The Agents of Balance

The Agents of Balance

“Dangers lurk in all systems. Systems incorporate the unexamined beliefs of their creators. Adopt a system, accept its beliefs, and you help strengthen the resistance to change” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Patron: Unknown

The Patron of the Agents of Balance (also referred to derisively as the “Free Agents” by some) doesn’t seem to have any interest in identifying themselves with a specific name or appearance. They’ve been known to appear as Azrael (an Angel of Death, but also of Transition), as the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at (holding her scales of balance and scepter), as Persephone (the Greek goddess who moved to and from the underworld each year), Kali (Hindu goddess of many things, including change), or Athena/Minerva (goddess of wisdom and strategy).

As a result, there’s no story The Agents of Balance can tell themselves about the origins of their Patron — though there is a tale involving a fallen “Watcher” from Eden. What they do know is this.

For millennia the Blessed and Banished have fought over the fate of humanity in almost every part of the globe. Countless wars have likely been the shadow of the Huldufolk’s war on the mortal world. Numerous times the supposedly “cold” war of the Blessed and Banished has turned into a bloody one, leaving disastrous consequences in both societies. As the European Renaissance began to bloom, a new power began to appear to Huldufolk as Minerva, seeking an end to this ceaseless war. Numerous Huldufolk, disenchanted by bloodshed, joined this Patron, who threatened to use their powers against any faction that continued open warfare. Because of this drastic shift in power among the Huldufolk, there has been no direct war between the Blessed and Banished since.

Motivations: If asked by other Huldufolk, their purpose is easy enough to understand: the Agents of Balance stand between the Blessed and Banished to uphold an uneasy peace between them, and dissuade further outbreaks of open war. This answer is palatable enough to most Huldufolk of both sides, but isn’t the entirety of the truth.

The Agents of Balance don’t believe any of the goals of the other factions are what’s best for humanity — at least not in extremes. They believe that the best future for the world involves a shifting equilibrium between them. Often their version of balance skews towards the Blessed (especially the Friends of God) more than the Banished for certain fairly obvious reasons, but there are times where even the worst parts of the Banished must have their due.

If the Agents of Balance had their way, Huldufolk wouldn’t be influencing humanity’s future at all — their Patron seems to buy into the Blessed’s version of the Hidden People’s origins even more than the Blessed do themselves, strongly believing that humans should be making their future of their own free will, as they were supposedly created to do. However, the Agents of Balance recognize that Huldufolk have the instinct to meddle; therefore their real option is to try to restrict the amount of influence any group has over humanity, and have the upper hand shift enough that none of them truly control the future. Hopefully, in this constant shift of control, humanity will find a way to make their own path.

Goals: To keep a balance between the Banished and the Blessed, and importantly, try to make sure no faction stays in power long enough to outlive their welcome. Sustained control breeds extreme action, as well as complacency. Additionally, if the Banished or Blessed ever go to war again, the Agents of Balance have pledged to side against the aggressors.

When the powers of the Huldufolk are in balance on their own, the Agents of Balance often deal with all the other factions fairly openly, providing assistance that benefits them (hence why some refer to them as “Free Agents”). When one of the factions is in clear ascendance, however, the Agents shift their power against them, supporting the other factions to attempt to keep the balance between them — or in some cases, working to topple the faction in control to shift power entirely.

Beliefs Invoked: The future is uncertain; life can change at any moment. The future is what we make of it. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

Criticisms: The other factions are of course understanding when the Agents of Balance use their influence to push their enemies out of power, but are far less understanding when it’s them being maneuvered out of control.

Both the Banished and Blessed have a similar criticism against the Agents of Balance: they believe that the Agents have no real belief, or principles, at all, and that little is served by their place in society. The Judges of Light, in particular, believe the Agents of Balance are simply the last stopping post before a Huldufolk forsakes society altogether, and goes Rogue.

The Agents, in response, make a simple observation: there has only been one civil war between the Blessed and Banished while the Agents of Balance have existed, and it was during that war that the Agents of Balance rose to prominence between them. It is their existence which led many Huldufolk to return to society, and their actions continue the tense peace between them.

Why Include the Agents of Balance?

In the story of the Banished and the Blessed, which appear to be clearly working for Angels and Demons, the Agents of Balance seem like a weird choice. Overall, they serve three purposes.

  1. They keep the game moving. If any group manages to take absolute control in the game, the Agents of Balance are there to work with the other groups to reduce their control.
  2. They provide an option for characters from other religions, cultures, or philosophies who might not see their view of the world in the exact black and white way the Blessed and Banished may often see it.
  3. Their Patron, who doesn’t appear to be an Angel or Demon at all, casts doubt on who all the other Patrons actually are.

Using the Agents of Balance

The purpose of the Agents of Balance is to keep the game moving. They’re very important to the health of a larger game, and are the wild card the other factions can most easily pull on, especially against whatever group is in power.

However, they don’t serve much purpose in a smaller game. My suggestion would be to start your game with Blessed and Banished, and introduce the Agents of Balance as the group gets larger, and the politics start to congeal. If you have players who don’t quite buy into the quasi Judeo-Christian nature of the other factions, you may want to introduce the Agents of Balance earlier so they have someplace to be.

A word of warning: in political games with opposing factions, it can sometimes be easy for the independent faction between them to become a faction of inaction, sitting on the couch nay-saying about everyone else’s politics. Don’t allow this to happen. If you see players shifting towards apathy, it’s time for their Patron to start getting very demanding. There are no free rides in Huldufolk.