Espionage Organizations in Mystara, continued
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis (?), Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Fasces (ancient Thyatian symbol of the regal and later the magisterial authority, from the period prior to the Alphatian invasion and then later during the early Empire of the Bright Age. The fasces were cylindrical bundles of wooden rods, tied tightly together, from which an axe projected; they were borne by guards, called lictors, before praetors, consuls, proconsuls, dictators, and emperors. The fasces symbolise the unity and power of Thyatis).
Number of Members: 2,561.
Organisational Structure: Network.
Political Outlook: Advancement of the power and authority of the Empire of Thyatis, spreading the ideals of Thyatis.
Types of Operations: Currently concentrates much more on advancing Thyatian power and authority than spreading its ideals. Espionage against foreign and domestic enemies (as decided by those in charge of the Ordo), collection of information, knowledge (magical and otherwise), seizing items (magic and otherwise) deemed useful and destruction of those deemed threatening to Thyatis.
Allies: Various Thyatian Senators, nobles and civil servants.
Enemies: Storm Soldiers, New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination, Justiciar Foundation.
Background: The Ordo Magna was the first order founded in Thyatis, and its existence pre-dates the Thyatian Empire. It was founded during the Alphatian occupation (BC 192 Ð 2) as an underground resistance movement. It was the first organisation that bound together the Kerendans, Hattians, and Thyatians into one unified movement, and, under the leadership of Lucinius and Zendrol, was instrumental in the revolt that defeated the Alphatians. Following the Struggle for Freedom, the Ordo Magna was one of the first groups chartered by the Thyatian Empire.
However, many of the leaders of the Ordo Magna felt that Zendrolion's new Empire had simply re-created the despotism of the Alphatians, though with a Thyatian as its tyrant rather than an Alphatian one. Though some felt that this was a necessary evil required to ensure that Thyatis would be strong enough to fend off any future Alphatian counter-attacks, others remained committed to the ideals of Lucinius and the original resistance cells, and their goal of a nation which served the common interest with the input of everyone. During Zendrolion's two decade rule, the Ordo Magna resolved this tension between the two factions by extending its ranks to include members from the Pearl Islands, Ochalea, and the Thyatian-ruled areas on the Isle of Dawn.
This swelled the Ordo Magna's ranks, simultaneously tilting the balance between the factions: the new members came from areas that were occupied by force, and were strongly opposed to Zendrolion. When Zendrolion died, these members were among the first to agitate for overthrowing Thyatian rule, and it looked certain that Zendrolion's empire would not long outlive him. It was at this point that Valentia made her famous Citizenship Proclamation, unifying the Empire on a new basis of legitimacy and largely fulfilling the desires of the Ordo Magna. The Ordo Magna's members then dedicated themselves to insuring that Valentia's ideals were promoted throughout the empire, and to defending them against all who threatened them, including not only Alphatia but many powerful Thyatians who had benefited from Zendrolion's regime.
This early incarnation of the Ordo Magna was a large and sprawling organisation, however, with various factions developing around particular interests. Over time, many of these sub-groups split off from the Ordo and became separate orders on their own account. Thus, the Ordo Magna is the point of origin of many modern Thyatian orders. As a public organisation, the Ordo Magna dwindled in size throughout the Thyatian Bright Age as a result of these secessions, becoming a small gentleman's club by the beginning of the 4th century AC, before finally disappearing in the wake of the Hattian Revolt and the disorders that followed.
But, while the Ordo Magna had disappeared from the public eye, it re-invented itself in secret, under the control of hidden leaders, with a less idealistic agenda. While not opposed to Valentia's reforms, as a secret society the Ordo Magna concentrated mainly on securing Thyatian strength, and grew to use more expedient methods over time. Thus the Ordo advances what it defines (according to its hidden leaders) as Thyatian interests, subverting or assassinating enemies, expansionism against and undermining of Thyatian "enemies" and "rebels" (such as Karameikos). The Ordo Magna is adept at using esoteric ritual magics to enforce its aims, on both recalcitrant members and enemies.
