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hymer
Seeker

28 Posts

Posted - 21 Aug 2017 :  10:54:12  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
In my current 3.5 FR campaign, Hillsfar is sending out diplomatic feelers to Cormyr. The Zhentarim are gearing up for an assault southwards, and there's no reason to think the Dales will be able to contain it this time for several campaign-specific reasons.
Hillsfar has ostensibly been running in a pacific direction with regards to Zhentil Keep, as Mordak Brelliar would like. Maalthiir is hoping to wrongfoot the Zhents by letting them get embroiled in a war to the south, likely facing Cormyr and Sembia and some combination of Dales. Maalthir would like to extract maximum diplomatic currency for stepping in and hitting the Zhents in the flank, as he intended to do anyway.

So here is the question: Could Cormyr (currently under Alusair's regency) be persuaded to wink at Hillsfar increasing its influence in Harrowdale? The epidemic in Scardale has recently broken out, so Harrowdale's importance is on the rise.
I suspect the Sembians are fine with this sort of behaviour, and the other Dales are very unlikely to give any concessions of this sort. But what about Alusair and the court of Azoun V? How will they weigh honour to the lives lost without Hillsfar stepping in? I'll assume that Hillsfar will manage to negotiate from the standpoint that they won't attack the Zhents without getting something in return.

For a bonus question: What other elements could be part of such a negotiation?

Thanks in advance

Misereor
Learned Scribe

135 Posts

Posted - 21 Aug 2017 :  12:57:03  Show Profile Send Misereor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I suppose it would depend on how realpolik'ish Alusair and her advisors are.
If the Dales start getting gobbled up by powerhungry neighbours, Cormyr is the country that has the least to gain and the most to lose.
The area is geographically inconvenient for Cormyr. Tilverton is about as far as her practical boundaries go, which is pretty well-established in lore.
On the other hand, Zhentil Keep, Hillsfar, and Sembia could all grow more powerfull at the Dales's expense, making them more of a threat.

In this instance, I see Cormyr much like Renaissance-Napoleonic eras Britain, striving to keep mainland Europe divided in order to keep superpowers from emerging.
Cormyr might allow Hillsfar some influence in Harrowdale, but it should take steps to ensure there was no takeover.

But then there is the Azoun personality.
Alusair is the kind of person who might take more direct action by issuing guarantees, rallying the Dales, and sending troops to discourage adventurism.
Possible also stirring up trouble elsewhere, to make her adversaries divert their efforts (adventurers needed).


What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder, stronger, in a later edition.

Edited by - Misereor on 21 Aug 2017 12:58:57
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hymer
Seeker

28 Posts

Posted - 22 Aug 2017 :  20:29:17  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your thoughts!
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DarkExcalibur42
Acolyte

USA
12 Posts

Posted - 18 Sep 2017 :  18:15:23  Show Profile Send DarkExcalibur42 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I concur with Misereor's assessment: it benefits Cormyr to see the region divided.

Cormyr is in kind of a bad place in the 1370s. Alusair is trying to keep people confident in the strength of the monarchy, despite the recent and public failings of its nobility to support said government. Her nation is dangerously unstable and in need of time, money, security, or all of the above.

I'm assuming Tilverton was destroyed in your campaign world. This presents another threat to the mindset of Cormyr. The City of Shade destroyed Tilverton, posing a threat to Cormyr. Meanwhile they also threaten Zhentil Keep, attacking trade caravans through the Anauroch. Thultanthar's appearance is disrupting the balance of power in the region. Cormyr is finding itself at the center of many aggressors, who are in some cases learning to work together.

Esvele Greycastle, a Sembian cleric of Shar was the chief antagonist in two modules (Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave & Shadowdale: The Scourging of the Land). At one point she colludes with Prince Tanthul, sending him a valuable book. She also works with Fzoul Chembryl and Zhentil Keep as an ally in their assault on the Dales. It doesn't sound to me like this has happened in your game. But we can look at these alternate timelines for inspiration.

Sembians, Zhentil Keep, Shadovar. Cormyr's leadership would have good reason to be fearful or paranoid even without the loss of stability caused by their sovereign's death. If Alusair has any knowledge or reason to be suspicious towards Zhentil Keep's or Thultanthar's actions in the region, she may well feel the need to gather strength or to disrupt her foes.

