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Espionage Organizations in Mystara, page 3



New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination

Base of Operations: Empire of Alphatia.

Symbol: Glowing golden sceptre piercing the orb of Mystara.

Number of Members: 5,000 (actual members, not including the large number of persons indirectly tied to the New Alphatian Society, sympathisers, and the minions of the Wizards).

Organisational Structure: Wizards-only social clubs.

Political Outlook: Strengthening the ideals of the Alphatian ideology, Alphatian supremacy over Mystarans, subjugation of non-Alphatians, promotion of a strict caste society with wizards on top and others kept "in their place".

Types of Operations: Lynching "uppity" non-spellcasters, night raids/intimidation of non-wizards. The concentration of economic power within their hands (through ownership and control of key "industries" and crafts). Major operations also include the dissemination of propaganda and indoctrination of subject & slave classes (especially by use of magical means).

Allies: Many, including Zandor, Elshethara, Matterdy, Hugorth, Verothrics, Favian Vern (suspected), various others and roughly 75% of the Grand Council of Wizards. Any Alphatian Aristocrat not explicitly opposed to the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination is likely to be broadly supportive of its aims. It works in tacit co-operation with the Securitate and also the Ministry of Veracity (MiniVer). There are also a number of foreign Alphatian sympathisers, and even the Storm Soldiers admire the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination’s methods and plans on implementing a similar program once "The Day" comes and they seize power and create a "Hattian Empire".

Enemies: Ericall, Chainbreakers, Society of Freemen, most foreigners, including the Storm Soldiers, which though admiring the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination's methods is its enemy on racial and ideological grounds – Alphatian supremacy is incompatible with Hattian supremacy.

History: In the wake of the successful Thyatian revolt, during the height of the Pacification Wars in Alphatia (AY 1000 – 1080, AC 0 – 80), many enlightened Alphatian aristocrats realised they needed to come up with a new way to make the subjects and slaves accept their lot. Under the guidance of Emperor Alphas VI, the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination (NASI) was founded, "to create a New Alphatia out of the embers of the old, for the benefit of all Alphatians", as their public pronouncement went. Hidden behind the façade of general benevolence, the NASI program of pacifying the subject races was based on three pillars:

SUBJUGATION IS FREEDOM – they spread the ideology that Alphatians valued freedom above all things, and those who accepted their place in Alphatian society would know true freedom, their children might have "the talent" and become aristocrats. They promised that reforms granting increased freedom to Alphatian subjects were "right around the corner" if only everyone worked harder to create a prosperous, utopian society (see "EXPLOITATION IS PROSPERITY"). Since that "prosperity" was never achieved, such reforms always remained as they were promised to be – right around the corner. As part of this "pillar" the Alphatian legal system is lauded as a monumental achievement in the field of true justice, with all other legal systems derided as corrupt by comparison.

LIBERTY IS SLAVERY – This pillar of the NASI program was used to undermine the appeal of Thyatian-style "Citizenship" and the general liberty found among Mystarans outside Alphatia. Here, NASI concentrated on portraying Thyatis as follows: "sure, the Thyatian revolt was successful, but it produced a totalitarian despotate where everyone is expected to do as they're told and they have no independence of initiative. True freedom is found only in Alphatia (see, "SUBJUGATION IS FREEDOM" above) – revolt and you'll end up like those Thyatians, under the yoke of a totalitarian government. Stay submissive to Alphatia, and be free." Portrayal of Thyatis and other Mystaran nations as conformist, totalitarian societies as compared to "freedom loving Alphatia" is especially effective since the vast majority of Alphatia's subjects and slaves never get a chance to see for themselves.

EXPLOITATION IS PROSPERITY – Subjects and slaves were plied with tales of how in neighbouring Alphatian kingdoms the workers who "worked diligently and played by the Alphatian rules," fulfilling and exceeding their tribute quotas had produced bountiful prosperity and enjoyed lives of plenty. Subjects and slaves were told that if only they, too, worked harder and were more dutifully obedient, prosperity was right behind the corner for them. To not do so was to failing your masters, who only want what's best for you. Obedience would lead to prosperity which would lead to the rewards of freedom (see "SUBJUGATION IS FREEDOM"). Thus, those (the vast majority) who lived lives of grinding poverty sending large tributes to Alphatia's treasuries and the coffers of their masters had only themselves to blame for not fulfilling "the plan" and producing a utopia of wealth and prosperity for all. With regard to foreigners visiting Alphatia, NASI has several "model communities" that travellers are directed to, displaying how good life is in Alphatia. They also propagandise effectively, promoting the idea that if only Alphatian society didn't have to face the threat of unreasoning barbarians, like the Thyatians, they wouldn't have to maintain such a large military, and the workers of Alphatia would enjoy a "peace dividend".

