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 Khelben Arunsun - Teleological Nightmare and Evil?

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
cpthero2 Posted - 02 Oct 2018 : 16:36:14
So, I was recently thinking on some material regarding the Blackstaff and it made me think how ironic some material I've referenced in the past about the Blackstaff is: the Blackstaff appears by all accounts to be a nefarious teleologist and egoist. By that, I speak from the perspective of normative ethics.

My question is: Why have other Master Harpers not hunted down the Blackstaff in order to enforce his punishment (I mean, Finder got hammered), or if they are going to continue to be supporters of a thief, and Cyric co-conspirator to killings, why are not some Harpers trying to get Triadic Knights or some other group(s) to hunt the Blackstaff down and bring him to justice? Info below to support the position.

If anyone recalls, he was referred to as having a "...personal code of honor as restrictive as that of most paladins..." (CotH, p48) Yet, the Blackstaff steals the The Scepter of the Sorcerer Kings, gives it to Fzoul, knowing he is totally going to go on a killing spree, and when he gets called out by a Harper tribunal, he pulls a President Andrew Jackson telling the Supreme Court to go jump off a cliff. The kicker.....none of the gods that grant Master Harper abilities, nor did Mystra in maintaining the Blackstaff's Chosen status (Blackstaff), punish him. The Dancing Place accord (seems like the right word in this case) of 720DR made it pretty clear that the gods had high expectations. Apparently, those expectations are to steal powerful artifacts when you think it is right, hand said powerful artifact over to a super powerful priest of Cyric knowing he's about to go get his killin' on, and then when you get called out in the only "official" way you can by a Harper tribunal, you ragequit and get no punishment.

I mean, this guy is a complete lunatic from my perspective. He's just going to do what he wants, however he wants, and there are no rules for this guy. Smells like Sammaster up in this place....

Thoughts?
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
cpthero2 Posted - 06 Oct 2018 : 01:30:06
Master Rupert,

quote:
First of all, let's leave real-world references out of this, please.


I will certainly do so moving forward. My apologies for breaking protocol/code of conduct.

quote:
Second, I don't know what this "Harpers of Waterdeep" stuff is. I am not familiar with this organization. I spoke of the Harpers as they existed in 1372, when the Moonstars were founded, as compared to the original founding of the Harpers at Twilight.


The "Harpers of Waterdeep" article I referenced is the newest version of information on the Harpers post-Spellplague, insomuch as I am aware. I referenced it as it was written by Erin M. Evans, a former editor of WotC and an author, who wrote it with seemingly the intention of reinvigorating the Harpers, in a post-Spellplague Realms. The article is in Dragon #430, pg 33.

quote:
In truth, Harpers share most of the ideals of the group, but the Moonstars hold to some of the more archaic codes of the Harpers in Twilight. Moonstar members do not work to preserve political nations or bodies, but people and life. They stringently look to the elven model of balancing nature and civilization. They also work to preserve lore and history (and they also study and use it far more than either the Heralds or Harpers). They embrace the tenets of three churches to help them build their moral base, and the gods they chose have been Khelben's patrons and saviors over the centuries: Mystra, Oghma, and Sehanine Moonbow of the Seldarine. Their major goal, to unite the races of Faerûn into a family against which no threat is too great, they approach slowly but surely.


I agree that the Moonstars stick more to some of the more "archaic codes of the Harpers in Twilight." However, the notion that, at least Khelben works to "preserve...people and life", while true in some cases, is quite the opposite in a panapoly of others. The list of evidence I provided goes to show what the famed philanthropist of life [insert sardonic smile here] is good at: causing mayhem, destruction, sorrow, misery, loss of life, and social chaos. The evidence I provided was from Cloak and Dagger.

As to the "elven model of balancing nature and civilization", regarding the Moonstars and specifically Khelben, this is simply contravened by the timetable from Cloak and Dagger that I provided. While some perhaps may pursue that model, the evidence is irrefutable: Khelben is a terrible person, more than he is a good person. His actions speak louder than his words.

As to the gods acknowledged as the ones that the Moonstars follow, that does in fact make perfect sense. Both Mystra and Oghma are very morally ambiguous, and minus protecting Elves and opposing undead, Sehanine Moonbow is as the same as well. So, I concur with you Master Rupert, that those gods are a great fit for the moral turpidity that runs like a strong river through the Moonstars.

quote:
Khelben had his eyes on preserving all of civilization, and chose to deal with Fzoul because Fzoul represented the lesser threat -- in fact, giving the way Khelben operates, Fzoul's actions could have very well been another way to oppose the Three Threats Who Wait in Darkness and the Prefects.


I think this is a fantastic point. In this case, which is definitely in keeping with the Harpers in Twilight Code, there are a ton of good and bad outcomes. The thing for me, is that he stuck with the Harpers during and through the early Era of Upheaval, knowing he was not going along with the organizations current Code, and when called on it, he flagrantly flouted his power and implied come and get it. I agree that he is best suited in the Moonstars, and in fact leading it, but at the same time, he does not and did not keep to the ethics of the then modern Harpers (early Era of Upheaval).

quote:
Sure, Fzoul was working to strengthen bad guys, but it's likely that in doing so, he was unwittingly opposing worse bad guys.


I think what you are meaning here (but please correct me if I am in error) is that Fzoul was unwittingly opposing worse bad guys. In some cases he was, however, in tricking Khelben and using him like an ignorant child in his evil machinations, Fzoul immediately set to work doing the opposite of what he said in the 10,000 day agreement: expanding East, and in a hard, fast fashion, as I outlined with the evidence from Cloak and Dagger.

quote:
You said that "Pragmatism is not defined by a lack of principles." While this is true, Khelben's actions do not show a lack of principles -- they show adherence to a different set of principles than your own. And adhering to a different moral code is not the same as being immoral.


I completely agree with you here, Master Rupert. Though, I feel it important to acknowledge that I had argued the teleological argument from the onset. Recognizing that different ethics (after all, I am acknowledging a normative ethic system, and teleology/consequentialism aspect of that) theories compete between the Harpers of the early Era of Upheaval time, the Harpers of Waterdeep, and Moonstars has been a cornerstone of my argument throughout. It is however, as is at the very center of why ethics exist, how each respective ethical theory explains and motivates the moral compass.

The Harpers of the Era of Upheaval are of a deontological/teleological hybrid. The Harpers of Waterdeep are very much a hybrid of virtue ethics and consequentialism, whereas the Moonstars are utilitarian intellectualists (teleology). That very powerfully delineates where, how, and why the moral compasses of each group are so vastly different. The Harpers of the Era of Upheaval would absolutely hold that the Moonstars are immoral, as I am sure the Moonstars would argue the same of those Harpers. The Harpers of Waterdeep certainly would (and likely do) argue that the Moonstars are immoral. It is after all, the very nature of morality being facilitated by the ethics that one holds. So, the Moonstars are immoral...from the Harpers perspective.

quote:
And that's a bit of morality that people have been arguing about for thousands of years and will likely argue about for thousands more. I'm not even going to contemplate touching that one.


haha...I certainly get your point. However, isn't this the fun point of these discussions? Getting into the pedantic weeds of the motivations for the actions and decisions made by the most powerful, in order to try and best understand what was going through their mind when it all went down? It is so amazing, and captivating to me! Hence, my appreciation and enthusiasm for this conversation with you Master Rupert.

quote:
So who watches the watchers? A host of good and neutral deities.


Well, this doesn't seem to be reasonable though, since by all appearances, the gods seemingly don't take action unless you kill one of their kids. Everything else is good to go.


quote:
We can sit here and argue endlessly over the morality of his actions, and we'll never reach a consensus, because we all have different ideals on what the best way to serve good.


Perhaps not, but I always come to a polite, decent, and well reasoned academic argument (such as you and I have been posing) with the open mind to be changed. After all, there is no shame, nor should there be any with having ones mind changed by someone who has a superior argument! Whenever I have had my mind changed by someone, I have always thanked them profusely, for not to do so shows the animus, immaturity, close minded nature, and an askew pride born of low self-esteem. Additionally, when someone has been kind enough as to provide an argument that has demonstrated that I was incorrect on something, they have just done me an enormous favor. To be taught something from someone is truly a profound gift. Ignorance should always be eliminated when it can, and thanked for those who provide us the knowledge, in my opinion!

