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The Cavalier
Acolyte

USA
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Posted - 13 Jun 2020 :  16:39:01  Show Profile Send The Cavalier a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Hi all,

Currently running my players through the Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and I thought I'd spice it up by throwing Manshoon into the mix. My main idea is that this is post-Dragon Heist, and Manshoon has plans to take over Undermountain. Basically, what I'm asking for is advice on how to roleplay Manshoon, as well as any sources that can provide me with information on his character. I've read through Spellfire and Crown of Fire, as well as his short story in Realms of Infamy, and have looked over his character in Dragon Heist. Also, any advice on how to insert Manshoon into Dungeon of the Mad Mage is also appreciated. Thanks!

If there's anything I've learned as a DM, it's never give the players access to a Wish spell in the first session.

Edited by - The Cavalier on 13 Jun 2020 16:47:19

Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 13 Jun 2020 :  17:04:29  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here's a bit from Ed:

quote:
Roleplaying Notes: A Glimpse of Manshoon
by Ed Greenwood

As of 1367 DR, the First Lord of Zhentil Keep was a Lawful Evil human male 19th level Wizard (2nd Edition AD&D). The head of the Zhentarim and de facto ruler of Zhentil Keep, Manshoon is a cruel, calculating man, capable of any treachery, and coldly confident of his power. His looks and manner reflect this.

Manshoon most often wears stylish, sweeping black calf-length robes with a shoulder yoke, bracer-like cuffed sleeves, and an open V-front, gathered in at the waist with a wide cummerbund belt. The back of his neck is protected by a stiff, raised semi-circular stand-up cowl-collar. The robes have magical powers, including invisibility, levitate, fly, fire shield (the ‘chill’ version of this spell; the robes themselves are automatically unharmed by all heat and flame), and dimension door, and Manshoon also wears magical rings (types unknown, but various witnesses attest that one can fire a profuse number of magic missiles, and the other seems to be a ring of spell storing devoted to healing and anti-poison--including poisonous gases--magics) on his slim fingers. He also bears a rod of rulership at his belt, and often carries a staff of power (thought to have been slightly customized to his spell preferences) as well. His undergarments are of soft black silk (left rough, not shining and noisy), and he favors black bucket-top boots fitted with interior sheaths for several long, needle-slim (and reputedly poisoned) daggers.

Manshoon stands 6' tall, but is fairly slim, looking youthful and vigorous. He wears his glossy black hair slightly shorter than shoulder-length, and is clean-shaven. His eyes are dark and usually gleaming with malicious amusement, and his features fine, sophisticated, and usually expressing slightly amused disdain for the world around.

Since the time of the tale “So High A Price” (published in the Realms of Infamy anthology), which occurred in 1334 DR, Manshoon’s appearance has changed little. He has lost a trifle of his former reckless, arrogant youthful edge, and now possesses more polished smoothness than most men ever acquire.

Typical Manshoon utterances (always in a soft, pleasant, matter-of-fact voice):
· “I can’t be bothered wasting spells on them. Hang them, for the citizens to watch.”
· “These conclusions need bother us?”
· “And the approach you prefer?”
· “How deeply touching. Slay them.”
· “I fear so.”
· “A moment, good sir, of the brief time—by my command—remaining to you.”
· “Shall I decree it, or are you sensitive enough to heed a mere suggestion?”
· “You’ll understand, I trust, that as long as I am Lord here, I can allow no diabolical plans to succeed but my own.”



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Ayrik
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Posted - 13 Jun 2020 :  17:09:59  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Old Realms of AD&D were centered around the Heartlands - Cormyr, Sembia, the Dales - and positioned the Zhents as general-purpose always-up-to-no-good villains. Manshoon was arguably most prominent of these villains, a scheming paranoid antagonist pulling strings for grandly evil plans behind the scenes.

I've played in campaigns where Manshoon was almost a rumour, never actually seen by the players, never provably connected to events, often referenced but always in circumlocutive ways. His plans and machinations were beyond the ken of the PCs, they could only associate him with them through fearful or sardonic mentions of his name.

