After musing over various discussions about the Scarlet Brotherhood I've seen over the last few months, I'm beginning to wonder whether I, and canon writers in general, made an enormous blunder by taking the Brotherhood out into the open. If everyone knows about it, that makes its attempts at spying and disinformation all the more difficult. I think it's a serious error Sargent, Moore and I have all made in our various writings about GH.
Hence the retconning; would it be possible to portray what is 'known' about the SB as being full of rumor and innuendo? I don't like having everyone know the Sea Princes or the Lordship of the Isles are Brotherhood puppets, or everyone knowing just what the Brotherhood is like. I think the Brotherhood works much better within layers upon layer of secrecy; it might even be possible for the Sea Princes or the Lordship of the Isles to have relatively 'normal' relationships with good-aligned countries, even if their agents are constantly working with sympathetic Suel to undermine the governments of foreign countries to the Brotherhood's advantage.
With that mind, I think I made a mistake in saying that the Sea Princes and the Lordship are openly antagonistic towards other powers, who know them openly as caught in the tentacles of the Scarlet Sign. Irongate might denounce the Lordship, as Cobb Darg knows the truth, or it might just be angry at the Lordship for unilaterally withdrawing from the Iron League, for reasons it does not yet know. Irongate's spies are working feverishly to find the truth, however... _________________ <div align="left">Going to war without Keoland is like going to war without a pipe organ. They both make a lot of noise and they're both a lot of dead weight, so what's the point in taking them along? </div>
So CruelSummerLord, you've fled to Canada, just like the Smoking Man.
We have tracked your IP CruelSummmerLord. Krychek will be visiting you shortly...
Anyways, while the Scarlet Brotherhood has been somewhat "outed" in my campaign, I have chosen to only do so in a very limited way. Players may know the greater extent of the SB's manipulation and influence, but their characters certainly do not. I chose to do things this way, as a traitorous pc in my campaign actually works for the SB, so a bit more subtlety would go a long way to keeping things interesting.
Regarding the Sea Barons, I had the Scarlet Brotherhood manufacture an "incident at sea", in which a Scarlet Brotherhood merchant ship was sunk by an "unprovoked" Sea Barons' vessel(never mind that the SB vessel was hauling contraband alchemical oil with which to fire the ships within the Sea Barons main harbor). Both ships burned to their water lines and sadly, only representatives of the SB washed ashore in Asperdi. The Scarlet Brotherhood demanded the unconditional surrender of the Sea Barons for this blatant act of war, which they refused. After a few assassinations, the Sea Barons' tune changed. The Sea Barons were therefore subjugated, in no small part successfully due to the fact that the strife within the Great Kingdom prevented them from countering the moves of the Scarlet Brotherhood- the Sea Barons could not stand alone against the resources of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
As to the Lordship of the Isles, they have simply withdrawn from the Iron League due to concerns that their best interests are currently not being served to their satisfaction, and have "seen the wisdom" of taking on a more neutral outlook regarding their neighbors(wink, wink).
The people of Shar, being only simple traders, were outraged when one of their merchant fleets, actually an invasion fleet of expendable southland "savages" in disguise, was the target of "privateers in the employ of the Sea Princes". The emissaries of Shar demanded extreme reparations, even though the Sharan fleet sunk more than half of the ships attacking them for the loss of only one of theirs. Never mind the fact that the Sea Princes argued that the "merchant fleet" was transporting a horde of warriors. Shar merely explained this away as the savages being slaves, ergo "cargo/merchandise." Shar was only interested in delivering this cargo to the ports of the Hold of the Sea Princes. Supposedly the Sea Princes have come to terms with Shar, though the truth of the matter is that the SB now mostly controls the Hold of the Sea Princes behind the scenes.
While not always providing the most plausible of explanations for their actions, the Scarlet Brotherhood has had many accusations made against it, but no proof of any wrong-doing has surfaced. Even amidst the open conflict of the Greyhawk Wars, the Scarlet Brotherhood has been sailing along under the radar for the most part, their ingenuity, subtlety, and massive network of agents gaining them much in many areas, with the exception of Irongate.
The outside world might be a bit more wary of the Scarlet Brotherhood, and might be more than a bit awed at the extent of their resources and military might, but they are not truly aware of the Flanaess-encompassing plans that the Scarlet Brotherhood has in the works. Some suspect the truth of the matter, but they are in the minority. As it now stands, the remaining dissidents within the Hold of the Sea Princes are struggling to throw off the tightening noose of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Those bloody pirates never seem to know when to give up!
It is unfortunate that, due to damages at sea, various cargo ships of southern “savages” managed to escape en masse along the shores of Keoland(where the Sharan ships sought to land and make repairs), and then proceeded to “run amok”. The Sharans sent out troops of their own to try and reign in these “savages”, but to little avail. Though unlawfully landing on the shores of Keoland with military forces, the SB had “only the best of intentions”. It is unfortunate that numerous skirmishes took place between Keoish and Sharan forces, under the patently false assumption that the Sharans were an invasion force. The Sharans only sought to regain control of their "wayward merchandise”. Keoland has since been closely monitoring all Sharan diplomats within their borders, pending further investigation of the matter. The Sharans have gone so far as to make some reparations to quell the matter(plus a few key spoken words in the ears of influential people here and there haven't hurt).
