Many people who aid the Cult of the Dragon don’t even know that they are doing so. These folk are the bandits, mercenaries, merchants, and smugglers who go about their normal activities in return for payment, unknowing and uncaring of their employer’s identity. But some do know, and purposefully seek out the Cult with the intention of becoming members. Why would an otherwise ordinary person decide to join a group of power-hungry wizards who use the demented ravings of a long-dead madman to transform dragons into undead monstrosities as a prelude to conquering the world?
For starters, some power-hungry recruits lack the talent, wealth, or charisma to attain that power on their own. The Cult offers them a way to sate that hunger in a way that’s more viable than vague self-generated plans to conquer the world. Others are greedy and relish the coin that the Cult generates; the promise of future power is merely an added enticement to the avaricious. Still others are the descendants of previous members, and they intend to carry on the family tradition. A fair—some might say alarming—number of the “average” Cultists either believe or come to believe very strongly in the prophetic doom pronounced by Sammaster.
Those who have seen the terrible grandeur and awesome power of a dracolich begin to believe that the crazy old archmage may have been onto something after all. To many ordinary folk, a dragon might as well be a deity: It might not be able to grant divine spells, but it ranks among the most powerful mortal creatures on Toril.
When the chance of one’s patron deity coming to one’s aid in times of difficulty is unlikely at best, the Cult’s dracoliches and evil dragons can serve as reliable allies. Additionally, the notion of an impending apocalypse is appealing to some people, particularly those who are convinced that only the “true believers” will survive the doomsday and then inherit the world.
The Cult of the Dragon has mixed feeling about new recruits. On the one hand, there’s no denying that the Cult needs fresh blood to replace those members who either die of old age (rather than become liches, an option actively sought by some) or who perish at the swords of enemies. And the more members the Cult has, the more quickly it can bring about the subjugation of Faerûn under the claws of the dracoliches. On the other hand, the Cult has been the victim of countless infiltration attempts sponsored by its enemies. Several of the Cult’s weaker cells have been wiped out by foes, and it takes time, money, and effort to recover these losses. So how does the Cult deal with the double-edged sword of the prospective recruit?
Simple: It doesn’t. The Wearers of Purple trust in the word of Sammaster, who wrote: “. . . and all our enemies shall be revealed in good time. Those who would oppose us shall fall to ruin and death in the jaws of the dead dragons. And their bodies shall crack and their hair shall burn, and they will know in their last moments that theirs was the path of folly. For the reign of the dead dragons cannot be forestalled, cannot be thwarted, cannot be broken.” Despite the fact that the Cult’s enemies do sometimes succeed in infiltrating its ranks and wreaking havoc with operations, the Wearers of Purple nonetheless cling stubbornly to their belief that all the efforts of their foes will prove, ultimately, to be futile.
The most common allies of the Cult are evil dragons and the dracoliches that the Cult creates. The Cult is not averse to cooperating temporarily with evil monsters or even a few evil adventurers, and certainly its necromancers are capable of creating undead creatures to serve many different functions. Individual members have been known to make deals with chaotic and evil outsiders, though Cult policy discourages interacting with demons and devils. The church of Cyric is a sometime ally, though this is a less common occurrence since Cyric lost the portfolio of death.
Its members know the dracoliches created by the Cult as “Sacred Ones,” since they are the forces destined to reign supreme over the world.
Dealing with Dragons Dragons in general are a notoriously self-centered race, and none more so than the evil dragons of Faerûn. Yet the Cult approaches these incredibly powerful beings routinely, visiting their lairs to advise them of the great destiny that awaits them. Cultists bring large gifts of treasure to the dragons they visit, as a contribution to their hoards (another reason why the Cult requires such a large amount of cash). They flatter the dragons, praise their skill and cunning, offer to provide any services that the dragons may desire, and—usually on a visit subsequent to the first—read to the dragon from Sammaster’s Tome of the Dragon.
Some evil dragons deal regularly with the cultists, exchanging the Cult’s services for permission to shelter in the dragon’s lair in times of emergency. Cult cells serve as the eyes and ears of the evil dragons with which they have allied. Others dismiss the cultists as crazed fools, and the cultists generally leave these dragons alone, at least for a generation or two. More than one dragon that rejected a deputation from the Cult of the Dragon centuries ago is more disposed to treat with them after two or three hundred years have passed, particularly the lesser dragons that haven’t done as well for themselves as they had hoped to do. There’s no harm, these creatures reason, in allowing the cultists to add some new traps to the lair if all that’s required is paying attention to some ancient prophetic writings (which many evil dragons find quite interesting when they actually pay attention).
While the cultists venerate the evil dragons, their visitations and offers of aid do have ulterior motives: first to persuade the dragons to cooperate actively with the Cult, and second to eventually convince the dragons to undergo the transformation into lichdom.
The Sacred Ones Many folk mistakenly assume that the Cult of the Dragon exercises complete control over the dracoliches it creates. Dracoliches are, just like living dragons, independent-minded creatures that can and do embark on plans and schemes of their own (presumably to keep themselves occupied while they wait for Sammaster’s predictions to come true). Dracoliches do cooperate regularly with the Cult, however, exchanging their protection for the cultists’ services. A dracolich might agree to destroy a merchant vessel or caravan, for instance, so that a Cult cell can persuade a noble or merchant to cooperate. In return the Cult brings the dracolich offerings of treasure and valuable information, and provides reassurance that the end times for Faerûn are indeed approaching quickly.
Most Faerûnians see the Cult of the Dragon as a dangerous group of lunatics. But the Cult doesn’t receive as much attention as the Zhentarim, the church of Cyric, or the shades because the threat posed by the Cult seems less immediate. (At least, it seems less immediate to anyone who has never watched in stupefied horror as a dracolich makes mincemeat out of her adventuring companions, or smashes a Sembian warship into so many splinters.) Nevertheless, the Cult of the Dragon has its enemies, principally those groups who either compete with the Cult for resources and turf, or those dedicated to ensuring that evil folk do not prevail.
The Cult of the Dragon is content to leave the Red Wizards of Thay to their own devices, secure in the knowledge that Thay will eventually be just another vassal state when the undead dragons rule the world. Indeed, recent relations between the Cult and the Red Wizards have been businesslike and professional to the point of courteousness, because the Cult has discovered that it’s quicker and easier to purchase magic items at an enclave than to create its own. But individual Red Wizards continue to plague the organization: They have an annoying habit of attempting to acquire the Cult’s necromantic knowledge for themselves, and an even more annoying habit of trying to subvert the evil dragons allied to the Cult. However, strife between the organizations is generally limited to individual Red Wizards and Cult cells rather than to societywide warfare.
Wherever the Cult of the Dragon maintains criminal cells, it comes into conflict with the local crime lords. Whether it’s the Night Masks in Westgate or the Iron Throne in Sembia, the Cult runs afoul of those competing for the same ill-gotten gains. These conflicts can be as inconsequential as a disagreement over territory that is settled by a pact or a sum of compensating gold paid to one side or the other. They can also be as desperate as full-scale armed opposition with both factions struggling openly for control of the desired prize. The Cult prefers to bargain its way out of these problems, but when it can’t, its members dig in and fight. The Wearers of Purple devise the strategy their cells employ against rival organizations, and they also join the rank and file in the fighting.
Not surprisingly, the Cult of the Dragon and the Harpers have battled one another ever since the Cult came into being. The Harpers oppose the Cult the same way that they oppose all individuals or groups who seek to force their will on others (or conquer the world, a much broader application of the same concept). Harper agents continually attempt to infiltrate Cult cells and disrupt their operations. Some individual Harpers have dedicated their entire lives to identifying and stopping Cult agents, while others merely strive against the cultists whenever they are encountered. It’s a special event for a cell when a Harper spy is discovered in its midst: After taking the agent prisoner, the cultists usually convey him or her to the nearest allied evil dragon or dracolich to be messily devoured. This sight never fails to bring broad smiles to the faces of the attending cultists.
Cultists rarely, if ever, travel openly. They cannot afford to proclaim their presence, so they disguise themselves and travel in small groups to avoid scrutiny. A typical encounter with a group of Cultists involves a wizard leader plus another wizard and some bodyguards (usually fighters but sometimes barbarians or even warriors, if the leader is from a weaker cell). The wizards are normally specialized in Necromancy. Only the biggest and most important cells contain clerics.
Combat and Tactics
Though the Cultists are organized into differentiated cells, their reaction to danger tends to be unstructured. Each member of the cell tends to act according to his or her best judgment, though all attempt in their own way to support the cell. Cult wizards normally respond to threats directly with their spells, and clerics do likewise, while bodyguards and flunkies do their best to engage attackers physically. If a battle goes poorly, the wizards generally shift to defensive spells or illusions and try to escape. They may or may not stop to assist colleagues, depending on their individual relationships. The Cult’s lack of specific responses may make it more dangerous than a more predictable foe, since each cell responds differently to similar situations.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Cult of the Dragon boasts as its chief strengths powerful allies and its members’ fanatical devotion to the cause. Its relatively small membership, however, often hampers its ability to effectively accomplish its goals. In addition, the chaotic nature of many of the cultists makes them unpredictable, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
- Source; Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness
- Further information is avaliable in: Forgotten Realms - Champions of Ruin [Omitted due to timeline considerations - released prior to Sammaster's Rage in 1373], Forgotten Realms - The Dragons Faerûn [Omitted various statistic blocks, adventure information and DM tips etc], Forgotten Realms - The Serpent Kingdoms [Over specific information]. Relevant novels are Year of Rogue Dragons Trilogy, and Queen of the Depths.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 6:24:17 GMT -5
The Drow [Focused on groups coming to the surface or with a surface presence]
No longer a threat only in the Underdark, the dark elves of Faerûn now prowl about the surface to work their evil or simply to survive. Adventurers are discovering them in large numbers in the old elven lands, particularly Cormanthor, and they are not what the legends tell. While many worship Lolth the Spider Queen, some have come to the surface to escape the oppression and insane conflicts of the cities she controls, and these turn to other deities of the drow pantheon or (more rarely) deities of the surface world. Some of these drow still hold the drive to conquer and enslave the sunlit lands, while others just wish to be left alone in their new homeland.
Over ten thousand years ago, dark-skinned elves of the nation of Illythiir fell under the sway of evil deities and attacked the benign elven nations. Eventually the Seldarine, the deities of the elves, intervened in these great battles, transforming the Illythiiri and other dark elves into black-skinned, white-haired creatures that could not stand the light of the sun. These creatures, called dhaeraow (“traitor”) by the other elves, fled into the Underdark, warred against each other, and occasionally attacked their surface kin and anyone else who got in their way.
This situation persisted for thousands of years, with drow of different philosophies and faiths forming city-states in the immense caverns underground. On the surface, the other elves suffered setbacks at the hands of dragons, evil humanoids, and the advancement of human civilizations. Eventually, the elven leaders decided that the elves would be best suited by a secure homeland that no nonelf could enter or ever harm. Thus the Elven Retreat was called, and elves from all over the world used portals and mundane means to travel to Evermeet.
This abandoning of old elven strongholds did not go unnoticed. Rebel groups of drow, dissatisfied noble houses, and raiders from underground cities all found fewer and fewer elves to fight on the surface near the closest tunnels to the Underdark. Some decided to stay aboveground, feeling that the constant pressure for survival would be relaxed in a world where food, water, and space were abundant. It is these drow who now pose a threat to the surface world. These drow have begun to adapt to life on the surface. Some can tolerate sunlight. Many have chosen homes to own and defend, while others see their surface lairs as much better launching points for their attacks on their ancient enemies.
Headquarters: Cormanthor on the surface, various cities in the Underdark.
Members: Estimated 15,000 living on the surface, unknown tens of thousands in the Underdark.
Hierarchy: Varies by group (usually militaristic).
Leader: Varies by group.
Religion: Drow pantheon (varies by group).
Alignment: NE, CE, CN.
Symbol: No one symbol represents the surface drow as a whole. Their tendency to divide into factions prevents any one symbol from representing them. They usually are identified by “house runes,” stylized combinations of symbols barely recognizable as Espruar. Underdark drow still tend to wear the spider symbol of Lolth more than any other.
As a whole, the drow tend to organize themselves among militaristic lines. Since much of their lives is devoted to combat and all drow are indoctrinated from birth to hate their racial enemies, the surface elves, a military hierarchy is an easy pattern to fall into. Quite often, the upper levels of an organization are linked by family, with a “noble house” being the most common unit of this type. These groups usually have a militaristic formation underlying the bonds of blood. Houses ruled in this manner are not necessarily affectionate; a drow often fears his own family more than any outsider, for a family member knows your weaknesses and knows when you rest. While this level of caution is normal among most drow groups, among the followers of Lolth it is heightened to a level of extreme paranoia, since she encourages her servants to betray each other in the interest of weeding out the weak.
Purely military organizations are led by individuals both powerful and respected by the lesser members of the group. In groups of one hundred or more, this leader is always at least 10th level. The leader is usually a spellcaster of some sort, and among many groups the leader is a cleric of a drow deity, with that deity worshiped by all drow in the group. Only rarely, or in more egalitarian groups, are different deities openly worshiped by different members.
Those drow groups organized by family tend to have one or more charismatic individuals at the top who command the others by persuasion, manipulation, and leverage through favors. If more than one person is in command, each is usually equal to the others in power, a balance carefully maintained by tenuous alliances and veiled threats.
Because the drow live in a near-constant state of warfare and are not above eliminating their own rivals through murder, the leaders of a group of drow can change in a fairly short amount of time. However, since the drow live long lives, they are patient enough to hoard and ready their own power, waiting to strike when their rival is weakest.
Motivation and Goals
Primarily, the drow on the surface wish to survive. After centuries of living in a harsh subterranean environment, they have moved to a place where food and water are plentiful and predators are more easily recognized. No longer do they have to cluster in great cities that become pits of corruption, oppression, and despair. Now they can spread out and sample the strange delights of the surface world.
With the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter easily satisfied, the drow began to pursue their long-term agenda of world domination and destruction of their enemies, the surface elves. However, some groups (such as the worshipers of Vhaeraun, and especially the Auzkovyn clan of Cormanthor) have abandoned their traditional racial hatred, and among the settled surface drow these elves are actually a majority.
The largest group of drow on the surface is the followers of House Jaelre. The leaders of this group have established smaller, finite goals for themselves. Rather than having a disorganized plan to take over the world or destroy all its enemies, House Jaelre plans to take over old elven settlements (particularly the old Elven Court in Cormanthor), study the mythals and remnants of elven high magic, and find a way to tune these powerful wards to not only keep out enemies from the surface, but to repel any enemy drow who might try to take their prize from them. To distract people from its activities in the Elven Court, House Jaelre executes precise and small-scale raids upon parts of the Dales. These strikes occur in places far from the Elven Court, so when the Dalesfolk are sufficiently agitated to send militias and adventurers in search of the drow, they never connect the attacks with the location of the Elven Court, and often end up fighting enemies of House Jaelre, such as raiding parties of Lolth-worshipers. Of course, if the house has a chance to eliminate such a raiding party itself at little or no risk, it takes the opportunity, which is why some adventurers find small groups of drow bodies bearing symbols of the Spider Queen.
House Jaelre is led by four drow: Jezz the Lame, Belarbreeza, Tebryn, and Nurkinyan. Jezz leads the raiding parties that distract the outside world from the house’s true activities. Belarbreeza leads a team of drow mages in unlocking the secrets of the mythals. Tebryn is the leader of the military forces that guard the inner drow strongholds, and Nurkinyan is the spiritual leader of the house and nominally the leader to whom the other three report.
Since drow are defined by their racial identity, a nondrow cannot become a drow without the use of magic. However, the dark elves often have servitor creatures or slaves. While technically these creatures aren’t recruits, they are the closest most of these groups come to actual recruiting. The exceptions are some of the Vhaeraun-worshiping drow, such as the Auzkovyn clan, which are willing to accept elves, half-elves, and even humans who share their patron as full members within their ranks.
Other than slaves and servitor creatures, the drow have few allies. Strangely enough, their most common allies are also their most frequent rivals—other powerful creatures of the Underdark, particularly mind flayers (valuable for their ability to read enemy minds) and duergar (who produce excellent weapons and send caravans all over the Underdark to sell them). The svirfneblin, however, never ally with the drow.
In addition to the above and the allied creatures mentioned in the section on drow deities, groups of drow often have pet night hunter bats. The dark elves are sometimes aided by air, dust, and earth mephits, and even shadow dragons. Drow slaves are usually humanoids of various kinds and are rarely used in combat, since the surface drow don’t trust their armed slaves not to run away at the first opportunity.
Drow have a deserved reputation as murderers, raiders, and slavers, creatures evil to the core. Any person living outside the Underdark tends to automatically fear and hate any dark elf.
No surface creatures hate the drow more than other elves. Elven stories tell of Araushnee’s betrayal and her attack on the Seldarine, the drow’s instigation of the Crown Wars (whether this is true or not), and horrible acts committed by drow raiders against elven communities. Even the most openminded and tolerant elf has a hard time accepting the presence of a drow, even one who claims to be good and whose good can be verified (magic can disguise much, after all). After millennia of indoctrination, the elves have a hatred for the drow that approaches obsession.
The drow are also opposed by Underdark creatures such as derro, duergar, kuo-toas, mind flayers, and svirfneblin. As a whole these creatures see drow as a great threat because of their magic and numbers. Of course, the greatest enemy of a group of drow is a rival group, and the wars between the drow houses and cities have shaped the social and economic nature of the Underdark for thousands of years.
Drow are hated and feared by almost every creature that knows of their existence. Good beings tend to attack at the first chance. Even groups of rival drow are likely to attack, particularly if one of the groups worships Lolth and another doesn’t. Other subraces of elves, no matter what alignment, react negatively to their fallen kin, and most other good creatures feel that anything a true elf wants to kill is probably something very wicked indeed.
Drow on the surface prefer to be mobile, traveling in small groups that are less likely to be spotted. Only when an entire settlement is relocating do they move in large numbers, and even then they rarely exceed one hundred per group. A typical drow patrol is four to six individuals (one cleric, one or two fighters, one or two rogues, and one wizard); a typical drow strike force is two to three times that many.
Drow patrols on the surface are usually looking for intruders, investigating another patrol’s report, or hunting. A strike force exists only to kill, usually created to rid its territory of a specific threat or eradicate a rival patrol or strike force.
The groups described below are drow patrols. To create a strike force, double the number of nonclerics and add 2 to the EL or triple the number and add 3 to the EL. Clerics may be of any of the drow deities; in Cormanthor, the clerics are usually worshipers of Lolth or Vhaeraun. In a patrol or a strike force, the cleric is typically the group leader.
Combat and Tactics
The drow do not attack in a haphazard fashion. Each drow knows his or her role in a fight and sticks to it. Fighters always move to flank, allowing rogues to sneak attack, spellcasters target enemy spellcasters with silence and destructive spells, and so on. Drow use terrain to their advantage. When preparing an ambush they learn every detail of the location, and (if possible) they discuss what tactics their enemies might use and places they might move to.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The drow are intelligent and quick. They have natural magical powers, strong spell resistance, and a mindset that sees most other creatures as enemies or potential slaves. In an environment where survival is difficult, their skills have been honed to a degree rarely seen on the surface world. Drow recognize power and know how to use it.
The greatest weaknesses of the drow are their physical frailty, sensitivity to light, and distinctive appearance. They avoid melee combat if at all possible, relying on their superior ranged attacks and ability to hide. If forced into a situation where they have to fight in melee, they are likely to retreat to a safer position where they can rely on their strengths.
The drow’s sensitivity to light makes it difficult for them to operate during daylight hours. Unlike humans, who can bring torches to light the night and expand their normal hours of operation, drow cannot darken the daylight enough to negate the pain the sun causes them, limiting what they can do in any 24-hour period.
Because their reputation precedes them, drow are accustomed to being attacked on sight. This means the drow have to rely upon their own resources, putting them at a disadvantage compared to other evil groups. The members of the Zhentarim or the clerics of Cyric can enter a Red Wizard enclave and purchase items at a discount, but even if the Thayans are willing to trade with the drow, the host city probably won’t tolerate them.
The followers of Lolth have an additional weakness: the many rival houses and factions within their own cities. For example, one of Lolth’s raiders has to fear not only her enemies on the surface, but also whether the group’s wizard is planning to sell the raiders into slavery to a mind flayer, if the cleric plans to sacrifice the raiders to Lolth if they don’t perform to her expectations, or if her own cousin is going to stab her in the back during the confusion of battle. These worries cause many drow to leave the cities of Lolth and join surface clans, team up with mercenaries, or become loners in the strange world under the sun.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness
Further reading on drow can be found in many sources including but not limited to: Forgotten Realms - Races of Faerûn, and Forgotten Realms - Drizzt Do'Urdens Guide to the Underdark, Forgotten Realms - The Underdark, as well as novel series such as The War of the Spider Queen, though this material primarily focuses on the drow living below the surface.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 20:55:50 GMT -5
The Night Masks
The Night Masks is a powerful thieves’ guild that operates out of the metropolis of Westgate on the Dragon Coast. The term “thieves’ guild” is something of a misnomer, because theft is the least of the Night Masks’ numerous illegal activities. Engaged in such illicit but lucrative trades such as assassination, extortion, smuggling, blackmail, and kidnapping, the Night Masks control Westgate’s underworld. Operating mainly at night, guild operatives haunt the city’s shadowed streets, sometimes clashing with the City Watch, armed adventurers, and private soldiers in the employ of the city’s nobles.
These nobles, whose houses comprise the leading merchant interests in the city, ostensibly rule Westgate through a ruling council. The head of each family—ten in all—sits on the council and represents his house’s views and wishes on all aspects of the city’s administration. It is no secret that these families are economic competitors, and that they have been engaged in a semicovert power struggle against one another for as long as the council has existed.
Virtually all of Westgate’s citizenry, as well as those in other lands, believe that the council actively opposes the depredations of the Night Masks. This appearance is a deception, one of many crafted with care by the leaders of the thieves’ guild to obscure its true purpose. The Night Masks’ leadership directly controls three of the noble houses and is using them to further its own goals. It intends to control the remainder, and much more, in time. In addition, the Night Masks have also gained indirect control of some of the city’s institutions, including the dock operations (which are vital to the guild’s smuggling endeavors).
If the general populace of Westgate knew the truth about the city’s power structure, they might find it difficult to believe that an organization composed entirely of criminals—even an organization as well organized and skilled as the Night Masks — could bring such a wealthy and powerful city under its thumb. Under normal conditions, they would be correct. However, the key to the Night Masks’ political manipulations does not lie with the group’s ordinary members, or with its usual criminal activities. For all their greed and viciousness, the evil committed by the majority of the guild members pales in comparison to that contemplated by their unseen masters. The common thugs, burglars, thieves, and cutthroats who make up the bulk of the Night Masks’ membership believe themselves ruled by an anonymous Guildmaster, called the Faceless. While it is true that such an individual does exist, these same guild members (as well as most of the citizenry) would almost certainly flee the city if they knew his true nature or understood his goals. The true ruler of the Night Masks is the Court of Night Masters, a coven of powerful, ruthless vampires who harbor ambitions far darker than the mere clandestine rulership of a single city. The leader of this group—the Night King himself, who also holds the title of Faceless—is a vampire who renamed himself Orbakh. He is also one of the surviving stasis clones of the infamous wizard Manshoon of the Zhentarim.
The Night Masks have been a part of Westgate’s history since 1353 DR, when the first Faceless assembled a band of assassins, thieves, and enforcers to gain control of the city’s fractious underworld. Following their master’s directives, the guild members quickly extinguished or absorbed all the criminal organizations that opposed them. The consolidated organization began competing with the merchant houses for control of the city’s illegal activities. The merchant houses struck back, and the resulting conflict became a semisecret street war that lasted nearly two decades before the Night Masks gained the upper hand.
The thieves’ guild suffered a near-fatal setback in 1368 DR when Alias of Westgate and Dragonbait, a saurial paladin, were engaged to curtail the Night Masks’ activities. The Harper duo and their allies managed to eventually unmask the Faceless (the second to hold the title) and significantly disrupt his group’s operations. Unwilling to admit defeat, the Faceless attempted to proclaim himself King of Westgate, but was slain shortly thereafter. The guild might have perished then for lack of competent leadership, or torn itself apart with infighting as several of the remaining members scrambled for control of the group’s various operations. But in 1369 DR a new Faceless arose to quell these internal conflicts and restore the Night Masks to their previous strength.
It has always been the custom that the general membership of the guild does not know the true identity of the Faceless, though some holders of the title have been less secretive than others. Each new Faceless must prove himself capable of leadership through actions rather than words. The individual who rose to claim the title when the guild faced its darkest hour encountered few obstacles on his path to becoming the new Faceless. The guild was in a near-total state of disarray following the death of its last leader, and was hungry for new leadership — particularly when that leadership was demonstrated in the face of adversity. Some limited dissent in the ranks provided the aspirant to the Faceless title the opportunity to show his mettle. Those who objected to his ascension, or sought it for themselves, were murdered in spectacularly gruesome fashion, often inside what they had supposed were their well-guarded private quarters. One rival was reportedly struck down only hours after he announced his intentions to a group of his comrades who were enjoying an evening in the Purple Lady festhall. Dozens of witnesses watched, horror-struck, as he was literally torn apart in the street outside the establishment by a massive swarm of frenzied dire bats. One of his henchmen hastily scooped what little remained of the unfortunate man’s corpse into a helmet and conveyed it to a nearby guild safehouse to report the incident. The new Faceless was accepted by all shortly thereafter.
The Faceless chose not to reveal to his new minions that he was a vampire. He had used the abilities granted by his undead condition to obtain information about dissenters and rivals and then kill them (being able to take on gaseous form is a very effective means of entering otherwise impenetrable areas, and the ability to summon the creatures of the night to do one’s bidding makes for a novel form of execution). But even if the guild had somehow learned the truth about the Faceless’s nature, there was no way the members could know that he was no ordinary vampire. He was also one of the few surviving stasis clones of the infamous Manshoon, erstwhile leader of the Zhentarim. He had awakened in the catacombs beneath the city just as the Manshoon Wars began, only to discover that prior to his revival he had been abducted and drained by the vampire Orlak, the self-proclaimed Night King who laired beneath Westgate. The clone’s first act upon rising was to hunt down and destroy his creator, taking the title for his own and adopting the name Orbakh. Ensconcing himself in his late predecessor’s underground lair, Orbakh contemplated his goals and plans for the future. But as he pondered his situation, emerging from the undercity only to hunt and feed, he found his actions influenced by a surprising manipulator.
Among the treasures he “inherited” from his slain creator was the Maguscepter and a pair of powerful magic items: the Argraal of Orlak and the Flying Fangs of the Night King.
The Argraal was an enchanted drinking goblet that filled with the fresh blood of any victim that had been slain by its companion piece, the Flying Fangs. This was a magic weapon that drained life energy from its victims, as well as blood. Both were imbued with some part of their creator’s essence, and they worked in tandem to influence whoever possessed them. The vampire clone found himself feeling an inexplicable but deep seated need to be served by beings of a similar nature. By the time his research discovered the source of this compulsion, he had already used the Argraal and the Fangs to create several servitor vampires and dub them his Court of Night Masters.
Not desiring to waste potentially useful resources (and fully aware that good help is hard to find), Orbakh did not eliminate his servitor vampires. After a period of observation in the city, he decided his first act would be to claim leadership of the Night Masks and revitalize the guild. He and his Court would be the secret rulers of the organization, reshaping it to suit their own ends.
Headquarters: The Night Masks do not maintain a guildhall or other central meeting location (that would make the job of the City Watch far too easy). The organization instead maintains dozens of safe houses throughout Westgate, many of which are legitimate businesses during the day. The closest thing the guild has to a “town hall” is the Purple Lady festhall, owned and operated by one of the Night Masks’ upper echelon. Members are free to meet and leave messages for one another here, provided that they do nothing to alert the patrons to the host’s role in the organization (and that includes not wearing dirty “street clothing” inside the establishment).
Members: Approximately 900, including the Court of Night Masters.
Leader: The Faceless.
Alignment: CE, LE, NE.
Symbol: Domino mask (a black cloth mask shaped to cover the eyes and nose, cut with two eyeholes), used both as a sigil and as a physical token of the guild’s work. Anyone who betrays the Night Masks and does not immediately flee beyond their reach is eventually discovered dead, with a domino mask shoved in his mouth, wrapped around his slit throat, used as a ligature to bind his hands, or otherwise adorning his corpse.
In former days, the Night Masks habitually identified businesses that paid protection money to the guild by inscribing the mask symbol somewhere on the business’s property, as a notice and a warning to other would-be extortionists. The Night King ordered this practice abandoned shortly after the Court of Night Masters reached its full complement. He did not want to make it so simple for enemies to identify the Night Masks’ “business associates” by providing a visible marker for them to follow.
The Night Masks’ hierarchy is complex, structured to provide maximum protection for those who lead it. Some details about the Night Masks are given in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. The following information is for the Night Masks who operate only in Westgate.
From the group’s inception, an anonymous guildmaster and his inner council of lieutenants have ruled the Night Masks. The Faceless traditionally wields supreme authority over the entire guild, but delegates responsibility for the organization’s various activities and interests to the Night Masters, who in turn employ a retinue of assistants, agents, and flunkies to carry out their will. The majority of the rank-andfile membership consists of rogues and assassins. The guild also counts among its members a number of clerics, fighters, sorcerers, wizards, and a smattering of other professions as well. Not everyone on the Night Masks’ payroll is a fullfledged member. Many, particularly those who collect information for the guild in distant cities, are freelance operatives.
The Faceless (also known as Orbakh and The Night King), heads the guild, followed by the Dukes: Darklady Dahlia Vhammos (the Duchess of Venom), Phultan Hammerwand (the Duke of Whispers), Tebryn “Shadowstalker” Dhialael (the Duke of Shadows), and The Twilight Knight (Enforcer). Below the dukes are the Counts: Sorenth “Happy” Gorender (the Count of Coins), and Draegan Guldar (the Count of Storms). - This information is expanded on in Lords of Darkness, excluded for the expansive, personally specific nature of the information therein.
Lieutenants These are the individuals who actually make things happen in the organization. They receive instructions directly from the Court of Night Masters, organize the activities of the cells, and administer the night-to-night operations of the guild in accordance with their orders. The average lieutenant of the Night Masks has been with the organization for some time, typically a decade and often more, and they don’t plan to ever leave.
Raw Recruits and Proven Professionals A new recruit learns the tradecraft of thieves under the tutelage of more experienced cell members. The initiation period of a recruit lasts until his cell leader decides that he’s ready for advancement, at which point the recruit becomes a proven professional, a period that can last anywhere from six months to a lifetime. Some street recruits never make it off the streets, for a variety of reasons. Some display a lack of initiative, while others are deemed too unreliable to undertake more difficult assignments. A few choose to remain at the street level for the entire length of their association with the guild, preferring to carry out orders rather than give them. A few deserving street operatives remain stuck at the lower levels due to the invisible machinations from somewhere higher up on the ladder.
Typical street-level operatives are assigned criminal acts that, while petty in the organization’s larger schemes, still generate valuable income. The degree of the assignment’s difficulty depends on the level of experience the recruit demonstrates and the degree of trust her cell leader has in her abilities. Standard assignments include pickpocketing merchants and travelers in the markets, mugging and rolling drunks exiting the city’s many taverns and festhalls, running crooked gambling games, pulling off simple burglaries, and carrying messages for superiors. Operatives are paid a weekly stipend and are allowed to keep a third of any wealth they acquire during operations. The remaining two-thirds goes to the guild via the street operatives’ cell leader (who takes a cut of 10%). More than one street operative has been tempted to retain a share of the loot that is larger than his due. The results of such indiscretions are, predictably, almost always fatal.
The Night Masks do not discriminate along racial lines when it comes to recruiting into their lowest echelon. Males and females of most humanoid races permitted in Westgate can be found in this stratum of the organization
Toughs Toughs are the Night Masks’ street-level legbreakers, bodyguards, and soldiers. Their job is, simply put, to cause personal injury and property damage at the direction of their superiors. Most cell leaders don’t go anywhere without a couple of toughs in tow. Some toughs are culled from the ranks of the standard street-level operatives (those who show a flair for violence or who demonstrate that they can stand up to a lot of punishment are prime candidates), while others take on the role as their first assignment with the organization.
The guild doesn’t organize toughs into cells of their own, but instead assigns several toughs to each cell. A lot of toughs graduate from street-level work in a year or two, becoming personal bodyguards to cell leaders and lieutenants. Members of the Court of Night Masters who recognize some special aptitude or skill have plucked a few from the streets. Toughs receive a weekly stipend, like street operatives, as well as a share of any profits earned from operations in which they take part. The pay they receive per job is at the discretion of the cell leader.
Most toughs are dwarves, humans, and half-orcs. The occasional half-elf is found among their ranks, but a gnome or halfling tough is almost unheard of in the Night Masks.
Specialists Naturally, the guild has need of members who possesses a variety of talents. Members who fall into this category include forgers, surveillance and countersurveillance experts, extortionists, blackmailers, information gatherers, and those whose professions are outside those generally found in a thieves’ guild: low-level fighters, sorcerers, wizards, and the like. Tradesfolk and craftsfolk are not normally inducted into the Night Masks even as specialists. The guild has no need, for example, to recruit blacksmiths because it retains such craftsmen on its payroll to construct weapons and special equipment.
Some specialists are identified and recruited from the guild’s street operatives and toughs, but most are brought into the guild directly at this level for the specific purpose of practicing their particular trade. Most of these individuals are attached to a cell that specializes in their particular line of work. Some of them even lead cells, though this honor is not granted them until they either have put in several years of reliable service with the guild or have demonstrated unusual competence and skill. Some specialists take on apprentices, often at the request of the guild, in order to ensure that the Night Masks are not deprived of their talents should anything untoward befall them.
Specialists are paid well for their services and enjoy a share in the profits earned from the operations in which they are involved. For example, an operation to smuggle goods into the city and then sell them, without paying any of the various import duties and other taxes imposed on such trade, might net the Night Masks 10,000 gp. The forger who created a set of fake permits enabling the contraband to enter the city might earn as much as 10 percent of the take, or 1,000 gp.
Specialists come from all races.
Informants The typical informant is just an ordinary private citizen who earns a few extra coins by snitching to the Night Masks, and often to other organizations and institutions as well. The organization does employ a few full-time informants, however, who earn their pay by keeping tabs on a particular person or institution. The Night Masks have several permanent informants working in the city’s docks, the city watch, Fortuneboon Hall (Tymora’s temple in the city), and most of the caravan yards. Informants are typically paid piecemeal for each nugget of information they uncover, and their payment is usually scaled according to the value of the news. Professional informants who fail to turn up useful information, who provide consistently inaccurate information, or who betray the Night Masks by trying to play more than one side of the information game with the guild’s enemies are not long for this world.
Assassins The Duchess of Venom currently has almost eighty professional murderers working to fulfill the organization’s scheduled killings, and she’s always on the lookout for more. Some of these undertakings are by contract, earning the Night Masks a profit. Others are motivated by the Night King’s long-range plans to destabilize the Dragon Coast and its environs. Darklady Dahlia recruits, evaluates, and trains her assassins personally, preferring to make certain that she sends only the best into the field. Those who fail her or who do not meet her rigorous criteria usually perish under her fangs or become targets for her infamous “living prey” practice sessions. Dahlia requires that all her killers maintain at least one residence within Westgate, so that she can reach them when necessary.
Assassins are paid handsomely for their work, and they are able to live lifestyles of ease and luxury when they are not actively pursuing their trade, if they so choose. Most are intensely private individuals, however, and take great pains to safeguard both themselves and the secret of their profession.
Motivation and Goals
The majority of the Night Masks members want the same thing they have always wanted: easy money. Motivated primarily by unabated greed and a desire to avoid anything resembling honest labor, nearly all these criminals are in this dangerous business for the cash. The lives of these individuals are often violent and brief. Many newcomers to the guild do not survive more than a few months in this bloody trade, falling to a watchman’s spear or the magic trap set by a noble’s pet wizard. The dreams of these footpads and smugglers are almost always focused on the acquisition of enough cash to keep them well supplied with liquor and gratuitous entertainment for the rest of their lives. None of the members at this level are aware of the existence of the Night Masters. They report to their cell leader, and they know that somewhere above him (beyond all the other cell leaders and lieutenants) is the overall leader. Those who have met Tebryn Dhialael believe him to be the guildmaster.
The Middle Echelon The mid-level guild members—the cell leaders, night-to-night operations chiefs, intermediate administrators, and lieutenants — usually aspire to something a bit less seedy than a lifetime supply of cheap liquor and even cheaper festhall pleasures. These individuals usually possess some measure of authority, and most of them have obtained it by climbing their way up from the ranks below them (often stepping on a good many hands and skulls in the process). These are career criminals who have served the guild loyally and well for some time, and are likely to remain somewhere within the Night Masks power structure until they die.
No small number of them have attained a distinctly luxurious lifestyle, far more comfortable than anything they could have afforded through honest work, and they desire to maintain it. Others enjoy the power they wield, and desire more for its own sake. They also like the prestige that comes with wielding a position of authority in the guild. A few have scores to settle with society or individuals, and they see working for the Night Masks as a means of avenging themselves on whoever or whatever they believe did them wrong. A tiny handful use their positions within the guild as a cover for a personal agenda at odds with the interests of the Night Masks. Aware that discovery means an agonizing death, these few members—traitors, in the eyes of their fellows—strive to conceal their true purposes with a disguise of zealous loyalty and obedience. Most of the members at this level are aware of the existence of the Night Masters as a group. Only the most trusted lieutenants have ever met any of the individual Night Masters, however. One or more of these privileged henchmen might suspect that the Night Masters are something other than mortal, but so far none of them have shared their suspicions with anyone.
The Upper Echelon The Court of Night Masters is motivated by goals far more grandiose—and frightening—than anything their agents and employees could possibly imagine. The court has already achieved its first short-term goal by gaining the means to influence Westgate’s ruling council, and while it does not yet fully and directly control the entire city, this second goal shall surely come to pass. Controlling the city, even through indirect means, gains the vampires invaluable resources, including wealth, political influence, military power, and a constant supply of fresh blood. Only the members of the court are aware of the role this goal plays in their master’s greater goal. Only they understand what he is ultimately trying to create — a kingdom of vampires.
The Night Kingdom Though he has become a vampire, the Manshoon clone has lost little of the thirst for power, to say nothing of the arrogance, ambition, and daring possessed by the original Manshoon himself. The transformation into an undead nocturnal marauder has subtly altered whatever remained of the original Manshoon’s ambitions that were extant when the clone revived from stasis. Instead of desiring to re-create or regain control over the Black Network, the Night King envisions a vast kingdom ruled by a vampire monarch (himself, naturally) and governed by similar creatures for their own benefit. In his mind’s eye, he sees a nocturnal paradise for his kind, a kingdom in which vampires may dwell openly and rule the mortals — just as vampires were obviously meant to do.
He sees a kingdom in which mortals are enslaved and herded like cattle, each existing only to perform menial labor until its turn comes to sate its master’s appetite. He pictures a grand palace here in Westgate, its fountains running with fresh blood, its many rooms filled with the choicest morsels of human flesh for his culinary enjoyment. He rejects the notion that Westgate alone would be enough to satisfy his ambitions. The Night King intends to include the entire Dragon Coast in his horrific kingdom. Cormyr, Sembia, the Shining Plains—he and his minions plan to have them all, and their teeming millions of mortal lives, for their kingdom of night.
- This information is expanded on in Lords of Darkness, excluded due to specificity, serves better as a DM tool.
One might think that an organization with such far-reaching designs as the Night Masks might seek to swell its membership rolls by inducting every criminal in the city. The Night King and his court, however, much prefer quality to quantity. While it is true that the organization does recruit and employ a number of relatively common criminals, possessed of no remarkable talents, for the bulk of its grunt work, the Night Masters nevertheless understand the value in recruiting the best and most skilled individuals they can find. Operatives in recruitment cells spend much of their time observing newly arrived criminals in order to determine whether they might merit closer scrutiny as potential Night Masks. When a cell identifies a prospective member, one of its number approaches the individual and enlists him or her to carry out a job or mission to determine worthiness. Those who perform well may be offered regular membership in the guild; those who do not may be given a place in the organization’s lowest echelon, where they must claw their way upward or perish quickly. The more unusual a candidate’s capabilities, the more highly sought he is. The guild has no shortage of common rogues, but the talents of a skilled assassin, monk, or bard are harder to come by, even in a city as corrupt as Westgate.
Regardless of membership, no criminals—individual or organized—operate in the city of Westgate without the express permission of the Night Masks. Those who disdain the guild’s claim to supremacy and insist on engaging in criminal activities without its blessing may escape detection for a short time—a few days, perhaps—but inevitably their activities are noticed by one or more of the many eyes that serve the Faceless and his followers. Through the Twilight Knight, the Faceless enforces a rigid policy toward such transgressors. They receive one opportunity to either purchase a guild membership or leave the city forever, never to return. Those who refuse to accept one of these options are, of course, murdered and their corpses left as warnings. Such is the guild’s success rate at identifying nonguild operatives and enforcing its policy that remarkably few visiting criminals are willing to risk its ire.
The nature of this organization does not lend itself to making friends. However, the Night Masks can count on several allies of convenience that either work for or with the thieves’ guild. Chief among these are the Astorians, the leading thieves’ guild of Teziir, which the Night Masks have infiltrated and now all but control. The Astorians know that their future is now inextricably intertwined with that of the Night Masks, and so cooperate with their partners with reasonable efficiency.
