Dark Knights

Knights of Neraka

“Submit or die!”
-Blood Oath of the Dark Knights

Of all the knightly orders of Ansalon, none are as feared as the Dark Knights of Takhisis. Born from the vision of Ariakan, the Knights of Takhisis stand in the pages of history as the greatest organized force of Evil to ever walk the face of Krynn.

When Ariakan was imprisoned by the Knights of Solamnia, he envisioned a dark knighthood that would draw from the best aspects of the Knights of Solamnia without suffering from their failings. Ariakan began to see the flaw of his father, Ariakas, and the Law of the Dark Queen, that Evil feeds on itself.

What if Evil didn’t turn upon itself? What if there was a group of dark knights committed to placing the knighthood ahead of personal gain? These questions stirred within Ariakan’s mind until he met the Dark Warrior, an aspect of Takhisis. When she revealed her true identity to him, Ariakan laid out his plan. Takhisis gave it her blessing, and the Knights of Takhisis were born.

One of the tenets of the Knights of Takhisis was the Lesson of the Ironwood Tree, where the foundation of the knighthood would remain solid, while the branches would still sway in the wind. In other words, the knighthood would adapt to survive.

Throughout the years, the knighthood has had to evolve to survive, even going so far as to change their name to the Knights of Neraka. Adapting to new magic and new world circumstances, the knighthood persists, while still trying to remain true to its roots. 

Yet the Law of the Dark Queen remains true. The knighthood has splintered into factions after the War of Souls. Some remain true to Ariakan’s Vision, and some have become thugs. It remains to be seen whether a charismatic leader can unite them once again, or if they will, inevitably, turn upon themselves.

The Order of the Lily

“Independence breeds chaos. Submit and be strong.”

The Order of the Lily is the body of the Dark Knights. They are the strength by which order is maintained, providing unity through that strength.

The Order of the Skull

“Death is patient. It flows both from without and from within. Be vigilant in all and skeptical of all.”

The Order of the Skull is the soul of the Dark Knights, guiding them with the Vision and eliminating those who would seek to undo them.

The Order of the Thorn

“One who follows the heart finds it will bleed. Feel nothing but victory.”

The Order of the Thorn is the mind of the Dark Knights. Thorn Knights believe that intellect should always come before emotion. Intellect and knowledge provide the keys to victory, while the heart is nothing but a distraction.

Other Dark Knight Orders

Blood Oath Archers

While most Dark Knights seek to prove their martial prowess in hand-to-hand combat, there are those who excel at marksmanship with a bow. These are set apart early in their training to serve as a special force within the Order of the Lily. Blood Oath Archers are highly sought after by military leaders, not just for their mastery of the bow, but due to the terror they often leave in their wake.

Cabal of the Code

The Cabal of the Code is a suborder of the Knights of the Skull that functions as a “secret police” for the Knighthood. Led by the mad Lord Adjudicator Galen Nemedi, the Cabal seeks out all violators of the Code.

The Spiritborne

Spiritborne

The Spiritborne are a group of former Skull Knights who developed an affinity for communicating with and controlling incorporeal undead during the War of Souls. During the war, the River of Souls washed over an entire wing of Skull Knights, giving them a greater sensitivity to the spiritual world. The Spiritborne believe that intelligent spirits are far more dangerous than mindless corpses. They take great pride in enslaving these intelligent spirits, bending the minds of the incorporeal undead through willpower alone.


The Vision, the Blood Oath, and the Code

The Vision

The Vision is a statement of the ultimate goal of the Knighthood: One World Order. The goal is nothing short of the total and unquestioned domination of the world of Krynn. The Blood Oath and the Code were established to make the Vision manifest. Each Knight also experienced his own personal Vision, originally granted by Takhisis through the Knights of the Skull. This individual Vision showed each Knight his place within the Dark Knights.

In the years following the Chaos War, the Vision left the Knights of the Skull, along with Takhisis. During this time, the mystics of the Skull Knights claimed the Vision returned, but it was a False Vision. The Legion of Steel revealed this secret for what it was. Now, with the passing of the War of Souls, many Knights have abandoned the Vision altogether.

The Blood Oath

The Blood Oath of the Dark Knights is quite simple: Submit or Die. The Blood Oath is part of the indoctrination process, teaching young aspirants into the Knighthood that they must be utterly dedicated, both in body and soul, to the cause. All thoughts of self are submerged, sublimated. This doesn’t mean that the Dark Knights may not think for themselves, merely that the Knighthood comes before all self-interest.

