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Khaelieth
Learned Scribe

91 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2017 :  11:57:31  Show Profile  Visit Khaelieth's Homepage Send Khaelieth a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I wrote up a wee guide on giving the Zhents/Zhentarim/Zhentilar some more motivation and depth to make them more believable and realistic so they don't seem as cartoonishly moustache-twirling.

I thought I'd share it here for some feedback, but hopefully to help fellow DMs and players :)

A pure copy-paste leaves the pictures out, but if you want some more illustrations, just click the link :)

https://chazsexington.wordpress.com/2017/12/15/the-grey-realms-the-zhentarim/

quote:
I often find baddies in the Forgotten Realms be portrayed as rather cartoonish or unbelievable. If you were conclusively shown your are working for evil, would you continue? I mean, why would anyone join the Zhentarim? Imagine an EU if it were run by evil wizards… then mixed with a CIA where every conspiracy theory were true and a good dose of religious zealotry. That’s the Zhentarim. Your leaders are the Pope of Tyranny and Strife and an evil wizard lord who makes clones for fun. And you don’t even have a nametag! So what kind of possible motivation can you, a Zhent (someone born in Zhentil Keep), have for following these cartoon serial villains?

mike-myers-austin-powers-the-spy-who-shagged-me-2Manshoon and one of his clone during their time at the Citadel of the Raven

The first thing that jumps out at me, is that nobody in the region likes the Zhentarim. The Moonsea is a collection of city states that fight proxy wars or outright wars with each other, while they constantly try economic warfare against each other. There’s also religion – Mulmaster is the site of the heretical orthodox banite worship in the Realms! Everyone knows the real head of the religion is High Priest Fzoul Chembryl, not the High Imperceptor!

From the Zhents’ perspective, most of the other people in the area are decidedly untrustworthy when compared to the Zhents! When the brave Zhentilar (military branch of Zhentil Keep) were fending off the uncivilised, loutish ogres of Thar, Melvaunt abandoned their Zhentilar allies in Phlan, leading to the death of lots of Zhentilars and the destruction of Phlan. When most of Zhentil Keep was destroyed by one of Cyric’s hare-brained schemes, nobody came to their aid. The “heroes” messed up Cyric’s plans, then left Zhentil Keep at the mercy of frost elementals, gnolls, and white dragons.

In the Moonsea Wars, Zhentil Keep supported Sembia, Hillsfar, Phlan and Melvaunt against the imperialistic Mulmaster, only to have Sembia stab them in the back and send vagrants and sell-swords to support Hillsfar when Yûlash requested the aid of the Keep against said city’s aggression! Then you have Cormyr, supporting separatist forces that keep throwing the Dales into chaos and anarchy. Their lies and slander about upstanding Zhents has even made it necessary for the Zhents to hide their origin when our peaceful Zhent caravans bring much needed goods to the peoples of Faerûn, as many nations and cities enforce embargoes against the people of Zhentil Keep!

And who else than the Zhentarim could seize Darkhold from the lich-queen Varalla and made the area safe from brigands and bandits, like the Harpers? Harpers are vile, unpatriotic murders funded by the likes Cormyr and Waterdeep to kill innocent Zhents and destroy their peaceful trade. No, my friend – it is the Zhentarim, Zhents, and Zhentilar that are the true friends of order and trade!

New_Zhentarim_SymbolPretty damn cool symbol though!

The overt worship of evil gods is different in the Realms. You would pray to Umberlee to avoid a bad storm when out sailing, or for an old, ailing family member, you might pray to Myrkul. You might pray to Bane both to have the city’s authorities overlook you, or that they won’t overlook these tax-dodging merchants storing their cash on some island in the Moonsea. However, truly devoting yourself to Bane or Cyric requires more than just a small prayer. The following excerpt is from page 48 of Mysteries of the Moonsea:

“With the return of Bane, the Zhents are more organized and rational, and probably could overwhelm Hillsfar with one big push if they chose to (at significant cost); fortunately for Maalthiir, the Banites have other factors keeping them from such an attack, and he has toned down his aggression while he works on a new plan of conquest.”

