An avenger, sometimes also called dark knight, was an agent of one or more gods who sought to bring divine wrath unto the enemies of their divine patron. It was also the name given to paladins who followed the Oath of Vengeance. Invested with traditions both ancient and quite often secret, avengers served as a well-crafted weapon of their deity, finding the enemies of their faith and striking them down. Of all a god's agents they were the most deadly, marked and empowered by rituals of investiture similar, but not identical to, those that which marked the training of a cleric or paladin.
Avengers were not a part of every faith or organization. The work of an avenger was, for one thing, abhorrent to pacifists, since, in all but name, avengers were killers working on the behalf of the divine. Similarly, members of their own religion were as likely to view avengers as heretics as champions of the divine or perhaps an unpleasant necessity. As a result, many avenger traditions were so secretive that they were largely forgotten by the unitiated. This was not a problem for avengers, whose methodology required a degree of focus that made outside distractions unwanted. Most avengers were, in fact, trained in monasteries akin to those used by monks.
The races most likely to breed avengers were humans, but when given to the task elves and shifters also made excellent avengers. Regardless of race, avengers most commonly served deities that were neutral or even evil rather than those that were outwardly good. This was not to say avengers were usually evil, they were most commonly neither, serving gods such as Kelemvor or Oghma, but the duties of an avenger were contrary at times to the mandate of a god with a forgiving or compassionate nature and an avenger was required to match the alignment of their deity. Avengers were often also aligned along the lines of ancient feuds between the gods, seeking out the worshipers of their patron's rival or enemy.
Avengers, like other divine spellcasters, cast prayers, also known as divine spells. Avengers, like clerics and paladins but unlike invokers, drew on the power of their god through rituals of investiture and sophisticated training, rather than by innate talent. However, avengers so internalized these rites that it could be said that they cast prayers instinctively, rather than with conscious purpose. Avenger prayers, sometimes called "mysteries," were generally deadlier than those wielded by other divine spellcasters, though with a number of adverse effects that went along with the power.
Avengers typically had no training in the use of any armor and were limited most often to the use of simple weapons. However, this martial inferiority was upset by avengers' training in other manners. For instance, an avenger had no need for armor since their god warded them against damage with divine magic. Likewise, the prayers that an avenger wielded were so deadly that there was little need for the avenger to use a weapon any more deadly than a dagger or spear. For example, the oath of enmity prayer allowed avengers deadly accuracy in their attacks. Avengers did, however, commonly use holy symbols as implements.
Like other divine spellcasters, avengers had access to channel divinity, such as abjure undead and divine guidance, which enabled them to draw directly on the power of their god. Abjure undead allowed an avenger to blast an undead creature with radiant power and draw it closer to be struck again while divine guidance let an avenger imbue an ally with their god’s power, giving them the chance to attack a foe multiple times under the effect of the oath of enmity prayer.
Paladins that dedicated themselves to the tenets of this oath were granted access to an additional set of spells that included bane, hunter's mark, hold person, misty step, haste, protection from energy, banishment, dimension door, hold monster, and scrying
All avengers were trained to focus their mind, body, and soul towards the goal of eliminating the foes of their god. However, how they did this varied from avenger to avenger, though most followed one of the following methodologies.
While most avengers preferred to hunt the enemies of their faith as a solitary hunter, some preferred to work in packs. Such avengers were most often commanding avengers, who learned the censure of unity prayer, which enabled an avenger to take advantage of their allies' positioning to corner an enemy. Like other avengers, practitioners of the censure of unity valued a high degree of perceptiveness in their line of work, but commanding avengers also encouraged intellectual growth and, to a lesser degree, nimble reflexes.
Isolating avengers aimed in battle to corner their foes and cut them off from potential allies, skewing the situation against them. As such, isolating avengers focused on taking down one enemy and one enemy alone at a time, often learning the censure of retribution variety of oath of enmity, which made it dangerous for other enemies to intervene in an avenger's fight. Focused even compared to other avengers isolating avengers were both wise and intelligent, having a tactical awareness of the battlefield that made them challenging enemies.
Agile and dexterous pursuing avengers took the approach of earnest persistence as their methodology. Although pursuing avengers were less capable than other avengers of manipulating the battlefield to their benefit, they had a dogged tenacity about them that made it difficult for their target to escape, no matter how or where they fled. Often learning to use oath of enmity through the censure of pursuit prayer, pursuing avengers learned to exploit the stumbles and mistakes a fleeing enemy makes, using this in conjunction with divine magic to reap attacks that were even more deadly on escaping foes than those who turned and fought upfront. As one might expect, pursuing avengers valued both awareness of one’s environment as well as a high degree of dexterity.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 87–88, 205. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 32–47. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 32. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 85, 88. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 33. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 31–32. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- Rob Heinsoo, Richard Baker, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (July 2009). Divine Power. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7869-4982-3.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.