I've played in other campaigns where Manshoon was an ongoing feature mustache-twirling mwoo-ha-ha villainy. A boss always seen standing behind this week's disposable dupes, pawns, and henchmen. Melodramatic but simple and effective, it can be a little silly but players actually seem to like being challenged and frustrated by a familiar adversary if he's an entertaining character.

Manshoon circa 1E was very different from Manshoon in late-2E. And very different again from Manshoon in 3E. Let alone countless Cloneshoons created by countless writers as needed for different evil purposes.

[/Ayrik]
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 13 Jun 2020 :  17:47:00  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
One of the quotes I found, when looking for the one I shared, was a comment by Ed on why he created the Manshoon clones: it was because TSR's ridiculous Code of Ethics mandated evil couldn't win, even in the short term. So one editor was saying Manshoon HAD to die, but another said that Manshoon was too cool of a villain to just kill off... So Ed came up with the clone thing.

It nicely illustrates one of the things I've said before: sometimes, there is greater creativity in trying to work within externally-provided parameters, as opposed to having a blank canvas.

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TBeholder
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Posted - 13 Jun 2020 :  23:25:20  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From Gool Ol' Ed's own answers on Forgotten Realms Mailing List: Manshoon and TSR Editing.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 14 Jun 2020 :  03:21:39  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TBeholder

From Gool Ol' Ed's own answers on Forgotten Realms Mailing List: Manshoon and TSR Editing.



That was the one I found -- a file I'd saved from that page. Actually, I think the bit I did share was also from there.

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 14 Jun 2020 :  04:04:01  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd have to go with Ayrik.

Manshoon is best used when he's never encountered. Underlings, scary stories, etc. This is more than enough to create an arch enemy that doesn't even know the PCs exist because they are simply beneath his notice.

If he ever does make an appearance, it should not be in response to the players. Instead, it should be in conflict with some other uber NPC - maybe Trobriand. Maybe he is meeting with the Eye - his dealings with eye tyrants are common. Maybe he appears for a moment to snatch a powerful bit of magic whose guardian the players just dealt with out from under them.
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Ayrik
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Posted - 14 Jun 2020 :  08:11:13  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
When Manshoon does make an appearance - in every edition of the game and setting - it is not really about roleplaying his personality.

He sees to his own security first and foremost, so he's basically impossible to locate and locked away behind multiple layers of defenses. He plots and plans and schemes. He scries and spies on targets through all manner of magical and nonmagical means. He acts through agents whenever possible, he keeps them utterly uninformed about who they're working for.

When he does leave his lair to give somebody or something his personal attention then he's fully prepared. Carrying the tools and items he needs. Armed with a full complement of spells. Buffed up with other spells, protections, contingencies. He knows his target's strengths and weaknesses, he knows all the advantages and disadvantages. He appears, he kills, he vanishes. He has a plan and multiple backup plans. He probably also has a pile of minions or summons or distractions. If he lacks complete information about his targets then he'll patiently watch as his waves of hired thugs force the target to reveal it.

So in short, he appears, he blasts and casts, he vanishes. He's cheap, dirty, and low. He attacks at the worst possible time. He basically "cheats" - uses spells and methods which perfectly counter his opponents' best abilities - and the PCs really have no defense against Manshoon's preparations aside from being just as powerful and paranoid as he is all the time.

Manshoon leaves little details to his little peons. But when his personal attention is required for bigger details he brings everything he needs, he takes what he wants, he gets the job done, he fights to win, he leaves no witnesses. He has no time to waste on gloating monologues and he doesn't like being caught outside his sanctum. If you encounter Manshoon (or, more likely a Manshoon clone on a one-way suicide mission) then you won't have time to care about his "personality".

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 14 Jun 2020 08:15:57
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LordofBones
Master of Realmslore

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Posted - 15 Jun 2020 :  12:09:58  Show Profile Send LordofBones a Private Message  Reply with Quote
He's a very bitter man.