The Fire Knives, on the other hand, are a different sort of ally. Most of the general members of the Night Masks remain unaware that the Faceless has been manipulating this gang of assassins ever since he first gained leadership of the thieves’ guild. Exiled from their homeland of Cormyr in 1341 DR, the members of the noble houses of Bleth and Cormaeril—the leaders and members of the Fire Knives—intend to assassinate those Cormyrians who oppose their return. This seems like a marvelous plan to the Night King, who permits the assassins to exist and operate in Westgate in return for the use of their unique talents, all the while manipulating some of their junior members into believing that the Knives stand a better chance of achieving a swift return to Cormyr if they subordinate themselves completely to the Masks. The leaders of the Fire Knives suspect the Night King’s true nature and are beginning to feel his influence on their organization.
The Night Masks consider any who hinder their nightly goals and operations to be their enemies, and deal with them quickly and decisively
The caravan merchant who attempts to undercut the guild by smuggling goods into the city without permission from the Count of Storms is the enemy of the Night Masks. Once discovered, that merchant dies and his goods are confiscated. The weapons merchant who falls behind in his protection payments is the enemy of the Night Masks.
The do-gooder adventurers who can’t seem to resist sticking their noses where they don’t belong are the enemies of the Night Masks. Maybe they find themselves framed for a burglary and cast into the city dungeons, or perhaps they are murdered in their beds as they sleep. A particularly troublesome adventurer might merit the attention of a lieutenant, or possibly (if the interloper is very unlucky) the Court of Night Masters.
As for more specific foes, the one garnering the lion’s share of the Night Masters’ attention at this time is High Lord Abbot Grigor Khazaar, a militant cleric of Tyr. Based at the newly constructed Abbey of the Blinding Truth in the King’s March, the High Lord Abbot and his clergy have made it their business to interfere with Night Masks operations whenever possible. Clerics, monks, and paladins devoted to the Just Deity have clashed increasingly with operatives of the thieves’ guild in recent months, and the Night Masks have suffered from these altercations.
The Night Masters are more than a little concerned about this. All attempts to infiltrate the new abbey or acquire hard information about the religious leader and his temple’s defenses have proven ineffectual, leaving the organization without adequate intelligence about this threat. The Night King himself is aware of the danger posed by these interfering moralists, and while he dares not show it openly he, too, is troubled. If the cleric discovers the true nature of the Faceless, the abbey will bring all its resources to bear in an attempt to topple the Night Masks.
The High Lord Abbot has gone so far as to lobby the members of the noble council in an attempt to convince them to “Wake up and realize the injustice that is being perpetrated nightly in the city streets, often by agents of the council itself!” Grigor seems to have found a sympathetic ear in old Scirkas Urdo, one of the most conservative members of the council. Thistle Thalavar has reported to her master Orbakh that Scirkas has several times in recent nights invited the High Lord Abbot to dine with him privately, and once attended a service at the abbey’s chapel. Orbakh has considered ordering Grigor Khazaar’s assassination, but has delayed for fear that the cleric’s martyrdom could bring even greater numbers of Tyr’s followers to the city.
Perhaps the most consistent and troublesome enemies of the Night Masks are the Harpers. Ironically, the Night King’s campaign to become the Faceless was made possible when Those Who Harp toppled his predecessor. Despite this assistance, he feels no gratitude toward these meddlers. Anyone suspected of being a Harper must be reported through channels until the news reaches the ears of the Duke of Whispers, whose task it is to confirm the information. A half-dozen Harpers have been identified since this edict was issued, each one apprehended in turn and brought before the Court of Night Masters for a brief but thorough interrogation before being drained of every last drop of blood.
Unsurprisingly, the Night Masks’ campaign of aggression in the organized crime syndicates of various cities has attracted the attention and opposition of merchant societies such as the Knights of the Shield, the Men of the Basilisk, and the Rundeen. Thus far, however, none of these enemies has been able to deliver any meaningful blows to the Night Masks’ operation.
Agents of the Night Masks can be encountered in virtually all parts of Westgate. Encounters with operatives of the thieves’ guild in neighboring cities are less common, but quite possible in those communities that are home to one or more Night Masks cells. The typical encounter with the Night Masks is with a group of criminals engaged in their primary trade: a pair of toughs, for example, en route to roust a merchant who is behind in his protection money, or a trio of street operatives who attempt to mug and roll the player characters outside their favorite tavern.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness. Omitted information is available by private message request.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 2, 2014 21:46:29 GMT -5
The Red Wizards of Thay
Long considered a threat to peace in eastern Faerûn, the Red Wizards of Thay have a history of war and aggression toward their neighbors and even more distant lands. In recent years, they have also become the principal purveyors of magical goods to the powerful, wealthy, and the desperate throughout much of Faerûn. Ensconced in secretive walled enclaves in dozens of cities, the Red Wizards command fear and respect far outside the borders of their native Thay. These mercantile enclaves have become so successful that many Red Wizards have abandoned their dreams of military conquest for a more insidious and pervasive form of power—the power of gold.
The Red Wizards’ efforts to export their magical goods abroad have resulted in three main benefits for the Thayans. First, people of distant lands are beginning to view the Red Wizards as mysterious, perhaps intimidating, merchants, rather than as would-be conquerors. Second, the sale of magic items, even at a discount, is a phenomenal source of revenue for the Red Wizards. Much of this wealth flows back to the coffers of the zulkirs (the leaders), who use the profits to fund magical research, espionage, and whatever terrible secret interests they may have. Finally, demand for Thayan goods is so high that the Red Wizards can exact significant concessions from local rulers anxious to bring some of the wealth generated by a Thayan enclave into their cities. The trade enclaves provide the Red Wizards with secure bases of operation, spy networks, and resources abroad.
The zulkirs may still be creating terrible battle spells and monstrous magical war machines in the secrecy of their homeland, but the public facade of the Red Wizards has become that of reliable, if eerie, traders in magic.
The history of the Red Wizards and Thay is fully covered in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. In short, a group of Mulhorandi wizards seceded from their homeland to form a country where wizards ruled instead of godkings. These wizards eventually created the current governmental structure in Thay and warred against their neighbors intermittently for centuries, with their plans often thrown into chaos because of arguing factions within the upper levels of the organization. While the more aggressive factions still plot and scheme, other Red Wizards—notably the zulkirs of Abjuration, Illusion, and Transmutation—have turned their hand to a burgeoning trade in magic items, carried out in Thayan enclaves in cities throughout Faerûn.
The Red Wizards are the magocratic leaders of the country of Thay. The most powerful Red Wizards are the zulkirs, each specialized in one of the schools of magic. These eight choose the tharchions (regional governors) who handle the day-to-day leadership of Thay while the zulkirs scheme and plot to rule the entire world.
Long-standing factions split the power of the zulkirs. Some push for isolating their land in order to safeguard their vast magical knowledge, while others advocate wars of conquest. Currently a faction favoring trade and mercantilism rules the day, rising from a class of ambitious, entrepreneurial mages with their eyes on the rich commerce of the Inner Sea and the kingdoms of the west. The Red Wizards' ability to forge and trade magic items in great quantities has given them control of a lucrative and influential trade. Thayan enclaves exist in dozens of cities around the Sea of Fallen Stars, walled compounds in which the Thayans enjoy immunity from local laws and tariffs while providing access to their many and varied magical wares.
Given their different magical specializations and conflicting philosophies, the Red Wizards may be involved in almost any sort of venture, from smuggling to adventuring to slaving. (Active slaving is currently discouraged by the zulkirs in places where such activity is illegal, since such efforts generate ill will toward the mercantile efforts.) A typical group includes a Red Wizard leader of 7th level or higher, one or two wizard subordinates, a cleric of Kossuth, and at least five bodyguards of moderate skill. All in the group are likely to be armed with magic items, with the spellcasters having many useful charged items.
The zulkirs each have their own plots, intrigues, and interests, Aznar Thrul is the cruel and savage zulkir of Evocation an the tharchion of the Priador. Although Thrul loathes Szass Tam, the lich holds him in check through some secret information or advantage.
Druxus Rhym is the steadfast zulkir of Transmutation. He is the greatest spokesperson of ruthless trade over isolation or military aggression, using his power and his alliance with Szass Tarn to encourage the others to cooperate.
Lallara is the zulkir of Abjuration, a chaotic and unreliable ally of Szass Tam and a woman with a taste for decadent pleasures. She collects unusual magic items and enjoys torturing slaves.
Lauzoril is the handsome zulkir of Enchantment, a scheming and dangerous opponent. He opposes Szass Tam and only grudgingly refrains from marching his armies on Thay's neighbors.
Mythrellaa is the zulkir of Illusion. She prefers isolation and rarely fratcrnizes with her peers, devoting her time to studies of the Shadow Weave.
Nevron is the hateful, aggressive, fiend-touched zulkir of Conjuration. The other zulkirs suspect he plans a surprise attack on Aglarond, which they would be forced to oppose in order to avoid the loss of valuable trade that would result. Aglarond doesn't trade with Thay, but other lands sympathetic to Aglarond do.
Szass Tam (NE male human lich is the shrewd zulkir of Necromancy. Over two hundred years old, he has tried to unite the zulkirs under his banner but lost prestige recently after a failed attempt to harness the power of a longimprisoned demon.
Yaphyll is the youthful zulkir of Divination. A strong supporter of Druxus and Szass Tam, she uses her magic to monitor the other zulkirs and events in Thayan enclaves throughout Faerûn.
- Source: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
While the details of Thay are summarized in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, the following statistics reflect the Red Wizards (characters with levels in the Red Wizard prestige class) and their apprentices of various levels (those without levels in the prestige class).
Headquarters: Thaymount, Thay.
Members: Approximately 1,000 actual Red Wizards, with approximately 5,000 practicing wizards in their service.
Leaders: The zulkirs of Thay (loose council of eight Red Wizards, each specialized in a different school of arcane magic).
Religions: Kossuth, Bane, Shar, Loviatar.
Alignment: LE, NE, LN, CE.
Symbol: A disk with a white star at the center and a red spiral moving counterclockwise from the center, with eight red spheres of increasing size on the spiral. The red represents the Red Wizards, the eight spheres represent the eight primary schools of magic, and the white star represents a fading fireball.
The Red Wizards rule Thay as the heads of a large quasi-military organization, the structure of which is more convoluted than it first appears.
Among Thayans, the terms “wizard” and “Red Wizard” have different meanings. A wizard is someone who wields arcane power in the form of spells. (While bards and sorcerers are known in Thay, the Red Wizards consider them inferior and treat them as such.) Although wizards may grow powerful, and that power deserves respect, only Red Wizards command true authority in Thay.
A Red Wizard is a practicing wizard who has been indoctrinated into the outermost circle of Thayan politics. In Thay, only Red Wizards are allowed to wear red robes, and those who violate this law are swiftly caught and slowly tortured, usually in a public manner. To avoid even the threat of such a punishment, most Thayans never wear anything red, and some refuse to don orange clothing as well. The only exceptions are the clerics of Kossuth, who stand outside the ban and are easily recognized by their holy symbols and their multicolored robes.
While most people outside Thay believe that all Thayan wizards are Red Wizards, this is not true. Only about one wizard in six is actually a Red Wizard. The rest are apprentices, low-level wizards, those unconcerned with politics, and those who have not yet proved their worth to Thay. In game terms, only characters with levels in the Red Wizard prestige class are called Red Wizards (although devious and foolish individuals may claim the title outside Thay with the intent to fool others). Choosing to become a Red Wizard requires careful thought, for while that path holds great power, the Red Wizard loses some of a traditional wizard’s versatility (by being obliged to select an additional prohibited school of spellcasting). Many wizards delay joining the Red Wizards for as long as possible, hoping that their wider variety of spells compensates for their shortcomings compared to those who donned the red robes earlier.
Thay is ruled by eight zulkirs, each a powerful Red Wizard specialized in one of the eight schools of magic. When an existing zulkir leaves office (usually through death, although zulkir Szass Tam has been a lich for hundreds of years), a new zulkir is selected by the Red Wizards, with powerful Red Wizards holding more sway in the choice and the remaining zulkirs having the final say.
The Bureaucracy The zulkirs appoint eleven tharchions, one for each of the country’s tharchs (counties or provinces). The tharchions act as governors for their regions, dealing with local issues and obeying the orders of the zulkirs. The tharchions may be of any character class, and some Red Wizards see this duty as a means of acquiring political power and eventually a position as a zulkir. Currently, one of the tharchions is also a zulkir, although this is a rare situation.
The tharchions appoint local bureaucrats, called autharchs, into positions at various levels. Autharchs function as mayors, military leaders, and ministers of various organizations such as trade guilds. Most autharchs have little authority and serve mainly as convenient scapegoats for occasions when a zulkir’s or tharchion’s plans go awry. The autharchs suffer a high turnover rate, since incompetent ones vanish or are killed and competent ones are promoted. The leader of a trade enclave, called a khazark, technically has an equivalent rank to an autharch running a very profitable guild in an equivalent-sized city, although the khazark tends to have higher status because he or she is always a Red Wizard. In situations where a Red Wizard is accused of a crime, the local autharch usually defers to his or her tharchion to avoid the possibly fatal blunder of confronting a Red Wizard who is under the protection of a higher-level politician.
While this chain of command works in theory, in practice the zulkirs hand down orders to the tharchions, autharchs, military, khazarks, or commoners with impunity. The only people with any real independence are wizards, who endure long apprenticeships to their cruel masters before being able to strike out on their own and possibly enter the ranks of the Red Wizards.
The Zulkirs See the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting [above] for basic information on the zulkirs. The following section includes notes on the zulkirs’ relationships with the enclaves and other significant observations.
Aznar Thrul, the zulkir of Evocation, enjoys using his mastery of elements archmage ability to surprise foes with variants of spells using different energies. He has little involvement in the enclaves because they rarely sell items with powers from his specialized school. Instead, he has ordered his underlings to prepare powerful magic items of the Evocation school (such as wands of fireball) in anticipation of a great demand in black market items through the enclaves.
Druxus Rhym, the zulkir of Transmutation, maintains an alliance with Szass Tam. His enthusiasm helped persuade Tam to consider the enclaves as a viable option. Druxus was one of the earliest supporters of the enclaves and invested much of his personal fortune in the first three, which has been repaid fivefold. He is not averse to assassinating his political enemies, and one of his favorite methods is transforming his enemies’ equipment or food into poisonous vermin. One of his archmage powers is the teleport spell-like ability.
Lallara, the zulkir of Abjuration, is an enthusiastic supporter of the enclaves, since abjurative items are common commodities there. She is the sole sponsor of the enclave in Procampur, which brings her a great return in both money and slaves. She rewards enclave abjurers who send her information, and the khazark of the Procampur enclave is one of her favored former apprentices and staunchest supporters. She has the mastery of counterspelling archmage ability, which she has put to good use defeating rivals.
Lauzoril, the zulkir of Enchantment, is indifferent to the concept of enclaves, because they rarely sell his sort of magic. He has yet to sponsor an enclave and is considering sabotage and rumors to hamper the efficiency of the enclaves just to avoid any one faction from gaining too much power. He is fond of creating intelligent magic weapons loyal to him that sow discord among his enemies. He remains steadfastly opposed to Szass Tam and is looking for some magical means to wrest away control of the lich’s undead armies.
Mythrellaa, the zulkir of Illusion, has refused any involvement with the enclaves, although she has spies and informants in several large ones on the coast of the Inner Sea. She has the Greater Spell Penetration feat, making her illusions very difficult to disbelieve. Like Lallara, she pays close attention to what her agents in the enclaves have to say. After a falling-out with Szass Tam, she retreated to her tower and has professed neutrality in all dealings with the other zulkirs.
Nevron, the zulkir of Conjuration, has no interest in the success of the enclaves and has been focusing his attention on creating scrolls of demon-summoning spells. He is known to own a ring of wizardry and a robe of the archmagi, and many suspect he has demonic allies. Nevron opposes Szass Tam and is casually allied with Lauzoril, although he would betray the enchanter instantly if doing so would advance his own power.
Szass Tam, the feared zulkir of Necromancy, is hesitant to openly support the enclaves, but he is not working against them. He sponsors (through intermediaries) one enclave to monitor how it functions and to keep the balance of power from shifting away from him. Like Aznar Thrul, he anticipates a demand for more dangerous items and has set plans in action to stockpile items of this nature. Szass Tam has created hundreds of magic items during his lifetime, many of which are intentionally cursed so the wielder is eventually compelled to serve him. These are likely to make their way into the hands of greedy buyers in the near future.
Yaphyll, the zulkir of Divination, is an ally of Lallara and one of the few people who can focus the abjurer’s attention on important topics at critical times. She avoids danger by knowing about any plots against her before they come to fruition. She wears a magic amulet that protects her from penalties for aging and makes her appear to be thirty years of age. She has spies in every enclave, often giving the weaker ones strong protective items to ensure both their survival and their loyalty.
The Tharchions The tharchions directly control the territories of Thay as noted below.
Azhir Kren is the aggressive tharchion of Gauros. She controls a strong army backed by Szass Tam’s legion of zombies. Her hatred of Rashemen may eventually lead her to cross the border with her forces, forcing the zulkirs to stop her.
Aznar Thrul is the tharchion of Priador as well as the zulkir of Evocation, as noted above.
Dimon, a cleric of waukeen, oversees the tharch of Tyraturos. Disillusioned with his faith, he retains his talents in finance and manipulation, which makes his tharch very profitable.
Dmitra Flass is the tharchion of Eltabbar. Beautiful, bald, and elaborately adorned with magic tattoos, she is known as the First Princess of Thay in other lands. She is married to the High Blade of Mulmaster, Selfaril Uoumdolphin. She is closely allied with Szass Tam and has an extensive spy network.
Hezass Nymar, a cleric of Kossuth, rules the tharch of Lapendrar. Weak-willed and corrupt, he does whatever the zulkirs tell him. Those within his church believe that the Firelord will soon come to cleanse Nymar of his weakness, and his fellow clerics debate whether he will survive the cleansing. If he were removed from office, the church would push to have another cleric of Kossuth take his place.
Invarri Metron is the tharchion of Delhumide. While this region used to be the capital of the Mulhorandi province of Thay, Invarri has little interest in picking over the ruins for treasure and instead has been working to increase his tharch’s farming output and strengthen its defenses against possible attacks by Rashemen.
Milsantos Daramos controls the tharch of Thazalhar. An aged patriot, he is pleased that Thay is finally being productive in the absence of ill-planned and disastrous wars, and he looks forward to Thay remaining prosperous until the day he dies.
Homen Odesseiron is the tharchion of Surthay and a “former” Red Wizard, having voluntarily removed himself from the ranks of his arcane peers to focus on the military might of his tharch. He used to lead raids against Rashemen and maintains a sizable army.
Nymia Focar is the tharchion of Pyarados. Because her tharch is a haven for those seeking glory and loot in the eastern mountains, she overcharges adventurers for equipment and taxes the mines there, resulting in a very wealthy province.
Pyras Autorian is the young tharchion of Thaymount. Chosen by Szass Tam, he is a civil servant of minimal skill and little more than a puppet of the lich. Szass Tam keeps him protected with bodyguards, spells, and magic items.
Thessaloni Canos is a skilled military commander and sailor, and has been tharchion of Alaor for over thirty years despite many attempts to slay or unseat her. She prefers to remain neutral in any conflicts between the zulkirs, and her ability to avoid offending them impresses as often as it infuriates.
The Red Wizards While the zulkirs and tharchions may be the most prominent leaders of the country, the Red Wizards at all levels are seen as the epitome of the evil of Thay. Red Wizards hold the power of life and death over others in that land, and only other rival Red Wizards keep them from exerting that power at whim. Standing laws in Thay prevent the Red Wizards from simply seizing whatever food they want from farmers and any item they desire from merchants. Their main power is political, and those who regard themselves as above such mortal and mundane concerns quickly find themselves exiled or killed by other Red Wizards intent on preserving the status quo.
In practice, a Red Wizard is likely to have many contacts, allies, and enemies among the wizards and the Red Wizards, with servants of varying types and various power levels. If a Red Wizard is slain or disappears, his allies investigate. Although they most often assume that the disappearance is due to a rival and leave it at that, occasionally the allies try to find and destroy those responsible for the death.
The wizards of Thay grow up and are educated in a cutthroat environment of intrigue, competition, and cruelty. They have survived dangerous masters and evil rivals, and have experienced and witnessed magic that is prohibited by more ethical wizards. They are not fools, although some are megalomaniacs and cannot see the flaws in their own plans. The environment in which they are raised and trained makes them dangerous opponents, and no one should take them lightly.
The Guild of Foreign Trade Thay’s enclaves in foreign lands are administered through the offices of the Guild of Foreign Trade, based in Bezantur. Fifty years ago, the guild was a mere shell of an organization that existed only for the purpose of selling charters to Thayan merchants who wished to trade abroad. The success of the magic item trade has made the leading officers of the Guild of Foreign Trade some of the most powerful, wealthy, and influential people in Thay.
The guild’s sprawling warehouses, buried vaults, and fortresslike buildings cover dozens of acres and employ hundreds of wizards, dozens of powerful magical guardians, and common guards, clerks, and laborers numbering in the thousands. From the guild wharves the yellow-sailed dromonds of Thay travel to all corners of the Inner Sea, carrying the output of Thay’s magical workshops under heavy guard. At these same wharves, wealth in the form of gold, slaves, and valuable trade goods returns to Thay in payment.
The Guild of Foreign Trade is administered by Samas Kul, a brilliant, ambitious man who stands high in the ranks of the Red Wizards. He is second only to the zulkir Druxus Rhym among those Red Wizards in the school of Transmutation, mostly due to the staggering wealth at his disposal. As the grand master of a government-sponsored guild, Samas Kul is nominally an autharch, but in truth his power and influence exceeds that of all but the strongest tharchions. Corpulent and cynical, Samas Kul goes about his business draped in gem-studded garments with rings worth thousands of gold pieces on each finger, flaunting the wealth that pours into Thay’s coffers (and his own) through the guild.
Several of the zulkirs are counted as members of the guild’s directing board, although in practice they leave Samas Kul to administer the operation while collecting bribes and payoffs of staggering amounts for their forbearance and continued good will. In theory the Guild of Foreign Trade passes on all profits to the state, but in practice the state receives much less than the zulkirs (or other highly placed Red Wizards) who happen to have their hands in the till.
Many lesser Red Wizards are nominally employed in the guild, answering to Samas Kul while they direct the revenues generated through their work back to the zulkirs who sponsored them. The Guild of Foreign Trade purchases items crafted by the wizards laboring in the zulkirs’ workshops and laboratories for sale abroad, and a number of Red Wizards are involved in commandeering the necessary resources to keep up the flow of goods. Other Red Wizards serve in the enclaves as administrators, spies, and guardians, as well as crafters of magical goods at each location. The guild attracts a significant number of the best and brightest low-ranking Red Wizards, who scheme for an opportunity to become a master or grand master of the guild and reach the elite ranks of those who can divert its profits to their own pockets with impunity.
The most visible face of the Red Wizards of Thay is the Thayan enclave. As described in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, the size of each enclave depends on the size of the settlement in which it is located; each enclave has a number occupants equal to roughly 1% of the population of the settlement. (Proskur’s population is approximately 14,000.)
Known Enclaves The following cities have well-established enclaves of at least fifty Thayans: Athkatla, Baldur’s Gate, Calaunt, Calimport, Cimbar, Hillsfar, Hlath, Hlondeth, Innarlith, Iriaebor, Marsember, Messemprar, Mulmaster, Procampur, Ravens Bluff, Saerloon, Scardale, Scornubel, Soorenar, Telflamm, Waterdeep, Westgate, and Yhaunn.
[There is also a thriving enclave in Hills Edge - Per Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting]
Other large cities may have a single shop staffed by a handful of Thayan wizards or are visited at least monthly by traveling wizards with goods to sell. Countries with a long history of abuse and violence at the hands of the Red Wizards—such as Aglarond, Rashemen, and Mulhorand— refuse to allow any sort of permanent enclave within their cities.
Thayan enclaves are independent mercantile and political entities within an urban area in a non-Thayan country. Here people interact with Thayans in a peaceful manner, buy magic items, and make deals with the Red Wizards who control the enclave. An enclave is established after a Thayan diplomat negotiates with the local authorities. These negotiations usually entail lists of benefits for the local rulers, such as an increased amount of magic for their guards and protectors, as well as for the authorities themselves. Depending on the nature of the local authorities, the diplomat presents gifts or offers bribes in order to sweeten the deal. For peaceful or good nations, the gifts are benign or useful items such as potions of cure spells, wands of fly, magic shields, and so on. For more aggressive countries, the bribes are often items that can he used for illicit deeds, such as potions of invisibility, or combat items such as a wand of fireball or magic weapons. Once both parties agree that an enclave can be built, they discuss the exact terms.
The Thayans always require the local government to agree to three demands (known as the Three Laws of the Enclave) and refuse to establish an enclave unless the other party agrees to all of them. The Three Laws prevent abuse at the hands of those who oppose the presence of the Red Wizards on moral, cultural, or religious grounds. If such abuse occurs, the Thayans can claim that the local authorities have failed to provide protection for diplomatic envoys acting within the confines of the law, which would make the local government accountable to Thay itself.
The Law of Sovereignty: The enclave is treated as Thayan soil. Thayan law applies within, the Red Wizards are responsible for patrolling the enclave themselves, and the law of the rest of the country does not apply. The enclave's inhabitants are not immune to prosecution; for example, local authorities can demand that a man who murders someone elsewhere in town and then retreats to the enclave be turned over to the local law, whereupon the Thayans must comply. Slavery is permissible within the enclave, although if the local laws forbid slavery, few Thayans force this point by keeping slaves in the enclaves.
The Law of Trade: The Thayans price their goods and services at 10% below the normal cost. Their merchandise is primarily magic items, and some enclaves also sell mundane equipment such as tapestries and weapons. Technically the sale of slaves is permitted, but since local laws apply outside the enclave, this is futile in lands where slavery is outlawed. An enclave normally sells scrolls of 0-level spells for the cost of creating them if the customer buys an equal number of other magic items (including potions and scrolls of 1st level or higher). The Law of Trade also states that the Thayans can accept slaves as payment for items, and these slaves can be legally transported within the borders of the sovereign nation on the way to Thay. Most antislavery countries require that a potential slave in this situation must either be willing (such as a man selling himself into slavery to provide for his family) or a criminal convicted of a serious offense (such as murder or treason). The local government sometimes even trades criminals in exchange for Thayan goods.
The Law of Crafting: This law dictates what the Thayans will and will not create for sale to the general public. Normally an enclave only produces potions, scrolls (of up to 4th-level spells), wands, +1 armor, +1 weapons, and minor wondrous items. None of these may have abilities easily used for crime (such as potions of invisibility or a wand of charm person) or overtly destructive (such as a wand of fireball). They may also cast spells for hire. In general, the Thayans never create an item worth more than 2,000 gp, because such items dominate limited resources that could be used to produce cheaper and more desirable products. All items produced in an enclave are required to bear the mark of the Red Wizards and the insignia of the city where the enclave is located. They also refuse to create dangerous items (as described above) because should someone be harmed with an item created in an enclave, the Thayans could be held responsible. This policy also prevents such items from being used against them.
In exchange for these demands, the Thayans agree to donate 1% of the enclave's profits to the local government. The actual amount is rather soft, since an accurate count is not provided for the local government, and some enclaves allocate a portion of these funds to bribe local guardsmen and officials. Most enclave contracts include brief but regular periods of military service by the wizards in the enclave's employ, which allows the local government access to more spcllcasters.
Since the inception of the Thayan enclave, their numbers have increased quickly. Within the lands bordering on the Inner Sea, nearly every (90%) metropolis- level location has an enclave of one sort. Most (75%) large cities have one, many (50%) small cities do, some (30%) large towns do, and a few (10%) small towns have an enclave, while smaller settlements might have a single Thayan representative or none at all. A typical enclave holds a number of Thayans equal to 1% of the settlement's population. Guards and other support staff for the wizards, including servants, assistants, and mundane artisans, make up at least half of the enclave population. The remainder are wizards of various levels (some with levels in the Red Wizard prestige class), The highest-level wizard is the leader of the enclave, and always has at least one level in the Red Wizard prestige class.
-Source: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
Proskur Former members of the local thieves’ guild govern Proskur. The city has a reputation for honesty and the leader of the Proskur council is of good alignment. However, illicit activities in the city are tolerated as long as the council gives permission, which generally entails the council’s receiving a portion of the profits. Since a Thayan enclave usually proves quite lucrative, the council was more than happy to set aside a section of the city for the Red Wizards, and it has not been disappointed with the results. The council’s sanction also allows the Red Wizards to engage in some nefarious practices, such as the selling of rare and magical drugs and a quiet and small trade in slaves.
The Proskur Enclave These statistics are for the Red Wizard enclave within the Dragon Coast city of Proskur. This enclave is a typical example of an enclave within a large city that has relatively loose laws and an open mind about controversial issues such as slavery and illicit substances.
Headquarters: Proskur, the Dragon Coast. Members: Forty one wizards and Red Wizards plus over one hundred support staff, including guards and clerks. Leader: Khazark Chathin Zurn.
Enclave Personnel Forty-one wizards, four of whom are Red Wizards, live and work in the enclave. Approximately one hundred other Thayans live in the enclave; these are mainly guards, servants, clerks, and skilled tradesfolk. A few clerics ensure that the Thayans can observe the religious practices of their homeland. Statistics for the wizards, clerics, and Thayan knights are summarized below. Most other Thayans in the enclave are commoners or experts of 1st–8th level; their statistics are given in the description of the area in which they work.
Most of the lower-level wizards rotate their work assignments every few weeks as ordered by the khazark to broaden their skills and prevent them from becoming too attached or loyal to a job or an employer. Because of this policy, only permanent employees are named in the entries for the enclave enterprises. Other positions are described as “two 3rd-level wizards and one 2nd-level wizard,” and so on.
Not all the wizards assigned to the enclave are accounted for in the location descriptions. The remainder are on leave, perhaps out adventuring or serving with the Proskur military or city guards to gain experience and thus be able to make more magic items when they return.
All the Red Wizards and Thayan wizards come from the Mulan race that makes up the ruling class of Thay. Most of the others in the enclave are of the Rashemi race. These people should not be confused with the native people of Rashemen or the language of that land, also called Rashemi.
The Wizards Chathin Zurn is the khazark of the enclave, the potentate vested with the full power and authority of Thay in Proskur. Torisk Haut is the spymaster of the enclave and second in command. Murith Garas is the master of the enclave’s arcane trade. Aloth Kakanos is frequently away on various missions for the khazark. Urhun Kren is a master of tattoo magic. Ramshan Doon runs the arcane gallery under Murith Garas. Thazal Tabar runs the stores and workshops for scroll and potions. Sopsek Zan is the secretary to the khazark. Nephlas Phetoril, Tholan Ankh, Demtra Fahn, Umara Zaxim all live at this enclave. Other Wizards: Four 4th-level, seven 3rd-level, eight 2nd level, and ten 1st-level.
The Clerics So-Kehur is the high priest of the Temple of Kossuth. Duma Varr is a Knight of the Fire Drake, and is responsible for the security of the Temple of Kossuth. Thazar-Ke (NE male human Clr5 of Kossuth) is the Keeper of the Flame, in charge of tending the altar of Kossuth and second in command to So-Kehur. Murithi is a cleric of Loviatar Tholara is a cleric of Bane. Zoha is a cleric of Shar. Acolytes of Kossuth: three 2nd-level and six 1st-level.
The Thayan Knights Nular Rhyn serves the khazark as bodyguard and advisor. Savvis Daal is in charge of the slave pens in the underground levels beneath the enclave. Magnus Varnserves Torisk Haut and often carries messages for the spymaster to his contacts in town. Additional Knights: Arzel Phen, Azar Vrask.
Guards The Thayans employ a detachment of thirty-six guards to defend of the enclave. The guards are organized into five six-man squads. A guard-sergeant leads each squad. The guards are under the command of Lieutenant Karvan Hur. Karvan Hur is subject to the orders of any of the Red Wizards or Thayan knights, but in practice the Red Wizards ignore the guards, and the Thayan knights shadow the high-ranking Red Wizards as ever-watchful bodyguards. In addition, the Temple of Kossuth quarters its own small detachment of guards.
About three-quarters of the common guards and all the leaders are Thayan. Karvan Hur hires a small number of local mercenaries to fill out his complement of guards, but watches these foreigners very closely.
Two of the guard squads are on duty by day and two by night. The squad with the day off is expected to spend half the day in weapons training and has the rest of the day free.
The Priador Emporium The southeast corner of the enclave contains a collection of seven different stores, all part of the Priador Emporium—an import business from Thay. The consortium of Thayan merchants sponsoring the emporium pays well for the privilege of renting space in a foreign enclave and selling Thayan wares abroad.
The Thayan merchants who sponsor the Priador Emporium cleverly decided to import into Proskur goods that would appeal not only to the locals, but also the Thayans of the enclave. Most of the store proprietors are skilled craftsfolk who can fulfill the exacting orders of the enclave wizards for exotic leatherwork, jewelry, or carvings suitable for enchantment. Just as the members of the merchant cabal that sponsors the emporium rent space for their shops in the Proskur enclave, so do the store proprietors rent space in the emporium to ply their trades and import mundane Thayan goods that do not threaten the magic item business of the Guild of Foreign Trade.
On Thayan Soil For any Thayan enclave, the Law of Sovereignty applies: The land on which the enclave sits is considered Thayan soil, and Thayan law is the only law. This is more than just words on a trade agreement—the Red Wizards consider the enclave’s land to be a part of Thay, and while they don’t go out of their way to offend their neighbors with strange Thayan customs, they are not averse to punishing lawbreakers in their own fashion.
A person caught stealing might be flogged, or branded, or (rarely) put to death. The Red Wizards have harsh penalties for those who offend or harm a Red Wizard, with beatings, imprisonment, and enslavement all common responses. This prevents most brave or foolhardy adventurers from strutting about an enclave, insulting folk and harassing the Red Wizards.
The Thayan soldiers patrol their enclaves day and night. If they see someone likely to cause trouble approaching or within the enclave, the soldiers confront the person in question. In many cases, those “likely to cause trouble” includes paladins and clerics of good faiths, particularly those opposed to the activities of the Red Wizards or Thay in general. In these cases, the soldiers politely ask the people to leave. If questioned, the soldiers respond that people like them tend to make the Thayans uncomfortable—just as they might feel uncomfortable if they were wandering about Bezantur in Thay itself. The guards explain that for the sake of courtesy, the visitors should leave, or at least find some place outside the enclave to leave their weapons to avoid worrying the local Thayans. Their business is welcome, but preferably without the heightened tensions of an armed outsider.
While this talk is occurring, more guards arrive to support their allies, and a nearby Thayan wizard or two might join the crowd. If troublemakers refuse to leave, the soldiers offer to escort them to the edge of the enclave or to the embassy, where one of the senior wizards can explain the situation. If still met with refusal, the guards may imprison the visitors as trespassers, which usually results in an overnight stay in the prison, a fine, and banishment from the enclave.
When your heroes visit an enclave, emphasize the difference between the surrounding town and the enclave itself. The people look and sound different, the buildings are decorated strangely, and armed guards are much more frequent. Most people sport tattoos, and shaven heads are the norm, even on women. The number of wizards is remarkably high, and when one in red robes walks by, everyone on the street goes quiet and lowers their eyes. The Red Wizards are in power, and they have both the will and the right to use that power on anyone within their domain.
Motivation and Goals
The zulkirs’ eventual goal is to rule the world. For centuries they tried to attain this goal with force of arms; now they are trying to do it with trade. Whether or not the enclave system allows them to slowly take over Faerûn, it provides them an incredible amount of resources for their other projects, which include raising armies, funding spell research, and paying spies and assassins in foreign countries.
The goal of the Thayan enclaves is to acquire information and wealth, which are funneled to the homeland. Contacts are also important, as is the patronage of individuals willing to make special deals for illicit goods or in exchange for favors. The leader of the enclave is responsible for tracking which items and services are selling well or poorly, and adjusting staff to accommodate productions of in-demand items.
While some individual Red Wizards are isolationists, seeking to close off their nation from others to protect their vast magical secrets, these are in the minority. To a Red Wizard, power is the fundamental currency, and magical power the most widely accepted and understood kind of force. Even those who have no intention of conquering the world wish to secure enough power to hold their little piece of it, destroy their old master, defeat a hated rival, or find a lost artifact. A Red Wizard who gives something away (particularly magic) usually has an agenda and is profiting somehow from doing so, although that profit may not be apparent to the recipient and may not be in terms of tangible wealth.
The Red Wizards have no interest in non-Thayans joining their ranks. Anyone who isn’t Thayan is worthy only of enslavement, and of the two races of humans living in Thay, only the Mulan (descendants of the Mulhorandi noble class) deserve true power. The Red Wizards have no interest in recruiting others to join their ranks, particularly those of the “inferior” Rashemi race native to their country.
Non-Thayans can be valuable tools and allies, however, and the Red Wizards are always looking for people willing to work for them, whether as spies, scouts, fences, smugglers, slavers, or on other tasks that they find too cumbersome or with which they don’t want to be directly associated. Such individuals can be found in almost any part of the world, particularly near places that have a significant enclave. These agents are often paid in magic items or magical services.
Just as they know that slaves are valuable property and should not be destroyed without good reason, the Red Wizards know that their contacts and servants outside Thay require some care and should not be abandoned simply when circumstances turn against them. They have a reputation to maintain as reliable merchants and employers, and they do not deliberately send skilled agents into circumstances where they are likely to be killed. In short, employees of the Red Wizards are not disposable, but can be sacrificed if their deaths accomplish some greater goal (or if saving them requires the expenditure of more resources than they are worth).
The Red Wizards have few allies, given their history of betrayal and aggression. Their allies consist of their agents, the Thayan branch of the church of Kossuth, people who value their merchandise (a tenuous alliance at best), and local spellcasters interested in trading magic. Some may have agreements with powerful fiends as well. While they maintain their roles as peaceful merchants, the Red Wizards may be able to make alliances with certain mercantile groups such as the Iron Throne, the Shadow Thieves, and the Rundeen. If they tread carefully, the Red Wizards might be able to ally themselves with more aggressive groups such as the Zhentarim and the Cult of the Dragon, taking a secondary role in their plans but able to quickly gain power when they feel the time is right.
A Thayan wizard almost always has a familiar, for while such a creature does make the wizard vulnerable to someone who could capture it, it gives him an extra set of eyes and ears with which to spy upon his enemy or be alert for attackers.
The greatest ally of a traveling group of Red Wizards is the presence of an enclave. An enclave can function as a temporary base of operations, a safe house, and a place to acquire magic items in an emergency. Within an enclave, the Red Wizards are politically on their home soil. Standing on safer ground and bolstered by the presence of their fellow Thayans, they are not likely to suffer abuse at the hands of foreigners. From within an enclave, a Red Wizard can find lodging and even arrange to be disguised or teleported to another location. A group of Red Wizards traveling in a hurry toward a nearby city is probably seeking a temporary refuge.
While the Guild of Foreign Trade may wear a peaceful face, the Red Wizards are still devoted to evil goals as a whole, and so they are opposed by organizations that fight evil in Faerûn. Primary enemies of this type are the Harpers, who rarely oppose them overtly, seeking instead to thwart and reveal evil deeds the Red Wizards commit in the guise of peddlers of magic. The Harpers locate and liberate slaves on their way to Thay and destroy caches and shipments of dangerous Thayan magic items when they can.
The Lords’ Alliance opposes groups that seek to control the North through trade or treachery. While the Alliance doesn’t oppose the Red Wizards outright, it views them with suspicion, for any collection of wizards from a nation known to be interested in dominating the world poses a potential threat to freedom in the North. The Alliance confines its activities to spying upon Thayan enclaves and agents, reporting any unusual activities to local authorities and other groups such as the Harpers.
The Zhentarim keep a watchful eye on any known Thayans within their territory, for while many Red Wizards pay homage to Bane (the patron of the Black Network), the Zhentarim have their own plans for conquest of Faerûn and don’t want any interference from the red-robed wizards. Still, any invasion from Thay is likely to target Aglarond and Rashemen first, and Fzoul is sure that some accommodation could be reached if the two groups’ agendas came into active conflict.
Given their past conflicts, the people of Aglarond, Rashemen, and Mulhorand distrust the Red Wizards. While they make no concerted effort to confront the Red Wizards in normal situations, loyalists of these nations rarely hesitate to take advantage of an opportunity to foil a Thayan plot if it is within their power to do so.
While their nation as a whole is feared and disliked, individual Red Wizards rarely have personal enemies outside their own organization. As Red Wizards they may be generally mistrusted, but most have done nothing to offend anyone in particular. Of course, some make reputations for themselves as slavers, murderers, thieves, and oppressors, but these individual Red Wizards are either eliminated by adventurers or have sufficient resources to hold their attackers at bay, and their reputation usually sends potential victims scurrying for the hills.
Within the Red Wizards, intense rivalries flare. Wizards hate their former masters. Red Wizards distrust their former apprentices. Rival apprentices of the same master hate each other. Specialists of different schools feud over which path has the most power, and the lesser wizards envy those of greater power. These conflicts can escalate into small wars, particularly in Thay where bodyguard armies tend to be reflections of their masters’ power. In other lands, these skirmishes are loud and attract a lot of attention, and those who hate the Red Wizards often try to instigate such conflicts in the hope of wiping out Red Wizards with minimal risk on their part.
These battles over personal conflicts are rarely allowed to occur within an enclave or even a city containing an enclave, because the khazark has the authority to muster all the Thayan wizards within the enclave and destroy those responsible for the disruption, selling their personal effects within the enclave. As confident as some of the Red Wizards may be, none are so foolish as to invite attacks from dozens of wizards at once.
