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    Canonfire :: View topic - Using the Scarlet Brotherhood as Recurring Foes
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    Using the Scarlet Brotherhood as Recurring Foes
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 01, 2004 11:14 pm  
    Using the Scarlet Brotherhood as Recurring Foes

    Another thread regarding the Suel brought up the SB. I've always kind of saved them as something new to spring on PCs -- we play a campaign beginning in 576 CY, so all the characters know is that a group of "monastic religious militarists" live way off in that corner of the map.

    My initial thoughts are, since they are relatively unknown in my campaign, they've been able to establish cells up and down the Wild Coast (and possibly beyond). Don't forget, this is pre-Wars, so I have lots of independent towns to play with.

    Right now my idea is to have each cell extremely limited in its knowledge of other cell members (can't remember the term...), and each cell having a different mission. Maybe one cell attempts to gather spells and magic items, one cell attempts to learn as much as possible about local military strengths, one cell coordinates the region, whatever. Obviously the cell would be made up of deep cover agents, like those outlined in the Scarlet Brotherhood accessory.

    But, having never used them before, I thought I'd go to the pros. How have you used the Brotherhood in your campaigns? What should I avoid? Any cruel tricks you can pass along? ;-)
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 12:57 am  

    First off, do not make the same mistake I did. I revealed the presence of the SB and some of their goals too early to my players. If pc's come into contact with SB agents, make sure the agents don't talk of the SB nor have any SB symbols prominently displayed. Better yet, make sure there are no links to the SB present whatsoever. These are secret cells of SB members. They don't know about each other, but a cell organizer higher up the ladder might coordinate the activities of say up to five cells. The cells should be mainly active in gathering information of political and military targets, as well as the resources (food, soldiers, weapons, etc.) available to the governments of the lands in which they are hidden. These cells are the advanced elements of a SB invasion force after all. If pc's find documents listing the supplies, military strengths, and political weaknesses of various lands, then the pieces might begin to fall into place, but they still won't know who the information is being collected for.

    SB operatives should be very good at lying. Bluff and diplomacy would be their primary skills. They are honey-tongued devils, so intimidation is not very representative of them as it is overt and heavy-handed, but is still useful in rare instances (such as the ultimatum to the Sea Barons). If the SB cannot gain a person's cooperation through bluff and diplomacy, the person might have an unfortunate accident, so that a person more amenable to the SB's overtures might take their place. Coercion through blackmail or through hostage taking is also not the best option, for hostages can be rescued or escape and blackmail is not necessarily fool-proof.

    Disguise is also a very useful skill for cell members. A SB monk (or a wizard) shouldn’t dress the part. No martial arts outfits or wizard robes. Dress them like commoners. Make them blend in with the regulars people around them. Other classes should look like regular mercenaries. Fly below the radar.

    Use code in documents. “S” might stand for the SB, or Shar. “K” might stand for Brother Kelno. And don’t have cell members refer to each other as “brother”, or as “Uncle” or any of the other SB hierarchy nick-names. Pc’s might run into grand operations set up by the SB, but the SB will have done so through sometimes multiple levels of intermediaries- perhaps only one person in an entire operation even has a clue as to who they are really working for. Be extra devious with the SB. They’ve been flying below the radar for centuries.

    It might be of interest to throw in odd things to adventures involving the SB, such as warped monsters from the SB monster breeding program controlled by a SB mage. These might serve as tiny clues over a period of time that adds up to the answer that the pc’s seek, and that is who is really behind all of the trouble. Perhaps the pc’s eventually get leads than send them to the Lordship of the Isles, but while on the way there, a SB warship takes them prisoner, or pirates damage their ship enough that they must land on the Tilvanot Peninsula, inadvertently putting them in the very place that the big mystery will be solved. They might make it all the way to Hesuel Ilshar, and escape with info to Irongate, which in your campaign could serve as a handy reason why Cobb Darg had a hand up on the SB when they launched their offensive during the Greyhawk Wars. That is just one of many possible campaign story arcs.

    There are many ways to involve the SB in a campaign directly without tipping their hand. It doesn’t mean that you have to involve the SB in everything that the pc’s come across though. Keep things mixed up.