As even the fleets of Shar work through an intermediary command structure, only actual special command agents of the SB know the reasons why the ‘savages” came to be deployed in Keoland. The actual ship captains can make assumptions, but they do not know the real reasons. The captains command their ships and crews, but not their passengers, and do not know the real reasons why they carry the passengers that they do.
EDIT: My main point is that I do not see the Scarlet Brotherhood ever showing all of their cards, even in the event of them having achieved their goal of domination over the Flanaess. Even then, I see the SB as at least keeping at the very least an ace up their sleeve, just in case there is an insurrection of some sort. I see the Scarlet Brotherhood as utterly diabolical in their planning (though not literally diabolically influenced). That being said, even Scarlet Brotherhood agents occasionally make mistakes/fail in their duties, so avenues do exist for unveiling some of their plans(which in turn is perfect for adventure lead-ins). _________________ - Moderator/Admin (in some areas)/Member -
Yes, I think "outing" them in the official storyline was a less than ideal move. Like Cebrion, I toned down the extent of their apparent influence, though the wheels came off the wagon in their Sea Princes plan. So they are more or less outed in that, but it makes them look bad more than menacing. As for the Iron League machinations, those are still under the carpet, as far as most folks are concerned. I haven't put a huge amount of thought into exactly how that's working, since my campaign is centered around Flen.
But they aren't "Horned Society, South" IMC. They are still mostly sneaky.
I've focused more on the Black Brotherhood so that it adds another layer of paranoia and the pcs can never be sure what the goals of any particular Brotherhood agent might be, ifnthey ever understtod the Brotherhood's goals in the first place, which they didn't.
I think the Black Brotherhood are the key. Rather than retconning - carry the ball with what we have and admit the SB's strategy of open invasion and occupation was a huge blunder on the behalf of Koreth Zan.
Now there's a few reasons why this might have been. We know he's paranoid, so perhaps his rationale might have been: It's only a matter of time before the barbarian realms of the north muster the naval power to challenge our hold of the southern seas and threaten the coasts of Shar. So we must strike first to secure the Azure and Aerdi Seas, maintain our supremacy at sea and use our fleets as wooden walls to defend Shar against the "unenlightened".
This makes sense if you look at the SB's acquistions:
Subborn the Lords of the Isles, gaining their fleets and control of the Aerdi Sea and the eastern approaches to Shar.
Sieze the Hold and its fleets and ports, thereby securing the approaches to Shar via the coasts of the Amedio.
Sieze Idee, Irongate and Onnwal and their ports and fleets, which, if successful would have sewn up the eastern shores of the Azure for the SB.
Sieze Gradsul, taking Keoland's fleet out of the action. The plan might have been either to hold the city or level it and withdraw, leaving only smoking ruins behind.
The only thing that doesn't gel with this plan was that no attempt was made on Gryrax. This could have been because the SB didn't have the resources to mount an attack (perhaps they wanted to hit Gradsul and then Gryrax). More interestingly, it might have been because the SB was certain the fleet of the Prince of Ulek wasn't going to be a threat...
In the end of course, it didn't work out - Gradsul and Irongate remained untaken. Then, thanks to Prince Reydrich of Ahlissa and their own repressive treatment of their captive populations, they quickly lost control of Idee and Onnwal. The Hold followed soon after - but in that there's something interesting - the involvement of the Black Brotherhood.
If you were a Black Brother, bent on finding sites related to Tharizdun, which you knew might be located somewhere in the Hellfurnaces, wouldn't you have been delighted when the SB took the Hold? If you had been a Black Brother in a position to influence the Father of Obedience, might you not have advised him to take the Hold, assigned your fellow Black Brothers to positions on the Hold where they could further your goals, done everything in your power to make sure the Hold remained in SB hands, perhaps even to the point where resources were diverted away from Onnwal, Idee and Ahlissa?
In short - might the whole catastrphic decision of the SB to reveal themselves in the Wars have been the result of the BB pulling the strings of the string-pullers?
Unfortunately you can't put the SB back in the closet, covert activity is possible, I like my SB, in the shadows, organized and sneaky but they are public now.
As for the Black Brotherhood, I like this woesinger
The BB should be protrayed as the ultimate sneaks, imagine weaving plots within an organisation as paranoid as the SB, the BB are obviously a highly intelligent and small group simply to survive.
Using what we know of the SB to support the BB, we know the SB spread the false belief that SB are tharizdun worshippers to spread fear but couldn't some members of the SB have bought into the lie?
I think this premise can be used to explain the Hold rebellion, using woesingers ideas, unfortunately for the BB on the pennisula the BB members who discovered something which excited them to the point where they simply refused to "give it up" and retreat to the coast, causing the rebellion to ignite.
