Betrayed by the Emerald Claw!!

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In my player group, one of the PCs is playing an "overzealous" priest of the Blood of Vol.  He is a member of the Order of the Emerald Claw and I may have to pop his bubble as to how evil the Order of the Emerald Claw actually is.

I was planning to do this later, but now I have to do it earlier.

So, suggestions?  Besides stripping him naked and hanging him up and being whipped by the EC knights for running away?

Author of Elementalism in Atlas Games' Occult Lore. DAZ 3D

Can you tell us a bit more about this character and the situation the party is in (which nation, what are they currently doing, and so forth)? A terrorist act of the Emerald Claw against friends and allies of the party, even as collateral damage, should hammer home the point that allying with terrorist organisations is seldom a good idea, but for a detailed suggestion tailored to this circumstance, more details would be nice. 

My Eberron Characters. Commissions by various artists on Deviant Art.

Character history:

Essar Kalvin learned long ago as a member of the Emerald Claw who the true masters of the Blood were. He has been rotting in the Brelish prison system for nearly three years with that knowledge racing through his mind. The revelation of the Blood being run by a group of undead has given rise to a heretic. For Essar knows what must be done as the core message of the Blood, that divinity come from within and not from without still rings true for him.


However the Blood must be purified and its true work, the work of finding and using a way to create a truly good afterlife must begin in earnest. The task will be difficult however as while the undead and those aware of them and indeed collaborate with them must be brought down. At the same time the members of the Blood must be preserved from a bloody civil war in the faith, as Silver Flame zealots would see it as the perfect chance to crush the Blood once and for all.


But the first task is assembling a organization capable of destroying the undead who run the Blood, and doing it while remaining undetected will be even more difficult. However Essar is confident that he will succeed, if for no other reason then to not submit to defeat.


The party:

The party is made up of former PoWs of all nations.  So far, the group is in Breland, and their goal is to stop the Aurum.  And so far, just the Priest have the two major hooks for the party.  One is to explore a forgotten Daikhaani ruin and the last is to get rid of a group terrorizing Sharn.  The group is, ironically, the Order of the Emerald Claw.

So far, the group has separated, and Essar is walking into a trap.  He is trying to get hirelings at the moment.  


 

Author of Elementalism in Atlas Games' Occult Lore. DAZ 3D

I'm not sure I see the conflict.

By core canon, The Blood of Vol itself isn't innately evil. The Emerald Claw began its existence as a patriotic organization; it has since been misled and corrupted into an extremist terrorist organization. However, the majority of the agents of the Emerald Claw are still patriots devoted to their nation and their faith. It's simply that they are willing to undertake terrorist actions that are repellent to many other followers of the faith in pursuit of their goals, and more importantly, that they are being misled and used by their leaders, who do not actually share their faith. Erandis and her inner circle tell the EC that their actions are working towards their greater divine purposes, when actually they aren't.

This is, as I see it, exactly what Essar's background is about. He realizes that the Emerald Claw is being led by corrupt undead who do not believe in the true goals of the faith, and what he wants to do is to put together a force that can destroy Erandis and the others who are leading the faithful astray. So in other words, he knows the Emerald Claw is evil; he simply believes that it can be redeemed if its evil undead leaders can be removed from power.

Personally, I think this is a compelling story and good basis for a campaign arc. Rather than trying to crush that story and say that the EC is unredeemably evil, I'd try to play upon it: place him in conflict with Emerald Claw agents who he served with during the war, who he knows to be devoted Karrnathi patriots, but who are completely, zealously devoted to their undead commanders - Karrns who accuse HIM of being the heretic and the traitor for turning on the Queen of the Dead and her sacred agents. Add an undead officer who can be a good lower-level stand-in for Erandis - the person who is directly leading his former friends to commit terrorist actions. Is he going to kill his friends for following their beliefs? Or will he try to convince his current teammates to defeat these former friends without killing them, and try to prove to them that their leaders are leading them astray? For that matter, given the actions these people are performing in the name of the Blood, can they be redeemed, or have they gone too far?

