The classes found in Player's Handbook II, as well in the Complete Books, Miniatures Handbook, and other sources, can add depth, variety, and freshness to a game. Many people already use these classes in their Forgotten Realms games but wish more information was available about how the classes fit into the world.
This article is the second in a series that explores how the PHB II classes can be incorporated into the Realms. All of this information is optional. At the end of each entry, alternative ideas are listed for how to include the history and lore written here but without requiring the introduction of these classes into your game.
In the ancient Vyshaanti fighting academies, a martial style developed among young elves who were gifted in fighting and magic. This was a divergent path of bladesinging -- a more brutal style that incorporated heavier armor and more deadly spells. Originally known as Nael'kerym, these warriors greatly complemented bladesingers. They were meant to be heavy combat spellblades, while the bladesingers acted as precision skirmishers.
When the army of Aryvandaar invaded Shantel Othreier in -10,900, the heavily armored spellblade contingent was faced with a terrible decision. Witnessing their nation invading an allied land, trafficking with infernal powers, and showing a complete disregard for the lives of their kin, these warriors were torn between abandoning their nation or slaughtering their brethren. Heated discussion occurred at the war council. One side was firmly in support of the Vyshaanti, citing a variety of reasons why the attack was just. To the other side, these explanations and excuses rang hollow.
Before the war council could resolve this thorny question, a fast-moving orc horde fell upon both armies. The loyalists stayed with the Aryvandaaran forces, slaughtering elf and orc alike. The dissenters fought orcs only, attempting to stay away from both other contingents and meeting mostly with success.
Afterward, the warriors who slew indiscriminately became known as duskblades. They received this name because their contingent broke through the Shantel Othreier line at dusk, cresting a hill toward victory. Survivors of the enemy forces described these warriors as frightening blurs of magic and metal, shining in the fading orange sun like vengeful, fallen angels.
Following the massacre, the duskblades came to be thought of as "steel dancers," or H'ei'Yal Drathinmaleé. Those that cleaved through their brethren with sword and spell became ignominious symbols of Aryvandaaran treachery. The dissenters were forgotten, a footnote in most elven lore tomes. When the Vyshaanti, and later the Dlardrageth, descended into the evil of infernal lore, the duskblades became symbols for the corruption of the ancient bladesinging tradition.
The dissenters at the battle for Northern Shantel Othreier may have been forgotten, but the tradition did not end there. Valorous duskblades remained, helping Shantel Othreier until the end, as well as other invaded kingdoms. They constantly proved their valor in these battles, but eventually, their tradition all but died out when the Vyshaanti succeeded in conquering the rest of the elven realms. When the Vyshaan reign came to an end, many of the duskblades died with it. Later, some were sealed in Nar Kerymhoarth with the rest of the Fey'ri legion. They were recently seen among the Fey'ri army led by Sarya Dlardrageth.
A few of the duskblade dissenters remained after the Crown Wars, passing down the tradition through the generations. Eventually, this art became mostly lost, something that was practiced only secretly for fear of association with the Vyshaanti. Future duskblades hid their abilities, mimicking the more fluid styles of the bladesingers by wearing mithral armor and studying music and dance. They knew that if their true abilities were revealed, they would be associated with the treachery of the crown wars.
Thousands of years have passed, and the duskblade tradition is all but forgotten. Here and there, an elven warrior learns this tradition from a mentor, usually unaware of its dark origin. Most current duskblades are sun elves, but there are members from other subraces.
There are no formal groups of duskblades in Faerun. The study of this art is always passed down by an experienced mentor to a promising young elven warrior. Many young duskblades do not learn anything about their history until centuries into their studies. The secrets are jealously guarded by justifiably cautious mentors.
The greatest concentration of duskblades seems to be in Silverymoon, but there are a number in Evereska and the new settlements in Cormanthor. For the most part, these are valorous elven warriors. Small numbers of duskblades closer to the Vyshaanti ideal are hidden among members of the Eldreth Veluuthra and in some of the sun elf noble houses of Evermeet. Duskblades serving the Eldreth Veluuthra are often called "cleansing blades" (Uluuth Phlarenn), a name sometimes used as an alternative for the entire organization.
For those wishing to utilize the history of the duskblades in Faerun but without incorporating the class into their games, there is an alternative. It is easy enough to use the bladesinger prestige class from Races of Faerun. Use the Battle Caster feat from Complete Arcana to allow bladesingers to wear mithral full plate. The rest is just character choices and style.
Wherever valiant soldiers and honor-bound despots fight, there are knights. A knight fits easily into any organization of lawful clerics, fightes, and paladins. They are found leading armies, boosting the morale of their soldiers and directing the attacks of key enemies away from allied spellcasters and archers.
A number of valorous organizations count knights among their membership. The Knights of the Flying Hunt defend Nimbral from the threats of Calishite slavers. Knights make up much of the bulk of this organization, because the Nimbrese do not tolerate organized faith in their realms.
The Knights of Imphras II in Impiltur are dedicated to expunging pockets of the abyss buried underground. They fight against the fiends that remain from ancient Narfell. They also oppose the goblinoids, bandits, worshippers of the Gods of Fury, and Eltab.
A less glamorous but no less courageous order is the Knights of the North. Dedicated to the destruction of the Zhentarim, these knights are ever vigilant. They brave harsh conditions with little comfort to curb Zhent activities in the Moonsea region. Their job is often a thankless one, but their passion to end the tyranny of Zhentil Keep is boundless.
Valorous Knights are also found among a number of other organizations. The Knights of the Eternal Order battle undead perversion in the name of Kelemvor. The Knights of Holy Judgment, Knights of the Merciful Sword, and Knights of Samular carry out Tyr's vision of a world free of chaos, crime, and depravity.
Not all knights are members of good organizations. Evil Knights can be found among the Zhentarim, upholding order with a might-makes-right attitude. The Vengeance Knights, under the tutelage of the corrupt Knights of the Shield, use intimidation, violence, and bullying to uphold the law as laid forth by their masters, especially in Tethyr and the Western Heartlands. The Church of Bane counts many knights among its ranks, many of which are also Zhentarim. Their god's passion for tyranny and fear molds these warriors into fearsome black knights.
For those wishing to utilize the history of the knights in Faerun but without incorporating the class into their games, there is an alternative. Paladins, blackguards, and fighters can make suitable knights, qualifying for most knightly prestige classes from Complete Warrior, Champions of Valor, Champions of Ruin, and a variety of other sources.
About the Author
Eytan Bernstein hails from exotic Long Island and spends his days writing and editing projects for numerous game companies. In addition to his work on Dragons of Faerun, the Magic Item Compendium, and numerous other projects, Eytan serves as a partner and PR & Marketing Manager for Silven Publishing. He enjoys hunting for gems and minerals in rock quarries, studying religion and theology, composing music, and playing with his many pets. For more information about Eytan, check out www.eytanbernstein.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.