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Among the ranks of paladins there are some who have seen too much. The archetype of the noble-spirited paladin, resplendent in blessed armor and wielding a holy blade to smite the enemies of goodness, has gotten countless good men and women killed by their enemies' underhanded tactics. Taking a cue from their foes, certain churches have formed semi-secret groups from their most experienced and hard-hearted paladins and clerics, and trained them in the shadowy tactics favored by such worthies as the Church of Shar. These gray guards follow a looser code than the average paladin, and do whatever must be done to protect the innocent and helpless from those who would do them harm.
The vast majority of gray guards are paladins. Only the most realistic and dedicated holy warriors join a church's order of gray guards, knowing that evil runs rampant in the world, always has, and will not be expunged merely by good example. They join out of necessity, not out of resentment for the code of conduct; those who chafe at their responsibilities are unfit to be paladins, let alone gray guards.
Gray guards must be proficient at sensing the intent of others, and must have a great deal of religious knowledge. They must also be able to heal the living by laying on hands. They can easily gain skill at bluffing, mental focus, disguise, forging documents, animal handling, healing, intimidation, local lore, government lore, religious knowledge, riding, and sensing motives.
The gray guard has seen the terrible realities of the world: orphaned children starving in gutters while the rich and powerful feast on the other side of a wall, tyrants abusing the law to expand their own power, and the supposedly devout using and abusing those they see as at best, beneath their notice, and at worst, heretics. The worst evil acts outwardly good and righteous, using honeyed words to seduce the unsuspecting masses. The code of a paladin can only go so far, because it forces them to act in the open, placing them at a disadvantage that can get them killed, and an inflexible code often not only allows evil to remain, but aids its spread. The gray guard has earned the right and freedom to do whatever it takes to take out the trash, even if it means committing a lesser evil to uphold the greater good.
Though he works toward the same goals as other members of his faith, he may find himself ostracized by his fellows. At best, he flirts with corruption, and at worst, embraces it. Paladins may see him as weak, for he has not (in their view) the courage to fight for justice with honor.
The gray guard is not proud of what he does, but rather sees it as a necessity forced upon him by the realities of the world. The freedom is not a boon but a loss, a tarnish of darkness on a once-pure soul. He resolves to do what is necessary, to do battle as valiantly as the greatest paladin, but as brutally as the most vile blackguard.
The gray guard prefers to do battle as a paladin on the field of honor, judging an opponent by his actions. But if the only chance or choice he has is to assassinate a high priest of Bane by knifing him in an alley in a "mugging gone bad," he does it without qualms. His tactics must change to fit the fight.
Mercy is also mutable. Ideally, he would take his foes prisoner, bringing the Thayan slaver operating in the slums before a court of justice in Neverwinter. But if there is no choice but to kill him, such as if he is escaping arrest, or has been acquitted on a technicality, he willingly commits the murder, for some foes simply cannot be allowed to live and rise again. A moment's prayer for both his own soul and his victim's, followed by a quick death, end the lives of many of a gray guard's enemies.
- Sacrament of Trust
- A gray guard takes a vow of allegiance beyond that of a normal paladin. The vow grants him a greater measure of freedom to act in defense of his cause without fear of retribution should such acts violate the code. A dishonorable act still temporarily costs you your paladin and gray guard class abilities, but the infraction is considered less severe than it would be for a paladin.
- Lay on Hands
- Like paladins, gray guards were able to channel positive energy to heal the living and hurt the undead.
- Debilitating Touch
- Gray guards were able to, instead of heal allies, perform a painful touch attack. This was particularly useful when interrogating suspects, as the power would reduce the subject's ability to lie convincingly or resist magic. A successful debilitating touch could sicken a subject for a brief duration.
- Smite Evil
- Gray guards could channel their innate divinity into their sword arm once per day, boosting the damage dealt to an evildoer as the result of an attack.
- Justice Blade
- Instead of smiting an evil opponent, a gray guard was able to instead smite a chaotic opponent. More powerful gray guards could use such an ability to smite those of other alignments.
- Devastating Touch
- Gray guards could use their lay on hands ability offensively. Strong-willed non-evil subjects may have been able to shrug off part of the damage dealt, but not all of it.
- Unbound Justice
- Upon gaining full trust of their church, gray guards could use unorthodox methods without being restricted by the code of honor. Thus, they became more competence at bluffing, disguising, and intimidation.
- Sacrament of the True Faith
- Grey guards who had become very experienced could act freely (within reason) to uphold the goals and tenets of his faith. They never needed to atone for violating the code of conduct in pursuit of a just cause, nor does they risk losing their divine abilities.
Though a gray guard's code is looser than a paladin's, the code does not grant a gray guard carte blanche to do whatever he pleases. He must respect legitimate authority and act with honor and good intent. He must help the needy, may not use poisons, and must punish those who harm the innocent. The central tenet is this: a gray guard may not break the code without good reason.
As previously stated, the power to access one's innate divinity is a privilege, not a right, and unforgivably evil acts (despoiling a temple of his faith, slaying innocents, etc.) will cost the gray guard his abilities. Also not permitted are actions counter to the tenets of your faith, and habitual violation of the code. If at any time his deity or a jury of your faith's leaders finds you guilty of neglecting your responsibilities and abusing your power, you will be expelled from the order, permanently costing you both gray guard and paladin powers. Not even an atonement spell can restore them once lost in this manner.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Mike McArtor, F. Wesley Schneider (January 2007). Complete Scoundrel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7869-4152-0.
- ↑ Mike McArtor, F. Wesley Schneider (January 2007). Complete Scoundrel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7869-4152-0.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Mike McArtor, F. Wesley Schneider (January 2007). Complete Scoundrel. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 43. ISBN 978-0-7869-4152-0.
- ↑ Mike McArtor, F. Wesley Schneider (January 2007). Complete Scoundrel. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0-7869-4152-0.