Adventure Hooks: The Ordo Magna is the prototypical secret society bent on world conquest and domination. Its ideals and goals are not as fully and obviously wicked as those of the Storm Soldiers, which makes it somewhat more insidious. The Ordo Magna is also much more subtle and shrouded in mystery than virtually all other secret societies. Characters can go through many adventures that are somehow connected to the Ordo Magna and its aims before ever becoming aware of that fact. Uncovering information pertaining to the Ordo, much less discovering who its leaders are, could be the focus of an entire campaign.
Joining the Ordo Magna is possible, but generally requires much more dedication and obedience than most PCs are willing to submit to. On the other hand, characters can work for patrons who are members of the Ordo, on hire or as a result of some debt or obligation. Characters with goals similar to those of the Ordo might find themselves willingly working for Ordo members. Most adventurers who work for (or against) the Ordo Magna do so without ever knowing so. For those who, for whatever reason, wish to pursue the same goals as the Ordo Magna, loose affiliation is probably preferable to actual membership, which is generally best left to NPCs; PC membership should not be forbidden Ð it is just fairly onerous. Each member of the Ordo tends to have his own sub-organisation, persons who are personally loyal to that member and who are almost always completely unaware of the fact that their boss is a member of the Ordo Magna (and almost always they do not even know such an organisation exists). These followers are used for Ordo missions without knowing the reasons or background (usually they are given plausible rationales, but ones that differ from the real ones, just to keep them from becoming too suspicious).
The Ordo Magna has numerous contacts and members in the Imperial Senate, especially among members of the Optima Faction; thus, the Ordo can make political trouble for characters. Conversely, characters who cross the wrong Senator may end up in trouble with the Ordo.
The Panopticon (Imperial Reconnaissance Office)
Base of Operations: City of Thyatis, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: A cross surrounded by a circle.
Number of Members: 250.
Organisational Structure: Hierarchy.
Political Outlook: Defence of Thyatis against surprise attack, information gathering.
Types of Operations: Divination, code-breaking, monitoring communications, infiltration, development, deployment and operation of magical and mundane detection devices.
Allies: Demetrion, Eusebius, mages of Sclaras, Thyatian government.
Enemies: Alphatia, Ierendi, Ylaruam.
Background: The Imperial Reconnaissance Office was founded as a department of the Imperial Ministry of War early in the Empire's history. It was composed of rangers and scouts responsible for gathering operational intelligence for Thyatian forces, and also fielded spies and infiltrators tasked with gathering strategic intelligence and sabotaging enemy forces. The Imperial Reconnaissance Office remained in this form for many centuries.
In the 780s and 790s AC, the Emperor Alexandros II earned a reputation for precognition and divination that left many baffled. When he abdicated in AC 797, he bequeathed to the Imperial Government an item that explained his exceptional skill in these areas. This item was a large object, dating back to pre-Imperial [DM note: it is in fact Nithian] times, housed in a extensive complex under the Imperial City. The artifact came to be known as the Panopticon, or "All-Seeing Eye". The Imperial Reconnaissance Office was made responsible for its use, and it greatly expanded their intelligence gathering abilities. Though officially still designated the "Imperial Reconnaissance Office", the Office eventually became more commonly known in government circles as the Panopticon, after the name of the artifact Ð though few who use this term know of the existence of the artifact itself, which remains to this day a closely-guarded state secret.
The Panopticon itself is able to scry over huge distances and wide areas, piercing any disguise or illusion (including invisibility and the like). Its main drawback is that as the distance from its location (under the City of Thyatis) increases, the information becomes increasingly hazy and less reliable. Thus, over long distances it is mainly useful in detecting large groups (such as military formations, fleets, and skyships). Plus, to really be useful one must have extensive experience with it in order to understand the information provided and sift out what is of interest to you from the general "background information" (referred to as "static" by IRO officers). Those who work for the IRO have become quite skilled at identifying threats to Thyatis, but they do make mistakes. Plus, to be truly useful, the Empire's leaders have to both be aware of the information and believe it. Two major recent disasters show that this isn't always the case. In the 950s, the Emperor Gabrionus V paid more attention to the Foreign Office's Intelligence Section, which told him more of what he wanted to hear (that war could be averted through diplomacy, and later during the war that efforts to "de-escalate" the "crisis" would lead to peace), and ignored the "militarists" in the IRO. This failure to properly use the information provided by the Panopticon was one of the factors that lead to the near conquest of Thyatis by Alphatia. When Thincol became Emperor, his use of the Panopticon's divinatory powers was instrumental in allowing the relatively small Thyatian forces to out-manoeuvre the Alphatian armies on the Isle of Dawn, crush them, and recover Thyatian territory there.