Thus, all the "pillars" worked in concert with each other in a coherent propaganda machine. By AY 1080 (AC 80), this ideology had achieved its desired affect, as the Pacification Wars came to an end. Since then, the same basic formula has been used to keep the Alphatian subject populations under control. It is responsible promoting the idea that all Alphatians, aristocrat, subject, and slave alike, accept the basic premises of Alphatian society and prefer it to any alternatives, viewing it as a superior way of life, since it has succeeded for thousands of years. This ideological indoctrination has not always succeeded everywhere (in Dunadale, the Alphatians had to accommodate themselves to some very un-Alphatian concepts, and in Esterhold the natives remain restless). But in the Alphatian heartland – Alphatia itself and Bellissaria, where there is little contact with non-Alphatian concepts and ways of life, it is on the whole the dominant ideology (but see the "Chainbreakers" and the "Society of Freemen").

The NASI operates by rooting out dissidents and "re-educating" them into the "norms and customs of Alphatian thought". A variety of methods are used, because there are a variety of sub-factions within the NASI organisation. NASI is represented among the Grand Council of Alphatia by the "Ad-Hoc Committee on State Security and Un-Alphatian Activities" (with the Alphatian love of lengthy, grand-sounding titles also well represented, but it can be abbreviated "AHCSSUAA", pronounced "Ahsua"). Though the vast majority of the members of the Grand Council are in agreement with the New Alphatian Society's aims and methods, the AHCSSUAA limits its actual membership to a somewhat manageable 63 members. While all are in agreement on the NASI ideology, as eccentric wizards they each have their own pet projects and preferred methods of pursuing NASI aims. As they are also irritable and fractious, they compete against each other as often as they co-operate, running redundant, overlapping missions, and even intentionally sabotaging the efforts of their rivals in order to "prove" that their way of handling things is better. Each of the 63 Committee members runs their own little sub-group. This keeps the organisation from being nearly as omnipresent and successful as it might otherwise be, and thus subversive groups continue to exist in the shadows and cracks of Alphatian society. The motto of NASI is the same as that found on Alphatia's coinage – "Alphatia Above All".

Their most important public front organisation inside Alphatia include the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Alphatia. This organisation "embraces and provides mentors" to children of subjects who are found to have a talent for magic. It then indoctrinates them into the attitudes and mores of Alphatia's spellcasting aristocracy, and uses them as informants, especially against their parents (during this period, the mentored children are known as "young pioneers"). This tends to sever bonds of family trust, making sure that people will have only one focus of loyalty beyond their own individual self-interest: Alphatia. An additional task for NASI propaganda is to keep the vast majority of Alphatia's aristocrats so satisfied with their individual freedom that they fail to notice that only a small fraction of Alphatia's "nobility" have any role in setting government policy, with the majority having no input whatsoever. This is done by promoting the concepts of self-centredness and narcissism that are the hallmark of Alphatia's upper classes, so that they don't ever think of broader political questions.

Outside Alphatia, the various New Alphatian Society factions are expert at organising, financing, and supporting pro-Alphatian front groups. These masquerade as cultural friendship societies and bands of idealistic reformists, and work to undermine Alphatia's enemies from within. They also are adept at providing NASI with information, acting as spies, and operate safe houses for NASI agents working abroad. NASI's arm is thus long indeed, but very fractured.

Recent Operations: Many outside observers believe that Favian Vern might be a member of one of the NASI factions. His program of getting the natives of Esterhold to believe that Alphatian "Imperial Law" is geared towards protecting the interests of Alphatia's subjects and slaves, and that accepting "Alphatian Citizenship" and continued membership in, and service to, the Alphatian Empire (or NACE) would be to their benefit. This is a modernised, updated version of the "Three Pillars". This program holds some promise of keeping Esterhold under Alphatia's thumb and finally subduing resistance among the native Jennites. Whether this program will be successful in the face of continued Jennite recalcitrance and resistance is not known.

