Content of the article: "The Chainbreakers: A Faction to Help Your Players Break Free From Bad Decisions"
- 1 The Chainbreakers
- 2 Faction Politics
- 3 Faction Ranks
- 4 Initiation
- 5 Faction Hooks
- 6 NPCs
- 7 Nyko's Choice
- 8 Similar Guides
Do you have the classic Warlock in your party? The Warlock who is edgier than a rogue with a suit of armor made of daggers? How about a paladin sworn to a deity who doesn't respect them? Need a secret society to dog your deities by stealing away their patrons? I have a solution for you!
Introducing the Chainbreakers, a secretive faction dedicated to breaking the contracts of warlocks, the sacred oaths of paladins, and the unjust bonds between the beings of power and mortals. The posted write up includes faction background information, faction ranks, several NPCs, and some plot hooks.
Homebrewery Link (It seems to be rendering mostly correctly in Chrome, but since last night, the last page formatting seems to have broken. The Imgur album has the full table that was cutoff. I'll try to fix it later tonight.)
A little bit of backstory: As a DM, I like to pull bits and pieces of campaigns that I play in into the worlds that I write. I try to create something from each campaign that can be used in the world as nods back to other adventures. Sometimes, it is a name. Sometimes, an event or a place. Other times, it takes on a life of its own. This was the case this time.
My friend and I were battling our way through a campaign, and our characters bonded over the terrible treatment they had received from their deities or patrons. Eventually, near the end of the campaign, we created The Chainbreakers to help us mortals deal with those kind of beings. It evolved, and now we want to help break your beleaguered warlocks, vengeful paladins, or mistreated familiars from their chains.
As tribute to this campaign (which wrapped up last year), we wrote the faction up. We think it turned out well enough to post online and have decided to release it for use in your campaigns. There's plenty more we could write about the faction, but wanted to keep it short and sweet to allow for quick reading and integration.
Feel free to ask me anything, from the Chainbreakers, to that campaign, to DM'ing, to whatever really (I'm gonna regret that, I bet…). I might take a bit to respond for a few hours (I'm on a work break when I posted this), but should be more responsive later.
Edit: Full Text Adapted from Homebrewery to prevent dead links.
Have a Warlock in your party with a patron who may be abusive, neglectful, or demanding? Perhaps a Paladin who has fallen out of favor with the god they once worshipped and is now being harassed into following their demands? Or the classic character cursed by an evil god, forever tormented by their minions with ultimate power over them? Do you want to help them break free from these abusive relationships? The solution lies in a secret society dedicated to these very problems.
"Why do we fight gods when we are so small? For every one of us, there are a hundred who are smaller and have less power. Sometimes, someone has to stand up for the small folk."
Introducing the Chainbreakers, a secretive faction dedicated to breaking the contracts of warlocks, the sacred oaths of paladins, and the unjust bonds between the gods and other arch-beings of power. Primarily an NPC faction, they can be used to help your party gain information on the divine or otherwise higher powers of your world or help break one of your characters from their contracts or bonds. The Chainbreakers can also be used as a faction for immoral intent, using their powers to undermine the gods and cause chaos within your world.
"Alright, Helm is officially on the shit list again. We got another Paladin in from Waterdeep that needs some serious help."
The Chainbreakers work directly against demons, devils, fey, angels and the gods themselves to protect anyone under contract, oath, or curse. While many do not suffer from the hands or demands of those who hold these powers, there are a few who suffer from bad contracts or bonds. This includes the abused warlock who signed the dotted line before reading the fine print, the paladin sworn to uphold the laws he no longer believes in, the abused familiars of wizards used for experimentation unable to break their bond to their master, or the cursed soul forever suffering from a poor decision.
"When we are so small, we can slip through the cracks. Neglect can be a very bad abuse if the conditions are right. On the other hand, when you have endless power, picking on the smallfolk is an easy way to get some entertainment. Either way, these beings do not treat us well, and we must stand and fight for ourselves."
"Gods do not like when mortals mess with their toys. They tend to get slightly angry. By joining us, you are willingly going against most of the higher and, err, lower powers. We hide in the shadows to protect ourselves. Are you sure you want to join us?"
The Chainbreakers are an extremely secretive organization. Most meetings are held in small, compartmentalized groups. The largest segment of the Chainbreakers is their network of informants that they use to seek out people with bad contracts or bonds. To protect their members, the Chainbreakers use a shorthand similar to Thieves' Cant to get information to members. Additionally, there are very strict ‘need to know' rules which prevent any one person from revealing too much about the organization. These precautions are in place to help hide the other members, especially those in higher ranks. The higher ranks use code names and wear masks to help hide their identities. They are also well versed in scrying magic and warded against divination spells. All of these steps help protect them from the higher powers who would seek to destroy them.