Furthermore, I want to thank you, Master Rupert, for taking your time to argue your points with me, and to have provided me with insight I did not have before. That is a well appreciated gift.

quote:
In the Realms, however, where Khelben and the Moonstars live, morality is defined by deities who have a very real presence in the world. If multiple good and neutral deities say, "We are down with these actions taken to preserve all of civilization," then I'm not going to argue with them.


That I can certainly appreciate, and agree with. It makes one wonder though: how, with dogma's so very much at odd's with one another, i.e. Eldath and Lliira when juxtaposed against the others in the Harper deity group, did the goddess of peace except without disagreement Khelben's offering of the Scepter to Fzoul, knowing that many innocent people would be murdered by it? That is where the morality and ethics come in, with certain gods in that group, and not all.

As always, thank you kindly for the rich, enlightening, and rewarding argument Master Rupert!

Best regards,





quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

First of all, let's leave real-world references out of this, please.

Second, I don't know what this "Harpers of Waterdeep" stuff is. I am not familiar with this organization. I spoke of the Harpers as they existed in 1372, when the Moonstars were founded, as compared to the original founding of the Harpers at Twilight.

quote:
In truth, Harpers share most of the ideals of the group, but the Moonstars hold to some of the more archaic codes of the Harpers in Twilight. Moonstar members do not work to preserve political nations or bodies, but people and life. They stringently look to the elven model of balancing nature and civilization. They also work to preserve lore and history (and they also study and use it far more than either the Heralds or Harpers). They embrace the tenets of three churches to help them build their moral base, and the gods they chose have been Khelben's patrons and saviors over the centuries: Mystra, Oghma, and Sehanine Moonbow of the Seldarine. Their major goal, to unite the races of Faerûn into a family against which no threat is too great, they approach slowly but surely.


That's from Cloak & Dagger, where the Tel'Teukiira are first introduced (it's also one of the single best sources of Realmslore ever printed).

Without going point by point, here is what I'll say:

Khelben had his eyes on preserving all of civilization, and chose to deal with Fzoul because Fzoul represented the lesser threat -- in fact, giving the way Khelben operates, Fzoul's actions could have very well been another way to oppose the Three Threats Who Wait in Darkness and the Prefects. Sure, Fzoul was working to strengthen bad guys, but it's likely that in doing so, he was unwittingly opposing worse bad guys.

You said that "Pragmatism is not defined by a lack of principles." While this is true, Khelben's actions do not show a lack of principles -- they show adherence to a different set of principles than your own. And adhering to a different moral code is not the same as being immoral. Khelben feels, to borrow a line from Spock, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

And that's a bit of morality that people have been arguing about for thousands of years and will likely argue about for thousands more. I'm not even going to contemplate touching that one.

As for who watches the watchers... As I pointed out, Harpers who join the Moonstars do not lose the divine blessings given by those deities that are patrons of the Harpers: Deneir, Lliira, Tymora, Lurue, and Mystra. They do, however, lose those blessings if they violate the code of the Harpers. Additionally, Sehanine Moonbow and Oghma are patrons of the Moonstars.

So who watches the watchers? A host of good and neutral deities.

Therefore, Khelben's actions are condoned by a host of goodly powers, including those of the Harpers.

We can sit here and argue endlessly over the morality of his actions, and we'll never reach a consensus, because we all have different ideals on what the best way to serve good.

In the Realms, however, where Khelben and the Moonstars live, morality is defined by deities who have a very real presence in the world. If multiple good and neutral deities say, "We are down with these actions taken to preserve all of civilization," then I'm not going to argue with them.
[/quote]
Demzer Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 23:01:49
Without delving in too much details, I'll just cover two points:
- the 10000 days agreement says that Fzoul has to "limit [his] expansion to the east of the Thunder Peaks", as in, "not go to the west of the Thunder Peaks" which was overly restricting considering Khelben practically needed just "stay out of the North and Western Heartlands" for his purposes (Rhymantiin). All territories you listed are east of the Thunder Peaks so there is no breach in the agreement there;
- might does not make right but if you are sure that you and all your team will die without even making your enemy sweat you might as well avoid a suicide attack and keep working on other minor threats while waiting for an opening (unlikely in this case) or working on the sides of the issue (by isolating Khelben as much as possible in this case). The Harpers would have disappeared long ago trying to breach Warlock's Crypt defences if the mere knowledge of some big evil somewhere compelled them to suicide. It's simply way more valuable to keep living by fighting the lesser (some would say true) evils than throwing lives against Blackstaff Tower. Also in this case all the commonly used Harper trump cards (some of the Seven, Elminster, other super powerful Harpers) were out of the question due to external factors (family ties, Chosens serving Mystra first and foremost and not usually blasting at each other unless they have very good reasons [see Sammaster], centuries of friendship and built mutual respect that other mortals can't even begin to imagine) so it really was not a fight any living Harper ever even considered taking (as opposed to Finder, who was powerful in his own right but was chased by multiple Chosens of Mystra and the full might of the Harpers);

As a side note, its probably bad to admit it but in a world as violent as the Forgotten Realms a handful of wizards dying at a mage fair would not even be registered on overall statistics as in increase in mortality rate. The actions of Fzoul with the Scepter did indeed bring down Manshoon from his power base and costed the lives of thousand of Cyricists and probably as many Zhents dying in the purges and coups that Fzoul started, Westgate was already a chesspool with a vampire crime lord, the Manshoon clones divided between themselves, destroyed, traded away or consumed those stores of magic items "... that rivaled those of the Balckstaff ..." meaning that whatever Manshoon survives has greatly reduced magical might in store (since before everything was at a single Manshoon's disposal).
Wooly Rupert Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 20:09:02
First of all, let's leave real-world references out of this, please.

Second, I don't know what this "Harpers of Waterdeep" stuff is. I am not familiar with this organization. I spoke of the Harpers as they existed in 1372, when the Moonstars were founded, as compared to the original founding of the Harpers at Twilight.

quote:
In truth, Harpers share most of the ideals of the group, but the Moonstars hold to some of the more archaic codes of the Harpers in Twilight. Moonstar members do not work to preserve political nations or bodies, but people and life. They stringently look to the elven model of balancing nature and civilization. They also work to preserve lore and history (and they also study and use it far more than either the Heralds or Harpers). They embrace the tenets of three churches to help them build their moral base, and the gods they chose have been Khelben's patrons and saviors over the centuries: Mystra, Oghma, and Sehanine Moonbow of the Seldarine. Their major goal, to unite the races of Faerûn into a family against which no threat is too great, they approach slowly but surely.


That's from Cloak & Dagger, where the Tel'Teukiira are first introduced (it's also one of the single best sources of Realmslore ever printed).

Without going point by point, here is what I'll say:

Khelben had his eyes on preserving all of civilization, and chose to deal with Fzoul because Fzoul represented the lesser threat -- in fact, giving the way Khelben operates, Fzoul's actions could have very well been another way to oppose the Three Threats Who Wait in Darkness and the Prefects. Sure, Fzoul was working to strengthen bad guys, but it's likely that in doing so, he was unwittingly opposing worse bad guys.

You said that "Pragmatism is not defined by a lack of principles." While this is true, Khelben's actions do not show a lack of principles -- they show adherence to a different set of principles than your own. And adhering to a different moral code is not the same as being immoral. Khelben feels, to borrow a line from Spock, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

And that's a bit of morality that people have been arguing about for thousands of years and will likely argue about for thousands more. I'm not even going to contemplate touching that one.

As for who watches the watchers... As I pointed out, Harpers who join the Moonstars do not lose the divine blessings given by those deities that are patrons of the Harpers: Deneir, Lliira, Tymora, Lurue, and Mystra. They do, however, lose those blessings if they violate the code of the Harpers. Additionally, Sehanine Moonbow and Oghma are patrons of the Moonstars.

So who watches the watchers? A host of good and neutral deities.

Therefore, Khelben's actions are condoned by a host of goodly powers, including those of the Harpers.

We can sit here and argue endlessly over the morality of his actions, and we'll never reach a consensus, because we all have different ideals on what the best way to serve good.

