To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
Sons of Mercy
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Sons of Mercy: Nobody Gets Left Behind
The Sons of Mercy are a revival of an ancient faction, reborn from the ashes of the Faction War. Reestablished by their current leader, Arwyl Swan‘s Son, they have focused on upholding justice and good across the planes. Though they‘re a bit disorganized, their hearts are pure – for better or for worse. They are intent on bringing their brand of justice to the planes whether the planes want it or not. But rather than force others into the fold as their predecessors did, most are content in the belief that their righteous deeds will set an example for the planes as a whole.
Philosophy: Justice exists to uphold the greater good.
Home Location: Bytopia.
Factol: Arwyl Swan‘s Son
Prominent Members: Dadkrilik, Thasala
Alignment: Any good.
Symbol: A hand reaching up to grasp a sword by the blade; indigo blood runs down over a purple backdrop. Black edges curl around and infringe in a jagged fashion, symbolizing the ever-present threat of evil.
Related skills: Insight, Perception. A player may start the game with skill focus with either skill if they choose not to pick a skill related to being a Primer, or Planar.
Faction bonuses with the Sons of Mercy will confer abilities such as:
- bonuses the grant defenses to their allies
- bonuses that prevent or cure movement conditions
- bonuses against elementals and undead
The Philosophy of the Sons of Mercy
The Sons of Mercy‘s philosophy revolves around good, the nebulous quality that characterizes the Upper Planes. Overall, their beliefs are still in the process of forming as the faction‘s membership and responsibilities grow, but they have a few principles that form the basis for their ethos.
First off, the Sons of Mercy believe that all creatures have an innate spark of goodness. They point to fiends that have risen and joined the Upper Planes as proof that no creature is truly without the potential for good. Of course, in something like a yugoloth, you probably won‘t see that spark more often than once every several thousand years, but it is there – at least to hear them tell it. Still, most of the time a spark that tiny isn‘t worth pursuing, and they realize this. Even though most folks consider them idealistic fools, the Martyrs are smart enough to know not everyone, especially fiends, are likely to convert, much less show a virtuous side.
Secondly, just as you can‘t truly make a body believe something, you can‘t force someone to become good. This is where the Sons of Mercy‘s philosophy differs from those of other, similar factions; they believe the best method to spread good is to demonstrate its beneficial qualities. Sure, sometimes you can stoke that spark of goodness by forcing evil creatures to perform good acts, but if you overdo it you‘re only creating tyranny, not spreading good. On the other hand, the absolute wrong way to defeat evil is to go around smiting evil souls. After all, doesn‘t an evil soul go to the Lower Planes, with the potential to become a fiend and possibly become an even greater danger? While sometimes evil must be brought under a blade, it should only be done in the defense of good places and folk, as just punishment rather than something more proactive.
Finally, justice is only true if it serves good. Locking folks up in prisons or executing them may be necessary, but justice is better served if there is a good act to balance an evil act, especially if the evildoer reforms and performs a virtuous deed. This is the ultimate purpose of the Sons of Mercy, and its principles have ancient ties to the original faction. The original Sons of Mercy believed that law was originally created to foster good, but was perverted for evil purposes by mortals. Justice was split from law, and so they believe that justice must be preserved by ensuring that the innocent are freed, either by exploitations of the law or by outright sheltering. Ever since the passage of Arwyl through the Upper Planes and his enlightenment, he has pushed to bring back the older teachings, embracing them as deeply as the Sons of old did. This makes the Sons of Mercy alternately the allies and enemies of law enforcement, passing their own judgment that often will have little to do with local law.
According to the pre-Upheaval writings of the Sons of Mercy, the powers – at least the good ones – gave mortals law with the intention of fostering peace, keeping the weak from harm, and protecting people from their own vices. But in mortal hands, law had become warped. Whether written to serve the needs of the elite, evil mortals, or worse, the law had become a weapon against those it was meant to protect.
The answer of the original Sons of Mercy to this dilemma was when a law didn‘t serve the greater good, it was best ignored. Ironically enough, their idealism would be perverted in the alliance that would help them survive the Great Upheaval. See, the Sons of Mercy were never a large group, and certainly not large enough to live through the changes sweeping Sigil at the time. When the Lady of Pain proclaimed that there would only be fifteen factions, the Sons of Mercy sought out others that would help preserve them… and found few that shared their ideals. As their hope faded, their desperation grew and their ideals died. Hardened by the warring between the factions, they fell in with the Sodkillers, a faction that believed any problem could be solved by force. Though such an alliance would be unthinkable during peaceful times, it was a time of war, and the Sons of Mercy were desperate. Indeed, they had already begun to see things the Sodkiller way, having been forced to kill and worse simply to survive. As the Great Upheaval ended the two groups merged, and their combined philosophy became the basis for the Mercykillers.
