Sentinel Revision as of 13:31, 28 September 2021 by Rafferty
Sentinels embrace the arts of war with the same passion and commitment with which their fellow Urizeni study magic. The essence of arete is to devote yourself utterly to your chosen art so that you may master every part of it. A respected sentinel is much more than just a skilled warrior - they are expected to study strategy, tactics, logistics, history, magic, and diplomacy. Anything that might influence the outcome of a battle falls within the domain of the sentinel.
Two great dangers threaten Urizen from without, the perfidious Druj to the east, and the avaricious Grendel to the South. Both these evils seek to overrun the nation, to enslave its people and tear down its spires. Those who dedicate their lives to protecting Urizen from these threats call themselves sentinels. Without their commitment and sacrifice, the nation would quickly be destroyed and its legacy of reason and learning would be lost.
When they are not fighting against Urizen's enemies, the sentinels are readying for the next conflict. More than just training, every moment is dedicated to planning and preparing for the next battle, the next war. They build fortified citadels and press for the construction of fortifications to protect the borders, or craft forges to smith the finest weapons of war. They conduct dangerous forays into enemy territory to bring back vital intelligence or to sabotage key targets. Only through the constant vigil of the sentinels can the people of Urizen be kept safe.
The history of the sentinels is demarcated by the many battles they have fought in, which are endlessly studied and analysed. While many of these conflicts have been pivotal in the defence of Urizen, the most important of them have produced crucial insights that have guided the development of the sentinels. Sentinels often deliberately gloss over the names of those involved, in the belief that a focus on individuals risks the student missing vital lessons and insights that a battle might otherwise provide. The strategy is more important than the strategist.
The battle on the Foothills of the Peregrine is widely regarded as the first clear example of an application of the Net of the Heavens to the principles of warfare. To counter the overwhelming numbers of their Druj opponents, the Urizen dispersed archers all across the rocky outcrops. Most were quickly discovered and swiftly butchered, but a handful were able to pick off key targets. In what is sometimes argued was a stroke of luck, the Druj advance ground to a halt and then collapsed with their armies falling to infighting after an important Druj leader was slain. The battle demonstrated that to be effective requires a warrior to identify the perfect moment for a strike. Prolonged engagements are wasteful and to be avoided where possible; the ideal strategy commits troops only at the pivotal moment when they can transform the outcome.
Another key lesson of the sentinels is the need to prepare and plan for the next battle. The Siege of Ichimos took place when Grendel forces invaded Spiral after a long period of relative peace. Despite the apparent lack of threats, the arbiters of the spire had invested heavily in its defence, building successive layers of fortifications, laying in supplies and digging a great well that could raise water from an underground stream deep beneath the mountain. These easily repelled the Grendel attacks and then held out against the resulting siege for over two years. At Ichimos, the sentinels showed that the preparation for a battle is more important than the fight itself. Many of the modern citadels, the great fortified spires of Urizen, are inspired by the example of Ichimos. They employ layered fortifications, create storehouses of supplies and dig deep wells to ensure that they can endure a siege no matter how protracted.
Sentinels emphasise the importance of diplomacy as one of the crucial arts of war. To go to battle without your allies by your side is every bit as negligent as setting off without your weapons or armour. The historical example used to drive this lesson home is the destruction of the Black Citadel in the years before the creation of the heliopticon. When the Druj were sighted advancing on the fortress, the sentinels declined to send messengers to nearby spires pleading for aid because the Citadel was considered to be impregnable, protected as it was by impossibly high walls of dark granite. To this day nobody knows what ruse the Druj used to penetrate the defences, but it is widely believed that the citadel could have been saved if the arbiter had called for aid in time.
The sentinels were among the strongest supporters of the early Empire in Urizen. Having learned well the lessons taught by the loss of the Black Citadel, they argued that joining the Empire would give Urizen the allies it needed to drive the orcs back. Although they were unsuccessful at first, they continued to push for Urizen engagement with the Empire and several prominent citadels provided sentinel forces to support the mages who went north to fight Alderei the Fair, in the hope that it might open the way to further cooperation. When Giovanni visited Urizen, he stayed at the Citadel of Highwatch in Morrow, and was suspected to have received shrewd advice and counsel from arbiter on how to approach her fellow Urizeni.