In the Realms, however, where Khelben and the Moonstars live, morality is defined by deities who have a very real presence in the world. If multiple good and neutral deities say, "We are down with these actions taken to preserve all of civilization," then I'm not going to argue with them.
cpthero2 Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 19:58:56
Master Krashos,

Agreed. He is not good. Because of that, everything I have rebutted with to Master Rupert and others makes complete sense. I think this makes Khelben a fantastic character!

Thank you for your reply!

Best regards,




quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

Khelben is age-old and super smart. He's seen loved ones die a score of times - wives, lovers, children, comrades - and his whole existence is wrapped up around proving himself and protecting those he loves. That nigh-fanatical desire to protect leads the Blackstaff to delve into the prophecies of Alaundo and as noted in Cloak and Dagger, he sees a great evil rising unless he can do something about it. That something ends up being the creation of the Moonstars and the establishment of Rhymanthiin. In doing so, Khelben is practical enough to realise that there will be casualties, that not all allies need to be paragons of virtue (he is content to have his aims/desires coincide with those of a lesser ethical bent than him, if only for a finite time) and that his opponents can be defeated by having them turn on themselves. His greatest achievement in the tumultuous early 1370s DR is the destabilisation of the Zhentarim and the prying away of Manshoon from his power base. He believes that the end justifies the means. He isn't good.

-- George Krashos

cpthero2 Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 19:57:23
Great Reader dazzlerdal,

I completely agree with you 100%! It is because of all of this stuff that he is one of my most favorite characters. He is so real!

Best regards,




quote:
Originally posted by dazzlerdal

He is awesome, and among the most real of realmsian npcs

cpthero2 Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 19:56:30
Great Reader dazzlerdal,

Thank you for your reply!

quote:
Khelben is different, he is controlled, he is driven, he sticks to his own code of rules. He does not indulge his base impulses, he carefully considers all his actions and is constantly forming plans that are many years in the making.


"...he sticks to his own code of rules." Exactly my point. He doesn't follow the Code of the Harpers, never has, so why was he a)allowed to say, and b)why should he not be punished for that and allow himself to be so, or have it enforced by the other Master Harpers? If Elminster, Alustriel, and others really believed in the Code of the Harpers, they would enforce it. They are all tyrants in my view if they don't. You live by the rules, or you don't. If you don't, you either need to go rogue and admit that might equals right (privilege) or submit. They are all going along with their notion of "I'm too cool for school, signed, The Really Powerful People of Tyranny."

quote:
Now that driving force is the reason why he can ignore the Harpers. Nothing matters more than saving everything and everyone. He will steal, he will kill (by proxy usually, ordering others to do what he deems necessary) all to fulfill his plans that he believes will save the world.


I completely agree that is why he can and does take the actions, but then again, why was he a part of that organization in the first place? My impression is because he is a Tyrant. Declared or not, this guy lives by the Tyrant's dogma. Xvim and Bane may as well schmooze him over to their side with a little nudge and get it done. Additionally, it clearly violates two express Code of the Harpers:
quote:
The rule of law aids peace and fosters freedom, so long as the laws are just and those who enforce them lenient and understanding.

quote:
No extreme is good. For freedom to flourish, all must be in balance: the powers of realms, the reaches of the cities and the wilderlands into each other, and the influence of one being over another.

These clearly demonstrate that Khelben is a criminal of his own making, and of the worst kind. A manipulative, deceiver. A powerful tyrant born of the worst actions, meant to dominate the world in his vision. No better than Fzoul Chembryl, Manshoon, or Semmemon.

quote:
He knows that Fzoul will use that scepter to kill hundreds and dominates millions,...


True, I agree. The thing though, as with the above two quotes, especially the one regarding "No extreme is good...", is there is no balance, no consideration for the fact that "the influence of one being over another" is exactly what Khelben is personifying.

quote:
Unfortunately this story ended with Blackstaff, where Khelben died. However Khelben has "died" many times before, almost always to throw off his enemies. This time Khelben was appearing as Khelben and few enemies would believe a fake death, so Khelben had to actually die, and every single ally he ever had also had to believe Khelben had died, forever.
I'm choosing to rewrite that event slightly. The kiira that bonded Khelben's memories to his replacement apprentice (I forget her name), I'm having it so that it is actually overwriting her personality so that in a few years she will essentially be Khelben, but in a woman's body. Its the perfect bluff to dupe his enemies and allow him to continue his plans in secret and away from the prying eyes of enemies and friends.


Agreed! I would have [b]loved/b] to have seen Khelben turn into the ultimate bad guy through corruption and go rogue! What a story that would have made! I actually love the ethical issues that are personified by his actions, and wish that he would have been pushed in that direction more for a possible redemption story arc!

I really appreciate your response Great Reader dazzelerdal!

Best regards,





quote:
Originally posted by dazzlerdal

Well I can only offer my interpretation of the works I have read.

First is I will discount alignment restrictions because we are talking about a person here, not a construct of rules, and people behave out of character at times (usually when stressed or unwell, but also just because it suits them).

I'm also going to ignore the "why didn't the gods stop him" comment because that is an argument had time and time again with no winner.


So Khelben is one of the Chosen of Mystra, that means he is effectively immortal, and incredibly powerful. On top of that he has studied to the point of becoming incredibly powerful in his own right, and has amassed enough magic and allies to become one of the most powerful individuals on Faerun. Even if all the Harpers wished to stop him, I doubt they could achieve it.

Now to my mind Khelben is unique among the chosen. If you look at the other chosen they are borderline insane, exhibiting signs that could be attributed to dementia. They have lived so long that societal norms mean nothing to them and they tend to indulge their baser impulses at a whim.

Khelben is different, he is controlled, he is driven, he sticks to his own code of rules. He does not indulge his base impulses, he carefully considers all his actions and is constantly forming plans that are many years in the making.

Why does Khelben behave that way, it may be he has a unique personality trait that the others do not, it may be that his elven ancestry is allowing him to stave off the signs of dementia. I believe that Khelben is different to the other chosen because he has a purpose, a single, driving, all consuming need that overrides everything else. Something he read in those prophecies a long time ago made him realize the world as he knows it would be destroyed, and he has spent the millennia since trying to ensure that would not happen.

Now that driving force is the reason why he can ignore the Harpers. Nothing matters more than saving everything and everyone. He will steal, he will kill (by proxy usually, ordering others to do what he deems necessary) all to fulfill his plans that he believes will save the world.

He knows that Fzoul will use that scepter to kill hundreds and dominates millions, but he also knows that in decades or centuries none of that will matter if he has not prepared for the end of the world. Fzoul will likely destroy himself with his ambitions (as evil usually does) and if not Khelben himself can sort out a suitable revenge upon Fzoul at a later date).
Now we do not know Khelben's plan but it is sure to be huge and long term. The harpers obviously are unwilling to do what he feels is necessary, so he has had to resort to more drastic measures and that includes creating an organization that will do what is necessary.


Unfortunately this story ended with Blackstaff, where Khelben died. However Khelben has "died" many times before, almost always to throw off his enemies. This time Khelben was appearing as Khelben and few enemies would believe a fake death, so Khelben had to actually die, and every single ally he ever had also had to believe Khelben had died, forever.
I'm choosing to rewrite that event slightly. The kiira that bonded Khelben's memories to his replacement apprentice (I forget her name), I'm having it so that it is actually overwriting her personality so that in a few years she will essentially be Khelben, but in a woman's body. Its the perfect bluff to dupe his enemies and allow him to continue his plans in secret and away from the prying eyes of enemies and friends.




So to answer your questions in turn.

1 - Why have the master harpers not hunted down the Blackstaff - in truth they don't stand a chance. Khelben is older and wiser than all of the master harpers put together (this does not include the likes of Elminster, Storm, Alustriel, etc who actually work with Khelben). His allies alone likely outnumber the ranks of the Harpers, and include many Harpers.

2 - Why are Harpers not coercing other organisations to hunt down the Blackstaff - would anyone try to hunt down one of the most powerful individuals on Faerun. I'm not sure there is enough money on the planet to motivate an organization to seek its own destruction.

3 - Why hasn't Khelben's divine abilities been revoked. - Well most would say because the gods have sided with Khelben, but I do not believe the gods are capable of direct intervention without being called upon by their followers. Either the gods cannot or will not remove these granted boons, or someone has to perform a ritual upon Khelben to remove boons that may have been granted by a similar ritual. The end result is the same, you can assume that the churches of Mystra and the others, or that Mystra herself and the other gods have no issue with what Khelben has done because they trust he has other plans, or because they lack the power to move against him.

