The 20-level classes presented in books other than the Player's Handbook have become popular choices for players and DMs. Earlier articles in this series have discussed how to import numerous classes from Player's Handbook 2 and other sources into the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. This installment focuses on the Swashbuckler(from Complete Warrior), the Marshal (from the Miniatures Handbook), and the Dragonfire Adept (from Dragon Magic). At the end of each entry are alternatives for how to include the ideas written here but without requiring the introduction of these classes into your game.
Swashbucklers have a long history in the Realms. Whether swaggering bravos or martial dandies, swashbuckling characters are among the easiest to adapt to the Realms. Favoring light armor and finesse weapons, these stylish warriors are a fusion of fighter and rogue that is easy to fit into any party. Because of the simplicity of adaptation, this entry will focus on the history of swashbucklers and discuss some of the more well known individuals and institutions.
While certain fighting styles such as dueling and bladesinging lend themselves to the swashbuckler class, swashbuckling is more a matter of style and attitude than of a particular style of fighting. Most swashbucklers in the Realms have no special training in 'swashbuckling', having learned their fighting skills at academies, from personal tutors, or in their own exploits as dandies and bravos. There are exceptions, of course. Some have studied at special schools or under masters who encourage a flair for the dramatic.
Skoalam Marlgrask (CN male Chessentan Swashbuckler 18) is a well known professional duelist who travels Chessenta, looking for sponsors to finance his dueling career. He makes a sizable income from this, buying properties all over the region. Marlgrask has proven extremely difficult to kill (much to the chagrin of his many enemies and detractors), possessing a sixth sense for danger and a remarkable resistance to poisons. He occasionally takes on students, teaching young wealthy noble sons and merchants in return for exorbitant sums of money.
Sraece Telthorn (Fighter 16/Swashbuckler 7) is a teacher of swordplay at a number of locations in both Yhaunn and Waterdeep. In contrast to Skoalam, who lives a life of luxury, Sraece lives a much earthier life, preferring simple pleasures such as the company of lads and lasses, local bars, and common traditions. Despite his earthiness, Sraece is every bit the effeminate dandy, balancing the role of hardened swordsman and effete fashion-hound equally well. He appears quite straightforward, but those in the know suggest that the master swordsman hides many secrets, not the least of which is his knowledge of several portals between the City of Splendors and Yhaunn.
The dregs of Skullport may seem an unlikely stage for the dramatics of swashbucklers, but the city's penchant for intrigue and performance has filtered down into its lowest depths. The colorful swashbuckler Rhaunaguth acts as a hiresword in the underground city, taking a variety of contracts that test his blade. He is one of three mercenary lords that compete for these contracts. The other two are the joyless warrior Dalagor, who favors undead minions, and the well-connected (and protected) half-elf Trilluach.
The drow are known more for their cruelty and viciousness than for their flair for the dramatic, but the latter should not be underestimated. Melee-Magthere, the academy for male warriors in Menzobarranzan, may try hard to breed civility and chivalry out of its students, but a small number still manage to graduate with swashbuckling flair. The members of Bregan D'aerthe include several swashbucklers, not the least of which is their extravagant leader Jarlaxle. His penchant for style and drama rivals even the most good-hearted Waterdhavian dandy, his cunning outmatched by none.
From the swaggering mercenaries of Sembia to the Society of the Grand Gauche in Raven's Bluff, numerous swashbuckling groups and individuals exist throughout the Realms. For those wishing to use the lore above but without introducing this class, there is an alternative. Any swashbuckler can easily be replaced with a fighter/rogue multiclass or one of the Unearthed Arcana fighter or rogue variants, such as the thug or the rogue variant on page 58.
There are many who believe that a true general is born, not made. Those who hold this belief feel that these gifted leaders come into the world with an inherent talent for leadership, tactics, and battle strategy. Others posit that the best war leaders hone their skills by moving up through the ranks of military forces, paying their dues and earning their keep. These warriors have slogged on through rainy marches, slept in their armor in stifling heat, watched their friends die, and still kept to their mission. The wisest in the Realms know that real war leaders must have a combination of both these things -- natural talent tempered by war experience. These generals are known as marshals, and war cannot be fought without them.
All marshals in the Realms have significant military experience. Some were born into royalty or nobility, starting out life with a certain pedigree. Many of these go on to military academies where they hone their sense of honor and sharpen their fighting skills. Other marshals come from humbler backgrounds, starting out as grunts and soldiers and eventually earning their way up in rank. Significant experience is required to be able to project the confidence and reassurance that comes from a marshal's minor and major auras. While marshal is a 20-level class, many of these warriors have levels in fighter or paladin before proceeding to marshal. Some do start out as marshals, but their true prowess does not become evident until higher levels.