One of Giovanni's first acts, when Urizen joined the Empire, was to allocate funds from the Imperial treasury to pay for the enlargement of the Citadel Guard. Since that day the senators of Urizen have almost always entrusted control of the Guard to a prominent sentinel, ensuring that the defence of the nation is in the hands of someone who is utterly committed to the task. This is a matter of considerable pride to most sentinels and most work hard to ensure that their long stewardship of the army is not interrupted.
Wars are not won or lost in battles - those are merely the moments when fate reveals which side was better prepared.Phaedra of Highwatch
Students of War
Sentinels see a narrow focus on fighting as indication of a lack of poise. A warrior who fails to master their emotions will become swept up by the passion of battle and come to believe that that moment is crucial. Citadels teach their students that this is a mistake - that battle is just one small part of war. The training, the preparation, the planning - they are every bit as important as the fighting, so much so that many sentinels consider it a mistake to distinguish between them.
Preparation for war is about much more than just training. Building effective defences is a crucial part of warfare, and most sentinels support the creation of the largest, most defensible fortifications that the nation can support. Urizen's small population makes it impossible for it to raise a second army, but the unforgiving landscape is perfect for the construction of large fortresses that can ensure the nation is protected.
To become the perfect warrior requires a sentinel to master every facet of warfare. Martial skills are a vital part of that training, but they must also study logistics, strategy, tactics, and diplomacy. There are sentinels who devote their lives to architecture, looking to create impregnable fortifications, or master the craft of the artisan so that they can make the perfect weapons. While few are practitioners of magic, most of them study the application of the arcane arts to battle, the better to anticipate their enemies and utilize their allies. Most citadels have a library at their heart and many Sentinels see it as their duty to commit their philosophy and ideas to writing, so that they can be tested by their peers and studied by future generations. Sentinels are not warriors, they are students of war itself.
Most sentinels also have a deep appreciation of the vital need to be able to cooperate effectively with others on the battlefield. A duel between two warriors is radically different to a battlefield involving scores or hundreds of opponents. Few sentinels have much time for those who seek personal triumph in battle. The common view is that to be effective on the battlefield requires the sublimation of the individual's identity to allow those engaged to form a single fighting unit. Sentinels from different spires often seek out opportunities to train together looking to develop their ability to form larger combat units from smaller, seemingly disparate groups.
Once battle is joined, sentinels strive to be mindful of the Net of the Heavens. To be effective requires a warrior to identify the perfect moment for a strike. Prolonged engagements are wasteful and to be avoided where possible; the ideal strategy commits troops only at the pivotal moment when they can transform the outcome. The best generals are those who can achieve victory without wasted lives or effort. When fighting alongside other nations, sentinels often prefer to stay in reserve, avoiding the front lines of a battle – they observe the unfolding conflict and quickly decide where their particular skills can make the most difference to the outcome, then employ those skills with ruthless effectiveness before moving on to another crisis point. This often means engaging at the point where fighting is most fierce, bringing relief to beleaguered allies who are about to be overrun.
When training some sentinels choose to focus their fighting skills, striving to master a single fighting style or approach to combat. They often seek to express a wider philosophy through the style of warfare they embrace. For example, a sentinel who strives to become an immovable object who stands firm and breaks any enemy who comes against them might specialise in the use of a shield, cultivate physical stamina, and channel their inner strength into recover quickly from the blows of their enemy.
Other sentinels stress flexibility, believing that the ultimate warrior is one who can adapt themselves to any need. They might master multiple weapons, and perhaps learn a little healing or combat magic, viewing magic as one of the many weapons they can wield as circumstances require. Such an individual would tend to prepare the weapons and armour for each battle, depending on who they are fighting and in particular on who their allies are – perhaps even going so far as to specialize in supporting or complementing their allies approach to the battle.