    If you’d like, I will tell you how I introduced the SB into my campaign. It didn’t originally happen by design, and it turned into something more than I expected it too.
    Master Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 1:52 am  

    I went a bit AWOL and focused more on the Black Brotherhood and their plans to resurrect Tharizdun.

    One of our players ended up as the Guardian of Adlerweg (the Gauntlet) so her vulnerability to SB agents added a bit of flavour. She only managed to hold on because she had a doppleganger as a cohort who was able to assassinate and impersonate Brotherhood agents. They are presently bluffing to convince local Brotherhood agents that the keep is under their control. (this is 588 CY)

    I also had a yuanti pureblood cleric of Tharizdun who is a kind of double agent within the Brotherhood's ranks as a recurring villain.

    Bizarrely, my plot dove-tailed perfectly with the recent Keoland intelligence report on Canonfire because the Brotherhood has contacts with a yuanti city in the Hool Marshes. Add the Cult of the Blackflame into the mix (Baltron's Beacon) since the pc in Adlerweg was exposed to the Blackflame as a pre-curser to taking the Shadow Mage prestige class (one I had to make up since I couldn't find an official version) and it becomes very confusing.

    Since we know that the Hold falls into civil war in 589 CY so I'm laying the ground work to involve the players somehow.
    CF Admin

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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 6:11 am  

    heh, 1 of my groups plays a team of Scarlet Brotherhood agents. Wink
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 9:44 pm  

    First off, mess with the players' expectations. Most GH players know that the SB allegedly worships Dread Tharizdun, so why not toss a wrench into the works by having the Black Brotherhood and the Dark Lord they worship be the Scarlet Sign's greatest threat? Might even be a weakness for other PCs to exploit.

    Second, keep them (relatively) secret. After they've struck in the wars, reports will circulate of their savage armies and spies have come out of Onnwal, Idee, the Sea Princes and Irongate. Of course, given that news typically travels through about a hundred mouths before any given person in Keoland or Urnst hears it, embellish the truth with all sorts of fanciful rumors and out-and-out lies, with bits of truth sprinkled in here and there. Don't be a slave to canon; take what elements you like and make the Brotherhood your own. You can even use bits of canon you're not going to use to play with the players' exepctations.

    And as far as how they operate in unconquered countries, definitely follow Cebrion's suggestions. And yes, I know I should have noted all this in my LGG Addendum entry on the Scarlet Brotherhood. >_<
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 10:04 pm  

    In my pre-war campaigns, I have never mentioned the Scarlet Brotherhood by name. Instead, I refer to their homeland as Shar. Their activity is implicit in the entire structure of the campaign. For example, I assume they were behind the organization and rise of the Slave Lords. Thus, the weird experiments that the evil elf Markessa was performing on sentient beings was funded by the SB. Just recently, the PCs ran into Markessa's nasty creations, the Broken Ones, in the town of Blue. A bunch of ruffians was kicking the crap out of the poor critter for being yucky and different. The Knight in the group stepped in and saved the poor defenseless creature, and the Priest/Mage in the group was able to discern that these creatures were not natural, but as yet they have no idea who is really behind it. I plan to throw more abominations their way over the course of the campaign, implying that the kind of magic responsible for the mutations is specialized and probably coming from a single source.

    Also, I had a brotherhood agent show up as an advisor to the Duke of Kroten on Lendore Isle. He secretly approached one of the PCs and asked if she could provide him with some info on one of the Five Blades of Corrusk, in exchange for his throwing his influence in with the Duke. The party later went after the first Blade, but sadly that character died and never did pass the info onto the nefarious agent.

    Also, I assume that lycanthropes were Super-Assassins created in the Suel Emperium to kill baklunish enemies, but the experiment went wrong in that if the victim didn't die, he also became a lycanthrope. Thus, the disease of lycanthropy was created and spread over the Oerth. The Northern Barbarian Berserkers are a species of Lycanthropes leftover from the days of the Suel Emperium. The werewolves that appear in the Secret of the Slavers Stockade are northerners in my campaign that the SB imported to the Pomarj in order to have Markessa start conducting experiments to see if she could come up with other werebeasts, thus, the wererat (a dwarven strain) was born and also the werefox (an elven strain). At the time of the fall of the Slave Lords, Markessa was working and created strains of lycanthropy that affected a variety of creatures. She was also working on an alchemical cure, just in case.