Perhaps the Hold rebellion was a blunder all around, the BB leadership probably didn't want an open conflict in the Hold even more then the SB because it restricts and threatens exposure of their entire organisation.
Gryrax wasn't attempted because, the SB knew the Pomarj orc invasion would occur and the Principality would not be an immediate threat, why divert resources away from Gradsul, Gryrax was probably the next target with a convenient orc land assault. As it worked out the SB gained a "friendly trade port" for the lordship.
SB canon does say, that Lordship of the Isles will be given more freedom (appearance anyway) in hopes that it's "neutrality can be used to encourge trade, whether anyone is really fooled is debatable, but as any dwarf will tell you "gold is gold", given the desire for trade, I can see others with a "wink and a nod" trading with the "neutral" Lordship, especially after the SB manufactures some events through which Prince Frolmar Ingerskatti can show the Lordship is taking a more independant stance, SB are just trading partners...didn't we expell their members.
Just a thought...
Last edited by Crag on Tue May 17, 2005 9:32 am; edited 2 times in total
While I agree that it was a terrible mistake to "out" the Scarlet Brotherhood, they simply cannot be put back in the "closet." Their territorial conquests are wide spread and the rule of the SB is anything but subtle, what with the Hepmonaland and Amedio Suel barbarian mercenaries, the Brotherhood agents actually ruling as rulers, the breeding programs, the repression and those tre cool "I Heart Tharizdun" bumper stickers and "Theopart On Board" signs. Retconing the SB would be as bad as outing them in the first place.
And if the SB were to be retconed, why stop there?
The destruction of the Wild Coast as an independent home to and for adventurers was a loss for the setting. Let's retcon Turrosh Mak back to the Pomarj.
Hardby should be an "amazonian" state run by women for women, for a change of pace if nothing else. Let's retcon that.
The Fall of Tenh was similarly wasteful of the only major Flan power. Let's retcon it.
I always liked Almor as a buffer states. Another retcon.
Iuz was better as a threat than the conqueror who can't conquer anything and have it stay conquered, except the Horned Society, which was too cool to loose. So let's retcon Iuz back to being imprisoned; his release was a fake as is the present "Iuz." That retcons two birds with one stone.
Oh heck! Let's retcon FtA!
Retconing is rarely, if ever, the answer IMO. Better to work canon forward to get to a better result. _________________ GVD
Whether you're being sarcastic or not, I agree, GV. I think FtA is where Greyhawk took a wrong turn. That's why my campaign is set in 582 CY - to give my players (and myself, of course) a chance to make a little 'revisionist history'.
The Brotherhood is the one powerful faction I've been wrestling with for well over a year now. The SB in concept is so cool (to me) that it's almost impossible to do them justice and live up to the lethal promise they hold.
The idea of the Black Brotherhood 'splinter cell' goes a LONG way. I don't know how I've missed it, but this post was the first mention I've caught of it. An entire nation wanting to revive Big T was impossible to reconcile, but a select faction of fanatics (who happen to be among the most deadly monks in the world) is a fascinating idea.
How high up does the BB go? Back to Hesuel Ilshar, or is this just a handful of high level monks operating off the radar a thousand miles away? Does the Father of Obedience suspect? Sorry, don't want to hijack the post, this just inspired a 'moment of clarity' for me.
Well, I think I could pull off the whole retcon, insofar as the SB is concerned, with my own personal spin on things. Outsiders might simply view the problems in the Hold as a slave revolt, something that was bound to happen to the Sea Princes sooner or later.
As for the armies of savages, they're just fodder, expendable animals that the Brotherhood uses to soften up the forces of any given country. These armies are poorly trained and equipped-even the secondary forces of a military middleweight like Idee could win against them. Their purpose is not to conquer, but to provide cover for the Brotherhood's real agents to do their business of assassination, spying, murder, etc. The populace might wonder where these barbarians came from, but given the amount of raiding and anarchy going on during and after the Wars, usually have more pressing concerns.
I also changed one fundamental aspect of the way the Brotherhood operates; they don't necessarily topple the social structure of a realm they take over; they just modify it to suit the Suel. If they were to conquer Nyrond, it would still be a strongly centralized monarchy, only the new king and nobility would be Suel. If they were to conquer Greyhawk, there would still be a Lord Mayor and Directing Oligarchy, but the mayor and all the major guildmasters would be Suel, and the religions represented on the Oligarchy would be of Suel gods.
Of course, these types of transitions take more than a few years to accomplish. But that's the beauty of the Brotherhood: they are patient...oh, so patient. The transition is gradual, as Sueloise take over the positions of power in the realm, and begin to subtly discriminate against the non-Suel population. Civil rights violations build up, discrimination and racism grow, and if the non-Suel revolt, then the Suel, who by now should be in positions of power, crush them. The pure survive, the impure die.
