In Adventure Hooks: The Legendary Sword Masters (Part 1) we suggested that at some point in your campaign the heroes may need to learn a special fighting technique from a legendary sword master. When such circumstances arise they’ll first need to find the legendary master and then convince him to train them. As he’ll likely become and integral part of the story arc, it’s important that he be interesting and memorable. Today we provide six more examples of legendary sword masters that you can use in your campaign.
It’s important to note that although we use male pronouns and refer to the PCs as masculine, the example masters listed below will certainly work if they are portrayed as female. Just look at the picture at the top of this article. She clearly looks like she can handle that massive blade like a pro. Many gamers (including the majority of the ones I play with) will hear “sword master” and assume it’s a man they’re looking for. Making the legendary sword master a woman can add an interesting aspect to the role-playing.
Regardless of the master’s sex, the character needs to be well developed and have a distinct personality. We’ve provided enough details to get you started but DMs should feel free to tweak these masters as they see fit. With the exception of the Dwarven Master none of them specify race so it’s entirely possible that they could be a race the PCs least suspect. Throwing conventional wisdom and preconceptions out the window is a good way to make any NPC more interesting.
1) The Master with No Memory
The heroes find the man they believe is the legendary master they’re looking for, however, he cannot confirm or deny that he is who they say he is. He has no memory of who he is, or who he was. The master with no memory agrees to train the PCs if they can figure out a way to return his memory to him.
A really evil DM can always have the master turn on the party when his memory is returned. Perhaps he had his own memory erased in order to forget a devastating loss or maybe he knew something so dangerous that he couldn’t risk anyone ever getting him to reveal it. Of course the DM could just as easily just say that he’s an evil bastard and leave it at that.
2) The One-Armed Master
Finding this legendary sword master isn’t hard at all. He’s always said that he’ll train anyone willing to learn. However, he only has one arm. This limitation /advantage is integral to mastering his unique fighting style. If a PC wants to learn from the one-armed master they will have to agree to lose an arm. This is not a decision that is to be undertaken lightly and will have serious long-term ramifications on any PC who agrees. Any PC that goes through with the training will only be able to use the training if they have one arm. If they manage to have the limb replaced or regenerated the training is completely useless.
3) The Beard
When the PCs finally find this legendary master he’s not exactly what they expected. He’s good-looking, physically fit and incredibly arrogant. He treats everyone as being beneath him and expects total subservience from lesser folk (namely everyone). In general, he’s a total ass. He seems to save his most seething criticisms for his servant, a man whose life he saved a decade earlier who then pledged to serve him faithfully in return.
Everything about this man offends the people around him. However, his exploits are legendary so the PCs will have to put up with his unruly behaviour if they want to learn from him. After a few weeks, the PCs will likely begin to doubt the master’s abilities as they don’t find his training to be at all helpful. However, questioning or criticizing his methods will only make him more unbearable.
In truth the arrogant master is actually a well trained actor. The servant is the real master. The two are childhood friends who adventured together for years. They put on this charade to screen anyone looking for the master and requesting training.
4) The Dwarven Swordsman
When was the last time you heard of a Dwarf who wielded a sword? Everyone knows that Dwarves use axes and hammers. This master is the exception to the rule. Having no aptitude for traditional Dwarven weapons he instead turned to the blade. The result was uncanny; it was as if the sword was an extension of himself. His prowess with a blade became legendary. However, his clan was so outraged and embarrassed that he used a sword and not an axe or hammer that they disowned him. The clan’s influence was so great that they refused to acknowledge any Dwarf who associated with their disowned brethren. Over time the prejudice grew and now most Dwarves won’t even speak to anyone who keeps the Dwarven Swordsman’s company. If the PCs accept his help they will be forever denied any assistance or cooperation from Dwarves anywhere.
5) The Killer
This master lives a peaceful life in isolation. When the PCs seek his tutelage he explains that he can teach them the fundamentals but there is no substitute for seeing him put these actions into practice. Without practical demonstrations they will not be able to master his techniques. He won’t use a practice blade or any weapon other than his own sword. However, his beliefs restrict him from drawing the blade unless it is to be used in combat. He will only draw his weapon if circumstances demand that he use it to kill.
He will accompany the PCs if they believe they can find a conflict in which his skills can be put to use and thereby give them the demonstrations they need to complete the training. Where will the PCs find worthy opponents who deserve death so they can learn? It will have to be many creatures if the PCs hope to see the techniques used frequently enough to be useful.
6) The Master with Two Personalities
As the PCs inquire about this master they hear the same stories over and over again – the man they seek is mad. It seems that he has two very different and distinct personalities. One is a great swordsman and the other is not. Those who have tried to learn from this master in the past have been unsuccessful. His students never know which personality is teaching them from day-to-day so they have difficulty separating the actual beneficial training from the maneuvers that will potentially kill them.
There are indeed two distinct personalities; however this is a classic case of identical twins. Years earlier one brother was banished to the Feywild. The remaining brother searched for a way to free his lost brother and eventually succeeded. He found an ancient ritual and enlisted the assistance of a powerful Wizard. However, the banished brother was living a good life in the Feywild and didn’t want to return. When the ritual was performed the banished brother had his new Fey friends try to disrupt the magic, which they did. The result was that the two brothers switched bodies. And every day since the ritual was performed the two have alternated between the Feywild and the real world.
One brother is indeed a master swordsman and is genuinely trying to help the PCs. The other brother has acquired the Fey sense of humour from his time with them and enjoys messing with the PCs and their training. He knows just enough about swordplay to be believable but is clearly not in his brother’s league.
- Adventure Hooks – Moral Choices
- 8 Adventure Hooks: The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
- 7 Adventure Hooks for Making the Loot Part of the Plot