The draft of this post was written over a year ago. I really need to get around to finishing stuff a bit quicker.
My son inspires me. His imagination, his energy, his enthusiasm. And, as far as my gaming goes, his toys are remarkably inspiring as well. This is the first in a series of posts that will turn kids toys into stuff for your 4E game. This post is inspired by the Playmobil Knights sets.
The Green Dragon Knights
Two centuries before the last great empire fell (Nerath if you’re using the core 4E assumptions, Tiberium in my world of Brittanis), a great warrior named Clothar emerged in the empire’s heartland and his deeds came to the attention of the current emperor. One of Clothar’s earliest exploits was single-handedly slaying the mighty forest dragon Verimathrax, a cunning beast with poison breath and scales every shade of green known to man. Thereafter, Clothar was known as the Green Dragon Knight and the order of warriors, rangers, and heroes he founded took their name from the badge worn above their hearts: a coiled dragon enameled in dark green was their symbol, and they called themselves the Order of the Emerald Dragon.
The Emerald Dragons served as adjunct protectors to the fabled Imperial Knights for over 150 years; in that time they acquired massive wealth and a reputation to match, and as time marched on, the Imperial Knights became jealous of their Emerald cousins, and eventually poisoned whispers convinced a weak-willed Emperor to strike against the Emerald Dragons to seize their wealth and lands. In the course of a single night, the Order of the Emerald Dragon was eliminated– or so it was thought.
As the story goes, some of the members and treasure of the Emerald Knights had been secreted away in other locations, and some members survived the slaughter either by stealthy maneuvers or by simply being away on other missions when the Emperor’s cowardice struck. A new enclave was founded, and the leader of this enclave was turned bitter and hateful by the Emperor’s actions, dedicated to bringing down the Empire and seeing it burn at any cost. They betrayed Emerald Knights became agitators, insurgents, and mercenaries, using their considerable talents to disrupt and weaken the Empire.
The Empire finally collapsed just over 100 years ago– everyone knows that. What most do not know is that the allied forces of elves, dwarves,and humans might have stood a chance had not several key leaders suddenly backed out of the final battle, either not showing up in the hour of need or retreating as soon as the other, loyal vassals had engaged the enemy horde. Many say that the Emerald Knights were behind many of this betrayal– that they had worked hard for over a generation to put their members in high-ranking places and influence the outcome of that final battle that fragmented the Empire and left its bleeding carcass to die.
Today, the Emerald Dragon Knights no longer exist as they once did– they now call themselves just the Emerald Dragons and on the surface hire out as a well-trained and respected mercenary company. However, they are both an open and secretive group– their lower ranking members can be found as highly trained and organized mercenaries or soldiers in service to a warlord allied to the Emerald Dragons. They form the core of many assault forces used by less-scrupulous conquerors, and are often hired by nobles who have the connections and gold to buy their services. The service of the Emerald Dragons comes with strings attached, though– to hire the services of its warriors, an employer must also ally himself to the shadowy leadership of the Emerald Dragons, a blackguard named Lord Belhorn Shildheart.
Lord Belhorn Shieldheart, Emerald Dragon Mastermind
Belhorn’s goal is nothing short of establishing a kingdom where the Emerald Dragons can rule, and he is steadily building a network of owed favors, blackmail, contacts, and loyalists to bring down the established rulers of the region and place himself and his loyal followers as the ruling elite. Belhorn desires the Emerald Dragons to have the respect and power that was stripped from them centuries ago– and over the years his group has become very adept at the skills and subterfuge needed to do exactly that.
Lord Belhorn is a TOUGH opponent designed as the capstone BBEG for an Heroic Tier campaign. He can be the spider in the middle of the web for a whole host of nasty stuff. Playing two factions off each other by introducing Emerald Dragon-allied agents, weakening them by inciting war, and then sweeping in against both to claim their lands? Yeah, that’s his style. Attacking merchant caravans to make prices skyrocket and then buying out the merchants? Check. Funding magical research into mind control, illegal drugs with magically-addictive properties so he can enslave magic users? Yep. Creating a “fake” assassin guild in order to give the locals something to blame–and then setting up a puppet to “exterminate” the fake guild in order to put one of his allies in power? Yeah, that too. Belhorn is clever, devious, patient and organized. He can be the mastermind behind a buttload of plans and plots, even without the people involved in those plots knowing he is the mastermind behind it all.
In combat, Belhorn is a nightmare when he’s got allies with him– and he will ALWAYS have allies with him. He’s got an aura that buffs allies and hampers enemies, his weapons are fierce, but it’s his Leader abilities that make him a truly deadly threat. Even minions become vastly dangerous under his watch, with his abilities to hand out attack bonuses and temporary hit points. Keep in mind that minions actually do have 1 hit point–therefore they can benefit from temporary hit points just like a standard monster.
Other Emerald Dragons
The emerald Dragons, as they exist in their “open” capacity, are a highly-decorated group of sellswords (and sell-spells, in the form of allied wizards, sorcerers, bards, and even clerics) who can hire themselves out singly as bodyguard, or in groups large enough to augment a standing army. Nobody outside of the group leadership knows how many bodies the Emerald Dragons could field at the same time if they chose to; if they DID know, many nobles in the region would be terrified by the might the Dragons can muster. And they would be right to be afraid, for someday when he deems the time right, Belhorn will call his banners and march his forces toward domination of the entire region.
The mightiest leaders of the Emerald Dragons are the champions, warriors of great skill and prowess who have the ability to make the soldiers under their command fight harder and accomplish more than they otherwise might. Champions are veteran soldiers, and believe in their Lord’s cause with un-nerving tenacity. They, like their leader, wield heavy broadswords, thick shields, and stout armor and often out last evenly matched opponents on the battlefield. They can march for hours, set up a camp, and still fight after all is said and done. Many commoners are in awe of their endurance and fortitude, thinking it supernatural. None know for sure, but the peasants may be right, as the Champions have been found with magical narcotics and drugs, according to rumor.
That’s part one of the Emerald Dragon Knights. More to come wherein I flesh out the lower-ranking members of the Emerald Dragons: the Emerald Dragon Knight, the Emerald Ranger, and the Emerald Templar!!