D&D 5E EN5ider #460 - Intriguing Organizations: Unpinned Scales

In the face of tyranny it often falls to criminals to save the day and improves the lives of the populace, but this EN5ider thieves' guild is decidedly more opportunistic about their unusual type of social work.

en5ider 460 snapshot.JPG

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Lately on EN5ider:
  • 460. Intriguing Organization: Unpinned Scales. The Unpinned Scales are an urban thieves’ guild with a mission: to improve the lot of the downtrodden through crime. This makes them both popular with the population in general and extremely unpopular with the wealthy merchants and nobility who are on the receiving end of their heists. But the Unpinned scales have a dark secret too for they are an infernal front, and their fiendish leadership uses the organization to maintain the status quo while recruiting dangerous agents from the local underworld. Deviously designed by Peter Martin, illustrated by Julio Rocha.
  • 459. Adventure: Revenge of the Green Dragon. As a youngling the green dragon Aghrun was tormented by a group of adventurers, only barely able to escape with her life—now in adulthood, her wounds have healed but her pride has not. It is not all humanoids who bear the burden of her vengeance however, and she seeks only to torment the cruel breed of cowards who call themselves adventurers. To that end she's created a maze in her home in the overgrown Fernholm Forest, stocking it with all kinds of traps and tricks, and kobolds loyal to her wander about Elissar spreading rumors of great treasure awaiting in Fernholm. Unable to resist the lure of gold, adventurers are coming from all over and dying to Aghrun's delight. Can the party be victorious over both the dragon's traps and the others who seek gold and glory? This complete adventure can be run for both a party of 4–6 PCs of 16th level or competing parties of 12th level! Delightfully designed by Sarah Breyfogle, illustrated by Ellis Goodson, and featuring cartography by Meshon Cantrill and Russ Morrisey.
  • 458. Dangerous Scenarios: Bite and Seek. It's not atypical for vampires to play with their food and this wicked encounter fully embraces that lethal situation! A pack of children turned vampire spawn descend on the adventurers amidst a forested glade. Spots of sunlight can give the party an edge but it's not a simple battle, their foes delighting in the thrill of the fight and eager to take a few pounds of flesh along the way. Deliciously designed by Elizabeth Orchard, illustrated by Xanditz.
  • 457. Archetypes: Weird Warlocks. Sometimes after making a deal with the devil, a powerful fey, an entity from the great beyond, or whatever terrible thing has offered a sliver of its essence in exchange for a mortal soul, a warlock realizes what a terrible mistake they've made. That doesn't need to be their last terrible mistake though! There are two ways to get out of this peculiar arcane predicament—the Laughing Death patron and the Pactbreaker archetype—and though one involves a good bit of laughter neither is to be taken lightly. Dementedly designed by Mike Myler, illustrated by Phil Stone.
  • 456. Intriguing Organizations: The Vultures. Adventuring can be a messy business and when there's a lot of loot to deal with—the armaments of a wight queen's many skeletal soldiers, the silver bullion of a dragon's hoard, and the like—the logistics of turning a profit can be a hassle. Or the party can hire the Vultures to take care of it all for just a small percentage! These professionals are happy to handle whatever salvage is thrown at them no matter how bloody or gruesome the task may be. In fact they're quite comfortable with grim gigs. Maybe too comfortable. Discreetly designed by Peter Martin, illustrated by Deanna Roberds.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Jacob Vardy

Explorer
So.... well meaning rich people have their efforts at reform stymied by revolutionaries. A theory frequently espoused people who benefit from the most glacial reforms. And the revolutionaries are acting on the orders of Hell itself? The "outside agitators" conspiracy theory has a long lineage. Which can almost always be traced back to Jew-hatred. Going back to aristocrats saying "Of course the peasants were happy with me doing all the hard work of ruling. The revolution was all the fault of the Jews!"

I've no idea if the author intend this message. Most people are unaware of their ideology. But it is there.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
So.... well meaning rich people have their efforts at reform stymied by revolutionaries. A theory frequently espoused people who benefit from the most glacial reforms. And the revolutionaries are acting on the orders of Hell itself? The "outside agitators" conspiracy theory has a long lineage. Which can almost always be traced back to Jew-hatred. Going back to aristocrats saying "Of course the peasants were happy with me doing all the hard work of ruling. The revolution was all the fault of the Jews!"

I've no idea if the author intend this message. Most people are unaware of their ideology. But it is there.
I've read this comment a dozen times now and have re-read the article twice, and I am still confused. Could you identify exactly where in the text it is that you're seeing anti-semitism ideology?
 

Jacob Vardy

Explorer
I've read this comment a dozen times now and have re-read the article twice, and I am still confused. Could you identify exactly where in the text it is that you're seeing anti-semitism ideology?

I was trying to say that the article uses one of the tropes of Jew-hatred, a trope that is very often deployed with a dogwhistle. To be fair, my assumption was that everyone behind ENSider 460 were just thinking "lets do a fun article where the conspiracy is real". The article is about a group conspiring to create political tension. The thing about conspiracy theories is that they almost all originally made up to persecute Jews.

The conspiracy theory that political disorder is secretly caused by Jews goes back at least to the Great French Revolution. From "cultural Marxism" being behind Black Lives Matter to the 20thC Yankee civil rights movement being a Communist Judaeo-Bolshevik plot to opposition to the Tsar being Jewish in the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'... all the way back to French nobles whining that the peasants would have been happy but for the Jews stirring them up. The further you go back the less coded it gets, now it tends to be "outside agitators" back then it was just "devil worshiping Jews". The function of the coding is that most people don't hear the dogwhistle but at least some of the audience will hear "Jews".

The Unpinned Scales are very much outside agitators, coming from all over to cause trouble. Even taking orders from Hell, like in Medieval myths about Jews.



Some articles about the history of conspiracy theories, outside agitators, and Jew-hatred. I've tried to keep them short and from a variety of sources. Most of them focus more on the anti-Blackness of the theory but all at least mention the anti-Jewish origins.

Soros, ‘cultural Marxism’ and QAnon: How the GOP is energizing and entrenching antisemitism in America | Opinion | Opinion

This one is mostly about Brietbart but has a good second section about coded anti-Jewishness
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Okay I think I'm getting what you mean now. The "outside agitators" trope as is described by these articles (all dated from 2 years ago which is a little weird?) does not appear in this article.

On the first page it starts talking about how the Unpinned Scales work to maintain the status quo (that comes up twice more, plus another time in this issue's summary) and have integrated themselves into the city. Most of the article goes on to talk about how they manipulate public discourse, and where it talks about recruitment it's coming from within the city.

There are agitators here, and there's a devil giving out orders, and they've got this mafia thing going on where once you're in you can't get out—but the ideology you are suggesting is not being implied by the text.
 

Hi there. I am the author of the article. The Unpinned Scales are basically intended as a metaphor for how populism takes abhorrent beliefs, wraps them in false virtue to deceive the desperate, and makes people who want to be good do bad things by lying to them. "If they can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities."
 

A bit more context: populist agitators usually set themselves up as outsiders fighting against the system or elites. So in the case of the unpinned scales, the rare decent "elite" (genuinely good clergyperson or philanthropist) is painted with the brush of corruption by those seeking to manipulate others into condoning their actions. That only works (in this specific case) because most of the time the general populace know that most of the bad guys are actually wealthy/powerful/established.

You have my intended messaging about 180 degrees off, my dude.
 

One final post just to make things extra-clear: take the name of your least-favorite wannabe or actual authoritarian head of state. Swap their name in for the name of founding devil and reread the article that way. Because that's LITERALLY what I was thinking of when I wrote the piece.
 

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