As with the Red Wizards as a whole, good groups such as the Harpers keep a close eye on individual members, confronting them if they are engaged in evil or illegal activity. The Zhentarim, the Lords’ Alliance, and other agencies suspicious of the Red Wizards watch individual members but rarely attack unless provoked.
A Red Wizard almost never travels alone. Even exiles and those concealing their identities hire bodyguards to protect them. The only time a Red Wizard might be found traveling alone is if his escorts have all been slain.
The primary members of an encounter with Red Wizards are of course characters with levels in the Red Wizard prestige class. A Red Wizard outranks all other characters in the group, including other wizards, and the one with the greatest number of Red Wizard levels is the leader of the group.
Most Red Wizards travel with lesser wizards, usually referred to as apprentices regardless of the level of the wizard in question. Most apprentices are 4th level or lower and are oath-bound (and sometimes under a geas) to serve their Red Wizard master.
A Red Wizard party is usually accompanied by a cleric of Kossuth, who nominally reports to the Red Wizard but is a paid employee rather than an oath-bound servant. Some of the more evil Red Wizards travel with clerics of darker deities such as Bane, Loviatar, or Shar, but these priests are less tolerated in most lands, and so the cleric of Kossuth is a safer bet. A lucky Red Wizard might travel with a cleric accompanied by holy monks of Kossuth, although these monks tend to defend the cleric in preference to the Red Wizard.
Bodyguards round out the remainder of the group. A typical Thayan bodyguard is a 2nd-level fighter, although poorer or more frugal Red Wizards sometimes make do with 1st-level fighters or warriors. Only in the wilder lands or within the boundaries of Thay do they employ evil humanoids such as orcs, gnolls, or goblins as bodyguards.
A Red Wizard at home in Thay or traveling within that country is likely to have more bodyguards. Some powerful wizards have small armies at their command, rivaling the armies of the tharchions or zulkirs. These paranoid wizards are rarely foolish enough to use their armies to attack governmental soldiers, which would result in their swift elimination.
Combat and Tactics
The Red Wizards dictate how their allies function in combat. Each type of ally has an assigned role, and deviating from that is likely to get the ally killed—not necessarily out of spite (although that is possible), but by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Experienced troops learn to obey orders explicitly, since they have seen what happens when a squadron moves left instead of right and ends up at the center of a fireball intended for the enemy.
Red Wizards consider themselves great tacticians, although the wiser ones study battle records and listen to their advisers, particularly any Thayan knights in their employ. They prefer large-scale aggressive magic, such as confusion, cloudkill, and fireball. They are not above sacrificing their own troops to destroy an enemy, although if it can be avoided they will do so. (If their bodyguards bungle their orders and ruin an excellent attack plan, such a sacrifice is more likely.) Given their easy access to magic items, they prefer using scrolls and wands to their own spells unless truly powerful magic is needed. Some wizards (particularly abjurers) prefer to stay on the defensive, utilizing counterspelling and shielding magic. Many of these carry a wand of dispel magic just for this purpose.
Clerics are expected to take a support role in any combat encounter, enhancing the abilities and defenses of the Red Wizard and bodyguards, since their own attack magic is generally inferior to the powers available to a Red Wizard. They are expected to have prepared several cure spells of various levels, and they carry potions or scrolls with similar magic. When facing enemy spellcasters, they usually use hold person and silence spells to allow the Red Wizard to cast spells without being interrupted.
Thayan knights coordinate the soldiers and make sure the Red Wizard’s orders are enacted properly. They anticipate what the Red Wizard needs and protect him or her against melee attacks. A Thayan knight rarely strays from the Red Wizard’s side unless directed into the fray. This aggressive stance is favored by Thayan knights with access to the evasion ability, and Red Wizards have been known to take advantage of these skills by sending them into close combat with opponents and firing on them with area spells requiring Reflex saving throws. If suitably prepared or skilled, the knight is likely to emerge unscathed from the midst of a pile of enemy bodies.
Soldiers do most of the thankless work in combat. They are trained to use tactics that prevent enemies from spreading out, and they are particularly adept at forming lines that cannot be bypassed with a simple 5-foot step (in other words, their enemies must bull rush or overrun to get past them). The soldiers’ main purpose is to keep enemies from entering melee range with their Red Wizard employer. Because they are likely to be punished if they fail in their duty, they sometimes take great risks to prevent this from occurring—after all, an enemy fighter offers a quick, clean death compared to what an angry Red Wizard might do.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The greatest strength of the Red Wizards is their magical power. Red Wizards (and other Thayan wizards) have access to the best spells, the best items, and the best defenses for their money. Anyone planning to confront a Red Wizard in a magical combat should be more powerful than the wizard or prepared with items to compensate for the Red Wizard’s skill.
In addition to their magical strength, Red Wizards have many allies (even if these allies aren’t truly friends of the Red Wizard in question) and travel in groups. Unlike many of the stranger monsters in Faerûn or creatures with magical abilities, clerics, bodyguards, and even other wizards support the Red Wizards, and they are as familiar with each other as any adventuring party. These groups take advantage of terrain and each other’s skills as much as possible to defeat a foe.
The greatest weakness of the Red Wizards is their reliance on magic. If they can be forced into a dead magic area or an antimagic field (or if attacked from such a location), most of the Red Wizards’ magical might is useless, and they are forced to rely on their bodyguards and their own minimal combat abilities to defend themselves. Similarly, a silence spell thwarts much of their spellcasting ability.
Thayan Knight Prestige Class
While the Red Wizards are not opposed to blasting their opponents with deadly spells or shredding the minds of their enemies with dark magic, there are times when they need protectors who have mastered the art of swordplay. These protectors are the Thayan knights, familiar with magic and loyal to none but the tattooed mages.
The Thayan knights act as bodyguards and enforcers for the Red Wizards and as an extension of their reach. They lead common Thayan troops into battle and help guard the wizard enclaves. Although they are referred to as knights, they have no code of conduct, and the only rule that binds them is that their lives are worth nothing compared to the safety of the Red Wizards.
Almost all Thayan knights are fighters, although monks and rangers have been known to pursue this career. Barbarians are typically too reckless to concentrate on defense, and the Red Wizards consider other individuals too weak for the duties of a Thayan knight.
To qualify to become a Thayan knight, a character must fulfill all the following criteria: Race: Human. Region: Thay. Base Attack Bonus: +5. Skills: Intimidate 2 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 2 ranks, Knowledge (local, Thay) 2 ranks. Social Status: No slaves. Feats: Iron Will, Weapon Focus (longsword). Alignment: Any nongood. Special: Sworn allegiance to the Red Wizards of Thay.
The Thayan knight’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Innuendo (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (local, Thay), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spot (Wis), and Swim (Str).
Gained Abilities: Horrors of Thay (Ex): Because of long exposure to the cruelty of her homeland, a Thayan knight gains a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects and a +1 morale bonus on saving throws against charm effects. At 4th level, these bonuses increase to +4 and +2, respectively. None of these bonuses apply against attacks from Red Wizards.
Zulkir’s Favor (Su): At 1st level, a knight undergoes a long and painful tattooing ritual. This magic tattoo, placed either on the back or the forehead, provides a +2 resistance bonus on Reflex saves. The tattoo also marks the knight as someone loyal to the Red Wizards. The knight automatically fails all saving throws against mind-affecting spells cast by a Red Wizard. When the tattoo is visible, the knight gains a +2 morale bonus on Intimidate checks as an extraordinary ability. The tattoo does not count as using a space for a magic item, but it does count toward the limit of magic tattoos permitted by the create magic tattoo spell.
Zulkir’s Defender (Ex): A knight of 2nd level gains a +2 morale bonus on attacks and damage against any creature that attacks or that she has previously seen attack a Red Wizard.
Fighter Feat: At 3rd level, a Thayan knight may choose any one feat (except Weapon Specialization) from the fighter bonus feat list in Chapter 3 of the Player’s Handbook or any feat with the [Fighter] descriptor from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
Final Stand (Su): Once per day as a standard action, a knight of 4th level or higher can inspire her troops. Allies within 10 feet of the knight gain 2d10 temporary hit points. This ability affects a number of creatures equal to the knight’s class level + Charisma modifier and lasts the same number of rounds.
Zulkir’s Champion (Su): At 5th level, the knight receives a large magic tattoo across her face signifying her devotion to the protection of the Red Wizards. Once per day, the knight can take a +2 luck bonus on a single saving throw. This bonus can be taken after the die is rolled and after other modifiers have been applied to the roll. When the tattoo is visible, the knight gains a +4 morale bonus on Intimidate checks as an extraordinary ability. The tattoo does not count as using a space for a magic item, but it does count toward the limit of magic tattoos permitted by the create magic tattoo spell.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness. Some information omitted, primarily sidebars and statblocks. Additional reading can be found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, including the Red Wizard Class information.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 3, 2014 6:05:23 GMT -5
The shades are here, and they mean business. Their appearance has greatly troubled the councils of the wise and learned, and hardly a city in Faerûn does not hear rumors about these mysterious strangers. Who are these enigmatic beings? They are nothing less than a piece of living history, torn from Faerûn’s half-forgotten past. Their ancestors and their flying city departed Faerûn over 1,700 years ago just as their homeland, the Empire of Netheril, was annihilated by a cataclysmic tragedy born of a desperate attempt to save the empire from the ravages of its greatest enemy. The most advanced arcane nation of its time, Netheril boasted magical knowledge not seen on Toril since its destruction—until now.
The city escaped the destruction thanks to great magic that shifted the city and all its people into the Plane of Shadow. Safe from the disaster, the refugees (who call themselves Shadovars) .maintained their culture and society throughout the centuries that followed. Free to practice their arcane spells and experiment with the stuff of shadow, the city’s noble rulers became suffused with the dark energy of their new home. Already wizards and sorcerers of considerable ability, they grew ever more potent as they mastered the tenebrous substance of their new environment.
The City of Shade returned to Faerûn abruptly in 1372 DR, appearing in the sky over the Dire Wood and then proceeding directly to Anauroch, where it has remained since except for brief forays into the neighboring lands. Basing their home high over the Shoal of Thirst, the Shadovars lost no time in establishing the Empire of Shadows. They have made it clear that they consider the entire expanse of the great desert to be their rightful territory, and the disappearance of several Zhentarim caravans from the southern portion of the wasteland is considered testimony to the Shadovar claim. Thus far, the new masters of Anauroch have not deigned to take action against the Bedine, the nomadic peoples who inhabit the desert, considering them beneath notice. Their attitudes toward races and cultures beyond Anauroch have ranged from aloof to curious, and from disdainful to aggressive. With an agenda and goals known only to themselves, the Shadovars represent one of the most intriguing mysteries—and greatest dangers—in Faerûn today. Many eyes are turned toward Anauroch and the strange city that looms in its sky, hoping for some sign of the Shadovars’ intent, and for sufficient warning to react should the city’s return prove the prelude to a war of conquest.
Brief History [They say brief, I say a damn novel.]
While the Shadovars make no secret about their connection to Faerûn’s past, they have been reluctant to reveal the entire extent of what they know about their own—and Toril’s—history, except when doing so has advanced one or more of the High Prince’s specific goals. The Shadovars respond to direct questions about their past with replies that are at best vague, and at worse misleading. The Shadovars prefer that none realize they themselves do not possess all the answers to these questions, and that one of their primary goals is to learn as much about Netheril as possible.
What the common Shadowvar know The City of Shade, also known as Shade Enclave, contains a great deal of hard information about the Netherese Empire, but this data is accurate only up until the time preceding the catastrophe that destroyed Netheril. During the city’s “sojourn” on the Plane of Shadow, its inhabitants were cut off from Faerûn. What little contact they had came by way of divination spells cast by clerics of Shar. What follows is a summary of what the Shadovars do know about their past, based on the histories available to them in their city’s libraries and record halls. This text constitutes the official and accepted version of their history.
The history of the Netherese reaches far back into the mists of time, beginning well over five millennia before the present day. The little knowledge that exists in Faerûn today is in the hands of a small group of learned sages and loremasters. The official history of the Netherese relates that what would later become a mighty empire was at first little more than a cluster of fishing villages that hugged the banks of the Narrow Sea in what is now the eastern central portion of Anauroch. What eventually became a desert was then a verdant land, with abundant water and fertile soil capable of supporting vast populations of flora and fauna, including humans. The earliest roots of the empire can be traced to the time when the folk of the fishing villages united to stave off the attacks of marauding humanoids. This coalition remained unified after it had defeated its enemies, becoming a small kingdom that grew rapidly under a series of expansion-minded monarchs. This young kingdom was energetic and aggressive, but barely civilized. It was during this period, which Shadovar history calls the First Age, that the Netherese made initial contact with the elves, from whom they first learned about magic.
The Shadovars accept as truth the notion that their ancestors had a strong, natural affinity for arcane magic. Their historical accounts note that after their first contact with the elves, the Netherese took to magical study with uncommon enthusiasm and quickness. Unlike many other societies, the Netherese soon considered arcane magic to be an essential component of their lives, and they made a concentrated effort to master its secrets. Every citizen was tutored in basic spellcraft after reaching the age of ascension (13 years old), and by the age of majority (18 years old) was able to cast a range of 0-level spells. Those who showed aptitude above the norm were placed in special academies for the purpose of enhancing and increasing their magical proficiency, where they learned to cast 1st-level and more powerful spells. The most talented became arcanists (the Netherese term for a wizard or sorcerer) and rose to great heights of political and social power. Many devoted their lives to continuous magical research, seeking always to expand their society’s understanding and mastery of the Art. The arcanists soon became the second most important and respected class of citizens, just below the nobility and surpassing the clergy. The Netherese royalty were the most powerful arcanists in the empire.
The true flowering of the Netherese Empire was dependent not on the experiments of its early arcanists, however, but on the fortuitous discovery of the Nether Scrolls. Unearthed in the ruins of some even older and long-forgotten civilization, the Nether Scrolls were a trove of arcane spells as well as an advanced treatise on spellcraft, the combination of which propelled the fledgling empire’s magical knowledge forward at least a hundredfold. As the arcanists studied these ancient texts, they unlocked secrets of spellcasting that had vanished from the world untold millennia before the Netherese people came into being. As the arcanists deciphered these secrets, nearly every citizen of the empire reaped the benefits of their research. In particular, the scrolls provided the key to an invention that would shape the remainder of Netheril’s future, catapulting the civilization to undreamed-of summits of power: the mythallar.
Using the incredible arcane power provided by the mythallar, the Netherese were able to construct architectural marvels that have not been seen in Faerûn since the fall of their nation. Craftsfolk and arcanists worked in concert to design and construct ever more breathtaking buildings and civic improvements. They levitated entire buildings and balanced them permanently atop impossibly tiny surfaces, creating unusual dwellings that delighted the population and impressed other races. Artists designed public sculptures on a massive scale, and arcanists and laborers made these dreams a reality, shaping enormous quantities of precious metals into beautiful images that floated in a lazy circuit above the city streets to be enjoyed by all at different intervals of the day. Finally, they learned to shear off the very summit of a mountain and suspend it upsidedown. They then placed a mythallar within a mirrored crystalline structure designed to reflect the power of the device back onto itself in such a way that it allowed the overturned mountaintop to float in midair. Netheril’s artisans, craftsfolk, and laborers then constructed a city upon the inverted mountaintop, and the empire filled these structures with citizens who henceforth lived among the clouds. At the height of Netheril’s power, during what its history refers to as the Golden Age, the empire boasted a total of thirteen flying cities.
The Netherese Empire continued to grow and thrive in the centuries that followed. As the arcanists continued to plumb the depths of magical investigation, always pushing the envelope of their knowledge, they refined their understanding and control of their abilities. Eventually, they began to conceive and design spells of such might that arcane power of their magnitude has not been seen in Faerûn since Netheril’s destruction (and for very good reason). The empire used its flying cities to explore more of the world, to locate more raw materials for its industries, to carry out trade with other races, and to acquire more and more territory so that its population would have all the food and space it required. It also utilized the cities as airborne platforms from which it launched deadly attacks against its enemies, wiping out enormous numbers of hostile humanoids that might threaten Netheril’s peace and prosperity. The Netherese Empire became, with the passing of the years, the preeminent magical civilization of its time, and indeed perhaps in all the history of Faerûn. Its achievements only made its decay and downfall all the more tragic.
Unknown to the Netherese, their greatest enemies were not the vast tribes of orcs, gnolls, and goblins that roamed the land, but a foe that remained completely undetected until it was all but too late. A renegade arcanist, dissatisfied at his people’s wholesale slaughter and the enslavement of anyone not born Netherese, departed the empire with a band of like-minded followers. Seeking a safe haven, they ventured into caves and caverns, eventually making contact with a subterranean race of creatures that called themselves the phaerimms. This fateful meeting was the beginning of the end for Netheril, though neither the disgruntled arcanist nor his associates could know the impact they would have on their homeland’s future.
Befriending the human in the guise of a peaceful and concerned race, the phaerimms tricked him into revealing vital information about the empire. Their dissembling was successful. Without realizing the enormity of his mistake, the well-meaning arcanist revealed to his new “friends” some of the most closely guarded secrets of his country, including the existence and uses of the mythallar. What the young arcanist did not know was that the phaerimms possessed but one goal: the eradication of all other beings in Faerûn. After the arcanist and his comrades departed the phaerimms’ caverns, the evil creatures used their newly gained knowledge to begin planning Netheril’s destruction. Employing the information given to them by the young arcanist, the phaerimms raided Netherese outposts, caravans, and outlying settlements, from which they stole a considerable amount of magical knowledge and a number of wondrous items. Their savage attacks left no survivors, leaving the imperial arcanists to wonder futilely who was behind these murderous incidents. The phaerimms used their plundered knowledge to advance their own study and understanding of the Art and then turn it against their chosen enemies. Eventually, they were able to capture a mythallar from a caravan outpost, and then the true war began.
Using the mythallar as a model, the destruction-minded phaerimms created their own version of an arcane device to access the Weave directly. Even as Netheril reached the zenith of its power and glory, the phaerimms directed terrible lifedrain spells at the empire’s fertile lands. Their spells leached the very life from the land itself. The process was slow, but the Netherese could do nothing but observe the effect— large tracts of fertile, green land became sandy, useless deserts before their eyes. Alarmed, the empire’s foremost arcanists sought the cause, even as they strove to limit the damage with their own powerful spells. By the time they discerned the intelligence behind this phenomenon, vast sections of their home had succumbed to the phaerimm assault. But even as the empire prepared to defend itself against its newly identified foe, the phaerimms attacked openly.
Arcane energy exploded across the land in a magical duel of immense proportions, adding to the level of destruction already caused by the phaerimms’ life-draining magic. Neither side was able to gain a distinct advantage, however, and the war raged out of control. The phaerimms’ continual bombardment of lifedrain spells increased the area of desertification, eventually forming the barren waste of the Great Desert. The Netherese responded in kind, employing arsenals of magical weaponry and arcane spells to rain destruction upon the phaerimms and their underground homes. Both Netherese and phaerimms suffered tremendous losses of life and property, but the fighting continued unabated, with each side determined to extinguish the other.
The Shadovars’ records grow vague and contradictory at this point. Netheril prided itself on keeping an accurate account of its cultural and societal progress, but the prolonged war against the phaerimms made it difficult to conduct civic and economic affairs in the accustomed fashion. Many records were lost amid the destruction of buildings and entire communities. The City of Shade possesses numerous accounts of the war’s most important battles, as well as more mundane records from that era, but there was no means of obtaining complete information on all that was transpiring during that confusing and deadly time. The Shadovars themselves do not actually know for a certainty what caused the cataclysm that destroyed Netheril. Most blame the phaerimms, believing that the enemy contrived to launch a final, devastating attack that called upon some kind of unknown arcane power. All the Shadovars really know for certain is that had their city not shifted into the Plane of Shadow and remained there, their ancestors would also have perished in the disaster.
What the elite Shadovar know The High Prince, his sons, and certain members of the city’s clergy know much more about the destruction of their homeland than is brought out in the official history. Ironically, it was not the phaerimms that struck the final blow against Netheril—it was one of their own. During the city’s time in the Plane of Shadow, it was cut off from Faerûn and unable to return. The clerics of Shar were able to cast divination spells successfully, however, and their dark deity provided them with information that enabled them to discern the truth about what befell Netheril—or, at least, the truth that Shar would have them know. According to the clerics’ findings, one of the most skilled and potent arcanists of the empire, known to history as Karsus, attempted to end the war with one decisive blow. When the nature of the phaerimms’ lifedrain spells became known, Karsus began work on a spell of his own that he believed would enable him to save his people. Without a doubt, it was the mightiest arcane magic ever wielded by a mortal in the history of Faerûn. Karsus’s spell would enable him to merge temporarily but directly with the essence of any deity. He would, in effect, temporarily become a deity, gaining access to divine power.
He planned to wield this divine might to destroy the phaerimms and end their threat forever. Though he was aware that the spell might well cost him his life, Karsus deemed the sacrifice worth the risk. However, something went terribly wrong. Karsus lost control of his spell, and the resulting arcane backlash nearly destroyed the Weave, wreaking havoc throughout Faerûn. Karsus was killed by the unrestrained magical energy, and the magnitude of the damage to the Weave sent Netheril’s flying cities plummeting to the ground, killing all their inhabitants. Enclaves, outposts, and communities of all sizes across the empire suffered similar fates, as their mythallars exploded and their immense architectural achievements came crashing down atop their citizens. Only the High Prince’s city, safely within the Plane of Shadow, was spared this fate.
High Prince Telamont and the other Shadovars who are aware of these facts are content to allow their subjects to believe that the phaerimms caused their empire’s downfall.
What really happened Karsus the arcanist decided to merge with Mystryl, the Netherese deity of magic. The result was catastrophic. When his essence combined with Mystryl’s, the deity lost the ability to maintain the Weave. The goddess sacrificed herself to save the Weave before the damage became irreparable, but in so doing she temporarily obstructed the Weave, ending its connection with Faerûn. Karsus was killed by the experience, just as he had predicted, but he did not gain Mystryl’s divine power for a period long enough to wield it successfully. The wholesale cessation of magical energy sent arcane shockwaves throughout Faerûn, since all spells and wondrous items ceased to function abruptly. The survivors of this catastrophe and their descendants were responsible for the rise of the now-ruined empires of Anauria, Hlondath, and Assam, but Netheril itself was gone. Eventually, Mystryl was able to reincarnate herself and restore the Weave to its proper state, but it was too late for the people of Netheril. The folly of Karsus had done what the phaerimms had been unable to do: The Netherese Empire was no more.
The body of Karsus, made gigantic by the influx of divine energy, fell to earth as he died. It shattered, leaving a silent reminder of his folly to future wizards—a single red stone butte at the base of a high cliff in what is now the Dire Wood.
The Refugees A single flying city miraculously escaped the catastrophe unscathed, purely by happenstance. The city’s ruling noble, a powerful arcanist, had for some time been experimenting with movement between Faerûn and the Plane of Shadow. His studies eventually enabled him to move not only himself freely between the two, but other people and objects as well. In the weeks preceding the cataclysm, the arcanist—known to the City of Shade only by his chosen sobriquet of Lord Shadow— had already contemplated the feasibility of moving an entire flying city into the plane to which he had been traveling for some time. He gave the order for the city to prepare itself for the experiment mere days before Karsus cast his spell. On the very eve of the disaster, Lord Shadow transported his entire city, and all its inhabitants, to the Plane of Shadow. Once there, he was pleased to see that his predictions were correct. The city and its citizens suffered no immediate ill effects from the journey. However, he was concerned and dismayed by the discovery that, for reasons he did not yet understand, he was unable to move the city back to Faerûn.
Unraveling this mystery took weeks, and when the city returned to Netheril its inhabitants could only gape with horror at what it found. For days the city journeyed across the ruins of Netheril, searching desperately for survivors, to no avail. Presuming this hideous revelation to be the work of the hated phaerimms, the Netherese thirsted for revenge. Lord Shadow realized, however, that a single flying city was no match for the phaerimms. Moreover, he considered it likely that the Netherese dwelling in his city might well be the last of their race. He concluded that he could not afford to risk losing his city and subjects as well. Vowing that one day the city would return to Faerûn to reestablish the ruined empire, the arcanist transferred his city back into the Plane of Shadow, where, through unforeseen circumstances, it remained far longer than he had originally planned.
Headquarters: The City of Shade, normally located floating above Anauroch, just off the northeast coast of the Shadow Sea (or, to give it its Netherese name, the Hidden Lake).
Members: Approximately 500 shades among the approximately 25,000 Shadovars.
Leader: Telamont, the High Prince of Shade.
Alignment: NE, LE.
Symbol: The shades neither possess nor use a symbol to represent their city or society as a whole. Each of the twelve Princes of Shade and High Prince Telamont employs his or her own individual heraldic device. These sigils were first used in the Netherese Empire, and have long since passed out of common heraldic lore and experience. A Knowledge (history or nobility) check against DC 25 is required to recognize that the symbol is Netherese in origin, and a second Knowledge check (DC 30) is required to correctly identify the exact Netherese noble family. See the hierarchy section for a description of the royal sigils.
The Shadovars have a discrete culture and civilization. They do not constitute an organization in the generally accepted sense of the word. But because the actual number of shades is small (about five hundred shades dwell in the City of Shade), and because they guard their privacy and motives so zealously, they are functionally similar to a secret society.
This section gives statistical details on the shades who dwell in the City of Shade. The shades make up only a small percentage of the flying city’s population. The remainder of the city inhabitants are of two types: Normal humans who are the descendants of the Netherese who entered the Plane of Shadow over 2,000 years ago but who did not become shades, and humanoid slaves that the Shadovars have acquired both in the Plane of Shadow and in Faerûn.
Appearance and Personality The physical traits of a shade are described in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Shadovars who are not shades are identical to their outsider masters, but lack the distinctive gray cast to their skin.
The Shadovars dress in clothing that seems (to other residents of Faerûn) outdated to the point of antiquity; their courtly attire may appear outlandish and alien. They favor dark colors such as black, burgundy, charcoal gray, dark green, and midnight blue. Members of the upper class wear a great deal of jewelry; gems and jewels are also often cunningly woven into their ensembles. They are also fond of gilt, gold thread, and cloth-of-gold accents. Common folk wear simpler garb as befits their trade, and slaves are permitted only serviceable, unadorned clothing that is only marginally better than simple homespun.
The Shadovars dwell in what is best described as a mobile citystate ruled by a government that combines features of a monarchy, meritocracy, and magocracy. The city is ruled by its High Prince, Telamont, a powerful arcanist and shade. His power and authority are absolute. All Shadovars live and die by his command. Telamont has been the High Prince of Shade for as long as anyone living in the city can recall. Only his sons and trusted associates know that he is as old as the city itself and has ruled since it was first built at his direction.
Serving the High Prince as extensions of his authority are his twelve sons, the Princes of Shade. Like their father, the princes are shades and arcanists. Competition among this circle of archwizards is simultaneously fierce and regimented, much like Shadovar society.
The High Prince The Netherese arcanist known as High Prince Telamont Tanthul is one of the most powerful mages now in Faerûn. He was known once, thousands of years ago, as Lord Shadow. One of the few remaining citizens of Netheril who survived the destruction of the empire, he rules the Shadovars with absolute authority. When he considers the time to be right, Telamont plans to reveal to the Shadovars the fact that he is the Lord Shadow of legend, inspiring them to victory.
Well over two millennia old, Telamont preserves his life by means of powerful magic, such as wish spells. This process has been made easier by virtue of the fact that he is no longer human, but rather an outsider. The natural life span of a shade is many times longer than that of an ordinary human. However, Telamont acknowledges reluctantly that as his outsider body begins to fail, stronger measures are required to keep him alive. He has not yet decided on the best means of continuing his existence, but the Shadovars’ return to Faerûn offers a wealth of possibilities, including transformation into an undead creature.
[This information is further expanded in Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness]
The Prince's Hand Hadrhune, the right hand of High Prince Telamont, is detailed in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Hadrhune’s current assignment is the evaluation of the numerous cities and nations in the Heartlands, in conjunction with his plan for destroying those that might represent a threat to the power of his father. His personal sigil is a winged serpent, silver on a black field; within the serpent’s coils is a gray stone tower.
The Twelve Princes of Shade The princes are brothers, all born before the fall of Netheril.
Prince Rivalen Tanthul is the City of Shade’s high priest of Shar. If High Prince Telamont is the temporal ruler of the Shadovars, Prince Rivalen is their spiritual leader. Prince Clariburnus Tanthul is the youngest captain in the city’s military. Prince Brennus Tanthul is the youngest brother among the princes, and many would say that Telamont has a special fondness for him. Prince Mattick Tanthul and Prince Vattick Tanthul are twins. Black-haired and black-eyed, they are perfect replicas of one another. Prince Yder Tanthul is the right hand of his older brother Prince Rivalen. Respected and feared as a warrior of great prowess, he trained first as a soldier in the Shadovar army, achieving the rank of captain before he heard the call to Shar’s service. Prince Melegaunt Tanthul is one of the youngest of the twelve brothers and does not have a great natural aptitude in the arcane arts. Prince Lamorak Tanthul was appointed a decade ago by his father to oversee the Determinists’ Guild. Prince Dethud Tanthul is perhaps the most reserved of the twelve princes. His reputation for silence is famous throughout the City of Shade. Prince Aglarel Tanthul took over as commander of the High Prince’s personal bodyguard when the City of Shade returned to Faerûn.
[This information is further expanded in Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness]
The Determinists Centuries of survival on the Plane of Shadow taught the Shadovars that survival is accomplished only when every member of the society understands his or her role and works for the betterment of the city as a whole. Thus, Shadovar society is strictly hierarchical, but it is also a meritocracy. Everyone is expected to work for the security and survival of the community, to the best of each person’s capacity. This capacity is determined by a specialized battery of tests administered to each free citizen shortly after he or she reaches the age of ascension (13 years old). The tests are administered by Prince Lamorak’s circle of Determinists. Once the Shadovar’s aptitudes are known, he is trained to develop them until he reaches the age of majority (18 years old), when he enters his profession full-time. Occasionally a Shadovar exhibits such dramatic improvement in skill or aptitude over time that the Determinists administer a second round of testing and sometimes alter the Shadovar’s original designation. These instances are rare, however, due to the sophistication and accuracy of Prince Lamorak’s assessment methods.
The Arcanists Below the royal family, but far above the average Shadovar in authority and importance, are the wizards and sorcerers of the City of Shade. Taking their name from the ancient Netherese term for wizard, the arcanists are the magical backbone of the city. They staff the institutions of learning, train the talented in the secrets of the Art, and support various missions as the twelve princes command. There are approximately one thousand arcanists living in the city, of whom roughly two hundred fifty are shades. The shade arcanists are by far the more powerful representatives of the group, and they hold the positions of highest authority among the arcanist assemblies and organizations.
The Military Some Shadovars who demonstrate only minimal magical aptitude find a respected place in the city’s military. Most begin as low-ranking soldiers, but ample opportunity exists for the able and intelligent to earn promotions into the ranks of the officers. The City of Shade suffered innumerable attacks from a variety of hostile creatures during its long sojourn in the Plane of Shadow, and the army bore the brunt of these offensives. Now that the Shadovars have come back to Faerûn, the High Prince has ordered that the military’s numbers and readiness increase as swiftly as possible.
The City of Shade’s army currently numbers approximately three thousand soldiers. The bulk of these numbers are human descendents of Netheril, while about two hundred are shades (including all the officers above the rank of lieutenant). The High Prince is the commander of the army, but he relies on a triumvirate of generals—Shelkar, Vadebryth, and Tyrrollus— to develop and implement military strategies on all but the most dire of occasions. Each general commands roughly one thousand troops, and there are many specialized squads and divisions within the army. Some of these groups vie with one another in rivalries that range from mostly friendly (such as that between the First Expeditionary Division and the Royal Scouts) to dangerous (such as that between the High Prince’s Personal Guard and General Shelkar’s Black Swords).
Commoners Shadovars who show no aptitude for spells higher than 0 level or for warfare are assigned to one of the common ranks of society. These folk make up the bulk of the inhabitants in the City of Shade. They know their places and understand that the city’s survival depends not only on their ability to work hard for its future but also in their obedience to their society’s structure. The Shadovar commoner is loyal to his princes and devoted to his city. The rare citizen who displays behavior or commits acts that may undermine the city’s safety or security are discovered, often by the nobility’s paid informants, and put to death.
Crafters The City of Shade requires constant maintenance, due to the stresses it endures while moving through the atmosphere. There are hundreds of crafters in the city, each specializing in one of a number of trades (masonry, paving, carpentry, metalworking, leatherworking, and similar tasks). Many have managed to learn one or two arcane spells (0 level) to help ease their labors. These spells are typically mage hand, mending, open/ close, or prestigidation. All crafters are human. They and their families expect reasonable treatment from their betters, and their wages are sufficient to allow them to live comfortably if not luxuriously.
Merchants Even in the treacherous and strange Plane of Shadow, the City of Shade maintained an economy. Its merchant class was skilled in obtaining raw materials and other goods from the places the city visited in that dark realm, and making them available to their fellow citizens. Prices are strictly controlled, as is the minting and distribution of currency. Thus the economy is artificial, intended more as a means of regulating supply and demand than allowing anyone to earn a profit.
Servants Those citizens who show no aptitude for magic, religion, crafts, or any other useful employment join the ranks of the personal servants. These folk are assigned primarily to domestic roles such as maid, valet, messenger, and street cleaner. While they have no hope of bettering their lives, many hope and dream that their children fare better.
Slaves Slaves occupy the lowest rung on the Shadovar social ladder. Some slaves are Shadovars who exhibit absolutely no useful skill or talent; others are citizens convicted of noncapital offenses. The majority are humanoids captured by the Shadovars on a slaving expedition or acquired from slave traders.
The slaves of the Shadovars expect nothing better than lives of menial labor and drudgery. How a slave is treated is left entirely to the individual slave owner: Some, particularly among the aristocratic segment of society, prefer to regard slaves as favored pets, but there is no recourse for a slave whose master decides to treat him with brutality. The slaves of the city know better than to attempt revolt or flight, however. Their masters possess power at least several orders of magnitude higher than that of the typical slave. Worse, the Shadovars have no reservations about simply slaying rebellious slaves out of hand and acquiring more later.
Motivation and Goals
What do the shades really want? That question has been on the minds and lips of nobles, sages, and adventurers alike ever since the City of Shade first cast its shadow over the desert sands. The clergy of numerous deities want to know whether they should be preparing to wage a holy war against the shades. Monarchs in dozens of nations and city-states eye the activities of the shades with deep concern, and some have seriously considered whether or not to call up their levies to bolster defenses in case the shades choose to move against them. Meanwhile, those skilled in the Art search for the means to deal with the shades’ arcane power should the worst happen, and learned folk throughout Faerûn turn to fragments of obscure and incomplete lore in an effort to glean more information about the true nature of the shades and their once-mighty civilization. However, for the moment only the Shadovars know what they truly desire.
The concerns that trouble the good folk of Faerûn are not misplaced. High Prince Telamont does indeed intend to embark on a campaign of conquest, immediately after the shades deal with the phaerimms. The City of Shade simply cannot contain his ambitions any longer. He was born to rule, and for millennia he has had to content himself with one trifling city. Now that all Faerûn is available for him to conquer, he plans to restore the old Netherese Empire under his rule and extend its former boundaries to encompass the Heartlands. Each of his sons covets at least one portion of Faerûn as his own fiefdom, and the sooner the Shadovars go to war against their inferiors, the sooner the princes receive their just rewards.
The princes differ on how best to achieve this end, though they take care to express such ideas carefully and tactfully when in their father’s presence. Some favor looting magic and knowledge from old Netherese sites in Faerûn and then using this power in a campaign of elimination directed against those cities and even races that might pose a threat to Shadovar conquest. Others would prefer to ally with one or more magocracies such as the Thayans in order to share arcane knowledge and divide the responsibilities of conquest (and discarding these allies of convenience once victory is achieved, naturally). Several princes advocate a more subtle approach. They suggest manipulating other groups and individuals, sowing dissent among them and encouraging them to rip one another apart. These princes would like to see the cities and nations of the Heartlands engulfed by a huge, all-out war that would enable the Shadovars to impose order on the weakened victors.
One thing is clear to both Telamont and his ambitious progeny. They cannot begin their conquests until they know more about the current shape of the world and its inhabitants. It is precisely this lack of concrete information that has prevented Telamont from making a final decision about an invasion. Likewise, this is the reason behind the Shadovars’ current exploratory forays into various parts of Faerûn, as well and their hunt for the remnants of their destroyed empire. The recent release of the phaerimms from the sharns’ ancient prison under the sands of Anauroch has also caused the Shadovars to delay reaching agreement on a final strategic plan. Even the conquest-hungry Telamont cannot resist the opportunity to destroy his people’s most hated enemies.
The High Prince and his sons engage in a limited form of recruiting, primarily from within the citizenry born and bred in the City of Shade. Although it is well within their power to transform any living creature into a shade, they prefer to do so only sparingly. From their point of view, the transformation is a great honor, not to be given lightly. They bestow it only upon those they consider worthy to join the most elite segment of Shadovar society. Those who, after reaching the age of majority, display unusual arcane talent, or have otherwise distinguished themselves through service to the city or its royalty, are sometimes chosen to become shades. An individual marked for the transformation does not have the option of refusing.
As for those not born Shadovar, the ruling class considers them fit only for servitude and conquest. The only exception is Faerûnian natives whom the arcanists have identified as possessing substantial Netherese ancestry. Telamont has authorized Prince Aglarel to seek out and capture those precious few in whose veins the ancient blood of Netheril yet flows. The Prince arranges for the secret abduction of these individuals, bringing them to the City of Shade where they can be examined and studied in order to determine whether they are worthy for induction.
The shades have no compunctions about swelling the ranks of slaves in their city, however. To date they have captured untold numbers of gnolls, goblins, and orcs from the lands surrounding Anauroch. The majority of these unfortunate humanoids toil in the City of Shade, performing all manner of menial tasks under the lash. The shades send the remainder of their slaves to labor in the archeological digs and other surface enterprises.
The City of Shade has no formal allies, though it is not averse to forming temporary alliances of convenience with those who have something to offer that the Shadovars cannot or prefer not to obtain for themselves.
The High Prince and his sons consider every other race, culture, nation, city, and group in Faerûn to be their enemies. However, there exists one race for which they feel nothing other than white-hot, bitter hatred: the phaerimms. Long after the City of Shade departed Faerûn, the phaerimms continued to terrorize the world until another primeval race, the sharns, put a stop to their depredations. The sharns imprisoned the phaerimms deep beneath the sands of Anauroch, where they have remained for centuries. But the return of the Shadovars has coincided with the return of their most hated foes. The phaerimms are, at long last, free to continue their campaign of destruction.
When the escaped phaerimms threatened the city of Evereska, High Prince Telamont lost no time in lending Shadovar support to the beleaguered elf community. Whatever the rest of Faerûn may think or suspect of the Shadovars, many elves have grudgingly expressed their sincere gratitude for this valuable aid—without the arcane might of the City of Shade, Evereska would almost certainly have been destroyed. The phaerimms, thwarted in their attempt to exterminate the elves, have been scattered as a result of the coming of the Shadovar. Telamont and his sons now bend their energy toward locating and destroying the remaining phaerimms.
Exactly how the phaerimms escaped their prison is not known, but rumors abound. Stories circulating in the lands near Anauroch claim that their release was accidental, the result of an unfortunate combination of magical energies across the sharns’ magic wall. Other rumors hint that it was the Shadovars themselves who arranged for the release of their old enemies. What better way, these tales ask, to earn the trust and goodwill of others than by coming to the aid of Evereska? These same voices whisper that it was the City of Shade that destroyed the Cormyrian city of Tilverton, using ancient Netherese magic to reduce the community to a smoking crater.
Thus far, no organized opposition to the City of Shade has formed, though this state of affairs cannot long endure. It is only a matter of time before the targets of their enmity discover that the Shadovars intend to subjugate them. Several groups are actively investigating the Shadovars’ various activities. These include the Harpers, who are dedicating an increasing percentage of their resources to investigating the shade threat. To date, they have determined the following:
One of the princes of Shade has quietly obtained a number of human slaves from the Thayan enclave in Proskur and is transporting them back to Anauroch by unknown means.
Several individuals in communities near the borders of Anauroch have disappeared in recent months. The only link between the disappearances is that the City of Shade was reportedly seen in the sky near these places around the time that the missing people vanished.
Expeditions from the City of Shade are exploring some previously unknown ruins in the vicinity of Anauroch. A pair of Harper scouts have yet to report back after setting out to investigate just such an expedition somewhere in the Fallen Lands.
Certainly the Red Wizards are also intensely interested in what goes on in the City of Shade, particularly since by all accounts its inhabitants possess an enviable measure of arcane power. Unfortunately for the Thayans, all their efforts to entice the Shadovars into the enclaves have so far failed. The Shadovars appear to be purposefully avoiding the enclaves, and their attitude toward the idea of the Thayans’ mercantile endeavors could best be described as contemptuous. The only known exception took place in the Proskur enclave, and that was only to negotiate the purchase of human slaves. The zulkirs are now contemplating a policy of authorizing the enclaves to trade magic items in return for solid information regarding the shades’ operations and goals. If that fails, the Red Wizards are obliged to take more direct action to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding their target.
The Shadovars rarely leave the powerful haven of their flying city. When they do, they travel in groups for protection, by order of the High Prince. Only a Prince of Shade or a soldier in the Shadovar army holding the rank of captain or higher may leave the city without escort. Even then, the traveling Shadovar must have a legitimate reason for journeying through the lands outside the city. The rulers of the City of Shade are extremely careful about whom among their community they choose to allow outsiders to see, because exercising such care enables them to better conceal their true numbers and plans. While it is clear to non-Shadovars that not every resident of the flying city is a shade, they cannot be certain exactly how many are—and the High Prince would like to keep it this way.