For the Zhentarim, Bane (and Cyric, to a lesser degree and depending on time point), has been tied to Zhentil Keep’s fate. When Bane’s power wanes, so does the power of Zhentil Keep. Bane keeps Zhentil Keep safe from foreign powers, which is imperative.

This is touched upon in the Ruins of Zhentil Keep – people blame Cyric and Bane for the city’s woes. Cyric for obvious reasons, and Bane (or Xvim) for not coming to their aid in their time of need.

ZhentarimSymbolZorro they ain’t.

Others might criticise the Zhents for the tyranny of whatever dictator that rules Zhentil Keep, but what if said tyrant keeps your belly full and your head prideful? Doesn’t that system work, as far as you’re concerned? And how does that differ in principle from the absolute monarchy of Azoun IV in Cormyr? For all his benevolence, he couldn’t save Tilverton. Maybe, sometimes, a strong leader is better than a benevolent leader.

This alternate take on what the world would look like from the Zhents’ viewpoint. I hope it fleshes them out, gives them depth, and makes them seem more reasonable, and shows how it is possible to imagine how a rational, kind person would fall in the with Zhentarim or Zhentilar.

Also known on other forums as ChazSexington, Kusghuul, and Claudius.

Edited by - Khaelieth on 28 Dec 2017 14:04:53

Bladewind
Master of Realmslore

Netherlands
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Posted - 15 Dec 2017 :  14:10:53  Show Profile Send Bladewind a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I definitely like this. Zhents feel slighted and put up with an unfair disadvantage in public but they still deliver very real results and necessary goods to them.

In public they are there to show strength, be it with their disciplined military, powerful magic or vast wealth. They keep their intelligence network active in areas where others dare not thread, and publicly people know they might be privy to vital information about threats to their local activities.

Furthermore I try to make Zhentilar very goal oriented, with practical time restraints on their orders from their superiors being a reason they tend to act rather ruthless to each other. This tends to spill over to their dealings with strangers, giving them little patience to suffer ignorance and giving them reason to act blunt and aggressive to outsiders.

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Dalor Darden
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USA
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Posted - 15 Dec 2017 :  16:43:02  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Like many City-States, Zhentil Keep has a unique culture.

Your take on them is very much like my own.

The only thing I would add is that to a Zhent, strife and even outright war are seen as "natural" and "good" to them. Their culture espouses conquest and war as honorable things.

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Artemas Entreri
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Posted - 15 Dec 2017 :  19:19:07  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Love this.

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Khaelieth
Learned Scribe

91 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2017 :  00:49:07  Show Profile  Visit Khaelieth's Homepage Send Khaelieth a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bladewind

I definitely like this. Zhents feel slighted and put up with an unfair disadvantage in public but they still deliver very real results and necessary goods to them.

In public they are there to show strength, be it with their disciplined military, powerful magic or vast wealth. They keep their intelligence network active in areas where others dare not thread, and publicly people know they might be privy to vital information about threats to their local activities.

Furthermore I try to make Zhentilar very goal oriented, with practical time restraints on their orders from their superiors being a reason they tend to act rather ruthless to each other. This tends to spill over to their dealings with strangers, giving them little patience to suffer ignorance and giving them reason to act blunt and aggressive to outsiders.



Aye, the Zhentilar are an organisation in their own right.

quote:
Originally posted by Dalor Darden

Like many City-States, Zhentil Keep has a unique culture.

Your take on them is very much like my own.

The only thing I would add is that to a Zhent, strife and even outright war are seen as "natural" and "good" to them. Their culture espouses conquest and war as honorable things.



Good idea - bit like Sparta?

quote:
Originally posted by Artemas Entreri

Love this.



Thank you :)

Also known on other forums as ChazSexington, Kusghuul, and Claudius.
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Dalor Darden
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USA
3594 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2017 :  03:04:34  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Khaelieth

quote:
Originally posted by Dalor Darden

Like many City-States, Zhentil Keep has a unique culture.