I made this change because it seems very difficult to do any type of 'conventional' adventuring in lands controlled by the Brotherhood as canon describes them. I simply have trouble imagining why the SB would allow anyone who is not human and not Suel into their lands, without throwing them in chains. Humans might be able to go to the Pomarj or Erelhei-Cinlu and mingle freely among the non-human inhabitants of the place, but the only type of adventuring I see as possible within a SB-controlled country is underground work, done in hiding. All the main elements of the society will be violently hostile, and the only aid and succor one might find, aside from their fellow adventurers, is other hidden adventurers, escaped slaves, etc.
Is it just me, or is that how the Scarlet Brotherhood, as presented in canon by the likes of Reynolds and Moore, would treat foreigners of non-Suel background coming into their lands? _________________ <div align="left">Going to war without Keoland is like going to war without a pipe organ. They both make a lot of noise and they're both a lot of dead weight, so what's the point in taking them along? </div>
Their is a big difference between what the people within GH and what players know about the SB.
Most people and player within the game would have very little reliable info about the SB and most probably wouldn't even care beyond wild tales of spoils and opportunities for a good fight, if played within character atleast early in their careers or even late in their careers for most adventures.
Edit btgrover the BB is wide open no specifics at all except the are fanatically devout and secretive so mold them to suit your campaign.
If you want to keep something mysterious and unexplained, it is the same as not having it there at all. At some point, mysterious organisations have to matter. After that point, they're no longer mysterious.
The Drow were mysterious in G3. After D3, they were no longer mysterious.
At least the SB actually did something (likewise with Vecna). Sure, you might not agree with what happened - I certainly don't - but they actually mattered in Greyhawk.
Based on the Living Greyhawk adventures I've been playing recently, they still matter, but no longer in the same way.
As far as canon goes, I am of the understanding that the SB does not simply arrest every non-human Suel that enters their lands. SB cities would be prisons in and of themselves. They may have the bureaucracy thing down pretty good, but not that good. Besides, it would be an utter waste of resources. Non-Suel individuals are on extremely short leashes, but they exist with SB lands. The whole Tilvanot Peninsula is a veritable breeding ground for humanoid slave troops (some of which have attained a place within the SB society through exemplary service) and monsters of various kinds, not to mention a lesser number of non-Suel humans.
Regarding Suel civilization, it would be rather extreme to expect that conquered lands would be held to the same strictures as the lands of Shar, particularly with regards to citizenship. The SB would surely put a system of citizenship into place within a subjugated land, but they might be a bit more tactful regarding how they go about it. For example, a Suel might be an Exemplary Citizen (with rights of a Sharan Citizen), while non-Suel and others might just be Citizens (roughly equivalent to the Sharan Sub-Citizen). As far as the naming of the positions goes, it is less demeaning, but still equivocates to Sharan laws. Sharan laws would still apply to the various ranks of citizenship as usual. In effect, it is a somewhat less offensive way of implementing the SB’s laws within subjugated states in a manner that is more inclusive of the conquered peoples. Keep them docile. In time, they will be brought fully to heel.
With regards to the SB and the Greyhawk Wars, the SB started out responding to offenses against themselves( ). Of course, most of these events were rigged by the SB to give them a reason to get involved in things (at least that is how I represented them), but that is neither here nor there. Eventually the SB became blatantly involved in things, under the auspices of quelling the unrest within various lands by bringing them into the fold of the peaceful SB (I was careful to always give a positive reason for the SB’s involvement in anything, even if it wasn’t the truth). In my campaign, the SB is more in a position of power through pacification. The SB has conquered lands, but has not put their heel on the neck of the populace. They have ingrained themselves within the society, altering things just enough to suit their laws without unduly changing the status quo. They want control. Total pacification will come through time. Under the SB, the lands are peaceful and well patrolled. People go about their daily existence pretty much the same as they did before. Even non-Suel religions are tolerated for now (though the SB certainly has plans to eventually eradicate them). Even still, there are dissenters and underground resistance fighters, but these are merely nuisances for the most part. Irongate is one of the few places that has seen into the mind of the SB and has still managed to stay free of their control. They see the real SB. Keoland is more than slightly wary after the “Gradsul Incident”. Other lands, while being wary of the SB as they would be of most foreign powers, have little or no knowledge of what the SB’s ultimate goals are. As far as these other nations are concerned, the SB are peaceful neighbors and keep to their own, except when provoked. At least that is how it appears on the face of things.
Hence, the SB continues to operate clandestinely in my campaign.
So as far as I am concerned it looks to be very easy to “retcon” the SB. It would be more appropriate to call it “An In-depth Look at the Involvement of the Scarlet Brotherhood in the Greyhawk Wars) than a “retcon”, as only the outcomes of the SB’s schemes are touched upon in the FtA write-up, and not a detailed explanation of the means by which the SB achieved these goals (as only the outcomes are important in what amounts to a very succinct summary of the major occurrences during the Greyhawk Wars).
