The Dragonlance Nexus

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Black Bards

D&D 3e (3.0/3.5) Rules

by Trampas Whiteman


The Black Bards are a group of evil bards who work to spread lies, disinformation, and propaganda...for a price. Nothing pleases a Black Bard more than taking a tale, and twisting it so that lies become truth, and truth becomes lies.

Attitude

The Black Bards are relatively carefree in life, caring little for law and order. They love to spread lies, and seeing what effects can come from them. Whether it is something small, such as discrediting a local constable, to spreading disinformation on larger organizations such as the Knights of Solamnia, the Black Bards enjoy the thrill of the Great Game, as they call it.

The Black Bards will work for nearly anyone for the right price. While they will take a job against a former employer, they are not stupid enough to cross the likes of the Dark Knights or the Holy Order of Hiddukel.

The Black Bards favor the god Hiddukel, giving praise to the god of lies before undertaking any job. They are not deeply religious, but figure it is best to stay on the good side of the Prince of Lies so that he doesn't feel that the Black Bards are stepping on his territory.

Organization

The Black Bards appear to outsiders to be a normal traveling troupe of bards. They will put on performances, traveling from town to town, and are known for their gothic costumes (hence their name).

The Black Bards are made up of performers and stagehands primarily, though they also include criers who travel ahead to make towns aware of the coming of the Black Bards. This optimizes turnout. Barkers sell tickets and serve as narrators.

Areas of Influence

The Black Bards work towards the northwest of Ansalon, including the lands of Solamnia, Neraka, and Ergoth. They will travel elsewhere as needed, though these areas are what they call "home."

Regions

  • Neraka: As employees of the Dark Knights, the Black Bards have free reign in Neraka. They are careful not to pit one Faction Lord against another, but they have worked for nearly all of them, especially those of the Black Hall.
  • Palanthas: The Black Bards have occasionally performed in Palanthas, though they are careful not to perform anything that paints the Knights of Solamnia in a bad light. As a city with "modern ideas", Palanthas offers plenty of opportunities for the Black Bards to spread their lies.
  • Ergoth: The Black Bards find some of their greatest audiences in the lands of Ergoth, the self-proclaimed center of culture of Ansalon. Here, the Black Bards have free reign and are rarely refuted. After all, a center of culture like Ergoth is open enough for all points of view. Little do they know that some of those points of view are pure poison.

Leadership

The Black Bards follow the troupemaster, who heads up all general functions of the troupe and oversees performances, as well as finding jobs and collecting payment.

  • Landalon: [NE male half-elf master (performer, professional) 8/cleric of Hiddukel 4] Landalon is troupemaster of the Black Bards, serving in this position since just before the Chaos War. He is credited with bringing the company prominence by working with the Dark Knights. Landalon oversees production, performances, and recruits new jobs. Landalon is also a cleric of Hiddukel, using his position as troupemaster to aid him in Hiddukel's work.
  • Opus: [NE male gnome master (professional) 6] Opus is the playwright of the Black Bards, cranking out new plays weekly. Opus finds his work with the Black Bards to be a necessary evil. The plays in question are simple enough for gnome children, which means that humans should be able to comprehend them. During Opus' off-time, he works on his master manuscript. His life quest is to create a play that encompasses the entirety of Ansalon's history. Someday, he may have to eliminate Landalon in order to fulfill his life quest. Until the time comes, he continues to work on his manuscript.
  • Theylana: [CE female dark elf bard 6] Theylana is a dark elf, cast out for her tendency to play tricks on others. One day, during the elven diaspora, she tricked her fellow elves into believing they had found a source of water in the Plains of Dust. She was cast out shortly thereafter. Theylana survived, meeting up with Landalon's troupe. She has joined the troupe as dancer and singer. She uses her magic to enhance her performance. Theylana serves as choreographer.
  • Ruby Ironhammer: [NE female fatherless hill dwarf master (craftsman) 4/fighter 4] Ruby heads up the stagecraft department, acting as a harsh mother hen. If you're not doing your job right, and nobody ever is in Ruby's eyes, then you will be on the receiving end of a verbal beating. Ruby has also taught the stage hands to work as security as well.

Allies

The Black Bards are on retainer from the Dark Knights, who know all too well the power of propaganda. The Black Bards have sewn dissent against the Knights of Solamnia, and always portrayed the Dark Knights as the champions of order.

The Holy Order of Hiddukel also serves as allies with the Black Bards. Whenever the Black Bards are near a temple of Hiddukel, they will take the opportunity to stop and make an offering to the Prince of Lies.

Anyone who wishes to hire the Black Bards, and can afford their price, can count themselves as allies of the Black Bards.

Enemies

The Black Bards have accumulated a number of enemies over the years, most notably the Holy Order of Branchala. Clerics of Branchala and bards serve to refute the lies of the Black Bards and to set the truth straight.

The Black Bards have made enemies with the Knights of Solamnia as well by telling the "true tale" of Rennard the Oathbreaker, and of Huma's "betrayal." With so many bards in their ranks, the Legion of Steel has also taken note of the Black Bards, seeking to bring this renegade band of bards to justice.

Joining the Black Bards

Joining the Black Bards requires an audition. The audition consists of two parts. The first part is performance. The second part revolves around spinning a lie and causing some sort of havoc with it. How this is done is up to the troupemaster and differs from performer to performer. Stage hands are usually hired at Ruby's discretion.

Costs and Benefits of Membership

One of the costs of membership is taking on a nomadic lifestyle. Each performer is responsible for his or her costume as well. In return, the performers and stage hands are paid a ripe sum from any and all jobs undertaken as well as from performances. They also can work on pilfering along the way, though any Black Bard caught doing so will be eliminated.

Classes

All members of the Black Bards have levels in either master or bard, though many multiclass as well.

  • Bard: The bard is one of the cornerstone classes of the Black Bards. With the discovery of Wild Sorcery during the Age of Mortals, the Black Bards have incorporated its use to spectacular effect.
  • Master: Masters make up the bulk of the troupe, being the other cornerstone class. Most are performers, though some professionals, sages, and craftsmen are available as well.
  • Cleric: Clerics of Hiddukel sometimes join the ranks of the Black Bards, though most are multiclassed as master.
  • Fighter: The stage hands often have fighter levels in order to protect the troupe.

Adventure Hooks

  • The heroes hear of the Black Bards and discover that they will be giving a private performance for Princess Mercideth of Ergoth. Can the heroes stop them before they can spread their lies? How will they enter Mercideth's chambers with all the guards?
  • A Knight of Solamnia has been accused of a crime he didn't commit. While investigating, the heroes discover that the Black Bards were the ones spreading the lies. Can the heroes straighten out the situation and bring the Black Bards to justice?
  • A noble woman lost a priceless diamond necklace at a recent performance. The heroes are hired to find the culprit. What do the heroes do when they discover that it may be the performers themselves?

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