The Harpers in D&D

Those who harp

The Harpers are a powerful organisation found on Faerun who stand for fairness and equality for all. This means that they’re typically engaged in fighting against tyranny and corruption.

Rather than being based within a particular city, the Harpers are dispersed throughout Faerun in cells that operate independently from one another. Occasionally, Harpers will trade information and work collaboratively, but more often, they work in isolation from one another. Mmebers of the Harper group pride themselves on their bravery and their incorruptibility meaning it’s rare that they ever give away secrets if caught.

Generally, Harpers work as spies and infiltrators, discovering tyrannical plots and working to prevent the evils of the world from enacting their wicked schemes. They tend to prefer covert ways of operating as this helps to keep the secrecy of its members, using information more than weapons as their primary form of attack/defence, though many Harpers are capable warriors in their own right.

Harper Code

The Harpers adhere to a code that provides the ideals by which they must operate and is strictly enforced (though these ideals are not rigid rules but guiding principles by which to adhere). This code includes the following principles:

  • Harpers work against villainy and wickedness wherever they find it, but they work ever mindful of the consequences of what they do.
  • All beings should walk free of fear, with the right to live their lives as they wish.
  • The rule of law aids peace and fosters freedom, so long as the laws are just and those who enforce them lenient and understanding.
  • No extreme is good. For freedom to flourish, all must be in balance: the powers of realms, the reaches of the cities and the wilderlands into each other, and the influence of one being over another.
  • Whatever it takes, a Harper will do. Pride never rules the deeds of a true Harper.
  • Freedom is a multiversal right, though Harpers can spare themselves less freedom than those they work to protect when the need presents itself.
  • Harpers police their own. A Harper who hears the call of personal power can no longer hear the sweet song of the harp. A Harper who seizes power, and holds it above all else, is a traitor to the harp. Traitors must die for freedom to live.
  • Without a past, no being can appreciate what they have, and where they may be going.

While the code of the Harpers indicates that they are good individuals with good motives (for the most part), their methods and opinions can make them controversial as well. They abhor the tyranny that comes from power and will usually avoid working with governments and other organisations, partly for this reason (as well as the necessity of secrecy with the many enemies they obtain). This can put them at odds with established law enforcement as they beat to the sound of their own drum. The looseness of their own leadership and their own code often also leads to splinters in the organisation where at best, Harpers have different principles from one another, but at worst, they create rebel groups within the organisation. Without clear leadership, the Harpers can end up hampered by indecision, particularly when threats are not clearly evil.

It’s fair to say that outside of their own ranks, the Harpers are not particularly popular with other organisation due to their meddlesome nature. This is particularly true of evil organisations that they work against. Their primary rivals have often been the Zhentarim who operate a network of black market trading, slavery and governmental corruption. Other common enemies of the Harpers include:

  • The Dark Dagger
  • The Malaugrym
  • The Rundeen
  • The Knights of the Shield
  • The Twisted Rune
  • The Red Wizards of Thay
  • The Cult of the Dragon
  • The Iron Throne
  • Churches of evil gods, particularly Bane

Members of The Harpers

There are many individuals that have operated as Harpers with a lot of notable and powerful individuals filling their ranks despite their generally small numbers. Some of the more notable members of the Harpers include:

  • Arilyn Moonblade
  • Ansal Bloodshoulder
  • Artus Cimber
  • Belhuar Thantarth
  • Bran Skorlsun
  • Brenna Graycloak
  • Caledan Caldorien
  • Dahl Peredur
  • Danilo Thann
  • Dove Falconhand
  • Drogan Droganson
  • Elminster Aumar
  • Finder Wyvernspur
  • Galvin
  • Garaele
  • Glarasteer Rhauligan
  • Gorion
  • Jaheira
  • Khalid
  • Krowen Valharrow
  • Mattrim Mereg
  • Mari Al’maren
  • Mintiper Moonsilver
  • Mira Zawad
  • Mirt the Moneylender
  • Laerel Silverhand
  • Olive Ruskettle
  • Remallia Haventree
  • Renaer Neverember
  • Ruha
  • Sharalyn Lockleaf
  • Tam Zawad
  • Tennora Hedare
  • Wynter
  • Zelraun Roaringhorn
  • Zespara Alather

Harper Membership

Elminster Aumar

Harpers can be of any race, gender and background though most are humans elves and half-elves. In addition, any class could be accepted though bards and rangers are the most common. SImilarly, its members are welcome to worship any god they choose (though evil deities conflict with the ideals of the group). Most Harpers are able to work well together despite these differences though some friction in the upper ranks of The Harpers would occur amongst those of differing faiths.

Of course, all who join The Harpers, must abide by the rules and ideals of the group, and acceptance criteria is strict. High Harpers are chosen via a secret ballot and form the ruling council of The Harpers with members of the council expected to maintain extreme discretion and long-term service.

Harper History

Conception of The Harpers

The Harpers were first conceived back in 324 DR by Elven military leaders of Myth Drannan as well as a few trusted human rangers and druids. They were first led by the elven mage Dathlue Mistwinter while their numbers included the relatively young, Elminster Aumar.