4 - Is Khelben a lunatic. I would argue no, he is the only chosen of mystra that is not a lunatic. He is driven by a goal, and he believes he is going to try and save the world, nothing else matters. He probably feels really awful about all those people he has condemned to death or slavery or misery, but he is saving many, many millions of more people by sacrificing those poor few.

Now you are right, Sammaster was likewise driven by a goal that resulted from a prophecy he read. Khelben could end up mad just like Sammaster, it is possible that the guilt he will feel from whatever actions Fzoul takes using the scepter will drive him insane, and at that point everyone is in danger, because Sammaster was a fledgling chosen gone mad, Khelben is the real deal. But I don't think Khelben is there yet, his decisions are still based upon sound logic and a careful calculation of the odds, and all that is probably due to the influence Laeral has had upon him.

Khelben is of course Steven Schend's baby and so only he could answer many of these questions, the above is just how I interpret the man. He does good things, he does bad things, he does what is necessary to ensure that good wins at the end of the days.

cpthero2 Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 19:39:42
Senior Scribe Demzer,

quote:
This is an easy one. It's because Khelben is powerful in his own right and is supported by other powerful individuals (Laeral, his apprentices, Waterdeep's establishment and veteran adventurers) and some of the more powerful Harpers (Elminster, Storm Silverhand, Danilo Thann, Arylin Moonblade) and their powerful friends (the Symbul, Alustriel) would never lift a finger against him, so the remaining powerful-but-not-as-much Harpers (Bran Skorlsun, Lady Dragonbreast, ...) can't act directly against him.



So, to make sure I understand you correctly (as I don't want to misrepresent your argument here), are you saying that effectively, might equals right? You stated that the Harpers led by Skorlsun can't do it because they don't have the power. So, is the rule of law (which is a Code of the Harpers) and policing their own (another Code of the Harpers) effectively a moot point when you just get powerful enough? If so, this definitely violates the tenets of the Harpers, and at that point, why would anyone on Toril trust them? Why would the gods favor (which many of the gods identified at the Dancing Place in 720DR) such abusive behavior? That is literally Xvimite/Banite behavior: the behavior of a Tyrant.

quote:
That's the crux of the Harper Schism, without going against Khelben directly, the Berdusk based Harpers are trying to sever all ties with him and press-gang all Harpers in swearing fealty to them abandoning him, which of course is causing all kinds of troubles, growing mistrusts and open rivalries blossoming all over the place in the "good guys" field. Bran Skorlsun is on a witch-hunt, he can't get the head-honcho but he is breathing on the neck of everyone else.


Yeah, I will say this: Bran Skorlsun, when he started press-ganging, went against the Code of the Harpers as well, specifically this one:
quote:
All beings should walk free of fear, with the right to live their lives as they wish.

He definitely screwed up here, and he (Bran) should be policed for this as well, as the new defacto leader and punished as well.

quote:
That's another easy one, "the Harpers police their own", they're like Mafia, they're organized crime only mostly working against the bad guys, if one of them f**ks up they clear their own mess, they don't bring external power groups in it (they may seek assistance of specific individuals recognized as Harper friends but not whole churches or organizations).



In this case, they are not policing their own, because at least Khelben, and likely the rest of the powerhouses (Simbul, Elminster, Alustriel, and the rest) have decided that they are better than the Code of the Harpers because of their power, and they will allow those with sufficient power to do what they want. Now, ironically, it is hard to disagree with might is right when you get whacked and that is just what the end result is, lol. However, it is a hard pill to swallow when the Senior/Master Harpers say they still believe in that, when they more align with the Xvimite/Banite church.

quote:
To my knowledge Fzoul didn't use the Scepter to kill any good or innocent people, he used it to reach a position of power inside the rank of the bad guys, blasting at other bad guys. Also this whole thing ended with Cyric losing a lot of power and influence and Bane 2.0 rising so it depends on which one was considered more dangerous and on what timescale (personally I would consider Cyric more as an immediate threat but Bane as the greater threat overall, but in the 1360s with Cyricism in full swing this may have not been the consesus among the good guys of Faerun).

Here is a list of occurrences that occurred due to the Scepter of the Sorcerer-Kings being given over to Fzoul, as a consequence of him being able to kill the banelich, take his power, overthrow Manshoon, rise to the power of Chosen of Xvim, and then start laying out his plans in violation of the 10,000 day agreement that he had with Khelben:
  • Westgate has a Manshoon clone takeover causing massive problems, with murders, theft, and outright control of the city taken away
  • Manshoon clones start gathering up magic items from stores that "...rivaled those of the Blackstaff and Lady Hope Alustriel." (Cloak and Dagger, p16)
  • "Lastly, the largest impact on the Realms is the sudden and rapid increase in deaths and destruction among those wielders of Art." (Cloak and Dagger, p11)
  • Fzoul becomes even more powerful and becomes the Chosen of Iyachtu Xvim
  • "Kythorn 27: Panic ensues in the crowded market of Silverymoon as some young foolish apprentice yells out "It's Mad Manshoon!" and points at a visiting mage..." Four people and the innocent diviner die in the fight [see above about death and destruction]
  • "Fzoul Chembryl pulls together new allies among the Zhentarim...effectively conquer most of the Moonsea." This is in complete violation of the 10,000 day agreement, saying no expansion would occur east of the Thunderpeaks...this is east of the Thunderpeaks.
  • "Midsummer: At an impromptu MageFair just across from the River Chionthar..." three Manshoon clones fight, catching innocents in the mix leaving at least (19) innocent wizards dead (Cloak and Dagger, p18)
  • "Marpenoth: Xvimlar forces arrive at Bezantur in Thay to spread the Xvimlar faith and ally that temple securely to Fzoul's vision." This violates the 10,000 day rule that they made


I could honestly go on for another, at least, (20) entries demonstrating how bad Khelben is in having made this deal. A Senior/Master Harper who knew better, but made the deal with the devil anyhow.

quote:
To be honest the Harpers forgot to think about what would they do if their super powerful Chosens decided to run amok, since it could happen even by chance (like Laeral with the Crown), it was a big oversight.
Regarding the gods, we don't even know if some retracted their support from Khelben and Laeral, they got enough individual powers of their own that it's kind of difficult from our perspective to judge if they are not as lucky as before or if they can't leave off the land as good as before or if unicorns don't like them anymore. We can metagame the fact that Tel'teukiira agent (as in the PrC) powers are not godly given (going off memory) into the conclusion that this new group does not benefits from the same divine patronage as the Harpers but that's not a surprise.
Mystra herself does her own thing among deities and it took her Sammaster trying to kill one of her daughters to remove his "chosenness" so Khelben doing his thing is nothing Mystra cares about. It's politics, not magic.


Agreed. I do feel that was a huge oversight. As I asked of Master Rupert in my reply to him: who watches the watchers (the really powerful ones in this case) if they go off the rez?

You do make a concrete point regarding Khelben and Laeral about their Master Harper powers. While we don't know, you think that the other Senior/Master Harpers would be made aware if some of the other biggies had it pulled to let them know, "Hey guys, stuff is going sideways over here."

As far as Mystra is concerned, that is exactly why I didn't mention her along with Lliira and Eldath: I completely agree with you there. She has sung her own tune for so long, without regard to other things, but then again, as the Goddess of Magic, she has that privilege in terms of might equals right.

quote:
I'm not entirely sure on this, the Harpers were never neutral in the alignment sense of the word (they never opposed "too good"), what they were and still are is good anarchists. They've been for a long time one of the best definitions of Chaotic Good there is (given all the DM fiatness there is in an organization sporting Chosens of deities and divine aid on call and a lot of good press), which is why they didn't get along well with any kind of official authority (except in candyland Cormyr were it's stated that they don't get along well but in practice they endorse and actively protect the established power structure complete with it's thought police and every other oppressive bit which they remember to fight only when out of the country).

I think Khelben was tired of this line or simply it didn't suit his needs anymore, he is not chaotic by any stretch of the imagination, the guy has a blackstaff up his a**e and in the 1360s he started to move to ensure that prosperity and order could be restored to the North together with a renewed collaboration between various good races. He didn't need the Harpers for that (not all of them anyway), he needed the Zhentarim not opposing his every move. He had a plan (probably lots of plans) and it was not just charging in guns blazing and rescueing the fair maiden from the clutches of the evil cult, he didn't need the power rangeryness of the Harpers nor their angst-driven teen approach to problems or their "we are wo/men of the people" propaganda. That's why he quit.


