Adventuring Company Names and What They Are Up To

From this list of 40 adventuring company names on page 1, I present:


There are no true knights among the Ghost Knights, but each member considers themselves a knight anointed by the Ghost Knight of Galardoun, the purpose bequeathed to them by that far-traveled haunting to find the many restless spirits in the Heartlands of the Forgotten Realms and see each laid to permanent rest. It would be easy to assume the Ghost Knights are slayers of apparitions, and so there must be clerics and paladins among them, but this is not true. No, the Ghost Knights are a monk, a druid, a sorcerer, a fighter, and a bard, each motivated to learn the stories behind the hauntings they seek in order to discover the means to end them. This quintet of adventurers have not always met with success in their endeavors: the Grinning Ghost of Taverton Hall drove them off before they could make their way by night onto the grounds of the ancestral home of House Paertrover of Cormyr, while the Mirror Ghost (a haunting native to Marsember) proved too nimble, and too costly, a foe to find and capture.[1] The Ghost Knights make decisions by vote and have, after their failure in the City of Spices, chosen to travel to Suzail to find a wealthy patron to sponsor their adventures.

[1] As its name suggests, the Mirror Ghost appears within mirrors of all sorts (and rarely within glass of fine make). The Ghost Knights broke several mirrors while trying to apprehend the Mirror Ghost, and ran out of coins to buy more.

(Tip of the hat to Ed Greenwood's "Eye on the Realms" article "The Ghost Knight of Galardoun" in Dungeon #196.)
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David Howery

one of my 2E groups back in the day called themselves the Regulators. They were inspired by the group in Young Guns led by Billy the Kid. After I introduced flintlock pistols into the game, they sorta acted like them too...
From this list of 40 adventuring company names on page 1, I present:


Zorabrantha Tybold has been many things in her life: a shipper of goods between the coastal cities Lushpool and Ithmong on the Divided Road in Lapaliiya, a ship’s crewman aboard the Saffron Hammer (named after the legendary blood red warhammer covered in Yuan-ti fangs that could melt the flesh of the snake men with the merest of touches and slew so many of the Coiled Cabal); a Reaching Hand for merchant interests along the Vilhon Reach responsible for solving problems in the manner of a stereotypical hardjaws (the real-world equivalent of a badass)—that is, covered in weapons from head to foot and armored with the grim determination to get the job done no matter the cost; and most recently a leader of adventurers on the Dragon Coast to the south of Cormyr.

Zorabrantha’s (“Zora,” to her companions) adventuring days began not long after she and the band of sellswords she’d assembled in the guise of merchant ship crewman were unmasked in Westgate and forced to slay a trio of Loviathan priests who’d backed the Westgate-based merchant cabal that had opposed the interests of Zora’s masters in the Vilhon. Zora and the other survivors of that battle fled Westgate aboard her ship, the blood of the priests still fresh on their blades, then fought a ship to ship battle with mercenaries commanded by the Entrusted Whip (i.e., the high priest) of Painbless Hall to capture the murderers in Loviatar’s name—the fight ended after Zora rammed her ship into the opposing vessel and sank it.

With a second ship in pursuit, Zora turned her wounded vessel west and rode a strong tailwind towards The Neck and onto the waters of the Dragonmere. Umberlee frowned on Zora and her pursuers, for neither had made offerings to the Bitch Queen before they set sail, then sparked a storm that gathered over the Lake of Dragons that drove both Zora’s and her pursuer’s ships into the high cliffs on Cormyr’s southern coast, the two vessels entangled against the rocks in a deathly embrace of torn masts, snarled ropes and sundered flesh. Battle shouts, barked orders and the cries of wounded sailors echoed against the cliffs that night, the cacophony drowned out by the crack of thunder each time the battle was revealed in a flash of lightning. By morning Zora stood triumphant in the middle of a ring of raised shields, her sellswords having cornered and slayed all enemies on the rain and blood-soaked decks of both ships.