I'm not sure why Misereor said she would "send troops to discourage adventurism", though. More on this I hope?
I bring it up because I would suspect her of doing the opposite. Cormyr needs its military to be rather directly available to her within the cities and territories she controls. Dispatching any number of soldiers or war wizards could be risky, and she already has soldiers keeping on eye on what used to be Tilverton. Alusair isn't the sneaky or conniving sort, even if she has come a long way in learning the game of politics. She'd advocate direct action where she could, which to me means incentivizing adventurers to travel into the Dales. If there were anything she could do to make Hillsfar a nuisance for Zhentil Keep? I think she'd do it to cover for her nation's current state of vulnerability.

Additionally, what is Hillsfar's take on Thultanthar in your game? I mean, flying Netherese city full of Shar worshipers who can shadow magic nuke cities aren't really anyone's idea of a good time. Nothing makes weird alliances faster than fear of a shared enemy.

"I excused myself by saying that I had set down nothing which was not strictly true, and he replied to the effect that therein lay my fault."
--Sir Henry Rider Haggard
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1478 Posts

Posted - 18 Sep 2017 :  19:21:52  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DarkExcalibur42

Thultanthar's appearance is disrupting the balance of power in the region. Cormyr is finding itself at the center of many aggressors, who are in some cases learning to work together.
[...]
Additionally, what is Hillsfar's take on Thultanthar in your game? I mean, flying Netherese city full of Shar worshipers who can shadow magic nuke cities aren't really anyone's idea of a good time. Nothing makes weird alliances faster than fear of a shared enemy.

That's another one for Hillsfar.
If their position is that they need some form of help (direct or indirect) because they would like to kick Zhents in the ribs just to avoid having them on all sides, but don't quite dare to spend this much of an effort right now. Also, they are threatened by Shade who may try to take them over one way or another just to have a foothold. These points support each other.
Helping Hillsfar supposedly helps to stabilise the balance of power, which benefits Cormyr by keeping its flank at least somewhat secure rather, as opposed to taking a chance that Zhents or Shade may become stronger and closer.
That's on top of Zhent encroachment as such.

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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hymer
Seeker

28 Posts

Posted - 29 Sep 2017 :  09:24:16  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the thoughts! I enjoyed reading that.

The whole Shadovar thing, however, hasn't happened and won't happen in this campaign - but Alusair's grip on power and the cohesion of Cormyr as a state is tenuous, as noted.
I'm aiming for the Zhentarim being the main villains. They are currently beginning their struggle to take over large parts of the Dales. If successful, they will be one geographic step closer to going for Sembia or Cormyr, but more crucially they will have access to the natural resources of the Dales, especially the excellent farmland. This would allow them to fight prolonged wars without undue worrry about trade disruptions and economical warfare cutting off their food supplies, and it will greatly ease their logistics in any further campaigns heading south. Whether they succeed will depend in no small part on what the party does and how well they do it. But I'd like to see most of the Dales in Zhentarim clutches, their population enslaved or deported, and industrial scale exploitation of the forests and farmlands.

For another deviation from the published campaign, Darkhold is in Bainite hands again, and can potentially serve as a raised dagger at Cormyr's back. The party will be escorting a deputation headed to Evereska, hoping the elves can be persuaded to open hostilities with Darkhold and let Cormyr focus on defending the Dales. The elves are done Retreating, have consolidated, and are looking to return, and so can be persuaded to see the Zhentarim as a grave threat. But the first group to return has been the Eldreth Veluuthra, who are building their presence in Hullack Forest while Cormyr is busy elsewhere.
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Misereor
Learned Scribe

135 Posts

Posted - 09 Oct 2017 :  14:04:16  Show Profile Send Misereor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DarkExcalibur42
I'm not sure why Misereor said she would "send troops to discourage adventurism", though. More on this I hope?



Nothing definite, but he mentioned that Hillsfar was sending feelers to Cormyr, looking for backup vs the Keep, so I assumed Cormyr had the moxie to make moves in the Dalelands.

Probably not by using Purple Dragons and War Wizards, unless something went seriously wrong, but by sponsoring some mercenaries and adventuring parties for certain Dales, Cormyr could be very useful to Hillsfar in blunting Zhent ambitions.


What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder, stronger, in a later edition.

Edited by - Misereor on 09 Oct 2017 14:06:08
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1478 Posts

Posted - 09 Oct 2017 :  19:08:12  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by hymer


I'm aiming for the Zhentarim being the main villains. [business as usual]
But I'd like to see most of the Dales in Zhentarim clutches, their population enslaved or deported, and industrial scale exploitation of the forests and farmlands.
For another deviation from the published campaign, Darkhold is in Bainite hands again

Thus having Sembia, Cormyr, Hillsfar and elves instantly unite against the common enemy. Business as usual.
quote:
For another deviation from the published campaign, Darkhold is in Bainite hands again, and can potentially serve as a raised dagger at Cormyr's back. The party will be escorting a deputation headed to Evereska, hoping the elves can be persuaded to open hostilities with Darkhold and let Cormyr focus on defending the Dales. The elves are done Retreating, have consolidated, and are looking to return, and so can be persuaded to see the Zhentarim as a grave threat. But the first group to return has been the Eldreth Veluuthra, who are building their presence in Hullack Forest while Cormyr is busy elsewhere.

