In a short series of articles, I will detail six examples of Factions that are appropriate for the Greyhawk setting. Some of these might be old hat for setting purists, but are written up in the somewhat simplified, player-friendly manner of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition factions. Others are heavily modified or all-new creations, meant to provide a few more widespread organizations as options, but keeping them relatively loose-knit so their sudden appearance in the setting isn’t jarring if you’ve already spent a lot of time using the Greyhawk setting.
Remember, these are just examples. Use them to your own ends, whether it’s whole-cloth or as templates for your own factions!
The Greyhawk Grognard already posted a faction writeup for The Scarlet Brotherhood, so this article explores a form of sub-faction within the Brotherhood, known as Cabals.
The Brotherhood seeks to reclaim and better understand Suel heritage through the recovery of magical artifacts, tomes of lore, and the exploration of ancient Suel settlements. They also seek to gain political and economic power, and often this is attained through entirely legal means, but not without a little bit of deception. Outright infiltration is reserved for higher-ranking members that are trusted, and assassination of Suel/Brotherhood enemies is something only the most trusted members of the faction are employed to carry out.
Within the Scarlet Brotherhood faction are several sub-groups, many with overlapping beliefs and interests. As such, few of them actively vie for any sort of control, but on occasion, infighting does break out among the various cabals. Most of the cabals are either religious or philosophical, but others speak to the skill-set or abilities of its members.
Formed by priests of Pyremius — Suel god of Assassins, Fire, Poison, and Murder — this cabal seeks domination of the Scarlet Brotherhood. They are members of the Pyremius cult called the Deathseekers, and they believe the Scarlet Brotherhood is simply a wayward offshoot of that cult.
The Brotherhood Arcane seeks to find, study, and employ ancient Suel relics and methods of enchanting items to further the aims of the Brotherhood.
Cabal of the Everburning Flame
Worshippers of Wee Jas, this cabal overlaps with the Brotherhood Arcane, but they seek the ascension of arcane magic-users as the leaders of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Eyes of the Stern Lady
The Eyes are the internal police of the Brotherhood, watching the actions of fellow members and seeking to dole out or even increase the severity of punishments when a member of the faction fails to uphold some tenet of their beliefs.
Warriors and priests of Llerg, the Fangs seek to militarize the Scarlet Brotherhood, and to promote their mission of Suel domination as outright conflict.
Like the Brotherhood Arcane, the Farseekers wish to uncover more of Suel history and power. Unlike the Brotherhood, the Farseekers put this goal above the domination or exploitation of the Flanaess.
This cabal is made up of (reputedly) direct descendants of the Suel Imperium’s ruling nobility, and they seek to reestablish their bloodlines as the leadership positions of both the Scarlet Brotherhood and then of the various ruling nations of the Flanaess.
Assassins and death-dealers who often worship Pyremius, the Redblades are covert hitmen who do the bidding of the Brotherhood, but who often also go beyond that: they assassinate nobility and rulers that do not have Suel blood, and their ranging ground is the entire Flanaess.
In the name of the church of Syrul — the forked-tongue goddess of Lies, Deceit, Treachery, and False Promises — the Scourge act as infiltrators and double agents within other organizations and in various governing bodies throughout the Flanaess, gathering information, assassinating enemies, and otherwise doing some of the most direct and high-level work the Scarlet Brotherhood wants done.
Other cabals exist, their beliefs and actions based around ancient Suel prophecy, strict reading of Imperium laws, or an openness for other racial traits to be “bred in” with Suel blood to create even stronger strains of people. Since there are nonhuman members of the Suel Imperium, there are nonhuman cabals, as well: dark dwarves and elves — some whisper that they may even include drow — have their own cabals or sub-factions. These are often too specialized or too violent for player characters.