Essentially, I don't see a reason to burst his bubble. Instead, I'd challenge him NOT to burst his bubble: he's old friends doing horrible actions in the service of manipulative leaders - does he think they can truly be redeemed?

For me, this ultimately comes down to the idea of a campaign being a collaborative story. Your base vision of the EC is that it's irredeemably evil. However, the player has come to you with a story based around the idea that it can be redeemed. That's the story he wants to experience. As a DM, I'd try to find a way to work with that... to make it a hard thing that puts him in difficult positions - again, fighting former allies who think he is the traitor, and who are doing terrible things in the service of their corrupt masters - but who nonetheless could be redeemed, if the player can find a way to achieve his goals.
As a side note, I had a PC in one of my campaigns who had a similar background, though with a slightly different direction. He was a paladin of the Blood of Vol whose warlord father had served with the EC and lost everything when the orders were denounced. As a child, he was smuggled to Lhazaar and raised by Seekers. Erandis saw his potential, and provided him with guidance as well as fanning the flames of his hatred against Kaius for betraying the Blood and his father.

His goal wasn't to overthrow the EC, because at the start of the game he believed in Erandis, just like most of the EC; instead, his goal was to raise a force to overthrow Kaius. The catch was that the PLAYER knew that Erandis was evil and that overthrowing Kaius was a terrible idea; he just figured that his character wasn't going to figure that out until after bringing down Kaius. So essentially, his Heroic arc was building up support and allies; his Paragon arc would be an attempt to bring down Kaius and take his place (remember, his father was a Karrn warlord); and the Epic arc would be the "Whoops, that was a terrible idea" attempt to clean up the mess, destroy Erandis, and cleanse the corruption afflicting the Blood of Vol.
I'll also add that as a DM, I would be more than happy to create situations where he will have to kill his former allies in the name of the greater good. There's a necrotic resonator that will start an uncontainable zombie outbreak if they set it off, and if he messes around trying to take them alive or talk things out, they may have time to set it off - so what does he do? But I'd emphasize that they have been misled by the corrupt leaders, that they somehow BELIEVE that this serves Karrnath and the Blood when he can see it doesn't - that this simply proves that he must find a way to remove the cancer at the heart to keep more people like this from being corrupted or misled. It's a great way to have Erandis's influence felt long before she is ever encountered in person, by seeing her influence over these one-time patriots. Having to kill the old war buddy to save innocent civilians; having the war buddy curse the "traitorous" PC with a last breath; this is a perfect "ERAAANDISSS!" moment.
That's awesome stuff.


I've come to view the Blood of Vol as one of the most engaging elements of Eberron, because of stuff like this.

I really hope that the 5e Eberron support includes you getting more page space to fit this sort of "here's some stories that this element makes possible" stuff.
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I'll just note that to me, part of point of not being bound by canon is that you don't have to be bound by your own previous assumptions, either. In one campaign, I might run the Emerald Claw as 100% evil villains, with no thought for their motivations or humanity, because it fits the theme and player expectations of the game. On the other hand, when I get a campaign with a PC like Essar, I'd stop to say "OK, he wants more complexity from the Emerald Claw - what can I do to work that into this story?"

In the same campaign that had the BoV paladin, another player wanted to play a good-aligned warlock working for the Lords of Dust. Essentially, his idea was that he believed the eventual release of the Overlords was inevitable, and his Overlord was MORE benevolent than the others... sure, humanity would be enslaved by a fiendish monster, but at least they'd be alive, sane, and have some semblance of life as we know it, as compared to the utter devastation some of the other Overlords would bring. I'd never considered the idea that I might have a PC working to free an Overlord, or that there might be an Overlord whose rise would be anything but apocalyptic. But I ran with it and worked with the player to develop the story of the Overlord, and it turned out to be a very interesting character and campaign.

So back to the original point, if the PC's desired story is "I must find a way to redeem the Order of the Emerald Claw", I'd try to find a way to make that a challenging and interesting ongoing story as opposed to saying "It can't be done, those bastards are just too evil"... even if that's how I've run them in previous campaigns.
And so far, just the Priest have the two major hooks for the party.  One is to explore a forgotten Daikhaani ruin and the last is to get rid of a group terrorizing Sharn.  The group is, ironically, the Order of the Emerald Claw.


