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 Hexblade (from PHB2) and the Ninja (from Complete Adventurer). 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.
Hex magic is a form of sorcery that manifests at a young age. It tends to occur in poorer areas where magical training and education are unavailable, though this is not always the case. Some embrace this ability, becoming evil or neutral hexblades bent on vengeance and retribution. Others fight it, seeking to transform their innate powers into something more positive. These youths tend to study sorcery in depth, becoming sorcerers and forsaking the dark blight of hex magic entirely. The former are more common -- the allure of hex magic is especially strong. They embrace a "might makes right" attitude, viewing academia as pointless, asceticism as foolish, do-gooders as deluded, and book-learners as weak.
Many hexblades are self-taught, though it is not uncommon for a young hexblade to learn his craft from a mentor. There is only one hexblade college on Faerûn, Hexcidon, and it is housed in Bezantur. At this school, generations of hexblades study to become elite bodyguards and generals for Thay.
Most hexblades, however, are loners who travel to gain power, riches, and pleasure. They seek vengeance against any who get in their way and brook no fools or the faint of heart in their travels. This makes them perfect agents for neutral and evil deities of vengeance and retribution. These hexblades most commonly follow the divine guidance of Hoar, Kiaransalee, Loviatar, Shevarash, or Uthgar. The first two of those are discussed here.
Hoar has guided the footsteps of a number of hexblades in their search for vengeance. These warriors typically enter the ghostwalker prestige class, traveling around Faerun in search of wrongs to right. These hexblades are almost entirely neutral -- not merciful but also not cruel. They treat all offenders the same, meting out punishments that fit the committed injustice.
Most drow hexblades are loners and assassins. A small but sizable minority, however, serves the whims of the Revenancer. Each of these agents, known as "revenant blades," serves a single cell of priests devoted to Kiaransalee. They are frequently accompanied by undead minions supplied by their priestly masters or through their own feats and abilities. They take revenge on the foes of the Vengeful Banshee, especially worshippers of Eilistraee, Dumathoin, and Kelemvor.
A small presence of hexblades exists among the Imaskari. These members serve the Lodge of Retributive Masters by taking revenge against those who have sinned against the society. They almost always take levels in the Imaskari vengeance taker prestige class, though they must be able to cast 3rd-level hexblade spells in order to qualify. These hexblades study in a manner similar to other Imaskari arcanists, but they are more focused on a practical mix of vengeance magic and martial prowess than on magical esotericism.
While most hexblades wear only light armor, that is not a rule, especially among those belonging to the Vengeance Knights, an order of tyrannical warriors that serves the Knights of the Shield, a loose network of greedy and paranoid Southern merchants. These warriors favor the heaviest armor they can find. They typically take the Battlecaster feat, wearing mithril armor and using mithril shields. This allows them to avoid suffering arcane spell failure with their hexblade spells. They serve the malevolent Knights of the Shield as bullies and enforcers much of the time, but when called to duty, they can be agents of brutal vengeance.
For those wishing to use the concepts presented above but without using the hexblade class, here is a simple solution. Hexblades could be replaced with macabre fighter/sorcerers (perhaps eldritch knights) with a penchant for curse magic.
The origin of ninjas can be traced back to Kara-Tur many hundreds of years ago, but since the Shou and other peoples of that distant land have settled in Faerûn, their martial arts and other secrets have spread via cultural diffusion. While the greatest concentration is among the Shou clans in Thesk, the art has traveled to a number of other regions.
There are more ninjas in Telflamm than any other city in Faerun. With the illicit activities and the cutthroat mercantile economy, Telflamm is the ideal place for ninjas to flourish. It is a city of intrigue covered in webs of deceit and replete with elaborate mind games. The Nine Golden Swords includes numerous ninjas among its members, sending them off to spy, assassinate, and collect. They are divided into rival clans that operate in a variety of different, secret hideouts. They are in direct opposition to the Shadowmasters, having clashed with that guild on a number of occasions. Whispers abound of an upcoming street war the likes of which has rarely been seen in Telflamm.
The leader of the ninja clans in Telflamm is Master Kinju Kal-Okyama (NE Male Tuigan-Shou Ninja 14), a ninja lord of mixed Tuigan and Shou heritage. Kinju is second in command among the Nine Golden Swords, answering only to the Golden Master in Phsant. His life did not begin auspiciously, however. Kinju's mother was raped by a Tuigan general and then left to die on the trade route. Before she died of her injuries, she left the infant Kinju hidden in a merchant caravan to be discovered when the caravan reached the city. He was 'raised' by the merchant, though he was, in essence, little more than a slave. As soon as Kinju was strong enough, he ran away from the merchant's house. Life on the streets was hard, but Kinju soon learned the ways of the city. He rose among the guilds, studying the art of ninjitsu with the wily Master Orayma -- who was later killed by Kinju. Orayma felt that Kinju was too ambitious, and he was correct. Kinju murdered his superiors, rising in the ranks because of the fear he inspired. Now he rules the ninja clans with an iron fist, justifiably paranoid about the numerous ninjas who would depose him.
The art of ninjitsu has spread to other parts of Faerun. Small numbers of ninjas can be found among the Night Masks in Westgate, the Fire Knives, the guilds of Calimport, and the Shadow Thieves. Most of these members are of Shou heritage, but some were taught by the Shou or blackmailed the mysterious denizens of Kara Tur into teaching them the ninja arts. There are undoubtedly mercenary and rogue ninjas that have escaped their clans or murdered their masters. Most are evil, but not all. Some have given up the life of assassination and spying, preferring to use their talents for more positive pursuits. These ninjas often meet with opposition (and death) from their brethren, but this hasn't stopped a small number from defecting.
For those wishing to use the concept of ninja clans and the lore presented above but without using the ninja class, here is an alternative. Ninjas could be rogues, monks, or a multiclass mix of the two focused on stealth, assassination, poison, and spying. While it is somewhat difficult for either of those classes to emulate the supernatural powers of a ninja, it is certainly not impossible given the right feats, prestige classes, and magic items.
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 Faerûn, 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.