However, late in Thincol's reign he fell into a trap similar to that which ended Gabrionus V's reign so ignominiously. Enamoured of his mistress, Anya, he listened to her advice over that of others, including the IRO. Several Thyatian field commanders during the war also arrogantly disregarded intelligence information, instead following their own intuitions. Most destructively, the IRO itself was staffed with numerous incompetent and inattentive officers, who made many mistakes and lapses, failing to provide good reports and thus discrediting the entire Panopticon. These problems were one of the factors that crippled the Thyatian war effort. However, the Panopticon still shined on numerous occasions during the Wrath War, especially in identifying Alphatian skyship raids aimed at the Thyatian mainland and guiding RAF forces to intercept and destroy them. Its major success and most significant failing came near the end of the war. The IRO was responsible for locating the first Alphatian invasion fleet, which was intercepted and turned back. Later they properly identified the Alphatian forces landing at Cubia and invading Ylaruam, and warned the Emperor about it. However, following the advice of Anya, he refused to believe this was the main invasion force, instead believing it was a diversion or feint. Only when belatedly did the Imperial General Staff persuade Thincol that this was the main Alphatian army, but by then it was too late and Alphatian troops were entering Thyatis. Of late, Eusebius has relied on information provided by the Panopticon to give him reliable information. But there is one area where it has been less efficient than normally Ð the region around Edairo on the Isle of Dawn is covered with an unusual amount of "static", making perceiving threats in Thothia very difficult.
So, while very useful, the Panopticon is not infallible. Information gathered is relayed to forces in the field through various means, usually (but not limited to) scrying and magical communication. The artifact itself can be used by anyone in physical contact with it, but only those skilled in deciphering the information it gives (not an intuitive process, but something that requires training and experience) can make much sense of it.
Adventure Hooks: Because, especially over long distances, the Panopticon is best at identifying large groups or objects, but not nearly as good at spotting threats the size of a small band of adventurers, nations and organisations intending to harm Thyatian interests will more often hire adventurers to do the job. Also, adventurers could be hired to discover the source of the additional "static" in and around Edairo, and eliminate it (though they won't be told why this is important, and thus might have great trouble succeeding).
Also, of special note: the Panopticon, with its artifact-level power (and thus ability to "perceive" through magics that block normal scrying, such as that which covers the Imperial Palace) is used to screen entrants into the Imperial Palace in Thyatis Ð seeing through disguises, invisibility, and the like, and being used to direct guards to intercept infiltrators. Thus, adventurers trying to break into the Imperial Palace will run up against unusual levels of difficulty, and guards who seemingly know where they are at all times and predict their every move, cutting them off with great skill.
Securitate (Alphatian Department of State Security)
Base of Operations: Empire of Alphatia.
Symbol: A golden dagger with a red five-pointed star superimposed over its hilt.
Number of Members: 2,500.
Organisational Structure: Quasi-government agency under the supervision of Empress Eriadna.
Political Outlook: Maintenance of the status quo and magocratic purity of Alphatian society.
Types of Operations: Ferreting out dissident commoners and keeping the non-aristocrats in line through 're-education', espionage and counter-espionage. Indoctrination of commoner recruits of military forces to guarantee loyalty to the regime, espionage against foreigners to ensure they don't spread the "taint of unauthorised philosophies among the masses."
Allies: Zandor, Eriadna, Alphatian Imperial Government, the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination.
Enemies: Chainbreakers, Society of Freemen, Thyatis and other enemies of Alphatia generally.
