Forgotten Realms: Empire of Ashes
The basic Dungeon Fantasy Adventurer Templates (in DF1) are all more-or-less appropriate to the setting. The additional templates and options given in other DF titles may be appropriate, but tend to be over-specialized, and best used as refinements or additions to more traditional character types. Adventurer templates are recommended reading, to give an idea of what abilities will make a competent character of a given type, but they’re not required.
With 500 points to spend and DF templates coming in at 250, a PC can easily afford two or more templates, or all the options and a deluxe suite of power-ups for a more focused character. The lenses under “Mixing Professions” in DF3 can be used to add secondary roles to an otherwise specialized concept, or to build a very diversely-skilled character. More versatile characters will be eligible and useful on more kinds of missions; highly specialized characters will be sent on a narrower class of missions, but will tend to shine on those that they do go on.
Note that each adventurer template defines all basic attributes, and includes -50 points worth of disadvantages, so a character with multiple templates must adjust both for redundant attribute levels, and for having only -50 points worth of disads total. Points freed up by overlapping attributes will easily make up for lost disadvantages – even a knight/wizard gets 50 points back on redundant DX and HT, so can afford both templates without giving up any abilities. Most other combinations recover even more from attributes, ending up with extra points to spend.
Any character without the Low Tech disadvantage may trade template melee (Axe/Mace, Broadsword, etc) or ranged (Bow, Crossbow, etc) weapon skills for appropriate TL4 skills – Fencing (Rapier, Saber, etc) or Guns (Musket, Pistol, etc), and may take /TL4 versions of other template skills, e.g., Armoury (Small Arms), Engineer (Clockwork), etc.
Barbarians as written are pretty well limited to wilderness and heavy combat missions. Variations on the theme, even combinations with other templates, will tend to shape up that way – a wild elf barbarian/scout or shapeshifting barbarian/druid is invaluable on tactical strikes and excursions into the wilds, but would be no less conspicuous and out-of-place in a city than a 7-foot tall foreigner with 18-inch biceps and a sausage-thick accent. Most of these traditional barbarian / noble savage types will have Low Tech (Dark Ages or Savage), and eschew guns and fencing blades in favor of more archaic weapons. Exceptions might add some more “civilized” sensibilities to the mix – a barbarian/cleric, converted heathen who now champions the faith, barbarian/thief, illiterate street thug and native of the urban jungle, etc. But even if a barbarian traded in all of the template’s wilderness abilities for street savvy, their savage blood will always pine for the thrill of smashing things.
Bards are somewhat marginalized in the setting – their musical magic and Bard Song abilities tend to be too conspicuous to find common application on deep cover missions, and are all-too-often useless on combat missions. If they downplay (or drop altogether) the musical aspects of the template, however, they’re custom-made for infiltration and spying missions. The template can be easily combined with the swashbuckler, thief, and/or wizard templates to bring one or more of their varied pursuits into greater focus. Spies will probably take normal Magery in place of Bardic Talent, along with a much larger compliment of spells – Body Control, Food, Healing, Illusion/Creation, Movement, and Sound spells are all quite useful in their line of work. Bardic Magery and Bard Song Talent (DF3, pg. 20) offer additional options for more versatile bards, albeit maintaining the musical theme. Any bard character may use the house rules regarding Enthrallment skills.
Clerics’ blessing, protection, and healing abilities make them crucial on any mission where combat is expected; dedicated battle clerics often combine with the holy warrior and/or knight templates. While the generic “Cleric of Ecumenical Good” presented in DF1 is setting-appropriate (as is the “Cleric of Unspecified Evil” in DF3 – potentially fighting side-by-side), Faerun has a number distinctive deities, each of whom has clergy and champions of their own. This allows for a great deal of latitude in making an individual cleric character, provided that the concept and abilities are coherent and setting-appropriate – cleric/thief of the goddess of darkness, cleric/artificer of the god of invention, etc.
