Harper

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The Harpers are a scattered network of spellcasters and spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power, magical or otherwise. They seek to tip the scales in favor of the innocent, the weak, and the poor within the Realms. Agents operate in secret and emphasize stealth and subtlety, or at the very least discretion. Bards and wizards are their most prominent members. Harper agents pride themselves on being incorruptible defenders of good, and they never hesitate to aid the oppressed. Because they prefer to work behind the scenes, they are rarely noticed as they thwart tyrants, depose rulers, and head off any growing force that is rumored to have evil intent. The Harpers has its finger on the pulse of power in the Realms and works tirelessly to even the odds for the downtrodden.

Individual Harper agents often operate alone, relying on their wits and extensive information networks to gain an advantage over their enemies. They know that knowledge is power, so gathering intelligence beforehand is paramount to their success. They are well-informed and always have access to aid, magical and otherwise. Veteran members have access to secret caches of knowledge stashed all over Faerûn, along with trusted sources stationed in every major town and city.

“A Harper is first and foremost self-reliant, for once you are autonomous then no one can tempt you into using power as a crutch. You are sovereign unto yourself.”
“Therefore, a Harper’s soul must be incorruptible. Many believe themselves to be so, but power comes in many guises, and it will surely find your weakness. Of this you may be certain. Only a true Harper can pass this test and transform weakness into strength. That is why we are the hand that stops the tyrant, feeds the oppressed, and asks for nothing in return.”
“We are the song for those who have no voice.”
—Remallia “Remi” Haventree

The organization is always on the lookout for powerful items, expressly to keep them out of the hands of evildoers. To this end its agents use various guises and identities to gain access to carefully guarded secrets such as ancestral maps, buried cities, and mages’ keeps.

The bond between Harpers is strong, and their friendships are nigh unbreakable. Rarely do they operate in the open, but on rare occasions they must, because there is no other choice. When that happens, you can be sure that a fellow Harper is watching closely, ready to emerge from the shadows and help a comrade at a moment’s notice.

Harpers operate in small cells throughout the North. One is based in Triboar: Darathra Shendrel, the Lord Protector, belongs to the faction, and Harper agents can find welcome at the Home of the Boars.

Another cell in the prosperous trade center of Yartar monitors traffic in the Dessarin Valley and the actions and policies of the city’s Waterbaron. The Harpers work to maintain the balance of power between the various groups competing to influence the city.

In the Sumber Hills, the Harpers warn travelers and adventurers to stay clear of Rundreth Manor and the Dark Lady who dwells there. Harpers also watch the ruined Halls of the Hunting Axe.

Background

The organization has risen, been shattered, and risen again several times. Its longevity and resilience are largely due to its decentralized, grassroots, secretive nature, and the autonomy of its various members. The Harpers have small cells and lone operatives throughout the Forgotten Realms, although they interact and share information with one another from time to time as needs warrant. The Harpers’ ideology is noble, and its members pride themselves on their ingenuity and incorruptibility. Harpers don’t seek power or glory, only fair and equal treatment for all.

Renown Rank Badge
1 Watcher Harper pin
3 Harpshadow lessor Harper pin
10 Brightcandle
25 Wise Owl greater Harper pin
50 High Harper
Motto
"Down with tyranny. Fairness and equality for all."
Beliefs
The Harpers’ beliefs can be summarized as follows:
  • One can never have too much information or arcane knowledge.
  • Too much power leads to corruption, and the abuse of magic in particular must be closely monitored.
  • No one should be powerless.
Goals
Gather information throughout Faerûn, discern the political dynamics within each region, and promote fairness and equality by covert means. Act openly as a last resort. Thwart tyrants and any leader, government, or group that grows too powerful. Aid the weak, the poor, and the oppressed.
Typical Quests
Typical Harper quests include securing an artifact that would upset the balance of power in a region, gathering information on a powerful individual or organization, and determining the true intentions of an ambitious political figure or evil spellcaster.

