Friday, May 4, 2012

Hexblades of Legend

Since I have an unhealthy obsession with the concept of the hexblade, I decided it was time to work out some details on just how these spell-wielding blades work in Legend as a quasi-mystical martial order, and in Tunnels & Trolls as a specialist class (see bottom of the article):

The Order of the Hexblades

The concept of the hexblade is a master of witchcraft, who relies on a special relationship with his uniquely forged weapon to cast and focus magic through. Hexblades gain their power through dark pacts, and seek to learn power from spirits both malevolent and benign. Some hexblades are good natured and seek to help those around them with their unique gifts; others fall quickly to the potential corruption of the power they seek and walk a darker path.

Hexblades have a loose fraternity of association, for the easiest way to become one is through a practice of apprenticeship to a master. Much like shamans, hexblades rely on knowledge of the spirits and the planes to tease out their magical talents. Some civilized lands may have entire knighthoods or magical orders dedicated to the practice of the hexblades, but in most lands they are reclusive fellows who gather in large groups only on rare occasion.

The hexblade started with a class which appeared in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition first, and later as a warlock variant in 4th edition. Literary and game inspiration for this archetype can be found in the fiction of Adrzej Sapkowski’s “The Witcher,” and similar concepts of a man with a special blade can be found in Moorcock’s Elric novels. I also suggest the Kane stories by Karl Edward Wagner.

Joining the Ranks of the Hexblades:
This process is as simple as finding a teacher willing to take one on, who is willing to teach the art. A character could begin play having completed his apprenticeship training. If this option is permitted, then the following Professional Background will be available:

Profession: Hexblade
Cultural Background: All
Common Skill Bonuses: +10% perstence, +5% Athletics, +10% to one blade weapon style
Advanced Skills: Lore (Any), and Craft (Weaponsmith) or Lore (Tactics)
Magic: Common Magic, Manipulation, Sorcery (Grimorie: Tome of the Hexblade)
Hexblade Starting Common Magic: 6 points chosen from the Hexblade spell list below.
Starting Hexblade Weapon: A newly rolled hexblade chooses one blade weapon (sword, dagger) with which he has the Hexblade bond (see initiate details, below). This weapon will be made of cold iron as its exotic material (which may depending on setting have an effect on some planar beings and fae creatures).

Hexblade Magic:
Students of this art have access to the following magic by way of teachers or institutions in the more civilized realms where enclaves of hexblades can be found. Most hexblades are extremely proficient in common magic, but tend to rely almost exclusively on the Tome of the Hexblade for their sorcerous studies.

Common Magic: Bearing Witness, Bladesharp, Coordination, Countermagic Shield, Demoralize, Detect (exotic metals), Dullblade, Fanaticism, Fireblade, Mobility, Parry, Protection, Repair, Strength, Vigor

Sorcery (Tome of the Hexblade): Damage Enhancement, Damage Resistance, Haste, Spell Resistance

Heroic Abilities: Deflecting Parry, Duellist, Sundring Strike

Hexblade Skills:
The following skills can be trained through hexblade membership: Athletics, Craft (weaponsmith), Persistence, Resilience, any blade style, Sorcery (Tome of the Hexblade), Common Magic, Manipulation.

Membership of the Hexblades:

Hexblade Initiates and the Nature of the Hexbade Itself:
An initiate must procure a unique weapon which he forges or finds on his own. The weapon must be of no common origin, either being made of an exotic metal, being unique in some fashion (i.e. a king’s blade, or the weapon was used in the past to slay a powerful extraplanar opponent) or it must be forged by the initiate himself out of exotic metals and imbued with a sacrifice of 1D3 HPs of damage-worth of his own blood during the forging process. If an exotic weapon material is needed, it defaults to cold iron.

Once a hexblade has this weapon, he undergoes an initiation ritual of bonding with the blade. This imbues himself and the weapon with a unique connection; he may now use the blade to channel his sorcery and common magic, reducing the MP cost of spells by 1 point when doing so (to a minimum cost of 1 for common magic). His weapon is now an imbued component of his casting, and he must grasp it when casting any spells. He gains a +10% bonus to his manipulation, sorcery (grimoire) and common magic skills with his blade in hand. Without his blade, he can still cast magic, but it costs 1 MP more than normal and he gains a -10% penalty to the same skills.