Variant: The Splintered Mind
In the Dragon Magazine #281 article The Splintered Mind: Rebels of the Scarlet Brotherhood, a group of psionically-powered agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood rebel against their faction after seeing how its higher-ups allow for massive destruction and even betrayal against their own agents in order to sow discord in areas such as the Bone March. Over ten years, Jeddec Al-Beth, Bri-An Liw, and Shu Besch build a secret monastery near Scant in Onnwal, and through their allies Cobb Darg and Rakehell Chert, they are able to recruit a small cadre of like-minded folk whom they train at the monastery and send out in small teams to monitor, subvert, and even assassinate Scarlet Brotherhood agents that are currently working to overthrow rulers throughout the Flanaess and assert Suel domination.
As a 5th Edition D&D faction, The Splintered Mind can be made to operate a little less regimented, and instead act similarly to the Scarlet Brotherhood or even the Iron League’s agents (see the Iron League variant in the Knight Protectors article), watching the activities of reported Brotherhood members, gathering evidence against them, subverting their activities, or even attempting to destabilize or kill them. This also affords DMs the ability to have strictly non-evil factions for players in their Greyhawk campaign without sacrificing versatility and options.
Below is an optional overview of the Splintered Mind as a faction; note that this does play a little loosely with some of the information in the aforementioned Dragon Magazine article.
[Special thanks to Gabriel Perez Gallardi for pointing me to the Splintered Mind article!]
The Splintered Mind is a small group of monks, psions, and rogues who work in secret to derail the plots and plans of the Scarlet Brotherhood. The work of each cell is also coordinated at the Scant monastery by the original three members — Jeddec Al-Beth, Bri-An Liw, and Shu Besch — who comprise the Splintered Mind Council. Only the Council knows the names and location of all of the members of the Splintered Mind. They monitor the social and political situation as reported by the Splintered Mind cells active in the Flanaess, then determine how to deal with Brotherhood incursions in those areas.
- The Scarlet Brotherhood’s leadership seeks the destruction of civilization first, then their domination over whatever’s left.
- Perhaps the Suel Imperium fell for a reason?
- The only way to unlock the truth is to master the powers of the mind.
Member Traits & Typical Quests
Within the Splintered Mind are three primary “sects” that are born, in part, from their origins within the Scarlet Brotherhood, but have been recast for this rebellious faction.
Truth Seekers are the elite agents of the splinter brotherhood. Their primary mission is to find spies and agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood that have placed themselves within local governments. The truth seekers determine the extent of the Brotherhood corruption within the government and report back to the Splintered Mind monastery.
The Scarlet Fist is another such order within the Splintered Mind. They combine the regimens of a monk with the martial and mental training of a psychic warrior. Unlike most monks, the training of the psychic warrior is combined with the way of the monk to such a degree that the Scarlet Fist are able to advance in both monk and psychic warrior classes without penalty, provided the two classes are within one level of each other.
Another sect, the Crimson Blades, eschews unarmed combat, preferring instead to master a variety of weapons and styles of fighting. They use the psychic training provided to focus less on mental powers and more on weapon-based combat.
- Mind’s Eye
- Psychic Investigator
The founders of the Splintered Mind are:
- Jeddec Al-Beth (LE male Suloise human diviner [Volo’s Guide to Monsters 213])
- Bri-An Liw (N female Suloise human gladiator)
- Shu Besch (NE male Suloise human assassin)
Notable allies of theirs include:
- Cobb Darg (LN ancient gold dragon) is an old ally of Bigby, and currently acts as the head of Irongate
- Rakehell Chert (NG male Oeridian human master thief [Volo’s Guide to Monsters 216]), former guildmaster thief of Scant and freedom fighter against the Scarlet Brotherhood at Onnwal
As a reminder, this article is not meant to be official and does not accurately reflect the most up-to-date or detailed Greyhawk lore. This particular article takes information from The Scarlet Brotherhood sourcebook (1999) , though it takes liberties with some of the naming conventions and goals of some of the groups. Please use or abuse this information as you wish!
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