The problem with the events of the Greyhawk Wars, as put forth in FtA, is that some people assume that everything presented there is common knowledge(to pc's and npc's alike), which of course it is not. For instance, only a select few probably knew that Vatun reborn was in fact Iuz, even after the Greyhawk Wars came to a close. The information presented in FtA is done so for the basic knowledge of the dm. For my campaign I simply chose to expand upon that information by constructing the means by which the SB achieved their goals during the Greyhawk Wars, which was in keeping with the SB’s modus operandi.
To set the SB back on the right course(canonically speaking), things don't need to be "explained away"(retconned) so much as things need to be "more fully explained". _________________ - Moderator/Admin (in some areas)/Member -
Using the Canonfire article on Keoland intetelligence, I added a link between the Black Brotherhood, the yuan'ti of the Hool, and the Cult of Blackflame. So I have Yuan'ti pureblood spies and priests of Tharizdun working for BB and SB at the same time but with different agendas.
Plus my character is a retconned 3.5 shadow mage prestige class (someone exposed to the blackflame who did not die), so it brings her into the mix as well.
Did anyone also spot that the Gauntlet might be back on the scene? How's that for a retcon?
Well, Cebrion, I agree that folks don't know everything in the sourcebooks. But the sourcebooks do make it pretty clear that the SB openly kicked ****, waved the flag, and so on. And the LGG certainly makes it clear the Red Robed folks are stomping around and being pretty obvious. That's why I think its more than just a tweak to do things more covertly.
IMC, the Scarlet Brotherhood still exists behind the scenes. The Kingdom of Shar invaded the Hold of the Sea Princes, the Iron League, etc. They have normal seeming Suel folks running things, as if they were ordinary conquerors. The "Scarlet Brotherhood" runs the Kingdom of Shar, but that's not very well known even in top diplomatic circles. And the Lordship of the Isles is thought to be allied to Shar, not subservient.
I also modified the invasion of the Sea Princes, though not the overall outcome. I'm not really convinced by the 'conquest by assassination' method. I also don't use the Black Brotherhood, as I don't generally think gods like Tharizdun really attract the sort of worshippers who can manage large, stable covert networks. So having some of the SBs in the Hold find some Tharizdun artifacts and get turned to the even darker side is about the extent of it.
As to the question of how high the BB go in the SB structure - as high as your paranoia wants it to. :)
I see them as being an ultra secretive, almost masonic cabal within the structure of the Brotherhood. They have to be, given the society that they inhabit. That said, if you take the SB sourcebook view of SB society, pure blood citizens enjoy a certain amount of personal freedom - enough for the BB to lurk undetected.
Add into the mix the possibility that it was BB cabalists that first proposed the great myth that the Sb all worshiped big T as a cover for their activities and a way to recruit new memebers. Alternatively, the SB might have com up with the Big T. angle as propaganda and some of them believed their own lies and ended up founding the BB.
Whether you're being sarcastic or not, I agree, GV. I think FtA is where Greyhawk took a wrong turn.
Truth to tell, sometimes I don't either.
I agree with you that FtA was a "wrong turn." I would not have done it that way. But like cattle loaded in a chute, there's no turning around. Retconing FtA or selected parts, IMO, is a deversion of resources that could be better used trying to find a good way foward.
I have long ago, and not easily, made "peace" with FtA.
With respect to the SB, the way I see to move forward is -
(1) The SB conquests collapse - utterly - a complete route of the SB;
(2) An internal "war" takes place in what's left of the SB, assigning "blame" and fighting for the right to lead;
(3) The SB rises again on the Tilvot Peninsula, which everybody now knows to be the SB land - a "hermit kingdom" - but the new agenda is not one of conquest, as that has proven unsustainable. Instead, the new agenda is a conquest by stealth - being content to be the power behind thrones - not sitting on thrones;
(4) The SB becomes the Illuminati of Greyhawk - add mystical touches to taste (on top of thieves, assassins and monks). The SB has never really been mystical in any grand sense. The new SB would thus be the same as the old but substantially different in the sum total of its abilities, goals and how they are to be achieved.
The Scarlet Brotherhood are Outed? I ask this because every DM knows it. Most players know it. But how many characters know it? This has been a long point of contention for me, the actual flow of information in a magical semi medieval world. Does everyone know the Truth about Vecna? Do they know about the Rain of Colorless Fire? Probably only in fireside tales.
Why should the Scarlet Brotherhood be any different? The characters didnt look it up on CNN. They haven't been Googling anything. As far as I can tell, there are not even any reputable Newspapers. Sure, the King of Keoland has many reports on the SB. But how about the Duke of Dorlain? Or the foot soldier in the Gran March army? or the Ketites? Unlikely.
Absolutely they have heard of these monsters, in fireside tales and wandering mistrels songs. But the details are probably so fuzzy that the SB could slip through without impariment. Or the SB could simply hire a few dozen wandering minstrels to spread disinformation.