In this case, I'll have to refer you to my entire rebuttal to Master Rupert as I think it addresses this in its entirety.

Thank you very much for the thoughtful reply!

Best regards!





quote:
Originally posted by Demzer

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

Why have other Master Harpers not hunted down the Blackstaff in order to enforce his punishment (I mean, Finder got hammered)



This is an easy one. It's because Khelben is powerful in his own right and is supported by other powerful individuals (Laeral, his apprentices, Waterdeep's establishment and veteran adventurers) and some of the more powerful Harpers (Elminster, Storm Silverhand, Danilo Thann, Arylin Moonblade) and their powerful friends (the Symbul, Alustriel) would never lift a finger against him, so the remaining powerful-but-not-as-much Harpers (Bran Skorlsun, Lady Dragonbreast, ...) can't act directly against him.

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... or if they are going to continue to be supporters of a thief, and Cyric co-conspirator to killings ...



That's the crux of the Harper Schism, without going against Khelben directly, the Berdusk based Harpers are trying to sever all ties with him and press-gang all Harpers in swearing fealty to them abandoning him, which of course is causing all kinds of troubles, growing mistrusts and open rivalries blossoming all over the place in the "good guys" field. Bran Skorlsun is on a witch-hunt, he can't get the head-honcho but he is breathing on the neck of everyone else.

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... why are not some Harpers trying to get Triadic Knights or some other group(s) to hunt the Blackstaff down and bring him to justice?



That's another easy one, "the Harpers police their own", they're like Mafia, they're organized crime only mostly working against the bad guys, if one of them f**ks up they clear their own mess, they don't bring external power groups in it (they may seek assistance of specific individuals recognized as Harper friends but not whole churches or organizations).

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... gives it to Fzoul, knowing he is totally going to go on a killing spree ...



To my knowledge Fzoul didn't use the Scepter to kill any good or innocent people, he used it to reach a position of power inside the rank of the bad guys, blasting at other bad guys. Also this whole thing ended with Cyric losing a lot of power and influence and Bane 2.0 rising so it depends on which one was considered more dangerous and on what timescale (personally I would consider Cyric more as an immediate threat but Bane as the greater threat overall, but in the 1360s with Cyricism in full swing this may have not been the consesus among the good guys of Faerun).

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... and when he gets called out by a Harper tribunal, he pulls a President Andrew Jackson telling the Supreme Court to go jump off a cliff. The kicker.....none of the gods that grant Master Harper abilities, nor did Mystra in maintaining the Blackstaff's Chosen status (Blackstaff), punish him. The Dancing Place accord (seems like the right word in this case) of 720DR made it pretty clear that the gods had high expectations. Apparently, those expectations are to steal powerful artifacts when you think it is right, hand said powerful artifact over to a super powerful priest of Cyric knowing he's about to go get his killin' on, and then when you get called out in the only "official" way you can by a Harper tribunal, you ragequit and get no punishment.



To be honest the Harpers forgot to think about what would they do if their super powerful Chosens decided to run amok, since it could happen even by chance (like Laeral with the Crown), it was a big oversight.
Regarding the gods, we don't even know if some retracted their support from Khelben and Laeral, they got enough individual powers of their own that it's kind of difficult from our perspective to judge if they are not as lucky as before or if they can't leave off the land as good as before or if unicorns don't like them anymore. We can metagame the fact that Tel'teukiira agent (as in the PrC) powers are not godly given (going off memory) into the conclusion that this new group does not benefits from the same divine patronage as the Harpers but that's not a surprise.
Mystra herself does her own thing among deities and it took her Sammaster trying to kill one of her daughters to remove his "chosenness" so Khelben doing his thing is nothing Mystra cares about. It's politics, not magic.

[quote]Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

Keep in mind that Khelben was still working for the same goals as the original Harpers; the modern Harpers had gone astray from those goals. The original Harpers were more neutral, but they'd shifted over time to be more focused on good.



I'm not entirely sure on this, the Harpers were never neutral in the alignment sense of the word (they never opposed "too good"), what they were and still are is good anarchists. They've been for a long time one of the best definitions of Chaotic Good there is (given all the DM fiatness there is in an organization sporting Chosens of deities and divine aid on call and a lot of good press), which is why they didn't get along well with any kind of official authority (except in candyland Cormyr were it's stated that they don't get along well but in practice they endorse and actively protect the established power structure complete with it's thought police and every other oppressive bit which they remember to fight only when out of the country).

I think Khelben was tired of this line or simply it didn't suit his needs anymore, he is not chaotic by any stretch of the imagination, the guy has a blackstaff up his a**e and in the 1360s he started to move to ensure that prosperity and order could be restored to the North together with a renewed collaboration between various good races. He didn't need the Harpers for that (not all of them anyway), he needed the Zhentarim not opposing his every move. He had a plan (probably lots of plans) and it was not just charging in guns blazing and rescueing the fair maiden from the clutches of the evil cult, he didn't need the power rangeryness of the Harpers nor their angst-driven teen approach to problems or their "we are wo/men of the people" propaganda. That's why he quit.

cpthero2 Posted - 05 Oct 2018 : 19:18:11
Master Rupert,

Thank you for the reply! Please find my response below. In advance as well, since I know you are a very well read, very astute and intellectual individual Master Rupert, I have included some real world analogies throughout my rebuttal to your argument in advocacy of the Blackstaff for comparison. I lastly, before I begin, want to thank you for the engaging argument!

To begin with, let's look at the "...goals of the original Harpers..." and the goals of "...the modern Harpers..."
Code of the Harpers, pgs 8-11
  • Harpers work against villainy and wickedness wherever they find it, but they work ever mindful of the consequences of what they do.
  • All beings should walk free of fear, with the right to live their lives as they wish.
  • The rule of law aids peace and fosters freedom, so long as the laws are just and those who enforce them lenient and understanding.
  • No extreme is good. For freedom to flourish, all must be in balance: the powers of realms, the reaches of the cities and the wilderlands into each other, and the influence of one being over another.
  • Whatever it takes, a Harper will do. Pride never rules the deeds of a true Harper.
  • Freedom is a multiversal right, though Harpers can spare themselves less freedom than those they work to protect when the need presents itself.
  • Harpers police their own. A Harper who hears the call of personal power can no longer hear the sweet song of the harp. A Harper who seizes power, and holds it above all else, is a traitor to the harp. Traitors must die for freedom to live.
  • Without a past, no being can appreciate what they have, and where they may be going.

The Harpers of Waterdeep, Dragon Magazine, p38
  • First and foremost, a Harper must work to maintain peace and balance in the world. This focus is as important in Waterdeep as it is in Shadowdale, or Berdusk, or even Kara-Tur.
  • Wickedness and evil must be stopped, but so must people who seek to gain power over others by traditionally “good” methods.
  • Moreover, a Harper must always consider the ramifications of his or her actions—thwarting disaster helps no one if it merely opens the path for greater disasters. To this end, the Harpers strongly encourage preserving and remembering the past—such information may save innocent folk one day.
  • A Harper does what needs to be done. The organization does not restrict the individual agent’s personal freedom, with a few exceptions.
  • Any Harper who seeks personal power over others or who betrays or subverts the cause of the Harpers is stripped of rank and, in most cases, is executed as a traitor once proof of the crime is obtained. Particularly in the wake of the Fisher’s betrayal and efforts by the Shadovar and the Zhentarim to influence the Harpers, the organization makes this last part of the Code clear to all who wish to embrace the calling.
  • Waterdhavian Harpers also respect the agents to whom they report—the spymasters and High Harpers all earned their authority—but they never quail from pointing out corruption, regardless of the source.

_________________________________________________
Let's start by examining whether or not "...Khelben was still working for the same goals as the original Harpers" or if "...the modern Harpers had gone astray from those goals."

Comparison and contrast to see how goals, have, if at all, strayed from original to current year Harpers.

First off: CotH has (8) 'codes', whereas the newer 'The Harpers of Waterdeep' has (6) 'codes.'