The gnomes of Smuggler’s Stone were first to spot Zora’s bedraggled crew, and did what wise gnomes living on Cormyr’s shipwreck-strewn coast have long done: they drove a hard bargain for the best of the goods salvaged from the two wrecked ships, and equipped the survivors with coins, fresh clothes, mounts, food to travel on and the names of friendly innkeepers and merchants further up the coast. Snowed inn at Moonever and unable to make the crossing to Marsember, Zora caroused with the guests of the Dirty Dragon Inn and made friends with the owner, the Cormyrean nobleman Irlake Keskrel, who proved a ready listener to Zora’s tales or merchant business and battles fought on the waters of Cormyr, the Vilhon Reach, the Lake of Steam and the Shining Sea.[1]

Today, Tybold’s Terrible Shields are a chartered band of adventurers that explore the Skeleton Shore in the vicinity of the Cliffs of Karthaut, with Lord Keskrel as their patron. Zora has found the remains of the first band of adventurers sent by Irlake to explore the Cliffs and to find the entrance to the hidden hold rumored to fill the interior of that wall of stone. Every last adventurer had been hacked to pieces, their bodies left for the coastal carrion eaters to pick over. Her Shields are currently searching for signs of the second group of adventurers employed by Lord Keskrel (the Terrible Shields being the third).

Unbeknownst to Zora, Loviatar’s thirst for revenge was not satiated by the slow, painful deaths of her onetime masters on the Vilhon, this act overseen by the Entrusted Whip of Westgate. Mistress of Pain Andratha Dorntalon, of Elversult, has received a vision from the Maiden of Pain revealing the faces of Tybold’s Terrible shields and their leader, as well as a command to destroy these most hated foes of the church.

[1] ] It is not within Zora’s nature to hide her past from others, though she will never reveal secrets entrusted to her by former employers or comrades in arms. She is proud of her life and enjoys recounting stories of her successes and her failures.
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Longtime readers are no doubt familiar with the occasional extended adventuring party writeups I post to this thread. These are exceptions to the short writeups I normally share, 4-5 sentences being limit I place on myself for each writeup so I have just enough room to inspire players looking for ideas for new characters, and to leave room for DMs need a simple description for NPC adventurers that they can adapt to fir their campaign.

My goal for the extended writeups is a little bigger. It's not just to provide a (hopefully) entertaining read, but to give Dungeon Masters and aspiring Dungeon Masters a framework from which to build an adventure--or, in the case of Tybold’s Terrible Shields, a sequence of adventures. I try to use the Realms resources at my disposal as much as possible when I create an extended writeup. Not to stick to canon (canon, shmanon), but to pick and choose the best bits of the Forgetten Realms that are inspiring and that sound fun.

For the Tybold’s writeup, I thought it would be fun for DMs to start a campaign away from Cormyr. The Forgotten Realms Wiki has a pretty good writeup for Ormpur, and since DMs might like a change from battling orcs and goblins and kobolds, starting 1st level play in Ormpur makes it easier to introduce low CR Yuan-ti as foes; they're great as schemers and as foes to battle in combat.

Ed Greenwood's Forging the Realms article "So Many Reaching Hands" gave me the idea for an adventurer that used to be a true Reaching Hand, though I reversed the concept. Ed describes the Reaching Hands of the Sword Coast as nondescript people, usually human or halfling females, that are good at not being seen and at getting things done behind the scenes. Zorabrantha, on the other hand, fits the stereotype everyday people of the Realms assume to be true: that Reaching Hands are badasses of the first order.

Zora's name is, like just about every Realms name I come up with, a variant of a name I found in my long, long spreadsheet list of Forgotten Realms NPCs. In this case Zobrant Alnrith of Ormpur, first introduced in Dragon #417, who was slain by the Sword of Spells. I gave Zora the last name Tybold, to fit the name for the adventuring band I'd created back in December of 2015. Everything else in the first paragraph (the Divided Road and the Saffron Hammer (ship and magic item)) I made up based on what I gleaned from the wiki about Ormpur. To me it's important that DMs not merely use what they can find in a Realms resource--those things exist to inspire DM creativity, not just to inform DMs of what is where in the Realms.