Adventure Hooks: Many Alphatian characters have mores similar to that of the NASI ideology of Alphatian supremacy and the "three pillars", and thus could find profitable work acting as agents and troubleshooters for one or more NASI faction. Members of underground, subversive organisations (or just plain subversive individuals) will often run afoul of one or more branch of the NASI octopus, in which case using the various factions against each other is usually the best way to succeed and escape. Each faction has a different leader, who all squabble among themselves for primacy. While all the factions fervently adhere to the NASI creed, that is not enough to make them work together effectively. The various faction leaders give higher priorities to their personal agendas and methods than to co-operation, and this is the organisation's main weakness. Factions fight among themselves in an effort to advance their leader's cause at the expense of rival factions, and characters could be hired on for one of these missions. Such missions are usually particularly nasty and vicious, with schemes within schemes and hidden agenda piled on hidden agenda. Sometimes various factions do work together effectively, if only for awhile. This is when the organisation is most dangerous to its enemies.

NASI engages in numerous kidnappings and "disappearances" (permanent and otherwise) as part of its activities. Adventurers could be hired or persuaded by people whose loved ones are missing to track down the culprits, only to wind up, unbeknownst to them, up against NASI. Once declared an enemy of NASI, it is hard to escape that reputation, and the adventurers are bound to continue to run up against them from time to time thereafter. Magical domination and programmed personality changes are also favoured, often then using "re-educated" subversives as moles to destroy rebellious organisations from within. So a character who finds his friends suddenly exhibiting odd behaviour and beliefs may be coming up against the New Alphatian Society.

Non-aristocrat characters succeeding in business competition against Aristocrat-owned operations will face harassment of various kinds, instigated by the New Alphatian Society. Also, NASI upholds the Alphatian ideal of racial separation – characters involved in interracial relationships or who are accepting of "Thyatian style race mixing" may end up receiving the unwelcome attentions of NASI thugs and mind-benders.

Note that the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination is, "officially" not a sanctioned organisation supported by the Imperial Government. Thus the "Committee" is an "Ad Hoc" one, and the NASI operates largely outside the public eye – people see the results of their efforts, and the spread of its propaganda and ideology is pervasive, but the organisation and its members operate covertly. The attitudes it promotes are especially prevalent on the Alphatian mainland and among pro-Alphatian sympathisers abroad (known colloquially as "useful idiots" among the NASI cognoscenti). But no one publicly admits to the existence of the organisation, and it does not (and cannot) officially draw directly upon the resources of government agencies (like policing forces or the army).

This organisation has as its leadership numerous powerful mages, thus unusual magic items, exotic monstrous servitors, and bizarre constructs are not unusual.

 

Order of the Robe and Veil

Base of Operations: Tel Akbir, Empire of Thyatis.

Symbol: The book of al-Kalim.

Number of Members: 200.

Organisational Structure: Cells.

Political Outlook: Liberation of Tel Akbir from "the Thyatian yoke", unification with Ylaruam.

Types of Operations: Subversion, assassination, religious indoctrination.

Allies: Ylaruam, the Order of the Veil.

Enemies: Thyatis.

Background: Alasiyan resistance to Thyatian rule has existed since the Empire first invaded the region. In the 5th and 6th centuries there were several unsuccessful revolts against Thyatian rule. The defeat of these uprisings forced the Alasiyans who opposed Thyatis to be more circumspect, but resistance didn't disappear. Gradually, many Alaysians started to come to see themselves as Thyatian as much as Alasiyan, transferring their loyalty to the Empire. This drove the resistance groups even further underground, but during the centuries of colonial conflict in Alasiya, the resistance cells were able to get some aid and encouragement from the Alphatians (just as resistance groups opposed to Alphatian occupation in their colonial area received support from the Thyatians). Sometime during this era, the Order of the Robe and Veil was founded, as an umbrella organisation for these resistance groups. They were instrumental in the near-success of the Alphatian "final offensive" of AC 728, but the ultimate failure of that campaign forced the order to re-evaluate its tactics of playing off the Empires against each other.

Gradually a faction grew which migrated out of the occupied zone, deep into the Alasiyan desert, to Ylaruam (then a small town). There they gradually developed a program of Alasiyan liberation, which ultimately inspired al-Kalim to his campaigns against the Empires. Indeed, al-Kalim married the granddaughter of one of the original migrants.

Still, some of the resistance movement of the Order of the Robe and Veil had remained behind, in the region occupied by Thyatis. These cells were instrumental in al-Kalim's campaigns, providing information and sabotaging the Thyatian war effort. Though the Ylari uprising under al-Kalim's leadership was successful, eventually the Thyatians stalemated the Ylari troops. When peace was made, the Tel Akbir region remained under Thyatian control.

