I enjoyed writing the first two warrior societies so much that I thought I might do two more. I also left out any clear indication of fighting style for the Iron Temple in the last post, so I thought I’d mention it here. I mostly see these guys fighting with sword and shield, or mace and shield for classes that don’t get access to longswords (if that’s a thing in your edition of choice).
Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire
This warrior society is a knightly order, sworn firstly to serve and defend Council Fire Fortress in Kaldeshar (kagandi name: Morried’s Jewel); secondly, to defend the lawful ruler or rulers of Kaldeshar; and thirdly to uphold the law wherever they travel. Kaldeshar is a remote domain, in the northeast of Balioth, and it does not have close ties with domains that are not its immediate neighbors. As long as Council Fire Fortress and the borders of Kaldeshar are sufficiently guarded, the rulers have traditionally allowed the Sovereign Knights a great deal of freedom to travel, make contacts in other lands, and uphold their knightly virtues. A member of this order might, however, be recalled to Kaldeshar to serve, or to answer for reports of infractions against their code.
The knighthood is built entirely around its oaths, which its members swear while kneeling in the light of a captured star. Long ago, before kagandi came to Balioth, they lived on the continent of Sestomera. A warrior-wizard named Zereysa the Binder used a now-lost magical process to trap the mystical strength of a star in a gem. Although some writings indicate that this was not her original intention, she continued to experiment with what she had created, and discovered that it possessed a power very much like a geas, but capable of rewarding adherence rather than solely punishing transgression. Many have theorized that the creation of Zereysa’s Star permanently destroyed or changed a spell that might have done something similar. Zereysa used its power to found a knightly order, as she believed that oaths are all that bind society together. Centuries later, the Sovereign Knights relocated from Sestomera to Balioth and brought Zereysa’s Star with them, fixing it in the abandoned-but-intact Council Fire Fortress.
The star hovers in midair wherever it is placed, and can be moved only under certain circumstances that include oaths of honorable behavior. It shines with a piercing light, such that it is difficult to approach. It possesses no heat, however, and is safe to touch. Oaths sworn on the star are binding, and the mystical strength of the star grants certain minor benefits to those who follow their oaths in times of trial. In times when an oath is not tested, the star does not grant any particular benefit.
Long ago in Ferradona, Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire came into political conflict with warriors of the Iron Temple. The war that erupted out of that conflict lasted for many years and resulted in an ongoing schism between the two groups. The Sovereign Knights hold that the Iron Temple incites rebellion against lawful rulers and dishonors the holy name of Talend, their patron deity, by encouraging people to resist legitimate kingship. The Iron Temple, on the other hand, accuses the knighthood of choosing corruption and cowardice over justice and honor. Wherever warriors of the two groups meet, they are sure to come into conflict, although they take steps to avoid the conflict becoming lethal.
The ranks of the Sovereign Knights are, in ascending order, the Squires (those not yet fully inducted), the Knights, the Knight-Champions, the Knight-Commanders, and the Lord Commander. By tradition, the ruler or rulers of the order’s home domain is granted the honorary title of Knight-Commander, and any heir apparent is granted the honorary title of Knight-Champion. Despite being a Knight-Commander, the ruler has the right to issue orders to the Lord Commander, except for matters strictly internal to the order.
Races: The knighthood is dominated by kagandi, much as the coastal domain of Kaldeshar is predominantly kagandi. Humans, veytikka, and beruch are welcome, though much of the order comes from nobility and wealth, and looks down on veytikka. Parthé are actively recruited, but their numbers remain few within the order.
Classes: Fighter, Paladin, Warlord, Cleric (and Runepriest, if that’s a thing). Though Zereysa was a wizard, the order has not maintained a tradition of arcane spellcasters. In general, the order regards the open pursuit of other paths as distractions from knightly prowess and ideals. Clerics of the order are expected to behave like crusaders.
Vows: In addition to the core oaths of obedience, knights often take shorter-term oaths, particularly in relation to quests they wish to undertake or individuals they wish to champion. These oaths can only be taken at the Council Fire Fortress itself, before Zereysa’s Star. While specifically upholding an oath and facing a challenge to that oath, the knight gains some advantage, about on par with a +1 bonus to all defenses.
Benefits of Membership: Sovereign Knights receive a warm welcome in most royal courts throughout Balioth, as the monarchs recognize that Sovereign Knights will give their unquestioning support to any lawful order, so long as it does not directly conflict with the orders given to them by the Lord Commander or the ruler of Kaldeshar. They further receive basic war-gear: a chain hauberk or breastplate, a steel shield, two tourney lances, one normal lance, and a flail. Knights are expected to provide their own mounts. Any kind of martial training that the knight desires and any member of the order can provide is to be taught freely; the student pays any expenses that are incurred, but even this is often waived by wealthier senior members who wish to show favor to promising junior knights.
Fighting Style: Sovereign Knights hold that tourneys and jousting are a proper way to inspire others toward chivalrous behavior, and to win glory for the order as a whole. They generally favor one-handed flails with shields, or two-handed flails, for other forms of melee combat. The links of chain in a flail represent the oaths that bind a knight, and bind society. Only rarely will a Sovereign Knight wield a starlock pistol, as most regard it as beneath them; this attitude is less common among kagandi. Starlock muskets are hunting weapons, however, and not involved in the same standards of honor.
