A couple of posts ago, I mentioned warrior societies as a means of giving fighters more social connections and motivations to drive interaction with NPCs. I had wanted to include a few example warrior societies in that post, but it was long enough that I thought better of it. These are for Aurikesh, a setting I continue to poke at occasionally, but they should be relatively adaptable for other settings. Once the 5e rules are somewhat publicly available, I’ll be trying to figure out the right design space for warrior societies in those rules. If I ever get anywhere with refining the Aurikesh rules for SIFRP, I’ll post that too.
The Tiger’s Claw are an elite cadre of guards sworn to the service of the wizard Var Dyrak. From his tower in the north, Var Dyrak pulls political strings, performs strange and dark experiments, and stars in many of the tales told to frighten children. The Tiger’s Claw are his agents, enforcers, and sometime spies, famed far and wide. Thanks to their master’s political maneuvering and their own fearsome reputation, they are more often treated with respect than hostility when venturing abroad. Their most distinguishing features, as a group, are their tiger-skin cloaks (often enchanted), their starlock pistols (or, rarely, muskets), and their curved swords. Some focus their training more on their marksmanship; others, on swordplay.
They travel singly or in small groups on a regular basis, often arriving at the last minute to take part in tournaments, and aggressively recruiting bravos and warriors without a lord. To such fighters they offer training, wealth, and purpose. Those who show any potential for arcane spellcasting can also hope to join the novices who learn from Var Dyrak.
The ranks of the Tiger’s Claw are, in ascending order, the Sworn, the Oathbound, the Swift, and the True. They are addressed as Sworn Brother, Oathbound Sister, and so on. From the ranks of the True, Var Dyrak chooses three Marshals, and each Marshal chooses two Captains from among the True or the Swift.
Races: The Tiger’s Claw theoretically accepts anyone. In practice, the veytikka have a hard time finding acceptance here, and no beruch have yet attempted to join. The kagandi are close enough to equal in numbers that in some years they are the majority. The coastal location of Var Dyrak’s tower makes their lives easier.
Classes: Fighter, Warlord, Ranger, Rogue, Barbarian; characters with multiclass levels in an arcane casting class are accelerated in their promotion through the ranks, as long as their superiors don’t feel that they’re neglecting martial training.
Vows: The Sworn take a vow of obedience to Var Dyrak and his appointed proxies. Secondly, they take a vow of obedience to their own chain of command, except where that conflicts with their first oath. The Oathbound swear to uphold the honor of the Tiger’s Claw against any who slight it; if the odds against them are overwhelming, they must find a way to avenge themselves upon the transgressor within a fortnight. The Swift and the True take on further vows, but the terms of those oaths are secret.
Benefits of Membership: Tiger-skin cloaks are stylish! (Editor’s note: This game is a work of fiction. We do not support the hunting of tigers or any other endangered species in real life.) The Sworn receive the cloak, a starlock pistol, and a scimitar. They are expected to maintain their gear thereafter. Room, board, and a modest stipend are available to Tiger’s Claw warriors who stay in or near the Tower on duty. Those who undertake missions receive a larger stipend to cover their costs. Guards on duty receive blackpowder for free, while other members may purchase it at cost from the Tower’s storehouses. Members can request training from higher-ranked members, as long as it does not interfere with a high-priority assignment. (My intention is that there are cool fighting things to learn from the order – attacks that incorporate pistol, sword, and cloak all together.)
Isn’t it tough for these guys to be adventurers? No – while they are beholden to the dictates of the Tiger’s Claw, Var Dyrak has sent many of them out into the world simply to report on whatever artifacts of interest they find. They sometimes receive letters (and sometimes magical communication) with more detailed assignments, such as a local dangerous monster that needs to be captured or slain, or magical components that Var Dyrak requires for his spells. Incidentally, Var Dyrak is not a nice guy, and some kidnappings do get blamed on the Tiger’s Claw. Not in a way anyone can prove, though.