The Code

The Code is the set of laws, crafted by Ariakan himself, that are designed to deal with both military situations and the lives of each knight within the Knighthood. The Code borrows from the Measure of the Knights of Solamnia, but it has been adapted to Ariakan’s vision of the Knights of Takhisis.

Goals of the Dark Knights

The Knights of Neraka fervently believe that peace can only be achieved through strict discipline, and they seek to bring order and the rule of law to every corner of Ansalon. They firmly believe that only strict order and discipline can create a stable society. Naturally, the dark knights also believe they are best fit to rule and to impose this order on the people of Krynn. 

The only way to do this is through conquest. While the dark knights would prefer that the various governing bodies of Ansalon cede control of their realms to the knighthood, even offering asylum to leaders who choose to surrender, they know power is rarely given up willingly and must often be taken by force. 

Allies and Enemies 

The Knights of Neraka will only work with organizations and individuals who further their own goals. As a result, the knighthood has found itself rich in enemies and poor in allies. While many remember the sacrifice they made helping to end the Chaos War, in the years following that sacrifice, many knights abandoned their orders out of a sense of despair and turned their backs on Ariakan’s vision. In order to survive, the needs of the knighthood overcame their dedication to honor, and many came to view the Dark Knights as little more than powerful thugs. 

Throughout its short history the Dark Knights have allied themselves with chromatic dragons, primarily blues for their even temperament and willingness to work with the well-organized knighthood. While red dragons are employed from time to time, they are less common due to their violent and unpredictable tempers. Green, black, and white dragons are often used in battle, but are rarely paired with riders due to their chaotic and self-serving natures.

Recently, the knighthood’s allies are very few. During the Chaos War they allied with the Tarmak brutes, a people Ariakas discovered beyond the Blood Sea Isles. They have maintained a lukewarm relationship with the Minotaur Empire, and, at one time, were allies with the Bündesphar, a group of rangers who honored the beast lord Canus. Their greatest allies were the Dragon Overlords who allowed the knighthood to retain much of the lands they acquired during the Chaos War in exchange for tithes and obedience. While, forces such as the Heart of the Dragon and the Minions of Dark are still considered close allies, today. 

Having rejected the draconians and ogres as allies, the Dark Knights have found themselves with few allies and numerous enemies in the region surrounding Neraka, especially since the demise of the Dragon Overlords and the establishment of the combined elven nation of Inath-Wakenti. Naturally, the Knights of Solamnia, the Wizards of High Sorcery, the Legion of Steel, and the dwarven Kingdom of Thorbardin all remain opposed to the Dark Knights and consider them a threat as do the Holy Orders of the gods of light.  


Knight of Neraka Characters

Knights of Neraka

Alignment. Usually Lawful, Usually Evil, Sometimes Neutral

Suggested Races. Human, Half-elf, Minotaur; sometimes Elf, Dwarf, or Half-ogre

Requirements. proficiency in at least one martial weapon, light and medium armor, and vehicles (land)

Knight of the Lily

Suggested Classes. Fighter (Battle Master, Blood Oath Archer, Cavalier, or Champion), Ranger (Hunter), Rogue (Assassin, Inquisitive, Mastermind, Scout)

Knight of the Skull

Suggested Classes. Cleric (Adjudication Domain, Death Domain, War Domain) , Paladin (Oath of Conquest, Oath of the Crown, Oath of Vengeance)

Knight of the Thorn

Suggested Classes. Warlock (Hexblade, The Fiend, or The Undying), Wizard (School of Divination, School of Evocation, or War Magic), Sorcerer (Divine Soul, Shadow Magic, or Storm Sorcery), Fighter (Eldritch Knight)

Joining the Knights of Neraka

Recruitment for a Dark Knight begins at a young age, typically around 12 – 14 years old. For the next three years, the young petitioner will undergo a program of rigorous physical training and indoctrination. The Knights of the Skull are responsible for their training, shaping the bodies, hearts, and minds of the young petitioners through harsh discipline. Petitioners quickly learn the values of honor and obedience and the tenets of the Vision, the Blood Oath, and the Code. Young petitioners who display a knack for magical talent may also gain additional training by the Knights of the Thorn.