Wardens of the Curse of Balioth
This warrior society combines fighting with a minor form of magic to protect Balioth from a strange and terrible curse. From time to time, a blight comes upon the land, as if bubbling up from within the earth. It leaches magic and life energy from the area. A single area of blight does not expand, but another area of blight can overlap with it. The Wardens of the Curse, otherwise known as the Curseguard, wander the wilds looking for areas of blight. Using the magical abilities that they gain from initiation into this warrior society, they draw the curse upon the land into themselves, often fighting a manifestation of the blight. For them, it is survivable, if unpleasant; they also gain the ability to transmit a lesser form of the curse to others, where it can be temporarily crippling. Once a Curseguard has drawn the curse into themselves, the blighted land makes a quick recovery, taking about one day for every two that the blight was in effect. The Curseguard’s own vital energies combat the curse, eventually unraveling its power over weeks or months. In this way, the blight is kept in check. Curseguards who know they are about to die take as much of the curse’s strength into themselves as they can, bearing its power over into death.
The Wardens of the Curse are distrusted and reviled in most of Balioth, as their own command of the curse is seen as dark magic, and most people do not understand that the Wardens are not the original source of the curse. There is a powerful entity known as Sechir – though no one truly knows whether Sechir is a god, a demon lord, a lich, or something stranger – that is the source of this curse, and the Wardens are in a sense devoted to it, as a healer is devoted to a plague. They bear symbols associated with Sechir on their battle-gear; in their own view, this is done to secure a wide berth from others.
The Wardens are themselves cursed at all times, though they have largely adapted to the curse’s effects. They believe that it is acceptable to pass on lesser portions of the curse to enemies in battle (with a strike from a claw or a spiked gauntlet), but it is an unbearable sin to pass on the full effect of the curse (and the obligation to service that would accompany it) to an unsuspecting target. Passing on the full curse is carried out only under the controlled circumstances of entry into the warrior society.
Curseguards travel alone or in pairs, or with adventuring companies composed of people with many other abilities. Their obligation to seek out blighted areas is little understood by others, but some few give the Curseguards the respect they deserve. Only the veytikka treat Curseguards as a kind of knighthood.
The curse itself weakens the victim’s resistance to magic and increases the chance that a spell will fail or go awry. As a result, Curseguards are never spellcasters, and seek out enchanted gear that will improve their resistance to magic. The curse that the Wardens continually suffer is something like -1 to all defenses against spells or spell-like abilities and a -5 to all spellcasting attack rolls, while the curse that they pass on is (on par with) a -2 to all spellcasting attack rolls and a -2 to all defenses against spells or spell like abilities. (Buff effects are unchanged by the curse, as they have no spellcasting attack roll. This may not always be true in the story, but in actual gameplay it is.)
The Wardens of the Curse have no significant hierarchy, only a far-reaching network of contacts and a strong sense of camaraderie. Curseguard waystations are hidden in forests, caves, and abandoned buildings, more in rural or wild areas than in cities.
Races: The vast majority of Curseguards are veytikka, and the core of the Wardens’ fighting style assumes that the warrior has a claw free to make attacks. They have, however, discovered that warriors of other races can duplicate this fighting style with the aid of a spiked gauntlet, worn on the non-dominant hand. The magical power of the Parthé combines very poorly with the curse, and such warriors are warned away from initiating into the warrior society. Beruch and kagandi have a certain inherent tie to magic as well, but they can largely avoid dangerous interactions with the curse if they simply do not draw on those abilities.
Classes: Fighter, Rogue, Barbarian, (Ranger if non-spellcasting), Monk, Warlord. Spellcasters of any kind are unwelcome here, for their own safety, though they make excellent allies.
Vows: The Wardens of the Curse take vows to spread the full power of the curse only to those willing to bear it, and to continually seek out blighted places for cleansing. Wardens are relieved of the latter vow as they enter old age. Wardens who break the former vow are hunted down with extreme prejudice by Curseguards. The second vow is not held to be at odds with a normal course of adventuring life, but they do have to make cleansing areas of blight they discover a priority – only major threats outweigh this obligation.
Benefits of Membership: The primary perquisite of membership is the power of the curse, as it can be very useful to warriors looking for an edge against spellcasters. For this group, however, membership is more a burden than a reward, and a life of struggle lies ahead of them. Curseguards will generally do anything in their power to aid or rescue a fellow member in need, including providing gear for one another if they can afford it. There isn’t a lot of money in being a Curseguard, however.
Fighting Style: The important feature of the Curseguard fighting style is that the non-dominant hand either be a claw or be wielding a spiked gauntlet. It’s possible to wield a two-handed weapon and simply not combine attacks with that weapon and curse attacks. It’s also possible to fight with claw-and-shield or spiked-gauntlet-and-shield. Ambidextrous characters may of course treat either hand as non-dominant. Most commonly, the veytikka fight with both of their claws, and the other races fight with a longsword or shortspear and a spiked gauntlet. The Curseguard have no disdain for ranged weapons, but they have never found a way to inflict their curse at range.
Designer’s Note: The Curseguard are kind of weird, in that they carry a constant drawback in exchange for their benefits. I’m not presenting this as finely-balanced material – more like something I’d need to work on once the rules are available. My goal in creating this group is to have a warrior society that is primarily veytikka, and a warrior society that is heroic but also associated with Sechir, one of the major malign forces of the setting.