Hellknights — what are they?


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Liberty's Edge

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While beginning to reread Path of the Hellknights, I realized how strongly the Hellknights are described as staunch supporters of the system. Which obviously makes it hard for LG Hellknights when the system is Evil (Infernal Cheliax or Nidal for example).

But when the system is Good, LG Hellknights fare superbly while LE ones will have it rough. For who will act against a Good system that actively protects innocents ? Evil will. And then LG Hellknights crush it mercilessly.


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The sense I get is that there are parts of the hinterlands in Cheliax that are less Evil just because the empress is far away and ordinary folks don't cotton to that devil stuff, whereas the major urban areas are very-Thruney.

So if you're a LG Hellknight you probably want to get the heck out of Egorian but there's a lot of good you can do elswhere.

Liberty's Edge

PossibleCabbage wrote:

The sense I get is that there are parts of the hinterlands in Cheliax that are less Evil just because the empress is far away and ordinary folks don't cotton to that devil stuff, whereas the major urban areas are very-Thruney.

So if you're a LG Hellknight you probably want to get the heck out of Egorian but there's a lot of good you can do elswhere.

True, but that is when you hit the crux of what being a Hellknight is. Because you are not there to do good whatever the means. You are there to preserve the system first and, by doing this, hopefully do some good second (if you are LG).

So it is extremely likely that your order expects you to uphold the local legal system, except when it comes into conflict with your order's own rules. If you can do this and stay Good, great. But if you can't and choose Good over your order's expectations, you might be Good, you might even be Lawful Good but you're not a true Hellknight anymore.

Now, that does not matter too much actually. Until the other Hellknights learn of your heresies.

Dark Archive

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The Raven Black wrote:
But when the system is Good, LG Hellknights fare superbly while LE ones will have it rough. For who will act against a Good system that actively protects innocents ? Evil will. And then LG Hellknights crush it mercilessly.

Why would the LG Hellknight in this scenario crush the LE Hellknight mercilessly? I mean, I know why the mercilessly part, but why the crush part? LE isn't doing anything illegal; the system is working, maybe not as intended but it is working. LG wouldn't bring violence against LE just because LE found some legal loopholes that allow them to be evil. LG may work to close those loopholes but until those loopholes are closed there's really nothing LG can do to stop LE from exploiting them. Unless the Hellknight suddenly decides that Good takes precedence over Law, at which point I would think they stop being a Hellknight.

Liberty's Edge

I meant general Evil not necessarily the LE Hellknight. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Now, if the LE Hellknight tries to do Evil in a system that just does not allow for it, they will be crushed. And if they stop doing Evil out of respect for Law, they are well on the way to becoming LN.

Same in the opposite case. If the LG Hellknight tries to do Good in a system that just does not allow for it, they will be crushed. And become LN if they stop doing Good out of respect for Law.

Radiant Oath

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It does depend on your order's specific focus: You're more likely to find Good Hellknights in, say, the Order of the Pike (go out and hunt monsters to protect rural communities) or the Order of the Torrent (rescue kidnapped people). Meanwhile, other orders draw the more Evilly-inclined ones like the Rack (crush hope and rebellious thought), Chain (uphold the carceral and slave-based systems) or Gate (summon devils and basically act like Minority Report).

It goes without saying that if you're roleplaying a Good Hellknight, you want to pick the order that will ask the least evil from you.


To keep the ball going: But then, isn't it strange that a lawful good character would be fine being a member of a faction in which some of the orders are known for crushing hope or dealing with devils? Or are the orders truly independent enough that such association wouldn't be natural?

Hell's Rebels question:
I started playing a Hell's Rebels game recently, but unfortunately it fell flat. But anyways, we did hear a rumour about what could the Order of the Torrent. My impression is that the survivors would've become allies. Is that what happen? What are the repercussions between the orders, if any?


There’s several LN deities that allow both LE and LG clerics, so it’s not surprising that there are some LG people would make the choice to associate with LE.

One possible line of reasoning would be that association with such an organization would offer enough more opportunity to do good that it would outweigh whatever negatives there would be from said association.


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Travelling Sasha wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Barzillai Thrune formally strips the Order of the Torrent of its charter and declared its members outlaws, but one of the things that Hell's Rebels hinges on is that Ravounel was never part of Cheliax to begin with so it's debatable whether this was legally valid (a thing Hellknights would care about). The remainder of the Order of the Torrent do potentially become an ally of the Silver Ravens, but they're not a major player in the revolution.