The second paragraph in the writeup moves Zora north to the Vilhon. The end of the first paragraph left her crewing on a ship, and a merchant ship sailing the Shining Sea can deliver to any port on the Lake of Steam, which shares its northern land border with the Vilhon Reach. After she made the crossing north, she established herself among the merchants of the Reach as a rough and ready Reaching Hand able to take on all foes, so the next step was to move her further north to Cormyr. I figured the best place to find a big batch of bad guys to cause Zora trouble would be the city of Westgate: its mercantile reach is long, its presence at the mouth of the Dragonmere makes it a perennial headache for Cormyr, the Vilhon, and even Sembia, and the worst of the city's occupants--the Fire Knives, the Night Masks, the vampires, the ruling Croamarkh (a member of the Bleth noble family exiled from Cormyr), the Nine Golden Swords, etc., are all bad news. I decided to use Painbless Hall after I read about it in Erik Scott de Bie's excellent "Backdrop: Westgate" article in Dragon 428. I love using the different names for priests of the Realms, so I turned to "Ed Greenwood Presents: Elminster's Forgotten Realms," for his writeup of the Loviathan church, pages 151-152. This led me to Ed's description of Andratha Dorntalon--who really is charged with slaying the worst foes of Loviatar's church--which provided a way to end the writeup on a cliffhanger of sorts in the sixth paragraph.

For the third paragraph, the idea of a running ship battle sounded fun, so I tried to describe two of them, the first ship to ship, the second a pitched battle aboard two entangled ships. I took some inspiration from Volo's Guide to Cormyr about The Coast (page 76 features an illustration of a ship running dangerously close to the base of a massive sea cliff). I figure DMs could use the content in "Ghosts of Saltmarsh" here.

The fourth paragraph delves a little more into Cormyr as I've come to envision it in my own DMs Guild writing. Volo's Guide to Cormyr gives information about Smuggler's Stone (page 80). To this I combined an encounter with gnomes who'd come to settle there in 1479 DR (Year of the Ageless One), using an old Current Clack entry I'd written up for the month of Kythorn (June) of that year:

A train of carts loaded down with fish packed in salt has departed Smuggler's Stone for markets in southeastern Cormyr—a sure sign of that small village's revival. The renewal of the Stone is being attributed to the arrival of gnome families displaced by conflict in Sembia. Fine fish bone carvings, and delicate metal necklaces that change color when exposed to extremes of temperature, are being sold in the village.
To round out the fourth paragraph I drew a little inspiration from Xanathar's Guide to Everything--specifically the downtime activity of Carousing for Contacts (page 126-128)--and on my own as yet unpublished writings about Moonever, which will be included in Part III of Nobles of Cormyr: The Knight of Owl Well, the first two parts having already been published in issue #3 and #4 of "Eye on Cormyr" on the DMs Guild. The Keskrels of Marsember were featured in the article "The Thing in the Crypt" by Ed Greenwood, in Dragon #412. I've since created a family tree for House Keskrel, which will also be included in Part III of Nobles of Cormyr.

The Keskrels have a reputation for doggedly pursuing whatever interests them, and I didn't want to describe Zora as operating on the Skeleton Shore without saying why, so I figured Lord Keskrel was determined to find something he believes to be hidden on that part of the Dragon Coast, and that he viewed Zora as the right person to both find it and to find out who or what put an end to the first two groups of adventurers he sent there, all of this forming the content of the fifth paragraph. You can find a copy of the Mike Schley map of Cormyr that I used as a reference for this writeup on page 3 of "Backdrop: Cormyr" by Brian R. James (the article made available for free thanks to the generosity of Wizards of the Coast), that shows the names for different parts of the southern shores of the Dragonmere (aka the Dragon Coast), the narrow channel Zora sailed through ("The Neck"), the location of Westgate, and Smuggler Stone (due north of the "X" marking the Cliffs of Karthaut, on the north shore of the Dragonmere).

To wrap this all up: I believe the Realms are best used as a means of inspiration, and not just as a source of information. What I've tried to do here is what a Dungeon Master would do over time as they create NPCs and encounters and campaign plots to fill a series of adventures in the Realms. I hope elements of the Tybold's writeup inspires you to do the same.

Good gaming to you and yours.
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