In the Last Age, in theory, every one is free. But the Shadow constantly needs obedient (and unpaid) servants. It is then not uncommon to see people “taken” by the Shadow hordes in order to “bring their contribution to the war effort against the fey”.
The way it is presented, those who are thus taken are granted the PRIVILEGE to work for the greater glory of Izrador, dedicating their lives to the service of the Shadow. In reality it is forced labour of the worst kind.
As stated in M2E, whole bands of slavers, both human in the south or goblinoids in the North of Erenland. Those are trained to look for promising slaves, and also to spread terror even unto backwater villages.
Their targets can be:
-captured criminals (it’s a good example of the fate of a defeated band of PCs)
-people who were “sold” to the Shadow for a crime they did not commit (usually this type of denouciation is encouraged by the Shadow, in order to further sow mistrust and paranoia among the occupied population of Erenland)
-people who imprudently showed a feat of rare skills (knowledge, crafts…) that are seen as valuable by the Shadow (some legates need slave scribes or their own artisans)
-indebted people who cannot pay their debt, or people who cannot pay the tithe, and agree to pay it by becoming willing slaves (they pay with their body, sacrificing themselves to save their family and loved ones).
Goblin slave traders
Theoretically, goblin slavers give their slaves to those members of the Shadow (legates, orc commanders, traitor princes and their minions) who “ordered” it, without making a profit in the operation. After all, they are granted the privilege to hunt slaves instead of serving the Shadow on the Burning Line or the dwarven holdfasts, an activity that is far less dangerous.
But a slave who has rare aptitudes may attract the greed of several different Shadow lords. Obviously, goblin slavers will give the specific slave to highest-bidder. This is not done in a public “market”, however, but rather the goblins are offered “gifts” (food, weapons, alcohol, etc.) if they want to give this slave to the one who so generously sponsors their actions.
In time, this has become a valuable trade and many goblins would gladly be granted the privilege to be part of a band of slavers.
Goblins also make handy profits with the underworld, selling many young women to prostitution organizations.
As most slaves are susceptible to change hands, they only receive one brand on their right forearm indicating their slave status, but not one indicating to whom they belong. Such things are usually inscribed on the clothes they are given, however.
Liberating a slave
The first thing is that it is always possible to corrupt a band of goblin slavers before they deliver the slave to its future owner (see my rules about corruption).
For those who are not good-hearted, it is also possible to find a “substitute” to give to the goblins in exchange for the slave. For the goblins, as long as the other slave “fits the order”, why would they care?
Another opportunity is seeking the aid of the Liberators. This secret organization was first created by halflings to assist in the liberation of their fellow halflings from slavery, but soon its goal became to free every possible slave. Aio the Lightfooted was the first member and creator of the Liberators (see the story of Aio and of the Bloody Knife: MN01 pages 87-88, M2E:pg 308).
This organization actually is the only active halfling resistance movement across Eredane.
Their goals are many:
-first comes the liberation of slaves, with halfling slaves being given priority. This is usually done by infiltration, some halfling members playing the role of halfling slaves to unlockdoors, cut chains, and so on. Sometimes they are assisted by members of a band of orc deserters who play the part of a squad of orcs who are to take a lot of slaves to their new masters
-second comes sabotage: poisoning wells, burning a legates’ secret documents, etc;
-third comes vengeance: many times, the Liberators will kill a legate that was too harsh for the slaves, or an orc commander who slew many innocent
-sometimes (very rarely) the organization will set up rebellions, which will be used as a distraction for the escape of a few slaves
-other times, they will try to sow discord among the enemy, setting a legate against an orc commander or a traitor prince. All they have to afterwards is to watch the ensuing mayhem and take the opportunity to make some slaves escape
-sometimes the organization will “sell” its services to perform spying missions, copying battleplans for example. Usually this is done in exchange of a favour, which always involves giving some help in staging the escape of slaves
-finally, the organization spreads tales of its exploits among the slaves in order to help them keep morale. Their exploits are usually embellished, but the slaves don’t care.
To become a member, one only needs to have been a former slave. In exchange for their liberation, they must take the vow to help the organization whenever they are asked, to provide it with necessary assets or even acting themselves. This way, even though some missions might fail, there will always be new members to take the burden. Most freed slaves join the organization outright, while some choose to retire in the wilderness, usually with nomadic or even agrarian halflings.