The success in liberating the bulk of Ylaruam ironically weakened the resistance to Thyatian rule within the area remaining under the Empire's control. Alasiyans loyal to Thyatis tended to leave the new Ylaruam and settle in the Tel Akbir region, while those who did not desire to live under Thyatian rule tended to move to Ylaruam. This process whittled the Order of the Robe and Veil down to a hard core of fanatics.

Today, the Order of the Robe and Veil is small in size and has few sympathisers in Tel Akbir, though it forms a useful group for Ylari who seek to "recover" the "lost Alasiyan lands". What the members of the Order of the Robe and Veil lack in numbers they make up for in enthusiasm and skill. The order is divided between those who follow the Way of al-Kalim and those who follow earlier Alasiyan traditions, and also between those who want Tel Akbir to become part of Ylaruam and those who want it to be a separate country. This means there are roughly four factions, because not every member who follows the Way of al-Kalim wants union with Ylaruam.

Though small and somewhat dispirited in recent years, the Order of the Robe and Veil has become emboldened lately. With the Thyatian Empire weakened and wracked with civil strife, and successful Ylari raids, enthusiasm among members of the Order is high. Surreptitious recruiting efforts have increased, though still very few citizens of Tel Akbir sympathise with the order's goals. Still, they hope that during the Empire's weakness they will be able to achieve independence or union with Ylaruam at last.

Adventure Hooks: Ylari characters are likely to sympathise with the Order of the Robe and Veil's aims, or at least find the order useful in hampering the Thyatians. Alasiyans from Tel Akbir could likewise be drawn to the order's goals, and if they are known to be "anti-Thyatian dissidents" they will be approached and invited to join. Activities will then include assassinating hated Thyatian officials and prominent Alasiyan "turncoats and collaborators", sabotage, and preparing for "the day of struggle." There is an even more unsavoury aspect to the Order of the Robe and Veil that will disturb honourable people who sympathise with its goals. In order to finance its efforts, the order runs "protection rackets", extorting money from shopkeepers, craftsmen, and shepherds throughout Tel Akbir. Characters might be prodded by their consciences to find some other way of financing the order's activities. Order members will also run into conflict with the Thyatian authorities and secret societies such as the Ordo Magna.

Those opposed to the Order of the Robe and Veil's aims will have the usual challenge rooting out clandestine cells and thwarting well-conceived assassination plots. Even characters just travelling through might come up against the order for whatever reason – perhaps a PC becomes infatuated with a lady who is kidnapped by the order, and her father begs them to help free her or deliver the ransom. The characters then find out later that she is secretly a member of an order cell, not really kidnapped but trying to force her father (who is a loyal Thyatian) to fund the order's aims.

 

Order of the Sea Lions

Base of Operations: Crossbones, Terentias, Empire of Thyatis.

Symbol: Sea lion, rampant.

Number of Members: 100 (Captains and officers of pirate vessels).

Organisational Structure: Network.

Political Outlook: Buccaneering, "freedom to pirate".

Types of Operations: Smuggling, raiding, extortion, kidnapping, sharing information, opposition to anti-piracy measures.

Allies: Derentarius, Hattias.

Enemies: Ierendi, Minrothad, Five Shires.

Background: The Order of the Sea Lions poses as a social club and mutual assistance society for the more militant Thyatian seafaring traders, those who rally to the Empire in time of war and conflict. It is that, but it also serves the more hidden purpose of being an association and information network for Thyatian buccaneers and corsairs. The Order of the Sea Lions was founded early on during the reign of the Emperor Adolphus, in AC 846, by several pirate captains based on Terentias and Hattias. Its creation helped Thyatian corsairs continue to compete in the face of the growing strength of Ierendian, Hin, and Minrothad pirates. Lately, the Sea Lions have turned more to smuggling operations and extortion/protection rackets, but they continue to be active in piracy.

Listed membership is the actual membership of the Sea Lions, which is composed of ship captains and officers as well as a few prominent land-based individuals (usually people who control pirate havens), and does not include the crewmen, informants, and others who work (deliberately or inadvertently) for the Sea Lions.

Adventure Hooks: The Order of the Sea Lions has informants and spies throughout much of the Known World, its reach stretching as far as the Savage Baronies in the west and Bellissaria in the east and from as far as Oceansend in the north and Davania in the south. As a result, players conducting sea trade or simply travelling might come up against the Sea Lions as word of their wealth and itinerary reaches the wrong ears. Many of these informants are shopkeepers and other merchants with whom the Sea Lions conduct their smuggling business. Thus, players buying goods from these tradesmen might end up with smuggled goods, and run afoul of the authorities as a result. The Order of the Sea Lions has ties to the Shadow Hand thieves' guild, so those who run afoul of the one may end up entangled with the other as well.