The Iron Temple Warriors
The Iron Temple is a loosely-organized brotherhood of warriors, founded on some of the more esoteric teachings of Talend, the god of war, crafts, honor, oaths, and kingship. They are noted for their bitter rivalry with the Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire, a feud originally stemming from doctrinal differences, but now rooted in more explicitly temporal views of rulership. A century and a half ago, the Iron Temple opposed the ascension of Saivel the Great (already the ruler of Rindaria) to the throne of Ferradona. These two domains were some of the wealthiest in Balioth at the time, and the Iron Temple saw that Saivel’s ambitions would lead almost immediately to war. The Sovereign Knights, on the other hand, saw that the law of inheritance was clear, for Saivel was the eldest surviving daughter of the deceased king of Ferradona. The efforts of the Iron Temple were in vain, as the Sovereign Knights moved quickly the discredit other potential claimants. In the end, however, the Iron Temple was proven quite right, and Saivel’s wars of conquest tore Balioth apart for almost two decades. The Iron Temple and the Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire each made their reputations in those wars, and the rift between them seems beyond repair.
The Iron Temple warriors are chiefly adventurers now, selling their swords to causes they deem worthy. They are still sought after as bodyguards and personal champions by nobles in many provinces. It is difficult to join the Iron Temple, as most applicants are turned away without hesitation. Some few recognize that this rejection is the first test, and undertake noteworthy tasks to prove themselves.
The ranks of the Iron Temple are simple: Novices train for a year, seldom if ever leaving the temple, before they become Initiates. Above the Initiates are only three warriors: the First Sword (the head of the order), the Second Sword (the enforcer), and the Third Sword (the historian). Each Iron Temple has its own leader, a position approximately equal to an abbot, known as a Sergeant.
Races: Few kagandi join the Iron Temple, as they have a very strong presence in the Sovereign Knights. They are not unwelcome, but they are required to prove that they are not secretly serving the Iron Temple’s enemies. Veytikka and beruch both form significant minorities of the Iron Temple’s membership. Ever since the creation of the first Parthé, the Second Sword has been Parthic, by custom.
Classes: Fighter, Paladin, Warlord, Cleric; these four classes are regarded as distinct but fully equal paths of training. Training in other classes is generally regarded as an unnecessary distraction for warriors of the Iron Temple, though they have no qualms about working with people trained in other arts.
Vows: Initiates swear to behave honorably, uphold the good name of the Iron Temple, and protect those in their care. They further swear to obey the local laws, except where those laws represent a clear violation of justice. There are no oaths of obedience involved, as it is understood that circumstances will often pit one warrior of the Iron Temple against another in Balioth’s many conflicts.
Benefits of Membership: Warriors of the Iron Temple find a warm welcome in most temples of Talend, aside from those that are strongly aligned with the Sovereign Knights. They receive weapons, armor, and training from the order, and that training includes certain disciplines and techniques that they have derived from the esoteric scriptures of Talend. There are three actual Iron Temples, in Ferradona, Dalassiria, and Tyrema; members and their companions can expect hospitality there, as long as they obey the Sergeant’s dictates and do not overstay their welcome. (Those with good reason to stay in the Iron Temple, such as training, can expect that welcome to last up to six months.)
What happens when they run into a Sovereign Knight? When an Iron Temple initiate encounters someone he recognizes as a Sovereign Knight in the wilderness, he typically challenges the Sovereign Knight to a duel to first blood (half health). If that Sovereign Knight is found in clear danger or distress, it is considered more appropriate to rescue the enemy, nurse him back to health if necessary, and then challenge him. Once the duel is complete (assuming both parties cease fighting at first blood), they part ways, each expected to tell stories of the encounter.
When meeting a Sovereign Knight in civilized lands, an Iron Temple warrior looks for legal ways to fight his rival – tournaments are particularly popular. More than a few Iron Temple warriors goad their opponents into brawls, particularly in public houses. The officers of the Iron Temple frown upon this, but it is still better than letting the Sovereign Knight pass unchallenged. Patience is preferable to an excessive breach of protocol, however, and dishonorable combat is regarded as a violation of the warrior’s vows.