OK, so coming back to suggestions that might be more concretely useful in the current campaign: I think this works perfectly with Essar's story... I'd just change the idea of what it means to "get rid" of the Order of the Emerald Claw. Rather than say that the EC must be utterly eliminated, I'd personally establish their undead commander as Erandis' representative and the person who is keeping the unit focused on her mission. I'd further consider having this commander have some sort of mental coercion ability, so it can later be established that he was influencing or directly forcing some of his soldiers to do things that they wouldn't do in their right minds.

I'd then have an encounter with the EC in which the priest recognizes former comrades, and is surprised by their utter devotion to Erandis and by their willingness to engage in horrifying actions. He may well have no choice but to kill them - but it should seem strange to him that he can't reason with them and that these people he has fought alongside in the past are taking actions so at odds with their former idealism.

A second encounter could establish the undead commander, thus giving the key clue as to what is going on, and reinforcing Essar's basic story: the Blood is being corrupted by Erandis's undead cabal.

The final mission, therefore, would focus on eliminating this leader while ideally killing as few of the EC soldiers as possible, so that he can then see who can be freed from the corrupting influence once the undead leader is removed. It might not be possible to redeem all of the prisoners, but he can save some. The story thus ends with the Emerald Claw influence in the city being broken, and with Essar now having a few allies on the inside who are dedicated to helping him with his ongoing quest.
Wow, good heavy response on everything, Keith.  It's making me reconsider my plans.  If he wants to experience the Emerald Claw as an organization with more of a gray area, then I should give him what he wants.  Maybe not all of the cells are terrorists, I think I get what you are saying, but he experiences both sides of the Emerald Claw.

Both good and evil.  You get used to looking at eberron through black and white terms but you forget, as a DM, that Eberron is more complex than that.  

Author of Elementalism in Atlas Games' Occult Lore. DAZ 3D

Maybe not all of the cells are terrorists...


To be clear, I'm suggesting that the Sharn EC cell are terrorists. I'm simply suggesting that those terrorists...

- May be people Essar served with in the war.
- May believe that Kaius betrayed his country by accepting the Treaty of Thronehold, and that their "terrorist" actions are for the greater good of Karrnath.
- Tied to the above, may consider all Brelish to be enemy combatants, even though they are attacking a civilian population.
- May believe that every action taken by the Queen of Death is in some way (which they don't understand, but it's not their place to) is advancing the quest to destroy the Sovereigns, eliminate death, and allow all mortals to become gods... whats the sacrfice of a few Sovereign-loving Brelish in the face of that?

... And most of all...

- May be brainwashed, mystically influenced, or directly dominated by their undead commander, causing them to believe or do things they might not believe or do if the commander was eliminated.

Thus, the point is that Essar would recognize some of the EC, be suprised they would believe these things, and potentially realize that by destroying the undead leader he may be able to redeem some of them.

The EC is a terrorist organization that frequently engages in horrific attacks against civilian populations. It's an organization whose actions are often horrifying to other Seekers. So I'm not suggesting that you have an EC cell whose members aren't terrorists; I'm simply saying that they may have personal justifications for their actions... and that in line with the story Essar's player has created, they may be manipulated by corrupt undead.
Now I understand what you said through the first four parts.  

 

Author of Elementalism in Atlas Games' Occult Lore. DAZ 3D

In light of the gray and complex morality aspects of Eberron, I have always disliked how all members of the Emerald Claw tend to be portrayed as utterly evil in Eberron products despite their being mortals with free will. That's why I like notions of redemption and other ideas discussed in this thread.
Well, per Keith's suggestions I plunged Essar into a brawl with Karrnathi mercenaries.  I originally was going to have a member of the Emerald Claw come in and save his little touchey, but lo and behold, his companions had a streak of conscience and are running to his aid.   

Author of Elementalism in Atlas Games' Occult Lore. DAZ 3D

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