The Black Lord, the Black Hand, Lord of Darkness, the Iron General
Overview: The brother of Kord and Tuern, Bane was once known as Achra. Like his brothers, he enjoyed competition and combat. During the Dawn War, Bane provided crucial leadership and tactical advice, often bringing victory to the gods when defeat seemed inevitable. Bane demonstrated a remarkable talent for strategy, leadership, and manipulation. Unfortunately, his demeanor was never suited to leading the gods during peacetime.
Although Bane proved his worth during the Dawn War, he experienced difficulty adjusting to the peace. In conflict, he repeatedly demonstrated his tactical acumen, leadership talents, and understanding of the enemy. Once peace arrived, his skills were no longer in demand. Bane believed, especially after the death of both Io and then the Overgod, that he represented the best possible leader of all deities. Not surprisingly, the other gods disagreed with his assessment.
During the formation of the Covenant, Bane refused to participate. Instead, he launched a surprise attack against the domain of his brother, Tuern. He murdered his brother and conquered the domain.
The other gods briefly put aside their arguments and retaliated. Moradin and Erathis (an atypical act for the goddess of civilization) led a combined assault against Bane, defeating the Iron General. Bane was forced to agree to the Covenant, a fact that chafes him to this day.
Throughout history, Bane has played an integral role in the development of the mortal world. Generals, conquerors, mercenaries, and soldiers alike have called for his blessings and wisdom in the art of war. Officers schooled in Bane’s teachings have, more often than not, proven superior leaders. When empires adopted Bane’s philosophies of war, they invariably grew strong and expanded against all opposition.
In the present day, the Church of Bane is the third largest in terms of both clergy and followers, exceeded only by the churches of Bahamut and Pelor. The past two centuries have witnessed the explosive growth of this faith, with countless communities building Banite temples and granting authority to Banite clerics.
A number of sages have debated the rise of Bane’s church. The underlying theory is that, as civilization retreats and nations have waned, people have chosen refuge and protection over freedom and self-rule. A community ruled by Banites is likely somewhat despotic, strict, and even cruel. At the same time, the community likely has a low crime rate and remains protected from the depredations of local brigands and monsters. In these grim, uncertain times, people have eagerly handed over their freedoms in exchange for security.
Despite the darker side of Bane’s faith, his worship is widespread and common throughout Stormfell. It is not unusual to see a Banite temple located prominently in a town or city. Banite priests walk the streets without fear of persecution or attack. In a number of communities, local citizens have chosen Bane over Bahamut or Pelor in the notion – accurate or not – that Bane’s ways offer greater safety than those of any so-called good god.
Although Bane stands among the evil deities and his teachings are often brutal, the Black Lord nonetheless represents something alluring to mortals, especially those drawn to power, violence, bloodshed, and conquest. Whereas relatively few mortals want anything to do with gods like Vecna or Zehir, Bane’s dominion includes a fundamental mortal emotion – ambition. Those searching for power or in pursuit of their destiny are drawn to Bane’s creed, and become his worshippers.
Spheres of Influence: Hatred, fear, destruction, war, conflict
Avatar: If Bane possesses an avatar, it has not been seen in countless centuries. Bane, much like Bahamut, is amongst the most restricted deities under the terms of the Covenant. Bane is vigilantly watched for any signs of his direct involvement in mortal affairs. He must therefore content himself with acting through clerics, warriors, and followers in the mortal realm.
Numerous legends from the early days of the Nerathan Empire describe Bane’s avatar in similar terms. He appears as a massively muscled human warrior, clad in black steel plate armor with a fearsome black helmet covering most of his head, and a black iron gauntlet on one hand. He wields a two-handed sword in one hand, and he fights with brutal efficiency and lethality.
Signs & Portents: Bane is a god with a strong belief in omens and signs of his pleasure or displeasure. He reveals his will in many different ways, often related to combat or warfare. Possible signs of Bane’s displeasure include: a weapon turns to rust regardless of how well its owner cares for it, old war wounds throb with pain or reopen, or a weapon breaks at a critical moment in battle.
Bane also commonly reveals his pleasure, typically in similar signs: spilled blood spontaneously forms Bane’s symbol, an enemy displays sudden cowardice or agitation, or everything in a battle seems to go your way.
Tenets of the Faith: Fear is a two-edged sword. It is acceptable to experience fear, but it is a sin to let fear dictate your actions. All soldiers feel fear, but only cowards surrender to its siren call. More importantly, however, Bane teaches his followers to use fear as a weapon, wielding it with skill and accuracy. Fear is a fundamental mortal emotion – all creatures experience it, whether they admit to it or not. The canny warrior or general conquers his fear while at the same time exploiting the fear of his enemies. Following this tenet, most Bane-worshipping leaders and commanders rule, to some extent, through fear. They teach their men to fear them more than they fear the enemy.
Law and order are sacrosanct. The rule of law must command all actions and consequences. There is no room for mercy, exceptions to the rule, or leniency. When an individual disobeys an order or the law, he must receive a strict and swift punishment. If you must disobey an order or break the law, you must succeed in your goal or face the deserved punishment for failure.