That's also "business as usual", with one exception.
Any commotion involving Darkhold, trade routes in general and Eldreth Veluuthra at once would necessarily attract attention of another power (or rather a loose alliance) interested in these issues.
Which means fun, because there are few people better at black ops than the drow.
Major variables in this situation are:
1. What [in your campaign] is status of Sememmon and Ashemmi - did they already run away, etc?
2. What are current relations between the interested parties, including Berdusk-Sshammath and Evereska-Sshammath? They all have interests in the area NW of Proskur, have to be at least somewhat aware of each other and agree at very least on hunting down Cult of the Dragon and quietly pushing out Zhents.

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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hymer
Seeker

28 Posts

Posted - 10 Oct 2017 :  12:26:18  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
@ Misereor: From what I gather, the Dales are generally accepting of alliances with Cormyr, as long as the aim of such an alliance is to reduce the influence of other powers around the Dales. Even if some Dales wouldn't let Alusair send troops through their territory, they could be sent by ship.

@ TBeholder: There is a current political crisis between Sembia and Cormyr, in part engineered and certainly stoked by outside parties. And the Eldreth Veluuthra will be trying their very best to keep the elves out of a big fight mostly killing humans. the war will also help distract Cormyr from dealing with their arrival and consolidation in Hullack. So there will be some elements that the PCs can get involved in, before any grand alliance can come into effect.

Sememmon and Ashemmi are not in Darkhold. They are struggling with their on moral and emotional problems, and not interested in rejoining the Zhentarim under the Banites. My FR 3.5 resource suggests that they could approach the PCs and try to get a finger into any conflict going on, but I don't think I'll go that way.

Sshammath is indicated as a trading city, but I know little of it. I'm sure they are happy to see Darkhold in Zhentarim hands. They can deal with each other and profit. But I don't think they will get involved in a war the Zhentarim are fighting if they can avoid it, unless elven troops get very close to Darkhold and threaten it. They certainly wouldn't accept Evereskan troops occupying Darkhold if they could do anything about it, though I'm far from certain how all that will end up going. If the Eldreth Veluuthra get their way, Evereska won't lend any aid to Cormyr, and Darkhold will be on the offensive, not the defensive.

It is possible that the Lord's Alliance could get involved in the whole struggle, but not for the Dales. If Cormyr is threatened directly, they may feel compelled to act, as a rampant Zhentarim with their traditional enemies subjugated could only be expected to look for further expansion from there. I expect Fzoul will be aware of this, and if he is sufficiently successful in his southern campaign, he will likely target Sembia before Cormyr.

As for the Cult of the Dragon, they would prefer not to get involved in any of this, but they lack the coherence to enforce such a strategy. There is a dracolich, in charge of a Sembian cell (can't remember her name right now), who is stoking the conflict between Cormyr and Sembia. It is her intention to raid The Citadel of the Raven for an artifact in their possession (not decided on the artifact yet; suggestions both canon and not are very welcome), and so she hopes that Fzoul Chembryl will go south and be out of the way and distracted with the war. She may discover that Hillsfar intends to make a surprise attack against Zhentarim territory, and if so she would try to have her raid happen as close to that as possible. But I have no idea how all that will really unfold yet.

While on the Cult, the PCs have gained some unwanted attention from them last session, as they became embroiled in a fight between cultists and the dragon Mahrlee, whom I've decided lives in Anauroch and considers the Cult abominable. She killed a dragon ally of the Cult, and when they sent troops to investigate, she pretended to be interested in joining. Then she ambushed and slew the cultists, and took human form and pretended to be injured. The PCs found her and brought her along (you know what paladins are like). A dracolich was sent from the Well to investigate the death of the cultists, and when it tracked Mahrlee down, she was with the PCs, as she had planned. They decided to fight the dracolich and send it packing, and then departed on friendly terms with a crowing Mahrlee.
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1478 Posts

Posted - 10 Oct 2017 :  22:51:40  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by hymer

@ Misereor: From what I gather, the Dales are generally accepting of alliances with Cormyr, as long as the aim of such an alliance is to reduce the influence of other powers around the Dales. Even if some Dales wouldn't let Alusair send troops through their territory, they could be sent by ship.