Destinations of pilgrimage

Magic of Faerûn (p. 50) by Sean K. Reynolds, et al.

Miracles, the death or birth of a hero, and other fantastic events create landmarks to which believers travel for blessings and inspiration. These places vary greatly. Some churches have earned the fame. Some tie directly to holidays related to the event that made the location special. If they believe strongly enough, people pilgrimage to nearly anywhere, even risking their own deaths to do so.

Variations on the Theme: A famous battlefield, the spot where a hero had a vision, the place where an evil was conquered, a hero’s grave, the location of a miracle, or the last place a hero or other beloved person was seen.

The Dancing Place

In the Year of the Dawn Rose (720 DR), the gods summoned many elven clergy to a beautiful, moss-covered hill in the High Dale. At that gathering, Elminster proposed the founding of the Harpers. As those present discussed it, numerous deities made appearances to support the idea. To this day, the clergy present at that event, as well as many others seeking peace, make an annual pilgrimage to the Dancing Place. The folk of the High Dale provide covered encampments along the northern trail for those who have come to worship in the holy valley. The list of gods associated with the Dancing Place includes the human gods Deneir, Eldath, Lliira, Mielikki, Milil, Mystra, Oghma, Selûne, Silvanus, and Tymora, and the elven gods Corellon Larethian, Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil, Labelas Enoreth, and Solonor Thelandira.

Relationships

Silverymoon

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.54

Silverymoon has nonetheless long been known as a safe haven for Harpers in the North, because the city doesn’t see the aims of the Alliance as conflicting with Those Who Harp. Where other cities’ rulers might see the presence of the Harpers as a threat to their authority, Silverymoon desires an end to tyranny as fervently as the Harpers do, and thus the greater good is served. At the same time, some Silvaeren believe that the city’s tolerance of certain other members of the Alliance (some mention Mirabar, others Baldur’s Gate) is somewhat naive.

Bards

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.123

Bards in the North and the Dalelands benefit from the existence of the Harpers, that legendary society recruiting bards and other independent agents to struggle against the forces of evil. Even though most bards in the region aren’t Harpers (and many who are don’t advertise that fact), common folk in the North often behave as if all bards are legendary wandering heroes, and are as likely to ask a bard for the solution to a problem troubling their community as they are a wandering fighter or wizard. This reputation cuts both ways, however, as some enemies of the Harpers suspiciously assume any humble minstrel might secretly be a Harper agent.

College of Fochlucan

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.123

The original College of Fochlucan once stood on the northeastern edge of Silverymoon. Many years after it closed its doors, the site was reopened as Ultrumm’s Music Conservatory. The conservatory later moved to Southbank, and the House of the Harp occupied the college’s original location under the guidance of Master Bard Fore!! "Flamebeard" Luekuan, who sought to revive the ancient traditions and teachings of Fochlucan. Years of cultivation and support from Silverymoon, as well as the Harpers, yielded a faculty able to revive the college, and the House of the Harp adopted the Fochlucan name once again. Most of its bards study and practice the methods of the College of Lore, as described in the Bard College class feature in the Player’s Handbook.

The College of Fochlucan is naturally allied with the Harpers, although its master bards are careful to stress that its mission is separate from that of the Harpers.

College of the Herald

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.124

Based at the great lore-house of Herald’s Holdfast, northwest of Silverymoon, the College of the Herald is dedicated to the preservation of ancient history and legends. The Heralds are charged with collecting and organizing bodies of lore, which they make available to all of good and peaceful intent. Established by the Harper Aliost Oskrunnar in 922 DR, the Heralds are allies of the Harpers but remain neutral in most conflicts, dedicated to preserving knowledge above all else.

The College of the Herald is less concerned with musical performance (although it contains a considerable library of songs) and more with history, heraldry, and folklore, making it a key center of learning for bards of the College of Lore, as described in the Bard College class feature in the Player’s Handbook.

