Espionage in Eberron

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Espionage in Eberron

Postby Hermes12 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:20 pm

There is a new speaking stone up where Scott answers questions on espionage and intelligence in Eberron. He then invites us to share our stories of how we used Espionage in our campaigns.

I ran a campaign which ostensibly started as a murder investigation into a travelling vagrant that no one cared much about. it turned out the down and out elf was a Phiarlan agent. From uncovering the information he had on different local personalities I turned part of the adventure into a murder mystery. However one piece of information was the monitoring of a local priest of Aureon and his flock who turned out to be a Aundarian Spy network who were attempting to unleash a demon on the Breland, Thrane border in an attempt to kick off hostilities again between the two nations. Not only did the party have to defeat the demon but also present their findings to King Boranel. They were then assigned to infiltrate the Aundarian royal family to ascertain who was the mastermind behind the plot. They ended up tracing it back to a plan of the Lords of Dust and the death of the Demon by a Denieth heir on the border of Thrane and Breland was a part of the Draconic prophecy that they were trying to manipulate.

It was one of the first campaigns I ran in Eberron to show my players how it is different from dungeon crawl style D&D they were used to.


Anyone else have any example of using espionage. Or anything further to add to Scott's excellent breakdown of the intelligence capabilities of the different factions in Khorvaire?
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Re: Espionage in Eberron

Postby Big Mac » Mon Jun 05, 2017 7:52 pm

Nice topic. :)

Hermes12 wrote:There is a new speaking stone up where Scott answers questions on espionage and intelligence in Eberron.


Here is a link to Espionage in Eberron to save people searching. :)

I'm still learning about Eberron, and I've not run a game yet, but if I was going to use espionage in Eberron, I'd probably be more inclined to use industrial espionage and have someone try to steal the secrets of one or more of the Dragonmarked houses.

And...with the Dragonmarked Houses using dragonmarks, for a lot of their activities, I think I might have someone stealing the dragonmarks off of members from the houses.

So that would be dead bodies turning up, with holes cut out of their skin. :twisted:

And maybe a bunch of cultists with dragonmarks grafted onto them. :twisted:
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Re: Espionage in Eberron

Postby ThePurple » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:56 am

Big Mac wrote:And...with the Dragonmarked Houses using dragonmarks, for a lot of their activities, I think I might have someone stealing the dragonmarks off of members from the houses.

So that would be dead bodies turning up, with holes cut out of their skin. :twisted:

And maybe a bunch of cultists with dragonmarks grafted onto them. :twisted:


That would require some really wonky magic that the dragonmarked houses would find *extremely problematic*, since one of the major things about dragonmarks is that you're either born with it or you're not. One of the ways that they maintain their monopolies is through the increased efficiency at those tasks that their dragonmarks provide. If someone can *steal* a dragonmark, especially if multiple people can do so and it's easy enough that it doesn't require extremely high tier magic, it opens up a whole can of worms that would probably trigger something on par with a second War of the Mark.

If I were to do it, I'd probably make it so that there is a cult *attempting* to steal dragonmarks but not succeeding. They think they're getting close and they *might* be able to use them for a short period of time after grafting them to their flesh, but the magical effect is nowhere near permanent (they probably still get a gruesome scar out of it; I'd probably make the dragonmark fade to black when the power vanishes). The problem, from the perspective of the dragonmarked houses would then be that people keep killing dragonmarked scions, rather than someone is explicitly threatening their monopolies (the threat to their monopolies is *present*, but it's not the biggest issue). This is an issue that *all* of the dragonmarked houses would definitely unite behind, and they've got the clout to make it extremely dangerous and painful for anyone involved.

You could definitely espionage it up if it turns out that the "theft" cult was being funded by one of the Five Nations (I'm thinking either Breland, Aundair, or Karrnath) without the express approval of the nation's leader (Boranel definitely has a lot of stuff that he'd rather not hear about, Kaius has nobles that are only vaguely loyal to him but whom he is still responsible for, Aurala I imagine as being the only one willing to actually sign off on it but being extremely wary about it leaking out). The leader would then employ their own secret services to destroy the cult and bury the information so that the dragonmarked houses don't learn about it, while opposing leaders would be trying to out them to the dragonmarked houses (since the Five Nations are extremely reliant upon the services of the dragonmarked houses to function and, if they were denied those services, they'd be easy pickings for pretty much *anyone*).