Their current standing, since the PF2 canon is that Hell's Rebels was successful and Ravounel is fully independent from Cheliax, with relations being superficially cordial but clandestinely chilly. So It's probably safe to say that they still exist, and whether other Hellknights believe that Barzillai stripping the Order of the Torrent was legitimate, probably comes down to whether they are Thrune loyalists and whether the current position of Abrogail is whether he cousin was a madman and a traitor or not.

But I don't think any Hellknights would object to their actual mission of "rescuing people who are kidnapped or held hostage" which seems like an entirely lawful (and good) thing to do.

Liberty's Edge

The order of the Thorn was the first to align with House Thrune and pushed the others to do the same, which the Scourge, Chain and Gate did. The Pyre refused vehemently.

The order of the Thorn was then mostly annihilated by the order of the Pyre.

Which was later conquered without much loss of life by the order of the Scourge, even though those had allied with Cheliax.

So, yes, the orders are separated enough.

Liberty's Edge

It is important to remember that the goal of the Hellknights is a peaceful ordered world, where people are safe from monsters, madmen, criminals and cultists.

Their means though, especially their focus on fear and intimidation and their stauch refusal of laxism, are extreme.

The Hellknights have been designed to be in the dark grey area where they are not just one more case of Evil knights. But they easily tend toward totalitarism on their way to global peace.

I've been reading F Wesley Schneider's posts about the Hellknights and they are pretty enlightening.

They came into being as musings about what could be similar to paladins but with a focus on order rather than mercy. Which does not mean a Paladin could not find their place there, but that the orders were not designed to make it easy for a Paladin to be a Hellknight.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Travelling Sasha wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

spoiler:
It also raises questions of why Barzillai thought he had the authority to revoke a Hellknight Order's charter. Hellknight Orders don't rely on governments for permission to exist. However, it is revealed later that Barzillai promised the resources of the Order of the Torrent to an Order of the Rack Paralictor who were operating as his part of his Goon squad once the Order of the Torrent was "disbanded". "Several elements in this contract go specifically against certain Hellknight traditions" and the PCs can use it to blackmail the infringing order to leave to save face.

Now, As the governor of Kintargo, currently under martial law Barzillai can probably seize the property of anyone he wants to in the city, so maybe he can't revoke the Order of the Torrent's charter, but he can take their house, arrest their armigers, and effectively destroy the chapter. This is a moment where the Hellknights having no obligation to follow actual laws comes in handy because Lictor Sabinus can say "Sorry Barzillai, I'm just going to help out these plucky rebels because you're a big jerk."

We haven't seen the the order of the Torrent appear in second edition publication yet as far as I know. So maybe after all that, Sabinus left the order and took a civil position in Kintargo. Or something else.

Scarab Sages

Kasoh wrote:
We haven't seen the the order of the Torrent appear in second edition publication yet as far as I know. So maybe after all that, Sabinus left the order and took a civil position in Kintargo. Or something else.

The Order of the Torrent got a one-sentence mention in LO: Character Guide, so it still exits.

I don't own "Tomorrow Must Burn" so I don't know if it gets a mention there.

Radiant Oath

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Kasoh wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Travelling Sasha wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
This is mostly my reading of the AP, but I believe the reason Barzillai thinks he has the authority to revoke a Hellknight Order's charter is because he's just that much of a spiteful narcissist with delusions of grandeur. Remember, we're talking about a guy who thought one of the first, most important things to do when given a Duchy to rule was ban the sale and consumption of mint (Be not the cretin!), presumably because he personally didn't like it. He's the kind of guy who'd sit down and eat a grilled raven in front of a bunch of citizens and then comment it tastes like chicken in a mocking, petulant tone!

Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
Kasoh wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Travelling Sasha wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Yeah, I'm willing to believe delusions of grandeur.


I don't get why he would eat grilled raven?


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WagnerSika wrote:
I don't get why he would eat grilled raven?

His antagonists (the PCs) are the "Silver Ravens" and Barzillai is a loon (in the non-avian sense).

Silver Crusade

Because he opposes the Silver Ravens.


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Like the "he literally bans mint" is canonical. It makes a kind of sense in the very end, but he makes it a priority when he takes over Kintargo.


What makes it funnier is they aren't even based around real ravens, they're based around metallic magical objects that look like ravens.

Go ahead, Barzo. Eat one of those; I dare you.

Radiant Oath

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
WagnerSika wrote:
I don't get why he would eat grilled raven?
His antagonists (the PCs) are the "Silver Ravens" and Barzillai is a loon (in the non-avian sense).