Does a hexblade need to bond with a sword of some sort? That’s the GM’s call, but the presumption is that the nature of the weapon is highly conducive to channeling magic, and other weapons are not. Alternatively, there could be branches of the order that specialize in hexed axes, pole arms or even hammers and maces.

A hexblade who loses his weapon permanently must restore it with an equally significant weapon. If he fails to do so after one year and one day, he is cast out of the order. Likewise, a hexblade who forges or bonds with a new blade loses his connection to the old blade.

Hexblade Apprentices:
A hexblade apprentice must have 30% or more in three order skills and 45% or more in his blade weapon skill. He must have demonstrated an act of servitude to the credo of his specific order or mentor (which can vary; an evil order may require that he have slain an honest man; a benevolent branch may require that he saved an innocent under threat of harm). Additionally, the hexblade apprentice must have learned Bladesharp 2 by now.

Hexblade Adepts:
The hexblade adept must have three order skills at 45% or better and his blade melee skill at 60% or better. He must either have the Duellist heroic ability and attained Bladesharp at rank 4 or better. Adepts may take on apprentices but are not required to do so.

Hexblade Masters:
Hexblade masters have three order skills trained at 70% or better and must have 90% or better in his blade melee skill. Hexblade masters must also have Grimorie (Tome of the Hexblade) at 75% or better and have Bladesharp 5 or better. A Hexblade master must have earned a reputation for himself; if his name is known and either feared or respected by a noted ruler or leader of the land, such that the other senior masters of the order feel his reputation is engrained, then he may be entertained for membership at his highest rank. He must then commit one truly great deed, worthy of the skalds to sking about, such as slaying a hydra or dragon, liberating an oppressed kingdom, slaying a corrupt king, or even conquering his own domain. The task may depend on the ethical skew of the hexblade himself. At this level, however, it is his demonstrable proficiency and efficiency, not his ethical leanings, that are most important.

Should the hexblade attain the rank of master, he is required to take on a new apprentice to teach his skills to if he has not done so already.

Additional Secrets of the Hexblade:

Tome of the Fey Courts
Although the Tome of the Hexblade is the grimoire of study for the order, there are rumors of an older tome, written in the lost history of the Fey Court by the elven prince Aritroskis, which contains even more potent secrets. Such a tome is a coveted prize for a dedicated Hexblade, for it contains the secrets of teleportation:
Sorcery Grimoire (Tome of the Fey Court): Intuition, Regenerate, Teleport, Shapechange (human to wolf)

Adamantine Hexblades:
A weapon crafted of admantine is impervious to harm, or so it is said. Furthermore, it is said to weigh less and be more nimble in one’s hands. Such a weapon has an AP double the normal for the weapon in question, and double the HP as well. It grants a +5 modifier to the wielder’s strike rank (provided that wielder is trained at 40% or better in using the weapon type). Finally, because it is so keen, it does one additional point of damage after subtracting all APs from the damge dealt (so an adamantine war sword which deals 7 damage and hits 6 AP of protection would deal 2 instead of 1 damage like a normal weapon).

The Hand of Zoromast
There are rumors of this infernal talisman, a mummified hand capped in a gold clasp and chain from the first and most legendary hexblade of a lost era. Rumor has it that a hexblade who wears the Hand of Zoromast around his neck will gain even more impressive fighting talent and a closer bond with his blade. The stories also suggest that Zoromast’s spirit will attempt to possess the wielder, but that a sufficiently strong-willed hexblade can defeat the spirit and tame it to his use.

An ordinary man wearing the Hand will feel nothing, though the spirit may seek to possess him. A hexblade immediately notices that he gains an additional +5% bonus to his sorcery, manipulation and common magic skills as a result of wearing the hand. In addition, he discovers that he now innately knows Bladesharp 6 (for which the hand is a focus) so long as he wears the talisman. If he removes the Hand, knowledge of the spell also evaporates.

While worn, the Hand’s spirit will try to possess the bearer. Zoromast’s spirit is a malevolent ancestral spirit, with INT 12, CHA 12, POW 24; Spectral Combat 120%, Persistence 96%, Discorporate 120%, Stealth 96%. The spirit, once it possesses its victims, can substitute his own skills: One-Handed Sword Skill of 150%, Dodge 114%, Lore (ancient history) 114%, and Shield (114%). However, while possessed the bearer develops a very evil and self-serving disposition, and tends to call himself Zoromast a lot.

