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 Need a little help on Zhent history
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Kyrel
Learned Scribe

151 Posts

Posted - 01 Sep 2023 :  10:46:46  Show Profile  Visit Kyrel's Homepage Send Kyrel a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I've run into a small challenge I could use a bit of help with.

Can anyone help me out with an overview of what happens to the Zhentarim in the 5 years following the fall of Zhentil Keep and the other power bases, in the conflict with the City of Shade?

I'm playing in a campaign where the GM just threw us into the Forgotten Realms (Waterdeep). My character died just before then, so I've made a new one. I decided to make a Zhentarim/Zhentilar mage (3.5ed gestalt Warmage/War Mage & Fighter/Marshal/Warblade build that includes the Leadership feat), and last time I essentially "recruited" co-player into the Zhentarim.

We've set the time of the game to be a year or two following the destruction of Zhentil Keep by Shade. But here's my problem:

What the hell actually happens with the Zhentarim and the Zhentilar army after the battle that destroys Zhentil Keep and the other main power bases for the Zhentarim? I've read the wiki, and I can see that in 5th ed. they've essentially turned into a mercenary band that is still looking to dominate the world through trade monopolies. But 5th ed. is rather far in the future, compared to when Zhentil Keep fell, during the conflict with the Cities of Shade. At least as I understand the timeline...
I assume that there is some information about what things look like scattered around various novels and 4th ed. books, but I don't have those, didn't read them, and don't have the time to acquire them and read up on it.

Can anyone help me out with a quick overview of the situation the Zhentarim organization is in around that time, and what it's trying to accomplish at this time? I could really use a bit more knowledge about the canon, in order to work out just what the hell my character ought to be trying to do at this point in time, if she's supposed to try and further the organization's goals.

George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
6657 Posts

Posted - 01 Sep 2023 :  10:49:40  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That lore was never fully fleshed out by WotC. There is no exact answer or clear source. Unfortunately, you're on your own.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
36787 Posts

Posted - 01 Sep 2023 :  16:28:03  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I would assume three things were going on, in that timeframe: regrouping, rebuilding, and desperately trying to not look weak.

I'd imagine that a lot of Zhent forces were lost or scattered as the Shades demonstrated their plot armor. So part of the effort would be getting those that ran to come back -- because they're better than nothing -- while ramping up recruitment efforts to being the numbers back up. And there would likely have been cases of the Zhents throwing an overly large amount of their forces at various foes, just to project an image of strength.

This is all totally from my own head. I didn't read most of the 4E novels, and I only read the relevant sourcebooks one time and that was it. So this is me saying "this makes sense to me, given what I know from prior editions."

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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
968 Posts

Posted - 01 Sep 2023 :  18:53:41  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Darkhold: Secrets of the Zhentarim, with some input from Ed and on DMs Guild, speculates along the lines that both Wooly suggest. The product is all in all solid, but there are some unnecessary/unimaginative lore changes (mostly due to the artwork in one of George's Dragon articles--which of course had little to do with the substance of George's excellent work) that ticked me and others off.
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TBeholder
Great Reader

2407 Posts

Posted - 03 Sep 2023 :  00:59:28  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
1369: Zhentil Keep is broken. Then the armies attacking it scatter. So there are random pockets of surviving Zhents at various defensible places and roaming bands of savage humanoids or giants all over place. Also, Iyachtu Xvim is now free, and he is actively recruiting.
1370: Manshoon’s stasis clone failed, so the Manshoon Wars started. At the same time, the squabble of Banites vs Cyricists vs Xvimites rages on.
So that's how it looks to me:
There was no uncontested central control any more. Parts of the Black Network were at war with each other.
Some had to join a faction.
Some of the more self-sufficient members tried to sit it out on the fence until someone is firmly in control (won't weep much if it fails to recover, but won't burn the bridges too soon). At the early stage they probably survived better, but as each contender established a power base and their domains expanded, eventually the fence-sitters would have to be subsumed, killed or forced to flee.
Then there were those already disappointed with the whole thing, who would rather be as far from Fzoul and Manshoun as possible without being hunted by the rest of Zhents for their remaining lives. Like Sememmon & Ashemmi.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch

Edited by - TBeholder on 03 Sep 2023 09:27:30
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
36787 Posts

Posted - 03 Sep 2023 :  05:00:59  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I recently rediscovered an article from Ed that I'd copied from a now-defunct website, discussing mysteries of the Realms, and offering up a few that remained unsolved.

Here's the relevant one for this discussion: "what long-term plan was hatched by one of the awakened clones of Manshoon that caused several beholder allies of the Zhentarim and a handful of powerful Zhent priests to depart the organization and go underground, where they remain"

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TBeholder
Great Reader

2407 Posts

Posted - 03 Sep 2023 :  09:39:09  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

Here's the relevant one for this discussion: "what long-term plan was hatched by one of the awakened clones of Manshoon that caused several beholder allies of the Zhentarim and a handful of powerful Zhent priests to depart the organization and go underground, where they remain"

Sleepers to stash some resources away from rivals? And/or so that he could have some backup power base to restore the Zhentarim if they will be too damaged or compromised? Makes sense.
It's more surprising he did not have a few backup agents near every other clone, much like caches of magic items.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
36787 Posts

Posted - 03 Sep 2023 :  16:45:32  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TBeholder


It's more surprising he did not have a few backup agents near every other clone, much like caches of magic items.



I don't find that surprising. It's easier to maintain a cache or something than it is to keep living beings handy. Especially since one would assume at least some of the clones were in isolated spots where you'd not expect to find people hanging about. Additionally, agents could be located more easily than clones and caches, which could be easily concealed by magic -- and it had happened in the past that someone tried to off Manshoon by going after his clones before attacking him.

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sleyvas
Skilled Spell Strategist

USA
11770 Posts

Posted - 03 Sep 2023 :  19:21:35  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by TBeholder


It's more surprising he did not have a few backup agents near every other clone, much like caches of magic items.



I don't find that surprising. It's easier to maintain a cache or something than it is to keep living beings handy. Especially since one would assume at least some of the clones were in isolated spots where you'd not expect to find people hanging about. Additionally, agents could be located more easily than clones and caches, which could be easily concealed by magic -- and it had happened in the past that someone tried to off Manshoon by going after his clones before attacking him.



You would also have to consider how much you trust people to "watch over your clone"... some may sell you out, even if they are magically controlled to not do it. They may find a way around it and offer up the location of a Manshoon clone to someone who may want to not necessarily destroy it.... but use it in a constructive/destructive way towards their own ends.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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