A small standing militia of recruits are trained to defend against those who wish to destroy the Chainbreakers. The first line of defence of the Chainbreakers is the secrecy of the organisation, but occasionally they do have to defend against a demon or fey that does not take kindly to having their chew toys taken away. When this occurs, the high ranking fighters come in to help take the offended party down a peg or two. Some who have heard of the Chainbreakers believe they are dangerous due to these high ranking fighters who include warlocks whose powers are unchecked by their patron, paladins who hold divine abilities with no god to control them, or familiars who hold the secrets of their powerful wizard masters. To prevent too many disgruntled powers from coming together to take down this unfettered group, which could easily overwhelm the Chainbreakers, the organization is very careful about who they break from contracts and how often.
"We are just like a biting fly. Annoy one person enough, and they will undertake a vendetta to kill us. Bite once in a while, and they will swat at us only occasionally."
Breaking the Chain
How do the Chainbreakers break these magical and divine bonds? After a person is found in need of the Chainbreakers help, the faction gathers as much information on the person and the contract holder. The Chainbreakers can occasionally be relentless in trying to assist. When possible, their legal team finds loopholes, renegotiates terms, or breaks contracts through ‘peaceful' means. For those that this is not possible for, they provide other support services including protection programs, teachings in magic or fighting, or a counselling system to help the person cope with their burden. Originally, these were the only ways they could help those in need. That was until Nyko’s Choice was created.
Myzzri A’tan and Nyko Lionheart are the founders and top ranking Chainbreakers, called Justices. Myzzri, a paladin whose family had been cursed and one-by-one killed by the god Beshaba, felt the injustices of a god’s cruel hand all her life. When she befriended Nyko, a loyal monk-turned-warlock struggling with his patrons demands and the contract he was tricked into, the injustice she felt toward these powers grew. Together, the two of them formed a bond of friendship that overcame many obstacles. Through a deal made with the Arch-devil holding Nyko's contract, Myzzri was able to gain control over it. To protect it, she prayed to her god at the time, Helm. Her prayer was answered by merging the contract with the bonded hammer she wielded. She protected that hammer with her life and Nyko protected her with his.
It was during a battle against Beshaba, to once and for all chain the goddess so she could no longer torment Myzzri, that Nyko fell, his body turned to ash. Myzzri, devastated without Nyko by her side, lost control of her hammer with Nyko’s contract inside. Beshaba, knowing the power the weapon wielded, tried to call upon the contract it held. Nyko’s soul revolted at the idea and broke the contract within, his soul embedding itself into the hammer instead. Thus, Nyko’s Choice was born, creating a powerful, sentient artifact with the ability to break contracts or bonds that Nyko deems unjust.
Symbol of the Chainbreakers
The symbol of the Chainbreakers is a fist clenched around a hanging and clearly snapped chain. A shorthand symbol, often carried as an identifying token, is a single, snapped chain link.
"Desperate people make desperate decisions. I should know, I was once one of you."
The Chained are not technically a rank of the Chainbreakers, but are the primary targets of their help. Anyone who is bonded or in a contract to a higher power are considered Chained. The Chainbreakers focus on those suffering from such bonds which are particularly heinous or unfair. When a contract has been modified or broken by Nyko’s Choice or loopholes are discovered, a person is eligible to join the ranks of the Chainbreakers as the lowest rank: The Broken.
"Your chains have been broken, your spirit less so."
The Broken are recent initiates into the Chainbreakers, either through direct intervention or civilians on their way to becoming Inferrers, Reforged, or Magistrates. All initiates pass through this rank as a probationary period to ensure they are not spies or informants. This rank offers the protection of the Chainbreakers, but doesn't grant any particular benefits. Once they have proven to be useful and loyal to the Chainbreakers, they are promoted to the rank they are most suited for.
"Sometimes the pain of their chains is not visible. It only shows itself when you find the hammer, anvil and forge."
Inferrers are trusted informants dedicated to finding Chained ones in need of help. As such, most of the Chainbreakers fall into this rank. The Inferrers are usually the first contact a Chained has with the Chainbreakers. It can be hard to determine if a Chained is under a bad contract without actually seeing the contract. Inferrers look for signs that a Chained could use the help of the Chainbreakers and investigate to determine if they need a more direct intervention. They are the lowest level that has access to more secure information in the Chainbreakers.
"What were once chains have been melted down and reforged. A shovel could become a sword, but the metal is not strong enough. We have broken your chains and used them to build you back up, stronger than you were before."
The Reforged are captains to fighting squads and trainers to new initiates. They provide a large amount of the communication network, passing intelligence between the different groups.
"Sometimes, the only way to get out of a contract is through the same way that got you into it."