In our mundane world our societies created most (not all, but most) of the monsters in the Monster Manual. Goblins, Orcs, Dragons, Unicorns, Demons, Devils, etc., etc., etc. Imagine the crazy stuff that isolated, uneducated peasants would come up with in the hinterlands of a world that has these monsters in it.
I once ran a game where the heros (1st level) pursued a horrid Lougaru. It turned out to be a fireside tale, with no basis, not even trolls or goblins or something to fight. But the party managed to invent trouble all their own.
So, they have been outed, and the people in Sunndi know all about them. But I dont think you need to rewrite the world to accomplish your aim. I suggest you look at what the real information flow would be. I think if you do, you will find that you are already there. And the Red Horned men of the Tilvot Penisula are in every fires shadows.
Well, that's the way to go, but its clearly not the way the material is presented. It talks about fear of the SB being widespread, open revolts against their power in conquered lands, rumors of secret societies within the secret socieity, loss of popularity among Suel faiths like Wee Jas because of their association with the SB, and plenty of other indications that they are now a "public" menace.
Anyway, your point is equally valid weith regards to everything. Folks outside the Great Kingdom probably have little idea what Ivid the Undying was really like, they know little about Iuz and the Horned Society except fireside tales, etc.
The Scarlet Brotherhood of the official material is now about as secret as the Horned Society was. Accurate IC information is always a problem, but the organization is now clearly in the public domain.
You are right. CSL was seeking to make them "secret," again. In my game they are secret like the CIA is secret. You are right, though, many people know that they are operating in the various countries, and without revising the History of Greyhawk, you cant put the genie back in the bottle. The SB is out.
Or are they. Rumor mills are amazing creatures. Maybe people want to belive that it is not the SB there. Particularly those of Suel extraction. Only those close to events really know the truth. Even those who know the truth may not be sure of it's veracity.
Tying in Anced's fireside tale angle, it'd be incredibly easy to muddy the waters so nobody knows what's really true.
How many people believe the SB was actually responsible for Ivid's demise and the GK's splintering? With all their minions doing their bidding, they've got to have some sort of mind control ability, it's so obvious. What about that alliance with dragons from the south that I've been hearing about? You realize that it was the Black Brotherhood that freed Iuz, right? They needed him to serve a a diversion while they scoured the Flanaess for the Theoparts. Oh, and my uncle heard that they're only missing one piece of the Rod of Seven Parts. And don't forget that the drow are simply the result of SB breeding experiments.
Obviously these are WAY out there, but having false rumors of far away nations being conquered by the SB, anything strange and new being attributed to them, etc. could certainly get back the paranoia of not really knowing WHAT those crazy monks are up to. You just never know where they'll turn up. I heard that the Father of Obedience is actually Vecna himself!!
P.S. IMC, they're still in the closet. I'm just trying to contribute here. _________________ ~basiliv
I didn't design the world,
I merely facilitated its creation
Well, all this Brotherhood talk is really good grist for my mill. For my version, I'll imagine a falling out between Korenth Zan and his second-in-command circa 578 CY, one that saw the Father of Obedience send this now-dangerous rival on an expedition to the Amedio, from which he was not intended to return.
Fast-forward four years (during which no more is indeed heard of Zan's rival, and his death is widely presumed) to my campaign's current time, and suddenly Suel are returning to Monmurg and Port Toli from the Amedio, aboard the far-ranging fleets of the Sea Princes. Over the next two years they infiltrate every major royal family. My PCs may stumble onto this, if in the region on other business, and we'll see if they tip to the danger (they're ignorant of the Brotherhood at this point).
If they smell a rat, hijinks most likely ensue in a wild pirate town, with a really powerful band of Black Brothers, led by Zan's rival. I couldn't write a much better premise for a night of dice-rolling. If they are prudent, and return to notify the authorities (elder druids in the Welkwood, Yolande, the Oligarchy, City of GH Wizards' Guild, etc...), they're involved in high-level intrigue, probably sent back as spies. We'll see.
If instead they're none the wiser, and leave the Hold without a more serious thought than the injustice of slavery, history plays itself out and somewhat of a bloodless coup is staged. Then break from history - no police state, just quiet regime change. Then, in the final year of the war, a call goes out to Hesuel Ilshar for more good monks and thieves, to assist in the conquering of the Amedio.
In reality, the "Black Brotherhood" in the Hold is in ally with the powerful Olman nation(s?), and share their secret possession - a shard of Tharizdun's evil essence (or, if you prefer, insert a powerful Pit Fiend, etc, here) that they have recovered in a jungle tomb that is an absolute deathtrap, multi-leveled undead fun. The PCs visit here on the beginning of their quest to recover that same artifact, after battling through a jungle full of nasty Olman warrior-priests. Needless to say, plenty of undead left (maybe more than originally lurked there, if the Brothers anticipate others would search for this item, and Big T/Pit Fiend was able to give them a little love).