Your take on them is very much like my own.

The only thing I would add is that to a Zhent, strife and even outright war are seen as "natural" and "good" to them. Their culture espouses conquest and war as honorable things.



Good idea - bit like Sparta?




Spartans weren't as conquest minded as superior minded...but yes it would be somewhat like them.

Because Zhentil Keep is essentially a City-State, it is easy to look at them that way.

To Zhents, anything that proves them to be superior to others is good for them:

Raiding gives them an outlet for their aggression; but is rare against humans who don't tolerate it. Against Orcs and such in Thar and other places it would be "permissible" to take slaves to then convert them into mercenaries.

Their merchants want to corner markets not just for monetary gain, but to prove that they are better at BEING merchants than anyone else.

Their priests gravitate toward Gods that have little to do with meekness or humble traits; this allows them to again strive toward proving they are better than others...and likely one of the reasons Bane/Cyric was a highly revered god. Even despite Cyric's mistreatment of Zhentil Keep, many still sought to follow him because they saw it as just one more trial to prove they were more bad ass than anyone else.

Outright war is something many City-States use as a "last resort" in diplomacy; but to a Zhent, it is often the finest tool in the box...and one they are very capable of. Looking at Moonsea History, it is easy to see that the Zhentilar are probably the finest soldiers in the area: they have numerous enemies and rarely lose...and when they do it isn't for long.

Zhentil Keep is one of my favorite cities...and if I had time I'd put up my own writing on the place.

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Dalor Darden
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Posted - 16 Dec 2017 :  03:09:23  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here are some of my old threads on Zhentil Keep:

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17234

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17269

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=16542

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17384

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Khaelieth
Learned Scribe

91 Posts

Posted - 18 Dec 2017 :  09:49:49  Show Profile  Visit Khaelieth's Homepage Send Khaelieth a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dalor Darden

Here are some of my old threads on Zhentil Keep:

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17234

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17269

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=16542

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17384



Those were excellent! Zhentil Keep certainly has an undeservedly bad name! ;)

Also known on other forums as ChazSexington, Kusghuul, and Claudius.
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Wrigley
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Czech Republic
459 Posts

Posted - 18 Dec 2017 :  17:16:38  Show Profile  Visit Wrigley's Homepage Send Wrigley a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I view Zhentarim as a merchant organisation similar to european Hansa ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League ) with internal power struggle between banites and cyricists. For many people from outside the organization it just seems that Zhentarim, Zhentilar and banite is the same but most of its members are there for profit not because they are Evil.
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WalkerNinja
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USA
562 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  10:46:21  Show Profile Send WalkerNinja a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've thought for a long time that the Zhentarim were too cartoon-y for their own good. An organization with this reputation wouldn't survive anywhere really. That also is my take on the 'evil' gods for that matter. Evil is a very derivative label. I tend to think of them as egoistic rather than altruistic. Competitive vs cooperative. In essence, jerks rather than demons.

WN's more realistic Zhentarim.

1. The Zhentarim is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart may have started in Arkansas, but no one thinks of it as an 'Arkansas Company.' It's a multinational now. It may be particularly influential in Arkansas, but most of its executive aren't from there, most of its business is not done there, etc... The same with the Zhentarim. They might be FROM Zhentil Keep, but they're much bigger than the Keep. They're a diverse corporation that are deeply competitive. They violate labor laws and regulations as often as they can in order to leverage their profits. They see themselves are more savvy than most local authorities, and dislike bowing to local rule. They'll influence governments as much as possible in order to benefit themselves, but at no point is it their goal to REPLACE a government.

2. It's Wal-Mart run by Wolfram and Hart
If you're not familiar with the demonic lawfirm from the Joss Whedon spin-off Angel, you're missing out. The Senior Partners, Fzoul, Manshoon, Semmnon, etc... are probably truly deeply evil, but you don't really get to see that until you're pretty high up in the organization. There are company picnics, employee reward programs, bonus structures, and a super hard-edged internal competitiveness. If you're at the Executive Retreat, that's where you'll probably start seeing some demons show up. Everyone inside mid-management sorta knows that the organization plays by a different set of rules than everyone else, but the facade of normalcy is so thick they just think of it as a unique corporate culture.