Victory is only achieved through strength. The majority of the beliefs of the Banite faith revolve around combat, tactics, and strategies. His clerics apply these lessons to all aspects of their life, both violent and non-violent. A Banite approaches every problem as if it were an adversary to be defeated (and, if possible, humiliated).
Soldiers throughout Stormfell have adopted Bane’s tenets. Regardless of what people may think of Bane’s tendencies, the Iron General’s teachings have proven invaluable over time.
Victory proves worth. If you conquer someone and take their land and treasure, you have proven your superiority and your right to those possessions. Success is the final arbiter of “right” and “wrong.” Nothing demonstrates better that you were right than winning a battle or overcoming an opponent.
If you fail, you have only proven your weakness for all to see, and you deserve your final fate. In Bane’s view, there are no prizes for second place or runner-up. Mercy is a weakness to be exploited, not encouraged. Within the mortal existence, there are ultimately only two choices: hunter or prey.
Holy Symbol: The three-talon black claw. There have been numerous symbols dedicated to Bane, but this symbol remains the most enduring.
Place of Worship: The field of battle, either before combat or after, remains the preferred site for worship. Outside of combat, Bane’s church conducts religious ceremonies within large temples or churches. Such a structure is preferably built like a fortress, with barracks, an armory, training hall, and so forth. In many ways, a Banite temple resembles a bunker more than a place of worship. Banite churches scorn fancy stonework, elegant statuary, or other useless nonsense.
Canon: The Iron Codex is considered the primary book of Bane’s laws and teachings. Unlike similar works from other faiths, The Iron Codex focuses primarily on the use of strategy and tactics, both in warfare and beyond. The book includes relatively few sections regarding religious doctrine or ritual. According to numerous legends, a hobgoblin general, Senekos, wrote the original text.
The Reneskria Scrolls, although not considered holy, are widely accepted as having been inspired by Bane’s teachings and practices. Penned by the famous warrior, Reneskria, the scrolls provide plentiful examples for the “true” warrior to follow on the path to conquest, glory, victory, and fame. Many Banite priests carry both The Iron Codex and sections from the Scrolls whenever they travel or go into battle.
Cleric’s Alignment: Evil
Duties of the Priesthood: Bane’s church is organized along strict hierarchical lines within any given community. Although Bane’s church (like all other churches in Stormfell) does not have an overarching global structure, individual regions operate within a rigid command structure, with each diocese within the region answering to its “Father Temple.” Every Banite cleric knows his place, his role, and his duties. Clerics unable to observe the chain of command and follow orders are subject to harsh punishment and censure.
Many Banite clerics serve within armies, as part of mercenary companies, or as advisers to local rulers. They educate others in tactics, strategy, and logistics. They also train other warriors how to fight with proper tactics, rather than simple brute strength (although certainly there are times when sheer force is not only useful, but both efficacious and enjoyable).
All Banites observe a standing rule: do whatever possible to weaken, embarrass, or damage the churches of Bahamut, Pelor, and Moradin. Any act that harms these churches is viewed as a good thing by the Banites. For the most part, outright conflict is avoided except in rare situations where the risk is deemed worth the reward. The Church of Bane, although powerful and influential, also understands it is not the strongest faith, nor the most popular. Bane’s clerics must balance their desire for retribution with the overall needs of their local temple, and their own career ambitions.
Limitations & Sacrifices: Banite clerics function within a strict and tightly controlled command structure. Banites are expected to follow orders and follow proper obedience of the chain of command.
Banites are required to donate at least a tithe of all income they earn or acquire. They are also required to spend some of their wealth on maintaining and, when possible, improving their tools of the trade – shield, armor, and weapons. Even the weakest Banite is expected to maintain a disciplined martial appearance.
Finally, Banites are expected when possible to participate in combat, and to perpetually hone their combat skills. His church prohibits blood sacrifices of any sort – Bane desires blood from worthy foes, not helpless weak victims. Bane appreciates and demands sacrifices of blood, but such blood must come from fallen foes, assassinated targets, or defeated rivals. As the saying goes, “blood must be earned.”
Role-playing a cleric of Bane represents somewhat of a challenge for many campaigns, as Bane is an evil deity. Before you select a Bane for your cleric’s deity, you should discuss it with both your DM and the other players to avoid later conflicts.
The Good. Clerics of Bane are considered among the most dangerous and fearsome of any faith. They gain the respect of many people regardless of where they travel; many people offer tribute or thanks to Bane without necessarily following Bane, and such respect filters down to his priests. The Church of Bane garners a great deal of respect and fear from the populace, and it has grown to become an accepted (if not beloved) religion.
The Bad. Regardless of the value of Bane’s tactical teachings, underneath it all he represents an evil, bloodthirsty philosophy. Playing a cleric devoted to such concepts can prove challenging, and it can be even more challenging for other players to feel comfortable about it.
Keep in Mind. Consider selecting a multiclass warlord feat such as Student of Battle, Inspiring Leader, or Tactical Leader to simulate your character’s tactical knowledge as a cleric of Bane.