    Soon the group will be taking a trip to Hepmonaland, where they will find Shar at work in what looks like innocent colonialization.

    In short, I mostly assume that outside of their info gathering activities, the SB are bank-rolling a number of organizations, experiments and other up-heavals that will help set the stage for their plans in the Greyhawk Wars. I even assume that they have found out what Old Iuz is up to with the Blades of Corrusk, but have decided to let it go on since it will ultimately serve their purposes. Thus, they are encouraging the discovery of the Blades.

    My hope is that the PCs will find the blades and be responsible for starting the Greyhawk Wars! How proud would you feel to be the one that started it all?
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 02, 2004 10:04 pm  

    oops, double post. Laughing
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Fri Dec 03, 2004 3:36 am  

    abysslin wrote:
    heh, 1 of my groups plays a team of Scarlet Brotherhood agents. Wink


    Same here!

    So here goes the story of how the SB got into my campaign. Go take your piss break now, because this is a rather long post(even for me Wink ).

    The Pc's went through a few adventures until they were about 5-7th level. I then planned to send them through The Forbidden City adventure, which takes place in Hepmonoland in the northernmost mountain group by the Pelisso Swamp. The group was hired by an Onnwalian merchant guild to discover who was raiding their merchant base of operations in Hepmonoland. It wasn't the SB. Turned out to be a group of stranded pirates/brigands whose leader had ties to the Black Brotherhood, but no Black Brotherhood presence was really in the adventure, just a book that was found entitled The Tome of the Black Brotherhood, which gave a basic description of the group, but not any link of it to the SB or to what it truly represented. It was an unassuming book intended to be handed to some unsuspecting schlub, to begin slowly sowing the seeds of the dark cause. It is book one in a 12-step program! Insidious!!! Cool

    The pc's finished the adventure, but along the way, one of the group's warriors came across an enchanted helm, a dreaded helm of opposite alignment. The CN fighter (berserker kit), named Garakin the Unknown, could go either LG or LE- he went LE of course, and began to act so in ways that were so subtle as to not be noticed. After the group completed the main adventure, they proceed to undertake the journey back through the jungle to where their ship awaited them. During this trip, the group was attacked by a pride of were-tigers and mauled badly. Only two were conscious, the now LE fighter Garakin and an upstart invoker who had just joined the party. The invoker “volunteered” himself to take possession of the group's bag of holding, for safe keeping. Being LE and all about the pecking order, Garakin thought he should be guarding such a thing, so he attempted to put the invoker in his place through intimidation. The invoker egged him on and threatened him. Big mistake! They get into it and Garakin kills the invoker and then hacks his head off, preventing a raise dead (in 1e the body needs to be whole) by the group's cleric who had a scroll.

    The group eventually recovers, and learns the story of the invoker’s death. They are not pleased. Garakin could have just laid the invoker out, and not finished him off with the head chop. Garakin is upset that his long-standing group does not take his side in things. He leaves them in the jungle to fully recuperate. His last words are "When next we meet, it will not be as friends." The group has no inkling of the opposite alignment effect.

    Garakin makes his way back to the ship, covered in his own blood and with many rents in his armor; most of his equipment is gone too. He nearly persuades the ship captain that all of the others are dead, killed by wild beasts of the jungle and that they should sail away. The captain reluctantly disagrees and sends Garakin out into the jungle with five of his crew to search for survivors (who the fighter surprises and kills far enough away from the ship so that he is not heard). Two hours later, Garakin emerges from the jungle covered in new wounds and blood (from fighting the crew) and running hell bent for the ship, screaming that the crewmen are dead and that the beasts are coming. This is enough for the captain, who sets sail immediately, unknowingly stranding the still living party members in Hepmonoland.