Ritual magic is considered crucial to success on the battlefield, the greater the range of rituals a sentinel has access to the more flexible they can be. A sentinel might expand their repertoire of weapons for a certain battle with the use of Barked Command of the Iron Serjant, or seek out a magician who can perform Vitality of Rushing Water when facing Druj or venturing into a vallorn. However, although some sentinels learn spellcasting, few seek to master ritual magic. Learning ritual lore is a time-consuming process that requires the sentinel to split their focus - something that inevitably compromises their arete. Better to focus on perfecting martial skills and seek out the right coven for aid when it is needed.
The Enemy Within
The sentinels have a long and bitter rivalry with the sword scholars. This is because sword scholars are dangerous fanatics who once went round killing priests if they found their teachings offensive. While modern sword scholars have had to drop their murderous traditions to be accepted back into Urizen, they still represent the worst excesses of Urizen life. It is bad enough that questors want to dismantle everything in search of a higher truth, without the slightest concern for the stability of Urizen or the Empire. Sword scholars have the same indifference to the wellbeing of Urizen combined with a tendency to physical confrontation with anyone who disagrees with them.
In the opinion of most sentinels Suleiman and the sword scholars were a disaster for Urizen, threatening and sometimes murdering the priests of neighbouring Highguard. At a time when Urizen desperately needed capable allies, Suleiman was busy putting some of their most important diplomats to the sword for the crime of not being able to hold their own in a debate. The sword scholars were all highly capable warriors, but instead of pledging themselves to protecting the nation from the orcs, they spent their time murdering mendicant priests.
Modern sword scholars are shrewd enough to not get caught breaking the law, so instead they openly feud with the Synod, opposing anything they take a dislike to. Few show even the slightest concern for the diplomatic or strategic consequences of their actions. As a result, the sentinels view them as a menace, something that threatens the security of Urizen every bit as much as the Druj or the Grendel do. After Urizen joined the Empire, the sentinels drove the sword scholars out with the backing of the Imperial Synod. Isolated and scattered they were unable to do anything more to threaten the safety and security of Urizen. Now that they have returned, many sentinels consider it only a matter of time before they will start doing things that threaten the safety of Urizen again.
Creating a Sentinel
The sentinel archetype is intended to let you create a dedicated warrior, someone who puts the defence of Urizen above all other concerns. It gives you a chance to play a soldier who is also a philosopher or a scholar. Sentinels believe that the successful execution of war includes all the preparation and planning that leads up to the battle, so the archetype gives you a justification for getting involved in every aspect of Urizen life that might affect the wars the nation is fighting.
When you play a sentinel, you are a soldier who can embrace any aspect of warfare. If you take an interest in the strategic and diplomatic manoeuvrings of the military council as they plan Imperial strategy then it may help to understand how Imperial campaigns are decided. If you are want to see Urizen fortified, then it's a good idea to understand how the Senate commissions them and how they are paid for with resources from the Bourse. Most sentinels get most benefit from having a military unit as their personal resource but you can take a resource like a business if you want to have the money to pay for magic items or a mana site to give you mana crystals to get enchantments cast on yourself.
Sentinels are dedicated warriors, so any skills that you can use on the battlefield are worth taking. Martial skills are the obvious choice, but you can play a battle mage, or an artificer who makes their own magic weapons and armour, or even play a battlefield physic if that appeals to you. Fighting in battles is just one part of being a sentinel though, so if you're a non-combatant then you can still play a sentinel by creating a veteran warrior - you just need an in-character reason why your character can no longer take the field such as a debilitating injury. The only skills to avoid are ritual magic and religious skills since too many points spent on skills like that will undermine your character's identity as a dedicated warrior.
In Urizen, there are fortified spires called citadels which are built and operated by sentinels to defend Urizen. If you're part of a group with other sentinels then it's a great idea to create your own citadel. You can talk to your friends to develop an idea for the martial philosophy of your citadel, what kind of skills they teach, what kind of tactics they train for, and so on. While it's hard to do, if you can create characters with similar costume and fighting style then it will dramatically increase the profile of your group and make you more effective in the game. Empire is filled with thousands of unique characters, so a battlefield unit with a uniform look always looks dramatic and stands out from the crowd. Most inhabitants of a citadel are sentinels but they are home to some ritual magicians and similar, so not everyone has to be a warrior.
