In this month's exclusive interview, Sean K Reynolds and Thomas Reid, authors of the new Champions of Valor book, discusses the nature of good and valorous organizations -- especially as they arise in the Forgotten Realms!
In the interests of better involving the player community with the D&D website, questions for this interview were solicited in part via the message boards. Our thanks to the players who go by the screen names mhacdebhandia, Razz, Green Giant, runestar, kadasbrass, Klyden, Valgard, AskaniPsion, sasnak, Clobberintime, Thysl, grimgnaw, TheOne, Matt Neuman, Davren Kain, Muaythaidaddy, Lana "Silvertongue", msatran, Abyss Knight, Penknight, Sovereign King, Gallameed, Light Dragon, and allenchan for their participation. New questions are now being solicited for January's Races of the Dragon supplement.
Wizards of the Coast: To start with, how does Champions of Valor define valor?
Sean K Reynolds: Let my quote myself from the book: The use of the word "valor" in the title is significant; it means "courage and boldness," "the qualities of a hero," and "exceptional courage when facing danger." This book is about valorous characters -- characters who may be good or in some cases merely neutral, but are great and heroic in facing down the greatest dangers of Faerûn.
Wizards: And what information and advice does the book provide on playing valorous characters?
SKR: Early on, it gives examples of valorous archetypes for each class and race, drawing on examples from real world, mythical, literary, and cinematic sources -- then gives an example of that archetype in terms of the Forgotten Realms setting. It talks about how valorous heroes aren't absolutely perfect, and gives example flaws for valorous heroes and Faerûnian examples (by race, religion, or nationality) for why the hero might have that flaw. It also talks about vengeance and the need for compassion, whether enemies should be killed or captured in the hope of redeeming them, and how to manage conflicts with your not-so-valorous PC friends.
Wizards: The title of the book calls paladins immediately to mind. What new information does Champions of Valor convey about this class -- are there feats and prestige classes to make me want to rethink my 12th level Paladin of Torm? New information on potential warmounts? And how does valor encompass classes beyond paladins?
Thomas M Reid: Yes, there are sections of text that cover all of these issues. Eric Boyd wrote a nice section on warmount variations for the book, and we included lots of feats, some PrCs, and a whole section of substitution levels to satisfy the paladin aficionados out there. But we didn't stop at paladins. In fact, we specifically went beyond paladins and consciously focused our efforts on including just about every class, showing how any of them could be played in a valorous manner.
SKR: There are feats and prestige classes well-suited for paladins, but I think one of the things that Thomas and I are most proud of are the many sets of substitution levels we put in the book, several of which relate directly to various paladin orders. If you're not familiar with the mechanic, substitution levels are a way of "swapping out" certain class abilities at specific levels within a class.
For example, the Golden Lion substitution levels are specifically for paladins of Torm's Order of the Golden Lion (which is dedicated to healing the wounds caused by Torm's actions during the Time of Troubles); this trades the ability to turn undead for the ability to get a sacred bonus to all saving throws for an hour per day, trades the ability to remove disease for the ability to repair wild magic and dead magic areas, and gives an extra smite per day that can only be used against Cyricists, Banites, and Zhentarim.
Wizards: Since the Forgotten Realms includes many evil-oriented planetouched and half-fiends, what types of valorous backgrounds can we expect for good characters?
TMR: I don't know that we went so much into backgrounds as we did offer variations on the standards that would make a character particularly good at dealing with such things as fiends and planetouched. But in that regard, all those nifty feats and substitution levels deal with this nicely.
SKR: One thing we did was create a new set of regions -- Good regions. You select this region at character creation, instead of a geographical region, and it determines your languages, favored deities, available regional feats, and bonus equipment. Some of the more interesting Good regions are Celestial-Attended Birth (where a deity or other celestial being is watching over you), Chosen-Born (where you're a mortal descended from the Chosen of a deity), and Ward of the Triad (where you were left on a temple doorstep as an infant and were raised by the church). We also expanded or created several organizations that have valorous purposes, and each one explains what a valorous PC needs to do to join that group and the benefits of doing so.
Wizards: What about knightly orders from around the Realms? Is there inclusion of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, the Moonstars, the Mulhorandi... and, of course, the famous Harpers? Is there the danger of rivalries between good groups, where each side has good intentions that just don't match up?
TMR: We included information on a few of the well known good organizations, but we actually tried to branch out and cover some lesser well known groups rather than focus yet again on the same groups that seem to get all the press. We took information from a variety of sources, including articles from old Polyhedrons, etc., to shine some light on some more obscure groups. We also created a few brand new organizations to show how a DM could do the same thing in his own FR campaign.