    The ship sails away, and is attacked by a Scarlet Brotherhood warship(I played this out with minis, deck plans of the ships, and counters bearing SB and Onnwal heraldry on them to represent the crews). During the battle, Garakin once again turns on the Onnwalian crew, helping the Scarlet Brotherhood defeat them and capture their ship. He is actually instrumental in doing so. Garakin is so fierce that he is not killed out of hand. He also obviously has some Suel blood. He has pale skin, ice blue eyes, and jet black hair (slight Oeridian blood). He surrenders and is brought to Shar. There he is tested for relative purity and found only slightly lacking. Perhaps he has something to offer to the Scarlet Brotherhood after all.

    To test him, Garakin is sent on a dangerous solo mission to recover some ancient Sulmish scrolls in the Bright Desert (I used the “Mummy adventure” from the FR product Lords of Darkness). One of these ancient Sulmish scrolls (called Nether Scrolls in LoD) increases his intelligence massively (to 24 Shocked , don’t worry, I had plans to deflate this all along- read on!), the other gives him infravision and “sorcerously alters” him to become more pure Suel. The Scarlet Brotherhood also finds out that Garakin has previously encountered a Deck of Many Things (players just can’t leave them alone, usually to their detriment, but not this time Confused ) and that he was fortunate enough to gain two wish spells, which he had used to gain flight (as the spell), and a troll’s regeneration (I added in the limb severing on a 20, as per the old troll regeneration rules as well-every now and then he loses a limb! Cool )Garakin takes up the study of magic and exceeds the training pace of all known Suel practitioners since the days of the Suel Imperium. He gains much respect thereby, and notoriety.

    Garakin is placed in a mercenary group of like-wise mostly Suel-blooded individuals, the exception being a Suel half-orc scum and assassin, who he never gets along with. The group is headed by a monk and his twin brother, a fighter(both pure Suel), but Garakin always takes the lead in things. The player of Garakin creates a new character of mostly Suel blood to use in this group as well; ironically enough he chooses to create an invoker named Thal Seral, who is mostly Suel -blooded, and that is a lawful evil minion of Baalzebul. Exclamation
    The group goes on many special missions for the Scarlet Brotherhood. They are hired by the Count of Urnst (they just "happen" to be conveniently in the area and available for hire Wink ) to recover the Soul Gem from the Ghost Tower of Inverness, assassinating the Count of Urnst in the process and making the mysterious Sage of Urnst disappear as well (the SB have him in my campaign). Each member had a medallion that basically gives them the mislead spell, so that they read as being of good alignments when a know alignment spell or detect good/evil spell is put to them, so the Seer never had a clue.
    They next go to deal with incursions of lizardmen in the Vast Swamp, which are hampering the Scarlet Brotherhood’s designs in Sunndi. This leads to the “Tomb of the Lizard King” adventure, where Garakin gets hold of Sakatha’s spellbook, which lowers his intelligence to a more respectable level (19) before the curse is detected and removed.
    The group goes on to do other things…

    So that is how the Scarlet Brotherhood was introduced to my campaign. I originally was going to put Garakin through lots of hell(due to the alignment change issue), but the player made so many unique choices that seemed to fall into place that the whole changing alignment issue became a non-issue for quite some time. So far things have been very interesting indeed. Garakin the Unknown is wanted by multiple governments for principally being responsible for the assassination of the Count of Urnst, and is hunted by his original adventuring buddies. It really makes for some good times when they “accidentally” bump into each other. During the Greyhawk Wars, it was discovered that Garakin the Unknown is an agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

    Under 2e rules Garakin the Unknown was a Fighter (berserker kit) 8/ Wizard 9. Under 3e/3.5e rules (his current operating incarnation) he is a Barbarian 2/Fighter 2/ Wizard 9. Garakin originally began play as a pit fighter from Highport. He has developed into a much more complex character than we ever imagined he would become. You might say he is the Robilar of my campaign, though that was never the intention. Its funny how things turn out though.

    I almost wrote up Garakin for Postfest, but decided only to include characters that I solely created as npc's for my campaign.
    CF Admin

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    Fri Dec 03, 2004 7:18 am  

    heh, nice read Cebrion.