1) Wickedness and evil must be stopped/worked against: both.
2) Harpers police their own: both ["Harpers police their own/...or who betrays or subverts...]
3) They do what they need to do: both [Whatever it takes, a Harper will do/A Harper does what needs to be done]
4) Balance is paramount: both [...all must be in balance/...maintain peace and balance in the world]
5) History is important: both [Without a past.../...remembering the past...]
6) Rule of Law matters: both [The rule of law aids.../...never quail from pointing out corruption...]

I see 6 out of 6 of the modern Harpers goals, laid out above, coinciding with 6 out of 8 of the Codes of the original Harpers. 100% correspondence is definitely working towards the same goals in this case, so I feel it is a hard case to make when 100% of the current and modern Harpers goals line up with the original Harpers goals, accounting for 75% of the original Harpers goals. That is practically completely harmony.
____________________
quote:
Khelben's actions were taken as a way of opposing very specific threats.


I appreciate that, but at what point do the ends no longer justify the means? So, one of the most powerful people in the world can just commit the highest levels of larceny, and then hand over what amounts to a nuke to the world's worst terrorist? Thinking in real world terms for an analogy, that would be like Secretary Mattis handing over a nuke to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on the condition it will only be used against North Korea...that doesn't seem like a good idea, and in fact, I argue that Khelben went way too far. Khelben's actions, those of a well thought out, organized, disciplined person who knew he was contributing to massive death, destruction, chaos, pain, suffering, and misery, justified because, what, he's powerful enough to do so? That sounds like the path to a warm place I am aware of being coated with really great intentions...but you will still end up in a really, really bad place in the end (not that I am religious at all, by the way, just using an old adage). The damage caused was this:
  • Westgate has a Manshoon clone takeover causing massive problems, with murders, theft, and outright control of the city taken away
  • Manshoon clones start gathering up magic items from stores that "...rivaled those of the Blackstaff and Lady Hope Alustriel." (Cloak and Dagger, p16)
  • "Lastly, the largest impact on the Realms is the sudden and rapid increase in deaths and destruction among those wielders of Art." (Cloak and Dagger, p11)
  • Fzoul becomes even more powerful and becomes the Chosen of Iyachtu Xvim
  • "Kythorn 27: Panic ensues in the crowded market of Silverymoon as some young foolish apprentice yells out "It's Mad Manshoon!" and points at a visiting mage..." Four people and the innocent diviner die in the fight [see above about death and destruction]
  • "Fzoul Chembryl pulls together new allies among the Zhentarim...effectively conquer most of the Moonsea." This is in complete violation of the 10,000 day agreement, saying no expansion would occur east of the Thunderpeaks...this is east of the Thunderpeaks.
  • "Midsummer: At an impromptu MageFair just across from the River Chionthar..." three Manshoon clones fight, catching innocents in the mix leaving at least (19) innocent wizards dead (Cloak and Dagger, p18)
  • "Marpenoth: Xvimlar forces arrive at Bezantur in Thay to spread the Xvimlar faith and ally that temple securely to Fzoul's vision." This violates the 10,000 day rule that they made


I could honestly go on for another, at least, (20) entries demonstrating how bad Khelben is in having made this deal. A Senior/Master Harper who knew better, but made the deal with the devil anyhow.
____________________
quote:
Obviously the gods supported his goals, because neither Khelben nor any of those Harpers that joined him lost the divine blessings given to Harpers.

Obviously Germany, as the then defacto leader of the Axis, supported the goals of Japan at Nanking in China, so it's all good. The point here is that the it's still evil, and the entire process and group of participants is evil. We're not giving them a pass because at some point in time, those countries likely did good things. Just because the gods didn't deny Khelben his Master Harper powers, doesn't mean it is ok that he did what he did. That is a classic appeal to authority fallacy. "Dad said I could take stuff from people if I really need it!" That's still theft, regardless of the authority stating it is not.

Of particular note is that Lliira and Eldath were down for what Khelben did. Something just seems off there: really off. I feel that something must have been going on with the other more powerful gods who were teleologically agreeing that Khelben was good to go.
____________________
quote:
Khelben stealing that artifact was a lesser evil, compared to what he was opposing, and it did give him some concessions from the Zhents, as well.

Who watches the watchers? Who is the arbiter of it was a lesser evil? Why are not crown authorities, other powerful people around the world, and frankly....the other Senior/Master Harpers who did not go with Khelben to form the Moonstars, stop them and punish Khelben just like Finder Wyvernspur was punished? It is a massive double standard applied from a position of absolute subjective analysis. I argue this:

The Moonstars are no better than Vladimir Lenin when he sent between 700,000 and 5,000,000 Kulak's between 1917 and 1932 to their deaths, because it was the "lesser evil" to get rid of them and get the economy as well as social system where it "should be." That didn't work out so well in the grand scheme of things. Vladimir Lenin was widely supported at the time, but no one in their sane mind would posit now, looking back in history, that that was the right, decent, moral, ethical, or legal thing to do.

Again, from this position, I argue that Khelben, and the Moonstars, are tyrants of an evil bent. It likely could be at any point Khelben will argue again that in order to save 'x' people, 'y' people will be sacrificed: such is the will of tyrants and those who bear no responsibility to the rule of law, decency, or ethical behavior.

As to "the concessions from the Zhents", that was suppose to be 10,000 days of time from Fzoul Chembryl in his position as the defacto leader of the Zhentarim. How long did that last again? (3) months? Khelben reaped what he sowed. He was a fool for making that deal, and the excruciating damage done was the consequence of his folly.

Speaking of the 10,000 day deal (Cloak and Dagger, p10), I will quote it below:
quote:
...Fzoul vows to limit the Xvimlar's expansion to the east of the Thunder Peaks for 10,000 days. (Only the two of them know of this arrangement until it is uncovered by the Harpers next year.)

10,000 days is 27 years, 4 months, and 22 days. Let's see if that was a good deal?
quote:
Having already dealt with Khelben, Fzoul would love to support the Simbul in her near-tyrannical opposition to Thay (and Altumbel is ripe for a temple to influence her.) As well, future contacts could be the young Horustep III of Mulhorand (to support as a tyrant until their religious differences clash) {Cloak and Dagger, p11}

That doesn't exactly sound like Fzoul was planning on waiting those 10,000 days afterall........
This, among the issues addressed above, and more to come below, are laying out what I posited in the first place: Khelben is a tyrant. He's just waving the flag falsely of an organization doing mostly good, while getting his way, and when he gets called out for it, he tells them to go jump off a cliff. How about that for the rule of law?
____________________
quote:
Khelben was still a good(ish) guy, and he was obviously still working for the good guys -- he was just more pragmatic about it than the Harpers were willing to be.

I disagree. Pragmatism is not defined by a lack of principles. I confirmed, clearly above, that Khelben does not follow and did not follow the Code of the Harpers. He violated them in a multitude of ways. Because he has the power and authority, he is choosing to keep himself apart from an agreement he made with the Harpers centuries before: he's a liar, a charlatan, and in my not so humble opinion, evil. Not like Hitler evil, but I really do feel he is evil.

I also, to be clear, agree with you that the Blackstaff does still do good things. The issue is the path he takes. He is a teleologist. He is a person who puts himself beyond the constraints of ethics save those that he creates and uses for himself. At that point, those are not principles, they are whims.
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quote:
Khelben was playing the part of Batman, to Bran Skorlsun's Superman

haha...I love that analogy! I completely agree with you! Dang it, I wish I had saw that analogy first!

For the record: I think Batman is evil. He just does good at times as well. Point taken though!
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quote:
Oh, and he didn't ragequit. He was very calm about it. Bran Skorlsun was the guy foaming at the mouth about the whole thing.


Well, I agree that Bran was very rabid about it. However, it was identified that Khelben was pissed that he was being called out, seemingly as I read it, that with all of the "good" he had done at other times, that he wasn't having that taken into account. For me, the proof that Khelben ragequit though, was when he went back to his tower, thumbed his nose at the Harpers for having been called out, and basically was making it clear to "come and take it."
____________________
quote:
As to why he wasn't hunted down... He still had the blessings of the gods; they may have made it known he was to be left alone. And there's also the minor fact that Khelben and his lady were both very powerful servants of the most powerful deity in the setting. Elminster and the Simbul were pretty much the only people that could have stepped up, and Mystra would not have been keen on that.