Typical encounters with shades outside their city are with expeditionary forces assigned to accomplish a particular task, whether political, archeological, or murderous. These groups number anywhere from five to one hundred, depending on the nature of the mission, and are invariably commanded by characters with levels in the shadow adept prestige class. The type of mission normally dictates whether an arcanist or a soldier is in command, but all Shadovars are outranked by a member of the royal family. A Prince of Shade who commands an expedition expects to be obeyed instantly and unquestioningly. Most expeditions include a cleric of Shar, a ranking officer of the Shadovar army, at least one mid- or low-level arcanist, and a number of soldiers and laborers befitting the goal of the mission and the status of the commander.
Only Hadrhune is known to travel without an escort, by special permission of his lord. When Hadrhune is encountered without bodyguards or other accompanying functionaries, it means that he is undertaking a special mission under the authority of the High Prince, usually as his master’s direct emissary to some foreign power.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness. Omitted information about the princes due to specificity. Many statblocks omitted as well. This information remains available on request via pm.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 3, 2014 8:11:11 GMT -5
The Zhentarim, also known as the Black Network, began as a group of merchants but has grown to include assassins, spies, an army, and the backing of the church of Bane. Now in control of half the area around the Moonsea, the Zhentarim has increased its influence across the continent and achieved footholds in the western and southern regions of Faerûn as well. Well armed and supplied, the Zhentarim is supported by powerful wizards and clerics and led by an archmage and the Chosen of Bane himself.
Feared by the common folk and bearing an evil reputation, the Zhentarim is not a foe that one should challenge without serious intent. As the organization and the church of Bane grow together, its influence is likely to spread even faster, for both groups seek complete domination of northern Faerûn. Now even a group of common merchants bearing the symbol of the Black Network is treated respectfully and kept at arm’s length, for the merchants might be under the protection of a powerful wizard or carry magic far beyond the means of ordinary folk.
The Black Network was created by the archmage Manshoon, who rose through the ranks of Zhentil Keep by eliminating his rivals (including members of his own family). After becoming a lord of Zhentil Keep, he worked to gain control over his fellow lords. Once that was established, he created a secret society, the Zhentarim, which would act independently of Zhentil Keep and provide him more power than simple lordship could. Over time he shared the leadership with apprentices and colleagues, increasing the power of the Black Network greatly. One of these converts was Fzoul Chembryl, who at the time was the leader of a splinter cult of Bane.
Over the years, the Zhentarim expanded to include Darkhold and the Citadel of the Raven. In recent decades, the organization encountered a number of setbacks, often through its pursuit of spellfire and conflicts with powerful mages such as Elminster. One major setback occurred during the Time of Troubles, with the destruction of the Zhentarim’s primary deity, Bane. Later, Cyric’s involvement in the destruction of Zhentil Keep shattered the main base of power of the Zhentarim and led to unfocused and ill-planned efforts of conquest in the following years. Since that time, Fzoul has changed his allegiance from Cyric to Xvim and then to Bane again, Zhentil Keep has been rebuilt, and Fzoul has become the Zhentarim’s official leader. Manshoon now acts as a nearly independent operative. With fewer distractions and the rise of Bane, the Zhentarim has solidified its power in the Moonsea area, is preparing to take complete control of that region, and then advance its plans in other parts of the world.
While the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting gives information on the cities controlled by the Zhentarim, the data given here applies to the actual members of the Zhentarim within those cities and elsewhere.
Headquarters: Zhentil Keep, the Moonsea.
Members: At least 10,000, mainly located in the Moonsea area.
Leader: Fzoul Chembryl.
Religions: Bane (primarily), Cyric (some holdouts in the western lands).
Alignment: LE, NE.
Symbol: The original symbol of the Zhentarim resembles a stylized spear head bearing a white circle and a long scrawled “Z” in the Dethek alphabet. Recently, Fzoul Chembryl commissioned the creation of a new symbol for the organization: a black scepter emitting green rays on a gold disc, clutched in the talons of a black wyrm. The scepter and rays signify the veneration of Bane, the disc stands for wealth, and the black dragon represents dominion.
The Black Network is finally becoming the well-organized group that Manshoon envisioned. Functioning very much like a secular arm of the church of Bane, the Zhentarim is organized along a rigid hierarchy of command.
The Zhentarim hierarchy follows a linear branching structure, with Fzoul Chembryl at the head of the organization. Several powerful lords report directly to him, with each lord having subordinates who pass on reports and requests. The Zhentarim discourage skipping ranks in the chain when giving orders, so only in times of emergency does Fzoul give orders directly to one of his generals’ officers without that general’s knowledge. The exception is Manshoon, who has Fzoul’s permission to command agents as he pleases in the pursuit of furthering the goals of the Zhentarim.
Following is a short list of some of the major figures of the Zhentarim.
Fzoul Chembryl, High Lord of the Zhentarim, Tyrant of the Moonsea, is the head of the organization. He divides his time between the Citadel of the Raven and Zhentil Keep. More information on Fzoul is available in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
Scyllua Darkhope, Castellan of Zhentil Keep and High Captain of the armies of Zhentil Keep, reports directly to Fzoul. With Fzoul busy heading both the Zhentarim and the church of Bane, Scyllua handles a lot of the routine administration of the Keep itself. More information on her is available in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
Lord Kandar Milinal is a lord of the Citadel of the Raven and the right arm of Fzoul. A devout worshiper of Bane, he looks forward to purging Darkhold of its Cyricist influences.
Manshoon reports only to Fzoul but has autonomous control and command authority over all lesser agents of the Zhentarim. More information on Manshoon is available in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Manshoon is known to use the stasis clone spell.
Selfaril Uoumdolphin, High Blade of Mulmaster, is the leader of the Zhentarim within that city. In truth, this person is Selfaril’s twin brother Rassendyll, who killed him and took his name as well as his place. He is married to Dmitra Flass, tharchion of Eltabbar in Thay, which puts him in an interesting position should the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards ever fall to open warfare.
Buorstag Hlammythyl, is the bron (sheriff) of Voonlar and a worshiper of Bane. He secretly reports to Scyllua so that Voonlar retains the illusion of independence.
Darik Berskan, is the appointed leader of the “protectorate” of Yûlash. A quiet man who wishes to remain relatively anonymous, he reports to Scyllua.
Zerana Hellesk is the military leader of Teshwave. Crude and prone to murdering underlings who fail her, she is easily recognizable by her white-streaked red hair and burn-scarred throat. She reports to Scyllua.
Teldorn Darkhope, lord of the Zhentarim in Mintar, helped Fzoul forge the Scepter of the Tyrant’s Eye. His Banite army conquered Mintar, and he awaits orders to attack other cities. He reports to Fzoul.
The Pereghost, is the mysterious commander of the military forces at Darkhold. He earned his name from his pale full plate and skull-shaped helm that makes him appear undead. Though they worship the same deity, he hates Dhamir Ercals and plots the man’s death.
Dhamir Ercals, is the coleader of Darkhold with the Pereghost. He anticipates a holy war with the Banite Zhentarim, but is uncertain how he would fare, given his unreliable allies and the forces arrayed against them.
Kara Chermosk, is a mobile military leader currently assigned to Tethyamar Fortress. She reports to Scyllua.
Verblen is the Slave Lord of Zhentil Keep and reports to Fzoul. He gained this position after the former Slave Lord disappeared. Verblen still enjoys making slaving raids and can be found anywhere the Zhentarim is active.
Angus Materi is captain of the Outriders of Darkhold, a military squadron. He reports to the Pereghost. Angus hates Cormyr and attacks Purple Dragons any time he has the opportunity.
Captain Cvaal Daoran is the leader of the Brothers of the Black Fist, an elite force of soldiers based in the Citadel of the Raven. He reports to Kandar Milinal.
Mara Kalaliv leads the Order of the Iron Gauntlet, a small group of Zhent monks who worships Bane. Mara has been given orders by Scyllua to actively recruit members into the Black Gauntlet and train them in stealth and assassination.
Xulla, a beholder, is the Caravan Lord of the Zhentarim, has a secret base of operations somewhere in Shadowdale. She reports to Fzoul and coordinates the activities of the other beholder allies of the Black Network.
Motivation and Goals
The Zhentarim used to be an organization that focused mainly on the control of trade through northern Faerûn. With the expansion of its activities into murder, espionage, extortion, arson, and all-out warfare, the Zhentarim has become a political and military organization with as much power as a small country and the desire to see the leaders of rival cities and countries fall into line under the banner of the Black Network. Much as they control most of the Moonsea, Manshoon and Fzoul would like to see the Zhentarim eventually rule the lands that stretch all the way westward to the Sword Coast.
To achieve these goals, Zhentarim operatives use several key tactics. First, they have extensive merchant contacts in their own lands and nearby territories, and they can move large amounts of goods safely and quickly through dangerous lands. In particular, the Black Road through Anauroch cuts weeks from their travel time to the western cities of Faerûn. Often their goods consist of contraband or restricted items (such as poison, slaves, drugs, or smokepowder weapons).
Second, they raid enemy caravans, using human soldiers or recruited gangs of humanoids to drive their competitors into poverty. Often these caravans are simply captured and then brought to their intended destination under the flag of the Black Network, providing both a profit from the goods and an implicit understanding from the buyer that the Zhentarim succeed in trade where others fail. Since the Zhents charge essentially the same prices as their competitors, even honest folk tend to buy from them, despite any misgivings over the source.
Third, they use tactics such as extortion, arson, and murder to deter their rivals and opponents in mercantile trade and political activity. Zhentarim agents commonly attack local farmers and warehouses to delay their trips to market, allowing the Zhents to sell their goods first. Sometimes an entire village is held hostage by a group of Zhentarim warriors, preventing the import or export of needed supplies until the Zhentarim’s demands are met.
The Black Network also takes advantage of its access to many spellcasters by secretly agitating local monster populations, causing unexpected attacks upon smaller settlements that a squadron of Zhentarim soldiers (led by the spellcaster responsible for the disturbance) can scare off. Once these soldiers have established a base camp in or near the settlement, they are remarkably difficult to dislodge, especially because they have standing orders to ally with local greedy merchants to justify their presence as caravan guards and assume the veneer of invited guests. If local monsters are not available, Zhentarim spellcasters have been known to conjure hideous creatures, with the same net effect of a rampaging native terror.
While the Zhentarim has eagerly sought recruits in the past, the recent upheavals have slowed down its recruiting drives so it can consolidate existing resources in preparation for future expansion.
It is still interested in enlisting like-minded wizards to its cause, as well as clerics of Bane, but most other individuals are turned away or simply not offered positions within the organization.
Once the Zhentarim is prepared to expand again, it will look for people to fill out all levels of the organization, with a large percentage of the recruits coming from the church of Bane.
The greatest ally of the Zhentarim is the church of Bane. Since the Chosen of Bane leads the Black Network, any worshiper of the Black Hand is inclined to aid any Zhentarim who asks him or her for help. As the Zhentarim and the church of Bane become more entwined each day, the Black Network can count on support from northern Banites. Some caravans that include a cleric of Bane sometimes have undead skeletons lashed to the undersides of wagons, which can be released with a few quick tugs if the caravan is attacked. Groups with a highlevel cleric or wizard are sometimes accompanied by banedead, and a beast of Xvim (technically now a beast of Bane) might accompany privileged groups. At least one skymage, Glouris Mristifos, has a hippogriff touched by the power of the Black Hand in this manner.
Another powerful ally is a group of beholders loyal to Manshoon, Fzoul, and the church. Wise and experienced beholders such as Xulla, Manxam, and Xavlal can eliminate enemy spellcasters, charm an unlimited number of reticent contacts, and carve out secret hideouts in the hardest rock. Additionally, the Zhentarim has made alliances with the drow in the past, and is moving toward formal arrangements with the Auzkovyn clan and House Jaelre, exchanging magic and goods unique to each group.
Unknown to nearly everyone, Fzoul arranged a tenuous peace with Khelben Blackstaff of Waterdeep. In exchange for information provided by the Blackstaff, Fzoul agreed to limit Zhentarim expansion to east of the Thunder Peaks for nearly thirty years. This doesn’t prevent the Zhents from defending their western territories, but in all likelihood if those territories were lost (for example, if Darkhold were to be taken over by Cyricists), they would have to accept the loss until the agreement expired. This agreement caused the schism between Khelben’s faction and the other Harpers and led to the independence of Khelben’s organization, the Moonstars. Khelben’s group is almost unknown outside its membership, and its purpose (and Khelben’s reasons for bargaining with the Zhentarim) is also secret.
The Zhentarim opposes anyone who presents a threat to its two primary interests: controlling trade and world domination. This attitude puts the Zhents at odds with the Iron Throne, the Cult of the Dragon, the Rundeen, and any evil group of a more chaotic or independent inclination. They also have a strong rivalry with the church of Cyric because of the Black Network’s ties to the church of Bane. They are traditionally enemies of the Red Wizards as well, but since the success of the enclaves, the Zhents have begun to see the advantage of a large group of neutral—or at least not hostile—mages producing cheap magic items they can use for their own purposes.
The Zhentarim also opposes (and is opposed by) groups that promote good and freedom. It offers a standing bounty for the heads of powerful Harper allies who have fought the Zhentarim in the past, such as Elminster and several of the Seven Sisters. The Harpers draw many agents from the foes of the Zhentarim, and are rumored to be starting another Harper Hall in Ravens Bluff to combat eastward expansion by the Black Network. This so-called “Ravens Hall” has been spoken of by at least one cowled bard, with hints that those clever enough to find it may be asked to join. The Zhentarim are trying to find this secret hall before it grows to become a true problem.
Because of its dependence on the trade route through Anauroch, the Zhentarim will almost certainly come into conflict with the shades at some point in the near future. Since the shades consider Anauroch to be part of their nation, they are unlikely to accept armed caravans guarded by spellcasters traveling through their land. Such a conflict would certainly be troublesome for the Zhents, for while they may be powerful, it is doubtful that they could effectively combat those who wield the magic of lost Netheril. Losing the Anauroch trade route may force the Zhentarim to consider other, southern routes.
On a smaller scale, the enemies of the Zhentarim are the people whose lives they ruin or disrupt: reputable merchants, villagers in frontier areas, or local law enforcement officials who try to stop shipments of contraband. In or near places where the Zhents are in power, they are treated coolly by nonmembers, for while they bring shipments of grain, tools, and weapons, those same caravan guards might return someday as part of an attacking army. The Zhents also remain alert for agents of the Harpers or organizations such as the Iron Throne who would love to learn more about their plans and representatives in the area.
The Zhents believe in strength in numbers. They always travel in groups, and even lone secret agents and spies fabricate cover stories and excuses to travel with others.
Zhentarim agents may be encountered as guards for one of the Zhent caravans, bandits looting a caravan they have attacked, soldiers awaiting deployment into a village to deal with “hostile monsters,” thugs or professional assassins preparing for a murder or other crime, or soldiers on maneuvers near a Zhentarim stronghold. The Black Network also has its own bands of adventurers who go in search of treasure, information, and the chance to make names for themselves.
Groups of traveling Zhentarim always include a spellcaster of some sort (typically a cleric of Bane, a sorcerer, or a wizard), unless the group is a patrol of soldiers near a Zhentarim base. Usually the power of these individuals is exceeded by their ambition, but they are all quite eager to prove their worth to the Black Network and do not hesitate to expend every ounce of their magical might for that purpose. Truly important missions (including guarding very valuable caravans) tend to have spellcasters with character levels exceeding those of the other Zhentarim present.
Combat and Tactics
With their dependence on common soldiers, the Zhentarim rely heavily upon the use of tactics to defeat their opponents. Zhentarim soldiers are trained in fighting as a team and supporting their fellows. They practice tactics based on just about every sort of encounter they are expected to deal with. They are informed of the typical strategies of their superiors and any temporary allies to allow those people to better use their skills as well as to prevent harm to themselves (avoiding the spot where an allied wizard is expected to throw a fireball, for example).
Zhentarim soldiers use the phalanx formation whenever possible, and almost every soldier has the Phalanx Fighting feat. With this tactic, the soldiers remain adjacent, using their shields to protect their neighbors as well as themselves. While this does mean they tend to stick together (and therefore are more vulnerable to area attack spells), since most of their fights involve opponents without magic, the benefits outweigh the risks. Zhentarim soldiers rarely break from a group unless pursuing lone opponents or if remaining together is obviously too dangerous (such as when fighting an enemy mage using area attack spells).
Zhentarim soldiers flank foes if possible, especially when working with rogues. When teamed with mages or clerics, they use two main tactics, depending on their orders. If told to defend, they assume defensive formations to guard the spellcaster from harm (with fighting defensively and total defense a common tactic). If told to ignore enemy spellcasters in favor of mundane opponents, they aggressively seek out enemy fighters, leaving hostile spellcasters to be dealt with by their own magic-wielding allies.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Zhentarim controls entire cities, and its large caravans make regular trips across Faerûn. It also expects and rewards loyalty, so incidents of Zhents betraying each other are rare (at least in the lower and middle levels of the organization).
For many years the Zhents were weakened by the aftereffects of the Time of Troubles and their allegiance to Cyric. Evidence of these problems remains today in Darkhold, where troublesome Cyric-worshiping Zhents mix with other less desirable members to create a fortress only tenuously under the control of the parent organization.
The rigidity and regulation of the Black Network’s training can sometimes be used against its members. A person familiar with the Zhents’ standard tactics can prepare and thwart them. For example, a group that fights in a dispersed pattern or uses tactics such as bull rushes to separate Zhentarim troops negates the advantages of the Phalanx Fighting feat. A Zhentarim skymage’s special abilities are largely dependent on the mage’s ability to fly, so slaying his special mount or otherwise grounding the mage reduces his effectiveness.
Finally, because the members of the Black Network are predominantly lawful and evil, heroes carrying chaotic or holy weapons have a great advantage.
Zhentarim Skymage Prestige Class
Every Zhentarim caravan is said to be watched over by a spellcaster of some skill. Many mages join the Zhentarim for the political power it offers and the access to a large library of spells. Some of these sorcerers and wizards become Zhentarim skymages, powerful spellcasters who ride strange flying beasts and serve the Zhentarim by performing acts of espionage and causing unrest on the frontiers of civilization.
A Zhentarim skymage is an arcane spellcaster who serves the Zhentarim as a spy or armed deterrent. Easily recognized by their strange and exotic flying mounts, skymages blast their foes from extreme range, can read the minds of possible enemies, and frequently spy on foes or summon monsters to harass settlements without drawing attention to the Zhentarim.
Most Zhentarim skymages are wizards, with a good number of sorcerers in the ranks. A small number of bards become skymages, despite the rigid lawful nature of the Zhentarim.
There are few rivalries among the skymages, mostly focused on the merits of different flying steeds. Owners of larger mounts brag about their size and power, while those who ride smaller creatures tout the better speed and maneuverability of their pets.
To qualify to become a Spur Lord, a character must fulfill all the following criteria: Skills: Diplomacy 2 ranks, Handle Animal 2 ranks, Knowledge (geography) 2 ranks, Ride 2 ranks, Scry 3 ranks, Spellcraft 4 ranks. Feats: Combat Casting, Iron Will, Mounted Combat. Special: Member in good standing of the Zhentarim. Spellcasting: Must be able to cast detect thoughts, invisibility, and suggestion, plus one summon monster spell of 3rd level or higher.
The Zhentarim skymage’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Balance (Dex), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Innuendo (Wis), Intuit Direction (Wis), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Scry (Int), Spellcraft (Int), and Wilderness Lore (Wis).
Gained Abilities: Bonus Scrolls (Ex): At each level of Zhentarim skymage gained, the Zhentarim awards the character a scroll of two spells of any level he could cast. If the character has a spellbook, he may instead add these spells to his spellbook immediately at no cost or time spent.
Flying Mount (Ex): A Zhentarim skymage can call a flying monster to serve as his personal mount. The mount cannot have more Hit Dice than the Zhentarim skymage’s class level + his Charisma modifier + 1. The mount serves the skymage loyally as if it were a druid’s or ranger’s animal companion, and carries the skymage into combat if desired (if the creature is strong enough to carry the skymage). Should a flying mount die, the character can replace it after gaining two levels in any spellcasting class. Necromancer skymages sometimes use undead monsters as mounts (including the animated corpse of a slain flying mount), and certain powerful conjurer skymages even have enslaved fiends as mounts.
If the skymage suffers permanent Charisma damage or loses enough levels that he could no longer have his flying mount, the mount flees at the first opportunity, often attacking its former master before doing so. Suitable mounts (and Hit Dice) include chimera (9), criosphinx (10), dire bat (4), dragonne (9), dragons (varies), giant eagle (4), giant owl (4), griffon (7), hieracosphinx (9), hippogriff (3), manticore (6), nightmare (6), peryton (5; see Monsters of Faerûn), roc (18), sinister (4; see Monsters of Faerûn), spider eater (4), wyvern (7), and yrthak (12).
Flying Feat (Ex): The skymage gains one of the following feats: Flyby Attack, Mounted Archery, Ride-By Attack, Spirited Charge, or Trample. The skymage must meet all prerequisites for the feat before it can be selected. The Flyby Attack feat applies to the mount, not to the skymage, and cannot be used if the skymage is flying without a mount (such as with a fly spell).
Spell Focus (Ex): The skymage gains the Spell Focus feat.
Share Spells (Su): The skymage can share spells with his flying mount as if the mount were his familiar. This ability only works if the skymage is riding the mount, and a shared spell ends for the mount instantly if the skymage is no longer riding it.
Skill Focus (Ex): The skymage gains the Skill Focus feat, which must be applied to one of the Zhentarim skymage class skills.
Enlarge Spell (Ex): The skymage gains the Enlarge Spell feat.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 3, 2014 9:01:47 GMT -5
The Arcane Brotherhood
The Arcane Brotherhood is a society of evil mages that operates, more or less openly, out of the city of Luskan. While the City of Sails is ruled ostensibly by five High Captains, all former pirate lords, the Brotherhood is the true power behind the city, as well as the source of its notoriously aggressive attitude toward nearly every other nation and power in the Sword Coast North. While the Brotherhood generally avoids conflicts with greater powers, such as Waterdeep and Amn, it has no hesitation about harassing smaller cities and weaker merchants who cannot defend themselves easily. The archwizards who rule the Brotherhood have their fingers in any number of unsavory pies, including piracy, slavery, drug trafficking, and smuggling, in addition to legitimate trading ventures. The Brotherhood undertakes these activities not for their own value but as means to an end: establishing economic and political sovereignty over the North.
In times past, the peoples of Neverwinter, Longsaddle, Mirabar, and other targets of the Brotherhood’s ambitions could rely on internal disputes and rivalries between the senior mages of the Brotherhood to prevent the organization from bringing its full power to bear on any one target. The wizards and sorcerers who led the society from their lofty perches in Luskan’s Host Tower Arcane considered one another rivals as much as comrades, and they plotted against one another as intensely and brazenly as they did against their intended victims. This internecine strife culminated several years ago with the assassination of a key mage by a pair of his own fellows, followed by an unsuccessful coup attempt that left the Brotherhood in confused disarray. Cities throughout the Sword Coast North breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Brotherhood’s attacks on shipping and caravans slowed and then all but ceased. When the Archmage Arcane of the Host Tower had not been seen in nearly a year, some people dared hope that the Brotherhood would wither and die, leaving honest folk with one less threat to worry about in this already dangerous part of Faerûn.
These hopes were dashed when Brotherhood-sponsored forces returned to the sea lanes and trade routes with a vengeance immediately after Midwinter in 1372 DR. Luskan pirates struck swiftly and successfully against independent merchant ships off Neverwinter. A strong force of slavers believed to be working at the behest of the Brotherhood attacked a caravan bound for Longsaddle, carrying off not only its trade goods but its entire crew as well. Because of these events, word is spreading throughout the Sword Coast North that the Archmage Arcane has returned to the Host Tower, and that he has redoubled the Brotherhood’s efforts to control the neighboring lands. Some folk in Luskan whisper that the Archmage’s return was accompanied by fell creatures that have been seen both high in the spires of the Host Tower and in the shadowed streets of Luskan. Whether this gossip is accurate or the stuff of paranoid speculation, one thing seems clear: A reinvigorated Arcane Brotherhood means dark times ahead for the North.
None can say with any certainty exactly when the Host Tower was constructed on the island at the mouth of the Mirar River, or what hands raised it, or just when the Arcane Brotherhood first began inhabiting the tower and making their presence felt in the city of Luskan. The first known mention of the place is in Mirar Saga, an oral tradition that narrates the arrival of the first Northlander pirates to settle in the Sword Coast region. These tales were first collected and recorded in 1237 DR by Malcer Truequill, a loremaster of Waterdeep. According to this chronicle, a band of Northlander explorers arrived at the mouth of the Mirar just ahead of a fearsome storm, seeking shelter along the riverbank. Instead they found what appeared to be a gigantic tree made entirely of stone, its bare “branches” rising hundreds of feet into the air above an island in the midst of the river’s current. The eldritch sight struck fear into the hearts of the raiders, but the storm was closing in fast and they had no better shelter available. With heavy hearts and weapons in hand, the Northlanders entered the “stone tree” to escape the murderous winds and freezing sleet. The saga does not tell what fate overcame the half of the raiding party that failed to emerge from the tower, only that the survivors fled that terrible place even as the storm was at its height, preferring to take their chances with the raging elements rather than face whatever lurked within that grim stone spire.
Today, the tower’s reputation is just as evil, though the source of this dread is somewhat more visible and no longer nameless. The “stone tree” still sits where the Northlander explorers found it, rising high over the crowded streets and rocky shoreline of Luskan. Its eerie silhouette casts a baleful shadow over the city, and citizens in the streets tend to glance frequently at its bizarre shape, as if they expect something unspeakable to emerge from its depths at any moment. The tower is no longer merely the setting of a strange Northlander fable. Now it is the headquarters of the Arcane Brotherhood, a conclave of evil mages dedicated to the hateful pursuit of conquest and domination.
Learned folk differ on exactly when the Arcane Brotherhood first appeared in Luskan, and on what precisely its activities have been in the years that followed. General consensus agrees that Arklem Greeth, the Archmage Arcane, arrived in Luskan some time around 1311 DR. Since then the Archmage has built his evil brotherhood slowly, mage by mage, attracting them to the Host Tower through promises of great power and wealth. Members of the society have come and gone over the years, but Arklem Greeth has remained the head of the organization since its inception.
Greeth’s ambition of the last two decades has remained the same: to control the North. Some of the members of his organization he specifically recruited because he believed they could help him achieve his goals. Others sought out the Host Tower and its evil conclave on their own initiative, either to join in the effort to dominate the North or simply to reap the benefits of membership in such a society. Greeth and his followers have ruled Luskan itself for perhaps 15 years, ever since the High Captains first came under their sway. Fear of the archwizards’ power, coupled with the substantial profit from their sponsored illicit activities, keeps the High Captains loyal and in line. The Brotherhood views the control of the city as crucial to its long-range plans, since the conquest of the area requires a secure and well-defended base of operations, not to mention the means of raising the necessary gold to fund the organization’s magical research and other activities. With the city leaders firmly in its pocket, the Brotherhood is in a position to know nearly everything of importance that occurs in the city.
To date, the methods that the Brotherhood has employed in its quest to rule the North have yielded mixed results at best. Waging a war of piracy and raiding against any target that the High Captains believe they can conquer has proven only marginally effective. While Luskan (and therefore the Brotherhood) is definitely a force of some power in the mercantile and political life of the Sword Coast, it is a minor power whose reach has often exceeded its grasp. Attempts within the last five years to conquer the naval powers of Mintarn and Orlumbor were unsuccessful and costly, while Luskan’s shortlived war against Lantan was nothing short of disastrous. The Luskan navy did manage to defeat the Northlanders of Ruathym on their second attempt and seized control of the island in 1361 DR, but the Lords’ Alliance forced Luskan to give up its conquest.
It was immediately on the heels of the Lantan debacle that the Brotherhood began its decline. Internal rivalry had always plagued the society, but never was it as fierce and bloody as in the last five years. Two of the ranking mages assassinated the Archmage’s top assistant and plotted to overthrow Greeth himself. The Archmage didn’t help matters, allowing himself to be preoccupied by something he considered far more pressing than his society’s goals—his own mortality. Distracted by his search for a means to prolong his life, Arklem Greeth didn’t see last year’s coup attempt coming until it was almost too late. As it was, he barely escaped with his life and was forced to flee Luskan for Mirabar, where he has remained for the better part of the last year. It was in that city, during his convalescence, that he made a new friend in Nyphithys, an erinyes who offered to grant the frail, wounded archwizard what he had so desperately sought. In return, Arklem need only allow Nyphithys and her associates to help the Brotherhood win the North. Greeth quickly accepted the bargain, and while his would-be successors squabbled among themselves for the spoils of their victory, Arklem underwent the transformation from human to lich. When the process was done, he and his newfound compatriots returned to Luskan.
What they found there didn’t surprise Arklem. The Host Tower was half vacant, many of its mages and servants having fled the internal civil war for less dangerous climes. The organization’s structure was close to complete ruin, and the High Captains were acting with total disregard for the Brotherhood’s interests. Acting quickly, the Archmage and Nyphithys entered the Host Tower and destroyed the traitors. The streets of Luskan were bathed in the hellish glow that flashed intermittently from the tower, accompanied by the terrifying sounds of mortal beings enduring unimaginably painful fates. The High Captains found themselves summoned to the Host Tower the following morning. The story of the Captains’ frantic departure from the tower an hour hence, heightened by the description of their ashen faces and terrified demeanor, has proven popular in the retelling throughout the taverns of Luskan and beyond. More alarming, however, are the assertions that strange, awful creatures have been seen around the stone spires of the Host Tower since the Archmage’s return.
Since then, Arklem and Nyphithys have labored ceaselessly to rebuild the Brotherhood. Promoting loyal mages to stations of authority, seeking out replacements for the executed traitors, and laying out a plan for the society’s conquest of the North occupies the bulk of their time. At Nyphithys’s suggestion, the lich agreed to focus most of the Brotherhood’s regained energy and resources on a single target: the newly created confederation known as the Silver Marches.
The Arcane Brotherhood consists almost entirely of mages. Nonmages are hired and employed to perform those tasks that the mages can’t or don’t wish to undertake for themselves.
What follows are the statistics for the members of the Arcane Brotherhood stationed in Luskan, including the ruling archwizards, lesser mages and apprentices, bodyguards, and other members active in the City of Sails. The wizards employ other minor functionaries such as messengers, informants, and spies, who are not full-fledged members of their organization (and thus are not privy to more information than is absolutely necessary for them to accomplish their assigned tasks). These folk are not counted in the following statistics.
Headquarters: The Host Tower of the Arcane, in Luskan.
Leader: Arklem Greeth, Archmage Arcane of the Host Tower.
Religion: Auril, Bane, Umberlee.
Alignment: CE, LE, NE.
Symbol: A warship, reddish-brown outlined in black, riding on dark blue ocean waves. Above the ship is a short rise of dark purplish-black land, and atop the rise is a stylized representation of the Host Tower (depicting its central body and four turrets) in black silhouette. All the arcane spellcasters who count themselves members of the Brotherhood naturally each use their own personal sigil when requiring a recognizable symbol for mundane matters (such as affixing a seal to a letter). Only the Archmage and the overwizards have the authority to use the Brotherhood’s official sigil.
The Archmage Arcane, who appoints the four overwizards who oversee the group’s operations, rules the Brotherhood.
The Archmage Arcane The Archmage Arcane is more than merely the first among equals: He is the supreme ruler of the Arcane Brotherhood. In a very real sense, the organization belongs to the Archmage. It is his to do with as he pleases, and none have the authority to challenge him or his word.
The Archmage Arcane seldom leaves his private chambers in the Host Tower. When he wishes to speak with any of the other members of the organization, he typically summons them to his audience hall. Otherwise he remains in solitude, except for frequent visits from Nyphithys for the purpose of planning the means by which they intend to bring the Silver Marches under their control.
Arklem Greeth, a lich, is the Archmage Arcane of the Host Tower. He was, until quite recently, a hateful, embittered old man. In fact, he was a very old man, having prolonged his existence far beyond its natural limits through the aid of wish spells and other powerful magic. His frail form was bent nearly double with age, his every waking minute wracked with infirmity and ill health, as the sheer weight of years began to erode the efficacy of the magic sustaining his withered shell. The vast majority of his unnaturally long life span had been spent seeking the secrets of Faerûn’s most powerful magic, traveling the length and breadth of the world to plumb the depths of arcane knowledge in such farflung lands as Mulhorand, Thay, Zakhara, and even Kara-Tur. (It was only in recent decades that he experienced the desire to control a major portion of Faerûn and to establish himself as a power in his own right, believing that an individual possessing such vast knowledge and power must necessarily be destined to rule.)
[This information is expanded in Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness]
The Overwizards The Archmage Arcane appoints four overwizards to serve as his primary agents in both the Host Tower and the organization. Each overwizard is charged with the administration of the Brotherhood’s interests in one quadrant of Faerûn matching the cardinal points of the compass. Each overwizard becomes the master of one of the Host Tower’s main tower structures appropriate to his or her designation. Because the focus of the Brotherhood’s strategic plans is on the North, the overwizards responsible for the other three quadrants are expected to devote most of their efforts to gathering information that may aid the primary cause and providing support to the Master of the North Tower in her labors.
The current overwizards are far less likely to plot rebellion than those who previously held their stations. With the examples of the recent executions fresh in their minds, the presence of devils in the Host Tower, and the transformation of their master into an undead creature of fearsome power, the current overwizards are likely to remain loyal and devoted to the Brotherhood.
Overwizard Valindra Shadowmantle was born 147 years ago in the High Forest. This moon elf never felt the same respect for community that most elves share. Valindra is now the Master of the North Tower, and responsible for administering the Brotherhood’s operations in this quadrant of Faerûn.
Overwizard Rimardo Domine is the jovial Master of the East Tower. Hailing from Turmish, Rimardo continues to affect the customs and traditions of the homeland he has not seen in over two decades.
Overwizard Arabeth Raurym is the oldest daughter of Elastul Raurym, the Marchion of Mirabar. Her involvement with the Brotherhood has been an acute embarrassment to her family since she joined the society nine years ago. As the Master of the South Tower, Arabeth’s chief concerns are keeping tabs on what is happening in the southern reaches of Faerûn.
Overwizard Blaskar Lauthlon is the Master of the West Tower. The overwizard is a middleaged man originally from Waterdeep. Blaskar was a member of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors until the guild discovered that he was stealing rare magical components from its stores.
[This information is expanded in Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness]
The Host Tower of the Arcane
A sight that makes even the bravest hearts uneasy, the Host Tower rises above the gray waters of the Luskan harbor like the gigantic specter of a long-dead tree, its barren limbs stretching upward toward the overcast sky like the grasping fingers of a drowning crone. Most experts agree that the structure was created magically, but apart from its brief mention in Mirar Saga there are no clues to its origin. The Host Tower has been the home of the Arcane Brotherhood since Arklem Greeth first arrived in Luskan over two decades ago. The structure rises into a central spire surmounted by four more slender spires of equal height, situated at the cardinal points of the compass. These four towers bristle with lesser spires, balconies, and branching turrets.
The Archmage Arcane occupies the upper reaches of the central spire. The overwizards dwell in the four projecting towers, each in the spire appropriate to his quadrant of responsibility. Each of the overwizards’ spires contains private chambers, laboratories, storage space, summoning chambers, libraries, and rooms for their apprentices and servants. The common areas shared by all inhabitants, such as kitchens and dining rooms, are situated in the central spire where the four projecting towers branch out. Only Arklem Greeth and Nyphithys know what lies within the Archmage Arcane’s chambers. Even the overwizards are not permitted to go beyond his audience chamber under penalty of death.
Although the Host Tower boasts no obvious defenses, the rumors surrounding its protections are as numerous as they are wild. It seems as if every pirate, smuggler, beggar, and sailor in Luskan knows someone (usually the friend of a friend) who tried to force his way into the place on a bet or a dare and ended up as a tiny pile of smoldering ashes or something equally gruesome. So evil is the reputation of the Host Tower that even the most inebriated and blustery wharf tough will not conceive of attempting to gain entry without permission from the residents. Most won’t hear of taking visitors out to the island on which the tower sits, for love or money.
Motivation and Goals
The Arcane Brotherhood intends to control the lands around its base of operations, beginning with the Sword Coast North, and eventually claim the entire North. It already rules Luskan, but the overwizards seek to extend their dominion to all nearby lands and peoples. The Archmage Arcane has been pursuing this goal for several decades with only a modicum of success. His group’s sway over Luskan is as firm and unquestioned as ever, but attempts to gain the desired power elsewhere have been thwarted time and again by numerous obstacles, ranging from the Harpers to the Lords’ Alliance to the navies of Waterdeep and Lantan. To date, the endless internal rivalries have crippled nearly all its plans and schemes. In light of recent events at the Host Tower, the Arcane Brotherhood promises to become a major player in the political and economic life of the North.
Arklem Greeth’s ambitions haven’t diminished with becoming a lich—if anything, quite the contrary is the case. The Archmage Arcane pursues his goal with a ruthlessness and single-mindedness that borders on obsession.
The overwizards have no genuine objections to their master’s obsessive behavior, provided that his strategy and tactics yield results. They share the same ambitions, after all. They are understandably suspicious of Nyphithys and somewhat uncomfortable around her and her devil servants, but they are willing to tolerate their presence and accept their assistance if it is the will of the Archmage (for now, at least).
The underwizards, apprentices, pirates, brigands, and various other agents that serve the Arcane Brotherhood are all aware of the organization’s major goal. Some of these lesser functionaries even share it, and hope for a piece of the action when the North belongs to their masters and employers. Others are involved purely for the money, and a few claim to be associates with the Brotherhood purely for the thrill. The overwizards keep their subordinates reasonably well informed with news and insights that aid them in accomplishing their various tasks, but the information rarely trickles down to the lowest echelons except by inference. The rank and file are not aware that the Archmage Arcane is a lich, and most have never even met Arklem Greeth (and would prefer to keep it that way).
The erinyes wishes to gain status and promotion by doing what comes naturally to her kind, and she believes that Arklem Greeth and his Brotherhood are a means to success. The greater the Brotherhood’s power and influence, the larger the number of mortals who succumb to the corruption it spreads, and the greater her rewards promise to be. It was she who suggested to the Archmage that the Brotherhood begin dealing in the Thayans’ drugs, a plan designed to weaken the ability of the Silver Marches to maintain its internal security.
Piracy For years the Brotherhood has taken advantage of the naturally fierce and proud nature of Luskan’s seafaring merchants. Luskan vessels are often not merchant traders at all, but ships of war carrying orders to harass all shipping using the ports of Neverwinter and Waterdeep (Luskan’s chief trading rivals). The High Captains aid and abet these unsanctioned pirates in secret, but publicly pretend that the rogues are independent freebooters who act in defiance of Luskan’s laws. The Brotherhood sponsors these sea hawks and gives them leave to prey on ships and ports along the Sword Coast.
The pirates, in addition to relieving luckless merchants of their wares and coin, try to force all shippers to use boats either manufactured in or sanctioned by Luskan, and to use the city as their exclusive port of trade on the Sword Coast. These pirates are careful to give a wide berth to those vessels actually flying the flag of the city of Waterdeep. Past interventions by the Lords’ Alliance as well as humiliating military losses have given the raiders ample cause to shun confrontation with that city’s fleet. Likewise, the ships of Amn are allowed to go about their business, unless the pirates are so fortunate as to catch a fat Amn trader separated from its escorts by storm or other misfortune. Arklem Greeth assigns lower-level mages to various pirate ships so that the raiders may have the benefit of arcane support for their operations.
Caravan Raids As if travel in the North wasn’t already dangerous enough, the Brotherhood also sponsors brigands who operate inland. The brigands’ targets in times past included caravans originating in Mirabar, Longsaddle, Yartar, Neverwinter, and Red Larch. Although these are still viable targets of opportunity, the Brotherhood has instructed the raiders to concentrate on merchant caravans traveling to and from the cities in the Silver Marches. It is the Brotherhood’s intent to make trade with the Marches difficult for anyone not using Luskan as their starting point. The brigands work in small but well-armed and highly mobile groups, outfitted with very good equipment and boasting magical support in the form of both wondrous items and spellcasters (either members of the Brotherhood or mercenary mages).
Slavery Although slavery is not practiced in Luskan by order of the Brotherhood, the trade in slaves is carried out with relative openness. Most of the slavers operating in the city do so at the behest of the Brotherhood, and the mages enjoy a percentage of the profits raised by this trade. One of the most successful slave traders north of Amn, Inther Blackfeather, resides in the city, conducting his business from his favorite curtained booth in the notorious Cutlass Tavern. Many Luskanites speculate that he too is in the pay of the Brotherhood, but no direct connection between the two has been established.
Drugs At the direction of the Archmage Arcane, Overwizard Rimardo Domine has recently traded several newly researched spells to the Red Wizards for a shipment of the Thayans’ memory-loss drugs. The Arcane Brotherhood intends to smuggle the drugs into Silverymoon and sell them, at cut-rate prices, to the citizens of the Silver Marches. The Archmage believes that this will help to destabilize the confederation. The notion of a drug-addicted and dependent citizenry in the Marches pleases him greatly, particularly if only the Arcane Brotherhood can supply these customers.