Druids are among the most niche-specialized, and the least city-friendly, of the templates – all of their abilities are wilderness-oriented, often diminished in lands despoiled by the Empire and Prelacy – which limits the kind of missions on which their powers will find use. Combination with other templates can broaden their options, though their druidic abilities will always be keyed to certain missions. Druidic characters wishing for more magical versatility can trade Power Investiture for Magery, favoring the Air, Animal, Earth, Healing, Plant, Water, and Weather colleges, but losing their access to the Druidic Arts (unless they also buy Druidic Talent, at 5 points/level). Alternately, the template (in particular, selection of powers and spells) may be fine-tuned to specific nature deities. Finally, some “champions of nature,” especially barbarians and scouts, might have Druidic Talent and abilities without being able to cast spells.
Holy Warriors unsurprisingly excel at combat, particularly against the undead and demons of the Prelacy, but tend to lack the finesse for missions focusing on stealth and guile. The template combines well with the cleric and knight, to focus on divine or martial abilities respectively. Alternately, the warrior aspects of the template can take a back seat, and the holy traits applied to another concept – pious warrior-monks, with divine powers in addition to chi abilities; blessed magi, favored of the gods of sorcery; unholy assassins, granted supernatural powers of stealth and murder by their dark patrons; etc. As with clerics, holy warriors dedicated to particular deities may be created, complete with distinctive powers.
Knights are pure-and-simple combat specialists, relying on heavy weapons and armor, and so will be out of their element in situations where they can’t be outfitted for battle. Additional templates or lenses can give them other options, but the core of the knight is heavy combat; his skills are going to waste on missions that don’t involve dishing out and soaking up lots of damage. Fortunately, many missions feature these things at some point, and a knight with some versatility from other templates or lenses can find himself applying his combat skills on more varied missions. On the other hand, adding the right powers and/or spell-casting abilities can greatly enhance a knight’s combat prowess. Combination with the swashbuckler might produce a samurai warrior, master swordsman and all-around oriental badass, while combination with a scout (possibly switching up Heroic Archer & Bow for Gunslinger & Guns/TL5) yields a deadly commando, equally specialized in toe-to-toe melee, mobile hit-n-run, and sneaky long-range sniping.
Martial Artists are traditionally focused on hand-to-hand combat, but their chi abilities and skills can give them a surprising versatility. They can often operate without obvious weapons or other gear, and are capable of great mobility, stealth, and self-sufficiency. A dedicated martial artist could find plenty of use in advanced chi abilities and high levels of cinematic skills. Some of the Realms’ monastic orders blend holy powers (cleric or holy warrior + martial artist) or magical spells (wizard + martial artist) with esoteric combat abilities; the FRCS and other setting books mention several and detail a few monastic orders unique to Faerun, as well as farther abroad (Shou monks of Kara-Tur, etc). Other possibilities include combining with the thief template to make a deadly ninja assassin, or combining with the swashbuckler template to make an exotic weapon master.
Scouts tend to go on wilderness and guerrilla missions; big cities and toe-to-toe combat both put them out of their element, though their stealth and mobility help them adapt to many situations. Thus, they’re not necessarily out-of-place on urban or covert missions like the barbarian or druid, but will often need to rely on secondary skills (or additional templates) in such situations. Combination with the thief template can make an “urban ranger,” complimenting (or replacing) wilderness skills with street savvy, while combining with wizard (and new capabilities such as spell-archery, DF3 pg. 41) or mystic knight (and rules for Imbuements) templates can create a potent mystic archer. Heroic Archers and Bow Masters can benefit greatly from the rules for “Quick-Shooting Bows” (Martial Arts, pg. 119). High TL scouts are likely to be Gunslingers instead of Heroic Archers, using rules from High Tech such as “Fanning and Thumbing” (pg. 83).