The organization is cell-structured so that even though a specific cell is successfully rooted out by the legates, others can still live on. The Liberators (M2e pg 189-189) are actually members of the organization, although their real exploits are much different from the tales they have spread. These are actually quite unremarkable halflings.
In time, the organization has developped many contacts in many cities, allowing it to secure safehouses, caches and so on. They also have a priviliged partnership with a gnome family that is specialized in smuggling escaped slaves to safety (for the right price, of course).
Prestige Class: the Unbroken (taken from Age of Legend, a DawnForge supplement)
Hit die: d12
Skills: Concentration 8 ranks, Escape Artist 4 ranks, Sense Motive 4 ranks, Survival 4 ranks
Feats: Endurance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Lightning reflexes
Special: the character must be a former slave who spent at least one year in slavery.
Class Skills: Craft (int), Concentration (Con), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis).
Skill Points at each level: 2 + int modifier
Weapons & Armor Proficiency: an unbroken is proficient with all simpl weapons and with light armor.
Pain Immunity (Ex): Pain was the unbroken’s constant companion while he was in captivity. It holds no fear for him now; he has seen the face of pain, and it no longer frightens him. The unbroken may ignore any penalties from pain effects (such as those caused by a symbol of pain) and gains a +10 circumstance bonus to Fortitude saving throws and Concentration skill checks that involve resisting pain. Appropriate circumstances would be the saving throw to avoid dying from massive damage, or the Concentration check made to prevent a spell from being disrupted after taking damage.
Force of Will (Ex): By focusing his mighty willpower on the task at hand, the unbroken can accomplish extraordinary things. At 1st level, and at every other level thereafter, the unbroken receives a bonus that he can apply to any skill test, attack roll, caster level check, or saving throw. This bonus stacks with all other bonuses and may be divided amongst multiple rolls. For example, at 3rd level, the unbroken may take a +3 bonus to an attack roll, then later in the day use a +1 bonus to a saving throw. Most importantly, these bonuses may be applied to rolls after success or failure has been determined.
Fortress of the Mind (Ex): Living a life of constant toil and suffering, the unbroken has learned to build mental walls around his mind to keep his sanity and willpower intact. These walls are hardened against not only the lash and the cruel words, but against mind-affecting magic as well. At 2nd level, the unbroken receives a +4 bonus to saving throws against charm effects. At 4th level, his mind is strong enough to ignore charm effects altogether. At 6th level, the unbroken receives a +4 bonus to saving throws against compulsion effects. At 8th level, his sense of self is strong enough that he can ignore compulsion effects altogether. At 10th level, the unbroken is completely immune to all mind-affecting spells and effects.
Resistance (Ex): through his experience, wits, and sheer force of will, the unbroken has hardened himself against some of the harshest elements of existence. At 1st level, the unbroken may choose one of the abilities below. He may choose additional abilities at 4th, 7th, and 10th level. Some abilities may be chosen multiple times:
Toxin resistance: the unbroken has pushed his body to such extremes, it can safely break down any poisons he may ingest. When he chooses this ability, the unbroken becomes immune to the secondary effect of poisons. He does not have to make a save to avoid their effects; he is simply immune.
Weather-hardened: unbroken are tough enough yo handle a little cold…or heat, or even acid, depending on what they’ve been exposed to in their work. This ability gives the unbroken a resistance of 5 to an energy type of his choice (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic). Each subsequent tiume he chooses this ability, he may choose a second energy type or add an additional 5 to the existing resistance type.
Battle-hardened: between the abuse of slavery and the harships of life on the run, the unbroken’s flesh has toughened to the point where minor wounds no longer bother him. This ability gives the unbroken damage reduction 2/-. Each subsequent time he chooses this ability, his damage reduction increases by 1, to a maximum damage reduction of 5/-.
Survival instincts: the unbroken would still be a slave if it weren’t for his survival instincts. Now that he is free, he can hone those instincts even further to keep himself alive. The unbroken gains the evasion extraordinary ability. If he chooses this ability a second time, he gains the improved evasion extraordinary ability. Both abilities may only be used in light or no armor.