After this three-year period, petitioners are ready to become squires within their chosen order, serving under a patron Knight. It is during this time, typically around a year, that their training and indoctrination are first put to practical use.

When a squire completes the Crucible of Darkness (formerly the Test of Takhisis), he typically serves a year of general service in his Order. As he rises in rank, he may choose specialized training.

Crucible of Darkness (Test of Takhisis)

For all of the Orders within the Knighthood, continuation past the level of squire requires that the Knight pass the Crucible of Darkness (formerly the Test of Takhisis), just as wizards must face the dread Test of High Sorcery. Failure in this test results in death. There has never been a case where a failed Knight has survived; even if a Knight manages to escape, the members of all three Orders use their powers to track the Knight down.

The Crucible of Darkness usually centers on the three themes of Vision, Order, and Obedience. As with the Test of High Sorcery, the Crucible of Darkness may be an illusion, though the tested Knights truly believe that what they are undergoing is real. In some instances, the Knights may be sent on missions or quests designed to prove their worthiness. The Crucible is dangerous and often extremely cruel, but those who pass are as strong as steel forged in the fires of Neraka.

Rank and Renown

Renown is an optional rule found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (pp. 22-23). If you choose to use this rule in your Dragonlance game, it provides structure for gaining rank and other benefits within factions and organizations, such as the Knights of Neraka. 

A character’s Renown is separate for each organization they may be affiliated with and typically starts at 0, increasing when characters perform tasks for the organization and earn favor from the leadership of the group. Typically, when you advance an organization’s interests, your Renown increases by 1. If, on the other hand, you undertake a quest assigned by the group, or one that directly benefits the group, it can increase your Renown by 2. You can also use downtime to increase your Renown, as described in the DMG on page 129.

You can gain renown within the Knights of Neraka in following ways:

  • Successfully completing a quest that furthers the goals of the knighthood
  • Distinguishing oneself in battle through acts of courage and self-sacrifice
  • Recovery of powerful artifacts
  • Comporting oneself with honor in the face of overwhelming odds
  • Treating a defeated enemy with honor

You can lose renown through any of the following acts:

  • Displays of cowardice
  • Shirking one’s duty
  • Disobeying a direct order from a superior
  • Overly harsh or cruel treatment of a defeated enemy

Rank 1: Knight Guardian

Prerequisite: Renown of 3 or higher in the Knights of Neraka

After earning three points of renown as an acolyte, you may petition your lord to gain the rank of Knight guardian. You’ve gained some authority over other soldiers. When you’re sent on missions and quests of a military nature, you may request a company of up to 10 knights. These will be led by a veteran and comprise a mix of guards, apprentice mages, and acolytes, called a talon, who will follow your lawful orders without question. You may also requisition rations, supplies, and transportation as needed from nobility loyal to the Knights of Neraka. 

Rank 2: Knight Warder

Prerequisite: Rank 1 and renown of 10 or higher in the Knights of Neraka

Upon gaining the rank of knight warder you are assigned charge over other knights of your order, called a wing, consisting of up to five talons. You’re responsible for interpreting, strategizing, and executing the orders of your superiors. Often, knight warders are members of a group of knights assigned to a particular city or region. Occasionally, a knight warder will lead this group. In addition to the benefits of your previous rank, when embarking on a quest for the knighthood, you may requisition a number of uncommon or rare, consumable magic items equal to your Charisma modifier.

Rank 3: Knight Champion

Prerequisite: Rank 2 and renown of 25 or higher in the Knights of Neraka

You are the ranking member of a group of knights assigned to further the knighthood’s goals in a particular city, state, or region. You are responsible for gathering intelligence pertaining to the Knights of Neraka and reporting your group’s progress to your superiors. In times of war, you are placed in command of a compgroup, consisting of up to 2000 soldiers and thirty to thirty-five wings from all three orders. In addition to the benefits gained from previous ranks, you gain the benefits of the Position of Privilege background feature on page 135 of the Player’s Handbook.

Rank 4: Master Knight

Prerequisite: Rank 3 and renown of 45 or higher in the Knights of Neraka

At this rank, you have direct access to the leader of your order (Lord of the Lily, Lord of the Skull, or Lord of the Skull) and are considered a trusted advisor to them. In times of war, you command a quadron, consisting of up to twenty compgroups. Additionally, you have the right to requisition additional magic items, including artifacts, without being questioned by your superiors, unless your honor has come into question.

