The Watch has confounded many scholarly attempts to describe its rise and organization. As an entity, they keep few records for researchers to discover. One central truth is that the pieces that became the modern Watch existed before the troubled times, chiefly as independent resistance movements, spy networks, and vigilante heroes.
Having already operated in the seams of society's fabric, these types of people found fertile ground in the new world order of intrigue and proxy wars. Law and order were all but suspended in many areas. Civilian police forces, where they remained, struggled to fulfill their duties. The common folk were caught in the middle, suffering injustice and neglect in their governments' rush to consolidate power. They needed a champion.
In the beginning, these vigilantes operated individually. The new world order led isolated entities into contact with one another, often for the first time. Familiarity among these first allies fostered the seeds of cooperation. The realization dawned that a common identity and collective action could achieve greater things, and also shield the fledgling faction from enemy retaliation.
By focusing on their commonalities, the network quickly spread its roots through the multiverse. To many in power, the results seemed to appear overnight. Entrenched in their new identity, these unified vigilantes could now observe and respond to acts against their interests on a multiversal scale like an enormous, interlinked nervous system. Never again would the masses be without means to cast off unwanted shackles. Never again could those on the seat of power rest comfortably.
The Watch has arrived, and is ever vigilant.
Methodology and Operations
Unlike the Paladins and the Concord, the Watch has no assembly or state to which it owes allegiance. They serve instead the interests of the common people of the multiverse, and answer primarily to the court of public opinion. Just as importantly, they answer to their own members. This allows them a great deal of leeway in achieving their aims, but it also increases individual risk.
There is no official armed force to relieve them in beleaguered times; only Watch agents on the ground, and even then, only those close enough to respond. Every operative, save perhaps the freshest initiate, is aware of the personal burden they accept when beginning campaigns. That freedom comes at a price is a concept well understood among their ranks.
Within the network, less importance is placed on members' origins than their beliefs. The Watch's membership is diverse; both as a product of their operational footprint, as well as what they stand for. What cog in a political machine hasn't dreamed they could solve everything, if only they had the means?
The main strength of the Watch is born of this very diversity. They can be anyone, anywhere, at all levels of local business or government. It isn't unknown for monarchs and prime ministers to moonlight as dark champions, too hamstrung by their affiliations to achieve these aims in public life. The majority, however, are drawn from the same common people they represent. Their talents and goals are as varied as their origins.
Even more common than members are those individuals who are sympathetic or supportive of the Watch in their own territory, but who are unable or unwilling to commit to membership. These contacts are tremendously important to find and maintain, as they can coordinate with the Watch in the public sector, making operations safer and smoother.
Complete confidence is seldom given. Both sides need the option of a clean break if the relationship sours. Yet these contacts, these patrons, can mean the difference between a successful mission or a failure. Such patrons also have their own ulterior motives, which can easily run counter to the faction's aims. The Watch must always weigh whether they're trading one tyrant for another.
Such support can nonetheless be vital. Where it operates, the Watch often does so only quasi-legitimately, if not outright illegally. Every response and action must be measured. Campaigns can lay dormant for months or years before erupting into action. Depending on the situation, this time may be spent securing a forward base, cementing favor and support among the people, checking public opinion, and gathering materials. Since the Watch cannot field its own army, they plan and pledge their resources with care.
With such flexible planning, the Watch's actions can have wildly different characteristics. In some places, their influence may be no more than a series of seemingly unrelated small incidents. Others may be a slow boil of cause and effect. Finally, while not always so dramatic, some operations are a sudden eruption of action and change.
The Watch's causes depend somewhat on individual members. Personal vendettas are as welcome as lofty ideals, so long as they cause no significant internal friction. Many of the scenarios are the same: A feudal lord or politician becomes a dictator in all but name, oppressing their people. A benevolent government becomes corrupt. A corporation uses its money and influence to slowly destroy a world for profit. Wherever stories like these arise, the Watch is already there, stirring embers and fanning flames. They encourage this unrest, giving it shape and purpose.
Without political territory of their own, the focus on using grassroots opinion and local resources is critical to the Watch's survival and success. They cannot afford to build nations or engage in technological uplifting. Indeed, those actions have often gone badly in the past. Instead, the common people are shown that they can shape their own destiny, instead of having this change handed to them. Such confidence is more meaningful to the people, and therefore longer-lasting.
There is a practical side to such diffusion. Massive movements of materiel and people are likely to attract unwanted attention. Such disturbances point to foreign involvement, and therefore reveal the Watch's influence. With smaller campaigns and more reliance on local resources and manpower, it's easier for the Watch to conceal their involvement. The loss of a safehouse is much easier to absorb when the resources are diffuse.
Success or failure is ultimately judged on the beneficial effect on the common people. Retreats are seen as temporary, even necessary, ensuring that enough survive to try again. This also encourages core tenets of the Watch, such as establishing the populace as invalid targets. This would run counter to the majority's moral code, risking a drop in public opinion. Properties beneficial to the populace's well-being, such as public infrastructure and workplaces, are likewise sanctioned where possible.
Nonetheless, accidental or coincidental damage is inevitable. At times this may be the only way to break a stalemate or send a message, or to deprive enemies of its value. When the campaign is concluded satisfactorily, property held or seized is returned to the people, with the exception of artifacts deemed too dangerous. These are inevitably destroyed or concealed.
Enlistment and Life
Recruits find the Watch, and the Watch finds recruits, in roughly equal measure. For every wide-eyed idealist, there's a valuable but world-weary veteran needing a little extra coaxing. No matter their origin, every new Watch operative is welcomed conditionally and with caution. The risk of double agents is high, as well as those recruits with the wrong impression.