Those senior partners, btw, kinda hate each other, and each have 'special projects' that they pursue that they keep strictly off-the-books in order to better position themselves against their fellow executive partners.

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The Masked Mage
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USA
2020 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  16:03:56  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by WalkerNinja

I've thought for a long time that the Zhentarim were too cartoon-y for their own good. An organization with this reputation wouldn't survive anywhere really. That also is my take on the 'evil' gods for that matter. Evil is a very derivative label. I tend to think of them as egoistic rather than altruistic. Competitive vs cooperative. In essence, jerks rather than demons.

WN's more realistic Zhentarim.

1. The Zhentarim is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart may have started in Arkansas, but no one thinks of it as an 'Arkansas Company.' It's a multinational now. It may be particularly influential in Arkansas, but most of its executive aren't from there, most of its business is not done there, etc... The same with the Zhentarim. They might be FROM Zhentil Keep, but they're much bigger than the Keep. They're a diverse corporation that are deeply competitive. They violate labor laws and regulations as often as they can in order to leverage their profits. They see themselves are more savvy than most local authorities, and dislike bowing to local rule. They'll influence governments as much as possible in order to benefit themselves, but at no point is it their goal to REPLACE a government.

2. It's Wal-Mart run by Wolfram and Hart
If you're not familiar with the demonic lawfirm from the Joss Whedon spin-off Angel, you're missing out. The Senior Partners, Fzoul, Manshoon, Semmnon, etc... are probably truly deeply evil, but you don't really get to see that until you're pretty high up in the organization. There are company picnics, employee reward programs, bonus structures, and a super hard-edged internal competitiveness. If you're at the Executive Retreat, that's where you'll probably start seeing some demons show up. Everyone inside mid-management sorta knows that the organization plays by a different set of rules than everyone else, but the facade of normalcy is so thick they just think of it as a unique corporate culture.

Those senior partners, btw, kinda hate each other, and each have 'special projects' that they pursue that they keep strictly off-the-books in order to better position themselves against their fellow executive partners.



I agree.

Part of their power structure has always involved internal conflict, even before Manshoon stirred things up. The result of this is that there is backstabbing and infighting always going on. The law firm analogy is great - all the low level Zhents are like associate lawyers bucking for promotion to partner. They succeed often enough, but just as often one Zhent succeeds in thwarting his rival at the cost of a mission. There are numerous examples of this in novel/short story form over the years.

Another thing to remember is we have been told that a LOT of the meatier stuff from books about Zhents has been cut over the years because editors were trying to make Ed's writing fit their idea of what a fantasy story should be. My latest request of THO in the ask Ed section is to see if we can't see some of those cut out bits. Really hope old Santa Ed grants my grown up Christmas wish as I'm sure he still has them in one of his piles of papers :P

I also love the Walmart analogy. Walmart is SATAN you know - ask anyone.
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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  16:13:31  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Khaelieth

I wrote up a wee guide on giving the Zhents/Zhentarim/Zhentilar some more motivation and depth to make them more believable and realistic so they don't seem as cartoonishly moustache-twirling.



One thing I changed from canon LONG ago is that they destroyed Varalla as you mention right at the start. Why would Manshoon do this? Having a powerful lich in your power because you can destroy her phylactery at a moment's notice is like finding a powerful artifact. It would make MUCH more sense for him to give her a new body and control her. Especially since he is in a tight power struggle with Fzoul - that is one hell of an ace to have up your sleeve.

And since her physical form was destroyed, she can look like anyone, can be anyone in appearance, can REPLACE anyone - just like the devils replaced people in ZKeep. We know already that she knew how to prevent herself from decaying so why not have her pretend to be living? Too many possibilities there to even start to run through them.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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USA
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Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  17:08:10  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

quote:
Originally posted by Khaelieth

I wrote up a wee guide on giving the Zhents/Zhentarim/Zhentilar some more motivation and depth to make them more believable and realistic so they don't seem as cartoonishly moustache-twirling.