The Circle of Eight

Greyhawk (POA-247)

The closest equivalent to the Harpers is the Circle of Eight. Although membership in the circle itself is restricted to the most powerful wizards, the group employs many agents and spies to look after its interests. The Circle of Eight is much less benevolent than the Harpers: its wizards are not particularly concerned about tyranny and are more interested in preserving a balance of power throughout the Flanaess. However, major magical threats (such as the rise of Elemental Evil) are very much within the circle’s purview.

The Moonstars

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.124

Over a century ago, the Harpers endured a schism. Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun was denounced by other Harper leaders for empowering Fzoul Chembryl, then the evil leader of the Zhentarim, with a powerful artifact. That Khelben did so in order that Fzoul destroy a dangerous lich mattered little. Khelben and Laeral Silverhand, his wife, left the Harpers then, taking with them certain agents and folding them into to a different organization, which Khelben had been secretly working to create for some time due to an old prophecy of the elves of Cormanthor. This group was the Moonstars, called Tel’Teukiira in Elvish. Although the Moonstars worked in concert at times with the Harpers, they also worked at cross purposes, and the Moonstars membership included many whom the Harpers considered too evil, such as a vampire. The Moonstars performed many good deeds, but their methods were often more brutal and pragmatic than the Harpers’ lofty ideals allowed. When Khelben died, the Moonstars seemed to collapse, and for many years the organization was assumed defunct. Yet during the Sundering, Moonstar sleeper agents reactivated the organization on a surprisingly massive scale, with members active in Candlekeep, Waterdeep, and Myth Drannor. The organization has since gone underground again. Their relationship to the present-day Harpers, Laeral Silverhand, and the current Blackstaff ofWaterdeep, Vajra, remains unclear.

Druids

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.127

Druid circles in the North are often allied with the Harpers, as they have common purpose, with bards and rangers serving as go-betweens. Individual Harpers can usually expect a circle to at least grant them food and shelter, and an opportunity to attend a gathering and speak, if they wish.

Still, the Harpers aren’t a druidic organization and, despite what some common folk might believe, not every druid or druid circle is allied with, or even friendly toward, the Harpers and their cause. Indeed, some druids consider the Harpers busybodies who threaten the natural balance almost as much as the evils that they fight against.

D&D 5th Edition

Backgrounds

Faction Agent

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, p.147–48

Magic items

lessor Harper pin

“Fashioned of silver and given to new members of the Harpers. Functions identically to a ring of mind shielding.” (MoF-159)

Wondrous item, rare (DMG-191)

While wearing this pin, you are immune to magic that allows other creatures to read your thoughts, determine whether you are lying, know your alignment, or know your creature type. Creatures can telepathically communicate with you only if you allow it.

You can use an action to cause the pin to become invisible until you use another action to make it visible, until you remove the pin, or until you die.

If you die while wearing the pin, your soul enters it, unless it already houses a soul. You can remain in the pin or depart for the afterlife. As long as your soul is in the pin, you can telepathically communicate with any creature wearing it. A wearer can't prevent this telepathic communication.

greater Harper pin

...

D&D 3rd Edition

Prestige classes
Harper Scout, Harper Mage, Harper Priest (2001)
Master Harper, Harper Agent, Harper Paragon (’03,’04)

Magic items

handharp

Magic of Faerûn (pp. 159) by Sean K. Reynolds, et al.

These small harps are very popular among the Harpers, and not just because of the name. A handharp is a crescent-shaped wooden instrument, about the size of a human hand, with metal strings. Anyone who can play a tune on a stringed instrument can use the harp. Various tunes and chords produce the following sonic effects. (A musician can discover all the powers in about 10 minutes of playing.) The user can generate only one effect each round. The effects are sonic effects.

  • Dancing lights as the spell.
  • Undead creatures within 10 feet† suffer a −2 luck penalty on their attack and damage rolls.
  • All creatures within 10 feet† receive a +2 luck bonus on saving throws against necromantic and compulsion effects for 1 round.
  • Creatures within 10 feet† are not subject to new charm effects. Charmed creatures become dazed when within 10 feet. Both effects last for 1 round.
  • Once a day, the user can use dimension door.