Too much ambition or too much idealism will not result in dismissal, but are seen as red flags. The ultimate expression of a recruit's value are experience and results. No matter how genuine their feelings, the ally who manages to bring both of these to the table are the ones who are fully accepted. The status of Shadow, that of the common operative, is grown into more than granted.
Such associates are difficult to find. There will always be whispers and rumors of how interested parties might contact Watchmen. It's not unheard of for two Watchmen to meet and be initially unaware of the other's identity. Identifying sigils are established on the local level.
Although the Watch has no unifying symbols, those seeking Watchmen are encouraged to employ the sign of the eclipsed moon, or an all-seeing eye. These trusted tokens of the Watch are to be kept on their persons, or in the names or signage of cover businesses and identities.
Within the faction, there are two extremes among members. The first are those fully immersed in its structure, with no public assets or presence to be risked. These may adopt a false name and cover in new areas, but at their core, they have nothing to lose if exposed. At the other end of the spectrum are those who still cling to public life, whose fortunes could be destroyed by a political faux pas. These are given the courtesy of anonymity where possible. To the Watch, there's no significant difference between these two camps.
Accommodations on the job are rarely glamorous. A Watchman needs to be equally prepared to work from either a five star hotel or an abandoned barn loft. Personal assets are accepted, but only if they won't disrupt the locals in a given area. Where possible, agents are advised to weave themselves into the local fabric, through disguise or obfuscation.
Those in contact with residents in the public eye are expected to maintain identities conducive to that purpose. Flexibility is also important. Being able to leave without significant residual impact is a key tenet of Watch life.
One's tenure in the Watch is variable. Lifetime pledges are rare but not unheard of. There are those who enlist for the sake of their people, returning to everyday life when their goals are met. The most common are those in the middle of the road. Attracted to the intrigue and excitement, called to action, the grudges of these folk evolved into something greater than themselves.
Those of longer tenure are often given the most dangerous assignments. There is an understanding that they know the risks, and they know best what's at stake for these thankless tasks. In exchange, they have the full confidence and support of their fellows.
On the job it's unavoidable that Watchmen will come into contact with acquaintances. It's also easy to find common ground with targets. The most dangerous tyrants are those with charisma, and in these times, it's important for Watch operatives to remember that their first duty is to the people. The only people they can trust in completely are their fellows of the Watch.
When encountering these situations, the expectation is to cooperate only as long as it's beneficial and without compromise to the objective. In particular, those of other major factions are not the Watch's allies. Any exchanges of information or materials are met with equal or greater returns. The Watch cannot be beholden to anybody, and more importantly, such exchanges must be weighed against the good of the society in play.
With such diffusion, the Watch has only the loosest infrastructure. Safehouses and forward bases are ephemeral, stocked and staffed at a minimum. There are a few more permanent examples, persisting long enough to gain significance. These exist in Watch-friendly regions, or in places so remote they're beyond the care and reach of the powers that be.
Such assets are referred to as Watchtowers, no matter their shape. Though Spartan, they're recognized as a safe place to meet, regroup, and coordinate. Their recognition as places of relative safety make them ubiquitous among new operatives' lore.
The Watch is best described as the sum of its parts, and its parts are people. Its very lack of structure makes eradicating it a frustrating game of Whack-A-Mole for its detractors. Its focus and numbers shift depending on where its activity is needed, and even the Watch itself has little account of these. This unaccountability is both its greatest strength and a disadvantage.
To reach its scattered operatives, the Watch has focused on communication instead of material resources. They maintain a communications network with sophisticated security measures and redundancies. Through the expertise of the Watch's diverse members, this system has attracted both magic and technology to form a robust network.
This system creates a cipher almost impossible to break without tremendous effort. Such constant shifting has led it to evolve and become a pseudo-organism in its own right, if an organism could have a black box for a heart. Unfortunately, this means even its creators can't optimize it. At full strength, it can take minutes or hours for an encrypted, secure message to pass through. Less secure, two-way communications are faster, preferring speed over security.
Leadership and Justice
Leadership within the watch is less of a formality and more a collective recognition of service. Its upper echelon rarely give orders, existing as advisors and coordinators more than disciplinarians. When a Shadow requires backup, extraction, or bulk material support, such things are acquired through super-regional leaders, known collectively as Obscura.
During critical campaigns, the Obscura may take on more active roles on the ground, but most real power in the Watch is held by the rank and file.
A certain few among the ranks may be selected to wield greater control over the flow of information and manpower. While the Watch avoids centralized power, having one or two of these informed operatives is considered useful enough to outweigh the risk. Among the Obscura, two agents are informally selected to work closely in the limited infrastructure, entrusted with soft veto powers based on privileged information.
These Obscura form a pair; though of equal authority, the Mask is considered senior to the Cloak, and may overrule the Cloak to check actions of the Watch. Although neither is required to wear their namesake apparel, they can be powerful tools when making rare public appearances as leaders.
Diversity often leads to internal friction among the Watch. With no ties to specific governments or land, there's no hard precedent for a judicial system. The aggrieved are expected to attempt a solution with offending parties, but if they can't, the Obscura have enough collective support to act as arbiters. This is especially important for those Watchmen who act against the populace they allegedly represent.
Punishment takes the form of probation, and loss of peer support. Probates have to redeem themselves in the eyes of their peers, earning their trust again like a recruit. The probates who take protracted campaigns time and again for mayhem's sake may be hunted by their own fellows. Internal loyalty among Watchmen is strong, but a Watchman's duty to the common people is the strongest tenet of all.