Background: Currently a part of the Ministry of Harmony (MiniHarm), the Alphatian Department of State Security (or Securitate) has existed since the codification of Alphatia's social hierarchy. It functions as the empire's intelligence and counter-intelligence arm, and is used to ferret out traitors, spies, and dissidents aimed at fomenting resistance against Alphatian rule. It often works in tacit (but never in official) co-operation with the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination, and many members of the Securitate are associate members of the New Society. The Alphatian Department of State Security is, however, simultaneously more benign and more dangerous. It is not as fanatical as the New Alphatian Society, and operates mainly against "real" threats to Alphatia's security and stability. Its indoctrination methods are aimed more at persuasion than outright mind-wiping, but it can go to the extremes. In contrast to the New Alphatian Society, it has the full weight of Imperial power and law behind its operations, and thus operates with more uniformity and predictability than the fractious New Alphatian Society does. In the mid 19th Century AY (9th Century AC), in the wake of the successful revolt in Ylaruam, the Securitate became notorious for a series of purges and "show trials" among all ranks of Alphatian society, rooting out traitors and subversives. They also induced a terrible famine among insurrectionist agricultural subjects and slaves throughout Alphatia, resulting in the depopulation of large regions. Under Tylion IV and Eriadna, however, the Securitate adopted less extreme measures and was brought to heel through a variety of reforms - mass executions of dissidents and rebels are almost unheard of any more. Eriadna, though recognising the need for the New Alphatian Society's "program" in order to keep the empire stable and harmonious, is disturbed by many of its methods, and thus the Securitate's co-operation with the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination is less overt these days. As a new policy aimed at the same goals, the Securitate has promoted the "Cult of the Leader", lionisation of the Empress as nearly infallible in her greatness and wisdom; the habit of calling her "Eriadna the Wise" originated with propaganda spread by Securitate agents. They have also promoted the idea that Eriadna is the "great mother" of Alphatian society, the indispensable hub. This worked even on Alphatia's ruling Kings and Queens to such a great degree that they were all cowed to submission when she returned from the dead on the floating continent in AC 1010. This itself has led to almost messianic reverence for her, as the "maximum leader" of Alphatia, a reverence that thrives in the face of such failures as the catastrophic outcome of the Wrath War and millions of dead Alphatians and several destroyed cities, including the Empire's ancient capital. This is just one example of how successful the Securitate is in maintaining the imperial ideology of Alphatia.
Adventure Hooks: Characters spying on Alphatia, committing sabotage in Alphatia (for example, Glantrians during the Wrath War), or attempting to stir up revolt and dissent in Alphatia are bound to run afoul of the Securitate. Alphatia has always excelled at running disinformation campaigns, being much better at propaganda and agitprop than their Thyatian rivals. Characters might easily get thrown off track regarding their goals on account of misinformation spread by the Securitate, thus wasting valuable time and perhaps allowing Alphatian agents to thwart the aims of their enemies.
Society of Freemen
Base of Operations: Draco, Kingdom of Stonewall.
Symbol: A sword pointed upwards, with its tip balancing the scales of commerce Ð but in the "inner circle" of the Society, they are viewed as the scales of justice.
Number of Members: 2000+ members.
Organisational Structure: Social clubs.
Political Outlook: Change of Alphatian society. Various programs proposed, some mutually contradictory. The main policies include elimination of the caste structure and an end to the magocracy, either through reforms or revolution. Some hope for Citizenship and representation (almost Thyatian-style), some want to emulate the Darokinian Republic or Minrothad, while others simply want life to be similar to that in most "normal" Mystaran countries (fair treatment and just laws). Some also want to dissolve the empire which is, in the opinion of those holding this view, "propping up the corrupt institutions of magocracy and exploitation, through the Grand Council and the heavy hand of Imperial force". These would like to have each Kingdom govern itself separately, perhaps in a loose confederation or perhaps with complete independence.
Types of Operations: Varies widely, from agitation and information spreading, to "direct action" against "agents of the status-quo". Agents in the employ of Alphatian aristocrats or the empire's governments (both Imperial and Kingdom) work to subtly undermine their efficiency, and use the information they have access to as a means of thwarting their "beloved masters", by making sure it falls into the hands of those who can use it against the Alphatian ruling class.