One thing I changed from canon LONG ago is that they destroyed Varalla as you mention right at the start. Why would Manshoon do this? Having a powerful lich in your power because you can destroy her phylactery at a moment's notice is like finding a powerful artifact. It would make MUCH more sense for him to give her a new body and control her. Especially since he is in a tight power struggle with Fzoul - that is one hell of an ace to have up your sleeve.

And since her physical form was destroyed, she can look like anyone, can be anyone in appearance, can REPLACE anyone - just like the devils replaced people in ZKeep. We know already that she knew how to prevent herself from decaying so why not have her pretend to be living? Too many possibilities there to even start to run through them.



Except as soon as she has a body, she can start working against Manshoon. Obviously, Manshoon would take steps against this -- but a clever enough foe will find a way around them. On top of that, Manshoon would have yet another foe to guard himself against.

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  19:57:29  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just keep her busy - basically I'm suggesting Manshoon is a fledgling Larloch :) THINK OF IT! :P
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Dalor Darden
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Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  20:57:07  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

quote:
Originally posted by Khaelieth

I wrote up a wee guide on giving the Zhents/Zhentarim/Zhentilar some more motivation and depth to make them more believable and realistic so they don't seem as cartoonishly moustache-twirling.



One thing I changed from canon LONG ago is that they destroyed Varalla as you mention right at the start. Why would Manshoon do this? Having a powerful lich in your power because you can destroy her phylactery at a moment's notice is like finding a powerful artifact. It would make MUCH more sense for him to give her a new body and control her. Especially since he is in a tight power struggle with Fzoul - that is one hell of an ace to have up your sleeve.

And since her physical form was destroyed, she can look like anyone, can be anyone in appearance, can REPLACE anyone - just like the devils replaced people in ZKeep. We know already that she knew how to prevent herself from decaying so why not have her pretend to be living? Too many possibilities there to even start to run through them.



I think this is an awesome idea.

He could embed her phylactery in a magical item that allows control...

Much like a Skeletal Warrior has a controlling circlet.

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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 22 Dec 2017 :  21:52:56  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dalor Darden

quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

quote:
Originally posted by Khaelieth

I wrote up a wee guide on giving the Zhents/Zhentarim/Zhentilar some more motivation and depth to make them more believable and realistic so they don't seem as cartoonishly moustache-twirling.



One thing I changed from canon LONG ago is that they destroyed Varalla as you mention right at the start. Why would Manshoon do this? Having a powerful lich in your power because you can destroy her phylactery at a moment's notice is like finding a powerful artifact. It would make MUCH more sense for him to give her a new body and control her. Especially since he is in a tight power struggle with Fzoul - that is one hell of an ace to have up your sleeve.

And since her physical form was destroyed, she can look like anyone, can be anyone in appearance, can REPLACE anyone - just like the devils replaced people in ZKeep. We know already that she knew how to prevent herself from decaying so why not have her pretend to be living? Too many possibilities there to even start to run through them.



I think this is an awesome idea.

He could embed her phylactery in a magical item that allows control...

Much like a Skeletal Warrior has a controlling circlet.



I like that idea, assuming that control of the item allows the powers to be invoked WITHOUT letting the lich do it. Because again, once you let a lich loose, even if you've got them under tight control, they're going to be looking for a way out.

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 25 Dec 2017 :  06:43:06  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Plot Twist that steps away from canon (sorry Wooly, I know it drives you crazy :P) - what if Ashemmi is really Varalla inside?

Using the whole "Ashemmi is a Harper" history from dragon mag, but change the middle. After he kills her, instead of resurrecting her, he puts Varalla into her body and his linchpin to maintain control of Semmemmon.
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LordofBones
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Posted - 25 Dec 2017 :  10:53:18  Show Profile Send LordofBones a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Manshoon, a fledgling Larloch?

The dozens of novels that have him show up have convinced me that's about as possible as Jessie and James finally capturing that damn yellow rat and keeping him around for more than a twenty minute episode.

