Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide and Freeport

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (SCAG) provides background information and new character options for campaigns set in the Forgotten Realms, specifically in the Sword Coast and the North, on the continent of Faerûn. Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure is designed to be used in any campaign setting, so could be dropped into the Forgotten Realms. Alternatively, as the Appendix points out, the system "crunch" from SCAG can be used in other settings. In this column, I will briefly touch upon setting Freeport in the Forgotten Realms, then consider the rest of the book in light of the optional World of Freeport setting presented in The Pirate's Guide to Freeport and the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure.

Freeport in Faerûn?

I am not remotely an expert on the Forgotten Realms. I've read the early Driz'zt trilogies, one or two other novels set in Faerûn, and some of Ed Greenwood's Realms articles in Dragon Magazine, but the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is the first sourcebook that I've read for the setting.

That said, based on the information in the SCAG, the most obvious location for Freeport seems to be the Nelanther, "the Pirate Isles of the Sea of Swords." Some changes will need to be made to reconcile those islands' constantly warring tribes and Freeport's history as a pirate haven that went semi-legit.

Alternately, Freeport could be located on an island in the Great Sea, somewhere between Faerûn and Zakhara--which is described as being far to the south, and surrounded by water thick with pirates. This would also place Freeport at the logical hub of water traffic between Faerûn, Zakhara, and Kara-Tur, and allow easier access to more exotic lands and peoples. (Unfortunately, the SCAG gives next to no information on those parts of the world, so DMs will need to either acquire sourcebooks from earlier editions of D&D, or make up a great deal from whole cloth.)

The Gods of Faerûn

The Faerûnian pantheon has been expanded from the list in Appendix B of the Player's Handbook (PHB), and the more important gods receive brief entries about their purpose, shrines, and followers. The nonhuman gods receive similar, but shorter, treatment in Chapter 3: Races of the Realms.

For a Freeport campaign set in the Realms, there should be few problems matching Faerûnian gods to the Gods of Freeport. One possible exception is the God of Pirates, who in this setting is most likely an aspect of Talos, the eyepatch-wearing god of raiders. The city's three other major temples are dedicated to the Gods of Knowledge (Oghma and/or Deneir), the Sea (Istishia or Umberlee), and War (Tempus).

Even in campaigns that do not use the Realms, two deities' entries remain relevant for Freeport: Asmodeus and Loviatar. See Green Ronin's The Book of Fiends and The Book of the Righteous for more about the rulers of the Nine Hells, and Cults of Freeport for more about of the Maiden of Pain (spelled Lowyatar there).

Races of the Realms

The bulk of this chapter is background information to give context to each race's place within the Realms, rather than mechanical "crunch." For campaigns set elsewhere, it can still be useful for determining each race's appearance, ideals, and stereotypes, and for details on their gods (which tend to be the default racial pantheons used in many other D&D settings). The following are brand-new racial options:

Duergar are rarely appropriate for use as PCs; the gray dwarves tend to be even more firmly set in their evil ways than the drow, and Freeport's subtropical climate is far too sunny.

Ghostwise halflings are insular and telepathic. The DM will have to decide if such a community exists on the Continent.

Svirfneblin are very unlikely to be encountered in Freeport, unless the maze of caverns and tunnels below the Serpent's Teeth eventually connects to the parts of the Underdark where deep gnomes dwell.

Most of the half-elf variants should be available in Freeport; note that moon elves and sun elves use high elf traits. The majority of elves in Freeport are sea elves, so half-elves of aquatic heritage will be the most common variant. Half-elves of drow descent, on the other hand, are practically unknown here. (One Freeport title includes a drow NPC, but the dark elves' homeland is far away, somewhere beneath the Continent.)

Freeport was originally created in Third Edition, before changes were made to the appearance of tieflings in the Fourth and Fifth Editions (explained in the SCAG as a result of events during the Spellplague). The sight of an "Asmodean" tiefling is likely to incite a riot over "devil worship" (one of the few capital crimes in Freeport), but tiefling variants who can better hide their inhuman features might go undetected for far longer.


The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide provides some notes on Faerûnian organizations and the subclasses most appropriate to each group. It also presents 11 new subclasses, and new options for one of the PHB subclasses. Four of these new subclasses (Way of the Sun Soul, Mastermind, Swashbuckler, Storm Sorcery) were reprinted in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, so I've already discussed them in my Subclasses column for that book, but I will summarize those comments here.

Barbarian: The Path of the Battlerager is restricted to dwarves as written, but need not be in the World of Freeport. (It seems appropriate for pit fighters of all races, as mentioned in the Greyhawk section of the Appendix.)  The SCAG also gives two new animal totems (Elk and Tiger) for the Path of the Totem Warrior (PHB), and a table of examples of how to use existing totems to model other animals.