Cormyr isn't quite as grabby as Zhents or Sembia, but... Dales are traditionally a bit leery about all their strong neighbours - and after what happened to Tilverton can see their misgivings confirmed.

quote:
@ TBeholder: There is a current political crisis between Sembia and Cormyr, in part engineered and certainly stoked by outside parties.

Aren't they always like this?
quote:
And the Eldreth Veluuthra will be trying their very best to keep the elves out of a big fight mostly killing humans. the war will also help distract Cormyr from dealing with their arrival and consolidation in Hullack. So there will be some elements that the PCs can get involved in, before any grand alliance can come into effect.

Amusingly, EV trying to keep the elves out of the whole mess could make things easier for the drow. Also, between EV activities (both messing with human trade and courting some Vhaerunites) and drow habitual sneakiness, drow merchants working on surface (directly or mostly via human partners and subcontractors) have to already know about EV and see it as "dangerous vermin" much like the Cult. They perhaps may help Cult cells and any aggressive groups of surface elves to "accidentally" run into each other now and then. Thus with minimum observation and infiltration, an alliance of drow groups would have this part of the picture clear enough.
quote:
Sememmon and Ashemmi are not in Darkhold. They are struggling with their on moral and emotional problems, and not interested in rejoining the Zhentarim under the Banites. My FR 3.5 resource suggests that they could approach the PCs and try to get a finger into any conflict going on, but I don't think I'll go that way.

Then they know Darkhold area, know Zhents too well, and (after disagreeing enough that they ran away) can't expect anything good from the Black Network. Which would make them a very good bet if and when Darkhold is out of Zhents' hands - for those who would gain something from keeping it independent (Sshammath, Sembia and various other traders).
quote:
Sshammath is indicated as a trading city, but I know little of it. I'm sure they are happy to see Darkhold in Zhentarim hands.

Why? Zhentarim are an organisation trying to control trade routes, thus there's an inherent conflict of interests.
Sshammath has a tunnel to Darkhold potentially giving them a good (more convenient and less dangerous than zigzags through Underdark) trade route, but Zhents holding its end would be... more acceptable than surface elves, dwarves or Cormyr, but that's about it.
They worked out some deal with Sememmon, but even this took time. He was a head of one "provincial" faction in the making, with his own interests, and as such dealing with one non-hostile neighbour would seek to profit and cards up both sleeves for himself first. After the Banites became too pushy for him, the arrangements with whoever will replace him is unlikely to be as good.
Seeing how even Tethyr and Amn were infiltrated by Zhentarim, they obviously can be a great nuisance if left unchecked, thus in the long term it makes sense to undermine them whenever this can be done without a direct conflict. I won't be surprised if all and any mercantile powers who can afford it, including the drow, discreetly helped those who keep Zhents busy somewhere far away from their interests - Daggerdale, Hillsfar and others. Using the Harpers as middlemen (this has benefit of also keeping the Harpers busy elsewhere) or otherwise.
quote:
They can deal with each other and profit. But I don't think they will get involved in a war the Zhentarim are fighting if they can avoid it, unless elven troops get very close to Darkhold and threaten it. They certainly wouldn't accept Evereskan troops occupying Darkhold if they could do anything about it, though I'm far from certain how all that will end up going.

For the drow, the perfect outcome would be to have Zhents and Evereska or Cormyr bleed each other as much as possible, and then Darkhold taken over by either their puppet, an independent power not hostile to them (cooperating out of self-interest), or at least a coalition where they have enough of influence (openly or not) to make sure it doesn't act against them.
How much the surface elves are really a problem may also depend on what goes on in the Reaching Woods and Cormanthyr, however.
quote:
If the Eldreth Veluuthra get their way, Evereska won't lend any aid to Cormyr, and Darkhold will be on the offensive, not the defensive.
It is possible that the Lord's Alliance could get involved in the whole struggle, but not for the Dales.

Not as much for the Dales, as against the Zhents.
But if they have a war elsewhere, they probably would be unable to provide reinforcements for Darkhold even within normal limits, much less enough for offensive action. Other interested parties may see this as an opportunity.
quote:
As for the Cult of the Dragon, they would prefer not to get involved in any of this, but they lack the coherence to enforce such a strategy. There is a dracolich, in charge of a Sembian cell (can't remember her name right now), who is stoking the conflict between Cormyr and Sembia.

They won't want to, and are unlikely to be a major player, but since they infest Sembia and the rest of involved parties are aware of (and actively hostile to) them, any commotion may force the Cult to at least dodge threats here and there. Conversely, most of the others could try to use any Cult cells they know as highly expendable speed bumps for all the other powers.

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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