That's the only way I can rationalize someone who Elminster routinely humiliates consistently coming back for more. There's a novel where he surprises a weakened Elminster, then gets blown up by an archlich going kamikaze.

Play him like someone who knows that the universe is out to screw him over out of every victory. In short, make him Eeyore.
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Dalor Darden
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USA
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Posted - 17 Jun 2020 :  18:45:35  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I now play Manshoon as pretty much a "broken record" in that he is literally a copy...a record...of his original self that died long ago. His Clones give him a form of immortality; but at the cost of being non-inventive because it is hard for him to learn from his mistakes.

So while I play him as Ed suggests...I also play him as hopeless because somewhere in his cloned brain he can't get past certain points.

The Old Grey Box and AD&D for me!
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sleyvas
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Posted - 17 Jun 2020 :  20:41:19  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Most of Ed's novels involving Elminster during 4th edition had one Manshoon or another in the novels. If you're interested in his personality, that might be a good place to go as well.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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The Masked Mage
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USA
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Posted - 18 Jun 2020 :  20:09:42  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The BIG problem is the NOVEL Manshoon is NOT Ed's Manshoon. He is the keystone cops Manshoon that TSR editors left him with. Ed and Tho have both mentioned this several times in the old scrolls here. In general, the publishers want fights every couple of pages and once they decided El was badass, they made him TOO badass, which made Manshoon look like Wile-E-Coyote running off a cliff chasing Road Runner.

In one of those old scrolls (maybe Wooley has links saved away somewhere?) Ed goes into detail on how to roleplay the Master of the Zhentarim.

Also remember - 4th Ed. Manshoon in the novels is Vampshoon. One of the clones that has a very unique arc.

I would think Undermountain Manshoon would be a different clone (the one that bargained with Halaster in the Manshoon Wars makes the most sense to me). If you're sticking with the "Halaster is dead" thing, maybe Manshoon became Undermountain's new master :P
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 19 Jun 2020 :  00:03:42  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

The BIG problem is the NOVEL Manshoon is NOT Ed's Manshoon. He is the keystone cops Manshoon that TSR editors left him with. Ed and Tho have both mentioned this several times in the old scrolls here. In general, the publishers want fights every couple of pages and once they decided El was badass, they made him TOO badass, which made Manshoon look like Wile-E-Coyote running off a cliff chasing Road Runner.

In one of those old scrolls (maybe Wooley has links saved away somewhere?) Ed goes into detail on how to roleplay the Master of the Zhentarim.

Also remember - 4th Ed. Manshoon in the novels is Vampshoon. One of the clones that has a very unique arc.

I would think Undermountain Manshoon would be a different clone (the one that bargained with Halaster in the Manshoon Wars makes the most sense to me). If you're sticking with the "Halaster is dead" thing, maybe Manshoon became Undermountain's new master :P



I shared some info in this discussion already.

I once suggested that the Undermountain Manshoon (Undershoon?) could have collected a bunch of Halaster's soul shards after the latter blew himself up in that ridiculous 4E thing, and then wound up merging with them and becoming some sort of gestalt Manshoon/Halaster combination (Halashoon?).

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TBeholder
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Posted - 19 Jun 2020 :  10:20:27  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

I'd have to go with Ayrik.

Manshoon is best used when he's never encountered. Underlings, scary stories, etc. This is more than enough to create an arch enemy that doesn't even know the PCs exist because they are simply beneath his notice.

If he ever does make an appearance, it should not be in response to the players. Instead, it should be in conflict with some other uber NPC - maybe Trobriand. Maybe he is meeting with the Eye

Or a surprise inspection of some unlucky Zhent garrison because something important maybe goes on nearby, so he wants to make sure they are in a proper shape and not pulling anything.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2188 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2020 :  03:31:51  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

The BIG problem is the NOVEL Manshoon is NOT Ed's Manshoon. He is the keystone cops Manshoon that TSR editors left him with. Ed and Tho have both mentioned this several times in the old scrolls here. In general, the publishers want fights every couple of pages and once they decided El was badass, they made him TOO badass, which made Manshoon look like Wile-E-Coyote running off a cliff chasing Road Runner.