A number of military academies exist that pave the way for young warriors with a talent for tactics and leadership. The Academy of Arms in Athkatla provides basic warrior training for many young men and women. Special courses are conducted for those with a propensity for tactics and leadership. Rolbanyion Zelnar (LG Tethyrian male fighter 4/Marshall 11), a disowned noble son of a slave-trading family in Tethyr, is the permanent staff member for these courses. He runs special simulations in difficult battlefield situations, inviting magical guests to provide unusual challenges. Rolbanyion, or "Old Rol" as he is called by his students (but never to his face), would have been eliminated by the Zelnar family long ago, but the noble family fears retaliation from the Council of Six. Rolbanyion is vital to the Council's plans -- he trains troops to fight in the Stinger Wars or against the Sothillisian Empire. Rolbanyion has cultivated a relationship of respect with the various military and guard authorities, often inviting Warmaster Vikton Velinticula (head of the Amnian archery division), Seashield Albenard Erenkonia (head of the Amnian navy), and Brightblade Bruth Behlhorn (chief tactical officer of the Amnian army) to be guest lecturers and to discuss the threats faced and tactics employed in their divisions.
Numerous other war colleges and academies exist in the Realms. Purple Dragon Knights in Cormyr work hand in hand with the War Wizards to plan tactics. They count a number of marshals among their ranks, valiant and tactically brilliant battle leaders who coordinate both military and magical strategies. While some of the Knights are wary of the wizards, they cannot deny the necessity for magical and military cooperation. These marshals must learn to balance magic and might, often employing auras that enhance the spellcasting ability of their wizards. Such cooperation exists in other regions as well, though the cooperation of magic and military might not always be smooth.
For those wishing to use the lore presented above but without introducing the marshal class into their games, there is an alternative. Fighters, paladins, and other warrior classes can be substituted for marshal. Various feats (such as leadership and aura-granting feats), prestige classes, and other mechanisisms can help such a warrior simulate the bonuses granted by a marshal to his troops without requiring levels in the marshal class.
Like warlocks, dragonfire adepts in the Realms either forge pacts with powerful beings or access the innate power of their blood. Only beings of great power can supply such pacts -- dragon ascendants such as Tchazzar, draconic deities such as Tiamat or Bahamut, or augmented dragons of extraplanar power. These adepts tap into their acquired or natural power, using it to produce magical invocations similar to those of warlocks but also to use breath weapons resembling those of dragons. Unlike warlocks, dragonfire adepts are frequently found among good creatures, though less so than among those who embrace evil.
Whereas dragon shamans are usually found only among primitive human and humanoid tribes, dragonfire adepts run the whole gamut of civilization. Some are primitive tribal mystics not dissimilar to dragon shamans. These make pacts with or are descended from extremely powerful dragons in their regions. Others come from noble families, having rediscovered a long-lost link to an ancient, powerful wyrm. Regardless of the source of their power, dragonfire adepts are often misunderstood and feared. They carry the same aura of awesome power, sense of mystery, and terrifying intensity that is found in true dragons.
It is not uncommon for dragonborn of Bahamut to become dragonfire adepts. Their reawakening by Xymor has granted them the innate power to manifest dragon magic and breath. Currently, a group of five reclusive dragonfire adepts known as "The Light of Xymor" is off on a mission in the underdark below Vaasa. It is unknown what the goal of this group is, but it is believed that they are staging an attack against the Handmaidens of the Undying Queen, an insidious group of Tiamatan clerics based in Vaasa.
One of the most foul dragonfire adepts in the Realms is Nevelaster Rellicraun (LE unique Untheri tiefling male warlock 6/dragonfire adept 6). Nevelaster is a tiefling of extremely unusual ancestry. It is believed that he descended from some horrible pairing of an abishai and a human, resulting in an abominable hybrid of draconic and native outsider. Nevelaster is even stranger, because he walks the paths of infernal and dragon magic, possessing levels in both the warlock and dragonfire adept. Some Tiamatan clerics in Unther believe that Nevelaster is vital in the Dark Queen's plans for the conquest of the Realms.
The most common sources of dragonfire adept pacts are draconic deities. Tiamat and Bahamut make the greatest number of these pacts, but other dragon gods of the Realms can also provide such pacts, including --
The next most common sources are powerful draconic magic users and augmented dragons bearing fiendish, celestial, or dracolich pseudonatural abilities. Included among this list are --
The statistics for all of these dragons can be found in Chapter 1 of Dragons of Faerun.
For those wishing to use the lore presented above but without introducing the dragonfire adept class into their games, there is an alternative. Sorcerers, especially those with the half-dragon template or draconic heritage feats, can duplicate many of the abilities of dragonfire adepts, filling much the same role.
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 Faerūn, the Magic Item Compendium, and numerous other projects, Eytan serves as a partner and PR & Marketing Manager for Silven Publishing. Eytan 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 and comments for Eytan here.
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