I won't disagree that the gods may have put out a cease and desist on Senior/Master Harpers, as it came to arresting him and policing their own. However, what does that say specifically for gods such as Lliira and Eldath? That makes no sense to me. I would imagine they would have removed their approval of Khelben. I think this was something that just wasn't addressed in the novels, for some unknown reason, unless it was implied that the more powerful gods were telling the two I mentioned to have a big ole glass of shut up! hahaha Which, that could be!
____________________

I very much look forward to your response Master Rupert!

Thank you.

Best regards,



quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

Keep in mind that Khelben was still working for the same goals as the original Harpers; the modern Harpers had gone astray from those goals. The original Harpers were more neutral, but they'd shifted over time to be more focused on good.

Khelben's actions were taken as a way of opposing very specific threats. Obviously the gods supported his goals, because neither Khelben nor any of those Harpers that joined him lost the divine blessings given to Harpers.

Khelben stealing that artifact was a lesser evil, compared to what he was opposing, and it did give him some concessions from the Zhents, as well.

Khelben was still a good(ish) guy, and he was obviously still working for the good guys -- he was just more pragmatic about it than the Harpers were willing to be.

Khelben was playing the part of Batman, to Bran Skorlsun's Superman.

Oh, and he didn't ragequit. He was very calm about it. Bran Skorlsun was the guy foaming at the mouth about the whole thing.

As to why he wasn't hunted down... He still had the blessings of the gods; they may have made it known he was to be left alone. And there's also the minor fact that Khelben and his lady were both very powerful servants of the most powerful deity in the setting. Elminster and the Simbul were pretty much the only people that could have stepped up, and Mystra would not have been keen on that.

TBeholder Posted - 04 Oct 2018 : 23:22:04
quote:
Originally posted by dazzlerdal

Khelben is different, he is controlled, he is driven, he sticks to his own code of rules. He does not indulge his base impulses, he carefully considers all his actions and is constantly forming plans that are many years in the making.
Why does Khelben behave that way, it may be he has a unique personality trait that the others do not, it may be that his elven ancestry is allowing him to stave off the signs of dementia.

The only difference is being obsessive. The rest of this, they all do.
His "base impulses" are mostly
1. obsessions, that often look small-minded, hypocritical or idiotic for a casual observer - like doting over Waterdeep's "security" as much as Vangey over entire Cormyr (Simbul is only obsessed with the threat of Red Wizards, which is actually serious - not with random political trifles), or the whole smokepowder saga; and/or
2. results of messed up childhood as "half of a half".
So it looks different from what calmer people act, but he flew off the handle just as far, and long ago.

quote:
2 - Why are Harpers not coercing other organisations to hunt down the Blackstaff - would anyone try to hunt down one of the most powerful individuals on Faerun. I'm not sure there is enough money on the planet to motivate an organization to seek its own destruction.

Tell it to Lhaeo who had to replace windows in Elminster's tower after semi-regular "dynamic entry - even more dynamic exit" exercises initiated by numerous volunteers. At least Zhents eventually have learned it's a bad idea, but that took long enough. Not even starting on Simbul...
quote:
4 - Is Khelben a lunatic. I would argue no, he is the only chosen of mystra that is not a lunatic. He is driven by a goal, and he believes he is going to try and save the world, nothing else matters.

"He is not a lunatic, he is a lunatic"?

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer

which is why they didn't get along well with any kind of official authority (except in candyland Cormyr were it's stated that they don't get along well but in practice they endorse and actively protect the established power structure complete with it's thought police and every other oppressive bit which they remember to fight only when out of the country).
Heh, yeah. They seem to mostly stay out as long as War Wizards keep out those Zhents and Cult of the Dragon.

quote:
he is not chaotic by any stretch of the imagination, the guy has a blackstaff up his a**e and in the 1360s he started to move to ensure that prosperity and order could be restored to the North together with a renewed collaboration between various good races. He didn't need the Harpers for that (not all of them anyway), he needed the Zhentarim not opposing his every move.

...the way he sees it. Jalanvaloss, for example, doesn't seem to be the one to have problems with prosperity and collaboration between various good races, or even some order, and seems to have problems only with those who don't appreciate that prosperity and collaboration - yet for some reason her goodwill wasn't reciprocated.
As even Elminster admitted IIRC, they all are in "I know better" and "my way or highway" territory.
Blackstaff is just more crude and self-righteous about it.
Hence all the friction. The glorious spat between him and Lhaeo when he tried to move the guy like a pawn with "we're in a cheap drama now, just put something shiny on and go save the princess". Danilo looking at him funny. And so on.
sleyvas Posted - 04 Oct 2018 : 02:14:53
Once again, I find myself thinking "What Demzer just said".
Gary Dallison Posted - 03 Oct 2018 : 15:00:14
He is awesome, and among the most real of realmsian npcs
George Krashos Posted - 03 Oct 2018 : 13:26:54
Khelben is age-old and super smart. He's seen loved ones die a score of times - wives, lovers, children, comrades - and his whole existence is wrapped up around proving himself and protecting those he loves. That nigh-fanatical desire to protect leads the Blackstaff to delve into the prophecies of Alaundo and as noted in Cloak and Dagger, he sees a great evil rising unless he can do something about it. That something ends up being the creation of the Moonstars and the establishment of Rhymanthiin. In doing so, Khelben is practical enough to realise that there will be casualties, that not all allies need to be paragons of virtue (he is content to have his aims/desires coincide with those of a lesser ethical bent than him, if only for a finite time) and that his opponents can be defeated by having them turn on themselves. His greatest achievement in the tumultuous early 1370s DR is the destabilisation of the Zhentarim and the prying away of Manshoon from his power base. He believes that the end justifies the means. He isn't good.

-- George Krashos
Demzer Posted - 03 Oct 2018 : 10:51:40
quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

Why have other Master Harpers not hunted down the Blackstaff in order to enforce his punishment (I mean, Finder got hammered)



This is an easy one. It's because Khelben is powerful in his own right and is supported by other powerful individuals (Laeral, his apprentices, Waterdeep's establishment and veteran adventurers) and some of the more powerful Harpers (Elminster, Storm Silverhand, Danilo Thann, Arylin Moonblade) and their powerful friends (the Symbul, Alustriel) would never lift a finger against him, so the remaining powerful-but-not-as-much Harpers (Bran Skorlsun, Lady Dragonbreast, ...) can't act directly against him.

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... or if they are going to continue to be supporters of a thief, and Cyric co-conspirator to killings ...



That's the crux of the Harper Schism, without going against Khelben directly, the Berdusk based Harpers are trying to sever all ties with him and press-gang all Harpers in swearing fealty to them abandoning him, which of course is causing all kinds of troubles, growing mistrusts and open rivalries blossoming all over the place in the "good guys" field. Bran Skorlsun is on a witch-hunt, he can't get the head-honcho but he is breathing on the neck of everyone else.

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... why are not some Harpers trying to get Triadic Knights or some other group(s) to hunt the Blackstaff down and bring him to justice?



That's another easy one, "the Harpers police their own", they're like Mafia, they're organized crime only mostly working against the bad guys, if one of them f**ks up they clear their own mess, they don't bring external power groups in it (they may seek assistance of specific individuals recognized as Harper friends but not whole churches or organizations).

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... gives it to Fzoul, knowing he is totally going to go on a killing spree ...



To my knowledge Fzoul didn't use the Scepter to kill any good or innocent people, he used it to reach a position of power inside the rank of the bad guys, blasting at other bad guys. Also this whole thing ended with Cyric losing a lot of power and influence and Bane 2.0 rising so it depends on which one was considered more dangerous and on what timescale (personally I would consider Cyric more as an immediate threat but Bane as the greater threat overall, but in the 1360s with Cyricism in full swing this may have not been the consesus among the good guys of Faerun).

quote:
Originally posted by cpthero2

... and when he gets called out by a Harper tribunal, he pulls a President Andrew Jackson telling the Supreme Court to go jump off a cliff. The kicker.....none of the gods that grant Master Harper abilities, nor did Mystra in maintaining the Blackstaff's Chosen status (Blackstaff), punish him. The Dancing Place accord (seems like the right word in this case) of 720DR made it pretty clear that the gods had high expectations. Apparently, those expectations are to steal powerful artifacts when you think it is right, hand said powerful artifact over to a super powerful priest of Cyric knowing he's about to go get his killin' on, and then when you get called out in the only "official" way you can by a Harper tribunal, you ragequit and get no punishment.