In one of those old scrolls (maybe Wooley has links saved away somewhere?) Ed goes into detail on how to roleplay the Master of the Zhentarim.

Also remember - 4th Ed. Manshoon in the novels is Vampshoon. One of the clones that has a very unique arc.

I would think Undermountain Manshoon would be a different clone (the one that bargained with Halaster in the Manshoon Wars makes the most sense to me). If you're sticking with the "Halaster is dead" thing, maybe Manshoon became Undermountain's new master :P



I shared some info in this discussion already.

I once suggested that the Undermountain Manshoon (Undershoon?) could have collected a bunch of Halaster's soul shards after the latter blew himself up in that ridiculous 4E thing, and then wound up merging with them and becoming some sort of gestalt Manshoon/Halaster combination (Halashoon?).



Ooops - somehow totally missed those previous posts. Ah well
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Copper Elven Vampire
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Posted - 08 Jul 2020 :  23:47:00  Show Profile Send Copper Elven Vampire a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Manshoon is tricky. Are we talking about The Vampire Manshoon who may or may not have died during "The Herald" novel. I hope not, because the Vampire Manshoon seemed more the mind of laid back scheming evil and somewhat content to let the greater evils do their thing.

The second Manshoon clone is Bat-Dung-Crazy and missing an arm or something abiding where Halaster once did I think in Undermountain.

The third Manshoon clone is out there doing Manshoon things with the Zhents like he once did during the Spellfire books.

I personally think that out of all the Manshoon clones... (like what?, 30 in all?)... that The Vampire Manshoon is the "TRUE" Manshoon both psychically and symbiotically.
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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 09 Jul 2020 :  00:03:41  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Copper Elven Vampire


I personally think that out of all the Manshoon clones... (like what?, 30 in all?)... that The Vampire Manshoon is the "TRUE" Manshoon both psychically and symbiotically.



I favor the idea that the original (or at least an earlier) Manshoon is lurking somewhere quietly, perhaps in a pocket dimension, watching what all of his clones are getting up to. I think he figured out a way to activate a clone without having to die, first, and did so, then let the clone go off and do its thing.

It's also possible there are other Manshoons lurking about, but not in the physical form of Manshoon -- it was made clear during the Manshoon Wars that a way to escape the "gotta kill them all!" compulsion was to change forms.

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Copper Elven Vampire
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Posted - 09 Jul 2020 :  01:17:44  Show Profile Send Copper Elven Vampire a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Copper Elven Vampire


I personally think that out of all the Manshoon clones... (like what?, 30 in all?)... that The Vampire Manshoon is the "TRUE" Manshoon both psychically and symbiotically.



I favor the idea that the original (or at least an earlier) Manshoon is lurking somewhere quietly, perhaps in a pocket dimension, watching what all of his clones are getting up to. I think he figured out a way to activate a clone without having to die, first, and did so, then let the clone go off and do its thing.

It's also possible there are other Manshoons lurking about, but not in the physical form of Manshoon -- it was made clear during the Manshoon Wars that a way to escape the "gotta kill them all!" compulsion was to change forms.



Very interesting. I didn't know. I like the idea of an "Original" Manshoon in a pocket dimension, having first learned the magic to awaken clones without dying. I would Imagine THAT Manshoon being the most powerful by contingency or some such.

Though in the books... The Vampire Manshoon is more sure than the two remaining clones that HE is the true Manshoon.

What's to stop the three remaining clones to produce more clones of themselves? They certainly have the skill in magic and the knowledge to do so at all three of their fingertips.
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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 10 Jul 2020 :  00:18:03  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by Copper Elven Vampire


I personally think that out of all the Manshoon clones... (like what?, 30 in all?)... that The Vampire Manshoon is the "TRUE" Manshoon both psychically and symbiotically.



