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    Canonfire :: View topic - Life Under The Scarlet Sign?
    Canonfire Forum Index -> World of Greyhawk Discussion
    Life Under The Scarlet Sign?
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
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    Mon May 02, 2016 7:33 pm  
    Life Under The Scarlet Sign?

    More years ago than I care to remember, I recall reading a writeup on the Scarlet Brotherhood from a Greyhawk site whose name I can't recall. The writeup stated that the Brotherhood selects the mates of all of its citizens, with the intent of breeding the purest Suel citizens available.

    Even to my teenage self, that struck me as requiring a huge amount of manpower and very heavy social restrictions on just about every citizen in a domain the Scarlet Brotherhood controls, including conquered ones like Onnwal or the Sea Princes. I was also puzzled as to what would happen to demihumans or non-Suel peoples in these cases-would they all be thrown in chains to use as slave labor? Again, that requires an awful lot of manpower, even if one accounts for the use of humanoids.

    I also wondered what would happen to non-Suel adventurers and other visitors who came to these lands. Would they all be thrown in chains once they stepped into the Brotherhood's lands, or could they travel with relative freedom once they had the appropriate passes, like in Erelhei-Cinlu?

    Again, the level of restriction and control simply didn't seem to me to be very practical, if the Scarlet Sign is trying to keep every citizen from having an unauthorized "rendezvous", much less keep their humanoid troops from taking "liberties" with slaves.

    Hence why I came up with a different take on the Scarlet Brotherhood and the way it administers conquered lands, as I've developed in my Canonfire contributions over the years.

    The Scarlet Sign almost never directly conquers a country by force, publicly aligning it with the Great and Hidden Empire. Instead, they place emphasis on the Hidden part of things, subtly worming their way into a country's social structure by appealing to sympathetic Suel. They try to support these Suel in gaining more power and influence within their countries, and to remove demihumans and non-Suel humans from more and more positions of power, until the land is dominated by the Suel as its ruling class.

    The "armies" of the Brotherhood, consisting of jungle savages (many of whom are, ironically, of Suel descent), norkers, orcs, goblins and other kinds of humanoids, are derided by the Brotherhood as the "Fodder", fit only as expendable bodies that serve a useful purpose. Their invasions cause sudden social upheaval, throwing the lands they attack into chaos and giving the Brotherhood agents the perfect opportunity to commit any necessary assassinations, robberies and other crimes to help the cause. The Fodder are not publicly aligned with the Brotherhood, instead apparently being led by exceptional leaders of their own races. This was employed most successfully in the Hold of the Sea Princes during the Greyhawk Wars, although it ran into problems in Idee when the Ahlissans took over the territory themselves.

    Once the Scarlet Sign has tightened its grip on a realm, this doesn't necessarily mean the Brotherhood will automatically throw anyone and everyone who isn't Suel in chains, much less try to reform the society from the top down. Instead, the Great and Hidden Empire is organized in a way similar to the British Empire of the 19th century. Under the British, dominions like Canada and Australia were largely self-governing and even had a fair amount of external latitude in foreign affairs. However, when the rulers of the Empire in London made specific decisions, the dominions had to fall into line.

    The Brotherhood employs a similar way of ruling countries that it conquers. Much of the social fabric, culture and more may actually remain the same, but the Suel occupy all the real positions of power and the laws are slanted to favor them. Tendencies such as strong royal centralization in the government at the expense of the feudal nobles, or a tendency towards individualism over collective action, would continue to exist under the Brotherhood in a particular land. However, the Father of Obedience and the Scarlet hierarchy may override local decisions and command resources, whenever and as often as desired for the greater good of the Empire. I view this as the way the old Suel Empire was organized-and why would the Brotherhood deviate from it in modern times?

    Demihumans and non-Suel humans might find life difficult under the Scarlet Sign, but in most cases I see it as similar to life under the Horned Society as opposed to life under Iuz. They may face blatant discrimination and be denied opportunities to advance in society, but if they keep their heads down and don't step out of line they may still be able to live bearable lives, accumulating modest sums of wealth and property...though never as much as a Suel can accumulate, of course!