Thank you for not slandering my state bird. :P

Back on topic, yeah, long story short, the Hellknight Orders are not a united body, and they may even come into conflict with each other where their mandates intersect and each tries to assert their authority over the other.


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Something that was implied but not really mentioned is the idea of "do the best for the greater good, even if it means doing bad". It is this mentality that makes a lot of Hellknights LN.

The armor/style is based on mimicking hell for the intimidation factor (E), but the purpose is to make sure people think twice before starting a fight (G).

Their focus on law and status quo above all else does mean that they end up enforcing some unsavory laws (E), but it also means that they will crush criminals who would break the peace and bring chaos to society (G).

I recently watched people playing Snowpunk, and that game has the option for a lot of order. Effectively you are placed in a position where you must choose "how far are you willing to go to maintain order and save people?". The hellknights would look at this question and just say, "yes" without looking back.

Radiant Oath

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

That's exactly it. As a matter of fact, that's the biggest source of conflict for Paladin types if they elect to join the Hellknights: the lines they refuse to cross aren't the same lines Hellknights themselves refuse to cross, and to the Hellknights refusing to do whatever is "necessary" for the preservation of order and peace is weakness and cowardice. "Necessary" in quotation marks because that word's often used to excuse atrocities, and that is a reading that can certainly apply to the Hellknights as well.

The Order of the Rack is the oldest order of the Hellknights and thus the closest to Daidian Rhul's mentality and ideas, and they aren't good: Rhul may have been a grieving husband and father and his opponents may have been demon worshipers who were able to get away with their evil for so long because they had powerful friends, but he still came away from all this believing that knowledge could be wasteful and idealism could be indolent, and it was better to keep the general populace ignorant of them to maintain a simplistic peace.


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I believe it’s the Scourge that’s the oldest/closest to the original organization.

Radiant Oath

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Just double-checked the Wiki, you're right. Thank you for the correction.

I made the mistake because Rhul's original Hellknights set up at Fort (later Citadel) Rivad, which later became the Rack's headquarters, as well as their secondary base at Tanarick House, where Rhul discovered and burned the Path of Grace's printing press, prompting the Rack's own hatred of them.

Liberty's Edge

Note that several higher-ups mentioned in the description of orders are Paladins.

Liberty's Edge

The strangest thing about the Hellknights is that their founder publicly denounced Aroden and his church (hence their at first insulting nickname of Hellknights). Yet their rules and laws are based on those of old Taldor and ancient Cheliax, which were pretty heavily based on LN Aroden's teachings.


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I mean, Aroden the idea was better than Aroden the entity. I think most would agree about that in retrospect.


Not to mention you can disagree with the leadership (Aroden) while still liking the organization (the laws of old Taldor).

* The opposite is also possible, but less relevant in this case.


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NECR0G1ANT wrote:
Kasoh wrote:
We haven't seen the the order of the Torrent appear in second edition publication yet as far as I know. So maybe after all that, Sabinus left the order and took a civil position in Kintargo. Or something else.

The Order of the Torrent got a one-sentence mention in LO: Character Guide, so it still exits.

I don't own "Tomorrow Must Burn" so I don't know if it gets a mention there.

I am currently running Tommorow Must Burn and it states something similar. That the Order of the Torrent while small is still very much alive. They are stationed in castle Kintargo and help keep the peace when they can.

Would have loved a little more involvement in the AP given the context, could've really let LG Hellknights shine. But I suppose that's what GMs are for ;).


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Rysky wrote:
SOLDIER-1st wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
There is also the Pathfinder Tales novel Hellknight, which I would really hope would deal with Hellknights, but I haven't read it yet so I can't comment on it.
It is a really good book I think, and definitely goes into the psychology of a Hellknight. Liane Merciel is a wonderful writer.
I can vouch for this, Hellknight is a good read.

Now that I've finished the book I can also confirm it is a good read. It does a really good job of presenting a lawful neutral character in the titular Hellknight, as well as presenting the Hellknight ethos as something that makes sense to that character.

Shadow Lodge

StarlingSweeter wrote:
I am currently running Tommorow Must Burn and it states something similar. That the Order of the Torrent while small is still very much alive. They are stationed in castle Kintargo and help keep the peace when they can.