I favor the idea that the original (or at least an earlier) Manshoon is lurking somewhere quietly, perhaps in a pocket dimension, watching what all of his clones are getting up to. I think he figured out a way to activate a clone without having to die, first, and did so, then let the clone go off and do its thing.

It's also possible there are other Manshoons lurking about, but not in the physical form of Manshoon -- it was made clear during the Manshoon Wars that a way to escape the "gotta kill them all!" compulsion was to change forms.



I go with this, and call him Manshoon Prime (like C&D).

He spends most of his time inside one of the extra dimensional hideaways created by the Sword Heralds of Cormyr. From there he is up to all kinds of things - allying with the Cult of the Black Hand from way back in the Halls f the High King module; building a brotherhood of wizards as Mystra commanded (he took her command where Vampshoon would not, and reaped the benefits); also gathering vassal undead, mostly liches, using Larloch's magic; etc. He was the one who appeared in sightings all over blasting someone and taking their magic at the beginning of the "clone wars" :P, or teleporting in after other clones blasted each other to bits and salvaging what he could from them.

He is the ultimate bad guy who is not going to rush in for players, but plays puppet master of other powerful NPCs that don't even know he is their "boss" in the shadows.


Edited by - The Masked Mage on 10 Jul 2020 00:35:32
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Copper Elven Vampire
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Posted - 25 Jul 2020 :  10:52:07  Show Profile Send Copper Elven Vampire a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So a new Manshoon clone that was the Master-Sorcerer of everything? And you can honestly say we didn't know about it? The only Manshoon that seems to have any control at all over his desires is The Vampre Manshoon of Westgate.
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Icelander
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Posted - 25 Jul 2020 :  15:12:38  Show Profile  Visit Icelander's Homepage Send Icelander a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Copper Elven Vampire

So a new Manshoon clone that was the Master-Sorcerer of everything? And you can honestly say we didn't know about it? The only Manshoon that seems to have any control at all over his desires is The Vampre Manshoon of Westgate.


Ironically, my PCs encountered Vampire Manshoon in Westgate, shortly after his takeover of the Night Masks, and he was rash, overconfident in his new powers and, when roused, revelled in bloodlust. Which ended up getting him lit on fire and having to jump into the harbour to escape destruction.

When the PCs encountered him again a year later, however, he had much better control over his vampiric impulses and was even able to move past the personal indignity and unpleasantness of having been Fireball-ed, in the interest of a mutually beneficial mercantile agreement. After all, the PCs weren't the first personal foes Manshoon has made common cause with.

Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Forgotten Realms fans, please sign a petition to re-release the FR Interactive Atlas

Edited by - Icelander on 25 Jul 2020 15:13:02
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King Libertine
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Posted - 07 Aug 2020 :  22:08:21  Show Profile Send King Libertine a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have always seen Manshoon as a dim-witted, boring character that does nothing but try to usurp power from everything and anything that moves on a chess board of magic. Often choosing the really dumb way to go, instead of a more thought out endgame. When the manshoon wars happened I was glad. sigh, it seems that 3 of him lived. And if i am not wrong, it looks like vampshoon died at the end of The Herald. Having his mind burnt and blasted during a scrying attempt as shade enclave and myth drannor collided. That's how I read that book.
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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 08 Aug 2020 :  00:30:53  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Copper Elven Vampire

So a new Manshoon clone that was the Master-Sorcerer of everything? And you can honestly say we didn't know about it? The only Manshoon that seems to have any control at all over his desires is The Vampre Manshoon of Westgate.



Nope, not new. Old - the oldest - as identified in C&D. And we knew a lot about it - but everyone focused on the Vampire and the one at the Citadel and ignored the rest. That's on WoTC because they dropped the Manshoon Wars plot almost right out of the gate. Then they decided that the Zhentarim should be wiped out in favor of their new floating bad guys and their undead army in Thay. So they wrote a sentence and it was done. Still, they left many ends to be tied off.
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