    The two key traits here are secrecy and patience. I imagine Korenth Zan as being made immune to age by the grace of Lendor, in recognition of his family's service to the Suel gods. He is the last living survivor of the old Suel Empire, the sole survivor of the Rain of Colorless Fire, and the last remaining heir to the Royal Imperial Family of the Suel. Hence, while lesser members of the Brotherhood may come and go, Korenth Zan ensures continuity and stability for the Scarlet Sign. He can afford to wait until the time is right, and he can finally, fully re-establish the imperial throne of old.

    Secrecy helps confuse people about the Brotherhood, and what its true agenda and activities are. Wild speculation about the mysterious "Scarlet Sign", and conflicting reports about whatever it might be planning, can only benefit the Brotherhood. Victims who are confused and uncertain aren't always known for their good judgement-something the Brotherhood knows all too well, of course.

    One can also use the analogy of the boiling frog-if you turn the temperature up too high too fast the frog will immediately react, but if you slowly increase the heat, little by little, the frog won't realize that it's going to be boiled until it's too late...much like the nations the Brotherhood subverts may not realize just how much society is weighted in favor of the Suel until it's too late. Again, secrecy is the key element.

    What's your take?
    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Mar 05, 2007
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    Mon May 02, 2016 8:26 pm  
    Re: Life Under The Scarlet Sign?

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    (The bulk of this is clipped for efficiency, and can be found in the original post - BW)

    One can also use the analogy of the boiling frog-if you turn the temperature up too high too fast the frog will immediately react, but if you slowly increase the heat, little by little, the frog won't realize that it's going to be boiled until it's too late...much like the nations the Brotherhood subverts may not realize just how much society is weighted in favor of the Suel until it's too late. Again, secrecy is the key element.

    What's your take?


    This is very much like what I imagined for them as well. I think it may have been in a chat a couple years ago. I imagined the Bro-hood employing less obvious methods than outright invading multiple locations, preferring to act with subtlety.
    While I didn't go with anything like Korenth Zan being immortal like you did, your idea of the Brotherhood having a more far sighted goal was like mine. They prefer the gentle nudge over the hard shove, gradually molding other societies towards their "right" way of thinking, moving it along slowly enough the bulk of the population won't notice, and any few who do, can be written off as "crackpots" and "alarmists", until eventually, without even being noticed except by the crackpots, the people come to find out they've been under Suel rule for as long as many of them have been alive! And now...it's too late.


    I really like what you've come up with. If you have more, I'd like to see it.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue May 03, 2016 8:10 am  

    One should remember that the Brotherhood only considers full-blooded Sueloise 'citizens'... and then only to the extent by which they support the regime. Everyone else is 'mongrels' and 'subhuman', and the Brotherhood doesn't care about those bloodlines any more than a breeder of purebreed dogs cares about two mutts breeding in the alley.

    The other thing to remember is that medieval based societies have vast experience keeping huge numbers of serfs and peasants under the control of a tiny percentage of noblility. The Brotherhood just changes who's on top, that's all.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed May 04, 2016 8:35 am  

    IIRC from Sean K. Reynolds' Scarlet Brotherhood there is a fairly large bureaucracy dedicated to assessing citizens and determining their ideal mates - Office of Purity (my copy's 200 miles away ATM).

    However, there's not the level of social control that you might think. Remember the Brotherhood's controlled the TIlvanot Peninsula for centuries. They've instituted social and cultural control for so long that the Suloise citizens there accept it as the natural order. I recall a quote where a Brotherhood agent says something like the rest of the Flanaess takes more care breeding their dogs than they do their own descendants.

    Over a period of centuries it's not inconceivable that a pre-Information Age society could be molded in such a manner, and you'd need nothing more than control of the schools to make it happen in the beginning.
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
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    Wed May 04, 2016 11:42 am  

    Kalindren wrote:
    IIRC from Sean K. Reynolds' Scarlet Brotherhood there is a fairly large bureaucracy dedicated to assessing citizens and determining their ideal mates - Office of Purity (my copy's 200 miles away ATM).

    However, there's not the level of social control that you might think. Remember the Brotherhood's controlled the TIlvanot Peninsula for centuries. They've instituted social and cultural control for so long that the Suloise citizens there accept it as the natural order. I recall a quote where a Brotherhood agent says something like the rest of the Flanaess takes more care breeding their dogs than they do their own descendants.

