Those who survive long enough pass into campfire story and barroom song. Those sick of killing for pay don the black mask and kill for free. Those sick of war return to their homes and live peacefully. Perhaps.
But some discovered in themselves a talent beyond the mundane. In them, martial training has awakened the gift of Alden, oldest brother, who forged the first swords so men could better kill one another. These are the Friends of the Wound-Hoe; the Foes of the Tree's Sons; the Shepherds of Swords. Destined to become legends in their own time — or else die painfully.
|Drawn by Virgil Burnett, I believe. I have no idea where the picture came from.|
Before you discovered your almost-mystical abilities, you were a commoner with little to hope for besides the end of war. But now you are One blessed by the old g_ds. Surely you have a higher destiny than that?
For every template you have of this class you gain one Technique (see below for details). If you have at least one template of Sword-Shepherd you cannot fumble with a sword, and you can wear all types of armor.
Skills: 1. Knife-grinding, 2. Medicine, 3. Riding
Starting Equipment: lamellar coat (as leather), ringsword (medium weapon), wooden shield, a sashimono identifying your army and rank (see equipment list for details), and one other piece of equipment of your choice.
- A Parry, Guard, +1 To-Hit
- B Bachelor, +2 HP
- C Banneret, +1 Defense
- D Demesne, +1 melee damage
Weapons leap from your hand to meet their brothers. Once per round you can reduce the incoming damage of a melee attack by your to-hit bonus. If this reduces the damage to nothing, feel free to laugh at your opponent.Guard
Anyone can cower behind a shield, but you know how to really use one. Once per round you can reduce incoming damage by 1d6, directing it onto your shield. Any damage in excess of that number is still dealt and if the shield blocks six damage it is destroyed.
If you are not carrying a shield, you can choose to take 1d6 damage from an attack instead of the real amount once per round. You can do this after you know you are going to be hit.
You cannot use Guard and Parry on the same attack, but you can use them both in the same round.
You are acknowledged as a member of the warrior caste, and no longer pay tolls for public roads or taxes for goods you are carrying. This protection may or may not extend to your companions depending on how well-known you are in the area and how fast you can talk. Other benefits depend on the region, but you can probably at least issue challenges like a Zouave.
You have become mildly famous, enough that the Emperor himself has granted you the right to use a banner of your own design. This doesn't make you nobility (you can't knight anyone, grant titles &c) but it does give you the right of posse comitatus and to wear armor while walking around town.
Your banner can be worn by a number of other people (player characters count) equal to your Charisma score. They also have the right to wear armor into civilized places — and if they get into trouble it's your fault, so be careful.
Stories of your victories have spread throughout the land. There is no limit to the number of common hirelings you can have, besides your ability to pay them. Your maximum number of hirelings is now the maximum number of first-level characters you can have following you. At this point, it would be a good idea to invest in a stronghold if you haven't already done so. Common hirelings wearing your banner don't count against your maximum number (though they won't gain any mechanical benefit from this).
You aren't nobility yet, but if you had a bit of land and a small army all sorts of options would open up for you. . .
These rules assume hirelings are peasanty-types with a 10 in every stat, 3 HP and a bad attitude who you are paying for one specific task. A torch-carrying hireling has a torch, a bag-carrying hireling has a bag, a monster-hitting hireling has a shield and a club. If everyone can hire first-level fighters, this template should be adjusted to reflect that.
These aren't things you learn on your own. Rather, they are taught to you by old masters in the various cities and towns and ancient monasteries scattered throughout the land. Paying these teachers counts towards XP, though some of them might require more from you than cash. Some of the techniques require a specific weapon or class of weapon.
Anyone can teach these techniques, and a first-level character should pick from this list. Most skilled fighters will know at least one of Aeshean technique. Learning these exclusively would be an interesting choice, though not necessarily a good one.
- Core Strength. Deal normal plus maximum damage on a critical hit.
- Saw. Sword damage explodes, once.
- Hammer. When you have advantage on an attack, make two attacks instead.
