Many factions vie for control of the realms of Grim Hollow. Today we’ll consider what makes each of them a good patron, dastardly foe, or even a group that player characters may seek to join.
The factions of Grim Hollow often operate across national borders and alliances to accomplish their own goals, adding texture and greater opportunities for conflict to your campaign world. These goals can be used to unify your characters together or against a common enemy; or they might be a way to differentiate one party member from another despite otherwise shared campaign goals.
The Thaumaturge is a coalition of powerful and secretive archmages who have joined together to fight world ending threats outside the politics of rival nations. They especially seek out major monstrous threats such as daemon lords or eldritch abominations and quietly eliminate them to protect the world.
Joining The Thaumaturge:
The organization accepts only the most powerful archmages as voting members so it’s unlikely that an entire party would be able to join. However, spellcasting characters may eventually aspire to join the ranks at the height of their career. It is more likely that the characters would become affiliated as agents of one of the archmages.
The Thaumaturge as a Patron:
The Thaumaturge makes an excellent patron for an adventuring group, especially for characters optimized to gather information on, or hunt, monsters. The party might start with hunting smaller monsters spawned by larger horrors. They gather lore on more significant targets to bring back to their patrons, before eventually being dispatched to deal with the creature themselves once they are adequately prepared.
Wizards, bards, sorcerers, and druids would all find themselves well suited to working alongside the Thaumaturge. Warlocks less so, dependent upon their patron and whether the Thaumaturge considers them a threat. Even martial classes capable of magic such as rangers or certain rogues would make excellent agents of the Thaumaturge.
Being a member of the Thaumaturge means that the Arcanist Inquisitors from the Castinellan Provinces are your sworn enemy, as they hunt you and your fellow mages.
The Thaumaturge as a Foe:
Given the narrow focus of the faction’s goals, it is less likely for a party to become an enemy of the Thaumaturge. The faction is concerned first with defeating creatures and anomalies that threaten the world, and with collateral damage second.
A kingdom might learn of the Thaumaturge’s plans to combat a monster inside a populated or valuable area and employ the characters to rescue the populace or otherwise minimize the damage caused by rogue archmages. Though provided the characters don’t prevent the destruction of the creature, the archmages are unlikely to seek vengeance.
The Company of Free Swords
The Company of Free Swords is a group of professional mercenaries. Highly trained, well-equipped, and numerous, they’re willing to be hired for any job, big or small.
The Company’s members are loyal to each other and value bonds of fellowship, going out of their way to seek vengeance on those who break a contract or harm a member of the Company.
While the Company takes plenty of morally grey assignments, they generally turn down black deeds like razing peasant villages, poisoning city water supplies, or trafficking slaves.
Joining The Company of Free Swords:
The Company takes all classes and skill sets, though those most optimized for war are most likely to find themselves most at home. It’s easy to join if the character is willing to swear loyalty to the Company above all other obligations.
The Company of Free Swords as a Patron:
The Company of Free Swords makes an excellent patron, as they accept all kinds of employment allowing for a varied campaign. The party might find themselves detached to guard a caravan one week, delivering supplies to the Company’s various outposts the next, or then sent to slay a monster the week after that.
Fighters and rogues may seem the most likely fit, but the Company has plenty of mages among their number as well. Characters that can cook, heal, or inspire soldiers will find lots of friends in the Company. While the Company takes all kinds of talent, characters will need to be motivated by either payment or a fellowship of arms if they are to serve the Company.
The Company of Free Swords as a Foe:
The Company can easily become an unintentional foe in your campaign. There are two sides to every conflict and the one with the most coin can hire the Company of Free Swords. That could easily place the characters in opposition.
The Company doesn’t hold grudges unless they face a dishonorable foe. Should the characters operate beyond acceptable warfare practices such as attacking Company assets outside the immediate conflict or using especially underhanded tactics that result in the deaths of Company brothers or sisters; members of the Company are likely swear a blood oath of vengeance against the party. Then no place in Etharis will be safe for them.
The Augustine Trading Company
While headquartered in Morencia, the Augustine Trading Company has branches in all corners of the world. Very wealthy, and politically connected, the Trading Company has its hands on most forms of trade. But it specializes in selling arms.
Their latest scheme involves capturing and breeding monsters for deployment in war, including lycanthropic thralls they call warbreed and a new project to create eldritch mutants.
Joining The Augustine Trading Company:
The Trading Company is always looking for guards, merchants, smiths, and even funds its own college of wizardry in Morencia. Characters with knowledge of beasts like rangers or druids are also helpful with the Trading Company’s new breeding programs. Members need to love money, and not care what needs to be done to get it. The Trading Company sells just about anything to anyone without concern for how it might be used.
The Augustine Trading Company as a Patron:
The Augustine Trading Company is a natural employer for adventurers. Caravans and ships are always in need of guards to keep away bandits and slay monstrous terrors. More powerful characters might be brought in to recover dangerous specimens for the breeding programs or locate rare artifacts needed for a particular deal.
Dwarves and gnomes are valued by the Trading Company for their manufacturing expertise, as is anyone with crafting tool proficiencies. Bards and other charismatic characters are helpful for negotiating deals, and characters who know multiple languages are in high demand by the world spanning trade network.
The Augustine Trading Company as a Foe:
Rival merchants easily run afoul of the Trading Company, as do those that try to prevent the conflicts that it profits from. The characters might become enemies of the Trading Company simply by becoming too successful protecting the innocent and cutting into the profits from the weapons the Trading Company would have sold.
Characters that follow the teachings of the Arch Seraph Miklas might be offended by the enslavement of creatures used in the Trading Company’s breeding programs, even if those creatures are monsters themselves.