The first Eberron campaign I ran was built around the players working in Sharn, as free agents in an unofficial war between House Tarkanan and the Dragonmarked Houses proper. It started off with a discovery of the haunted remains of Halas Tarkanan, who, after confronting the PCs, disappears and reincarnates in order to take control (and militarize) House Tarkanan. The players then disrupt an Order of the Emerald Claw plan to use an engineered plague to wipe out Sharn, with the plague being taken by House Jorasco to develop and get out a cure to the infected districts. They're also hired to negotiate for the return of ancient remnants of the War of the Mark from Dhakaani hands (who are playing both sides of the aisle). Afterwards, the players are then hired to either assassinate or escort to safety a Tarkanan turncoat (who is only turning coat because the Dragonmarked Houses have kidnapped her daughter and are threatening her life). Weeks later, in Sharn, earthquakes begin occurring and powered up House Tarkanan assassins (using rediscovered magical items that augment their destructive power immensely) and mercenary monsters begin besieging House Enclaves. It turns out that the House Jorasco and Vadalis reengineered the Emerald Claw plague to only affect individuals bearing (or capable of bearing, which includes about 10% of the population) Aberrant Dragonmarks; depending upon whether the players killed or rescued the turncoat, the Dragonmarked Houses either doped the water supply or turned the turncoat's daughter into a Typhoid Mary. Upon discovering that a plague was ripping through their numbers, House Tarkanan was spurred to action, attempting to take Sharn by force and declare it a sovereign nation ruled by House Tarkanan. The players can either assist Tarkanan (who is personally preparing to bring the entire city down, from a ritual space in the literal bowels of the city, if it turns out that they have been too weakened by the plague to wrest control of the city away), assist the Dragonmarked Houses (who are trying to completely eliminate all Aberrant Dragonmarks but will kill a *lot* of innocent people in the process), or do a little of both (like stopping Tarkanan from bringing the city down *or* taking over while also stopping the Dragonmarked Houses from killing everyone with an Aberrant Dragonmark along with a bunch of innocent people).
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Re: Espionage in Eberron

Postby Hermes12 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:30 am

ThePurple wrote: The players can either assist Tarkanan (who is personally preparing to bring the entire city down, from a ritual space in the literal bowels of the city, if it turns out that they have been too weakened by the plague to wrest control of the city away), assist the Dragonmarked Houses (who are trying to completely eliminate all Aberrant Dragonmarks but will kill a *lot* of innocent people in the process), or do a little of both (like stopping Tarkanan from bringing the city down *or* taking over while also stopping the Dragonmarked Houses from killing everyone with an Aberrant Dragonmark along with a bunch of innocent people).


Great story and I love the way that you set up a three equally valid but contradictory routes to resolution. Really fits in with Eberron's shades of grey!
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Re: Espionage in Eberron

Postby ThePurple » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:10 pm

Hermes12 wrote:Great story and I love the way that you set up a three equally valid but contradictory routes to resolution. Really fits in with Eberron's shades of grey!


Creating all of the different paths and options turned out to be a *lot* of work that my players didn't really care all that much about because one of the characters was an *extremely loyal* dragonmarked scion of House Sivis, who had absolutely no problem with going pure "Dragonmarked" path and the rest of the party was apathetic enough about everything (I *nearly* got a couple of them with the turncoat whose daughter was being held hostage, but the Sivis gnome convinced them that it was serving the greater good) that they didn't really debate anything.

The thing about it all that they really liked, however, was the denouement at the end when I tied together all of their previous adventures which, from their perspective, were largely disconnected: the return of Halas Tarkanan, the Emerald Claw demon-plague, the ancient artifacts, and the turncoat all came back in the final adventure in ways that they weren't expecting, which really pleased them. I was most pleased that, upon learning about everything that he helped accomplish (killing all of those innocent people who were only guilty of *potentially* having an Aberrant Dragonmark, or even one of their descendants or ancestors having one), the Sivis gnome, who was a trial lawyer when not adventuring, had a crisis of conscience and had to reevaluate his loyalties to his own House.