- Pick. +2 to-hit against armored opponents in melee.
Elegant techniques, commonly associated with gentlemen-burglars or other romantic types. A city large enough to maintain a thieves' guild will have a teacher for these, but you will need to win their trust by assisting in some scam or heist.
- Adagio. +1 Parry. Your languorous parries vex opponents and amuse allies.
- Allegro. +1 Parry. Your sudden, precise movements fascinate even your enemies.
- Grace. You can parry arrows and thrown weapons. Not bullets. . . yet.
- Focus. You can parry directed magical attacks. Doesn't work on things like Fireball or Sleep.
Techniques of the warrior monks from the west. They fight with a saw-toothed knife in each hand, and can be found in roughly 1-in-6 extremely seedy bars. They value money only because it can be used to purchase rare liquors and food made out of exotic animals.
- Interplay. While holding a weapon in each hand, deal +2 damage with all attacks. Neither is your "main" weapon; you switch from feint-and-attack to attack-and-feint as opportunities present themselves
- Ripples. Once per round, reply to a ranged attack with a thrown weapon instantly. Takes the place of your parry.
- Torrent. While holding a light weapon in each hand, you may make an extra attack each round at disadvantage. If you miss, it looks like you meant to, and people still think you're cool.
- Beating Rain. While holding a light weapon in each hand, you can throw both of them to make one attack with +4 to-hit. Pack a lot of knives.
Developed by priests, perfected by assassins. These techniques are holy secrets, and can only be learned from an assassin (or a priest (or an assassin-priest)) who owes you a favor.
- Ritual. You have studied every position, response and riposte in every book of swordplay, and you have memorized them all. +1 AC and +1 to-hit if the only thing you are holding is a sword.
- Faith. When the flesh fails, rely on the steel. Your critical-hit range is expanded by 1.
- Hope. If you close your eyes and grip your sword with both hands, you have advantage on all saves against magical effects.
- Charity. +4 to-hit against the undead. Eternal rest grant unto them, &c &c.
In the frigid south these are more common than the Aeshean techniques. It's easy to find a teacher if you are willing to make the journey. Those people use a falx rather than a civilized ringsword, but that won't be a problem for someone like you.
- Vessis. This means "protective edge" in the old tongue. You may Guard against melee attacks while holding a heavy sword. If the sword blocks six damage the edge is ruined and must be repaired.
- Karamis. Karamis means something like "a malicious misdirection". Once per round, a fumble was actually just a massive windup. Make another attack immediately.
- Bulumis. This translates to "bolt of angry lightning". While wielding a heavy weapon, your killing blows rend your opponents like dolls. The flying limbs and heads require a Morale check from enemies with fewer HD than the one that was killed.
- Irthis. "Bruised ass", in the old tongue. When you hit an opponent with a heavy weapon, you can choose to knock them down or shove them five feet away from you instead of dealing damage.
EsotericaLearning additional techniques costs 600 XP's worth of cash and a month of training, or twice the money and twice the time for someone who isn't a sword-shepherd.
You've never encountered someone who knew these techniques, but you may have heard stories. Tracking down a master to teach you is probably a full quest in itself.
- Ghastly. Not to slay, but to destroy. Your critical hits require your opponent to make a save vs Death or die messily.
- Divine. To bestow G_d's grace on the undeserving. You always deal full damage to the undead.
- Cruel. To deny G_d's grace to the undeserving. You can choose to have a slain opponent rise as an Unburied immediately.
- Bizarre. To close your eyes and flail like an angry lobster. Instead of rolling a d20 when you make an attack, roll 1d4. Treat a 1 as a 1, a 2 as a 5, a 3 as a 15 and a 4 as a 20.
- Ringsword. Classic Aeshean sword. Looks like a spatha with a big knuckleguard, and the pommel is a ring. Nobles would thread a ball-and-chain through the pommel in ages past, but that style has mostly fallen out of fashion — perhaps you can find a master to teach it to you? 1 slot.