After the tomb, they're off westward in a flash, through a pre-"shackled city" Cauldron in which they may get tangled up with some of the major NPCs. On that note, I only caught the last installment of that series when I recently renewed my Dungeon subscription - can anyone recommend those adventures, and if so, what makes them fun?
Anyway, my PCs are of course pursuing a series of dangerous 'search parties' full of Brotherhood thieves and assassins, led by monks of unsurpassed technique. These hearties, along with powerful Olman Savage Warrior lords, stealthy but deadly fighters from Hepmonaland (!), and Olman priests channeling a waking Tharizdun and searching for something at his behest. These foes lead them straight into the tunnels beneath the Sea of Dust.
Cue Nellisir's recent Underdark project here, and grab some popcorn. Hope they spend the next two years productively, cause they're just a warmup.
The LGG does put a kink into things a bit more, but there is a somewhat decent solution.
The Scarlet Brotherhood are not only masters of subterfuge and covert ops, but also of disinformation. Controlling lands in as peaceful a manner as is possible lends the minions of Shar credence among the common folk. Kind of like the Romans in “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail”. “But what have the Sharans done for us?!" "Well, it’s safe to walk the streets at night, and they built the aqueducts..." and so on. Yeah, the Scarlet Brotherhood are not so stupid you might say. And they wear red too, just like the Romans!
The main problem as I see things is the whole "We worship THARIZDUN!" thing. As far as Greyhawk goes, there is no single word with as loaded a connotation as “Tharizdun”. That has got to be one of the lousiest ideas ever, particularly as it is outlander spies who see an agrarian society that worships Tharizdun. The average Sharan farmer: “By day, we raise sweet peas. By night, we worship THARIZDUN!!(say Tharizdun using that “monster voice” ). C’mon! Elsewhere it says it was SB agents who planted this rumor in foreign courts to create fear and uncertainty. Now, I know that the SB is so well run that they can completely control what an outland spy seas throughout their sojourn into the Tilvanot Peninsula. Yeah, right! At least be slightly realistic here. I doubt said spies were being escorted through only state sanctioned areas throughout their visit, similar to a current day country… Rather than make people fear them(I'd think being able to kill off 27 of 30 Sea Princes in a night might serve well enough to do that), but every nation in the Flanaess, regardless of alignment or allegiance will surely put their sights dead on you as a point of concern. “You”, being a heretofore unknown quantity and an entire nation who suddenly espouses worship of THE most dreaded god of evil (among a slew of pretty vile and utterly evil gods) to ever grace Greyhawk divinity, are simply asking for too much attention. Rather than have nations cower in fear, they will rise up with even greater ferocity, as those with the inside scoop know that worshippers of Mr. T. have as their main goal the obliteration of everything! EVERYTHING! As that sort of covers most people’s bases of concern rather well, it would be naive to think that nobody would respond to this sort of threat. Confining the whole Tharizdun thing to the Black Brotherhood would have been fine, but it being used as a propaganda tool by the Scarlet Brotherhood it is one of the worst ideas imaginable.
You can’t backtrack at this point, you can only advance things and develop the storyline in a more positive way. Korenth Zan should definitely go up on the chopping block for his military/propaganda blunders. I’d have a Sharan civil war, the outcome of which sees the destruction of the visible “Tharizdun worshipping” persona of the Scarlet Brotherhood, as espoused by the maniac Korenth Zan and his “psychotic band of followers”. Somebody has to be the fall guy, and wouldn’t a change be nice anyways? Not meaning to jump on the bandwagon of killing off leaders (damn Wee Jas and her dodgy dart game!), but as far as screw-ups go, Korenth Zan tops the list with regard to the whole Tharizdun thing. Scarlet Brotherhood agents would be purging supposed Tharizdun cultists, all the while actually purging those loyal to Koren Zanth and the old regime, and perhaps a few Black Brotherhood agents who were perhaps a bit too careless and were found out. A very public ban on Tharizdun cults, the pulling down of supposed holy sites/churches/temples and such ought to have the desired effect in conquered regions, as well as neighboring states. Having agents of the soon-to-be new regime contact neighboring nations for help in purging the “Tharizdun cultists” would also lend an air of truthfulness to the whole proceeding. Foreign agents could then report that the new Scarlet Brotherhood does not intend to be a nest of evil. Sending well meaning ambassadors would be the next step. These would be literal ambassadors and not Scarlet Brotherhood special agents (as a well-meaning ambassador cannot be found to be anything other than what they are through mind-reading or magical compulsion). This doesn’t mean however that these ambassadors are not the unknowing dupes of their higher-placed masters. And so the old-style Scarlet Brotherhood once again begins to come to the fore. I think this would be a much more plausible idea than retconning the whole thing, as it’s pretty hard to misinterpret the whole “We worship THARIZDUN!” thing.