The Brotherhood has no objections to profit- or power-minded individuals seeking entry into its ranks—provided, of course, that said individuals prove their loyalty and competence by serving the organization in whatever capacity it may direct. Those spellcasters who desire membership are thus often overqualified for the tasks they are initially assigned, but those who demonstrate skill and obedience can expect promotions in a reasonable amount of time. The overwizards are free to take on what apprentices they desire, but they become responsible for the conduct of their students. A mage who desires membership in the Brotherhood must eventually meet and pass the scrutiny of the Archmage Arcane, an audience that has left more than one Harper spy or independent do-gooder bereft of life and limb.
Naturally the organization employs nonspellcasters, for it has need of bodyguards, thieves, informants, spies, and servants. The mages leave the recruitment and outfitting of pirates and brigands to the High Captains, and it is through this quintet that the Brotherhood supplies its raiders with instructions.
Most adventurers do not encounter the Archmage Arcane, since he almost never emerges from his chambers within the Host Tower. They might encounter Nyphithys either in Luskan, the Sword Coast North, or even as far east as the Silver Marches, where she sometimes reconnoiters the area to keep tabs on what is happening there (the better to keep the Archmage informed). The overwizards might be encountered in Luskan or while traveling in their respective quadrants of responsibility.
The typical Arcane Brotherhood encounter is with some of the group’s sponsored brigands, a hired spy, or underwizards. The latter encounter normally consists of one underwizard leader of at least 5th level, several underwizard assistants, and a pair of bodyguards (usually fighters, but sometimes barbarians, rangers, or warriors).
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness. Some overspecific information omitted, as it favors a DMs interest more. Information available though private request of course.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 4, 2014 12:20:18 GMT -5
Beholders are arguably some of the most powerful monsters in all Faerûn. Capable of natural flight, gifted with great intelligence, and possessing many magical powers and the ability to negate magic, a single beholder can destroy dozens of wellequipped warriors, and under the right circumstances it is all but invulnerable to the concerted attacks of mages or clerics. Fortunately for other creatures, beholders are paranoid and fight each other as often as they make plans to conquer the world, so their threat is somewhat limited.
The exact origin of the beholders is not known. It is speculated that they are not native to Faerûn, having either reached this place through a portal or from somewhere beyond the Sea of Night. Large numbers of beholders settled in the Calimshan and Lake of Steam areas, with some managing to seize control of the country of Calimshan for a time. For the most part, individual beholders control a few square miles of territory each, with rare clusters of allied beholders controlling larger areas. Beholders also inhabit the Underdark, often making lairs near key passages in order to prey upon adventurers and caravans.
Beholders usually operate alone or in small groups with direct control over all their servants and subjects. The following statistics are an estimation of the beholder population of Faerûn as a whole.
Members: At least 2,000.
Religion: None. (Beholders have a deity known as the Great Mother, but their allegiances to each other are not tied to faith.)
Alignment: LE, NE.
Secrecy: Medium or high.
Symbol: The beholders have no common symbol, although a sphere with multiple lines radiating from it is a recurring theme.
At the head of any beholder organization is one or more beholders. With their megalomania and ability to charm other creatures, beholders prefer to have direct control over their underlings, and so their organizations tend to have a very flat hierarchy.
Motivation and Goals
Beholders believe themselves to be supremely intelligent and powerful, and consider all other beings inferior to themselves. This attitude and their powerful abilities means that a beholder’s loftiest goal is usually conquest and domination. Some prefer outright aggression, rallying weaker beholders and servitor creatures under them to conquer territory by force of arms. Others, such as the beholders working with the Zhentarim, find allies and gain power by ruthless control of trade and occasional martial force, and some, such as the Xanathar of Waterdeep, have a network of spies, assassins, slavers, and thieves, giving them control of an underground empire.
Most beholders, however, find themselves stymied by a lack of competent servants and pressured on all sides by other powerful creatures or limited by the environment, and rarely venture outside their personally created underground lairs. Masters of all they see but dependent upon their slaves for information on the outside world, beholders wait and plan for glorious conquest, enslaving or destroying any that come to their lair.
Beholders are always willing to recruit others to their service, whether voluntarily or through their charm magic. This means that nearly any sort of creature that can be charmed might be a minion of a beholder. Because they consider non-beholders unworthy of anything but enslavement, consumption, or disintegration, beholders treat their servants with contempt. Their charm magic means that they are rarely short of minions. Most beholders charm their servants several times per day to make sure they remain loyal.
One of the most powerful and totally subservient allies a beholder can have is a death tyrant beholder. These creatures are usually created with the help of a powerful cleric or mage, except in the rare cases where the live beholder is actually a mage itself. Quite often the potential death tyrant is a slain rival or one of the beholder’s own mutant offspring.
Few beholders tolerate other kinds of creatures having death tyrant slaves; this is seen as an affront to the entire beholder race.
Beholders have no widespread major enemies except rival beholders. Because beholders from different regions tend to have widely varying appearances, they are unlikely to ever create a single unified beholder nation because they would constantly be fighting each other to eliminate their grossly inferior counterparts. A beholder that enters a portal must be very careful, for if it is transported into the territory of beholders with a different appearance, it is very likely to be quickly slain by those that find its looks abominable.
Since beholders have a high rate of mutation, a beholder that bears young is sometimes confronted with the fact that its own offspring are abominations and must be destroyed. In some cases the differences between parent and offspring do not manifest for several months or years, giving the young time to develop their powers and skills and a chance to escape and survive in the wild. Lone beholders outside a lair are often of this kind.
The gouger beholderkin are becoming more common in and near areas where the phaerimms once held sway. These creatures, magically bred to fight beholders, are among the most dangerous foes for beholders. The rumor of a group of gougers in the area is enough to create a temporary cease-fire between rival beholder colonies in order to destroy the greater threat.
Beholders are powerful opponents, but they prefer to spend their time making plans and reflecting on future glory rather than bother themselves with eliminating invaders. A beholder with slaves sends them to fight first, and only if its followers are being decimated does a beholder feel inclined to intervene. After all, if its minions are destroyed by a more powerful force, it is a simple matter for the beholder to charm the invaders, replacing its older (and obviously inferior) guards with smarter and more skilled ones.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 5, 2014 4:16:18 GMT -5
The Church of Bane
The dread deity Bane is alive again and closing his hand about Faerûn. Bane’s return has made an impression on the good people of Faerûn, for only now do they realize how easy they’ve had it for the past fourteen years, with the evil deities fighting each other and in some cases enacting purges among their own ranks. The forces of Bane are marshaled and stand ready with firm faith in their reborn deity. Aided by the Zhentarim and dark magic, the Banites are a threat to the safety of all Faerûn. Because he has always been more appealing than Cyric or Xvim, Bane is drawing his lost worshipers back to the fold and gaining converts from the disillusioned members of other evil faiths.
Bane was a scourge upon the world for hundreds of years. Controlling, intelligent, and incredibly evil, his servants were the source of much misery. When Bane was slain by Torm during the Time of Troubles, the common folk rejoiced, only to find his successors, Xvim and Cyric, to be almost as much trouble, although certainly not as intelligent or competent. Now that Bane has returned, he is showing the competence and power that made him a feared name for centuries. Though he battles with Cyric frequently and still must face his traditional foes, the Black Hand is confident and plans to lead his church in conquest of all Faerûn.
The church of Bane is well organized, well equipped, and populated by people who understand the need for order and enjoy hurting those weaker than they. This combination of qualities makes the church of Bane a more credible threat than the church of Cyric, despite the Dark Sun’s greater numbers and his worshipers’ willingness to sacrifice themselves in a frenzy of killing.
These statistics refer to the church of Bane as a whole.
Headquarters: Zhentil Keep, the Moonsea.
Members: Roughly 8,000 clergy and 135,000 worshipers.
Leader: Fzoul Chembryl, Chosen of Bane.
Alignment: LE, NE, LN.
Symbol: Bane’s symbol has undergone changes since his rebirth. While it once was an upright black hand on a red shield, some elements of Xvim’s symbol (green glowing eyes in darkness or on a black hand) have been retained, and Bane’s church now rallies behind a black fist with beams of green light being pressed from it.
As both a lawful entity and the deity of tyranny, Bane expects a well-defined structure for his church and compliance in all given orders. The head of the church is Fzoul Chembryl, who has absolute authority over all other members of the church. Headquartered in Zhentil Keep, the church is organized like a military unit, with each temple having a clear chain of command and the temple leaders (called Imperceptors) reporting to a senior cleric of a region, who reports to Fzoul or one of his direct underlings.
Most of the important members of the church of Bane are described in the Zhentarim section [above].
Motivation and Goals
The church’s goals are simple—convert all to the worship of Bane, and destroy those who do not convert. It is presumed that some exceptions would be made for servants of allied deities (such as Loviatar, Malar, Mask, and Talona). In the meantime, people should be made to fear Bane so that they invoke his name in fear and to ward him off, which gives him some small power.
The church of Bane uses force and persuasion to control territory, whether by marching armies against reticent towns or by bribing bored nobles with slaves, riches, and offers of power. With its close ties to the Zhentarim, the church has been able to focus on the subtler methods of conversion, leaving the more direct methods to the Black Network.
Given that it wishes to convert everyone to worshiping Bane, the church is very open to new recruits. Anyone can swear loyalty to Bane and join the church. However, the church expects loyalty and is not stupid, so it performs alignment checks on new recruits (with detect chaos and detect good) to see if they are fakers or potential saboteurs. Even those with alignment differences are given the opportunity to convert (often with an atonement spell), for Bane recognizes the value of those who have seen the lure of good and turned away from it to serve evil (one of his most powerful servants is a blackguard of this type, after all).
Followers of Bane can sometimes enlist the aid of his servitor deities Loviatar, Malar, Mask, and Talona, although their alliance is more a pact of mutual nonaggression than true friendship. The greatest ally of the Banites is the Zhentarim, and all followers of Bane are being taught how to recognize Zhentarim safe-markings and the proper countersigns to give to an agent of the Black Network.
Because it wishes to subvert and destroy all other faiths, the church of Bane is opposed by nearly every other church in Faerûn (some of the weaker deities hope that by serving him, they may survive). The rivalries with the churches of Helm, Ilmater, Lathander, Mystra, Oghma, Torm, and Tyr are particularly strong, and Banite clerics take great pains to kill clerics of these faiths in gruesome ways, leaving them to be discovered by unsuspecting innocents.
Cyric is Bane’s greatest divine foe, for the Dark Sun wishes to reclaim the portions of his portfolio taken by Xvim, which were then passed to the new Bane. Bane has similar feelings for Cyric, and would love to crush the upstart under his heel, seizing his lost portfolios in return. Banites enjoy branding Cyricist corpses and altars with the word “heretic” as a warning to other followers of the Dark Sun.
The Banites are also opposed by the Harpers, the Lords’ Alliance, the Emerald Enclave, and other groups that respect local governments and the freedom of people to make decisions about their lives.
In combat situations, the faithful of Bane are trained to follow orders from the clerics. In turn, the clerics are expected to react intelligently in combat, give precise orders, and have those orders carried out. Clerics of Bane try to maximize the use of flanking, cover, and the strengths of their troops, using their spells to increase their own abilities or directly attack their enemies. Banite clerics tend to rely upon wands and potions to heal their allies, since they dislike preparing cure spells in favor of attack magic. Rarely do they use defensive spells, seeing this as a weak-willed usage of Bane’s gifts. Defensive magic items, however, are acceptable and common.
Bane and Xvim have provided their clergy with several unique spells, and Bane continues to grant these spells to his worshipers, even though some of them have spread to other faiths. These spells are battletide, mystic lash, and stone walk. Since his return, many of his faith have been using a weapon they call a Banesword, and these blades are becoming as recognizable as Bane’s own symbol.
The church of the Black Hand knows many dark rites that grant the devout recipient powers or immunities in exchange for sacrifices. Each ritual takes several hours of prayer and requires the intervention of two clerics of Bane, one of whom must be at least 7th level.
Ritual of Terror’s Allegiance: This ritual cements the recipient’s loyalties to Bane, reducing the chance that they might be controlled by another being. The target gains a +4 morale bonus on Will saving throws against fear and a +2 morale bonus on all other mind-affecting effects. The ritual requires a black star sapphire worth 1,000 gp or more as a material component and drains 800 XP from the recipient.
The Rite of Dread Presence: The recipient gains the ability to use a fear spell once per day as a supernatural ability. The caster level is 7th, and the DC is 14 + the recipient’s Charisma modifier. The ritual drains 2,000 XP from the recipient.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 5, 2014 4:38:03 GMT -5
The Church of Shar
The deity Shar is one of the reasons why good folk in Faerûn fear the night. The clergy of Shar fulfills the commands of Selûne’s dark twin, whose sinister desires and schemes are the stuff of evil legend. Dedicated to spreading her dogma and carrying out her wishes, the church of Shar is of necessity a secretive and furtive organization that must practice its rites in hidden places, for the faith is forbidden in some areas. A considerable number of those who follow the Lady of Loss are quite willing to give up their own lives if doing so better serves the Dark Deity, making this organization a particularly deadly and dangerous foe of those who espouse the doctrines of Shar’s enemies. Any good-hearted person fears the snares and lies of Shar, and rightly so.
Perhaps because times have been increasingly difficult across Faerûn in recent years, giving rise to greater feelings of jealousy, hatred, and bitterness, Shar’s cult has of late gained a number of converts, and with them an increase in its influence and resources. Though barred officially from some cities, hidden temples consecrated to the Mistress of the Night have sprung up across Faerûn. From these secret bases the church’s cells advance the power of their sect even as they advance their own.
Shar is, was, and shall always be. So say her priests, and they may well be correct. Her own history dates back to the very earliest origins of the cosmos. Dark Shar and her bright sister, Selûne, together brought about the creation of the universe in which Toril is found. But their opposed nature led to strife and finally to open conflict. In the divine struggle that ensued, Selûne emerged victorious through the aid of the newborn deity Mystryl (later Mystra), born of energy taken from both sisters. Ever since that time, Shar has struggled against her lighter twin. Powerful but isolated, she waxed and waned in power as the eons passed.
Mortals have worshiped the various aspects of Shar since they first appeared in the world. She is favored by those whose desires and deeds are best served by darkness, venerated by those who have suffered loss and grown bitter in its wake, and worshiped by those whose hearts are filled with jealousy. All who know the delicious thrill of discovering and hoarding secrets, particularly those of a malicious or spiteful nature, know Shar’s caress. Her dogma of hopelessness in the face of an uncaring and indifferent cosmos appeals to all those for whom life seems without meaning or substance. During the Time of Troubles, she acquired the Cavern portfolio by slaying Ibrandul, a lesser power. Since then a number of subterranean beings, such as goblins, troglodytes, and kobolds, have started to venerate her.
Today Shar’s clergy is actively spreading her worship throughout Faerûn. The clerics must do their work in secret, however, for Shar has many enemies. Her clerics’ tools include subversion, corruption, and outright deception as they work to convert the faithful of other deities to the worship of the Lady of Loss.
This section provides information not only about the clergy of Shar, but for her worshipers as well.
Headquarters: Because the cult must remain hidden to avoid persecution, it has no official center of worship or administration that would tempt its enemies. Its largest religious house is the Temple of Old Night in Calimport.
Members: It is impossible to know the exact number of worshipers who consider Shar their patron deity, or who venerate her sufficiently to be considered active in her church. The best estimate is that perhaps as many as 100,000 Faerûnians have chosen Shar as their patron, and of this number some 3,500 represent her as clergy.
Alignment: NE, LE, CE.
Symbol: Shar’s symbol is a pure black disk with a deep purple border. This symbol is displayed prominently in her temples and shrines (though in some hidden worship areas the symbol is removed between services, so that intruders who stumble upon the place of worship will not necessarily know exactly what is transpiring there). Her clerics often wear jewelry that bears her sigil worked into its designs. They prefer jet or onyx for the black center of the symbol, and amethyst or purple marble for the border.
The church of Shar is segmented into a number of individual cells that operate independently. A cell is normally organized near a temple, shrine, or other place of worship. All the cells in a given geographic area are under the command of a single priest. These priests communicate with one another, but they provide information to their inferiors only on a need-to-know basis. Shar is, after all, the deity of unrevealed secrets. Whether or not she actually lies to her clergy is uncertain, but it seems likely that Shar never reveals more than she feels she must, even to those who serve her well.
Shar’s temples are controlled and administered by the most senior (that is, the most potent) cleric of Shar. Each temple’s hierarchy is unique, but regardless of its precise organizational structure it is always arranged in a clearly defined manner. All members of the clergy know their place, and church doctrine forbids attempting to improve one’s position ... although this rule is conveniently ignored by the ambitious.
Motivation and Goals
The church of Shar exists both to perpetuate itself and to spread the influence of the Dark Deity by converting worshipers to her faith. Shar’s worshipers advance these goals by working secretly to undermine and corrupt governments, religions, and persons dedicated to good or tenets that differ from their own. Doing so makes their victims more receptive to Shar’s gospel and increases the likelihood that they will turn away from their own faiths and accept hers. While their methods may seem similar to those of other evil organizations, each member of the church of Shar performs these acts not merely for personal gain but from a deep devotion to the Lady of Loss and an unwavering obedience to her worldly representatives.
Any given cell of the church may undertake a variety of clandestine operations, as dictated by its superiors. Often, the members of a cell do not know exactly why they are to murder a particular noble or take over a certain merchant’s business. Those who absolutely need to know hold these secrets in trust. Among the clergy, secrets are the coin of the realm. They are the most valuable commodities available to a worshiper of Shar, and they are not distributed casually. Sharrans offering to share information expect a return in kind.
Secrets are also useful for subverting the minds and wills of potential converts. A well-placed secret in the right ear may gain a new soul for Shar much faster and more lastingly than a conversion obtained at swordpoint. A favorite recent example involves a certain notable countess in Sembia, who was ignorant of the fact that her beloved husband was engaged in an affair with her sister ... until a priest of Shar whispered the awful secret in her ear. The countess experienced all the emotions that made her receptive to Shar’s message — loss, jealousy, and bitterness. The countess’s thirst for revenge for this slight drove her right into the waiting arms of the church of Shar. So does the influence of the Dark Deity grow, one soul at a time.
Although the church of Shar normally avoids open conflict with other religions, it is intractably opposed to the agents of good faiths, particularly those of Selûne. So bitter is Shar’s hatred for her twin that much of her clergy’s resources and energy are devoted to bringing as much hurt to the Moonmaiden as possible. A cell suspends all other activities if it learns of an opportunity to combat the forces of Selûne.
The church works on occasion with the monks of the Dark Moon, an elite order of sorcerer-monks who serve the Lady of Loss. But these collaborations are infrequent, since Shar prefers that the monks operate independently [the Monks covered in a following entry].
Shar’s church actively recruits new members as well as worshipers of its deity. But Shar’s priests are not easily fooled, and those wishing to be ordained in her church must undergo tests of faith and commitment that involve practices abhorrent to most good-aligned beings. Those who balk at committing murder or sacrificing a loved one to prove themselves are not accepted into the clergy. Often they are themselves killed, usually by a potential true convert who is ready to show his devotion to the faith. New cleric recruits are continually tested, assigned to activities that require uncompromising obedience to the church hierarchy and principles. The hands of most initiates are so steeped in blood after only a few months as members of the clergy that even if they were to renounce their faith and somehow escape Shar’s vengeance, they would very likely never be welcomed again in good societies.
Once accepted into the clergy, a cleric of Shar must demonstrate unswerving and unquestioning obedience to his or her superiors. To defy orders is to invite death. Seldom are her clerics given instructions that involve suicidal sacrifice, for Shar does not spend her worshipers’ lives unless doing so leads to a future net gain of converts. Those who serve the faith well learn its secrets, but not before they are judged ready.
Folk who choose Shar as their patron deity because circumstances in their lives led them to believe in her message generally have no problem finding their way to the nearest underground cell. Joining Shar’s church as a worshiper, rather than as a member of her clergy, also involves performing acts that would revulse nonevil individuals. Those who betray the church after being exposed to or participating in these rites are, naturally, destroyed.
Shar’s followers are expected to increase her influence and power by bringing more worshipers into the fold. Her clerics actually do not provide the majority of converts to Shar’s faith. Most conversions are accomplished by family or friends, who convince a new devotee to join the church. More than a few converts are persons who have suffered such terrible loss or bitter grief that they desire only to forget, and in so doing they find themselves drawn irresistibly to Shar’s message of soothing hopelessness. Little do they suspect that someone close to them orchestrated their woes, in order to gain another soul for Shar.
Given Shar’s dogma, it’s not difficult to understand why her church has few lasting allies. The Dark Deity’s unforgiving and bleak dogma discourages alliances of all but the most temporary sort. Those who willingly work alongside Shar’s clergy do so with the knowledge that the Sharrans will never reveal any profound secrets or vital information except under the most extraordinary circumstances. The church has no hesitation about employing monsters or creatures that are easily bribed, manipulated, or intimidated into serving Shar’s goals. Undead, evil humanoids, and ambitious young evil dragons are common among the church’s servitors and casual associates.
Among the Faerûnian deities, only Talona does not fear to ally herself regularly with Shar, but she does so only when the partnership brings woe to their common enemy, Loviatar. Shar has been observing Cyric’s career since his ascension to godhood during the Time of Troubles. Of late she has begun to tempt him with the power of the Shadow Weave, which would allow his clerics to free themselves from their dependence on Mystra. She has not yet revealed the extent of her plans for a Sharran–Cyricist alliance even to her most loyal clerics, however, since she does not wish those forces allied to her hated sister to become aware of what might well become the most powerful evil cult in Faerûn.
Shar’s foes include all the organized groups, clergies, and forces of good. First among her opponents is, of course, her sister Selûne. Shar’s hatred and loathing for the Moonmaiden is unremitting, and her clergy has standing orders to destroy her sister’s worshipers whenever possible. Shar takes special delight in condemning captured Selûnite clerics to prolonged and excruciating torture.
Adventurers most often encounter small groups of Shar’s clergy going about their deity’s business: carrying messages from one cell to another, working to undermine or topple some local government, plotting against the church of Selûne, or engaged in other activities designed to increase the power of Shar. Lone members of the church travel throughout Faerûn on missions of espionage or murder. Because they do not wish to draw attention to themselves in areas where their faith is prohibited or persecuted, Sharrans often travel disguised as merchants, pilgrims, or even adventurers. In lands where Shar is worshiped openly and her temples have gained influence, the Sharrans make no such compromises.
A typical Sharran encounter includes a cleric leader of at least 2nd level, plus some muscle. If the clerics encountered are of sufficiently high level, they are likely to also have some levels of the divine disciple or divine champion prestige classes. Mages who are members of the church often accompany these operatives. Some clerics of Shar multiclass as rogues, and spellcasters who access the Shadow Weave are common among the leaders in these group encounters.
The worship of Shar does not grant any spell-like or supernatural abilities by default, although the church knows of several rituals that grant permanent powers to the devout in exchange for personal and monetary sacrifices. A ritual typically takes several hours and requires the intervention of a cleric of Shar of 9th level or higher.
The Ritual of the Shadowmantle: The recipient of this ritual gains the ability to surround herself with a cloak of flickering, undulating shadows that she can shape into a frightening mantle. She can invoke this power once per day, with a duration of 1 minute. The recipient gains a +2 circumstance bonus on all Intimidate checks and a +1 deflection bonus to Armor Class. While surrounded by the mantle, the recipient also gains darkvision with a range of 60 feet and a +3 saving throw bonus against any holy, good, or light spells or effects. Sharran clergy typically utilize this ritual as a means of displaying their power, and to frighten or cow their enemies. The recipient must surrender 500 XP and offer a black sapphire worth at least 2,000 gp to Shar.
The Ritual of Shadow Walking: This ritual bestows upon the recipient the ability to use shadows as a means of conveyance. The recipient may enter an area of shadow as a standard action and emerge immediately from another such area that is no more than 100 feet away. This power is a supernatural ability that the recipient can invoke at will. By utilizing the ritual’s power repeatedly, the recipient can effectively step through shadows to reach a distant location. Most recipients utilize the ritual as a means of escape or ambush.
The journey through the numbingly cold shadowstuff takes a toll on the ritual user’s health: Each time she invokes this power, she suffers 2 points of temporary Constitution damage and a loss of 2d4 hit points. The ritual user may also hide within the shadowstuff, rather than emerging, but the cost for doing so is even higher: For every round the recipient does not emerge from the area of shadow, she suffers 4 points of temporary Constitution damage and a loss of 3d4 hit points. Should the recipient’s hit points be reduced to 0 or less, or should her Constitution score drop below 1, her body is claimed by the shadowstuff and remains trapped within forever. The ritual requires a piece of jet worth 500 gp or more and drains 2,000 XP from the recipient.
The Church and the Shadow Weave
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting details the origins of the Shadow Weave and the effects on characters who learn to harness its power. The Sharran church naturally makes use of the Shadow Weave, though not universally. The secrets of the Shadow Weave are among the Sharrans’ most closely guarded secrets. The Lady of Loss has retained many of the Shadow Weave’s most potent aspects for herself, and she doles out its lesser capabilities to those among her faithful whom she deems worthy.
From time to time, Shar imparts to her priests her desire to eliminate a particular spellcaster who is using the Shadow Weave. The victims of her animosity are not normally wizards or sorcerers who have stumbled onto information about the Shadow Weave unintentionally, but those who have learned to access it through research or trial and error. Many of these spellcasters do not use their Shadow Weave talents in a way that is pleasing to Shar. Some of them, horrified at what they have discovered, actually have the temerity to attempt to restore their magic to its normal, Weave-using status. Sharran clerics also sometimes ask their deity if a particular individual using the Shadow Weave meets with her approval, to which the deity responds that until she indicates that she desires that person’s death, her priests are to ignore his activities. Aeron Morieth of Chessenta is one such mage, and though the Sharrans keep a close watch on his activities, Shar has expressly forbidden her worshipers to approach him in any way.
A small faction of Sharran clergy advocates the elimination of any being that acquired knowledge of the Shadow Weave through any means other than becoming a member of Shar’s church. The members of this faction view those wizards and sorcerers who stumble on Shadow Weave information accidentally as threats to the church’s security. Who knows, they reason, to whom these blundering dolts might impart these deep secrets? Some representatives of this faction have recently taken to hiring unscrupulous adventurers to destroy such individuals under the pretense of some other crime or slight. Shar herself unquestionably is aware of this faction and its activities, but to date she has not taken steps to rein them in.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 5, 2014 4:55:39 GMT -5
The daemonfey collectively comprise a clan of evil, magically talented half-fiends and fey’ri (tieflings descended from elf-demon crossbreeds) that has been recently freed from centuries of imprisonment to stalk Faerûn once again. These folk are true monsters: ambitious, cruel, proud, and utterly unconcerned with anything apart from their own selfish desires. The daemonfey are at their core a small group of hate-filled individuals who live to exact revenge on those who thwarted their plans and sealed them off from the world so long ago. The daemonfey are a hidden but imminent threat to the peoples and communities of the North while they plot to punish the elven race for having the effrontery to imprison them.
The original daemonfey were members of House Dlardrageth, proud but politically ambitious families of sun elves who dwelled nearly six thousand years ago in the area that would one day become known as Cormanthor. The members of the house trafficked with demons as a means of gaining power, and they believed that they could strengthen their bloodline by mingling it with the infernal. The children born of such unions were indeed powerful, and became skilled sorcerers as well. When their fellow elves learned of these horrifying activities, they destroyed House Dlardrageth. A few survivors escaped and fled into hiding.
Centuries later elven mages discovered the remaining halffiends, who fought desperately to save themselves but could not prevail against the forces arrayed against them. The mages imprisoned the handful of survivors of this assault in a magical prison that confined them for millennia. While they remained in a state of near-slumber, a few lesser sun elf houses decided to follow House Dlardrageth’s example. Their children were likewise set upon by outraged elves and either killed or imprisoned by elven mages.
The destruction of Hellgate Keep in 1369 DR freed the original members of House Dlardrageth from their centuriesold prisons. They in turn freed the descendants of the lesser houses, who had interbred with succubi and incubi to create a race of sun elf tieflings known as fey’ri, and adopted them into House Dlardrageth.
Headquarters: A subterranean lair in the North located beneath the ruins of Lothen of the Silver Spires, near the dwarven ruin known as the Hall of Four Ghosts.
Religion: The daemonfey do not worship the deities of Faerûn. They venerate their namesakes (the demon elves of House Dlardrageth) and pay homage to certain infernal powers.
Symbol: As the rightful heirs of House Dlardrageth, the daemonfey feel free to use a stylized version of that family’s ancient crest. The house is now known by a scarlet phoenix with the sable, batlike wings of a demon, and a burning whip clutched in its beak. The traditional house colors are scarlet and sable, and the daemonfey incorporate both hues into their garb.
The daemonfey are structured into a loose hierarchy, with Sarya in control.
The daemonfey are ruled by the eldest member of House Dlardrageth. In this case, that individual is Sarya, the halfelven, half-demon countess of House Dlardrageth. Only two half-fiends remain of the Dlardrageth clan, Sarya and her nephew Xhalth. Baron Xhalth used to harbor plans of unseating his aunt as the leader of the daemonfey, until he saw her kill her own son Ryvvik without hesitation. The rest of the daemonfey are fey’ri of the Dlardrageth and associated clans, a handful of allies, and servants.
Motivation and Goals
The daemonfey are driven by the desire to punish the elven race for the humiliation and suffering the elves caused them. Sarya plans to capture sun elves and use them as breeding stock, mating them to summoned demons in the deep boltholes under the High Forest. Eventually, she’ll have a small half-demon and fey’ri army, and with that force she’ll wreak chaos and havoc on the elves of the North.
The daemonfey have already abducted several sun elves from the Silver Marches and are holding them prisoner in preparation for bringing in the outsiders for breeding. Before she can embark on that plan in earnest, however, she and her fey’ri followers are engaged in an aggressive program to educate themselves about the sort of place that Faerûn has become in their absence. Small scouting missions composed of three or four fey’ri make their way stealthily through the woodlands, spying on the other creatures there. These scouting parties take great care not to be seen or noticed, since tipping off the elves to their presence now, while the group is still weak, would be disastrous to their plans.
The daemonfey believe in forcible recruitment. They abduct sun elves whom they consider “suitable” candidates for demonic breeding, and thereby induct them into the society as unwilling associates. The daemonfey plan to rear the offspring of these foul unions as their own and to dispose of the elven parents as quickly as possible.
The daemonfey prefer to keep to themselves, but they sometimes work alongside evil humanoids for a short duration. Though their ancestors considered the drow to be degenerates, Sarya has considered approaching them to discuss an alliance, since they seem to share some of the same goals.
To date the daemonfey have not dared to approach any mages living in civilized areas with offers of alliance, even though they could certainly use the arcane knowledge to be gained by such associations. Sarya has recently become aware of a small but powerful cabal of wizards and sorcerers living in Luskan—the Arcane Brotherhood—who might not be averse to working with half-fiends and fey’ri. She plans to make contact with the Brotherhood just as soon as she learns the location of their headquarters.
The daemonfey consider themselves superior to all other beings of Faerûn, and cast anyone who might stand against them in the role of enemy. Their most venomous hatred and eternal enmity is reserved, however, for the entire elven race, and in particular moon elves and wood elves. Countess Sarya feels an intense, personal loathing for the Silver Marches, because that confederation is exactly the kind of experiment that her irritatingly smug elven kin would attempt, and she is certain that the mutual defense pact was somehow orchestrated by the elves of the High Forest.
Small groups of daemonfey might be encountered along the outskirts of the High Forest and throughout the North. A typical encounter is one fey’ri leader who is a rogue of at least 7th level, accompanied by a sorcerer and a pair of fighters. Individual encounters are likely to be with solitary scouts.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 5, 2014 4:56:02 GMT -5
The Eldreth Veluuthra
The Eldreth Veluuthra is a fanatical elf supremacist group dedicated to the proposition that humans are little better than vermin, and must therefore be eradicated from Faerûn. This ancient and secretive organization has been active since the founding of Myth Drannor. Its members are scattered throughout the elven territories of Faerûn, particularly in those areas that were largely vacated during the Elven Retreat and are now underpopulated, including Ardeep, Cormanthor, the High Forest, the Moonwood, the Chondalwood, the Winterwood, the Neverwinter Woods, and the Border Forest. The members of the Eldreth Veluuthra strike at their hated enemies, launching not only murderous attacks against humans but also plans and schemes intended to slow or even halt human expansion beyond its already sizable territories.
The seeds of the hatred felt so keenly by the members of the Eldreth Veluuthra were planted long ago, when the great elven city of Myth Drannor was founded in 261 DR. By the end of the following year, five important elven houses had decided that their ideology could not encompass the acceptance of humans as anything other than the worst sort of degenerate creatures. From their point of view, humans seemed little more than unclean beasts, with even less sense than the monsters that roamed the wild. As the patriarch of House Starym pointed out, humans foul their own nests, destroying the land they claim before moving on to ruin whatever lies over the next hill.
Humanity’s disinclination to live harmoniously with the land (as the elves were accustomed by their nature to do) enraged the members of these five families to the point that their hatred of humans became their prominent defining feature. The refusal of these families to tolerate humans resulted in considerable social and political strife within Myth Drannor. The coronal’s decision to open the city to nonelves was the last straw.
But rather than allowing this development to provoke open conflict (a development that the dissenting families felt would give the humans a victory by proxy over the elves), the members of the five houses chose instead to depart Myth Drannor. In the centuries that followed, the elders of these families met secretly with elves who shared their philosophy of hatred, and together they discussed and debated how best to deal with the pestilential humans. That they had their work cut out for them seemed clear. Humans were spreading across Faerûn like wildfire, settling in areas that the elves generally disdained and thereby giving themselves a territory increasingly larger than that held collectively by the elven people.
As they debated, these elves tallied up what they saw as the ever-growing number of reasons to hold humans in contempt. They watched in horror as greedy humans deprived their own kin of food while lining their pockets with coin. They observed with outrage the slash-and-burn tactics humans employed when they warred against one another, often destroying the land more thoroughly than they destroyed their enemies. And they ground their teeth in white-hot fury as humans committed the ultimate act of shortsightedness, cutting down huge swaths of virgin timber just to create grazing land for livestock.
The Weeping War (711–714 DR) that destroyed Myth Drannor was the event that finally gave birth to the society as a formalized organization. The members of the organization could no longer sit idly by and merely catalog the crimes against nature that had been perpetrated by the human vermin. They felt the burning need to do something that would strike a blow for elvenkind. They began to divide themselves into smaller groups to train for the task they had appointed for themselves—killing humans. Taking the name Eldreth Veluuthra (“Victorious Blade of the People”), the human-loathing elves claimed their first successes in 757 DR, initiating a series of lethal attacks that persist to this day.
Members: About 100.
Leaders: The Blade Lords.
Religion: Corellon Larethian.
Alignment: CN, CE, NE.
Symbol: A stylized longsword driven through the top of a human skull and emerging through the mouth, with cracks in the skull radiating from the point of the sword’s entry
The Eldreth Veluuthra is a loosely organized group of likeminded fanatics. The individual cells of the organization communicate with one another only rarely, each acting on its own to support and further the cause.
One of the most notable aspects of the organization is that it does not include any divine spellcasters. The members of the Eldreth Veluuthra worship only the deities of the elven pantheon, but—paradoxically—none of the elven deities are of an alignment that is favorable to the organization. Some of the Eldreth believe that the group should admit drow clerics to gain easier access to healing and restorative magic. But others find that notion abhorrent and refuse to take the easy way out. They are certain that, eventually, one of the elven deities (probably Corellon Larethian) will recognize the merit of the group’s mission. On that day the Victorious Blade of the People will admit its first clerics to the ranks of membership. Until then, it must rely on the open market and the goodwill of sympathizers for healing magic. (Cash, therefore, has become of great importance to the organization, and some of its missions are now directed specifically at generating coin with which to purchase healing potions.)
The leaders of the Eldreth Veluuthra are the Vel’Nikeryma (“Blade Lords”), a guiding council that determines what missions will best contribute to the society’s goals. The council members (described below) are chosen by popular acclaim from among the most senior members of the organization. They spend much of their time gathering and analyzing intelligence from agents and sympathizers stationed in or near human population centers, and from this information they devise briefs for potential missions. The council exercises little direct authority over the society, however. Individual members are expected to conduct their own missions that support the long-term goals of the Eldreth Veluuthra, working alone or in small teams. Members may choose to undertake one of the assignments devised by the Blade Lords, but they are not required to do so. Even with this degree of autonomy, it is rare that a mission that the Blade Lords deem important lacks for volunteers to fulfill it.
The two newest members of the Blade Lords, Talindra and Saevel, have replaced previous members Fhaertala Hyshaanth and Sythaeryn Selakiir. The lich Fhaertala was destroyed when the daemonfey discovered her spying on them. Sythaeryn, a sea elf, lost interest in the affairs of the surface world and returned to his undersea home.
Bhyrindaar “Silverhart” Tellynnan: Elected to the guiding council only recently, Silverhart shifted his operations this year to the northern reaches of the High Forest. He has a particular interest in thwarting the ambitions of the humans of the Silver Marches. A native of Evereska, he contracted lycanthropy from a human werestag that he fought and slew in battle. Rather than risk passing his affliction on to other elves, Silverhart chose to quit Evereska and confine himself to the wilderness. This self-imposed exile has done little but foster within him a fierce desire to revenge himself on the members of the race of the monster that ruined his life. He is by far the most outspoken and emotional of the Blade Lords, as well as the most impatient. He advocates stepping up the pace of the society’s attack, insisting that at their current rate the humans will surely win the race. His tirades against caution have sometimes come dangerously close to turning the other members of the council against him. Nevertheless, Silverhart remains a popular leader among the rank and file, both for his unrelenting enthusiasm for the cause and his successes in the field.
Eldaerneth Spellstalker: is one of the very few full-blooded elven members of the Night Masks [detailed in a previous post]. He plays the dangerous game of pretending to be a loyal member of the guild while using it for his own ends. He is actually a senior member of the Eldreth Veluuthra. He joined the Night Masks as a freelance wizard and proved so valuable and (apparently) loyal that he earned a promotion to the middle levels of the hierarchy. He does not know that the leaders of the guild are vampires. Eldaerneth’s life is in jeopardy every moment: If any other member of the guild discovered that he uses his position to funnel information back to the Eldreth Veluuthra, he would be forced to flee Westgate immediately or be destroyed. He despises the humans and half-elves with whom he must cooperate as part of his cover, but the knowledge that he serves the Victorious Blade of the People enables him to carry on. Adventurers may face this Night Masks operative if they annoy the organization sufficiently; if the adventurers are humans or half-elves, Eldaerneth does not find the assignment objectionable.
Tordynnar Rhaevaern, a sun elf lich [baelnorn]: From his crypt deep beneath the Wood of Sharp Teeth, where he lairs with the old green dragon Claugxinaurak who serves as his steed, Tordynnar carries out the agenda that he began so many centuries ago. Since he is the only remaining member of the founders of the Eldreth Veluuthra, all members of the society, including his fellow Blade Lords, accord Tordynnar great respect and deference. His personal hatred of humanity is relentless and unquenchable. Tordynnar is given to plans of considerable complexity that take years to come to fruition, but that nearly always prove successful.
Talindra Amalith: When the human-led party of adventurers entered Talindra’s native Methwood in search of a fabled lost city of the Turami race, her village of wild elves observed the interlopers carefully. But a tragic misunderstanding resulted in a fatal clash between the scouts and the adventurers that left the scouts dead and the adventurers determined to wipe out the wild elf settlement.
Talindra herself was away from the village with a hunting party when the slaughter occurred, but she returned to see the grisly handiwork. Talindra led her hunting party against the adventurers, claiming vengeance for her murdered people. From that day forward, she has dedicated herself to the defense of the Methwood against any humans who might seek to penetrate its borders. Two years ago she and her hunters made their way into Shussel, taking up residence in one of the abandoned districts of the city. From there they proceeded to Unthalass, where they made contact with agents of the Eldreth Veluuthra. Talindra’s battle rage has inspired a legend around her within the Victorious Sword, leading to her appointment to the council of Blade Lords this year.
If adventurers run seriously afoul of the Eldreth Veluuthra, Talindra volunteers to address their intrusion into the organization’s affairs.
Saevel Calaudra: Growing up alone in the streets of Hillsfar would be difficult enough for any child, but for this young elf it was nothing short of nightmarish. Saevel knows nothing of his parentage or lineage. His earliest memories are of stealing bread from homes and shops in the roughest parts of town. Understanding, perhaps instinctively, that his nonhuman heritage would surely mean his death if it were discovered, young Saevel took pains to disguise his elven features. His circumstances embittered him toward humanity, and this deep-seated antipathy only increased as he grew into young adulthood.
One fateful night Saevel chanced upon a pair of the city watch manhandling an elven prisoner and, unable to restrain the fury that rose up inside himself, he came to the elf’s aid. Not wishing to end his life in the arena, Saevel led the rescued elf outside the city through routes known only to thieves and smugglers.
The elf whom Saevel had rescued was none other than Eldaerneth Spellstalker, who was in the city ostensibly to carry out a mission for the Night Masks, though naturally he had taken the opportunity to scout the metropolis for the Eldreth Veluuthra. When Eldaerneth revealed his true allegiance to Saevel, it seemed only natural to the young elf that he should join the society.
Since then he has trained to become one of the organization’s most capable killers. He quickly earned a reputation among his peers as a consummate, fearless operative by volunteering for and completing missions that most considered suicidal. He was selected for membership in the Blade Lords last year, but he still personally undertakes assignments for the organization. At only 108 years of age, Saevel is the youngest of the Blade Lords, and many members of the Eldreth Veluuthra believe that he is destined for even greater distinction.