Allies: Some sympathetic foreign governments and organisations. Sometimes co-operates with the Chainbreakers, but does not consider them allies and indeed sees the philosophies of the Chainbreakers as "too radical".
Enemies: New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination, Securitate.
Background: The Society of Freemen was formed in the early 960s AC (1960s AY), in the wake of the catastrophic defeat in the "Spike Assault" war. Many Alphatian soldiers had died, and Alphatia's subjects had made great sacrifices for the war effort. The seeming victory was squandered with heavy casualties among the subject castes, causing disaffection and dissatisfaction among many who had previously believed in the "New Alphatian Society" concepts promoted by the New Alphatian Society of Indoctrination. The most open disaffection was concentrated in Stonewall, especially the city of Draco, which has always been the place where Alphatian subjects can speak most freely.
There, in the summer of AY 1962, the sons and daughters of several prominent Alphatian Freemen and Gentry met and promulgated the "Port Draco Statement", a polemical resolution calling for political reforms and infused with rhetoric considered radical and dangerous in Alphatian society. As usual, those involved were not arrested, but over the following months and years they all met "untimely accidental deaths" or "disappeared", due to the reaction of members of the New Alphatian Society. This ended up "radicalising" many of their parents and friends as they understood the pattern of disappearances and deaths and knew what it meant. Out of this grew the Society of Freemen.
The Society of Freemen was then founded in AY 1964 in Draco, ostensibly as a sort of "chamber of commerce" and social club for Alphatian subjects of the Freeman and Gentry class (mostly Freemen) Ð businessmen and traders. The Society of Freemen spread quickly throughout Alphatia, gaining a presence in all the Kingdoms and major cities of Alphatia by AY 1968. Their public role is to promote the interests of tradesmen and craftsmen, and to serve as a "networking" venue for Alphatian entrepreneurs, and thus seems like a staid, uninteresting entity.
This is exactly what the organisers planned. Society of Freemen chapter houses are built in locales not commonly frequented by most Alphatian aristocrats. They are not hidden, but they are not conspicuous either, and thus tend to blend into the background of daily life. Behind this façade of normalcy, the activists of the Society of Freemen plot clandestinely.
Adventure Hooks: The Society of Freemen is somewhat less hard-core and more circumspect than the Chainbreakers, not as given to big risks. To the Chainbreakers, this makes the Society "uncommitted," full of "bourgeois poseurs", faux-radicals. Some even suggest, perhaps truthfully, that the Society of Freemen was actually instigated by one of the factions of the New Alphatian Society, used to keep its thumb on dissidents (and also as a tool to embarrass rivals within the New Alphatian Society itself).
All this is true, but the Society of Freemen also has many dedicated, active members and is relatively free of infiltration by agents of either the Securitate or the New Alphatian Society. Operating "in the open" as a seemingly innocuous organisation is actually a reason for the success of the Society of Freemen where other bourgeois movements have failed.
The Society of Freemen undertakes only limited "operations" of its own, but it is perhaps the best potential friend and safe haven for people, foreign or native, working against the interests of Alphatia's rulers. It is a handy source of critical information, and also provides discrete "safe houses" for those who know the right contacts. This is very valuable to, for instance, Glantrian agents during the Wrath War who are operating clandestinely in Alphatia.
Note on membership: There are many more members of the "front" organisation that the Society of Freemen poses as (a social club for Alphatia's trade and craftwork subjects). About 100 times as many people belong to the Society on that basis. The "membership" number is the approximate number of radical activists in the "inner circle", the Society-of-Freemen-as-Secret-Society wing. Virtually all of the others are sympathetic to the Society's goals and cause, however; they just aren't as active.
Base of Operations: Hattias City, Empire of Thyatis.
Symbol: Twin silver lightning-bolts, parallel to each other.
Number of Members: 1000+ members.
Organisational Structure: Cell-like hierarchy.
Political Outlook: Hattian supremacy and racial purity. Subjugation of non-Thyatians.