Cleric: As mentioned in my column on The Book of the Righteous, the Arcana Domain would be appropriate to both the God of Magic and the Crawling Chaos.

Fighter: The Purple Dragon Knight is a battlefield strategist, who inspires others by example. In the World of Freeport, this subclass (using the more generic name banneret) can represent the leader of a troop of warriors.

Monk: Monks who follow the Way of the Long Death may belong to a death god's cult, or may assist those who study disease and death (such as morticians or asylum wardens). The Way of the Sun Soul is most appropriate to temples that revere gods of light (such as the Hamunaptran sun cult).

Paladin: Paladins who swear the Oath of the Crown vow to protect their sovereign and the rule of law. Few if any such paladins are native to Freeport, but foreign knights visit the city from time to time--often in quixotic attempts to fight the city's rampant corruption.

Rogue: The Mastermind will thrive in the intrigue-heavy atmosphere of Freeport, while the Swashbuckler is a common sight in Freeport's streets and taverns, as well as many of its ships' crews. The corsair and freebooter classes from the 3rd Era Freeport Companion and Freeport: The City of Adventure can be best approximated as a swashbuckler rogue with the sailor (or pirate) background.

Sorcerer: The control of the winds granted by Storm Sorcery will make these spellcasters highly popular among ships' crews who are not overly superstitious about strange magic.

Warlocks: Most of the examples of archfey, fiend, and Great Old One patrons can be borrowed as-is (or with a new name) for Freeport campaigns that don't use the Realms.

In the World of Freeport, an Undying patron could be a Hamunatran mummy lord, or a Continental vampire or lich who seeks to follow the ancient example of Rajko the Ghul. Its warlocks will need to hide their allegiance to avoid both Hexworth's inquisitors and local vigilantes.

Wizard: As written, Bladesinging is restricted to elves and half-elves, and should probably remain so in most Freeport campaigns. One prestigious school for bladesingers is the Arcane Blade Academy at Dragonmont, in Rolland (mentioned in True20 Freeport: The Lost Island).

This class is followed by a handful of new cantrips for sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards that have not yet been reprinted elsewhere.


The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide offers twelve new backgrounds. Several are nearly identical to Player's Handbook backgrounds except for their features (and possibly one skill), so I prefer to think of them as variants of those backgrounds. Most can be used in Freeport with a few changes:
  • City Watch: These characters serve on the Freeport Watch, or possibly the Sea Lord's Guard. 
  • Clan Crafter (variant guild artisan): Note that shield and gold dwarves are mountain and hill dwarves, respectively.
  • Cloistered Scholar (variant sage): These knowledge-seekers are most likely associated with either the Freeport Institute or the Temple of the God of Knowledge (which supplies many of the teachers at the former). Some might be affiliated with the Wizards' Guild, but most of that organization's scholars should use the more secular sage background (PHB) instead.
  • Courtier: Courtiers may serve the Sea Lord, the Captains' Council, one of the aristocratic families in the city, or a foreign dignitary or government. 
  • Faction Agent: The five factions listed in SCAG do not exist in Freeport unless the GM has placed the city in Faerûn. Alternatives include the Hexworth Inquisition (Religion) or the Ivory Ports alliance (Persuasion?). They might also include covert agents of hated Mazin (Deception or Intimidation). 
  • Far Traveler: In the World of Freeport, possible origins for far travelers include Hamunaptra, Naranjan, Khaeder, the Eastern Empire, the Underdark, or other distant lands. (Nations from "the Continent" nearest Freeport are too well known for this background.)
  • Inheritor: No changes.
  • Knight of the Order: Knightly orders in the World of Freeport include the Swords of the Edict, the Royal Order of Musketeers (Rolland), and possibly the Hexworth Inquisition's witch hunters.
  • Mercenary Veteran (variant soldier): Mercenary companies that operate in Freeport include the Redblade Militia and Warg Company.
  • Urban Bounty Hunter: No changes.
  • Uthgardt Tribe Member (variant outlander): As the sidebar suggests, either this background or the outlander (PHB) can be used for any barbarian tribe, such as the Druzhdin of the far north and the orcs and other humanoid tribes of the Bone Lands. The Uthgardt, however, should be reserved for tribes with traditions of strong ties to nature, animal totems, druid circles, and an aversion to magic.
  • Waterdhavian Noble (variant noble): Freeport is a long way from being the ancient, sprawling metropolis that Waterdeep is, but its aristocratic families often have a similarly decadent reputation.


For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

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