Swashbucklers are the ideal urban warriors, capable of stealth, guile, mobility, and combat as needed. Combination with the thief template can improve the first two of those areas (and the character’s overall versatility), while elements of the knight template can round out their ability to survive heavy combat, or the scout template can add potent ranged options. Weapon Master specialties other than occidental fencing can give the template a distinctive flavor, with light/fencing weapons most in keeping with the template’s strengths. A well chosen spell-casting template, probably wizard or possibly elementalist, or the magical Imbuements available to the mystic knight, can bring new options in and out of combat.
Thieves are the ultimate urban covert operatives, and will often find themselves on missions into enemy-held cities, though their stealth and dungeoneering skills can make them vital in more exotic locations as well. Most thieves will find it useful to bolster their combat skills, often looking to the martial artist, scout, or swashbuckler templates to do so. Magically-gifted thieves can be literally invisible, soundless, or even intangible, complimenting their skills with Illusion/Creation, Light/Darkness, Movement, and Sound spells. Clerics and holy warriors of dark or sneaky gods might count skilled thieves, spies, and assassins among their numbers.
Wizards no longer face as many restrictions to their spell choices. Contrary to DF1, any character with full Magery may learn any of the spells in Magic, except for Gate spells involving time travel, and Tech spells involving things that don’t exist in the setting (mostly plastic & radiation). A dedicated generalist wizard will have an extensive and highly versatile selection of spells, providing useful and powerful options in most any situation. The templates in DF9: Summoners can provide variations and specializations on the wizardly theme, but serious mages will take full Magery and a broader compliment of spells than offered by the summoner talents in DF9, possibly along with the non-spellcasting versions of Bardic, Druidic, or summoner talent and powers. Most non-spellcasting templates can benefit from magical abilities, making wizardly combinations common and useful.
Artificers (DF4: Sages) can come into their own in the setting by taking High TL, allowing them to extend their inventions into TL5 and 5+1. They also combine well with the scout template, probably trading Heroic Archer and Bow for Gunslinger and Guns/TL5, or the thief template, focusing on Lockpicking, Traps, and other tinkering-type skills. An artificer/wizard with a selection of Illusion/Creation, Making/Breaking, and Tech spells can create virtually any technical wonder he can imagine, and at least one Faerunian religion worships technology and is lead by techno-magical clerics.
Demonologists, Elementalists, Necromancers, and Shamans (DF9: Summoners) as written are too specialized to be useful on many missions. The templates can be used to add flair to a wizard, forgoing the spell-casting summoner talents (Demonic Attunement, Elemental Influence, Deathliness, or Shamanic) for full Magery, and purchasing power talents (at 5 point/level for most; 6 points/level for Elemental Talent: Any Two Elements; or 7 points/level for Elemental Talent: All Elements). Alternately, the templates can be used to add themed spells and abilities to another concept, e.g. a knight/elementalist, barbarian/shaman, unholy warrior/demonologist, etc.
Mystic Knights (Pyramid 3.13; PU1: Imbuements & Pyramid 3.4: Defensive Imbuements) as written resemble Holy Warriors, but with magical weapon Imbuement abilities rather than Holy Might. Taken on their own, the template’s magical Imbuements can be combined will with the abilities of most other warrior templates — a mystic archer (w/ scout) or mystic swordsman (w/ swashbuckler) are both powerful combinations, while adding the knight template can bolster martial prowess. Magery includes Eldritch Talent, and so a wizard / mystic knight need only purchase the Imbue advantage to be eligible to purchase Imbuement skills. Alternately, appropriate Imbuements can be purchased as Holy abilities by clerics and holy warriors; the Magical modifier and Eldritch Talent are replaced by the Holy modifier and Holiness Talent in this case.
Scholars (DF4: Sages) aren’t very useful as a stand-alone concept (or template), but can be combined with other character types – most likely a spell-caster’s secondary role, given their favor of IQ over physical stats. Their modular abilities can be useful where exotic skills are needed, provided that they have the time and resources to prepare.
Return to Character Creation