Types of Operations: Propaganda and recruitment into "the cause"/"the struggle", bullying non-Thyatians, terrorism.
Allies: Hattian government, Hattian State Secret Police.
Enemies: Anyone and everyone who stands in the way of "the cause" of Hattian supremacy. That means just about anyone and everyone who isn't a fanatic.
Background: Like the Hattian State Secret Police, the Storm Soldiers have existed in one form or another for seven centuries. Though recent Hattian propaganda has portrayed it as starting in the Ierendian colonies as a response to "Thyatian oppression", members of the Storm Soldiers actually have nothing but contempt for Ierendi. They use this fiction as a ruse to gain sympathy (and thus donations) from the gullible that are duped into seeing the Storm Soldiers as a "band of freedom fighters" engaged in a struggle for liberation.
The actual Storm Soldiers started out as a splinter faction of the Ordo Magna composed largely of Hattians. It broke away from the Ordo Magna early in the 3rd Century AC as it became more extremist. It was behind the rise in Hattian supremacist sentiment that led to the Hattian Revolt of AC 313. Following the failure of that uprising, the Storm Soldiers evolved into several factions, all operating within the same umbrella organisation. The main factions are the "Pure Storm Soldiers", which consists exclusively of Hattian supremacists. The "True Storm Soldiers" welcomes other ethnic Thyatians (only) and emphasises the racial unity and purity of all Thyatians. Though they despise Alphatians (because Alphatians are alien, non-Thyatians), they "admire" Alphatian society and seek to emulate it with regards to scorning "race mixing".
Adventure Hooks: Everyone loves to beat up on Storm Soldiers, as such they make a great foil for adventurers. In addition to adventures directly involving them, Storm Soldiers can be used as side-encounters in adventures where they aren't the main focus and as red herrings to great effect. Note that, under the guidance of agents of the Hattian State Secret Police, they can engage in plots of greater subtlety and cunning than the Storm Soldiers are usually credited with. The Storm Soldiers can be used as comic relief if one wants, but they are a serious danger Ð they wouldn't have thrived for almost eight centuries if they hadn't been crafty and capable.
Hule and the Secret Societies: The Agents of Hule
Hosadus loves foreign secret societies, and uses them often. While Hule has its own organisations, whenever possible Hosadus prefers to manipulate other groups to do his work for him Ð and take any blame that happens as a result. Agents of Hule have infiltrated most of the major secret societies to one degree or another. Hosadus has difficulty infiltrating the smaller ones, where members are likely to know every other member and be more personally dedicated. The Agents of Hule have also been thwarted in attempts to infiltrate a few other notorious groups. Hosadus has tried many times to infiltrate the Ordo Magna, for example, but never with success.
But few of the others have succeeded in keeping Hule's agents out. Hosadus then uses these to infiltrators to spread information (or disinformation) to manipulate the organisations, and gather information. He also emplaces agents to give orders and missions to subordinates within a secret society, causing them to do things that benefit his plans. For this, large organisations work better because they have a harder time keeping track of everything that the secret society is doing at any one time. The Agents of Hule are also masters at creating "backstories" that make their orders seem plausible and in accordance with whatever goals and policies the organisation in question is pursuing.
As for these Agents, they could be considered a type of "Secret Society" themselves (and thus are listed as "Agents of Hule"). But Hosadus changes their organisational structure frequently, in a manner that only he understands, rearranging things to facilitate his schemes and machinations. Sometimes his agents are operating effectively independently, other times there is one overarching organisation they all report to (always with a different name than previous ones), and much of the time there are several different organisations, often apparently working at cross purposes or in competition with each other. Only Hosadus understands the full reasons behind these seemingly arbitrary changes. Somehow Hule's agents manage to adapt and function very effectively in this chaos, where for most people this sort of thing would effectively cripple operations. The Agents of Hule instead tend to thrive on this, while it hampers the efforts of other agencies to counter Hule's efforts, or deduce the weaknesses and chain of command of the Agents of Hule, much less gather accurate intelligence.
Copyright (c) 2001, Geoff Gander and James Ruhland. Used by permission. All rights reserved.