Idea for a post-Jade Regent campaign - Imperial Auditors

Jade Regent

I just had an idea for how to run a post-Jade Regent campaign which I want to share with you. I freely admit that I stole this idea from the Vorkosigan Saga novels by Bujold (which I recommend as reading material for this kind of campaign, especially "Memory" and its sequels which focus on the life and work of a particular Auditor).

As the "Continuing the Campaign" chapter in "The Empty Throne" points out, the PCs work better as elite agents for Empress Ameiko than political leaders - and Ameiko desperately needs people she can trust as her agents. Yet being an "elite agent" should feel as a true reward to the player characters after all they have been through.

Therefore, Ameiko appoints one or more of the PCs as Imperial Auditors (in particular, those who have displayed both wit and common sense and who would do well as investigators - the other PCs get other courtly titles and will act as their bodyguards and assistants). The mission of Imperial Auditors is basically: "Go and investigate problems for the Empress" - sometimes the Empress has very specific problems in mind, while at other times she only has vague rumors to go on. It's the job of the Auditors to go forth, investigate what the problem is, and then figure out a solution is possible.

The Imperial Auditors speak with the Voice of the Empress, and their powers are exceptionally broad:

- They are automatically in command of any government officials and military forces, and may demand pretty much anything of them - and only the Empress can gainsay them.
- Similarly, they may demand whatever they want of subjects of Minkai, although the subjects should be compensated by the government for any expenses.
- They may order summary executions (although presenting enough evidence for a trial is seen as far preferable).

The restrictions on their office are mainly political. First and foremost, since they speak with the Voice of the Empress, everything they say and do reflects on her and her government. They not only have to be impartial, but also appear to be impartial. They are also supposed to be past any material or political ambition, since they already hold one of the highest offices in the government. While they may replace officials and commanding military officers if they find sufficient cause, they should not simply take over themselves but find suitable replacements out of the appropriate hierarchy (subject to later approval by the Empress).

So while the PCs turned Auditors can be sent after dangerous monsters and so forth (which definitely count as "problems" for the Empire), their main job is to ensure that the Minkai runs well. Initially this means investigating which of the nobles, officials, and military commanders are trustworthy and loyal - and to find and root out any cults, secret societies and so forth which are hostile to the throne.

And if Ameiko isn't already set to marry one of the player characters, one very important task is to vet any potential husband for her so that the succession is assured (and of course, the PCs will also experience some pressure to have heirs of heir own - the more potential heirs are out there, the less likely it is that someone will take another stab at wiping out their house!).

Your thoughts?

Not a bad idea, but I'm not sure if it's a good theme for high level play.

By this time the PCs are around level 16. If any of them are full casters, they have access to 8th level spells - which should be sufficient to fast-pentha any nobles of questionable loyalty.

They've already slain the country's most powerful assassins and oni. Anyone powerful enough to threaten the PCs ought to also have been powerful enough to take over the whole country years ago.

These probably aren't insoluble problems, but they need some serious consideration.

"Problems for the Empire" don't necessarily mean physical threats - threats that can be countered with violence. Again, the Vorkosigan Saga has examples for this:

"A Civil Campaign" involves political plots by conservatives to get two new Counts into office - in one case the succession is in doubt, and in another the legitimacy of the current Count has become questionable. The conservatives don't engage in treasonous or illegal activity (with one exception, and he had to be provoked to get that far), and they are actually loyal subjects of the Empire - they just have different views of the direction the Empire should develop than the protagonist and the Emperor himself. The Emperor himself is painfully aware of the necessity to be perceived as fairly neutral in these struggles, so it falls to the protagonist to fight this out - in a purely political way.

Now consider Minkai under Empress Ameiko. There are lots of nobles in the land, and all that remain have pledged their loyalty to her. And she needs the nobles to keep the country running. However, most of them are probably more loyal to the nation as a whole than to Ameiko herself (who grew up in a foreign country with strange foreign customs). And if Ameiko starts replacing anyone who is less than sympathetic to her, then the remaining nobles will start to wonder "when will I be next?" and start plotting actual treason. And then there is the question where Ameiko would be able to get all those supposedly loyal replacements in the first place.

So if the PCs act as Grand Inquisitors and start mind-reading everyone they come across, they will make the situation much more difficult in the long run.

(And considering the influence of the oni on Minkai politics, a good parallel to study was the "de-Nazification" process of post WWII Germany. There were attempts at purging former Nazis from important administrative and civic positions, but in the end most were re-admitted to their old offices because there weren't enough qualified people around for these offices who weren't former Nazis to keep the country running. This caused some problems in the long run, but letting Germany collapse in the absence of skilled administrators wouldn't have been better...)

"Cryoburn" meanwhile has our protagonist operating on another planet - i.e. outside his normal jurisdiction. While he has diplomatic immunity, he is also supposed to avoid any diplomatic incidents (and he comes close to blowing that a few times) while conducting his investigations. That, too, can complicate any missions to other countries the PCs are sent on - if they just blow stuff up this will reflect badly on Minkai and can have severe repercussions for the country in the long run.

In other words, while the PCs still have access to all their powers, they must also operate under political and social restraints where they will not only have to weigh if they can do something, but also whether doing it will be worth the consequences of doing so.

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