To be honest the Harpers forgot to think about what would they do if their super powerful Chosens decided to run amok, since it could happen even by chance (like Laeral with the Crown), it was a big oversight.
Regarding the gods, we don't even know if some retracted their support from Khelben and Laeral, they got enough individual powers of their own that it's kind of difficult from our perspective to judge if they are not as lucky as before or if they can't leave off the land as good as before or if unicorns don't like them anymore. We can metagame the fact that Tel'teukiira agent (as in the PrC) powers are not godly given (going off memory) into the conclusion that this new group does not benefits from the same divine patronage as the Harpers but that's not a surprise.
Mystra herself does her own thing among deities and it took her Sammaster trying to kill one of her daughters to remove his "chosenness" so Khelben doing his thing is nothing Mystra cares about. It's politics, not magic.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

Keep in mind that Khelben was still working for the same goals as the original Harpers; the modern Harpers had gone astray from those goals. The original Harpers were more neutral, but they'd shifted over time to be more focused on good.



I'm not entirely sure on this, the Harpers were never neutral in the alignment sense of the word (they never opposed "too good"), what they were and still are is good anarchists. They've been for a long time one of the best definitions of Chaotic Good there is (given all the DM fiatness there is in an organization sporting Chosens of deities and divine aid on call and a lot of good press), which is why they didn't get along well with any kind of official authority (except in candyland Cormyr were it's stated that they don't get along well but in practice they endorse and actively protect the established power structure complete with it's thought police and every other oppressive bit which they remember to fight only when out of the country).

I think Khelben was tired of this line or simply it didn't suit his needs anymore, he is not chaotic by any stretch of the imagination, the guy has a blackstaff up his a**e and in the 1360s he started to move to ensure that prosperity and order could be restored to the North together with a renewed collaboration between various good races. He didn't need the Harpers for that (not all of them anyway), he needed the Zhentarim not opposing his every move. He had a plan (probably lots of plans) and it was not just charging in guns blazing and rescueing the fair maiden from the clutches of the evil cult, he didn't need the power rangeryness of the Harpers nor their angst-driven teen approach to problems or their "we are wo/men of the people" propaganda. That's why he quit.
Gary Dallison Posted - 03 Oct 2018 : 10:13:43
Well I can only offer my interpretation of the works I have read.

First is I will discount alignment restrictions because we are talking about a person here, not a construct of rules, and people behave out of character at times (usually when stressed or unwell, but also just because it suits them).

I'm also going to ignore the "why didn't the gods stop him" comment because that is an argument had time and time again with no winner.


So Khelben is one of the Chosen of Mystra, that means he is effectively immortal, and incredibly powerful. On top of that he has studied to the point of becoming incredibly powerful in his own right, and has amassed enough magic and allies to become one of the most powerful individuals on Faerun. Even if all the Harpers wished to stop him, I doubt they could achieve it.

Now to my mind Khelben is unique among the chosen. If you look at the other chosen they are borderline insane, exhibiting signs that could be attributed to dementia. They have lived so long that societal norms mean nothing to them and they tend to indulge their baser impulses at a whim.

Khelben is different, he is controlled, he is driven, he sticks to his own code of rules. He does not indulge his base impulses, he carefully considers all his actions and is constantly forming plans that are many years in the making.

Why does Khelben behave that way, it may be he has a unique personality trait that the others do not, it may be that his elven ancestry is allowing him to stave off the signs of dementia. I believe that Khelben is different to the other chosen because he has a purpose, a single, driving, all consuming need that overrides everything else. Something he read in those prophecies a long time ago made him realize the world as he knows it would be destroyed, and he has spent the millennia since trying to ensure that would not happen.

Now that driving force is the reason why he can ignore the Harpers. Nothing matters more than saving everything and everyone. He will steal, he will kill (by proxy usually, ordering others to do what he deems necessary) all to fulfill his plans that he believes will save the world.

He knows that Fzoul will use that scepter to kill hundreds and dominates millions, but he also knows that in decades or centuries none of that will matter if he has not prepared for the end of the world. Fzoul will likely destroy himself with his ambitions (as evil usually does) and if not Khelben himself can sort out a suitable revenge upon Fzoul at a later date).
Now we do not know Khelben's plan but it is sure to be huge and long term. The harpers obviously are unwilling to do what he feels is necessary, so he has had to resort to more drastic measures and that includes creating an organization that will do what is necessary.


Unfortunately this story ended with Blackstaff, where Khelben died. However Khelben has "died" many times before, almost always to throw off his enemies. This time Khelben was appearing as Khelben and few enemies would believe a fake death, so Khelben had to actually die, and every single ally he ever had also had to believe Khelben had died, forever.
I'm choosing to rewrite that event slightly. The kiira that bonded Khelben's memories to his replacement apprentice (I forget her name), I'm having it so that it is actually overwriting her personality so that in a few years she will essentially be Khelben, but in a woman's body. Its the perfect bluff to dupe his enemies and allow him to continue his plans in secret and away from the prying eyes of enemies and friends.




So to answer your questions in turn.

1 - Why have the master harpers not hunted down the Blackstaff - in truth they don't stand a chance. Khelben is older and wiser than all of the master harpers put together (this does not include the likes of Elminster, Storm, Alustriel, etc who actually work with Khelben). His allies alone likely outnumber the ranks of the Harpers, and include many Harpers.

2 - Why are Harpers not coercing other organisations to hunt down the Blackstaff - would anyone try to hunt down one of the most powerful individuals on Faerun. I'm not sure there is enough money on the planet to motivate an organization to seek its own destruction.

3 - Why hasn't Khelben's divine abilities been revoked. - Well most would say because the gods have sided with Khelben, but I do not believe the gods are capable of direct intervention without being called upon by their followers. Either the gods cannot or will not remove these granted boons, or someone has to perform a ritual upon Khelben to remove boons that may have been granted by a similar ritual. The end result is the same, you can assume that the churches of Mystra and the others, or that Mystra herself and the other gods have no issue with what Khelben has done because they trust he has other plans, or because they lack the power to move against him.

4 - Is Khelben a lunatic. I would argue no, he is the only chosen of mystra that is not a lunatic. He is driven by a goal, and he believes he is going to try and save the world, nothing else matters. He probably feels really awful about all those people he has condemned to death or slavery or misery, but he is saving many, many millions of more people by sacrificing those poor few.

Now you are right, Sammaster was likewise driven by a goal that resulted from a prophecy he read. Khelben could end up mad just like Sammaster, it is possible that the guilt he will feel from whatever actions Fzoul takes using the scepter will drive him insane, and at that point everyone is in danger, because Sammaster was a fledgling chosen gone mad, Khelben is the real deal. But I don't think Khelben is there yet, his decisions are still based upon sound logic and a careful calculation of the odds, and all that is probably due to the influence Laeral has had upon him.

Khelben is of course Steven Schend's baby and so only he could answer many of these questions, the above is just how I interpret the man. He does good things, he does bad things, he does what is necessary to ensure that good wins at the end of the days.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 02 Oct 2018 : 20:46:22
Keep in mind that Khelben was still working for the same goals as the original Harpers; the modern Harpers had gone astray from those goals. The original Harpers were more neutral, but they'd shifted over time to be more focused on good.

Khelben's actions were taken as a way of opposing very specific threats. Obviously the gods supported his goals, because neither Khelben nor any of those Harpers that joined him lost the divine blessings given to Harpers.

Khelben stealing that artifact was a lesser evil, compared to what he was opposing, and it did give him some concessions from the Zhents, as well.

Khelben was still a good(ish) guy, and he was obviously still working for the good guys -- he was just more pragmatic about it than the Harpers were willing to be.

Khelben was playing the part of Batman, to Bran Skorlsun's Superman.

Oh, and he didn't ragequit. He was very calm about it. Bran Skorlsun was the guy foaming at the mouth about the whole thing.

As to why he wasn't hunted down... He still had the blessings of the gods; they may have made it known he was to be left alone. And there's also the minor fact that Khelben and his lady were both very powerful servants of the most powerful deity in the setting. Elminster and the Simbul were pretty much the only people that could have stepped up, and Mystra would not have been keen on that.

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