- Sashimono. A tall banner worn vertically on a long pole, identifying your army and rank to distant observers. The flags of foot-soldiers are probably just blocks of their army's colors. The flags of distinguished fighters will be decorated. Don't wear the wrong flag in the wrong city. 1 slot.
- Fire-lance. A long metal tube into which a mixture of inflammable reagents and iron shrapnel is poured. When a slow-match is touched to this mixture it ignites and bursts from the mouth of the tube. Everything in a thirty-foot line must make a save to avoid the blast; the closest failure takes 2d6 fire damage and other failures take half. 2 slots.
- Fire-lance fuel. Comes in horns or kegs. This is not interchangeable with black powder. 1 or 10 slots.
- Miquelet. Huge, unwieldy black-powder gun. -1 to-hit for every 10 feet between you and your target and fires with disadvantage if you don't have something steady to rest it on (a stand, a castle wall, &c). Takes 1d3 minutes to reload. A proper bullet gives +1 to-hit, but you can load it with coins, shrapnel or crossbow bolt. 3 slots.
- Black powder. Comes in horns or kegs. 1 or 10 slots.
- Butterfly-cutters. A pair of light, curved blades carried in one scabbard. Associated with pirates and traveling monks, and generally a sign of someone who should be left alone. +1 damage while wielding them at the same time, 1 slot for the pair.
- Short Falx. A heavy and razor-sharp hooked blade. Seven feet long if you count its two-foot handle, and mostly unheard of in the civilized world. 2 slots.
- Long Falx. A heavy and razor-sharp hooked blade. Ten feet long if you count its three-foot handle. Looks like farming equipment and hits for 2d6 damage instead of 1d10. 4 slots (it is extremely inconvenient to carry this thing around).
- Apache. An abomination of gears and springs. Very popular with thugs who want to look professional. Can be used as brass knuckles, a black-powder pistol or a light knife, -2 to-hit with any functionality. ⅓rd of a slot.
- Tomahawk. A light hatchet designed as a ranged weapon. +1 to-hit when thrown. Very surprising. 1 slot.
- Entrenching shovel. Useful as a light weapon in an emergency, but mostly for digging foxholes and outhouses. ⅓rd of a slot.
- Grappling hook and 50' of rope. 1 slot each.
- 40' of iron chain. 2 slots.
- Horn bow and 20 arrows. Stats as a shortbow, but can only be used by someone with 12 strength or higher. ⅓rd and 1 slot.
- Iron chest with lock and key. Contains about a cubic foot or two slots of items, whichever is less. Takes up 2 slots.
- A full set of watercolors, brushes, and a large binder of heavy paper. Doesn't make you a better artist, but makes you the best artist you can be. 2 slots.
- A golden dagger. Carefully worked into the appearance of a goat's head, with semi-precious stones for eyes. A light weapon, and worth 15 gp to a collector. ⅓rd of a slot.
- A single dose of a genuine healing potion. If applied to a wound heals 1d6+2 points of health immediately, and if consumed is an antidote to most poisons. These are rare, and you probably have a story about how you found it.
- An unusual artifact. Roll 1d6:
- Lucky mess-kit. If you shake it, the rattles are slightly musical if there is a secret door within 50 feet.
- A reversible silk mask; one side shows a skull in black, the other a child's face in white.
- A spider-eye stiletto; essentially a steel knitting-needle with a huge emerald as its pommel. It is (very technically) legal to kill a king with this. It is also legal to kill someone who is carrying a spider-eye stiletto.
- A packet of seeds of the legendary balm-of-gilead. No one has seen such a tree in a long time. Crushed into a spagyric, these seeds cause forgetfulness and heal psychological trauma.
- Unlucky sword. No fumbles, no criticals, but if you roll a 13 while attacking with it then you accidentally smash a nearby fragile object or person. You tried to get smart with it, once, and threw it into the ocean. The drowned corpse that came after you the next evening carried the cursed thing back.
- Corpse-liquor. Tastes like death, and a drop can contaminate a whole meal. Smells like (and might be made from) rose-hips.