The Ebon Syndicate
The Ebon Syndicate is a massive criminal network that took root in the Bürach Empire before spanning across the continent. They deal in assassination, slavery, drug trafficking, theft, blackmail, and espionage. The Syndicate is most focused on cities, especially in Altenheim and the rest of the Empire. They will do just about anything for a coin.
Joining The Ebon Syndicate:
Given the foul deeds that are the Syndicate’s trade, good-aligned characters will find it hard to be part of the organization. Even neutral characters will quake before the worst of the Syndicate’s actions.
Assassins or thieves are natural fits with the skills the Syndicate values. Vermin lord rangers, living crucible fighters, and wizards from the school of sangromancy are also welcomed muscle, despite their otherwise despicable habits.
The Ebon Syndicate as a Patron:
The Syndicate recruits all manner of thugs, enforcers, and trouble-shooters. It’s possible the characters could end up working for them even without knowing who their true employer is.
The use of disposable talent allows the Ebon Syndicate to easily separate itself from adventurers if something goes wrong with the job. In particular, heists or espionage missions are likely to be accepted without pause by most adventurers.
The Ebon Syndicate as a Foe:
The Ebon Syndicate is very likely to become a reoccurring foe. Characters who develop friendships with good-aligned political or religious figures may find their friends in need of protection whilst fending off assassins. Adventurers who break up the Syndicate’s drug trafficking or slaving rings are meddlers quickly marked for death. As a primarily evil organization without boundaries, The Ebon Syndicate makes an easy, clear villain for just about any campaign.
The Watchers of the Faithful
The Watchers of the Faithful are an alliance of good-aligned churches, clerics, and paladins. They seek to thwart evil, fight followers of the Arch Daemons, and preserve a righteous and just society. Their guiding principle is called the Eternal Dogma: revere the Arch Seraphs, follow their laws as handed down by the High Priest, and destroy all that is unholy and evil in their sight—through any means necessary.
Joining The Watchers of the Faithful:
Characters who are followers of one of the Arch Seraphs and seek to fight evil can easily find a place among the Watchers. Even those who are not especially religious might join their friends, so long as they quietly follow the group’s dictates without complaint.
Clerics with the inquisition domain and paladins with the oath of zeal are most common among the Watchers membership, especially for those that follow Empyreus. It is the Watchers’ view that those that make pacts with evil or heretical powers are enemies, druids are rare, and warlocks are unheard of unless sworn to a celestial.
The Watchers of the Faithful as a Patron:
Even if not members, the Watchers will sometimes sponsor those that seek to combat evil. Any good deed is worthy, whether protecting innocent farmers from bandits in Charnault or hunting undead in Ostoya.
The Augustine Trading Company and The Ebon Syndicate are sworn enemies of the Watchers and working for either faction is impossible if one is to be a friend of The Watchers of the Faithful. On the other hand, Hearthkeepers that hold true to the original words of Aurelia might be allies.
The Watchers of the Faithful as a Foe:
It is all too easy to be labeled a heretic by the Watchers of the Faithful. Warlocks that make pacts to nature spirits are just as frowned upon as those who bargain with daemons. The Valikan druids who cavort with elemental powers blaspheme in the eyes of the Watchers. Even sorcerers whose blood is not that of a divine soul can be labelled as much of a monster as a necromancer. Rogues who thieve or warriors who prey upon the weak are also enemies of the Watchers.
Parties often run afoul of the Watchers by association. If the party’s warlock has dealt with the First Vampire and the paladin didn’t put them down, they become enemies of the Watchers just as if the paladin was a heretic them self.
There are several other smaller factions, usually less continent spanning than those listed above, but still ripe for exciting adventures or character backstories. A few of these include:
From the Castinellan Provinces, the Arcanist Inquisition crusades to burn every magical being and spellcaster. Many dragonborn are counted among the Inquisition’s numbers.
While their power is seated in Castinella, their reach is spreading. They are natural foes of the Thaumaturge, the Ravencourt Sanctuary, and the Sarmar Academy. If your party is aligned with any of these magical organizations, or any of the player-characters are arcanely gifted, they are likely to run afoul of the Arcanist Inquisition.
The Hearthkeepers are a religious organization from the Bürach Empire, devoted to Aurelia and focused on maintaining the imperial bloodline. Members of this faction might be godly clerics trying to spread the word of Aurelia or Miklas, or they might be highly political priests who seek to advance the cause of the Holy Church and the emperor across the Bürach Empire.
The church doesn’t have the reach that it used to, but that has only made it more desperate. More aggressive Hearthkeepers are natural rivals for characters from any realm outside the Empire but are also allies for those who seek to protect the Empire or advance the theology of Aurelia.
The Hearthkeepers are likely to sponsor adventuring companies that might return holy artifacts that could be used to add to the legitimacy of Emperor Aratron II as divinely appointed.
Order of Dawn:
The Order of Dawn is an Ostoyan guild that stands in opposition to the Crimson Court and undead in general. While primarily focused on the liberation of Soma, members of the Order are fanatical in their war against the undead. Player-characters from the Order could easily travel to other realms in a campaign where undead are the primary enemy.
The Order of Dawn would make good allies to call upon when your characters need to fight the undead, but could equally become bitter rivals if your party seek the aid or patronage of a powerful vampire.
The Prismatic Circle are a group of druids among the Valikan Clans who believe war and bloodshed can keep the prismatic dragon, Gormadraug, from reawakening. They maintain the brutal old ways, participating in vicious blood sacrifices.
The Prismatic Circle are enemies of those who support the traditional trappings of civilization, and instead support living closer to the land. Character looking to be militant druids might consider being a member of the Circle, but the Circle also make good foes for those campaigns headquartered in Kander towns or any coastal cities.