Usually, the highest obtainable rank in the Chainbreakers, these are veteran leaders, fighters and lawyers. The legal branch of the Chainbreakers specializes in finding and exploiting loopholes in low-risk contracts that do not get modified by Nyko's Choice.
"It was a long struggle to get here. Some parts were worth it. Some blood was shed. Some material sacrifices were made. Out of all of it, I arose stronger than ever."
These are the leaders of the Chainbreakers and final determiners of who will enter the ranks of the Broken. At the beginning, there were only two justices: Myzzri and Nyko (through Nyko's Choice), but once Myzzri retired, her position was delegated to two people: One to run the day to day operations and one who wields Nyko's Choice. Including Nyko, there are a total of three justices.
Anyone can become a Chainbreaker, but having a bad contract with a stronger being is the easiest way in. A Chained just need to have their contracts modified or loopholes discovered by the Chainbreakers. Civilians must take a slightly harder route to join the ranks.
"Although you have made your way here to join our ranks, you do not fully understand why we do what we do. To join our ranks, you must first become Chained yourself."
Candidates to join the order are offered a short, well defined contract. It offers them the protection of the Chainbreakers and all of the benefits, but has a small price to pay.
"You must understand what our less fortunate members go through. Without doing this, you cannot fully understand our pain. This is a lesser experience of what we have seen in the past, but will be very informative for some of you."
The price is small, but tailored to each applicant. For a month, the applicant must deal with something that will irritate them or cause mild discomfort. It will not cause physical trauma, but is designed to demonstrate in a minor way what some Chained go through. The contract can be broken at any time, but will result in the candidate's memory being scrubbed of any information about the Chainbreakers. The contract also forbids them from attempting to spread the information in any other manner. On the last day of the contract, a ceremonial "chain-breaking" occurs, where the new candidates destroy their contracts and free themselves from their chains. They enter the ranks as Broken.
Example Initiate Contracts:
- You will be awoken in the middle of the night by a strange dream, but cannot recall what it is, other than it is strange. This will occur every night.
- You arms are 3 times heavier than normal.
- You will stub your toe on the corner of every doorway you cross.
- Anytime you pay for something, you will find your coin bag is short one gold piece, but has 100 copper pieces in its place.
- Anytime you pay for something, you always pay more and refuse change.
- You append a prayer to a deity of your choice to the end of every 7 sentences, praise Helm.
The Chainbreakers are usually a force for good in the world, but could be swayed or corrupted as a force for evil.
- The Obvious Hook: A mysterious person approaches the party's warlock, asking some fairly personal questions. When confronted, the person hints that the warlock could be much happier if they broke away from their patron. If pushed, the person will give out a little bit of information on the Chainbreakers, and invite the warlock to an Initiation.
- The Missing Patron: A young, extremely tired warlock was recently impacted by a bout of amnesia on their adventure, and has completely forgotten who their patron is. They know they signed a contract, but cannot remember how to view it or who it was with. Recently, they have been kept up at night with extreme nightmares, most likely from their patron. The Chainbreakers are assisting in attempting to figure out who the patron is. They are close, but need the party's help in recovering a tracing of glyphs from a temple that details a powerful, long-lost patron who fits the description.
- Protection Rackets Aren't Just For The Mob: There is a renegade branch of the Chainbreakers who have broken off in a major city. They are taking bribes from fiends to protect the fiend's pacts from being meddled with by the Chainbreakers. Other Chainbreaker branches want the renegade faction dealt with in whatever manner the party sees fit.
- No More Forges, No More Chains: The Chainbreakers have gone mad! They have created a ritual which uses the powers of current warlock contracts and many high-level wizards to "wish away" the ability for gods and fiends to create pacts with mortals. This spells doom for people using these pacts for good, and the ritual must be stopped!
Myzzri, Justice of the Chainbreakers: An older female dwarf, she seems to have carried the weight of the world on her at some point. The idea of the Chainbreakers originated with her, after seeing two of her friends be consumed by the contracts they signed in the past. Nyko's Choice is always by her side, carried deftly and wielded with great force when situations arise. Occasionally missing context or tone, she can be a little blunt at times, but a kind heart hides inside the shell. Rumor has it that she has two daughters, and might be married to an archdevil, but you can't trust the rumors, can you?
Colwim, Reforged: A spitfire of a young male human, Colwim rose quickly to the challenge of being Reforged after having sections of his contract voided. Mischievous as the contract that was broken, sometimes it seems like Colwim could be more of a liability to the Chainbreakers. Adept with a spear, Colwim has proven himself in several skirmishes with the devilish forces that he originally signed on with.
Thauldakmir, Magistrate: A pondering, dragonborn with a heart of ice, Thauldakmir is the best scholar and lawyer that the Chainbreakers have found yet. Capable of dissecting the most devilish contracts down to the most basic of language, this dragonborn is a vital asset in twisting contracts back upon themselves.
