Were the first generation of Runelords good?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


I know they were originally meant to represent the Seven Cardinal Virtues, but then changed to the Seven Deadly Sins at some point. So were the first Runelords good-aligned? And when did they first turn evil?


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

There's two of the 7 original Runelords that where still alive at the time of the Earthfall (Sorshen and Xanderghul) so if they were ever good-aligned it didn't last.
I think that they followed Xin into exile trying to be free from Azlant but that they were not necessarly all good-hearted in the begining.
Maybe they were, but the lure of power and the fear of the power of the other Runelords made them stray from their paths.
But given the fact that Kaer Maga started beeing used as a prison well before Xin death and that Sorshen was immortal before it too I don't think they were ever well intentionned when they followed Xin into Avistan.


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Power corrupts. Not that they were chosen for their morals to begin with.
The ones who turned on Xin were the first class. The man had theories and ideals, but Sense Motive was not his strong suit.

For that matters, two of them original ones made it to the modern day, and Sorshen is still around.

Dark Archive

I kinda prefer "power reveals, unless power is literally corrupting evil force" take on that trope simply because otherwise you'd think all level 20 adventurers are future big bads


CorvusMask wrote:
I kinda prefer "power reveals, unless power is literally corrupting evil force" take on that trope simply because otherwise you'd think all level 20 adventurers are future big bads

And any currently good gods, as well.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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The first Runelords were all evil.


Actually, what about Xin himself ?

Before he lost it I mean, the Xin who left Azlant to "enlighten" Avistan.
I tend to imagine a fairly decent, neutral to good type character, if woefully bad at choosing his seconds... But I could see an evil approach to the character.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Nyerkh wrote:

Actually, what about Xin himself ?

Before he lost it I mean, the Xin who left Azlant to "enlighten" Avistan.
I tend to imagine a fairly decent, neutral to good type character, if woefully bad at choosing his seconds... But I could see an evil approach to the character.

Xin was Lawful Neutral. He had some good ideas, yes, but the way he went about pursuing them was flawed and is what, in part, caused/allowed the runelords to rule for thousands of years in the first place.

Also, Xin was not a runelord either. He appointed them, but wasn't one. If Xin was a president of a nation of allied states, then the runelords were governors, more or less.


James Jacobs wrote:
The first Runelords were all evil.

Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?


Yqatuba wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The first Runelords were all evil.
Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?

In most cases you would probably choose people who are already established, powerful people to be your governors, alignment be damned, unless you where of a good alignment (which Xin wasn't).

In appointing politicians, morality is generally a secondary or tertiary concern, because to remain in power you have to balance between rewarding merit and appeasing the powerful people who you need on your side to maintain control.


As I understand it, the idea was the correspondance between the seven schools of magic and the seven virtues of rule.
So he picked the most poweful of his followers in each school, because if they mastered one, they'd be expected to be at least decent at the other.

Alignement didn't need to matter. Not that axis anyway. A competent evil can and probably will rule better than an incompetent good. If the best of the best were evil, well, so be it. They still had to answer to him anyway. He could keep the worse of them in check somewhat, and the job would get done.
I doubt any of them were chaotic however.


Tender Tendrils wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The first Runelords were all evil.
Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?

In most cases you would probably choose people who are already established, powerful people to be your governors, alignment be damned, unless you where of a good alignment (which Xin wasn't).

In appointing politicians, morality is generally a secondary or tertiary concern, because to remain in power you have to balance between rewarding merit and appeasing the powerful people who you need on your side to maintain control.

Yes, but, they were meant to represent the Seven Cardinal Virtues at first. Wouldn't you want good-aligned people for that purpose?

Shadow Lodge

Yqatuba wrote:
Tender Tendrils wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The first Runelords were all evil.
Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?

In most cases you would probably choose people who are already established, powerful people to be your governors, alignment be damned, unless you where of a good alignment (which Xin wasn't).

In appointing politicians, morality is generally a secondary or tertiary concern, because to remain in power you have to balance between rewarding merit and appeasing the powerful people who you need on your side to maintain control.

Yes, but, they were meant to represent the Seven Cardinal Virtues at first. Wouldn't you want good-aligned people for that purpose?

They were meant to represent the Seven Virtues of Rule; foundations of good government meant to temper a well-ordered society, not foundations of Good personal morality. There are reasons Xin was Lawful Neutral; one of these was this very philosophical system.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The Thasillonian Virtues of Rule were not the same as the Seven Cardinal Virtues. Here they are side-by-side:

Thassilonian : Cardinal

Love : Chastity
Temperance : Temperance
Generosity : Charity
Zeal : Diligence
Kindness : Patience
Charity : Kindness
Humility : Humility


Fine, I still wouldn't pick an evil person to represent kindness or charity, seems like kind of a no-brainer.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Yqatuba wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The first Runelords were all evil.
Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?

Because Xin isn't a PC who assumes everyone other than him is evil. Call it a character flaw (flaws make characters more interesting), call it a story hook (otherwise we would have had to tell a different story), or call it optimism (remember, Xin was lawful neutral, not lawful good, and open to diversity), or call it character development (when he chose the runelords, they weren't all-out evil yet), or whatever.

We keep the rules and their options in mind when developing backstory and history for the world and for adventures, but we don't do so in a way that blocks our desire to set up specific storylines. Feel free to change that in your game if it breaks verisimilitude, I guess.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Yqatuba wrote:
Fine, I still wouldn't pick an evil person to represent kindness or charity, seems like kind of a no-brainer.