    My group had played agents long ago. Then we had moved over to a Rhizia campaign, which ended last weekend. So, now we are back to the Scarlet Brotherhood.

    In the last campaign, I used a variation of the Slavers. In this variation, the Slavers were funded by the Brotherhood in exchange for a percentage of the (slave) harvest.

    Ofcourse, the Slavers weren't meeting their end and the situation required a team of Brotherhood agents to resolve it. Wink

    So, off they were to track down the leak.

    After some docking in Elredd, they visited Hardy, Greyhawk, and eventually Dyvers where an informant allowed a clue to where the Slavers hideout may be. They joined with a group of Rhennee guides to lead them where they *thought* there may be a Slavers hideout and it indeed was. It ended up being where Markessa (the red) was running some of the operations.

    When they were caught, (and after a little brawl) they were smart enough to figure they would be the ones asking the questions, not her.

    They learned nothing and Markessa didn't really care with her having no faults in the situation. So, now the team decides to go even more undercover and pose as slaves amongst the next outbound shipment. Something it was vewry hard for the team to convince 1 of the players in particular to do, heh.

    After they were loaded up in a cargo hold, the ship headed back for Highport where they were unloaded and transported by wagon up into the Drachensgrabs. It is there that the team was sold to fanatics of the Earth Dragon Cult for some very reasonable prices.

    This was obviously the leak that the team had been looking for. They infiltrated the Cult's base of operations, took down the primary leaders, and were able to head back to Highport, intercept the next shipment of slaves and were sailing back to the Motherland when they encounted 3 Hardy Naval ships whom successfully boarded and killed them all. LOL

    My next Brotherhood campaign begins this saturday and they will be 1st assigned to the assassination of a rogue agent and a Greyhawk noble (haven't decided who yet), whom has a new found interest in removing the Brotherhood blockade (I play in wars era) since he has successfully opened some new gem mines in the Cairn Hills and wants to be able to trade with the Eastern countries. So, he is calling a council of various mining and other (trade) interested guilds in an attempt to develop a solid means of removing the Brotherhood Blockade. Ofcourse, the Brotherhood has only 1 statement on the matter, and this noble will be silenced before ideas can even take flight. (hopefully, anyway)
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Dec 03, 2004 8:07 am  

    In developing and working with cells, you might find module L2, The Assassin's Knot useful. I have not played it, but found it to be an enjoyable read.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Fri Dec 03, 2004 8:24 am  

    Wow, all great ideas! Thanks much, folks. Many inspirations, warnings, and suggestions for me to mull over. Good stuff.
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    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:42 pm  

    IMC (pre-Wars) the PC's have found and captured a Brotherhood agent, and turned her over to the Circle of Eight. Now one of the PC's will be assuming the agent's identity in an attempt to infiltrate the Brotherhood. This has prompted the PC to look for a clone spell, since she doesn't think her chances of making it out are that good!


    I would agree that SB agents will take pains to not reveal that they are SB. And if they find out that some PC's are looking for agents, they will plant SB material on others, then pose as people who tip the PC's off. They will then use this contact to further direct the characters, eventually building a relationship where the characters attack and expose false brotherhood agents with the assistence and direction of the real brotherhood.
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    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 09, 2004 10:13 am  

    WoW, this IS an excellent tread. I have personally always wanted to somehow include the Scarlet Brotherhood in my campaigns, but never really successfully done so. My games tend to be more traditional (group of heroes goes here, liberates a town, sloshes thru a dungeon, etc. I have for some reason failed to make them a credible enemy or power group. Many of my players have "heard" of them and some of them even play them up like they are the boogey man. But I still have yet to have them make an impact in even one of my campaigns. I'm currently in the middle of a long (6-8 hours every week), 8 month or so campaign. While my current players are involved in other plots, the next major plot may involve them somehow interacting with the SB. It's safe to assume that PCs who become powerful would attract the ever watchful eye of the SB!

    ......................................Omote
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:27 am  

    I'm in the same boat you're in, Omote. That's why I asked. ;-)

    Kirt, more excellent ideas, thanks! Diversion and misdirection seem to be the tools of choice for the Brotherhood...along with espionage and assassination.
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