Motivation and Goals
“Eldreth Veluuthra” means “Victorious Blade of the People,” but like the names of many fringe political groups, the grandiose title doesn’t accurately reflect either the success enjoyed by the organization or its reputation among its own people. While the members of the organization have enjoyed numerous successes in their chosen crusade, even they must confess that their efforts have not resulted in anything even remotely resembling a comprehensive setback for the humans as a race.
Meanwhile, other elves who know of the Eldreth Veluuthra rarely admit to it. To most, the group is an embarrassment at best, and a topic to be avoided if at all possible. It is perhaps ironic that fanaticism is a personality trait many elves would associate more readily with humans than with their own race, but this fact is apparently lost on the Victorious Blade.
The organization’s motivation is hatred, and its goal is simple—wipe out as many humans as possible. Its methods are equally simplistic, since most of the Eldreth Veluuthra’s operations are focused on the elimination of humanity. A few Victorious Blade missions, particularly those designed and supported by Tordynnar Rhaevaern, are formulated to take advantage of the humans’ short life spans and even shorter memories, blocking or impeding human expansion into wilderness territories.
The agents of the Eldreth Veluuthra aren’t choosy about their targets. Disrupting human activities of any kind, from trade caravans to agriculture, falls within their scope of operations and is justified by their supremacist attitude. Human rangers, hunters, explorers, and similar folk are frequent targets of opportunity, since they represent the vanguard of human encroachment into new areas. Human pioneers and settlers are harassed ruthlessly, since destroying their homesteads sometimes slows or even halts expansion into a given territory. Half-elves, who the Eldreth Veluuthra consider abominations, are victimized in a like manner.
The society employs four main types of tactics, described here with examples of each.
Direct Action: Killing humans outright. It should be noted that, as much as they might wish to do so, the agents of the organization do not wantonly slay every human that crosses their path. To do so would be foolish, because it would expose the elves to unnecessary risk of capture or death.
Indirect Action: Inciting other groups or races to attack humans and their settlements. Agents of the organization have instigated more than one “orc raid” on a human village.
Natural Attack: Diverting a river to flood farmland, introducing predators to slay livestock, or sending dangerous creatures to plague human communities.
Economic Attack: Disrupting caravan routes through acts of highway robbery, sealing off mines that produce valuable minerals, gems, or ores, or sending plagues of insects to destroy crops.
Most members of the Eldreth Veluuthra are nothing if not patient. They realize that their vision of a Faerûn devoid of humans will require considerable time to bring about. This attitude is reflected in their operations. A squad of Victorious Blade rangers can afford to spend months, even years, reconnoitering a new human settlement and its environs. Humans who are the victims of Victorious Blade attacks have no way of knowing that their movements and progress may have been watched for years or even decades before the blow falls. It seems the humans have the upper hand, for now, but the elves can wait. After all, they have time.
The majority of the members of the Victorious Blade are sun elves. A few moon elves, wild elves, and wood elves fill out the ranks as well. Drow are not permitted membership, for the Eldreth Veluuthra hates the dark elves nearly as much as it loathes humans, despite the shared social views of both groups. Most recruits are younger elven fighters, rogues, or wizards who have a personal grievance against humans.
A tiny minority of elves—primarily sun elves, but a few from other subraces as well—sympathize with the Victorious Blade. These sympathizers sometimes provide the agents of the Eldreth Veluuthra with aid and support in the form of supplies and information. Information is particularly important to the operation of the group, and the Blade Lords take care that the informants serving the organization are treated and rewarded well. Another minority of elves, roughly equal in number to the sympathizers and informants, share the Victorious Blade’s point of view about the undesirability of humans, but they do not approve of the society’s violent methods.
Chief among the enemies of the Victorious Blade are the ubiquitous Harpers, whose meddling agents are the target of perhaps a third of the organization’s offensive activities. Anyone and anything that directly aids humanity and human communities also draws the enmity of the Eldreth Veluuthra. Rangers of all races who protect or aid human settlements, for example, and druids whose groves are located near human communities are considered legitimate targets.
Despite the fact that some items on their respective agendas are similar, the Eldreth Veluuthra feel nothing but antipathy for the daemonfey, whom they consider abominations of a rank equal to half-elves.
Encounters with the Eldreth Veluuthra are most likely in woodland areas where the group is most active. Because they eschew urban areas except in the course of information gathering, members of the organization are normally not encountered in communities bigger than large towns. The small cells that defend a territory normally include one elf fighter, ranger, or wizard leader; one elf rogue or wizard; and one elf trainee (normally a fighter, ranger, or wizard).
The Eldreth Veluuthra considers its ability to operate in secrecy to be its most treasured asset. Its enemies cannot strike at what they cannot find. Of almost equal importance are the members’ deep feelings of solidarity for one another. Betrayal among the members of the Victorious Blade is almost unknown; most would rather die than divulge information damaging to their cause or brethren.
Arguably the greatest weakness of the group is its singleminded devotion to one ideal. The members of the organization are inflexible in their beliefs and attitudes toward humans, and an enemy that is aware of their fanaticism can sometimes use it against them.
The members of the Eldreth Veluuthra prefer to avoid any confrontation in which they do not set the terms and control the terrain. They are fond of attacking from ambush, and do not consider such tactics the least bit dishonorable when directed against humans and those allied with them. Before undertaking missions, they make an effort to practice for the types of terrain and conditions they believe they will encounter. When they cannot avoid a direct confrontation or stand-up fight, members of the organization fight as a team and try to use wolf-pack tactics (surrounding enemies and attacking one at a time to wear opponents down) whenever possible. They do not hesitate to sacrifice themselves when the situation demands it, especially if doing so would ensure either the success of a mission or the security of the organization.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 5, 2014 12:37:17 GMT -5
The Fire Knives
A small but deadly band of aristocratic killers, the Fire Knives are assassins-in-exile. Originally a society of skilled murderers who based themselves in Cormyr, the members of the organization were forced to abandon their homeland when their role in the assassination of a local lord was discovered and brought into the public eye. Long thought by the Cormyrian monarchy to be defunct, the Fire Knives secretly regrouped and now operate from the city of Westgate, where they have allied with the Night Masks.
The Fire Knives trace their origins back to over four centuries ago, when the founders of the group assembled a rough but ready band of rogues, thugs, and bandits into a loose confederation. This “guild” plied its trade in the southern parts of Cormyr, its numbers rising in relation to its successes. Its depredations made the southern roads unsafe for travelers, despite the efforts of the monarchy’s soldiers. Eventually the guild boasted many hundreds of skilled and well-trained criminals in its pay, as well as many more unskilled thugs and bandits, secretly controlled by nobles whom none would suspect (or dare accuse). Not content with robbing travelers on the high road, the guild members started going after bigger game. Their success led to infamy that nearly proved their undoing.
In 1227 DR, brigands attacked a royal caravan and slew King Dhalmass and his queen, Jhalass. Blame fell immediately on the Fire Knives. Whether the group was actually guilty of this regicide, or whether it was merely a convenient scapegoat, remains unknown. The current Grandfather of Assassins maintains that it was all a setup from start to finish, and that this was the first in a long serious of unfair persecutions against the Fire Knives sponsored by House Obarskyr. Facing execution if apprehended, the members of the Fire Knives went to ground and remained in hiding. They quietly reestablished themselves in cities on the borders of Cormyr. However, the incident instilled within their ranks a deep-seated and venomous hatred for the nobility of Cormyr, and for House Obarskyr in particular, since that family was at the head of the pack that was calling for the heads of the Fire Knives on a pike.
During the years that followed, as the Fire Knives conducted their customary illicit operations, they also pursued an aggressive agenda of vengeance against the Cormyrian nobility. Their campaign of revenge was quite successful. They and their agents were directly responsible for at least two dozen unexplained deaths among the noble and royal house of Cormyr. But eventually luck or fate ran against them, and they were exposed as the killers of the very popular Lord Belgard Huntsilver in 1341 DR. King Azoun IV, sorely aggrieved by the loss of his childhood friend, ordered a nationwide hunt for the killers, condemning them to permanent banishment from the Forest Kingdom. The exiles took up residence in Tilverton and Westgate, where they sought to rebuild their haggard organization so that they might exact their final revenge on Cormyr and its king. They were nearly broken for good in 1357 DR when their plan to assassinate Azoun IV backfired, killing nearly all the Westgate members of the organization.
The remaining members of the Fire Knives regrouped once more, slowly and painfully, beginning in 1369 DR when the exiled branches of House Bleth and House Cormaeril arrived in Westgate. Senior people in both families desired greatly to avenge their humiliation by reviving one of Cormyr’s most notorious enemies and turning it against their homeland once more.
Headquarters: Secret vaults beneath Castle Cormaeril, in the city of Westgate.
Leader: Lord Tagreth Cormaeril, the Grandfather of Assassins.
Alignment: LE, NE
Symbol: The Fire Knives use as their sigil a slim dagger, knife, or stiletto with its point downward. A blazing red-orange flame lines the entire blade. The device, which is inspired by a card from the suit of daggers in the Talis deck, appears on objects and correspondence meant to be seen only by the most trusted members of the organization. It is also used as a “calling card” to mark the scene of a Fire Knives assassination.
The Fire Knives employ a traditional hierarchical structure in which all authority is vested in and flows from the Grandfather of Assassins. This formidable old killer issues orders via his assistants, who in turn command the various branches of the organization and its members.
Lord Tagreth Cormaeril tolerates absolutely no dissent within the ranks of his organization. A cantankerous and disagreeable curmudgeon, Tagreth is not as frail or helpless as he appears—a fact that a number of would-be usurpers and coup leaders have learned, to their sorrow. The elderly noble’s unnatural vigor comes from magical sources. He has paid a staggering fortune in gold and treasures over the years for spells that help prolong his life and bolster his health, despite his advanced years. He is acutely aware that both his family and the Fire Knives have fallen on hard times, and he worries that his dwindling personal fortune is running out, forcing him to confront the ravages of time at last. He has contemplated seeking the means to become a lich, but the notion of becoming a skeletal monstrosity holds little appeal.
The Fire Knives’ close association with (or manipulation by) the Night Masks does not sit well with the current Grandfather of Assassins. He knows full well who and what the Night King is, just as he knows and understands the nature of the Court of Night Masters. He also knows that it is no longer possible for the Fire Knives, or any other band of organized criminals, to operate within Westgate without coming to terms with the vampires who lead the Night Masks. Orbakh has shared his dreams of empire with Tagreth, who has no quarrel with the notion of lording it over the entire Dragon Coast—particularly if it means being able to stick it to Cormyr and its insufferably noble royal family into the bargain.
Orbakh and his minions appear to be exerting an increasing degree of control over the younger members of the organization. By seducing some of the most ambitious young Fire Knives with vague (and almost certainly false) promises of eternal life, the Night King now has considerable influence in the day-to-day affairs of the society. Tagreth worries that his control over the Fire Knives is slipping, and he has begun to think that one night soon he may be obliged to confront the vampire king in a struggle that should determine the fate of the guild.
Motivation and Goals
The Fire Knives want to kill as many members of the Cormyrian nobility as possible. Some members believe that the Fire Knives should focus all their resources and energy on destroying only House Obarskyr, which they view as the genuine architect of the guild’s misfortunes. However, the Grandfather of Assassins has remained firm in his dedication to targeting the entire gamut of Cormyr’s nobility.
Some muted grumbling exists among the younger generation of Fire Knives, fueled by the skillful manipulations of the Night King. These youthful assassins believe that working to advance Orbakh’s plan to make an empire out of the Dragon Coast is far more attractive than spending all their days plotting the deaths of a handful of nobles whom many of them have never met personally. They claim that the Night King’s plan would allow the Fire Knives to subjugate Cormyr militarily and economically, a far more appealing prospect.
Regardless of their missions or political views, the members of this organization prefer to conduct their murderous activities by taking advantage of their status as refined aristocrats who can move freely and unobtrusively within high society. They employ their noble heritage to good effect when traveling and getting close to their targets. More than one victim has mistaken his assailant for nothing more than a featherheaded fop, right up until the moment when the assassin’s blade slips between his ribs.
The Fire Knives prefer to use poison blades (giant wasp poison, when they can get it, but nearly any toxic substance works), getting close to their targets by means of either their aristocratic wiles or their clever disguises. They are not above slipping a toxin into a victim’s food or drink if necessary. They disdain what they consider “brutish” weapons, such as garrotes and crossbows.
Most Fire Knives agents work alone when they undertake assassinations. Some use a small number of accomplices who can help them set up the killing and escape safely afterward. Surprisingly enough, the fees that the Fire Knives charge for their lethal services are scaled to meet the resources of the employer. The Grandfather of Assassins realizes the value to be had in undertaking and fulfilling contracts of all sorts. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty, he likes to say to the younger killers (much to their annoyance), and so he sometimes agrees to undertake assassinations for lower fees than the Fire Knives might be able to demand. This custom allows the newer members of the guild to gain valuable, firsthand experience in the field, and in addition makes it possible for more practiced assassins to keep their skills of stealth and observation as sharp as their blades.
Because most of the Fire Knives are members of the nobility, born into two elite (if tarnished) households, the organization seldom recruits far from the family tree. Although not all members of the exiled branches of House Bleth and House Cormaeril are members of the Fire Knives, many are, and they perform a variety of functions for the organization beyond killing. The Fire Knives are far more likely to hire nonfamily members into lesser positions, or engage their services on an as-needed basis.
Another aspect of the guild’s relationship to the Night Masks that disturbs the Grandfather of Assassins is the Fire Knives’ growing dependence on the vampires for resources and information. Why go to all the trouble of conducting extensive reconnaissance of a target, some of the younger Fire Knives reason, when Orbakh’s minions provide the same information for little or no cost? This is a trend that Tagreth detests, and it feeds his fears that the Fire Knives are being slowly assimilated into the vampires’ own thieves’ guild.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 6, 2014 12:38:34 GMT -5
The city of Luthcheq in Chessenta is ruled by a mad family called the Karanoks. They worship a being they call Entropy, the Great Nothing, and they plot the destruction of all “wizards” (sorcerers, wizards, dwarves, or elves). Folk outside Chessenta (and outside Luthcheq, for that matter) consider them fools, for Entropy is said to just be a giant sphere of annihilation. Be that as it may, some divine entity is now answering their prayers, and Entropy has given birth to five smaller spheres. Now those of House Karanok have acquired mansions in other cities of Faerûn and moved the smaller spheres (known to the family as “the daughters of Entropy”) to these locations, using the mansions as bases for their scheme to destroy all wizards.
Unknown to the Karanoks, the power of Entropy is administered by Tiamat, the deity behind the venerated hero Tchazzar. Tiamat saw an opportunity to grab power from the zealous faith of the Karanok family, and has used the sphere of annihilation as a funnel for her power. The followers of Entropy are now capable of casting cleric spells, a development that they see as a sign that their strange deity has blessed them, and now is the time to strike beyond Chessenta.
In 1161 DR, the Karanok family became the leaders of Luthcheq under suspicious circumstances. While all records of the events have been destroyed, it is likely that assassination was involved, since no known descendants of the old noble family survive today. They practiced an erratic but moderately efficient rule of the city, warring with other city-states in typical Chessentan fashion. In 1324 DR, Luthcheq invaded Mordulkin to take advantage of the latter’s serious losses from plague but was defeated. Blaming their loss on wizard spies in the service of Mordulkin, the Karanoks became obsessed with the destruction of wizards.
Sometime around 1346 DR, a particularly large sphere of annihilation appeared in the largest mansion of House Karanok. The sphere materialized in the middle of a torture chamber and completely consumed the wizard who was being tortured. Seeing this as an omen, the members of the house fell to their knees and worshiped the planar anomaly, which they called Entropy. Remodeling their mansion to make its current location a main temple chamber, the Karanoks blindly worshiped their nondeity in the belief that it would help them meet their goals.
In late 1370 DR, the deity Tiamat used her power to alter the sphere, making it a conduit for her energy. She began granting divine spells to the nobles of House Karanok in the guise of Entropy. She has since caused the sphere to create smaller spheres, which can be controlled by members of the house. The Karanoks worship the daughter spheres, and they have been known to conjure forth scaly reptilian monsters (abishai) to enact the will of the Karanoks and Entropy itself.
These statistics apply to the Karanok noble house of Chessenta as a whole.
Headquarters: Luthcheq, Chessenta.
Members: approximately 300 members of the noble house, plus guards and servants.
Leader: Maelos Karanok.
Religion: Entropy (Tiamat).
Secrecy: None (although groups outside Chessenta conceal their identity and agenda).
Symbol: The symbol of House Karanok is the Thorass letter for K, above which is a burning branch (probably representing witchweed).
The Karanoks have a cellular structure based around the original Entropy and its five daughter spheres. They are well organized but allowed to function almost independently. The following are some of the more important members of House Karanok.
Maelos is an ancient man, nearly senile and rarely able to understand that his family now has a slight chance of succeeding at its goals.
Jaerios is Maelos’s son and the ruler of the city. He enjoys power and particularly enjoys watching wizards burn.
Naeros is Jaerios’s son. Arrogant, cruel, and fond of disfiguring his victims before burning them, Naeros believes he cannot be killed and can do whatever he wants because his family’s power protects him.
Kaestra is the most powerful cleric in the family and the nominal head of all religious activities.
Povros is Jaeros’s cousin and the leader of one of the Entropy cells not located in Chessenta. Raised to hate wizards, he doesn’t even carry magic items unless he knows they were created by clerics (even if they were clerics of inferior deities).
Motivation and Goals
Hatred is the primary motivation of the Karanoks. They hate wizards more than anything, and those who willingly deal with wizards are a close second. They kidnap known wizards, then burn them on a pyre of witchweed as a sacrifice to their strange deity. They have a standing offer of 10,000 gold pieces as a reward for anyone who slays Elminster, the Simbul, or Khelben. They sometimes come into contact with the Zhentarim, but that group’s ties to wizards makes it an undesirable alliy. The Karanoks also enjoy vandalizing Thayan enclaves and (if kidnapping and murder are not an option) harassing apprentices in those places.
The Karanoks are open to working with anyone who is interested in killing wizards. This means they have an easy time recruiting close-minded or fearful people to their cause but rarely have anyone of power at their beck and call. They tend to have many thugs in their service, and sometimes try to overwhelm their wizard opponents with sheer numbers.
Other than members of their own house and their guards and servants, House Karanok has few allies beyond the confines of Luthcheq. Within their home city, any noble can call upon the city guard for assistance, which makes attacking the Karanoks in their city a dangerous and foolish proposition.
A typical encounter with the Karanok family is with one or two members of the house (aristocrats or aristocrat/clerics of 3rd level or higher) and four to ten bodyguards (1st-level warriors). More powerful members of the house tend to have greater numbers of bodyguards rather than more powerful ones. A few rare encounters at night might include a single abishai of any color, always wearing a heavy robe to conceal its nature.
The Karanoks prefer ambushes, since they are not willing to allow wizards the opportunity to profane the air and their bodies with wizardry in honest combat. They send waves of thugs to beat and grapple their wizard opponents, while clerics use multiple silence and hold person spells to prevent the wizards from casting spells. Nonspellcasters are dealt with in more conventional ways. If at all possible, the Karanoks prefer to eliminate wizards one at a time rather than attacking entire adventuring parties, but have been known to attack groups if they are desperate or especially eager.
Entropist Prestige Class
As the Karanoks explore their new spellcasting abilities, some of the most advanced students gain an attunement to the body of Entropy or its daughters. These students develop strange powers and new uses for their divine link, and although doing so retards their progress as spellcasters, they see their new abilities as worth the cost.
An entropist is a cleric of the aspect of Tiamat known as Entropy, which is manifested as a large sphere of annihilation. Obsessed with destroying wizards, they harness the power of the sphere and learn how to protect themselves against its effects. Like all clerics of Entropy, they wear white robes, sometimes marked with a single black circle.
Most entropists have gained some levels as a cleric, and most are aristocrats from the Karanok family in Luthcheq. It is possible for others to join this prestige class if they prove their worth to the Karanoks and their loyalty to Entropy. Sorcerers, wizards, elves, and dwarves are never entropists.
Entropists work together and with clerics of Entropy. Most followers of Entropy hold them in awe for the powers they possess and their strange link to the Great Nothing.
To qualify to become a entropist, a character must fulfill all the following criteria: Alignment: Lawful evil. Skills: Concentration 5 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 5 ranks, Scry 4 ranks. Feats: Education, Great Fortitude. Special: Must have killed an elf, sorcerer, or wizard, either in combat or by burning in a witchweed execution. Spellcasting: Able to cast 4th-level divine spells. Patron: Entropy (Tiamat).
The entropist’s class skills are: Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal(Wis), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), Scry (Int), and Spellcraft (Int).
Class Features Spells per Day: An entropist continues training in divine magic while attuning himself to the powers of entropy. Thus, when the character reaches 2nd level or 4th level in this class, he increases his spellcasting ability as if he had also gained a level in a divine spellcasting class he belonged to before he added the prestige class. He does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of rebuking or commanding undead, favored enemy, and so on). If a character had more than one divine spellcasting class before she became a entropist, she must decide when she reaches 2nd level or 4th level to which class she adds these spellcasting levels.
Control Sphere (Su): An entropist has the ability to control a sphere of annihilation as if he were using a talisman of the sphere.
Sanctity of Body (Su): An entropist is protected against spells or effects that would destroy or radically transform the shape of his body, such as disintegrate, implosion, petrification, or polymorph. These effects cannot affect the entropist unless he wishes them to. He is also unaffected by a sphere of annihilation, passing through it as if it were empty air. A hand of entropy or eye of entropy (see below) has no effect on him.
Arcane Resistance (Su): An entropist of 2nd level or higher gains a +2 bonus on all saving throws against arcane spells, whether they originate from the Weave or the Shadow Weave.
Hand of Entropy (Sp): By expending an available spell slot, an entropist of 3rd level or higher channels the power of Entropy into a black haze around one hand. The hand of entropy can be used to make a melee touch attack as a standard action, and deals 1d6 points of damage + 1 point per level of the spell slot used to create it. The hand can be used on the round it is created and lasts up to a number of rounds equal to the entropist’s divine caster level. For example, a Clr7/Entropist3 could expend a prepared cure moderate wounds spell (2nd level) to create a hand of entropy that deals 1d6+2 points of damage and lasts 10 rounds. The hand otherwise functions like a touch spell. The entropist can use this ability multiple times per day as long as a spell slot is expended each time.
Arcane Disruption (Sp): Once per day, an entropist of 4th level or higher can create a magical field of energy, which manifests as a slight smoky haze that interferes with the casting of arcane spells. The field is a 30-foot emanation centered on the entropist. Anyone attempting to cast arcane spells within the field must succeed at a Concentration check as if casting on the defensive (DC 15 + spell level). If the check fails, the spell is lost. The field lasts for a number of rounds equal to the entropist’s divine caster level.
Eye of Entropy (Su): Once per day, for a maximum of 5 rounds, an entropist of 5th level can create a miniature sphere of entropy. The eye of entropy is absolutely black, 2 inches in diameter, and can be moved up to 30 feet by the entropist as a standard action. Against objects, the eye deals 3d6 points of damage, bypassing the object’s hardness. Against creatures, the entropist must make a ranged touch attack to hit, and if successful the eye deals 3d6 points of damage to the target (Fortitude half, DC 12 + the entropist’s Wis modifier); this bypasses damage reduction since it is a magical effect. The eye appears in the entropist’s square when it is created, and can be moved and used to attack on the round it is formed. If the entropist stops concentrating on the eye, it vanishes.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 7, 2014 3:38:01 GMT -5
The Iron Throne
On the surface, the Iron Throne appears to be just another merchants’ guild. The group is ostensibly dedicated to pursuing a monopoly on the weapons trade in certain parts of Faerûn, a goal it has pursued with unbridled zeal. While other merchants and traders have accused the Iron Throne of increasing its share of the weapons trade through such unsavory practices as banditry and murder, such complaints are hardly unusual between competitors. At least, so say the merchants who are the nominal leaders of the Iron Throne.
The truth is that this mercantile company is more than just another band of avaricious merchants out to make a gold piece at the expense of ethics. The public faces of the Iron Throne are merely mouthpieces for the true leaders of the organization, ruthless killers who stop at nothing to achieve the Iron Throne’s economic goals. The masters of the Iron Throne think nothing of cutting out the competition with every dirty trick at their disposal. The group’s sinister aspects go deeper than mere murder, however. When compared to those of their fellow merchants, the uses to which the Iron Throne intends to put its filthy lucre are certainly more than a little unusual, not to mention dangerous.
The Iron Throne is a relatively recent development in the economic history of Faerûn. It was originally the brainchild of a unique individual: Sfena, the daughter of a powerful devil. A skilled assassin, she used her talents to serve her father and his internecine wars against the other denizens of Baator. A strange accident befell Sfena during one of her missions to kill an enemy in Faerûn, in 1347 DR. Her entire body hardened into a material of crystalline appearance and hardness. The accident that changed her thus also freed her from Baator, allowing her to remain in Faerûn. Sfena conceived the Iron Throne as a means of restoring herself. She intended to trade the entire organization to a devil or perhaps another extraplanar power in return for the restoration of her body. She invented the name of the organization during a speech to her first contingent of minions: “We shall rule the Heartlands with an iron fist. We shall rule them from an Iron Throne, built of the weapons of our trade, and the shackles of our slaves, the common nails of our wagons, and the iron in the blood of those who oppose us. Iron has power, and so shall we.”
Sfena’s words were prophetic. The Iron Throne quickly gained a sizable stake in the weapons trade, branching out into the area of equipment used for trade and commerce (such as caravan wagons, horses, and the attendant supplies). Sfena’s tactics were engineered in such a fashion that her representatives could insist that the organization always acted within the letter of the law. No act of theft, sabotage, or murder was beneath her and her minions, however, and other merchants quickly learned that to cross the Iron Throne meant that they had to be prepared for various kinds of assaults and interventions against themselves and their businesses.
Sfena disappeared just over a year ago, in 1371 DR, under circumstances that suggest diabolical involvement. Her chief lieutenants suspected that her father, or one of his enemies, spirited Sfena back to Baator. When she vanished, the organization was thrown into chaos. Battle lines were quickly drawn between Sfena’s lieutenants, each of whom thought he would make the ideal leader for the coster in their mistress’s absence. Sfena’s second in command, Krakosh, eventually seized control of the group by allying himself with several other lieutenants. By the time they emerged victorious from the conflict, however, the Iron Throne had already lost ground in the weapons trade. Krakosh and his aides are now engaged in a serious attempt to restore and exceed the organization’s former power.
Headquarters: Merchant offices in Suzail.
Religion: The Iron Throne venerates no particular deity as an organization. Kelemvor, Mask, Shar, Waukeen are all popular religions.
Alignment: LN, LE, CN, CE, NE.
Symbol: A stylized iron throne. The group uses a simplified line drawing of this symbol as a trail and property marker.
The lower echelon of the Iron Throne is divided into units that function independently. Only Krakosh, Maready, and their closest aides know the entire interlocking structure of the organization. The individuals who undertake the day-to-day operations get information strictly on a need-to-know basis.
Krakosh met Sfena during the ill-fated assassination attempt that altered her form. Her father assigned her the task of eliminating the daughter of a storm giant noble who dwelled in Faerûn but was allegedly contemplating an assault on the devil lord’s holdings. The storm giants apprehended her during the mission, and beheaded her. Much to everyone’s surprise, she did not perish when her head came away from her neck—amazingly, her bones and tissues crystallized. She was very much alive, though decidedly grotesque.
Krakosh, a storm giant living in the stronghold at the time of Sfena’s arrival, was thoroughly dissatisfied with his life. The son of a courtier who was out of favor with the ruling noble, Krakosh found his family’s humiliation hard to bear. He had long been considering a departure from his home, and the arrival of the intriguing little assassin seemed to be the catalyst he had been awaiting. Freeing the now-crystalline Sfena from the noble’s dungeon, he helped her escape from the giant’s stronghold and traveled with her, aided by an amulet of alter self that disguised the storm giant’s true form. The young storm giant fell in love with his strange companion during the course of their journeys; in time, she professed to return his affections. He became her chief lieutenant when she founded the Iron Throne. Krakosh knew that Sfena’s mercantile ambitions were motivated by a desire to restore her body, and he was as eager as she to bring this about. Utterly devoted to Sfena, he undertook whatever tasks or missions she requested. His mere presence helped keep her other lieutenants and their lackeys in line.
When Sfena disappeared, Krakosh at first believed that she had been slain as part of an attempted coup started by some of the other Iron Throne agents. Seeking vengeance, he launched devastating attacks against those he believed responsible, sparking an all-out war among the remaining adjutants. He allied with the wizard Maready, after the spellcaster convinced Krakosh that not only had he nothing to do with their leader’s disappearance, but that there was every chance that she was still alive and in the hands of some devil or rival. The pair of them won the struggle for control of the Iron Throne, and since then Krakosh has dedicated himself to restoring his beloved’s creation to its former state. With Maready as his aide-de-camp, the storm giant has already made great strides toward doing exactly that.
Krakosh rarely appears in his giant form, preferring to pass for a human with his amulet of alter self.
Maready, a Sembian half-elf by birth, originally signed on with Sfena and Krakosh for the power and wealth they offered. He continued to work with the Iron Throne, but as the years went by he was no longer satisfied with the benefits that the organization could offer. He began to privately question Sfena’s motivations and capabilities. Maready believed that the Iron Throne could double or even triple its gains annually if someone more intelligent were in charge—such as himself, for instance. Aware of Sfena’s diabolic ties, Maready decided to take advantage of her history. He managed to get word to Sfena’s devil lord father, advising him of his child’s whereabouts. As he had anticipated, the devil’s minions eventually appeared to seize Sfena and return her to Baator, where Maready hopes she remains for all eternity. It was then a simple matter for Maready to manipulate the anguished Krakosh into taking on the remaining lieutenants, leaving the storm giant and himself in control.
Motivation and Goals
Krakosh desires, above all things, to locate Sfena and recover her. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the faintest idea where to start looking, and neither does Maready (or so he claims). He has ordered that all members of the organization search the areas in which they do business for signs or rumors of their missing leader. Meanwhile, he intends to increase the operational area of the Iron Throne so that the search area can likewise be expanded. For all he knows, Sfena is in the hands of one of their trading rivals, or rotting in the dungeon of some king, waiting for rescue. He is prepared to scour Faerûn for her, and does not hesitate to use whatever means are necessary to recover her. He relies heavily on Maready’s judgment and consults the wizard before making any important decisions.
Meanwhile, the Iron Throne is largely Maready’s to run as he likes, through his storm giant ally. Krakosh has proven most tractable when it comes to changing business practices. All Maready needs to do is claim or imply that his advice enables the storm giant to make the Iron Throne more successful, thus increasing his chances of finding his lost love. When the time is right and Krakosh has served his purpose, Maready intends to eliminate him and rule the Iron Throne himself. Maready has already convinced Krakosh that the group should begin trading in drugs, acquiring them from the Red Wizards’ enclaves and reselling them for higher profits elsewhere.
The rank and file membership consists primarily of merchants, caravan masters, soldiers, brigands, rogues, drovers, craftsfolk, spies, assassins, and saboteurs. The vast majority of these folk, whose numbers encompass nearly every civilized Faerûnian race, have as their primary desire the acquisition of wealth. A limited number desire wealth and power, and from this segment the most talented and skilled are promoted to positions of authority within the organization.
The Iron Throne is actually engaged in the legitimate trade of arms and armor. Their caravans are welcomed in numerous cities throughout the Heartlands for the masterwork and magical weapons they convey (many of which are stolen, salvaged from dungeons by hired adventuring parties, or made by craftsfolk who were cheated out of their rightful profits). The group also smuggles weapons, in order to avoid taxes and other inconvenient laws. Their most successful tactic in the weapon trade, however, is raiding the caravans of their competitors. The Iron Throne is always very careful to ensure that the raiders appear to be nothing more than common brigands. The society encourages its legitimate merchants to strive to maintain an air of respectability. The leadership has found that an appearance of honesty helps defeat accusations to the contrary.
The organization employs a goodly number of agents charged with the task of tracking down and punishing those who cross it. Folk who break contracts with the Iron Throne are likely to be murdered, defamed, or sold into slavery, depending on which option is most expedient and cost-effective.
The Iron Throne recruits extensively and indiscriminately from among the dregs of society for the criminals it requires to enforce its wishes. Wages are reasonable, normally the prevailing rate for the type of work and geographic area, with generous bonuses for those who demonstrate a genuine flair for their work. The Iron Throne actively recruits adventurers and adventuring parties, hiring them to scour dungeons and other dangerous locales for valuable weapons and armor. The organization pays adventurers well, but insists upon a contract that enjoins the employees from keeping any masterwork or magic weapons or armor they may locate for themselves.
Encounters with the Iron Throne typically are with their hired agents, such as brigands, smugglers, and thieves, or the merchants who handle their legitimate caravans. Should adventurers come into possession of information that would enable Krakosh to learn something about Sfena’s current whereabouts, they might find themselves in a confrontation with the master of the Iron Throne himself.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 9, 2014 15:31:04 GMT -5
Whatever they may be, the kir-lanans (the creatures’ name for their race in their own harsh language) are not gargoyles. The name is a misnomer, bestowed on them by adventurers who mistook the creatures for some strange, new type of gargoyle when the beings appeared in Faerûn shortly after the Time of Troubles. The kir-lanans do share some physical characteristics with gargoyles: Both have large, batlike wings, short horns, and sharp, naillike claws. But the resemblance ends there. These creatures are most definitely a race apart, having no kinship ties to any other beasts or peoples living in Faerûn today.
The kir-lanans appeared for the first time, as far as anyone can determine, immediately after the Time of Troubles. The learned minds of Faerûn speculate that the kir-lanans’ sudden and unheralded appearance in the world was somehow connected to one or more events that transpired during that confused, and turbulent, era. Since they were first sighted, the kir-lanans have proven remarkably resistant to inquiries into their nature, customs, and habits, responding with brutal savagery when provoked. Even when left alone, the creatures display a pronounced antipathy for anyone and anything even remotely connected to the deities of Faerûn—clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, and even lay worshipers included. Groups of the creatures have terrorized temples and shrines across Faerûn, without any apparent provocation.
At first, these attacks appeared to be disorganized, almost random, as if the creatures could not decide where, when, and how they wished to strike. Most of the kir-lanans’ early assaults were directed against places of worship and the persons within them. They attacked temples, shrines, and groves dedicated to Faerûn’s deities, plaguing the clergy and worshipers they found at these sites and doing their utmost to desecrate the structures. Many of these attacks were poorly coordinated, and the defenders were often able to drive the attacking kirlanans away with a strong display of resistance. Gradually, however, the activities of the creatures took on a more organized and directed aspect. No longer content with focusing their efforts on centers of worship, the kir-lanans have increasingly targeted the deities’ worshipers wherever they may encounter them. Pilgrims traveling a road are as much at risk as a monk in his monastery. The kir-lanans’ assaults have increased not only in frequency but also in lethality. Of late, the creatures have shown evidence of battlefield tactics that they did not display in previous years. While it is possible, folk agree, that the creatures could have improved their fighting skills, a more disturbing possibility must be considered: The kir-lanans may be receiving assistance from some greater intellect or power.
The loremasters and sages who speculate that the kir-lanans’ appearance in Faerûn is linked somehow to the Time of Troubles are indeed correct. But their surmise only scratches the surface of the strange and unprecedented origin of this malevolent race. The kir-lanans were born of the tremendous divine energies created by the deaths of three deities: Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, who were slain during the ill-fated Godswar (see the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for a more detailed discussion of this event). The passing of these three evil deities was marked by the release of untold amounts of divine energy, manifesting itself in various acts of destructive nature. A portion of this energy remained in Faerûn for some time after the deities in question had passed, pooling and coalescing until it became a roiling maelstrom of divine and negative energy. The effect remained extant only briefly, but long enough for something to stir within and fight its way free of its chaotic black depths—the first of the kir-lanans.
Several hundred of the creatures entered existence in this fashion, each fully formed and possessed of the terrible knowledge of its origin. Unlike other races, the kir-lanans were not born into a state in which they could share in the divine grace of the deities. They were created from the deities’ folly, condemned forever to exist without the possibility of gaining the favor of the divine. No amount of pious prayer or devout worship matters to the kir-lanans, for the condition of their creation denies them any beneficence wrought by any deity.
The kir-lanans know only one goal in their bleak existence: to vent their fury against the deities. Since the time of their creation, they have pursued an agenda of guerilla warfare against all who are able to bask in the favor of any deity, no matter how humble or minor that divinity may be. If the creatures could smite the deities themselves, they surely would, but the deities’ faithful must bear the wrath of the kir-lanans’ anger in their stead. Striking without warning or mercy against those who gather in places sacred to deities, the kirlanans have become the whispered terror on the lips of clergy everywhere, the darkest evil lurking in the mind of every acolyte and adept. Each month, it seems, brings a new tale of slaughter and desecration visited on a place of worship in some corner of Faerûn, leading folk everywhere to wonder if their church or shrine—or themselves—might be next.
Adventurers throughout Faerûn have heard tales of “the black gargoyles,” “dark stalkers,” “winged drow,” and “the godless,” all of which are common nicknames for the kir-lanans. Some have even fought the creatures, or spoken with those who have. But the complete newness of the race and the confusion over their aims has led to a dearth of hard facts about the creatures. Captured specimens have proven remarkably resistant to persuasion even of a violent nature, preferring death over the betrayal of their fellows (though spells such as detect thoughts and zone of truth have been effective, provided that the questioner knows the right questions to ask and understands the captives’ responses).
Consequently, a number of rumors and suppositions circulate about the creatures. It is said, for example, that the Night Masks have enslaved a number of kir-lanans and now use them as spies. Folk traveling to Westgate are sometimes warned that the gargoyles they see perched atop the high places of the city may actually be kir-lanans, who swoop down to rend the guild’s enemies limb from limb. Other tales focus on the alleged powers that the creatures display. It is commonly thought in the Moonsea that kir-lanans are invulnerable to most weapons and spells. Those who repeat this gossip cite the fact that three clerics of Shar attempted to fend off an assault by a group of kir-lanans by blasting the winged horrors with inflict spells that would have slain an ogre. The magic had no effect on the kir-lanans, who then cut the trio to ribbons where they stood. The story of a noble paladin who fended off a quintet of kir-lanans that attacked a temple of Torm has been making the rounds of the taverns in Baldur’s Gate. Talespinners there say that the paladin had the better of her foes, until one of them called forth a number of undead from the temple’s nearby graveyard. The shambling horde of animated corpses overwhelmed the paladin.
As these and other stories spread, the fear grows. Some good folk, fearing attack, now carry arms as they make their way to places of worship. Druids and rangers of the Silver Marches comb the wilderness for signs of the creatures, hoping to prevent attacks that the fledgling confederation can ill afford. Some adventurers who have actually encountered kir-lanans and lived to tell the tale have shared information that, while not complete, seems at least consistent with other corroborated evidence. These folk have established that the following facts about the godless are probably true.
The kir-lanans hate deities. This seems the universally defining characteristic of the creatures (another feature that they don’t share with “normal” gargoyles). In battle they almost always prefer to attack divine spellcasters before any other foes, but any creature that venerates a deity seems fair game. Given the prevalence and importance of religion in the daily life of Faerûn, the kir-lanans consider just about every other race as their hated enemies.
The individual creatures refer to themselves collectively as “kir-lanans.” They never elaborate on what this term might mean in any other tongue, however, and none outside their race have yet mastered the harsh, almost guttural, language the creatures use. A few adventurers report that at least some kir-lanans speak a few words of Common, though their speech is heavily accented. No hints or clues exist to their tongue’s origins, implying strongly that it was never spoken in Faerûn until their arrival. Likewise, there is no mention of a creature matching their description in any of the numerous houses of learning scattered across the land. Hoping to shed some light on the mystery of the kir-lanan language, the scholars of Candlekeep have searched diligently for some hint or clue, but were unable to unearth anything even remotely helpful.
The kir-lanans are notoriously reticent to discuss their worldview, apart from confirming that they do indeed despise deities and the worshipers of deities. A few resourceful and fortunate adventurers have gleaned in limited conversation with kir-lanans the fact that the creatures have no patron deity, making them a rarity among the intelligent races of Faerûn on that basis alone. The creatures have implied that it isn’t necessarily religion itself that angers them, but rather their own inability to participate in it. Their universal term for all other races translates into Common as “godslaves.”
It is thought that the number of creatures appearing initially was relatively small. But either those reports were wildly inaccurate, or the total number of kir-lanans has been steadily increasing. The tiny number of creatures that arrived in Faerûn during the Godswar simply could not perpetrate attacks in so many widespread locations. Either the creatures are breeding, or someone—or something—is causing their numbers to swell.
The kir-lanans’ chaotic nature has made it difficult for the race to organize effectively at a level beyond the small groups in which they hunt and travel. Despite this, a few individual kir-lanans have learned to think differently, and as the race evolves they have made some inroads toward acting in greater concert.
Members: About 4,000 (and growing fast).
Religion: See text.
Symbol: The kir-lanans use no symbol as a race, and their smaller groups use no identifying marks. A number of kirlanans speak Common, if badly, but whether or not they can write it remains a mystery. Likewise, if the creatures possess a written alphabet of their own, none have seen any evidence of it.
The kir-lanans’ numbers are still small compared to most races, and the creatures are somewhat resistant to an organized societal structure. They gather in small bands, dubbed “wings” by adventurers, usually numbering from two to five individuals. Larger groups have been reported, particularly in the Shining South, and a ranger in the High Forest claims to have seen a flight of at least six dozen of the creatures in the sky overhead, moving southward at great speed shortly after the beginning of the new year.