Myth Drannor
Elven city of Myth Drannor

This original iteration of the Harpers lasted about 400 years but the success of Myth Drannor attracted much opposition from drow, illithids, orcs, evil spellcasters and others. This led to many attacks against the nation causing their numbers to dwindle and causing losses to the members of the Harpers as well. It was the Weeping War, an invasion of demons, that decimated the evles of Myth Drannor, killing Dathlue and leaving just a handful of Harpers alive.

First Harper Reformation

Not long after the death of Dathlue, The Harpers reformed. Priests of many different gods were summoned to a druid grove in High Dale were they were met by Elminster. He explained that the elves had requested help in fighting back an insurgence from the faithful of certain evil gods; Bhaal, Bane, , Loviatar, Malar and Myrkul. They were coming from the southern lands and the elves were not strong enough to resist.

Initially, the priests argued against the plan, representing gods such as; Corellon, Mielikki, Mystra, Ohgma, Selune, Silvanus and Tymora. However, the gods disagreed and took possession of their priests and agreed to provide their support.

It was at this point that the remaining Harpers began again to seek out new recruits and they grew in number and influence quite quickly, taking a more active and public role in supporting humanity. With their newfound alliances, they were also granted access to temples and other locations to rest and recuperate between missions and to use as bases of operations. Their actions gained them great respect among altruistic leaders throughout Faerun, however, they also attracted anger from evil and manipulative groups that were threatened by Harper activity.

The archlich Vecna
A lich of Thay

In particular, The Harpers attracted the ire of the Churches of Bane and Myrkul and the Nation of Thay. Initially, liches were sent to kill The Harpers, but each was destroyed leading to Thay raising an army against The Harpers. In response, The Harpers went underground, operating more secretly and discreetly to prevent greater powers from destroying them and their influence again.

Second Harper Reformation

Following the hunting down of many Harper agents, Elminster and Khelben Arunsun decided to seek out new recruits, but that these would operate more as undercover adventurers than public forces of good. Standards for recruitment were heightened so it took time to identify the right individuals. Over the next 200 years though, The Harpers were able to develop a substantial network of information and contacts throughout Faerun.

Unfortunately, with the rise of evil churches, the Cult of the Dragon and the nation of Thay, The Harpers were drawn into increasingly public fights with these groups. Casualties began to increase so to prevent a repeat of the losses in the First Reformation, Elminster and Khelben ordered all senior Harpers to go into hiding. But many younger recruits grew disillusioned with the new, low-key approach by the group and began getting killed in foolish fights. To prevent this, Elminster chose to give these recruits a greater purpose by using them in the Harpstar Wars against the malaugrym, group of evil, shape-shifting creatures from the Plane of Shadow.

Few of The Harpers managed to return from the Harpstar Wars and those that did, returned to find a very different organisation to the one they remembered.

Corruption of the Harper King

During the Harpstar Wars, a Harper bard known as Rundorl Moonsklan became convinced that Elminster, Khleben and the Harpers they’d taken with them, had gotten themselves killed in the Harpstar Wars. He was also convinced that the senior Harpers in hiding, had actually permanently retired. Rundorl decided to take over the leadership of The Harpers and reshape it in his own vision.

It was at this time, that Rundorl met Szass Tam, one of the Zulkirs of Thay and a lich. They decided that they could benefit one another. Szass Tam would pass information on about his rivals in Thay over whom Tam wanted to gain power over, and Rundorl would gain prestige by spreading a lie that Thay wizards had a spell that could transform thousands of undead slaves into undead with just one casting.

The plan worked well and soon, Rundorl was leading Harpers into battle with Thayans that he claimed had knowledge of the spell of undeath. Of course, these were simply rivals of Szass Tam that might stop him from taking total control of Thay. It wasn’t long though, until the Harpers began taking heavy casualties and Rundorl retreated, discovering that Tam had been reanimating fallen Harpers into undead to bolster his forces. Rundorl sought to fight against this betrayal and approached another lich known as Thavverdasz, an ally of the Cult of the Dragon who themselves were enemies of the Harpers.

Thavverdasz helped the Harpers defeat Szass Tam about the time that Elminster and the remaining true Harpers returned from the Harpstar Wars. Upon his return, Elminster assassinated Thavverdasz.

Khelben and other senior Harpers went about recruiting more Harpers while Elminster alone travelled to face the rising, criminal organisation of the Zhentarim and its leader, Manshoon. Fortunately, despite their recent, suspect history, The Harpers’ information network and allegiances remained mainly intact.

Third Harper Reformation

During the third reformation, The Harpers segmented into branches with the eastern branch led by Storm Silverhand out of Shadowdale, covering the areas of Faerun North and East of the Dalelands. Khelben initially led The Harpers operating on the Sword Coast, but soon handed leadership to veteran of the Harpstar Wars, Cylyria Dragonbreast. Her branch (the Order of the Silvermoon) was run in a much more regimented fashion and acted openly against the threats of the Zhentarim and Amn. This greater publicity also attracted many new recruits causing the ranks of the Order of the Silver Moon to swell.

Fourth Harper Reformation

During the Spellplague, many Harpers were killed or vanished causing a large disruption to Harper operations. On top of this, many Harpers became isolated from one another and mostly began to operate only in their local vicinity. As time went on, local Harper cells began being established, some by existing Harpers such as Storm Silverhand, and others by individuals wanting to replicate The Harper group. Cells were established throughout Faerun in places like Waterdeep, Neverwinter, Athkatla, Cormyr and beyond.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.