As the Mercykillers, they enforced justice… but often at the cost of good, and sometimes even to the gain of evil. Justice became all that mattered, and soon the original tenets of the Sons of Mercy were all but forgotten. During the final days of the Faction War, Arwyl Swan‘s Son, a paladin from the prime world of Toril (a Purple Knight to hear him tell it – whatever that means) watched Alisohn Nilesia pervert the Mercykiller code to perform vile acts, punishing with an intolerance that rattled even the jaded citizens of the Cage. Arwyl would bring a pure heart to the faction, however, and worked to recruit good, like-minded folks in order to help change the faction for the better.
When Alisohn disappeared, Arwyl took the opportunity to break from the Mercykillers with his followers, reforming the Sons of Mercy. Reborn as they are, the Sons of Mercy have struggled to break free of their Mercykiller heritage. They helped stabilize Sigil in the months after the war, taking up the position of city guard and jailers in place of the Harmonium. Being green to handling the whole process, however, the Martyrs, as they came to be known, could be said to be amateurs. Too many criminals slipped past them, and often as not the Sons of Mercy would let guilty folks go due to moral reasoning. They were overwhelmed; trying to balance their traditional role with that of both the responsibility of city guard and that of the prison produced mixed results at best and downright incompetence at worst. After about six months, the Sigil Advisory Council passed a motion that removed them from their hold on Sigil‘s law enforcement, a motion that many Sons of Mercy found to be a relief. Still, a number of members have stayed on with the city guard – even though the faction doesn‘t run it anymore – and it could be said that their mark has been left. Though more draconian than when it was run by Arwyl Swan‘s Son, the city guard is definitely a bit more mindful of Sigil‘s citizens than the Harmonium and Mercykillers ever were. In addition, the Martyrs continue to use what influence they do have with the guard to press their philosophy of just punishment.
After the Sons of Mercy were removed from their chosen role in Sigil, Arwyl Swan‘s Son fell into melancholy, wondering if there was a place on the planes for his ideals. And so he journeyed to the Upper Planes, trying to find something that would strengthen his resolve and find a new purpose for his faction. It was in talks with the leader of the Guardians, Prince Azlan, that Arwyl Swan‘s Son found his beliefs renewed, and the two factions have since become strongly aligned almost to the point of symbiosis. As he continued his trek across the Upper Planes, his sermons and discussions increased the Sons of Mercy‘s membership and reputation. Returning to Sigil after several years of travel, he has since published the seven Books of Mercy, containing lessons learned on each of the planes he traveled across. While the Sons of Mercy have become fragmented during his absence, Arwyl Swan‘s Son is determined to not allow the faction to suffer the same fate as its predecessors A large number of folk are skeptical about the Martyrs‘ chances, and it remains to be seen if their ideals will truly stand the test of time.
The first and foremost goal of the Sons of Mercy is to see true justice dealt out to those who deserve it, and free those imprisoned by twisted or false justice. A surprising number of them have turned to the pen rather than the blade, learning Sigil‘s labyrinthine code of laws and the loopholes therein. They have worked to defend good folk in the courtroom, as well as writing to spread the word of their faction‘s philosophy. Many Sons of Mercy, however, have kept their blades, and still work to enforce justice as per their Mercykiller roots. Though the Martyrs aren‘t as efficient as the Harmonium or the Sodkillers, virtually none of the folks they bring in turn out to be innocent. Such Martyrs see going out and performing tasks like bounty hunting and vigilante actions as protecting the good from evil. While there are some members using the faction as an excuse for revenge, greed, or other less savory goals, the faction has proven surprisingly good at rooting out the less virtuous from their number.
Nonetheless, a few members have come to the conclusion that if a good deed need be done for every evil deed, cannot good deeds be done with money? Certainly gold can support soup kitchens, orphanages, and more… taken from the hands of criminals and monsters. Thus, some Martyrs have turned to taking money instead of requiring criminals to turn over a new leaf. Despite Arwyl‘s protests, the practice is only growing. After all, doing good deeds doesn‘t exactly put food on the table, and some members really need a bit more support than the Sons of Mercy provide (or so they tell themselves).
