The ZhentarimEditAlso known as the Black Network, began as a group of merchants but has grown to include assassins, spies, an army, and the backing of the church of Bane. Now in control of half the area around the Moonsea, the Zhentarim has increased its influence across the continent and achieved footholds in the western and southern regions of Faerûn as well. Well armed and supplied, the Zhentarim is supported by powerful wizards and clerics and led by an archmage and the Chosen of Bane himself.
Feared by the common folk and bearing an evil reputation, the Zhentarim is not a foe that one should challenge without serious intent. As the organization and the church of Bane grow together, its influence is likely to spread even faster, for both groups seek complete domination of northern Faerûn. Now even a group of common merchants bearing the symbol of the Black Network is treated respectfully and kept at arm’s
length, for the merchants might be under the protection of a powerful wizard or carry magic far beyond the means of ordinary folk.
Brief History EditThe Black Network was created by the archmage Manshoon, who rose through the ranks of Zhentil Keep by eliminating his rivals (including members of his own family).
After becoming a lord of Zhentil Keep, he worked to gain control over his fellow lords. Once that was established, he created a secret society, the Zhentarim, which would act independently of Zhentil Keep and provide him more power than simple lordship could.
Over time he shared the leadership with apprentices and colleagues, increasing the power of the Black Network greatly.
One of these converts was Fzoul Chembryl, who at the time was the leader of a splinter cult of Bane. Over the years, the Zhentarim expanded to include Darkhold and the Citadel of the Raven.
In recent decades, the organization encountered a number of setbacks, often through its pursuit of spellfire and conflicts with powerful mages such as Elminster. One major setback occurred during the Time of Troubles, with the destruction of the Zhentarim’s primary deity, Bane.
Later, Cyric’s involvement in the destruction of Zhentil Keep shattered the main base of power of the Zhentarim and led to unfocused and ill-planned efforts of conquest in the following years. Since that time, Fzoul has changed his allegiance from Cyric to Xvim and then to Bane again, Zhentil Keep has been rebuilt, and Fzoul has become the Zhentarim’s official leader. Manshoon now acts as a nearly independent operative. With fewer distractions and the rise of Bane, the Zhentarim has solidified its power in the Moonsea area, is preparing to take complete control of that region, and then advance its plans in other parts of the world.
Motivation, Tactics and Goals of the ZhentarimEdit
The Zhentarim used to be an organization that focused mainly on the control of trade through northern Faerûn.
With the expansion of its activities into murder, espionage, extortion, arson, and all-out warfare, the Zhentarim has become a political and military organization with as much power as a small country and the desire to see the leaders of rival cities and countries fall into line under the banner of the Black Network.
Much as they control most of the Moonsea, Manshoon and Fzoul would like to see the Zhentarim eventually rule the lands that stretch all the way westward to the Sword Coast.
To achieve these goals, Zhentarim operatives use several key tactics. First, they have extensive merchant contacts in their own lands and nearby territories, and they can move large amounts of goods safely and quickly through dangerous lands.
In particular, the Black Road through Anauroch cuts weeks from their travel time to the western cities of Faerûn. Often their goods consist of contraband or restricted items (such as poison, slaves, drugs, or smokepowder weapons).
Second, they raid enemy caravans, using human soldiers or recruited gangs of humanoids to drive their competitors into poverty.
Often these caravans are simply captured and then brought to their intended destination under the flag of
Black Network, providing both a profit from the goods and an implicit understanding from the buyer that the Zhentarim succeed in trade where others fail.
Since the Zhents charge essentially the same prices as their competitors, even honest folk tend to buy from them, despite any misgivings over the source.
Third, they use tactics such as extortion, arson, and murder to deter their rivals and opponents in mercantile trade and political activity.
Zhentarim agents commonly attack local farmers and warehouses to delay their trips to market, allowing the Zhents to sell their goods first.
Sometimes an entire village is held hostage by a group of Zhentarim warriors, preventing the import or export of needed supplies until the Zhentarim’s demands are met.
The Black Network also takes advantage of its access to many spellcasters by secretly agitating local monster populations, causing unexpected attacks upon smaller settlements that a squadron of Zhentarim soldiers (led by the spellcaster responsible for the disturbance) can scare off.
Once these soldiers have established a base camp in or near the settlement, they are remarkablydifficult to dislodge, especially because they have standing orders to ally with local greedy merchants to justify
their presence as caravan guards and assume the veneer of invited guests.
If local monsters are not available, Zhentarim spellcasters have been known to conjure hideous creatures, with
the same net effect of a rampaging native terror.
The Barracks and Equipment Edit
The Zhents smuggle weapons to all parts of northern Faerûn and have master smiths working for them in every city they control.
This means they tend to have the best equipment available, with a high incidence of masterwork items. Compared to other characters of his level, a member of the Zhentarim is generally better equipped.
Furthermore, group leaders have the ability to requisition funds from the network to pay bribes or acquire unusual items in time of need, so any Zhentarim encountered may have money or special equipment above and beyond the norm.
//From an article brought to attention by VictorPhoenix, thank you