SKR: That's a topic dear to my own heart (for the web enhancement for Faiths and Pantheons, I made a big listing of all the official paladin orders and good monk orders in Faerûn that I could find). In this book we gave each of them a write-up, explaining who they are, who they serve, what their goals are, and any special multiclassing rules they have. All three of the groups you ask about are mentioned, though they've also been covered in other books (such as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and City of Splendors: Waterdeep) so we used this book to detail the ones that haven't had much time in the spotlight.
We don't specifically address rivalries between these groups unless they're famous for it, but the first chapter does cover the sort of situations where two valorous groups come to oppose each other, particularly the differences when lawful groups oppose other lawful groups, chaotics oppose chaotics, and lawfuls oppose chaotics.
Wizards: There's been quite a bit of discussion regarding how the book relates to its companion volume, May's Champions of Ruin. Can you talk about how the books play off one another -- for example, Champions of Ruin contained champions of evil, philosophies of evil... will we see their counterparts in Champions of Valor?
SKR: We were given a rough draft of Champions of Ruin while working on this book (CoR wasn't quite finished when we were writing CoV) and our outline included a similar structure with opposite intent. There's an entire chapter on good organizations, another on NPCs (intended as allies and support characters for valorous PCs, including some who are suitable as variant paladin special mounts or "animal" companions), the role of atoning for misdeeds, and so on.
Wizards: Aside from Champions of Ruin, there are also parallels seen between this book and Book of Exalted Deeds (and the some extent its antithesis, Book of Vile Darkness). How does Champions of Valor relate to these books -- for instance, is there more exalted material being supported?
SKR: We wanted to make sure the ideas brought up in the BoED were covered in CoV. In particular, the section on compassion and mercy reiterates statements made in the BoED, there are five new exalted feats in CoV, and it gives examples of Faerûnian redeemed evil magic items. You don't need the BoED to use CoV, but if you have them both you'll be able to use one to supplement the other.
Wizards: In what ways do good deities come into play? Can we expect more Initiate feats for good deities?
TMR: Well, obviously, the good deities play an important role in the game, particularly with the divine classes, so yes, the good deities play a prominent part in the book. The substitution levels are often geared toward characters who follow a specific deity, for example.
SKR: The book starts off with a look at how many good deities there are in Faerûn compared to neutral or evil ones (there are a disproportionately high number of good deities), and uses this to point out that good is a significant force in the Forgotten Realms. However, rather than going into detail of how each church or deity meddles in the affairs of the world, the book leaves those things in the background so we can focus on the PCs as the stars of the show. After all, if the Church of Torm is taking care of everything, why bother to be a paladin of Torm? If instead we push the PCs into action with the various churches supporting them, it makes the PCs' actions more significant. One of the ways we do this is with initiate feats, and there are several in the book.
Wizards: Will Champions of Valor go into the Unapproachable East and Shining South regions? Some feel these areas tend to get overlooked, while the Sword Coast tends to receive the most focus.
TMR: Since the basis of this book was more about attitude than regional locations, it really doesn't have a strong presence anywhere specifically. But we did try to pull out information for various valorous groups from all over Faerûn.
SKR: Well, you're not going to see many people of valorous character coming out of Thay, but fans of Rashemen, Aglarond, and the lands of the Shining South will be happy to hear that we didn't neglect them in this book. They don't get a lot of specific attention (they each have their own books, after all), but they do get mentioned here and there, and in particular there is some neat stuff for Nobanion (worshipped by the wemics of the Shaar).
Wizards: Is there material on good dragons, to oppose the evil Cult of the Dragon (there's been rumor of a sect known only as the Soft Claws).
TMR: Yes, the Soft Claws was a group Ed Greenwood originally developed and wrote about in an old Polyhedron article that I picked up and ran with. It's a humanoid group, but you could say that a few dragons are patrons of the group rather than active members, if that makes sense.
SKR: Some material, but not a lot, partly because the book focuses on PCs (and dragon PCs are still a weird part of the rules, so we didn't want to spend a lot of pages on an obscure part of the game) and partly because dragons as a whole (even good dragons) don't tend to be valorous. However, there is a valorous organization called the Fangshields, and not only do they have a bronze dragon in their group, their greatest enemies are evil dragons and the Cult of the Dragon in particular. There's also a write-up of the Soft Claws, a valorous organization founded by the steel dragon Zundaerazylym* who wants to unite human and dragon civilization for the greater good of all.
*There's a write-up of this dragon and a short bit on the Soft Claws here.
D&DChampions of Valor, November 2005 Release Date, hardcover, full color, 160 pages, $29.95.