Any spire or temple would be grateful to have a sentinel living there who could help protect the other inhabitants, so you don't have to join a citadel. Urizen is always short of skilled warriors, so you should also find yourself in high demand as a lone character attending Anvil. Ultimately though, the focus of a sentinel is on securing Urizen against any external threat, so you'll always want to look for allies that you can fight alongside in pursuit of this goal.
Playing a Sentinel
The key goal of a sentinel is to protect Urizen at any cost. Fighting on battles and skirmishes is just one small part of this, sentinels are motivated to take an interest in anything that is needed to make Urizen more secure. You want to make sure that the Military Council are taking the right steps to ensure that Urizen is properly defended. You need to be confident that the Senate are investing in fortifications to secure the borders. You should be encouraging Urizen's magicians to research new enchantments that will be beneficial on the battlefield or to the Imperial armies. Anything that you can work towards that will help ensure that Urizens survives and prospers.
If you are playing a sentinel, then a background serving with the Citadel Guard may give your character a strong background as well as useful connections to other Urizen characters. If you're playing a former member of the army then you're encouraged to look out for and support other characters in the nation with the same background - but it's better not to assume that you'll be able to call on anyone for help initially. If you're a new character especially it's much better to approach former members you can identify with a view to finding ways to help them. Only once you've built up some credibility are you likely to be able to call on your new allies for similar support.
Urizen has one key military weakness - they have only one army. While other nations can potentially raise new armies, Urizen simply do not have a large enough population to support a second army. This puts Urizen at a massive disadvantage in negotiations with other nations in the Military Council. If Urizen cannot persuade other nations to send armies to defend its borders against the Druj and the Grendel then it will continue to lose territory until it is eventually completely destroyed. This means it is absolutely essential for sentinels and other characters who want to see Urizen survive to use their influence to persuade other members of the Military Council to defend Urizen.
The Citadel Guard is arguably the most powerful army in the Empire - it is the only Imperial army that is capable of focusing rituals in territories where it is fighting. This can be utterly crucial in turning a campaign in the Empire's favour, so its deployment is a crucial bargaining tool in Military Council meetings. Historically, the general of the army is a sentinel - a source of considerable pride to the sentinels. Becoming general is a great long-term goal for any sentinel, but supporting your fellow sentinels and opposing any sword scholar or magician who tries to claim leadership of the army is almost as important. Although Urizen can only have one army, there's no limit to the number of fortifications they can build. Building one is a major undertaking but is a great character goal for any sentinel.
The other key asset the Urizen have is a number of powerful ritual teams who are capable of performing the really large army enchantment rituals that are prized by the Council, as well as some of the smaller divination rituals that provide vital reconnaissance. The Empire is reliant on these rituals to tip the balance in their favour. You will need to convince your fellow Urizeni to use this leverage to buy support for Urizen if the nation is to survive. You can also try to corral the magicians into casting powerful defensive rituals like the Frozen Citadel of Cathan Canae whenever they are needed.
As a sentinel, you have a license to be utterly ruthless in pursuit of your goals. Most characters understand that a battle is a matter of life and death, where characters do what they must to survive. But sentinels don't make any distinction between the battle and the planning and preparation that leads up to that point. Sentinels are not immoral - they want to protect Urizen precisely because it is the greatest bastion of learning and civilisation in the known world. But if you can stay focussed on the idea that everything you are doing could prove vital to Urizen's survival then you have a strong motivation to be utterly uncompromising in your dealings with other characters.
Although sentinels are dedicated warriors, they embrace the Urizeni themes of arete, poise, and personal philosophy. They are defined by their dedication to keeping Urizen safe, but you don't have to spend every moment working towards that goal. Sentinels who come to Anvil enjoy music, plays, meals, debates and socializing as much as any Urizeni. Anvil is the safest place in the Empire, so you can let your guard down while you are there when you need to relax.
Thanks to Isidore Sanders for important contributions to this page