The artifact will be destroyed should Zoromast’s spirit ever be exorcised or destroyed.

Hexblades in T&T:

This Specialist class requires a Dex and INT score of 16 or better and a WIZ of 12 or better. You don’t need to roll TARO like usual, but you do need to have those two scores up to demonstrate the right level of talent.

Attributes: Hexblades rely on DEX, INT, WIZ and CON for level advancement.

Hexblades can cast spells like a rogue, and have the same access and limitations, but a limited spell list taught by members of their order (see below). They have an edge over rogues, however: they can and will learn amongst themselves. All hexblades start play knowing Vorpal Blade and one other 1st level spell from the Hexblade spell list below. Hexblades can learn any magic like a rogue, but only the hexblade spells can gain the benefit of spell cost reduction from their special weapon (see below).

Hexblades can create a bladed weapon (any sword of dagger) precisely as described above, by forging or locating a unique weapon that the hexblade then bonds with. At character creation the hexblade starts with one, typically made of cold iron. The weapon lets the hexblade reduce cost of his hexblade spells by 1 WIZ per level, but more importantly, so long as the Hexblade is fighting with his bonded weapon he may double his personal adds when using it.

Hexblades can advance in their order, gaining ranks and notoriety. The T&T requirements for advancement are as follows:

Initiates: Hexblades start as initiates, having completed the ritual and forged their first blade as indicated above. They may eventually try to forge newer and more powerful blades (or find them) and then commit to a new bond if they desire. This severs the bond with the old blade.

Apprentices: A hexblade must reach level 2 to be an apprentice, and must meet a task specified by his mentor or order (see above for details).

Adepts: A hexblade adept must reach level 3 and must have all spell from the hexblade list learned up to level 3 as well.

Masters: the master must not onluy perform the tasks outlined in the main article, but must also be at least level 6 and have all spells on the hexblade list through level 6.

Hexblade Spell List:
Level 1: Cremme de la Kremme, Detect Magic, Know Your Foe, Teacher, Vorpal Blade
Level 2: Dura-Spell Battery (must be his blade as the object), Unerring Blade, Whammy
Level 3: Dis-Spell, Shield Me
Level 4: Double Double
Level 5: Breaker Breaker, Resist Magic
Level 6: Reversal of Fortune
Level 7: Zappanthingum
There are as yet no known spells of higher level in the hexblade repertoire…

Hexblade Magic Items:

Tome of the Fey Courts: This ancient book grants the hexblade the ability to cast “Blow Me To…” so long as the book is in his possession, as well as Healing Feeling and Second Sight.

Adamantine Hexblades: in addition to adding a +3 boost to the DEX of the wielder (which means boosted personal adds), adamantine weapons forged into hexblades double the damage of any hits (including spite) that gets through armor.

The Hand of Zoromast: This talisman can be used as a focus for Dura-Spell Battery. It lets the hexblade reduce the cost of all spells by 1 WIZ when worn (minimum of 1), and lets him cast spells as if he were one level higher. However, the spirit within will seek to possess the wielder. This requires a Level 5 Save vs. INT to overcome. If the hexblade fails, the spirit possesses him. His LK score doubles while possessed, and he may triple instead of double his adds with his bonded weapon, but he is now quite evil and thinks he is an ancient power-mad hexblade.

If the spirit is ever teased out of the artifact it is an MR: 120 beast (or tougher depending on your crew) which can only be harmed by magic and magic weapons, and deals damage to INT instead of CON. If a target is reduced to 0 INT it will immediately possess the body and restore it to life.

Hexblades in Sarvaelen

The hexblades of Sarvaelen are the remnants of a once powerful order of mystical witch-knights that served both the emperor and the empire's enemies faithfully during the final years of the Last War. The story goes that a handful of hexblades escaped the destruction of Camrinal and carried on their tradition in remote regions of the known world, such that today there are a handful of scattered orders and loners who are practicing hexblades.

Unlike official knighthoods such as the Order of the Sullen Watch, the Order of the Hexblades are not officially recognized by the young king of Aeronost. Hexblades are regarded with a measure of fear and supersitition by those who understand their roots, but most commoners regard them as little more than eccentric mercenaries who a disposition for magic.

Next Week: The Secrets of the Naga in Sarvaelen!