I designed a few other espionage-y campaigns, but they didn't have the same number of branching decision points because making all of those was just an *insane* amount of work for a campaign that would only be played a single time. I did one where the players were a pack of Silver Flame Inquisitors that discovered the hidden agenda, black magic, and generally corrupt shenanigans (including an assassination plot against Jaela Daran that would reignite the war) of Cardinal Krozen and other members of the Council and then had to stop it.

I did another where they were a rag-tag bunch of diplomants and spies working in Thronehold that stop a bomb plot meant to reignite the war. After foiling it and discovering who concocted the plot (Aundairan loyalists from Thaliost seeking to cause other nations to declare war upon Thrane by blaming them for the attack), they were engaged to discover the masterminds behind the plot in Thaliost, who were getting funding from outside but were only engaging in said behavior because Archbishop Dariznu was uncharacteristically ignoring orders from both the Council of Cardinals *and* Jaela Daran herself and enacting draconian punishments that just served to decrease the stability of the city; furthermore, he was becoming paranoid and power hungry, secretly consolidating power and getting ready to cause a schism in the Church and march his own loyal armies upon Flamekeep. After ousting Dariznu (upon discovering that he was under otherworldly influence, causing him to ignore the orders from the Church) and defusing the powerkeg that was Thaliost, they are further engaged to find the source of who was funding the rebels (evidence points them to Stormhome). In Stormhome, they find evidence that Lord Darro ir'Lain (one third of the Triumvirate of Aundair, Second Warlord of the Realm, and Commander of the Knights Arcane) has been funding the rebels of Thaliost and is, along with a number of other Aundairan nobles, planning a coup in which they will oust both Aurala and her brother and place her son Wrogar for reasons left unmentioned (their writings specifically do not blame Aurala or her brother for their actions and many of the nobles expect it to be a bloodless coup). In Darro's castle in Aundair, they discover that the evidence against Darro funding the Thaliost rebels has been fabricated (his money is all going into the coup) and further evidence proves that Darro, and the rest of his conspirators, believe that Aurala is being controlled or affected by some external influence which is driving her to begin the war anew, sure that she will win with an "apocalypse spell" that has been developed by Adal and his ilk. With the assistance of some Kalashtar who are trying to counteract the agents of the Dreaming Dark, the PCs discover that Aurala and Adal are both under the long term effects of mind seeds (just like Dariznu), which have completely changed their personalities and made them crave more and more power and abandon any desire for peace. In the final confrontation, the players have to face Aurala, Adal, and the assembled wizards as they begin casting the massive apocalypse spell (a firestorm large enough to destroy an entire city) as the opening move in the Next War; with the help of the Kalashtar, they are able to psychically enter Aurala's mind and destroy the seed, but Adal is too far gone and must be killed before he finishes casting the Apocalypse spell (destroying the seed in Aurala's mind frees her from its compulsions but places her in a coma due to the insidious influences).

After doing this and discovering the influence of the Dreaming Dark and the Riedran attempts to surreptitiously destabilize all of Khorvaire, the next tier of the campaign would focus on the players, with what little assistance the Five Nations (now aware of their influence of Riedra) are capable of providing, heading over to Adar in order to assist the Adarans in their war against the Riedrans. It would be less "espionage" and more "asymmetrical warfare". After *that* campaign (which is a 10 level war campaign that ends with the liberation of a Riedran bastion city and the destruction of its hanbalan monolith), the players would then move on to freeing Riedra from Quori subjugation and, eventually, moving into Dal Quor itself to fight Il-Lashtavar itself (created as a god-tier Quori) and bring about Il-Yannah by killing it (and likely dying in the process since all of Dal Quor would be reformed while they are trapped there).

The name I gave this campaign was, of course, "Dreams of Peace".
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