Changing the Scarlet Brotherhood back to being close to what it once was is still a viable option. You just have to shake things up a bit. Even still, it will never be what it once was. _________________ - Moderator/Admin (in some areas)/Member -
If the Brotherhood were to lose Scant or one of the Azure Sea powers were to make a significant raid on one of the Shari homeports, I think you'd see a significant power struggle in Hesuel Ilshar. The other office-holding Fathers and Mothers would certainly move to have him removed from office. Given the rigid structure of the Brotherhood, there's probably even a process for this.
Of course, impeachment is dull, but luckily, Koreth Zan is exceptionally paranoid. He's unlikely to go quietly. If he were being manipulated by BB agents in his inner circle, if there was something to be gained by internal strife in the Brotherhood (such as removal of opponents and advancement for their people), then you could see them dripping poison in Zan's ear, convincing him that those moving against him were corrupt and hungry only for power and cared nothing for the defence of Shar and the Suel ideal (etc).
If the BB thought that they could sieze power they might use Zan to forment a civil war. On the other hand, if stabbing Zan in the back was more useful, they could set him up for a fall and then push him, thereby avoiding weakening the SB structure too much, while strengthening their hold on its leadership.
Either way though - the Father of Obedience's days are numbered, I think. Once Zan is gone, the Brotherhood is very likely to review its policies and so cen be altered to suit any taste. Quietly withdrawing itss reasources, leaving only strawman garrisons in the Hold for Keoland and the Holders to waste their resources on. Withdrawal of fleets from the Straits of Gearnat to better protect the homeland. A feigned rebellion in the Lordship of the Isles, which would give the appearance of the Lords throwing off their Scarlet shackles. A concentration of effort in espionage, assassination and infiltration in the lands around the Azure Sea to ensure that none of the naval powers gorws mighty enough to be able to attack Shar directly. Fostering new conflicts to distract these and other nations away from the south (a war with the North Kingdom would distract Ahlissa, just as a renewed conflict with Ket in Bissel and Gran March would distract the Keoish (and play on the hatred of the Watchers for the Bakluni); continued covert support of Turrosh Mak and the Slavers keeps the Uleks, Celene and Greyhawk's eyes focused on the Pomarj).
It is incredible how sometimes canon falls in line sometimes...
SB supplement, we are told that Korenth Zan and a good part of the leadership are members of the "strong hand" faction...advocates open armed conflict to subdue the flanaess but the SB is rife with competing factions who are convinced the SB should rule but disagree on how to accomplish it.
The radical new change in policy "strong hand" has plenty of opponents within the SB leadership and society, Korenth Zan supporters IMO convinced many that given the SB information and planning that a bold move would work and the conquests would be easy and given the long planning many wanted action.
Like many dictators who claim it is "only a matter of marching" it always sounds so easy.
In the goals section, Zan knows he is in trouble:
1) Give Lordship the appearance of autonomy
2) Abandon the hold except Monmurg and isles
3) Strengthen efforts, alliance and recruiting in Amedio and Hepmonland
4) Use former hold troops and Pomarj orcs to stabilize Onnwall
5) Increase spying efforts and network.
In short an SB consolidation and withdrawl of forces, and an unspoken admission that his efforts may have been beyond SB grasp for the moment.
Boy, this thread went way beyond what I had originally intended in my original posting. I just wanted to know if making the SB more secret would be more acceptable in my own personal version of GH as outlined in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendums. I'm not even sure a lot of retconning is needed, rather just some more development and clarification.
And besides, it's not like I dealt with time travelling or clones, is it? _________________ <div align="left">Going to war without Keoland is like going to war without a pipe organ. They both make a lot of noise and they're both a lot of dead weight, so what's the point in taking them along? </div>
And besides, it's not like I dealt with time traveling or clones, is it?
And then Korenth Zan woke up. It was all just a terrible dream. How foolish it would be to show all of his cards when the southern kingdoms were not completely embroiled in the wars in the north.
Well, no dream sequences either. I agree that further development is the way to go. Very little or no retconning is necessary. This could lead to some very interesting developments, though the only place that that this could receive some notable attention would be as an addendum presented in Dragon magazine as an article centered on the Scarlet Brotherhood (perhaps covering its special monks and/or assassins, monster breeding mages, and other special groups; all the while inserting some additional info on what is going on in the SB). At the very least it would make for an interesting article, presenting a rather large shadow organization akin to the Zhentarim of the Forgotten Realms.
Further information could also be presented in Dungeon magazine in the form of an adventure to the Tilvanot Peninsula. I cannot recall any adventure that has been published that takes place there, other than a portion of Fate of Istus, which is pretty boring considering all of the interesting facets of the Scarlet Brotherhood that were not included in the Hesuel Ilshar portion of Fate of Istus. With all the possible weirdness of the monster breeding program and all of the interesting facets of the Scarlet Brotherhood organization, this would be an excellent adventure topic. It is of course also a perfect opportunity to give some further background on the Scarlet Brotherhood (post Greyhawk Wars) within the adventure.
_________________ - Moderator/Admin (in some areas)/Member -
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum
Canonfire! is a production of the Thursday Group in assocation with GREYtalk and Canonfire! Enterprises