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Big spoilers here
So I am DMing this for my wife and friends and we are in book 3 having just done the early parts of longshadow (they convinced Mayor Thom to let them help by defeating his advisors in a verbal duel and they are working on longshadow's defenses and just rooted out the disguised infiltrators and the bugbear assassins.
But an interesting thing keeps coming up. The party keeps capturing Ironfang legion soldiers or mercenaries like the dopplegangers alive and interrogating them and interestingly enough the party keeps trying to offer them mercy. My wife in particular who is playing a Half-orc has become very empathetic to the idea that the Ironfang Legion just wants a nation of their own. Her mother was an orc forced into service by Molthune who was saved by her father a Nirmathi soldier and they fell in love. She believes that although the Ironfang's tactics and use of slaves are wrong, their ultimate goal (or at least stated goal) of creating their own nation may be just.
I have been thinking a lot about something Crystal Frasier wrote in the opening to War for the Crown: Crownfall about PCs wanting to leave their world a better place. If my party wants to try to make peace with Azaersi after they defeat Zanathura and establish some way for the Hobgoblins and other ironfang soldiers to become part of Nirmathas, is that feasible? Are there any other things I could seed into the remaining adventures to build towards this?
I just feel really proud of my players for even thinking this way especially after the Ironfang legion hurt their families when they invaded Phaendar. If this is the route they choose to go I want to find subtle ways to incorporate this and reward their roleplaying and would love any advice.
Is it possible to redeem in Ironfang Invasion?
Yes, Paizo has created great rules on redemption. The most they can make these LE hobgoblins be is LN. However, they will be enemies and using druidic magic, you can do a combination of redemption plus reincarnation. That way they don't suffer from the stigma. As evidenced in Wrath of the Righteous even an evil outsider can be.
|Archimedes The Great|
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Perhaps the scenario is a result of a little bit too much information revealed too quickly.
I really really really like the idea of the Ironfang Legion as incredibly well trained, disciplined, and full of purpose. After such a kick in the ass intro into the adventure path, for the PCs to uncover that this "Legion" isn't just another Goblinblood war or group of raiders maintains a heavy atmosphere of great severity. This army cannot be disbanded, deceived, converted, or broken. It's what makes the Legion much more threatening than Orc raiders or a goblin horde. The hobgoblins are not stupid. They have trained engineers, alchemists, cartographers, craftsmen, and shamans.
They have all bought in to their ultimate leader's purpose, because Azaersi really is an incredible leader who has suffered personally as well as witnessed the suffering of her people in the Goblinblood wars. Imagine a 13 year old, pulling a spear from her belly and crawling out of a mass grave of her own kind. Fleeing into the wilderness as the rest of the goblinoids were slaughtered, driven away, and the chitterwood burned. Then spending the next (X) years mastering both leadership and combat qualities and assembling an army comprised of the best of the best, delving into the center of the earth to retrieve a powerful artifact to lead a cause that is not for her, but for her nation of "monsters misfits". That's some PC level heroics.
I think during any interrogations I would have any soldiers or grunts possibly reveal important short term information, or perhaps give up direct superiors. But most of them, especially commanders of note, would rather die than betray their leader in any way.
But to actually answer your immediate question, I think it might be a good idea to make your PCs believe that they can redeem Azaersi and the Legion, but ultimately come to realize that the other side will not accept compromise.
As in the real world, sometimes compromise is not acceptable or just not accepted. It put a morale decision, and a tough one, in the hands of your players but sometimes the ideal solution is not a feasible one.
In order to do this, allow your PCs to uncover Zanathura's manipulative and selfish goals a bit earlier on. Paint her as the real BBEG earlier. And once they dispose of her, they come to realize that Azaersi never really was affected by the naga's magic. That she gave the naga the illusion of power over her, in order to maintain their "alliance".
Or perhaps Azaersi is so enraged by being controlled, that she is not open to the further manipulations.
"the promises of men mean nothing to my people" "they ask for a truce now, but years to come, we will find our people persecuted and driven from our homelands once again".
All in all, write your story. It might not have a warm fuzzy feeling at the ending, but great wars and historical conflicts rarely do.
I hope spoiler tags are recognized as redundant at this point...
There are a few Ironfang affiliates that can be individually "redeemed." Jang springs to mind. If her cougar sister lives and they both get away, they can show up as guides through the blighted forest in book 5. My read is that mercenaries like her aren't as loyal to the Legion, and are therfore easier to turn. My players have let a few of these types go-- the Ranger with the pet bloodhound, a couple of the deserters from book 2.
But the main Legionaires, who fight to the death? Those guys will never turn, IMO. My party tried for a while on Tukang the alchemist, but he just pretty consistently suggested they do rude things with his genitals. They wound up offering him as a gift to the Children of Stone.
This seems pretty fine to me. The book is full of battles you can avoid fighting and make friends in instead. But having most of the Legion remain loyal serves to keep the adventure on track, and keeps players from feeling too guilty about killing enemy soldiers.
HOWEVER, book 6 does specifically have stuff on how you can free Azairsi from Zathura's enchantment and potentially talk her into a cease fire. At that point, she decides to use the Onyx Citadel as her new nation instead of conquering or destroying Nirmathas and Molthune.
This seems like a good finale for the book without disrupting conflict too much to run as written for the entire adventure.