Makes you wonder what actually became of Citadel Vaull, if the Order of the Torrent is operating out of Castle Kintargo these days. Did the state not give it back to the Order after the revolution?


zimmerwald1915 wrote:
StarlingSweeter wrote:
I am currently running Tommorow Must Burn and it states something similar. That the Order of the Torrent while small is still very much alive. They are stationed in castle Kintargo and help keep the peace when they can.
Makes you wonder what actually became of Citadel Vaull, if the Order of the Torrent is operating out of Castle Kintargo these days. Did the state not give it back to the Order after the revolution?

Since I expect Castle Kintargo to be a superior facility to operate out of, the state likely offered Citadel Vaull back to the Order of the Torrent who then sold it, since they were given a sweet new base of operations. In my mind, the Silver Ravens bought it.

Of course, since Kintargo likely still owns Castle Kintargo the Order of the Torrent might opt to keep ownership of Citadel Vaull should their political winds change and they can move back in should their 'lease' in the castle not be rewnewed.

Then again, with the Order of the Torrent being as small as it is, how much Citadel they can afford is also a question worth considering.

Shadow Lodge

Castle Kintargo isn't even a superior facility to operate out of, given the Order of the Torrent's ostensible mission of rescuing kidnapping victims. It lacks a dock for access to the river, and is indeed separated from the river and the city's surface streets by a wall. Citadel Vaull had neither flaw, being on the grid and fairly nearby to the docks next to the Silver Star.

It is a superior facility to operate in, being far larger, far more defensible, and having far more creature comforts.

But it is probably not cheaper than Citadel Vaull, assuming the latter was transferred back to the Order. The Silver Council should be extremely friendly to landlords given its composition (consisting among others of the biggest landlords in the city, including Belcara Jarvis), which means low or no land taxes (consistent with the Silver Council's low-tax, laissez-faire regime generally), but high rents.

So the Order of the Torrent's use of Castle Kintargo's is likely a result of state control over the Order and use of it as a pliant political police (a control which, ironically enough, has not been achieved over the Orders in either Cheliax or Korvosa), or a signal of the Order's indolence and moral corruption, or both.


zimmerwald1915 wrote:

Castle Kintargo isn't even a superior facility to operate out of, given the Order of the Torrent's ostensible mission of rescuing kidnapping victims. It lacks a dock for access to the river, and is indeed separated from the river and the city's surface streets by a wall. Citadel Vaull had neither flaw, being on the grid and fairly nearby to the docks next to the Silver Star.

It is a superior facility to operate in, being far larger, far more defensible, and having far more creature comforts.

But it is probably not cheaper than Citadel Vaull, assuming the latter was transferred back to the Order. The Silver Council should be extremely friendly to landlords given its composition (consisting among others of the biggest landlords in the city, including Belcara Jarvis), which means low or no land taxes (consistent with the Silver Council's low-tax, laissez-faire regime generally) and high rents.

So Castle Kintargo's use by the Order of the Torrent is likely a result of state control over the Order (a control which, ironically enough, has not been achieved over the Orders in either Cheliax or Korvosa), or a signal of the Order's indolence and moral corruption, or both.

Granted, you probably thought about it more than I did, but also...

I mean, in my game, Lictor Sabinus was pals with the Silver Ravens. So at the end of a successful campaign where they win the city, the victors gave out rewards to their buddies, because that's what winners do.

"Here have a nicer castle."
"I mean, thanks, but its not exactly what we need..."
"Well, how about some money too?"
"I don't think you realize what the issue is..."
"Playing hard to get? Here, have a political appointment!"
"What? Why? <sigh> Yeah, yeah. Someone has to keep this place from falling apart, might as well be me..."

Rexus and Lictor Sabinus did a lot of the organization in my group.

Though, to bring it back more generally to Hellknights... are Hellknights required to be separate from the localities they operate in? That would make sense as Mercenaries of Order, but in Pathfinder accumulating political power is a natural happenstance of having personal power.

Radiant Oath

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

It honestly depends on which Order we're discussing and the local government they interact with: in Cheliax alone some Orders like the Rack and the Gate view House Thrune as an ally and are willing to act as goon squads for them, while others like the Scourge and the Torrent have gotten on its bad side, while still others like the Chain or the Pike seem relatively neutral towards House Thrune.

Outside Cheliax, the Order of the Nail enjoyed a great deal of influence in Korvosa until Ileosa demanded actual fealty from them, at which point they packed up and returned to their Citadel to wait her out.

So, generally the Orders TRY to maintain some degree of independence from the rulers that employ them, but it depends on how well they get along with said ruler and how likely their own mandates are to clash with the ruler's whims.

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