    Over a period of centuries it's not inconceivable that a pre-Information Age society could be molded in such a manner, and you'd need nothing more than control of the schools to make it happen in the beginning.


    So what happens in the here and now? This "Office of Purity" is probably what I was thinking about-and indeed, what I am quoting may have originally been produced by Reynolds.

    However, it read to me like the Brotherhood forcibly dragging everybody who's not Suel and compliant with the regime into chains, with all their movements carefully restricted, and unable to practice their livelihoods. This bureaucracy, and the manpower required to man it, seemed cost-prohibitive to me. Is schooling really going to be enough, particularly when many children are already getting certain ideas from old schooling regimes and their own parents?

    How much time and resources can the Brotherhood dedicate to this in newly conquered lands without causing the economy and society to break down?

    Hence why I preferred the subtle and secret machination-type Brotherhood, which struck me as far more likely to succeed in the long run while costing far less in terms of resources.

    And considering that Reynolds was the person who whined about PCs being denied +1 weapons because drow weapons crumbled and were destroyed, and who wrote the new Slave Lords as an extension of the Oerth Dragon's cult, I can't say I put a whole lot of stock in his ideas. Razz

    BlueWitch wrote:


    This is very much like what I imagined for them as well. I think it may have been in a chat a couple years ago. I imagined the Bro-hood employing less obvious methods than outright invading multiple locations, preferring to act with subtlety.
    While I didn't go with anything like Korenth Zan being immortal like you did, your idea of the Brotherhood having a more far sighted goal was like mine. They prefer the gentle nudge over the hard shove, gradually molding other societies towards their "right" way of thinking, moving it along slowly enough the bulk of the population won't notice, and any few who do, can be written off as "crackpots" and "alarmists", until eventually, without even being noticed except by the crackpots, the people come to find out they've been under Suel rule for as long as many of them have been alive! And now...it's too late.

    I really like what you've come up with. If you have more, I'd like to see it.


    I've actually touched on this in a lot of my CF writings that mention the Brotherhood, although not always as well as I would have liked. There are some writings I would take back if I could-it took me a little while to really get the flavor I wanted for my depictions of the Brotherhood.

    That said, I like this article's depiction of the Brotherhood and its imperial master:

    http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=647
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Thu May 05, 2016 1:43 pm  

    Quote:
    Zan glanced over this letter, his eyes glowing a dull violet. His long, sinuous, bone-white hand put it aside, as he took a draw on his hookah. The mists and dusts of mushroom and poppy swirled through his mind as he considered, he planned, he wondered... Zan stretched his impossibly thin, long limbs and gazed into the fire for a long while.


    That's an evocative description of Korenth Zan, CruelSummerLord. I'm not as sure about crediting his longevity to Lendor, since he's a neutral deity and not a major patron of the Scarlet Brotherhood; I've thought in the past that using a Suel lich as the Brotherhood's secret puppetmaster might be an appropriate idea. Whether that puppetmaster is Zan or someone who has been manipulating Zan's bloodline for uncounted generations is another question.

    I thought the Scarlet Brotherhood's affinity with eugenics (first mentioned in Greyhawk Adventures) could mean a Bene Gesserit-like tradition among the Suel, who might have had a tradition of arranging marriages to make their magical bloodlines stronger. This might not always manifest as racism; I see Zagyg and Heward as products of ambitious breeding programs among the matriarchs of Hardby, who care nothing for Suel purity and are happy to embrace potent Oeridian blood if they come across it.

    Of course, a Suel lich would be primarily motivated to ensure a steady supply of living hosts for his own undead essence. It'd be interesting if one gained control of an entire society and shaped its traditions over the centuries solely to ensure its prospective hosts were of top quality. Young acolytes are fed ideas about ethnic purity and communal child rearing when the entity actually responsible for those ideals only views them as cattle.

    I assume that the Scarlet Brotherhood really only cares about the bloodlines of its elite members, though, leaving the commoners to breed as they please, though the lower classes may imitate their superiors to varying degrees.
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