Characters inclined to the life of a buccaneer can join the Sea Lions. In exchange for 10% of all the booty they get (and the Sea Lions always seem to know the actual amount down to the last copper piece), they can be members in good standing of the Order of the Sea Lions. This is actually an excellent deal, because members have access to the Sea Lions' information network, a variety of hidden pirate bases, the Sea Lions' smuggling operations (great for fencing the loot), and the support, if needed, of other members.

 

Order of the Veil

Base of Operations: Ylaruam, Emirates of Ylaruam.

Symbol: None.

Number of Members: 150-250 members.

Organisational Structure: Hierarchy.

Political Outlook: Promotion of Ylari interests, opposing the colonial interests of Thyatis and Alphatia in the Alasiyan Basin region.

Types of Operations: Confiscation of enemy goods and documentation, espionage, infiltration of enemy organisations, surveillance of suspected Ylari traitors.

Allies: Other Ylari military orders, the Order of the Book and Veil (Tel Akbir).

Enemies: Any nation or person known to be hostile to Ylari interests.

Background: This order was formed circa AC 900, a few decades after the triumph of Suleiman al-Kalim against the armies of Thyatis and Alphatia, as a complement to the other military orders (such as the Orders of the Pike and Mace) under the control of the Vouchery of the Military. Recognising, as al-Kalim had once said, that "even the True Believer must sometimes look to Darkness, for therein lies opportunity for Truth to show the righteous way", the Order of the Veil represents the espionage arm of the Ylari government. Members of this order are sworn to serve the emirates by means of stealth and guile, they are entrusted with such tasks as intercepting enemy messengers, stealing secret information, infiltrating enemy organisations to learn of their plans, and spying on Ylari citizens suspected of treason. They are forbidden from taking a True Believer's life, except when their own lives, or that of another True Believer, are in danger - to do otherwise would be dishonourable - although most people familiar with the order know that its members often kill those who openly stand in their way.

Despite the recognition of these tasks as being critical to the security of Ylaruam, members of the Order of the Veil "live apart" from those of other orders; because of their stealthy ways (as opposed to fighting their opponents openly in the field), they must cover their faces with black veils when in the presence of other warriors - as though to disassociate themselves from the "dishonourable" acts they commit, as well as to hide themselves. Furthermore, in a culture where honour and courage are considered great virtues, members of the Order of the Veil are seen by many people as being less than true men, as befits someone who sneaks about in darkness to get what they need, and never openly challenging their foes. Thus, although many Ylari warriors understand the need for espionage, the respect many members of the order earn is a grudging one. As a result, most members of the order have cover identities, so that they may mix freely in Ylari society without stigma, while at the same time being able to ferret out suspected traitors, should they be ordered to do so.

The Order of the Veil is organised in a loose hierarchy - the majority of its members are the actual agents, who report to the Keeper of the Veil (the spymaster), who reports directly to the Vouchery of the Military concerning all of the order's activities. The codes of conduct practised by the order, as outlined above, are enforced strictly; agents who dishonour the order, or who break their oaths of service, are likely to be executed. Aside from the strict rules, most members are quite free to fulfill their orders as they see fit, so long as they remain faithful to the tenets of al-Kalim, and do no dishonouable act.

Adventure Hooks: Players with Ylari characters might wish to join the Order of the Veil. Certainly, there is some amount of social stigma, but at the same time members of the order are given a considerable amount of leeway in terms of how to accomplish their missions. Prospective order members are recruited in their youth (as with other orders), and the primary attributes required for membership include excellent horsemanship, good manual dexterity, a tough constitution (order members who have been captured by Ylaruam's enemies have described many painful forms of interrogation designed to extract information) and an aptitude for languages (many operations take order members into the lands of the infidel). Provided they meet these standards, PCs could have very rewarding careers within the Order of the Veil, in which they may work behind the scenes to advance Ylari interests.

Players with non-Ylari characters may also run into the Order of the Veil, although as an opposing force. PCs on spying missions against Ylaruam, or otherwise involved in state-sponsored activities which might harm Ylari interests, might arouse the attention of the order, and be visited by some of its members. Initially, their tactics would be to steal information, infiltrate the party somehow, or otherwise find out what the PCs are doing. Once enough information is obtained, the order will act, trying to sabotage the PCs' efforts covertly, or overtly as need be.


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Copyright © 2001, Geoff Gander and James Ruhland. Used by permission. All rights reserved.