The strongest, fiercest specimen leads each wing. Any member of the wing is free to challenge the current leader for rulership of the band at any time, making for sudden and dramatic power shifts. Some of the energy and time that the kirlanans might otherwise direct against Faerûnians is spent resolving these challenges. A fight to the death settles the contest, and the only known witness to a kir-lanan leadership challenge (a sage from the city of Suzail who risked her life to get close enough to observe the wing’s ritualistic combat) described it as a “dance of brutal savagery.” A wing leader can never let down his guard or rest on his laurels if he wishes to remain in charge for long. He must constantly prove himself fit for leadership by being the first to strike and the fiercest in battle. Gender has no impact on wing leadership; there are roughly as many female wing leaders as there are males. Membership in a wing shifts constantly as individual kirlanans leave and join.
The Eyes Adventurers have told of encounters with solitary kir-lanans that did not attack, but rather observed the party from high in the air, only to flee if confronted. A sizable number of kirlanans— perhaps as many as a quarter of the total population— are solitary creatures, living apart from all others of their ilk. They do not join wings and actively avoid contact with their fellows, departing an area if more kir-lanans arrive.
Among the kir-lanans, these solitary creatures occupy a special niche. They are called in their own tongue the Valrak, or “the eyes.” The Valrak make it their business to explore the lands of Faerûn, studying the people and cultures of this world into which the kir-lanans were so rudely thrust. The Valrak observe so that the bulk of the race is free to continue to engage in acts of vengeance against deities. The Valrak impart the knowledge they gain to other members of their race when called to a rookery (see below). They are particularly interested in matters of a religious nature for obvious reasons, but they have also attempted to learn something of Faerûn’s different cultures, languages, and races, and also its rich history. The “eyes” may be found in nearly any location, from the North to the Unapproachable East, from wilderness to sprawling city. Most major cities in Faerûn have at least one member of the Valrak, and a few of the largest metropolises boast several. Valrak kir-lanans always advance as rogues.
The Voice A vital part of kir-lanan society is the Kivar, or “the voice.” These important figures might be the heart and soul of the race, for they keep the fires of fanaticism burning in the kir-lanans’ collective breast. Before a planned raid or attack, the Kivar gather the wing or wings together to remind them of their grand purpose: making war on deities. Traveling from wing to wing, the Kivar employ a number of devices ranging from narratives of past victories to verses enumerating the deities’ many faults, all of which are designed to incite the kir-lanans to a fever pitch of anger and bloodlust. Likewise, the Kivar often fly with a wing (or group of wings) to the attack, using their special talents to inspire the kir-lanans as they carry the fight to the enemy. As such, the Kivar’s function is almost spiritual—an irony not lost on the godless kir-lanans.
More intelligent than the majority of their fellows, the kir-lanans who became the Kivar planned their roles with some forethought and care. The first probably patterned themselves after bards they observed rallying adventuring parties or entertaining in taverns. Little by little, the kirlanans developed their own verse and chant styles, and found them to be useful not only for recording the deeds of their race but for keeping it focused on the greater goal. When several wings gather to achieve an objective greater than what a single wing can accomplish, it is almost always because a Kivar has been successful in uniting the kir-lanans for the purpose. Several Kivar have even been successful at establishing loose alliances with other groups in Faerûn, something that most who have encountered the fanatic kirlanans would not have thought possible. Kivar advance as fighter/bards.
Motivation and Goals
The kir-lanans began existence with a single goal: punish the deities by desecrating their temples and extinguishing all their godslaves. This is still the ultimate goal of the race, but the kirlanans have modified their approach considerably. Their initial strategy in pursuit of the grand goal was simple. They were prepared to attack and slay every divine spellcaster, religious leader, or worshiper of any deity in all of Faerûn, one by one. However, it became apparent even to the most fanatical members of the race that these tactics would accomplish little except the slow attrition of their numbers.
The members of the emerging Kivar caste were the first to recognize that both information about the world and a different set of tactics would be necessary. It was they who convinced the kir-lanans that some members of the race should separate from the wings and go into the world to learn what they could. This is how the Valrak were conceived and born. The Kivar hoped that by better understanding this world, they could devise strategies that would enable the kir-lanans to realize victory over the deities and give the race a chance to triumph. Their plan has proven successful, at least in that it has allowed the creatures to plan their raids and attacks more carefully. But the Kivar came to understand that even more changes would be required, even if the process was slow and painful in the face of the generally chaotic kir-lanan nature.
The kir-lanans are unable to breed with any outside their own race, and so cannot recruit more members in that fashion. While some have accepted that temporary alliances with certain godslaves might be necessary for the greater kir-lanan good, none are ready to welcome other creatures into their community. But alliances, once impossible due to the kirlanans’ fanatical refusal to even communicate with godslaves, are rapidly becoming another matter under the guidance and direction of the Kivar caste.
Slowly, cautiously, the Kivar have advanced the idea that the kir-lanans have everything to gain by forging alliances with other humanoid groups. This concept was met at first with near total resistance, but gradually—as information gathered by the Valrak has trickled into the rookeries—the idea is making sense. To the surprise of the kir-lanans, they discovered that some Faerûnian natives give little more than lip service to deities, preferring to devote themselves to more important agendas and pursuits. Among these groups, the Arcane Brotherhood, the Knights of the Shield, and the Iron Throne have proven the most compatible with the kir-lanan outlook. All these groups desire power, but none of them are particularly interested in doing so in the name of a patron deity. While some individual members of these organizations may venerate patron deities, their beliefs don’t seem to have detracted from their ability to help their societies achieve their goals.
The Kivar have thus been able to convince several wings to swallow their distaste and work jointly with these groups on limited occasions. One wing recently joined with a contingent of Iron Throne agents who sacked a caravan carrying supplies destined for a remote temple of Oghma. Another aided the Arcane Brotherhood in conducting a thorough reconnaissance of a druid grove near the community of Deadsnows in the Silver Marches; the wing has agreed to help the Brotherhood destroy the grove in the near future. All the alliances forged thus far are admittedly temporary, and the Kivar know that they must be cautious. It takes only one mistake in their choice of allies to forever sour the entire race on the whole idea.
The Kivar hope that when the kir-lanans see how effective such alliances of convenience can truly be, they are more accepting of the idea. They have hopes that, in the near future, some wings might even permit (very) temporary alliances with those who worship certain deities, such as Cyric. The Kivar cannot help but be in complete agreement with Shar’s desire to war on the other deities, and they are not opposed to working alongside her clergy for that very purpose. And when that happens, the Kivar know that the deities themselves are going to tremble at the havoc the kir-lanans shall wreak. If the Kivar are successful in this plan, only Shar would eventually be left, and by then the kir-lanans’ power should be too great for her to do anything other than submit meekly to her death at the hands of her one-time ally.
Statistics for individual members of the kir-lanan race can be found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. As stated therein, a typical encounter with kir-lanans consists of a wing with from two to five members.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 9, 2014 17:59:10 GMT -5
The Knights of the Shield
The Knights of the Shield is a loose network of nobles and merchants who share information so that they may each exert influence in their chosen areas of interest. The members of the order are for the most part entirely self-interested. They could use the information gained from the organization for the betterment of lives and livelihoods in many lands, but they choose instead to employ it in gaining political leverage and personal advantage.
Many of the knights are legitimate aristocrats and traders who see no harm in acquiring the odd bit of useful information. For many of them, their association with the knighthood is more a matter of family tradition and convenience rather than conscious decision.
Other members, however, are not so casual about their affiliation with the order. For them, their knighthood comes first and foremost, for it is the key that unlocks all the personal power and wealth they crave. And there exists yet another layer of membership, unknown to the other two: an inner cabal of knights who serve the true power of the order— a being dedicated to spreading its own brand of cruelty and political corruption across Faerûn.
The knights can trace the origin of their order back more than fifteen centuries. Their original purpose was to provide intelligence to the monarchy of Tethyr during the Eye Tyrant Wars of –170 DR. They took their name from the fabled Shield of Silvam, an artifact that was reputedly crafted by the wizard Zhyra Bardson-Ithal. The artifact was lost, though history does not record the time or place of its disappearance. Perhaps not coincidentally, the knights were officially disbanded shortly after the shield vanished (about three hundred years after the order’s founding), when they were falsely accused of taking part in the murder of King Leodom IV of Tethyr.
The senior knights, however, continued to meet in secret, establishing many of the traditions and practices that have endured to the present day. By sharing vital economic, political, and historical information gathered by themselves and their agents, the nobles were able to make exceptionally wise investment, trade, and political decisions that increased their personal wealth and enabled them to remain several steps ahead of rivals. Inviting only a handful of their fellow nobles to join the order every few years, the Knights of the Shield remained a relatively tiny organization with modest aims until the year 889 DR, when Duke Tithkar Illehhune joined the society.
The duke brought with his membership a wondrous, magnificently jeweled shield, which he referred as the Shield of the Hidden Lord, that bore a menacing visage worked into its face. He persuaded his fellow knights that the shield was a gift from the deities, meant as a sign that the Knights of the Shield should restore themselves to their former glory. Duke Illehhune and his cronies established a secret inner circle of knights for the purpose of increasing the order’s power and influence. Calling themselves the Shield Council, this inner cabal undertook the task of restoring the Knights of the Shield to the success and power it had known in its formative years.
In the five centuries that have followed, the Knights of the Shield has indeed waxed prosperous. Though still relatively few in number, its membership includes many of the best informed and most successful aristocrats and traders in its sphere of influence, which today includes most of the Sword Coast as well as Amn, Calimshan, and Tethyr. The group has used its network of spies, informants, and gossips to influence events of economic, social, and military nature, including the creation of important trade roads, the defeat of the Black Horde (1235 DR), the establishment or relaxation of innumerable trade tariffs and mercantile policies, and the reestablishment of Tethyr’s monarchy during the Reclamation Wars (1366–1369 DR). All these events have benefited members of the Knights of the Shield and the Shield Council immensely, mostly by adding to their personal stores of wealth and political power. As far as the majority of the members of the order are concerned, that’s the entirety of the organization’s goals and ambitions. They are mistaken.
The knights guard their secrets carefully, despite the fact that their organizational structure is quite loose and informal, except for the Shield Council. Separated by geography as they are, the members rarely ever meet more than a half-dozen of their fellows during their entire lifetimes. Ancient bylaws stipulate that each knight may inform no more than three individuals, regardless of identity, that he is a member of the order, and this rule remains in effect today. None of the members outside the Shield Council are aware that the order’s leadership is not what it appears to be.
Headquarters: Inselm Hhune’s palatial manse in the city of Baldur’s Gate.
Members: 60–100, plus three or four times as many agents.
Leader: Inselm Hhune, First Lord of the Shield Council.
Religion: Gargauth the Outcast (see text).
Alignment: CN, LE, NE.
Symbol: A circular shield with a central eye, surrounded by a circle of diamonds.
The Knights of the Shield mint their own currency. They use as their tender a thick gold coin, as heavy as three standard gold coins. Each coin is stamped on one side with the order’s mark. The coins are minted at a facility owned by the order, located in Athkatla.
Seven knights make up the membership of the Shield Council. They meet periodically, never in the same place twice, in order to chart the direction of the order and coordinate its members’ activities. Four of the members of the council are merely senior knights who have dedicated much of their lives to the order, doing what is best for themselves and the organization often at the expense of ethics. However, the remaining three members—the First Lord of the Shield, the Second Lord of the Shield, and the First Lady of the Shield—serve the order only as a means to increase the power of their dark master, the Hidden Lord of the Shield.
The Hidden Lord of the Shield Lord Tithkar Illehhune’s artifact is still with the Knights of the Shield—in fact, it now leads the organization. The shield is an artifact sacred to the deity Gargauth, a cruel minor power whose portfolio includes betrayal, cruelty, political corruption, and power brokers. Gargauth speaks directly through the shield. By carefully manipulating the members of the Shield Council for centuries, imparting to them valuable snippets of information that they used to the order’s benefit, Gargauth encouraged the members of the council to venerate the artifact and treat it as the Hidden Lord of the order. Patiently, he has manipulated the Shield Council members year after year, becoming more and more essential to the order’s success. Now he has usurped their leadership and become the knights’ true master. Fortunately, he has the perfect tool in the current First Lord of the Shield, the insatiably power-hungry Inselm Hhune. With this greedy mortal’s cooperation, Gargauth has installed his own clergy on the Shield Council. Now he is in a position to start dictating the activities of the order directly.
As far as the majority of the Shield Council members are concerned, the Hidden Lord of the Shield is a strange intelligence that dwells in the shield itself. They respect its authority and wisdom, considering it the nominal head of the order. The council would not dream of making an important decision without first consulting the Hidden Lord, much as one might consult an oracle or a Talis deck for insight into an important personal matter. The Hidden Lord does not always speak to the council even when asked, and on such occasions the council takes the Hidden Lord’s silence as a sign that it approves of whatever decision the council cares to make. On the rare occasions when the Hidden Lord makes its opinion known, however, the Shield Council is quick to follow its advice to the letter, for it has never proven to be wrong. The Second Lord of the Shield, Ghauntz, is the official Speaker for the Hidden Lord, since he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to decipher and interpret the being’s sometimes cryptic utterances.
The First Lord of the Shield The impossibly fat Duke Inselm Hhune of Kamlann cultivates a pleasant demeanor, but his heart is as black as his hair, and his ambition is greater even than his waistline. He is an indirect descendant of the Tethyrian noble who discovered the Shield of the Hidden Lord, though he was himself born a common merchant. He excelled at his trade by virtue of a quick mind, and through the combination of this acumen and carefully disguised but ruthless ambition, he amassed a fortune so large he was able to purchase the title of lord. Invited to join the Knights of the Shield soon thereafter, he rose quickly through the ranks to sit on the Shield Council only five years after becoming a member (aided by the “mysterious” deaths of several regular knights and one member of the Shield Council, with the help of the Fire Knives and the Night Masks).
A political intriguer and social climber without peer, Inselm gives his loyalty only as a calculated loan, to be recalled when his allies are no longer useful. The only interests that he cares about are his own. His personal wealth is immense and his land holdings vast, though most are “owned” by his agents and nominees so that his enemies and rivals do not know the full extent of his resources. The crown of Tethyr has rewarded Inselm handsomely for his services in recent years. He seems to know everything that happens in the South and along the Sword Coast, a talent he chalks up publicly to his business dealings but that stems in actuality from his membership in the Knights of the Shield.
Since Inselm’s ascension to the Shield Council, Gargauth has singled him out as the principal target of his machinations. Becoming the First Lord granted Inselm the privilege of caring for the Shield of the Hidden Lord: Each time he handled the artifact, Gargauth whispered to him, encouraging him to act upon his cruelest and most base instincts. Already a man with few morals, Inselm rarely hesitated to take the Hidden Lord’s advice, committing acts of treachery and murder whenever prompted by the whispers of the deity. Soon Gargauth had Inselm completely under his thumb.
The Second Lord of the Shield Ghauntz the Cloaked is an elderly, scarred man who is rarely seen without his dark robes and hooded cloak. He has venerated and served his deity for the better part of his adult life. He gained membership in the order through his deity’s manipulations and came to his seat on the Shield Council through similar means. Now that he is one of the rulers of the order, he works to ensure that his deity’s will is understood and enacted. The other members of the Shield Council respect Ghauntz’s role as the Speaker for the Hidden Lord. They believe him to be nothing more than a sharp-minded moneylender who is gifted at understanding the Hidden Lord’s true meaning, unaware that he actually receives communication directly from Gargauth.
The First Lady of the Shield Duchess Lucia Thione-Hhune is a distant cousin of the royal house of Tethyr. She married Duke Inselm Hhune three years ago in a bid to regain her position among the knights, which she had forfeited during an embarrassing and ill-fated debacle in which she attempted to seize control of the city of Waterdeep. The chestnut-haired beauty was exiled from the City of Splendors for her crimes and lost her standing among the knights both for her failure and for deceiving the membership.
Inselm skillfully maneuvered to rebuild his wife’s lost status, and just this year managed to bring her into the Shield Council (with the aid of Ghauntz and the Hidden Lord). He did not do so out of a sense of duty or love, however. Theirs is a marriage of political convenience, and neither of them has any illusions about the other’s fidelity. Inselm plans to indoctrinate Lucia into the worship of Gargauth, so that she too may aid the Hidden Lord in increasing his control over the order. For her own part, Lucia has yet to hear the Hidden Lord speak, but she has seen what Inselm’s association with the artifact and its master have done for him. It is unlikely that she will refuse any chance to increase her own personal power.
Motivation and Goals
The methods employed by the Knights of the Shield are actually quite simple. When a member hears something that could be of potential use to a fellow member or the order as a whole, he conveys it to the Shield Council. The council members in turn coordinate and analyze the incoming information, redistributing it to the members who in their opinion can make the best use of it. Most of the members use the information thus gained to feather their own nests, improve their political standing, or take advantage of economic trends and events. A knight might inform the Shield Council, for example, that the wheat crop of a certain community looks as though it might yield less than anticipated at the upcoming harvest. The council might pass this information on to another member who has interests in the wheat trade; that member could then act quickly to capitalize on the harvest shortfall, making a tidy profit and cutting his competitors out of that particular market. The Shield Council receives a dozen bits of information just like this every day. Taken individually, these pieces of data—some little better than court gossip—may mean relatively little. When viewed as a whole, they constitute a most thorough picture of matters that are of great interest to anyone wishing to gain certain types of advantages.
The knights generally work, as a group, within the letter of the law when pursuing their information-gathering activities. A member usually cultivates a network of informants from among his social and business contacts, and many do not hesitate to use their own friends and family as potential sources of information. Some members of the order are not above taking the law into their own hands in order to achieve goals they consider more important than the sanctity of local statutes. But the order has had tremendous success in applying political and economic pressure to actually alter laws or repeal them altogether, which is a much safer means of accomplishing its goals than committing criminal acts.
The knights are bound by an oath, handed down since the order’s earliest days, to undertake no activities that might harm the organization or act contrary to the interest of its members. However, it is not always possible to know when any given act impacts a fellow knight negatively, so a system of apologetic repayments for unintentional infractions of this rule has been established over the years. When a member inadvertently acts against the interests of a fellow knight, he is expected to tender an immediate apology and a prescribed sum in either cash or trade goods as compensation. The Shield Council is the final arbiter of these matters. Knights who attempt to cheat the order or their fellows out of such a debt are normally among the organization’s most short-lived members.
The Shield Council Unlike the regular knights, the members of the Shield Council think nothing of laws or morals—such matters are of no concern to a true master of events. The council uses the information it receives from the constituent members to plan and conduct assassinations, bribe political figures, blackmail the wealthy, and conduct hostile takeovers of businesses in financial difficulty. Sometimes they do their own dirty work, but more often they contract out to other organizations and societies, such as the Night Masks, the Fire Knives, or Shadow Thieves. They are not above dealing with the Zhentarim, the Arcane Brotherhood, the Red Wizards, or any other group that might be of use in pursuit of their goals. In this fashion, they increase their own wealth and power, and extend that of the order. Because Inselm’s public life demands that he give the appearance of total loyalty to his native Tethyr, the order does not conduct any of its more unsavory operations in that country. Moreover, Inselm utilizes information gained through his position on the Shield Council to aid Tethyr’s monarchy.
The Hidden Lord Gargauth’s chief aim in the short term is to gain more worshipers from among the Knights of the Shield. He has entrusted Ghauntz with the task of spreading his gospel among the other members of the Shield Council, and through Inselm he intends to demonstrate his power by making the First Lord even more successful. Currently he is working on a plan that enables Inselm to get even closer to the monarchy of Tethyr, putting him in a position where he might be able to make a claim on the throne. As the faith of the knights is co-opted, those who prove resistant can be drummed out of the order and replaced with those more pliant. Ultimately, Gargauth sees the knights as the foundation of a sharp increase in the popularity of his religion—and therefore as a tool for the increase of his stature and power among the deities.
A knight may sponsor a person, of any race or gender, for membership in the order. The candidate must meet with the Shield Council and, if found acceptable, swear the oaths of loyalty and secrecy with his hand on the Shield of the Hidden Lord. Those who fail to live up to their obligations may be cast out of the order by a majority vote of the Shield Council. Those who dare to betray the order almost always die at the hands of a hired assassin. Most of the new recruits come from Amn, Calimshan, and the Sword Coast, where the order’s members are most numerous and its influence strongest. The vast majority of them are members of the nobility, though a few are immensely wealthy merchants.
The knights do not maintain any standing military arm or body of agents within the order’s structure, except for those servants who wait upon the members when they meet to discuss business. Each knight is responsible for creating and maintaining his own personal network of informants. It is unlikely, therefore, that characters will ever encounter a group of the knights in the normal course of adventuring.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 9, 2014 18:00:00 GMT -5
The Kraken Society
The Kraken Society is a group of information brokers who use their knowledge to influence events in coastal countries along the Trackless Sea. Its agents, known as the Krakenar, are not above using kidnapping, murder, and torture to get their way. Their monstrous leader’s goal is the control of a great undersea and shore kingdom ranging for thousands of miles. Led by a very old kraken wizard called Slarkrethel, the society has ties to the church of Umberlee and controls armies of undersea monsters, which it uses to conquer hostile aquatic settlements and raid shore-based ones.
Upon discovering the ruins of Ascarle, an elven city destroyed by drow and submerged by the northern ice, the kraken Slarkrethel learned of the former glories of his race and desired to reclaim them. Over the centuries he created a network of agents under the sea, strengthening his empire. Eventually he rescued drowning sailors and offered them life in exchange for loyalty as his agents on the shore, and from these strange beginnings a powerful organization of information traders has grown. Now the Kraken Society trades information for wealth, influence, and favors, and has earned a reputation for assassination and other evil acts to further its agenda.
The structure of the society is somewhat loose, and each level within the organization is allowed to develop its own means of acquiring information. This flexibility means that the best way to uproot a particular cell varies widely, since each cell has different methods of handling and acquiring agents.
These statistics refer to the organization as a whole, which spans much area both above and under the water.
Headquarters: Ascarle (underwater city), north Trackless Sea.
Members: Unknown, but assumed to number hundreds of agents across the North and the Western Heartlands, plus tens of thousands of aquatic troops.
Religion: Umberlee, varies.
Alignment: NE, LE, N.
Symbol: The icon of the society is a purple squid with many tentacles. This symbol is only worn openly in places where the society holds absolute power, such as the city of Ascarle.
Slarkrethel cares little how his underlings organize themselves, as long as the information flows. The general structure has the kraken at the head, with a few senior agents watching over large areas. These senior agents have their own groups of underlings that watch over smaller areas, and so on. Agents are allowed to use their own methods of obtaining information as long as the results are passed up through the ranks, after which they can be distributed across the network.
Slarkrethel, a kraken wizard, and Chosen of Umberlee, is the leader of the Kraken Society. His trusted lieutenants are his eyes and ears to the remote parts of his realm. He is always accompanied by a retinue of bodyguards, including weresharks, merrow (aquatic ogres), kapoacinth (aquatic gargoyles), dire sharks, and orcas.
Vestress, a mind flayer, is the overseer of Ascarle. Brought back from an undersea illithid colony and brainwashed into serving the kraken, it is an efficient master of its new home.
The Skum Lord, an aboleth wizard and cleric of Umberlee, lives beneath the sewers of Skullport and is said to own as much as forty percent of that city’s buildings. It sends its skum servitors into the city to collect rent and has many informants within the city.
Rethnor, a human man, is one of the five High Captains of Luskan, and leads the society’s coastal operations from the Mere of Dead Men northward.
Semmonemily, a doppleganger, watches the Dessarin River valley. The former servant of an illithid turned lich, the shapechanger has many Underdark allies and receives frequent updates from unusual sources.
Meritid Archneie, a human cleric Umberlee, serves his church and the Skum Lord faithfully, gathering information on naval traffic for his aquatic masters. He now leads a small cell of Krakenar in Waterdeep.
Motivation and Goals
People join the Kraken Society for many reasons, all revolving around the uses of information. Information can bring wealth, personal power, or vengeance against one’s enemies. The upper ranks of the Krakenar are in it for the power, having become accustomed to numerous underlings obeying their commands. Slarkrethel himself wishes to eventually become a deity, and has the support of Umberlee, who has named him her Chosen.
The Krakenar are willing to trade for information from just about anyone. If a person is proven to be a reliable source of information, he may eventually be shown more of the workings of the society and encouraged to join on a more permanent bases. Theoretically, anyone sufficiently well informed can join the Kraken Society. Its ranks include common thieves, wealthy merchants, and morally dubious adventurers.
In addition to the various intelligent monsters of the Trackless Sea that would be happy to acquire treasure or favors from the Kraken Society, the church of Umberlee is a strong ally, and any Umberlant that is aware of the existence of the society can be counted on to provide at least some aid to a needy Krakenar.
Because of its tendency to pry into secret affairs, the Kraken Society has drawn fire from similar groups such as the Harpers and the Knights of the Shield. Since the Krakenar use violent crime to acquire and protect their information, this behavior has only increased the enmity of the Harpers and other goodaligned groups.
Because they come from all walks of life, no standard tactics are used by members of the Kraken Society. Many agents seem to favor water breathing spells and potions both as a means of escape and to aid in ambushes and surveillance. The legions of aquatic monsters that serve Slarkrethel are all practiced troops, however, and know the best tactics for fighting underwater or on the shore. Using spells to compel or lure foes into the water is a common tactic when fighting in or from the water.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness
[ok whaaa, wizard krakans? Can you imagine that, tentacle spell casting, components goin' everywhere? ahahaha.]
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 12, 2014 4:57:11 GMT -5
Malaugryms are incomparably talented shapeshifters, natives of an unknown plane who use the Plane of Shadow to access the world of Toril. They plan to eventually invade Faerûn but are hindered by several weaknesses, including an inability to master interplanar magic and an almost-pathological need to amuse themselves with acts of cruelty. The leader of the race is known as the Shadowmaster, and the creatures are collectively known as the shadowmasters (although they are not associated with either the Shadowmasters of Telflamm or the Netherese shades, as some have suspected). Five of these creatures inhabit Faerûn at the present time. Although they are meant to be acting on behalf of the entire race as a prelude to invasion, they mostly pursue their own depraved and sordid agendas.
The foul malaugryms are the corrupt and tainted offspring of the wizard Malaug, reputedly the first human from Faerûn to dare the journey to the Plane of Shadow. Given their capabilities and their inability to breed with one another, the malaugryms’ precise ancestry is likely even more complicated and bizarre than the rumors and legends hint.
Able to duplicate any creature that it has ever seen with near perfection, each malaugrym nevertheless has one favorite form that it reverts to when seriously threatened. Normally, however, the malaugryms blend into the population of Faerûn, masquerading as humanoids and settling for periods of time in great urban centers where their favorite food (humans) is plentiful.
Headquarters: Each malaugrym maintains its own headquarters and sanctuaries, usually within the area where its current form dwells. The Shadowmaster dwells in a stronghold on the Plane of Shadow.
Members: 5 in Faerûn, about 100 altogether.
Leader: The Shadowmaster.
Religions: Bane, Gargauth, Shar.
Symbol: The malaugryms do not bother with using a symbol to represent their race. Individual malaugryms, particularly the spellcasters, may choose to adopt a mark of their own, but this is sheer vanity on their part.
The five malaugryms in Faerûn are Arathluth, Luthbyr, Luthvaerynn, Taltuth, and Zarasluth. (Arathluth and Taluth are detailed in Monsters of Faerûn.) Each initiates communication with one another and with the Shadowmaster when they feel like it.
All malaugryms are technically equal to one another in rank and status, except for the Shadowmaster.
Any malaugrym that possesses sufficient strength, cunning, and power can claim the title of Shadowmaster. In order to actually wield the authority that goes with the title, however, the would-be ruler of the race must first destroy his predecessor. Although malaugryms are almost immortal, they do age — albeit very slowly—and a Shadowmaster often lives for countless centuries. A new Shadowmaster is almost always younger and stronger than the old holder of the title.
The only measurement of status among the malaugryms is relative power. The strongest are respected even as they are feared and hated. Bitter rivalries sometimes spring up between individual malaugryms, who can then spend centuries at war with one another. They don’t have the patience to create intricate, long-term plans with which to ensnare rivals, however, so their tactics are generally of the “hit and run” variety. Only the Shadowmaster is able to coerce a group of malaugryms into working efficiently with one another for any length of time.
Motivation and Goals
The malaugryms intend to invade Faerûn in force, just as soon as they gain the interplanar magic to make the crossing from the Plane of Shadow en masse and the power that will enable them to schieve victory over the other races of the continent. At the rate that the malaugryms’ efforts are currently proceeding, their master plan might not reach fruition for some time. Exactly what the race plans to do with Faerûn and its inhabitants once they are conquered is something that the race itself has not determined completely. The current Shadowmaster has pondered the feasibility of dragging the entirety of Toril off into the Plane of Shadow as a vast “playground” for the malaugryms, but it is doubtful that any one plan remains intact for any appreciable length of time.
Meanwhile, the malaugryms currently residing in Faerûn spend most of their time thrill-seeking, questing for ever greater pleasures of all description, and enhancing their private collections of magic items. One of their chief sources of entertainment is tormenting and harassing other creatures, particularly humans, whom they find endlessly amusing.
The fact that the malaugryms are easily distracted from their grand scheme does not mean that they can be dismissed as serious threats, however. An adventurer who underestimates one of these shapeshifters generally realizes his mistake only as the creature crushes the overconfident hero like a bug.
All members of the race are automatically subject to the nominal authority of the Shadowmaster. No others of their kind exist from which to draw fresh recruits. But because malaugryms cannot breed with one another, perhaps due to some defect in their physiology, those active in Faerûn must mate with humans and then steal the resulting offspring. Their partners generally don’t know what’s happening until it is too late, and most do not survive the process of bringing a new malaugrym into the world.
The malaugryms have no permanent allies, either as a group or individually. All their partnerships exist to be exploited and then dissolved and the partners destroyed at the malaugrym’s convenience. They don’t discriminate when choosing their unwitting tools. A malaugrym is as likely to form an alliance with the forces of good as it is with those of evil, provided that doing so somehow satisfies the creature’s unwholesome agenda and desire for amusement. A scant handful of mortals are allied to the malaugryms knowing full well what they are aiding, but such folk tend to possess a high degree of personal power and take steps to protect themselves from betrayal.
Since they intend to invade and conquer Faerûn eventually, malaugryms tend to view all other races, groups, and creatures as their foes. They do not necessarily hate these opponents, however. They simply see them as inconsequential and irrelevant, mere tools that exist for the malaugryms’ pleasure.
Only toward the Harpers and the Chosen of Mystra do the malaugrym feel something more than contempt. These groups have thwarted the malaugryms’ ambitions in the past, activities for which the creatures will never forgive them. A malaugrym may spend months planning the capture of a Harper, and actually obtaining an agent of this interfering group is an opportunity for the malaugrym to unleash its darkest creative whims.
Because each malaugrym is unique, the creatures are only encountered separately. Individuals can employ or gather any number of servitor creatures if they so choose. These servants function as guards, playthings, or any other role the malaugrym wishes. The lives of these slaves are invariably unpleasant and exceedingly short.
All malaugryms favor a stealthy, clandestine approach to conflict. They prefer to send minions, slaves, and allies against a foe rather than take the field themselves. When they are obliged to enter combat personally, they employ tactics designed to conceal their true nature. These creatures rarely expose their true nature, especially in a battle; most would prefer to leave the field rather than risk exposure to a possibly superior foe.
The spells and magic items they employ tend to support these tactics. They favor illusions and similar misleading effects, and habitually create lairs that feature a multitude of false elements (illusory walls, secret staircases, hidden compartments, traps concealed by illusion and clever stonework, and the like).
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 12, 2014 4:57:39 GMT -5
The Mind Flayers
“The taste link is active,” Sugglir sent to his assembled peers. “Begin,” came the collective response. “Human food-creature,” sent Sugglir to the bound captive, “you are honored by being chosen as the subject of pa’nur. My mind and yours are linked. When I feast upon your brain, you shall sense it, and savor its taste as much as I do. In this way, perhaps your soul will be convinced to tread the world in the future as an illithid, rather than as surface cattle.” With that, Sugglir’s tentacles bored their way into Kilimur’s skull. Kilimur screamed, but as he died he learned that the mind flayer found his brain to be quite delicious.
The mind flayers are rightly feared for their evil, their power, and their diet of the brains of intelligent creatures. They assemble in great cities in the Underdark and enslave entire colonies of sentients to work for them and serve as sources of food. What prevents them from immediately conquering the world, in addition to their very specific dietary needs, is their inherently self-serving nature—even a slight setback causes an illithid to flee in the interest of preserving its own skin.
As with the beholders, the origin of the illithids is the source of much speculation and little fact. Some think they came from another plane, some from another time or from across the Sea of Night. Others theorize that they come from a place outside the normal considerations of Faerûn’s cosmology. There are other worlds where mind flayers rule and all other races are their livestock, and it was ancient slave rebellions against the mind flayers that resulted in psionically active races such as the duergar. As things stand, mind flayers are scattered across the world, and no one can point to a specific place where they originated.
These statistics apply to the population of illithids living in or under Faerûn.
Headquarters: Various cities in the Underdark.
Members: Unknown, but at least five cities of 1,000 or more mind flayers are known to exist in the Underdark.
Leader: None, or the elder-brain of a city.
Secrecy: None (although few on the surface other than illithids know the locations of the Underdark cities). Symbol: Mind flayers have no common symbol, although their cities sometimes have a unique icon that decorates items created there.
Ilsensine While all mind flayers revere Ilsensine, their evil deity of knowledge, conquest, and mental power, few choose to devote themselves to the deity and become clerics. Each illithid city has a handful of clerics that remain somewhat apart from the others in the city. Ilsensine is said to look like an enormous green brain trailing countless tentacles that lead throughout its cavernous realm and into the hidden corners of all planes. Its symbol is a brain with two tentacles. The domains associated with it are Charm, Evil, Knowledge, Law, Mentalism, and Tyranny. Its favored weapon is the tentacle (whip).
Cities of the Illithids A mind flayer city is a hideously beautiful place, alien in construction and designed to suit creatures that can naturally levitate. Openings to palatial tunnels rise in staggered levels up the sides of great caverns, ramps are used instead of stairs, and the lowest level is relegated to slaves and slave handlers. At the center of the city is a large building that houses the elder-brain, the aggregate intelligence and memory of mind flayers that have died. Within the elderbrain’s pool swim the tadpolelike young of the race, which implant themselves in a humanoid host when they reach maturity, eventually transforming the host body into the form of an adult mind flayer.
Mind flayers work to advance the plans of their community and divide themselves into smaller groups for specific purposes, such as creating attack strategies, planning slaving runs, searching for a way to dim the light of the sun, or creating magic items to enhance their psionic abilities. Illithids encountered outside a city are either agents of these smaller groups or (rarely) traitorous citizens marked for death. Whether associated with a city or not, mind flayers vigorously compete with each other, rarely pooling their powers, even when working toward the same goal.
The head of a mind flayer city is the elder-brain, which telepathically links all the illithid minds within a mile of the city itself. The elder-brain is parent, orator, judge, arbiter, governor, and library for the illithids. Imbued with vast psionic power from its constituent preserved brains, the elder-brain cannot move and has no ability to physically defend itself, but its mental powers can effortlessly bring any mind flayer to its knees.
Below the elder-brain is the Elder Concord, a council of mind flayers representing each of the various illithid creeds (factions). The Elder Concord sets goals for the community, elects officials for various duties, and takes care of most of the responsibilities for ruling a community. Underneath the Elder Concord are the “common” illithids of the city, which either work alone or agglomerate into inquisitions or cults. Below the common illithids are the many slaves of the city, which do all the actual labor, act as the city’s military arm, and eventually end up as meals for the mind flayers. A city usually has one or two races of thralls to maintain its breeding population.
Motivation and Goals
The mind flayers wish to dominate the world so that they may live lives of luxury, feasting upon the refined minds of carefully bred thralls and honing their psionic powers to a fantastic degree. How each illithid plans to see this goal achieved may differ—some wish to blot the cursed sun that prevents them from easily waging war on the surface, some wish to amass great armies of slaves, some to create psionic items of incredible power, and some have even stranger and more incomprehensible goals. Any motivation is a means to the desired end of world domination.
Mind flayers do not recruit. To them, other races are only potential slaves. Only when it is to their advantage or when greatly outnumbered do they ally with others instead of enslaving them, and any creatures “recruited” by the illithids are eventually going to be charmed and enslaved by them. Almost any type of creature with a discernible intelligence may be found as an illithid thrall.
Mind flayers have few true allies, although they sometimes make temporary alliances with other Underdark races. They keep slaves of almost any race; the most common ones are grimlocks, because grimlocks breed fast and are willing to eat the remains a hungry mind flayer leaves behind. The illithids also frequently have chuul as slaves, and use many Underdarkadapted animals as spies (the illithids scour the animals’ brains to get the information they wants, bypassing the limited intelligence of the creatures).
Mind flayers sometimes lead small bands of doppelgangers, a type of group known as a druuth. The shapechangers are able to infiltrate various organizations and societies, providing their illithid masters with valuable information
The illithids have many enemies—namely, every creature that isn’t an illithid, because no sane mind would volunteer to be enslaved and eaten by these monsters. However, some beings in particular are frequent foes. Deep dragons and drow compete with the mind flayers for living space and slaves. Undead of all kinds are hated and feared, for they are immune to most psionic powers, forcing the mind flayers to use their own natural attacks or waste valuable slaves.
The duergar are the most ardent foes of the mind flayers. Once a normal clan of dwarves, after being enslaved and tampered with for generations, the duergar shook themselves free of their mental chains and emerged into the Underdark as a new subrace of dwarves. The duergar have never forgotten their enslavement, and they train all their soldiers in illithid fighting tactics.
Mind flayers avoid direct combat, preferring to let their slaves deal with this dirty business. If they have to fight, they hide behind a wall of slaves and use their mind blast and psionic abilities to neutralize foes. If they are particularly confident, they may enter melee personally to extract the brain of someone they find appealing. A rare few mind flayers have developed new psionic powers that enhance their physical prowess and enable them to gain levels in the monk class.
If combat turns against it, even slightly, an illithid is likely to flee, abandoning its slaves. It may later sneak back to the site and charm any survivors, whether thrall or enemy.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 12, 2014 4:58:05 GMT -5
The Monks of the Dark Moon
The monks of the Dark Moon are an elite sect of Sharran agents. They serve the Mistress of the Night by carrying out tasks that she prefers not to assign to her ordinary clergy. From their temples located in lands where evil rules the day as well as the night, monks of the Dark Moon strike at Shar’s enemies with lightning swiftness and terrifying lethality. Whether her whim is espionage, sabotage, or murder, the Lady of Loss can be certain that her monastic order undertakes to fulfill it with extraordinary zeal. The monks of the Dark Moon have proven to be Shar’s ace in the hole on a number of occasions, most particularly when fighting against her hated sister, Selûne, and her rival, the deity Loviatar.
In addition to its fortified temples, the sect also maintains shrines dedicated to its patron deity in Underdark caverns, and it has established safe houses and boltholes in the unsavory quarters of larger cities where Sharrans are not welcome. While the monks of the Dark Moon sometimes work jointly with agents and members of the church of Shar, they are not considered part of her normal clergy but rather an autonomous organization. This status enables the monks to remain free to train in their particular skills, to focus on their devotion to their deity, and to ready themselves for the instant Shar calls them to action.
Over the course of the last decade, Loviatar has been making inroads into part of Shar’s traditional territory (principally, the domain of Suffering). Due to her ordinary clergy’s apparent lack of success in halting the incursion, Shar decided that she required a different kind of fighting force for certain types of mission. She conceived a disciplined and loyal monastic order that would serve as her elite force when her earthly needs included subtlety, infiltration, or assassination.
To create her monastic order, Shar turned to her most trusted and devious mortal servant, Alorgoth. Heeding his deity, the Bringer of Doom journeyed far beyond his normal wanderings in the eastern portion of the continent to the Lands of Intrigue. He went first to the city of Purskul, where he commissioned the construction of the imposing, grim edifice that was to be the order’s first monastery (much to the alarm of other religious factions in the city). While the stonemasons and carpenters labored, Alorgoth visited the cities of Athkatla, Crimmor, and Keczulla to begin recruiting the order’s first members from among Sharran cells in those cities.
He sought among these cults for folk who met three principal criteria. First, they must be young adults. Second, they must not have yet been ordained into Shar’s clergy. Finally, they must have demonstrated some manifestation of sorcerous power or potential. Within a year, he had invoked his particular brand of subterfuge and manipulation to gather several dozen ambitious young men and women who apparently met his requirements, and who were eager to gain the secrets of personal power that their new mentor had promised them. Making their way to Purskul, they entered the monastery and began their training. None of them have been seen since ... at least, not in any guise recognizable to those who knew them.
The Bringer of Doom made good on his promises to his young disciples, after a fashion. The young adults who followed him to Purskul learned many secrets, but they also paid a high price for their knowledge. Becoming a monk of the Dark Moon requires the utmost dedication to purpose. Some of the initiates were unable to withstand the grueling physical punishment and mental rigor demanded of them. Some did not actually possess the sorcerous abilities they had claimed, and a few simply could not reconcile the vile acts they were expected to perform as part of their training with their moral conscience, despite what they had believed was a strong faith in Shar. Alorgoth eliminated these failures as a matter of course. He could not afford to permit the washouts to return home to their friends and family with news of what was taking place inside the forbidding structure. Most of these were killed by their fellow disciples in the first year of the monastery’s operation, either as human sacrifices during religious ceremonies dedicated to Shar, or as victims in live training exercises. A few Alorgoth destroyed himself, purely for the pleasure it gave him.
