So you want to run a campaign in Amn of the Forgotten Realms? What’s the most important thing you need to know as a DM or even as a PC who’s from there? Well, if you ask me, it would be their feelings on the practice of the arcane arts. In a word, it’s outlawed.
That’s right, you heard me. Arcane magic is outlawed in AMN yet is allowed under a few circumstances. There are a controlled number of wizards who are allowed to register with the state. Besides that, you’re only hope is to be sponsored by one of the many merchant houses there. This is where the power structure of AMN is, so it makes sense that they could make it happen for you.
As a Player Character, if you’re a wizard and you’re from there or playing there, you’re one of three things.
NUMBER ONE: You Register yourself with the state and hope they grant you the proper permits to practice magic in their country
NUMBER TWO: You better have friends in HIGH places. In other words, you need a good word from one of the merchant houses of Amn. These ‘merchant houses’ are basically nobility here and they take every precaution to make sure that the business you commit there is free of arcane manipulation. So, unless you have or can make such friends, there’s only one other option.
NUMBER THREE: You’re an outlaw
You’ve decided to live dangerously and practice your magic against the laws of Amn. This means you will be constantly hunted down and probably by wizards who are much more powerful than you are. So you better be fast. These wizards hunting you down are a part of an elite policing group called the Cowled Wizards. Maybe not the coolest of names, but the cowls give them anonymity. They can go about their trade without others knowing they practice arcane magic. All the while, AMN has put their stamp of approval on them as trusted casters.
NUMBER FOUR: Your faith grounds you here
One other group are those who are connected to the respected churches in Amn. Divine magic doesn’t suffer the same public fear that the arcane art does. In fact, the clerics of almost any faith are welcome almost as much as unregistered wizards are hated. Some wizards follow either the god Azuth or Mystra and some possibly worship Denier. Azuth and Denier were both venerated early on in the birth of the Cowled Wizards as they saw themselves as guardians of the art.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR GAME?
This means, if you plan on playing all or part of your campaign in Amn, you, as the DM, will need to know the organization of said Cowled Wizards, how they opperate and what that exactly looks like.
I mean, you can simply say, there are these nondescript wizards with face coverings who just pop in and arrest you if you step out of line magically. But, if you know me, I can’t simply leave it at that. What comes next is what I think they would look like in game play and, hopefully, my ideas will spur on your ideas for your campaign.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see what the source material says about the COWLED WIZARDS.
According to LANDS OF INTRIGUE: Book Three: Erlkazar & Folk of Intrigue, these wizards began as keepers of the arcane lore who, after years of actually overseeing magic in Amn as self styled ‘Saviors of the Art’ developed into a regimented policing force. By day, these masked magic users walk among the people of Amn as merchants, civic servants and such. The paranoia of the power of magic is just that prevalent. Drawing from the past where many a person used the mystic arts for their own betterment and to control the masses, it’s no wonder the average joe in Amn distrusts foriegn or unsanctioned wizards. Or worse, sorcerers and warlocks.
Many of those with an aptitude for magic simply leave; especially if they have no connections to the power structure in Amn. But those that stay are there because they refuse to abandon their homeland and have gotten access to the privileges of being a wizard in Amn. And they will do whatever is in their power to protect it against magic threats both home and foreign.
Now, most of these wizards lead a double life. As a DM, I would think there would be a level among the cowled who become professionals. These are those who are called upon by House Selemchant to go about their duties as full time mercenaries. And, following that logic, there would be several levels of responsibilities to do just that.
Among these servants of Amn and House Selemchant, the lowest ranking are simply support for the higher mages. While the commanders of the different cells of Cowled Wizards are the frontline in both fire power and containment, these support wizards are there to protect their leaders. They prepare spells to either cast on the front liners or to shift the battlefield to their advantage.
Packing spells like Mage Armor, Protection against good/evil and energy, Darkness, Featherfall, Cause Fear and the such, they go to bolster the cell’s main firepower and hinder the magical enemies of the state.
CLERICAL SUPPORT IN AMN
Some spells wizards just can’t cast and don’t specialize in. This is where the clerics of Amn come in.
Almost all clerics are welcome and, for you DMs, that means you can drop just about any type of cleric for about any god into your game. Even gods like Bane are allowed as long as they don’t act against the state or the wellbeing of the people of Amn. The favorite churches in Amn, however, are those of Selune, Helm and Cyric. Amn is actually one of the few places that the clergy of Cyric can act openly. Other temples to Sune, Chantea, Waukeen and Ilmater are also noted.
Here’s two I’m working on now for the upcoming game, Jewels of the Nine Secrets.
The church of Helm hires out some clerics as body guards, but some ‘volunteer’. But, be certain they are handsomely paid. Being able to heal any of the cowled wizards, protect them from the machinations of evil wizards like the undead and add a bit of martial, strongarm tactics make them indispensable.