Fair enough, but you as Xin would have made a very different choice and that would have resulted in a very different Thassilon, in theory. It's not the choice we made.


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It could just be that Xin was a bad judge of character. There are lots of people like that, and if they seemed to have the magical prowess to embody his Seven Virtues of Rule, he considered that a good enough reason to appoint them, and their actual personalities were irrelevant.

This is from Xin's Wiki Page:

Quote:
Eventually, the empire grew too large for Xin to control, and he eventually began to resent the necessities of rule, which distracted him from magical research. In -6480 AR, he chose the most powerful apprentices of each school: Alderpash, Kaladurnae, Kaliphesta, Naaft, Sorshen, Xanderghul and Xirie, who became the first runelords, each responsible for the governance of one of Thassilon's regions. However, the runelords did not have Xin's virtue, and under the runelords each territory became a corrupted reflection of the virtue it was meant to represent.

Emphasis mine. I read this as Xin getting tired of having to constantly deal with the duties of running a nation instead of research, so he just picked the most powerful of his apprentices, appointed them governors of different provinces, and then told them to leave him alone except in a great emergency.

He's kind of like a tenured college professor who wants to spend most of his time doing research, but he's required to teach this intro class to obnoxious freshmen who are just doing it for the credits, so he foists as much of the work off onto his teaching assistants as possible. He doesn't care if those teaching assistants are good people or not - he just doesn't want to deal with the actual duties of teaching.


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Yqatuba wrote:
Why didn't Xin at least have somebody cast detect evil, or do some research first? I mean, if you were the president and had to pick some people to give super-powers, would you just pick some random people and hope they weren't evil?

He easily could have done both and still failed. There are magical tricks that fool detect evil/alignment which would lull him into a false sense of security. And also, by doing so he sends a message that he doesn't trust them. Especially since he'd need somebody else to do it for him. "I don't quite trust you, person whom I'm about to give 1/7th of my empire. So this cleric here is going to tell me if I should, and I'm going to trust their guidance". That's the sort of thing that comes across as petty and starts grudges. Grudges which result in being betrayed and overthrown. Not saying that happened (from JJ's comments above it sounds like it didn't because Xin trusted them), but the story makes sense even if Xin did get somebody to cast detect evil and did some research.

As for research, they were his most powerful apprentices. He knew them. He just didn't know them well enough to know they would betray him. It would be rather surprising if he wasn't either their direct mentor, or if there was a broader system for apprenticing under him he didn't consult with their direct mentors. These were people who'd gained his trust already. It wasn't like he just grabbed the first seven people he locked eyes with on his way to work one day. He shouldn't have trusted them in retrospect, but at the time he didn't know that and that is all the story needs.

Yqatuba wrote:
Fine, I still wouldn't pick an evil person to represent kindness or charity, seems like kind of a no-brainer.

To trust someone to represent the virtue of kindness or charity you need to think them kind or charitable. Both are traits that can be faked and when faked serve as distractions away from any evil actions the people faking them might undergo.


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It might be more hubris than being a bad judge of character, actually.
Misplaced trust is certainly a possibility but ...
The man was inhumanly old, one of the very best mages mankind had ever produced, a status he reached by breaking the long standing traditions of a country built on magic no less, was convinced enough of the right of his philosophy that he chose exile - from a country ridiculously advanced compared to the rest of the world - over renunciation, then led thousands of followers in the "barbaric" lands of Avistan, built a tremendous empire (and not a good aligned one, btw) from scratch and had been sitting on that throne ever since.
Not to mention his work sowed the seeds that would lead Azlant (and the runelords) to realize the influence of the Veiled Masters.
I'm not sure the idea of failure, of making mistakes, of being wrong, even occured to him at this point.

He chose the very best in their fields to become the incarnations of his ideas. It had worked so well for him, so clearly he was right.
Being the best in their respective schools had to mean noone could personify the corresponding Virtue of Rule the way those seven could. It only made sense. The theory worked.
Until it didn't.

Sounds like your everyday sky-high Int, low/average Wis wizard, really. No matter how it happened.

For that matter, speaking of said virtues : Kindness and Charity ? Not on the list.

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The most accurate and up-to-date list of the seven virtues of rule of pre-Runelord Thassilon appear on page 416 of the Rise of the Runelords hardcover:

Charity (virtue of Envy)
Temperance (virtue of Gluttony)
Generosity (virtue of Greed)
Love (virtue of Lust)
Humility (virtue of Pride)
Zeal (virtue of Sloth)
Kindness (virtue of Wrath)

So Charity and Kindness are very much on the list.

Circling back to Xin, though, again he was a flawed character. The observation of "High INT, low WIS" is a pretty good rulsey version to sum him up. Although in Xin's case, with a WIS of 23... that's still in the "He should have known better" category. He didn't though, and we have several popular adventure paths to play with as a result. (For comparison sake, his Int of 39 STILL has him fall into the high Int/low Wis category, just on a higher scale.)

It's also worth remembering that the Xin who left Azlant to found Thassilon and the Xin who, centuries later, decided to cede power to a group of runelords was not the same man. Time can change who you are, and not always for the better. It was half a decade between Xin's exile from Azlant and his appointment of the runelords to take care of "the drudgery of day to day rule". A lot can change in a person's personality in 53 years.


Did Xin realize that he bit off more than he could chew.....


I also happen to know some genuinely kind or charitable people who might also be said to have tendencies toward evil. It's the "no one way to <alignment>" and "people are more complicated than two words" issues. Or, perhaps, the virtue ethics v. deontology/consequentialism issue. Being evil does not preclude having specific virtues.

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