A major endeavor of the Sons of Mercy has also been to wipe out the remnants of the small armies of undead and fiends unleashed into Sigil during the Faction War. They‘re largely concerned with those that present a menace to Sigil‘s public, and have helped remove the more offensive creatures left as part of the Faction War‘s fallout. Some Sons of Mercy, particularly those that lost family or friends to the monsters, hunt the creatures with motivations far darker than they pretend.
Arwyl Swan‘s Son, in the meantime, is refocusing his efforts into trying to bring the faction together. Various disparate groups have started to quarrel – guards versus vigilantes, competing parties of bounty hunters, reformers against punishers – and so he‘s looked for an example to set for the rest of his faction. Towards this end, he‘s founded a new business in Sigil: the Sanctuary. Some have accused Swan‘s Son of aping the Sodkillers, but the truth is the Sanctuary offers services that don‘t at least compete directly with the Minder‘s Guild. Rather, it focuses on actions like investigation, repossession, and other similar tasks. And if you seem to be of a good heart to them, chances are you won‘t have to pay their fees. It also provides safe haven for folks of any race, faction, or moral leaning, as long as they haven‘t committed an unjust action. In exchange, guests are expected to contribute with mundane work around the Sanctuary, but for planars on run from fiends or worse, it‘s beyond generous.
Unbeknownst to Swan‘s Son, a small sect is growing among the Sons of Mercy, one that claims that freeing those unjustly held by the Mercykillers was only the beginning. See, another has been imprisoning folks unjustly in Sigil long before the Mercykillers. Dozens, possibly even hundreds of sods are held in a prison that they may or may not deserve.
And their jailer is the Lady of Pain.
This group believes that the Mazes can – and should – be undone. After all, weren‘t good folks like Ambar Vergrove and Erin Montgomery locked up during the Faction War? They haven‘t informed Arwyl of their activities, figuring that once they hit upon a good method to undo one of her Mazes, they can present themselves to him. They figure that sure, while the Lady seems to be impartial and neutral for the most part, neither equals good or just. Plus, one need only remember the destruction of the temple of Aoskar to see an example of the Lady‘s cruelty. These members know they‘re walking a fine line, and don‘t wish to risk the rest of the faction. At least that‘s what they tell themselves; fear of Arwyl is probably the unwritten motivation. The trouble is it‘s awfully hard to tell exactly who‘s in a Maze until you break them out…
The Sons of Mercy have found common ground with the Harmonium, even if most Harmonium members find the Martyrs to be disorganized and inefficient despite their goals. Similarly, they‘ve also found strong friends in the Ring-Givers. Though the philosophy of either faction seems extreme to the Martyrs, they have cooperated in works both charitable and just over the past few years with both factions. Surprisingly enough, the Martyrs have also come to work with the Bleak Cabal, supporting the madhouses and soup kitchens run by the Bleakers. As with many other groups, the Bleakers see them as idealists, but they haven‘t precisely complained about the helping hand, either. The truth of the matter, though, is that the Sons of Mercy have been desperate for allies at best, and are often willing to work with any faction if they believe the means and the ends are both pure.
Rather recently, the Sons of Mercy have come into a very tight alliance with the Guardians of Elysium, and the two groups have been combining their efforts often enough that it seems to some that the differences between the groups are dissolving. The Guardians were a smaller sect dedicated to the protection of the Upper Planes, though the support of the Martyrs has helped them grow and develop – and vice versa. Assuming no major disaster parts the two factions, it may be that within a decade or less they become unified. If such an occurrence were to happen, it would most likely cement the Sons of Mercy‘s position in the multiverse.
Overall, the opinion of many planars is that the Sons of Mercy are led by a prime who hasn‘t ever really become a planar. Arwyl Swan‘s Son is seen as somebody trying to enforce an idealistic perspective that might just work on a tiny continent on a tiny prime world, but will be broken over the back of the planes in a decade or so. This has been a bane and a blessing. Though it has hurt recruitment and made them a laughingstock in the eyes of more cynical planars, it has also permitted them to continue their activities without garnering any major foes. While the image of the bumbling Martyr guard may soon be a major comedic archetype in Sigil‘s plays, most would-be enemies of the Sons are just as likely to write them off as a temporary annoyance, a defect of the multiverse that will soon be corrected by the natural way of things.
Ironically, a good group has become the closest thing the Sons have to a foe. The Order of the Planes-Militant has grated on the Sons of Mercy, particularly in Bytopia where they‘ve been trying to recruit well outside of their bounds. A quiet struggle has begun between the two groups for the hearts and souls of the Upper Planes, though it may soon turn to steel if the Order of the Planes-Militant steps up its already strong recruitment effort.