HUNTING AND TRACKING: RANGER/WIZARD
One of the foci of the Cowled Wizards are hunting down offending wizards or dangerous sorts. What better hunter than a Ranger? But just a ranger won’t do. No, the Cowled Wizard respect arcane power. Lucky for you, there are a couple of the new subclasses that fit the bill.
Gloomstalkers seem to be perfect hunters in and out of town. They begin the subclass with spells which is a plus among wizards. Starting off with Disguise Self is optimal for blending into the crowds or in the wild. As you level up, they add Rope Trick, Fear, Greater Invisibility and Seeming.
Add to that their Dread Ambush perks and the ability become invisible in darkness to those who are used to seeing in such conditions. Wisdom modifier bonuses on initiative and Wisdom save or proficiency make them resilient against other wizards in a fight.
Fey Wanderers also get spells along the way beginning with Charm Person. Wisdom modifier bonuses on Charisma checks and an added proficiency makes you handy in dealing with people. And, if you’re hunting in an urban setting, witnesses and informants are important. It protects the rangers mind and also gives you more Charm opportunities. Add to that the spell Summon Fey and Misty Step for free equal to your wisdom modifier make the wanderer a great hunter and, in some low level cases, an even greater subduer.
I think picking a Fey race is even more mystical and would endear them to the Cowled Wizards more. Centaur, Fairy, Satyr, Owlin and Harengon are all viable choices.
The basic ranger features are amazing enough though as Favored Enemy can be highly useful. An accomplice of the Cowled Wizards would specialize in Halfling and either Human or another humanoid (Gnolls, Drow, Gnomes, Goblins, etc also hit the list/a lot to chose from). I say Halfling because a good portion (about 15%) of the population in Amn consists of the small folk. Just picking the Hunter subclass is enough to make the ranger indispensable to Amn.
INFILTRATION AND ASSASSINATION
Part of the Cowled wizards job is to keep watch on certain foreign dangers aka rogue wizards. To do this, I believe they would need to bring in the rogues. But, once again, a touch of the arcane can go a long way to worming your way into the organization.
Arcane Trickster is the obvious choice since it drops a bit of spellcasting on the already amazing Rogue class. Most of what you get is from the school of Enchantment or Illusion, but that is just perfect. First level spells like Charm Person, Sleep, Silvery Barbs and Disguise Self are optimal. But for their spells outside this class restraint, Feather Fall, Magic Missle (of course) and Fog Cloud work well.
For a foreboding, dark stalker, a Phantom subclass fits. Interacting and getting boons from those that die in your presence can paint a dark mood. DMs really need to utilize this subclass more.
But, for your Assassin, nothing beats your strait up Assassin subclass. It has everything you need.
FEAT NOTE: Any of these builds wouldn’t be complete without MAGESLAYER. Any feat or ability that reacts to spellcasters is exactly an outcropping of living in AMN.
CONTAINMENT: THE CHAIN WIZARDS
The pinnacle of this order is the Cowled Wizard that specializes in subduing and ‘chaining’ criminal and/or dangerous arcane spellcasters. I dub these most dangerous of wizards in AMN Chain Wizards. While all the other members of the special task forces that keep the peace both in and out of Amn are there to hunt and spy on the enemy or to support the front line, the title of most dangerous goes to the finisher: The Chain Wizard.
Where the support wizards would focus on enchantment, illusion and abjuration, the Chain Wizard is more about fire power and containment. Any of the Wall spells would be handy to keep their prey bottled up. Other Evocation spells would be important for optimum damage; Fireball, Meteor Swarm, Whirlwind, Immolation, Storm and Vitrolic Sphere and, for flavor Chain Lightning.
But let’s not forget why this wizard is here. Not only do they need the firepower to put down an enemy, if necessary, they also need the option to subdue them. Spells of containment like Imprisonment, Force Cage, Soul Cage, Bigby’s Hand, Modify Memory, Banishment and the sort are of the utmost importance to incapacitate their prey.
Antimagic field is a must since you know for sure they’re fighting other mages of various powers.
HOMEBREW NOTE: I am also looking to convert some 3.5 spells to 5E. Those include Wall of Chains, Dancing Chains, Bands of Steel, Antimagic Aura, Reaving Dispell and Entomb.
THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE
A handful of magical items can work well here either in the hands of the Chain Wizard or his support.
BEAD OF FORCE: It only lasts one minute, but it holds a creature that fails its Dex check and gives one a chance to get in place for capture.
DIMENSIONAL SHACKLES: Indispensable when dealing with spell casters. Catching them is only the beginning. One must close ALL exits.
IMMOVABLE ROD: Perfect for making sure a creature doesn’t try anything stupid like run.
IRON BANDS OF BILARRO: Only the best in wizard restraints. No hands moving. No spell slinging.
ROD OF RULERSHIP: You get 8 hours of follow the leader if they fail their save.
And, just for fun WAND OF POLYMORPH: Zipped up in your pocket, they’re not going any where for a while.