Basically, Manshoon needs a LOT of rehabilitation before we get to see him anywhere near Larloch, even the Larloch that monologues and gets punted halfway across the horizon by the Srinshee.
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Ayrik
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Posted - 25 Dec 2017 :  12:05:49  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Not sure if the Zhents embrace strife and war as "natural" and "good". But they certainly don't shy away from it.

Remember that Bane is the Lord of Tyranny. He imposes order. The strong are meant to rule the weak. Power is meaningless without the powerless. All of Bane's "natural" laws support this, as do those of the church and the state, it is self-evident and self-reinforcing all the way down to each man's private authority in his own home. And what can be more "good" than laws which allow a strong man to protect himself, his loved ones, his property - or which can remove a weak man who would threaten them? Strife and fear are not always the most desirable objectives, but if these things can be useful tools to assert and reinforce authority then only a fool would dare oppose them. Defiance of laws or authority demands immediate and harsh punishment, criminals are brought to full account for their crimes. Cruel and unusual crimes deserve cruel and unusual punishments. And "punishment" is always far more efficient, more lasting than misguided attempts at "rehabilitation", examples of justice can be potent deterrents, repeat offenders are few indeed.

The Zhents have many enemies. Basically everyone, sometimes even other Zhents. Yet they always survive and they even prevail. They are proud of their history, their identity, and their nation. They are strong enough to take what they want, "ownership" of lands and resources and people are there for any who can seize them. The arrogant righteousness of Cormyr, the decadent avarices of Sembia, the divisive anarchy of the Dales, the petty independence of fleeting sovereigns - all disordered nations with vices and weaknesses which will prove inferior whenever the Zhents choose to demonstrate the absolute power of a unified people and a unified state which has the singular focus of seizing such nations by the throat with an iron fist. The Zhents have not yet achieved their manifest destiny, but it is inevitable nonetheless, the weak will eventually weed themselves out through self-selection in a world ruled by Bane's teachings, even without any Zhentish interventions.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 25 Dec 2017 12:48:56
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 25 Dec 2017 :  14:47:26  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

Plot Twist that steps away from canon (sorry Wooly, I know it drives you crazy :P) - what if Ashemmi is really Varalla inside?

Using the whole "Ashemmi is a Harper" history from dragon mag, but change the middle. After he kills her, instead of resurrecting her, he puts Varalla into her body and his linchpin to maintain control of Semmemmon.



That still puts Varalla back out in the wild, where she can work against him.

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LordofBones
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Posted - 26 Dec 2017 :  11:38:46  Show Profile Send LordofBones a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd suggest that the Zhents (and the attached Keep) are essentially an evil meritocracy. I'd suggest looking at Golarion's Cheliax to see how the Zhentarim and the Banite faith can be interwoven.

I'd also suggest that the Zhents and Zhentil Keep are the kind of organization/place to go if you like opportunity and relative freedom as long as your work serves the needs of the Zhents. It's where a necromancer can stroll down the street, symbol of Velsharoon around his neck and undead butler trotting obediently next to him, and as long as he's got his papers, can follow orders and is willing to lend his services to the Zhentarim, he's free to do what he wants.
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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 26 Dec 2017 :  16:40:14  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LordofBones

I'd suggest that the Zhents (and the attached Keep) are essentially an evil meritocracy. I'd suggest looking at Golarion's Cheliax to see how the Zhentarim and the Banite faith can be interwoven.

I'd also suggest that the Zhents and Zhentil Keep are the kind of organization/place to go if you like opportunity and relative freedom as long as your work serves the needs of the Zhents. It's where a necromancer can stroll down the street, symbol of Velsharoon around his neck and undead butler trotting obediently next to him, and as long as he's got his papers, can follow orders and is willing to lend his services to the Zhentarim, he's free to do what he wants.



That's pretty much how I see it.

The Black Network is a mercantile network... They're just more willing to be all about number one than other mercantile networks.