Rajah, Broken: A small psuedodragon familiar that has become quite the mascot for the local Chainbreaker group. Rajah was the familiar of a powerful wizard who used Rajah as the target for many of his experimental Evocation spells. After attempting to bargain with the wizard for Rajah, the wizard's tower was raided by the Chainbreakers, freeing Rajah.
The statblock on the next page is best not used by PCs. I have only included it for completeness.
Nyko's Choice is an epic tier artifact. The party that inspired this was level 20 when it was created and the campaign had officially wrapped up. This is a game-breaking artifact and is not designed to be given to players. I have actually tuned it down from the original version for this release, but the Chainbreaker ability has the potential to be devastating to any planned campaign.
If you do not want this kind of magic allowed at your table, you do not need to include the Chainbreaker ability, just modify the appropriate lore. The Chainbreakers will attempt to subvert contracts in other ways.
Warhammer, Artifact, Sentient (Requires Attunement)
- +3 Defender
- 1d8+3 Bludgeoning +2d6 Fire +1d8 Force
- Versatile (1d10)
- Advantage on Perception Checks
- Holy water is destroyed upon entering a 10 foot radius aura from Nyko's Choice ___
- Nyko Once a young hafling monk with a contract to an archdevil, Nyko's soul was bound to Myzzri's warhammer as she attempted to free him from the abusive contract. During the Battle for Beshaba's Misery, Nyko's contract and body were snatched by Beshaba, but upon her attempting to use the contract, Nyko destroyed the contract, and his soul returned to the hammer. From a previous resurrection gone wrong, Nyko appears as a 3 foot tall Tiefling with red skin and long claws. Although considered a fiend, Nyko's alignment is Lawful Good, and will offer to teach defensive fighting to protect others, and will warn people about taking contracts with powerful beings and owing favors as payment.
- Visions of his Past Nyko usually speaks telepathically to the wielder of Nyko's Choice, but on rare occasions he can summon up enough energy to project a spectral image of himself within 5 feet of the hammer for up to one hour. Nyko appears as a spectral image of himself, and cannot interact with his surroundings. During this time, the sapphire in the head of the hammer glows brightly, emitting a small silvery strand which links to Nyko as per the spell Astral Projection. If the strand is broken, Nyko's image will disappear.
- Chainbreaker If the hammer is swung against a contract (magical or otherwise) and Nyko agrees, parts of the contract can be magically voided. Although difficult, individual clauses can be voided. Roll 1d100. Depending on the complexity of the contract, and the amount to be edited, the DC will vary. Removing specific clauses will have a higher DC, large swaths will have a much lower DC. Failure will result in random, large chunks of the contract being voided, sometimes to the detriment of the contracted. Nyko cannot perform this ability against the same contract more than once. From experience, Nyko knows about how difficult the voiding will be and will tell the wielder. Nyko will refuse to break contracts for selfish Chained ones, if the contract is non-abusive, or if he does not like the wielder of Nyko's Choice.
- Conditional Benefits If Nyko does not like the wielder, he will refuse to confer the benefits of Defender, the additional Fire and Force damage, and advantage on perception checks. Nyko will be cautious about handing out the additional damage types, but will give the Defender and Advantage on Perception checks back quicker, as he wishes to defend the wielder.
"My body may be gone, but my mind lives on. I saved the world once, and now it is your turn."
These are just suggested DCs, and have not been playtested. You can always ignore the DC, and determine fail or success based on your player's roleplaying or desired outcome. For an extremely quick and dirty method of determining DC, the percentage of the contract to be kept can be used as the DC for the Chainbreaker ability (minimum DC 25) (i.e. keeping 1/4 of the contract = DC 25, 1/3 = DC 33, 1/2 = DC 50). You may want to modify the DC based on how well written the contract is. A contract with many interlinking sub-clauses and conditions will have a higher DC than a sloppily written contract. A more balanced method is to the right. These DCs can be lowered more if the players manage to strongly convince Nyko and the Justices of their need, as Nyko will try harder to break the contract.
The feature is designed for erasing large swaths of contract, rather than surgical strikes, so the DCs decrease by the amount of contract voided. This serves to dissuade players from trying to void only the downsides and none of the benefits of the contract. As this ability can only be used once (with some nasty downsides), behind the screen, I would lean towards always having it work if the player is voiding the entire contract or a large section. If they are getting picky, then it is time to roll some dice. This will dramatically impact a player's playstyle if they proceed down this path after all.
|Amount to be Voided||DC (1d100)|
|One clause with a downside for the Chained||80|
|One beneficial clause for the Chained||70|
|Two balanced clauses||65|
|One whole section||50|
|Two or more sections||40|
|The Whole Contract||25|
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