Rank 5: Lord Knight

Prerequisite: Rank 4 and renown of 65 or higher in the Knights of Neraka

At this point, you’ve ascended to the highest rank in your order, Lord of the Lily, Lord of the Skull, or Lord of the Thorn. All other knights of your order answer to you. You answer only to the Lord of the Night himself.

Knight of Neraka Subclasses

Adjudication (Cleric Domain)

Adjudicator of the Code

Adjudicators of the Code are a special unit within the Knights of the Skull, also known as the Cabal of the Code, who are responsible for rooting out sedition within the ranks of the knighthood. They are inquisitors who spend much of their time studying the Code, using what they learn to augment their power. Although they were originally clerics of Takhisis, most turned to Mysticism after the Summer of Chaos. Regardless, their devotion to the Code and their uncanny ability to delve into the minds of those they interrogate have given them a fearsome reputation, even among their fellow knights.

Bonus Spells

You gain bonus spells at the cleric levels listed in the Adjudicator of the Code Spells table. See the Divine Domain class feature in the Player’s Handbook for how domain spells work.

Adjudicator of the Code Spells Table
Cleric LevelSpell
1stcommand; comprehend languages
3rddetect thoughts; hold person
5thfear; tongues
7thlocate creature; banishment
9thdream; dominate person

Bonus Proficiencies

At 1st level, you gain proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armor.

Blessing of the Skull

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you can use your action to touch a willing creature other than yourself to give it advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks.  This blessing lasts for one hour or until you use this feature again..  

Channel Divinity: Reveal Your Secrets

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to tap into a divine spirit.  As an action you are able to marshal this spirit and your face appears as a skull.  For 10 minutes you gain advantage on all charisma based skill checks. 

Inquisitor

At 6th level, you may double your proficiency bonus on Charisma (intimidation) and Wisdom (insight) skill checks while performing interrogations.

Divine Strike

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy.  Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 cold, fire, or lightning damage (your choice) to the target.  When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Dictator

At 17th level, you gain the ability to use the Code to bolster your allies. When you spend your action encouraging your allies with lessons from the Code, each one within 60 feet, who can see and hear you, gains advantage on saving throws made to avoid the frightened and charmed conditions for the next minute.

 Creatures already affected by either condition may immediately use their reaction to attempt a saving throw to end either conditions’ effect.

Blood Oath Archer (Martial Archetype)

Blood Oath Archer

The Blood Oath Archers are a special division within the Order of the Lily who’ve chosen to specialize in archery. They use the power of the Blood Oath to strike terror in the hearts of any who stand opposed to the goals of the Knights of Neraka.

Blood Oath Archery

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, your skill with a bow strikes terror into the heart of your enemies. When you score a critical hit, the target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw equal to 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus or become frightened of you for 1 minute. The target may repeat the save on each of its turns to end the effect early.

Ambush

Beginning at 7th level, once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with a ranged attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must be made with a longbow or a shortbow.

You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

The amount of the extra damage increases to 2d6 at 10th level, 3d6 at 15th level, and 4d6 at 18th level.

Additional Target

At 10th level, when you take the attack action on your turn, you may expend two arrows on your first attack, targeting the same creature or a second target within 10 feet of the first. You make one attack roll for each target as normal. If you score a critical hit while targeting two different creatures, both are subject to your Blood Oath Archery feature.

Point Blank Shot

Starting at 15th level, you no longer suffer disadvantage on attacks made with a longbow or a shortbow against targets within 5 feet of you.  Additionally the first target you hit with an attack action has disadvantage on its next attack.  

Superior Marksman

Your accuracy with a bow has reached a point where cover becomes less of a concern. You treat a target with three-quarters cover as if it had half cover. Additionally, your targets gain no benefit from half cover against your ranged attacks. 

About Dragonhelm

Trampas “Dragonhelm” Whiteman is best known for co-creating and administering the Dragonlance Nexus fan site. He is co-author of three Dragonlance books – Holy Orders of the Stars, Knightly Orders of Ansalon, and Races of Ansalon. When not evangelizing Dragonlance and other settings, Trampas is a husband, father, podcaster, and web designer. Trampas also enjoys reading comics, reading fantasy and scifi novels, and playing D&D.
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