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 26 Dec 2017 :  18:32:58  Show Profile  Send The Masked Mage an AOL message  Click to see The Masked Mage's MSN Messenger address Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LordofBones

Manshoon, a fledgling Larloch?

The dozens of novels that have him show up have convinced me that's about as possible as Jessie and James finally capturing that damn yellow rat and keeping him around for more than a twenty minute episode.

Basically, Manshoon needs a LOT of rehabilitation before we get to see him anywhere near Larloch, even the Larloch that monologues and gets punted halfway across the horizon by the Srinshee.



Thus the word fledgling.

Also, remember - most of Manshoon's good moments were deleted by editors because they wanted it more clear cut good guy wins scenarios and lower page counts. According to both Ed and THO in his scroll here, Manshoon is not ad never was that ridiculous.

Plus, we know from canon he is capable of binding powerful entities, like a veritable army of dragons to his will. Why would we balk at the idea he could control one lich once he has its phylactery in hand? Undead are easily controllable - to the extend that low-ish level priests can do it without even employing spells. While liches are obviously more difficult, I'd argue they would be more simple that demons or devils and thus well within the scope of binding for an archmage.
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Dalor Darden
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Posted - 26 Dec 2017 :  20:37:14  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm inclined to agree that Manshoon could easily handle the control of a Lich.

Manshoon was one of THE bad guys in Ed's home game according to everything said by him or others. A behind the scenes power that was faceless to almost anyone.

His later "stupification" is one of the things I like least about the Forgotten Realms.

AD&D for me!
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Markustay
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Posted - 26 Dec 2017 :  21:21:53  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Manshoon becomes the first Cyberlich.

Seriously though, I had this idea about him way back when 4e first reared its ugly head. He became fused with his magical armor, and is now a type of undead similar to a (GH) Animus (so along the lines of a unique undead that's kinda lich or vampire like).

He also breaths very raspy... he's Darth Vader. LOL

{Insert joke about "Fully operational" Zhentil keep.}

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone


Edited by - Markustay on 26 Dec 2017 21:26:24
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LordofBones
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Posted - 27 Dec 2017 :  03:09:18  Show Profile Send LordofBones a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

quote:
Originally posted by LordofBones

Manshoon, a fledgling Larloch?

The dozens of novels that have him show up have convinced me that's about as possible as Jessie and James finally capturing that damn yellow rat and keeping him around for more than a twenty minute episode.

Basically, Manshoon needs a LOT of rehabilitation before we get to see him anywhere near Larloch, even the Larloch that monologues and gets punted halfway across the horizon by the Srinshee.



Thus the word fledgling.

Also, remember - most of Manshoon's good moments were deleted by editors because they wanted it more clear cut good guy wins scenarios and lower page counts. According to both Ed and THO in his scroll here, Manshoon is not ad never was that ridiculous.

Plus, we know from canon he is capable of binding powerful entities, like a veritable army of dragons to his will. Why would we balk at the idea he could control one lich once he has its phylactery in hand? Undead are easily controllable - to the extend that low-ish level priests can do it without even employing spells. While liches are obviously more difficult, I'd argue they would be more simple that demons or devils and thus well within the scope of binding for an archmage.



I've seen what happens to the antagonists in Mr Greenwood's writing. Manshoon is simply the most egregious.

Just look at poor Larloch. This is an unspeakably ancient lich, a wizard of tremendous power that has seen the rise and fall of gods. This is an entity that even Szass Tam respects and fears. He ends up going on a monologue that Elminster rolls his eyes at.

I mean, it's easy to simply blame the editors, but Mr Greenwood's villains are a trope by themselves. Manshoon is going to need a ton of rehabilitation to actually become a successful villain. Szass Tam and Telamont had lore and books establishing their roles as the Realms' eminent villains, while Manshoon just get kicked down every time he shows up.

As for binding an undead archmage, this only works if said archmage is somehow locked out from his contingencies, wards and loyal minions. Rysellan tried it with Rhangaun, and it ended up with him being ripped apart by several angry liches while Rhangaun casually strolled up, dusted off his phylactery, and took command of the Twisted Rune.
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