Shortly after the weak and useless were weeded out, Alorgoth turned the operation of the monastery over to three senior priests of Shar, newly arrived from the Temple of Old Night. The deity had directed these clerics to make themselves available at the monastery to finish the indoctrination of the monks started by Alorgoth, for whom she now had other tasks. Several monks who had long worshiped the Lady of Loss likewise joined the priests to continue the martial training of the initiates. The last members of the instructional team to arrive were a pair of sorcerers and an assassin, who would ensure that the monks developed their arcane talents and the killing skills they would require. The initial period of training concluded two years ago with a “class project”: the infiltration and mass poisoning of the entire retinue of Purskul’s clerics of Chauntea, whose temple has stood empty ever since.
By the time the period of instruction was completed, some five years after the monastery was built, Shar possessed a squad of well-trained martial and sorcerous experts, ready to attack, defend, live, and die at her command.
Symbol: Shar’s symbol, a black disc with a deep purple border.
Like the church of Shar, the monks of the Dark Moon follow and obey a strict hierarchy. Failure to follow the orders of a superior is grounds for execution. Shar does not reveal all she knows to her monks any more than she does to her clerics, but this fact does not trouble the members of the Dark Moon order. They have faith that the Dark Deity will reveal exactly what they need to know to serve her well.
Most of the monks of the Dark Moon are human, but their numbers also include a few half-orcs, drow, tieflings, and a shade or two.
The rank-and-file monks refer to one another as “Dark Brother” or “Dark Sister.” Those who aspire to become monks of the Dark Moon must endure a year-long novitiate period during which they endure rigorous mental and physical training, as well as preliminary religious indoctrination under the watchful tutelage of the Dark Fathers and Dark Mothers of the monastery. If the novitiates perform well during this time, they earn the chance to become full-fledged members of the order. At that point, they are given their first missions, generally tasks of infiltration, espionage, or sabotage. If the initiates fulfill their individual tasks with distinction, they are made full members of the order. At that point, the intensity of all aspects of training only increases, and the missions they undertake become more demanding and dangerous.
Senior monks are known as “Dark Father” or “Dark Mother.” They are generally the most skilled monk/sorcerers in each monastery, responsible for training the initiates and the rank-and-file monks.
The most senior monk in a given monastery is “Dark Father Abbot” or “Dark Mother Abbess.” They are the leaders of the monasteries, and the hearts and souls of the order. They receive their orders directly from Shar and do not undertake missions personally unless she commands it. They convene once each year at the Temple of Old Night to meet with the ranking clerics of the deity.
Motivation and Goals
The monks of the Dark Moon exist to serve Shar. More fanatical than the members of her priesthood, they strive to emulate the important tenets of Shar’s dogma in all things. Hopeless and remorseless, they find spiritual fulfillment in acting as a weapon in the hand of the Mistress of the Night. Their only interest lies in striving for perfection according to their religious beliefs.
In practical terms, the monks of the Dark Moon share the same goal as the church of Shar. Their methods, however, are less obvious and more selective. Whereas the priesthood might be engaged in a long-term plan to topple a city government, the monks might be charged with slipping into that city’s chief government building and kidnapping or killing a designated target. A Sharran cell could sponsor a thieves’ guild to undermine a city’s social order and turn worshipers away from goodaligned deities toward Shar, even as a squad of Dark Moon monks waylay a cleric of Selûne in that same city, murder him, and leave his body for the morning crows.
The monasteries are highly selective, preferring quality to quantity. Aspirants to the order must meet the criteria established by the Bringer of Doom for the original initiates. The monks of the Dark Moon fear infiltration even more than does the church of Selûne, but the sheer difficulty of the Dark Moon training regimen, coupled with the standard practices of Sharran worship, almost always winnows out any unqualified applicants.
Shar’s allies are the monks’ allies. The decrees of the deity motivate and drive the monks of the Dark Moon. They do not seek alliances or make enemies except as directed by the Lady of Loss, and then only so that her evil may flourish. Even so, the Dark Abbots and Abbesses do not countenance the purposeful alienation of the common folk who dwell near their monasteries. The work of the Dark Moon is best accomplished under the cloak of secrecy, and blatant maltreatment of commoners merely attracts self-righteous do-gooders who must inevitably be eliminated lest they endanger the security of the order. Some Dark Moon strongholds strive to convince nearby communities that their members are merely a group of peaceful ascetics. Cultivating friendly relations with the native people often provides a level of camouflage that cannot be achieved even through magical means.
Shar’s enemies are the monks’ enemies. The Dark Brothers and Sisters strike when and where they are commanded, and do not dwell on ethics or morals exterior to Shar’s dogma. The Dark Brothers and Sisters harbor special hatred for those who serve Shar’s sister. The monks’ discipline permits them to resist the temptation to indulge in personal vendettas or any other types of activity not prescribed by their missions.
Monks of the Dark Moon do not suspend their training within their monasteries without orders, so all encounters with them will be related to a mission or assignment they are undertaking on the orders of their superiors. A typical individual encounter is a monk/sorcerer of at least 2nd/1st level. All Dark Moon sorcerers use the Shadow Weave. A typical small group encounter is a monk/sorcerer leader of at least 3rd/2nd level, and several accompanying monks or monk/sorcerers.
Monks of the Dark Moon who multiclass as sorcerers are taught lesser shadow tentacle and greater shadow tentacle when they reach the appropriate caster level. These spells are primarily defensive, though they can also be used to restrain a target immediately prior to assassination.
The greatest strength of the order is its unity of purpose. The monks’ single-minded devotion to Shar’s will instills within them a fanaticism unrivaled even by Shar’s most devoted clerics. The monks draw their strength from the meaning that Shar gives to their lives, and this in turn renders them capable of the amazing feats of body and mind they employ in pursuit of their assignments. Betrayal of the order or of Shar is unthinkable to the men and women who have taken the order’s dark vows. If captured, they resolutely endure torture or punishment, secure in the knowledge that they will continue to serve Shar even after death, knowing that she finds a use for their bodies and souls even after they pass beyond the living plane.
If the monks have a weakness, it is their dependence on their deity for all information and direction. Consequently, if the circumstances of a mission change abruptly, or if the monks are confronted with an unanticipated problem, they may be slow in adapting to the new situation or threat. Also, their cloistered lifestyle sometimes works against them. They know little of the world outside their monastery walls, and are sometimes imperfect in their disguises due to a lack of local knowledge. A hero who has reason to suspect that an agent of this order is in the vicinity might be on the lookout for someone who looks native but acts without a native’s habits. Naturally, the monks are at a distinct disadvantage against opponents who wield holy weapons or magic, and their predominantly lawful outlook makes them vulnerable to the powers of chaos as well.
The Dark Abbots and Abbesses prepare the Dark Brothers and Sisters for each mission personally, dictating how the agents are to function in combat. The leaders of the order make a sincere attempt to warn the monks about the typical habits, tactics, and strategies that their enemies exhibit, so that the monks can be as prepared as possible for the mission’s dangers. Many monks of the Dark Moon have personal specialties – ambush, arson, poisoning, fighting mounted foes, and so on—and they are chosen for missions in which these skills will be useful. The monks of the Dark Moon prefer to fight in well-rehearsed patterns, each relying on the others in the group to do what they have practiced countless times. When engaged on a mission, the monks are focused completely on their objective: all other considerations are secondary, including the well-being of any allies or associates with whom they may be working. As long as a monk is left alive, he will continue to attempt to carry out his orders, and he is prepared to sacrifice himself in the attempt.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 12, 2014 5:05:21 GMT -5
The Monks of the Long Death
The monks of the Long Death are members of an old order devoted to the concept of death, and they are masters of using natural means to inflict death upon others. They care little for what deity holds the portfolio of death, serving Cyric briefly before Kelemvor, Myrkul before Cyric, and Jergal long before Myrkul.
This order of the Long Death dates back to the early days of Calimshan after it was freed from the rule of the genies. It was founded as a means for the slaves of the genies to develop the ability to defend themselves and strike out against their elemental masters, but as time went on the monks became obsessed with killing and death beyond their original purpose. Since being driven out of Calimshan, they have been chased away several times from places they try to settle in, but always find a place where they can take root again. The monastery in the Lake of Steam is nestled in the Firesteap Mountains southeast of Innarlith and is over one hundred years old. Founded by a devout worshiper of Myrkul, the monastery still bears many symbols of that dead deity.
The monastery could be considered a place of peace if not for all the combat practice. When not sparring, the monks of the Long Death are quiet and contemplative. One ritualized combat every year on the feast of the moon determines who leads the monastery for the next twelve months. This combat is often to the death, although sometimes a victor inflicts a very painful wound on the loser as a reminder and a lesson. These competitions are the only time when the monks of the order are allowed to fight each other to death.
At least three monasteries of the Long Death are rumored to exist in Faerûn, each of approximately the same size and population. (The following statistics are for one of these monasteries.) In addition to the monasteries, there are probably dozens of smaller cells of wandering monks and their handfuls of students.
Headquarters: Firesteap Mountains, Lake of Steam.
Leader: Lenet the Cold.
Alignment: LE, LN.
Symbol: The monks prefer images of skulls, often with a black diamond on the forehead. Many adorn their bodies with tattoos or scars with this symbol.
Three individuals of importance administer the monastery. The remainder of the monastery residents are treated as equals, although the lesser students battle each other for informal differentiation of rank.
Lenet the Cold is the head of the monastery. Middle-aged and with eyes like ice, Lenet has held her position for seven years in a row. She is an efficient machine of death and always acts completely detached from her emotions.
Tohkis is the chief trainer of new and young students. He is skilled at pushing people with by applying just the right amount of pain and aggression to get them to achieve their potential. Most of his students hate him, but they certainly respect his power.
Idim seeks to constantly advance her awareness of the martial arts, human anatomy, and the thin line between life, pain, and death. She is the mentor of all the students who embrace the philosophy of the order.
Motivation and Goals
The monks seek to understand death and hope to achieve a perfect death. None are really sure what that means, but they believe that by inflicting pain and death upon others with their bare hands, they gain an understanding of what they need to do to achieve their own perfect deaths.
The monks wander the land, accosting people in every part of Faerûn with fist and foot. They have found that pretending to be beggars allows them a great deal of anonymity and freedom to move about. Ironically, many folk mistake them for the Broken Ones (monks of Ilmater), which outrages the worshipers of the Crying Deity.
The monks only accept about a dozen new students into each monastery every year. These students must be lawful neutral or lawful evil and must pass basic physical tests. The monastery also takes on older students, typically fighters with an interest in death or disillusioned monks of other orders. They are particularly fond of teaching worshipers of Loviatar that pain is just a short step away from death, and teaching followers of Ilmater that suffering is only the key to understanding mortality.
Some of the monks of the order are acquainted with worshipers of Cyric or Kelemvor because of their past association with Myrkul. Others have received friendly gestures from clerics of Velsharoon, who wishes to court the Long Death monks into his service.
The monks are opposed by benign deities of life such as Chauntea and Lathander, and are the enemies of the church of Ilmater, which sees their focus on pain and death as being only slightly less repulsive than Loviatar’s love of punishment. Kelemvor, the Lord of the Dead, would prefer that they not practice their skills on unwilling targets and encourages his followers to destroy these monks or convince them to fight undead.
Monks of the Long Death normally fight unarmed and preferentially attack humanoid creatures. In situations where they must fight nonhumanoids, they are not adverse to using weapons, particularly if their unarmed strikes are not very effective against their foes. They tend to favor the kama in these instances. If they down a foe, they use the remainder of their attacks against that foe to kill, or even use a coup de grace to finish a fallen enemy.
- Source: Forgotten Realms - Lords of Darkness
Wandered off to wonderland. Wandered on and back again.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 12, 2014 5:06:33 GMT -5
The People of the Black Blood
The People of the Black Blood consist of several tribes of lycanthropic Malar - worshipers living throughout Faerûn’s forests. They revel in their animal nature, attack those who invade their territory, and enjoy abusing those who blind themselves to all but the gentler parts of nature. The People are most feared for their High Hunt, during which they kidnap a sentient being, release it in the forest, then hunt it as they would an animal. While Malar’s clergy normally only calls for a High Hunt once a season, the People choose victims as frequently as once a month.
Given that they appear all over the continent and have little contact with each other, it is difficult to trace the origin of the People of the Black Blood. In all likelihood, Malar was inspired to bring the first tribe together after some of his worshipers were defeated by a group of Selûnite shapechangers. Knowing as he does the value of hunting in a pack, Malar probably brought the first tribe together to kill a specific target. Since then, the groups have split and reformed, with lone members recruiting others and some divinely inspired by Malar himself to join under the name of the People.
The following statistics refer to a single tribe of the People. Most major forests are thought to have at least one tribe, and the total population of the People is estimated to be three thousand or more.
Leader: Bloodmaster (the most powerful member of the group).
Alignment: CE, NE, N.
Secrecy: None, although the People rarely reveal their affiliation to those outside the group.
Symbol: While each tribe has its own mark or symbol (often depicted in scent rather than visually), each group also tends to use some variant of the symbol that represents the People to outsiders: an abstract humanoid torso with a large clawed hand growing where the head should be. The ties to Malar’s holy symbol are obvious, and the lower part of the symbol may refer to blood or may simply be a spike that can be used to place the symbol upright in the ground.
A tribe of the People of the Black Blood functions like a pack of animals. They have little contact with other tribes unless called together by a great leader or a message from Malar. Each tribe watches over its territory and responds appropriately to outside threats.
Each tribe has a slightly different sort of hierarchy based somewhat upon the local Bloodmaster’s animal’s form. In general, a single individual or a mated pair is dominant, with all others taking commands from the leader or leaders and constantly jockeying with each other for status. When a tribe has mixed members (more than one type of lycanthrope), the members that have the same animal form as the leader tend to be of higher status.
The following are some of the better-known leaders of various tribes.
Heskret of the High Forest, a werebat, claims dominion of the trees for his people. His tribe usually fights in hybrid form (a man-sized batlike winged humanoid), often carrying victims into the air and then dropping them.
Narona of the High Forest, a werewolf, is a lusty young she-wolf with a taste for human flesh. Her name is well known to the people of the High Forest, and her High Hunts are always well attended even by lycanthropes of other clans.
Totoruan of the Chondalwood, a dwarven wereboar, is an ugly one-eyed thug of a creature, an infected shield dwarf adventurer. The silver threads he wears woven into his hair and beard are still visible in his boar form, and it appears that his teeth and tusks are turning into steel.
Vakennis of Cormanthor, a werewolverine, is a natural lycanthrope, daughter of the previous Bloodmaster of her tribe. She slew her father when she felt she was strong enough and has ruled her tribe with strength and determination for the past four years.
Jarthon of the Moonwood, a half-moon elf werebadger, was once a half-elf who used to hunt lycanthropes to protect the people of Silverymoon. After he became infected during a werebadger attack, he used his hunting skills to become the leader of the local tribe. Jarthon has become a thorn in the side of the people of the Silver Marches.
Mainu of Chult, a weretiger, was abducted from her village and infected by another cleric of Malar, who sought Mainu as a bride because of her incredible beauty. She surprised him by tearing out his throat on her wedding night, and then she lived alone for several years as she grew to understand the change in her body. She then took over the tribe that exiled the cleric. Mainu only calls High Hunts upon those who exploit her jungle home.
Motivation and Goals
The People wish to be left alone to protect their territory, their young, and their way of life. Their occasional kidnapping and hunting of innocent people seems natural to them, for they consider any who do not worship Malar or who live in cities to be weak and worthy only of being prey. They do try to choose people for their High Hunts whose absence either won’t be noticed (to avoid drawing attention to themselves) or will prove a point (such as a wealthy leader of a logging guild who has been responsible for encroachment into the tribe’s territory).
The People are a very localized threat, because they are often content to chase off an intruder and leave it at that. However, those who cross them must face a group of skilled hunters with the instincts of animals and the intelligence of any civilized creature.
The People have no interest in recruiting unless their tribe’s numbers are running low. If they have a year of few births or an unusually large number of deaths, they simply kidnap and infect children from nearby civilizations, raising them as their own once the transformation to lycanthrope is complete.
Naturally, the People are allies of the church of Malar, although they often consider their nonlycanthrope allies weak and tainted by the constraints of civilization. They have been known to accept employment from groups such as the Zhentarim, drow, and other organizations that pass through their territory without claiming it, but these alliances usually fade after a time. Such groups usually compensate the People for their work by paying them in rare animals, magic items the tribe can use, or young children that can be eaten or infected with lycanthropy.
The People share the same enemies as all followers of Malar, including those who destroy their hunting grounds, anyone who represents civilization, those who espouse peace (such as clerics of Eldath), the more benign deities of nature, and the faithful of Selûne, whom Malar loathes for her dominion of the moon.
The People use animal tactics supplemented by human intelligence. Ambushes and fast pursuits into dead-end areas are common strategies, as are overbearing and grappling attempts made by multiple creatures on a single weak opponent.
Because they have difficulty using magic items in their animal forms, the People are very selective about what items they carry with them. Only objects that can be easily carried or manipulated by an animal are brought outside the lair. Potions are common items, although not usually carried in bottles — either a soft flask made from a bladder or a bundle of absorbent plant fibers is the most common form, either of which can be chewed apart or sucked on by a creature in animal form.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 16, 2014 5:57:16 GMT -5
The Rundeen is a powerful mercantile and slaving consortium that controls trade in Chult, Tashalar, and parts of Calimshan, and is working its way into Tethyr, Amn, and other countries to the north. It protects its caravans with well-armed guards and sends bandits and pirates to attack its rivals’ interests.
Originally a Tashalaran mercantile organization, the Rundeen allied with the Knights of the Shield and afterward rapidly spread its influence to the north. The fall of the Shoon Empire split the two groups again, and the Rundeen retained hold of its businesses in Calimshan.
After suffering recent setbacks due to the Harpers and the ruler of Calimshan, the Rundeen is trying to maintain its fragmentary holdings in that country and establish contacts in Amn and Tethyr.
The Rundeen is an unusual crime organization. Members of the group offer incentives for prosperous merchants to join them, and for the most part the organization functions as a legitimate, if controlling, merchant network. Only when the Rundeen is thwarted or sees a threat to its business does it make attacks on its rivals.
The following statistics refer to the Rundeen as a whole.
Headquarters: Various residences in Calimshan and Tashalar.
Members: Thousands, including the many merchants, bandits, and pirates involved in or employed by the Rundeen. The primary organization probably numbers about 3,000.
Leaders: The Grand Yrshelem (five individuals).
Religion: Waukeen, any.
Alignment: LN, N, LE, NE.
Symbol: The symbol of the Rundeen is a coin with a nail through it. This ties back to the original meaning of the name Rundeen, “Safe Coin.” Members also have a code sign used to identify themselves to other members of the group: crossing the wrists over the chest while the hands are clenched into fists.
At the head of the organization are five individuals known collectively as the Grand Yrshelem. Each individual controls a different aspect of the business. Below the Grand Yrshelem are the fifteen First Yrshelem (three serving each of the five Grand Yrshelem), who are responsible for keeping track of finances, personnel, and physical assets. The First Yrshelem controls the Mitalibbar, a group with cells of agents in every city that contacts merchants, handles payments, and watches for rivals. Few members of the Rundeen see anyone of a higher rank than the Mitalibbar.
Motivation and Goals
The Rundeen seeks profit above all else. Merchants who have shown themselves to be competent are invited to join the Rundeen, which involves giving up a small portion of their monthly revenue in exchange for protection against pirates and brigands, reduced costs for equipment purchased from the Rundeen, and preferential treatment in Rundeen-controlled cities. Those who default on these payments eventually find that the Rundeen has become a half-owner in their business.
Enemies of the Rundeen are likely to come up against bandits and pirates in the employ of the Rundeen who have been informed of the location and destination of caravans or cargo ships. The raiders are given instructions to harass, damage, or destroy cargo and personnel as a warning to the enemies of the Rundeen. The organization conducts raids in Chult, Tashalar, and Thindol for slaves, and attacks rival slaving ships on the high seas. The group also employs several bands of mercenary adventurers to hunt Harpers and independent groups of bandits that prey on Rundeen caravans.
The Rundeen only recruits merchants who are shrewd, successful, and efficient, and have businesses large enough to merit their interest. From the bandits and pirates in its employ, the Rundeen expects loyalty, discipline, and the willingness to follow orders to the letter and not exceed specified boundaries. For example, a pirate ship instructed to harry a particular merchant vessel of a rival should not board that vessel, and pirates instructed to board the vessel should not sink it. The Rundeen has no interest in agents who cannot control themselves or who might make the organization look bad because of their laxness.
The Rundeen is large enough that it doesn’t need much that isn’t already provided by its own organization. However, the group still has ties to the Knights of the Shield and hopes to exploit those ties to increase its hold north of Amn. The Rundeen has allied with a tribe of yuan-ti in Tashalar and is placing pureblood agents in cities it controls. Finally, the organization has had some initial success in dealings with the ogre mage leaders of the humanoid armies that control southern Amn, offering to blockade the city of Murann to prevent Amnian military ships from trying to reclaim the fallen city.
Few of the Rundeen’s enemies are important enough to be worth mentioning. Most of the people who dislike the organization are small-scale merchants with businesses that rival those allied with the Rundeen.
The Iron Throne is said to oppose the Rundeen, primarily because both groups wish to control trade in the western portion of Faerûn.
The Harpers oppose the Rundeen’s practices and its slaving raids and have made themselves a constant nuisance.
The agents of the Rundeen are scattered across the southern lands and have no training in common. The only consistent feature about them is their equipment, which is usually of very good quality and has been purchased at a discount from Rundeen merchants.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 16, 2014 5:57:45 GMT -5
The Shadow Thieves
The organization collectively known as the Shadow Thieves is the largest and most prosperous thieves’ guild in all Faerûn. Its success is derived from its system of interlocking guilds, each dedicated to the twin goals of profit and power. From the organization’s stronghold in Amn, this series of guilds controls the lion’s share of all criminal operations along the entirety of the Sword Coast and reaches beyond that area into many other parts of Faerûn.
The highly secretive nature of the guild and its operatives ensures that its members have limited significant knowledge of its operations and their own associates. The forces of law and order have tried to pierce the wall of silence that surrounds the Shadow Thieves, to little avail. Despite periodic successes and the elimination of a few guilds, the organization as a whole seems to grow stronger with each passing year.
Five ambitious criminals founded the Shadow Thieves little more than a century ago. Their original base of operations was in Waterdeep, where they operated much like any other thieves’ guild, with one important difference: Power within the guild depended on being related to one of the five founders. The guild remained active in the City of Splendors until 1298 DR, when it was driven out by a group of adventures led by Lhestyn Arunsun, the “Masked Lady” of Waterdeep (and a distant relation of the archmage Khelben).
Nearly destroyed and destitute, the sole surviving founder and the tattered remnants of the guild membership escaped into Amn and regrouped in the city of Athkatla. The remaining founder, Carzakh “Deepshadow” Halandir, swore that the guild would never again allow itself to suffer such a disgraceful failure, and also that it would avenge itself on Waterdeep and its Lords. Deepshadow slowly rebuilt the organization, encouraging more diversity in its ranks and recruiting a number of other types of professionals in addition to the required rogues. Only three years after their humiliating expulsion from Waterdeep, the Shadow Thieves were strong again. By 1321 DR, the organization all but controlled the Amnian underworld, and two decades later it was a serious contender for control of all illegal activity in the Sword Coast region.
Deepshadow perished during the Time of Troubles, and his loss was felt throughout the guild. Fortunately for the Shadow Thieves, his successor, the Grandmaster of Shadows, proved even more capable than his predecessor. The Grandmaster added new levels of secrecy to the guild’s administrative structure and reorganized its hierarchy to create the now well-established interlocking guild system. By improving on Deepshadow’s original concepts, he was able to parlay the guild’s already considerable strength into something truly monumental.
Headquarters: The guild maintains a false headquarters known as the Shadow House in Athkatla. This is a blind, meant to serve as a decoy for its real central base of operations, which is a large, well-protected underground complex beneath the infamous Gilded Rose festhall on the opposite side of town.
Members: Uncertain, but probably more than 3,000 operatives work for the guild at any one time.
Leaders: The Shadow Council.
Religions: Most members of the guild at least pay lip service to Mask, and many claim him as their patron deity. Others worship any number of evil deities, including Bane, Cyric, Loviatar, Shar, and Talona.
Alignment: LE, NE, CE, CN.
Symbol: Everyone in Amn, and many along the Sword Coast, knows the mark of the Shadow Thieves: a black silk domino mask impaled on a stiletto. In actuality this symbol is yet another blind employed by the organization to mislead its rivals and enemies. The rank and file members of the organization are cautioned never to employ this sigil unless specifically ordered to do so. Any member of the guild who uses this mark without explicit instructions is assassinated for endangering the guild and defying authority. The body is normally found the next morning ... with a silk domino mask affixed to the corpse with a stiletto.
The Shadow Council is absolutely fanatical about the secrecy that enshrouds the organization. Only the council members themselves grasp the true complexity of the system and know all its details, and only they appreciate the mind-boggling breadth and depth of this criminal juggernaut.
Secrecy is the key to the guild’s phenomenal success. The individual guilds that make up the organization are arranged and staffed carefully so that each member knows only a few others (generally a dozen or fewer) by name and sight. These members work together exclusively, so that if one is captured or decides to tell all, danger to the larger organization is minimized. Only the members of the Shadow Council possess complete knowledge of the entire operation and its agents. Even so, it would certainly be possible for a turncoat or infiltrator to cause the guild a degree of discomfort.
More important, those who fail to keep the guild’s secrets generally cost the organization money, and that simply cannot be tolerated. It therefore comes as no surprise to any member that the penalty for betraying guild secrecy is death. However, a guild member who maintains guild secrecy in the face of personal danger, capture, or imprisonment reaps considerable rewards. All ranking members of the guild can take comfort in the fact that their families will be cared for should the worst happen. That policy produces a high degree of almost familial loyalty in the inner circles. At the outer edge of the organization, the local guilds that operate (secretly) on behalf of the Shadow Thieves offer their members compensation if they are captured and punished. The wealthier local guilds also provide for a captured operative’s family if he should meet his end.
A group that has its finger in nearly every illegal pie from Amn to Baldur’s Gate and beyond requires a sizable number of operatives to ensure that its activities proceed on track. The guild is organized in layers, like an onion. At the center of the guild is the Shadow Council, led by the Grandmaster of Shadow. Beyond the council are the Cloakmasters, senior administrators who carry out the Shadow Council’s instructions. Still farther from the center are the Guildmasters, and beyond them are the Silhouettes. Finally, at the outer layer, are the rank-and-file operatives who make up the bulk of the guild’s membership rolls.
The Shadow Council Six men and women divide up the organization’s vast territory among themselves, and each is responsible for the guild’s operations in one of these areas. All members of the Shadow Council maintain at least three separate identities and ensure that they can be ready to travel (for business or escape) at a moment’s notice under any one of a number of disguises.
Rhinnom Dannihyr, the Grandmaster of Shadows, leads the Shadow Thieves and is also a member of the Council of Six, the ruling body that governs the nation of Amn. He has assumed authority over all the guild’s most recent operations east of the Sword Coast.
Rheax Bormul controls the guild’s operations in Amn. A disinherited wastrel from an Amnian minor noble family, he has since avenged himself by putting a large number of his former peers deep in his debt.
Darlan Mortem is a sinister master of the Shadow Weave who uses his position to increase his personal treasure trove of rare magic items. He controls the guild’s activities in the lands between Amn and Baldur’s Gate.
Orniiv “The Eclipse” Fandarfall projects the ice-cold and unflappable demeanor of a true professional. He earned his nickname from the tattoo of a partial eclipse on his left cheek. He is responsible for operations in Baldur’s Gate.
Nulara “Silversong” Haphet has the soul of a dark poet but the mind of a criminal genius. She has authority over the guild’s recent incursions into the Sword Coast North. She hails from far-off Mulhorand, but refuses to speak of her homeland.
Otleo “The Fat” Ressmon came up through the ranks the hard way, earning his guild education from the school of very hard knocks. He is in control of the guild’s activities in Tethyr, where he is known as a successful merchant.
The Cloakmasters Two Cloakmasters serve each member of the Shadow Council, so that a pair of these senior lieutenants works within each of the guild’s six territories. The twelve Cloakmasters do not know the identity of their counterparts, however, nor do they know what orders or assignments their peers are given. They communicate only with the member of the council whom they serve, and those operatives in the next outermost layer who serve them in turn.
The Guildmasters Each Cloakmaster selects ten Guildmasters who carry out the actual day-to-day operations in each territory. A Guildmaster commands a number of separate, individual guilds operating within his Cloakmaster’s area, but each of the guilds under his command specializes in the same activity. Thus, in any given territory, one Guildmaster is responsible for all the smuggling, another for extortion and blackmail, another for theft and burglary, and so on.
The Silhouettes Many dozens of Silhouettes serve the organization, with more added as needed. Each and every one of them is a decoy. Ostensibly they are “guildmasters,” but in actuality they control nothing and have no authority. The sole purpose of the Silhouettes is to appear as if they control guild operations, so that the enemies of the Shadow Thieves will spy on and harass them instead of identifying the organization’s true operatives. A city where the Shadow Thieves are active can have any number of Silhouettes, each working diligently to divert attention from the guild’s true activities. Sometimes the guild even arranges for a Silhouette to be “caught,” so that its opponents remain unaware of the true state of affairs. The Silhouettes report to the Guildmasters.
The Rank and File The most numerous guild members are the “average” Shadow Thieves. They come from virtually every class and race. In virtually every case, these individuals don’t realize that they work for the Shadow Thieves. These thugs, fences, confidence artists, arsonists, and smugglers each belong to a small guild. They report to the “guildmaster,” pay their dues, and commit their crimes all without discovering that they are part of a much larger organization. Sometimes a particularly skilled or gifted member at this level is singled out for promotion and then reports to a Silhouette or possibly a Guildmaster, but most of them live out their entire lives completely ignorant of their role in the greater scheme.
Motivation and Goals
The Shadow Thieves are interested primarily in two goals: increasing their wealth and expanding their power. The Shadow Council also possesses some larger political and personal goals, but these are not shared with the common membership.
In addition to their ambitions of wealth and power, the members of the Shadow Council are determined to revenge themselves on Waterdeep for the Shadow Thieves’ original expulsion. The most expedient and satisfying form of retribution, of course, involves reestablishing the guild’s operations in that city right under the nose of the Lords of Waterdeep, and that’s exactly what they’ve been working hard to do for the last half decade. Their agents have infiltrated the City of Splendors with remarkable success of late, possibly because the attention of that city’s Lords is focused on so many other pressing problems. The only unfortunate aspect of the Shadow Council’s revenge is that they can’t yet share the triumph with the good citizens of Waterdeep. Of course, there may come a day when the guild is so powerful that it can afford to reveal its presence in Waterdeep with impunity, while thumbing its nose at the Lords ... and that’s a day that the council deems well worth waiting for.
All the other members of the Shadow Thieves, from the Cloakmasters to the beggars trying to cadge silver coins in the Tethyrian streets, value wealth and power above everything else. People who have neither wealth nor power are generally useless to guild members and therefore expendable.
The Shadow Thieves eagerly recruit an unlimited number of operatives at the rank-and-file level. The turnover rate among these members is high, due to the naturally chaotic and transient nature of the criminal element. Individuals who show promise are watched carefully and given increasingly greater responsibilities at the local guild level. Guildmasters are free to promote from within as they see fit, since all are ranking members in the various layers of the organization, but they are responsible for the performance of their agents. Unknowingly promoting a traitor or an incompetent is a shameful error, and can delay a ranking member’s advancement for years (or halt it altogether).
Because of their single-minded devotion to secrecy above all other considerations, the Shadow Thieves prefer to manipulate and use unknowing pawns rather than ally openly with any group. They dislike open alliances, because such arrangements too often give future advantage to an organization that may become an enemy tomorrow. The only exception to this general rule is the Council of Six, the body of anonymous rulers that controls Amn. So great is the guild’s power in the nation that the members of the Council of Six cannot help but be aware of it, and that awareness has sparked recent discussion at the council table. Councilor Rhinnom Dannihyr has proposed that Amn’s governing body make some sort of political overture to the guild, forming an alliance before the Shadow Thieves decide to help themselves to the council’s power with or without consent. This proposal is currently under debate among the other five councilors, who are unaware that its main proponent is himself the leader of the Shadow Thieves.
Individual agents of the group are free to conduct whatever business they like with any number of associates, provided that guild security is not compromised. In recent months, Shadow Thieves operatives have made business arrangements with individuals who inhabit the dark undercity of Skullport far below the streets of Waterdeep, in preparation for the arrival of a Silhouette.
As the most widespread guild of organized criminals in Faerûn, the Shadow Thieves also boast a number of foes. Anyone who has ever been wronged by the guild or been the victim of one of its innumerable operations likely harbors a grudge against it (though such persons would be hard-pressed to find a target against which to vent their outrage).
The Lords of Waterdeep are, for obvious reasons, the group’s perennial enemy, at least from a historical perspective. If the Shadow Council believed it could strike a telling blow against those self-satisfied, masked rulers and still maintain secrecy, it would do so without hesitation. One day soon, the group will again be sufficiently established in the City of Splendors to begin harrying the Lords in a more direct fashion, but for now that pleasure must await a more fitting time. The council’s desire to sting Waterdeep’s pride is strong, but not yet strong enough to persuade the council members to risk all that they have accomplished in recent years on a chance for retribution.
A more immediate concern to the Shadow Council is Syl-Pasha Ralan el Pesarkhal, the current ruler of Calimshan. The guild has been attempting to gain a secure foothold in the Calishite underworld for several years, but events have routinely turned against the Shadow Thieves. Their agents continuously disappear or meet death at the hands of Calimport assassins, and their operations regularly fail to turn the kind of profits the guild has come to expect, due primarily to competition from the existing criminal operations in the city. The Shadow Council blames the Syl-Pasha for its troubles, certain that the cunning master of intrigue is orchestrating its failures. The council is starting to believe that it may be necessary to create a new position at its table, and give that individual the task of making the guild’s Calishite ambitions into a reality.
Because the guild’s operations are so extensive and its mania for secrecy so strong, no Shadow Thieves encounter can be called “typical.” Player characters who encounter the guild will most likely do so either as the targets of its criminal attentions or as prospective employees. Nearly any individual involved in the underworld throughout the Sword Coast could be a member of the organization, with no easy way for PCs to determine that fact—unless, of course, the guild has decided that it’s time to set up another decoy to draw attention away from something more important in the vicinity.
The Shadow Thieves’ greatest strength is its secrecy, followed closely by the sheer size of its network. The combination of these factors makes tracking down and apprehending its members frustratingly difficult. The belief that the organization will punish or destroy those who divulge its secrets is so strong among its members that incidents of genuine betrayal are rare. More often than not, what appears to be a betrayal is nothing more than a scheme designed to mislead and misdirect those who would harm the organization. More than one overeager adventurer has walked right into a fatal trap baited with a staged “confession.”
This same obsessiveness for secrecy and dependence on routine procedure can be used successfully against the Shadow Thieves. Silhouettes often do not know how to respond effectively to threats that are beyond the normal range of dangers they are taught to expect. Guildmasters and Cloakmasters alike tend to adhere to prescribed methods of dealing with those who set themselves against the guild’s interests, but such tactics can be overcome by opponents who don’t “play by the rules.”
Despite their successes, the members of the Shadow Council have little flair for tactics beyond those required to conduct the group’s clandestine operations. They have developed a series of procedures for underlings confronted by certain types of problems (such as political interference from local governments, encroachment onto guild territory by a rival organization, and other common occurrences), but have spent little consideration on how individual units should fight. Hence, combat encounters with Shadows Thieves share few common elements or procedures.
Two tactical policies usually do prevail from unit to unit, however. The first is a preference for small-scale encounters on terrain the thieves control. To that end, Shadow Thieves are likely to attack by ambush, using spells that confuse or distract their targets while they slip into a favorable combat position. The guild’s operations provide good access to a variety of magic items, so operatives generally carry several potions and some manner of protective magic. The second policy is the guild’s adamant refusal to leave living members in the hands of enemies. If an operation or encounter goes against a guild unit, its surviving members will do their utmost to slay any of their brethren captured by their foes, using whatever means necessary. Failure to accomplish this goal could well mean their own deaths, so they are highly motivated.
Post by Pedantry INC on Aug 16, 2014 5:58:44 GMT -5
The Twisted Rune
The Twisted Rune is a cabal of undead spellcasters that manipulate and twist the webs of power in Calimshan simply for the sake of entertainment. These beings have unlimited time and vast power at their disposal, and the directing of the lives of puny mortals pleases them to no end. Hiding behind layers and layers of secrecy and agents, they make their existence known only to a few, and only a handful of their minions are aware of their connection to the leaders.
Founded in 864 DR by Rysellan the Dark, an aging wizard from Calimshan, the Twisted Rune was intended to be a secret consortium of wizards that would be the real power behind all rulers of the Lands of Intrigue. Although infighting caused the destruction of Rysellan and (later) another Runemaster, the members of the group selected others to fill those positions and have worked together in relative harmony to maintain control over much of the politics in their lands.
Headquarters: Various secret locales in Calimshan.
Leader: The Rune Council (a group of nine).
Alignment: CE, LE, NE.
Symbol: The symbol of the Rune is a gnarled sigil resembling the number “3” twice, linked together with points downward like claws, and the left-hand downstrokes longer than those on the right. This symbol is rarely used except by the Runemasters so they may recognize each other in disguise, and may be a key (if drawn in the air or engraved on an object) to one of the portals they control.
The Twisted Rune depends entirely upon secrecy. Fewer than a third of its top-ranking agents know that they work for the Rune at all, and this secrecy makes it almost impossible for good-doers to uproot the leaders. The Rune has even been known to hire good adventurers to further their plans, never revealing the ultimate source of the funds.
The following are the seven known Runemasters, the inner circle of the Twisted Rune.
Jymahna, a female human lich, was once a concubine and was made into a lich by Shangalar (see below). She wears a magical silver mask with unknown properties. Her ties to many caravans make her an important source of news about remote lands.
Kartak Spellseer, male human lich, was destroyed more than 200 years ago but was restored this century by many carefully worded wish spells. His new body is relatively undecayed, and he is one of the more personable Runemasters.
Priamon “Frostrune” Rakesk, a male human lich, is a former wizard of Waterdeep who was exiled for delving into dark magic. Priamon stole portal-building secrets from Halaster and is now the primary portal-builder for the Rune. All the portals he builds have secret triggers known only to him that allow him to seal them with a word or to transport the user to an alternate location of his choice.
Rhangaun, a human lich, is the senior member of the Twisted Rune. Forced into the group because Rysellan possessed his phylactery, he took control after the founder’s death. Dead for more than a thousand years, he is little more than a skeleton with glowing eyes. He owns a staff of the magi.
Sapphiraktar the Blue, a male ancient blue dracolich, was made into a dracolich 300 years ago. For reasons of draconic vanity, he carefully maintains his appearance through magic, and therefore is indistinguishable from a living dragon. He is slowly teaching dragon magic to Rhangaun while he plots to destroy Jymahna, whose network of spies overlaps his own.
Shangalar the Black, a tiefling lich, was born the son of a cambion vizier of Calimshan. He eventually slew his own father and ruled that country with his childhood friend until the latter was assassinated. He wears a cloak made of the hide of a black dragon, one of a pair that he slew before succumbing to his wounds and becoming a lich.
Shyressa, a human vampiric wizardess, slew the vampire that created her and began to study magic. She gained a Runemaster seat only a decade ago. She enjoys playing cat-and-mouse games with people who draw her attention. She has created many fire spells that give off dark flames in order to be more subtle in the night hours when she is active.
The identities of the other two Runemasters are unknown, but they are certainly powerful undead, such as a phaerimm, a beholder mage, or perhaps an alhoon.
A small handful of living agents are employed to deal with tasks such as recruiting adventurers and interacting with the subjects of the Rune’s evil machinations. These agents change from time to time, as they are killed or turned into undead servants before they have a chance to make a mistake that could reveal the Rune.
Motivation and Goals
The Twisted Rune controls prestigious families in Calimshan like a puppeteer, proving its dominance over others in some sort of megalomaniacal game. In the nearly five hundred years since its inception, the Twisted Rune could have placed itself in complete power over Calimshan, but it allows up to half of the powerful families there to remain free of its power. This extends the game and prevents the play and the outcome from being too certain.
The Rune acts by sending messages through intermediaries until the desired person is contacted and convinced of the proper course of action. The members of the Rune trust their agents to know how to handle a situation. They only interfere directly if something has gotten grossly out of hand, and even then only rarely, preferring to test how long it takes the agents to recover the situation through other methods. When the Runemasters meet, they choose one of their secondary lairs and transport themselves there via teleportation magic or one of the portals created by Priamon.
The Rune is willing to temporarily employ almost anyone that suits its purposes, even those of a different ethos. Individuals who prove useful are likely to remain employed for a longer period of time, but only those with extremely valuable skills are likely to be around long enough to work their way toward the status of Runemaster.
The best allies of the Runemasters are the other Runemasters. Because their lairs are linked to each other, if one is under attack and feeling threatened, he or she can easily escape to the lair of an ally or receive aid very rapidly.
Because they are wrapped in secrecy and lies, few know of the Rune’s existence or know where to look for Rune members should they discover the existence of this undead cabal.
Among those who are aware of the group, Halaster of Waterdeep resents their attacks on him and the pilfering of his knowledge of portals and seeks revenge for this slight. The churches of Ilmater, Lathander, and Kelemvor all have their own plans to eradicate the Rune, with the followers of the Broken Deity being the most concerned since they are active in lands where he is commonly worshiped.
The agents of the Twisted Rune have no standard tactics because most of them are unaware of each other. The Runemasters themselves are all powerful spellcasters and have had centuries to hone their skills, learn their powers, and prepare responses to many kinds of attacks.