Effects marked with a dagger† increase their range to 20 feet when a character with bardic music plays the harp.

Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, dancing lights, magic circle against evil, dimension door; Market Price: 25,000 gp; Weight: 1 lb.

Harper pin

Magic of Faerûn (pp. 159–160) by Sean K. Reynolds, et al.

Two kinds of Harper pins exist, the lesser pin and the greater pin. These pins act as brooches for the purposes of limitations on wearing multiple items of the same type.

lesser Harper pin

Normally fashioned of silver and given to new members of the Harpers. It functions identically to a ring of mind shielding.

  • The wearer is continually immune to detect thoughts, discern lies, and any attempt to magically discern their alignment.

Caster Level: 3rd; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item or Forge Ring, nondetection; Market Price: 8,000 gp; Cost to Create: 4,000 gp; Weight: —.

greater Harper pin

Fashioned from silver magically treated to give it the hardness of steel (see Creating Magic Items, below). The following constant effects protect the wearer:

  • immune to magic missile.
  • nondetection.
  • resist elements (electricity).
  • undetectable alignment.
  • +5 resistance bonus on saves against mind-affecting effects

When worn by an evil being, a greater Harper pin turns black and makes discordant jangling sounds (a −10 penalty on Move Silently checks).

Caster Level: 5th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, detect evil, ghost sound, nondetection, protection from elements, resistance, shield, undetectable alignment; Market Price: 79,000 gp; Cost to Create: 39,625 gp + 3,150 XP; Weight: —.

singing sword

Magic of Faerûn (p. 144) by Sean K. Reynolds, et al.

These silver +1 greatswords were created for use by the Harpers. When drawn, they sing loudly and constantly. As long as the bearer can hear the sword’s song, they gain a +2 morale bonus on attack and damage rolls with the singing sword. Furthermore, they gain a +3 morale bonus on saves against mind-affecting spells and effects. The song is a sonic, mind-affecting effect.

Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bless, emotion, creator must have 3 ranks of Perform (melody); Market Price: 24,450 gp; Cost to Create: 12,450 gp + 960 XP.

AD&D 2nd Edition

Magic items

Harper pin [greater]

the Code of the Harpers, p.104 (AD&D 2nd Ed.) by Ed Greenwood

Value: 5,000 XP; 40,000 GP

A Harper pin gives its wearer a +5 bonus to saving throws vs. all enchantment/charm spells (and equivalent psionic powers). It also confers absolute immunity to all detection, mind- and alignment-reading magic and psionics; the wearer simply “isn’t there”. (It does not prevent magical detection linked to specific objects carried by a Harper, however, except itself; a locate object spell used to find “a Harper pin” would fail, but one used to find a specific item that a Harper is known to be carrying—a particular crown, for instance—would find that item, but still not reveal the Harper carrying it.)

A Harper pin also absorbs all magic missile and lightning/electricity attacks into itself, protecting a bearer from all damage.

Harper pins are made by certain skilled (and) secretive) smiths in Evermeet, Mintarn, Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Everlund, Silverymoon, Evereska, High Horn, Shadowdale, Deepingdale, Lyrabar, and Starmantle. The smiths make and give pins only to specific senior Harpers known to them—not just to anyone who shows up on their doorstep asking for one.

Harper pins are never attuned to a specific being or wearer. They are of silver treated to be everbright (never tarnish) and as hard as adamantine. They are AC −2, have 9 hit points, and suffer no damage from magical attacks. They gain a +5 bonus to all item saving throws.

Some Harper pins turn black in one round when worn by an evil-aligned being, and thereafter utter discordant jangling sounds, as if a metal-stringed harp was being savagely struck.

Sources

  • D&D Basic Rules: The Five Factions
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide (5th Ed.), p. 21
  • Princes of the Apocalypse, p. 15