The Freedom Riders of Daggerdale

by Francis Romeo P. Navarro

This write-up aims to provide DMs with an alternate organization for Daggerdale’s standing army and a probable history of its humble beginnings. Official adventure modules depict Randal Morn’s Freedom Riders as a cavalry unit; it is difficult, in this writer’s opinion, to imagine a 200-man rebel company composed wholly of cavalrymen, thus the addition of an infantry unit. The years mentioned herein are products of reasonable guesswork, but do not (hopefully) contradict any official material. The game statistics of the characters mentioned here can be found in the <NPCs Section>.

My thanks to Erskine Fincher and Christof Wuttke of the Daggerdale Project Group for the data they have provided, and salamat to J. Dennis E. Capitulo and Aleah of Realms-L for their help and suggestions.

History Background

Randal Morn has been fighting for Daggerdale’s liberty since 1339 DR when he was a young man of about 16 winters. Gathering a small band of outcasts, he formed the Freedom Riders, a rebel force whose single goal was to overthrow the Zhentarim-sponsored government that had ruled Daggerdale since 1316 DR.

Their numbers increased to a hundred in the early 1350s DR. About half of them were cavalrymen who fought on horseback; the rest were mounted infantrymen who could quickly dismount and fight on foot. Being mounted provided them with the mobility to strike at Zhent-controlled hamlets hard and fast. As a guerrilla-style unit, the Freedom Riders never established a permanent headquarters, but they’ve often used Castle Daggerdale and the surrounding hills as a base of operations.

Their numbers increased steadily over the next few years as Randal and his officers, Lord Ariton Delmis and the ranger Mestin “Troll” Durmark, went from hamlet to hamlet seeking support from the masses. Peasants and noblemen alike fought under his flag. Since most of these people do not own horses, though, and could not be provided one by the Riders, the creation of an infantry unit became essential. Some of the mounted infantry became regular footmen, but most of them trained to become true cavalrymen. Perhaps the most important development during this expansion period, however, was the addition of the mounted crossbowmen. They provided the Riders with a fast and powerful unit capable of both hit-and-run maneuvers and open battlefield missile support.

By the mid-1360s DR the Riders’ strength had almost doubled, and included fifty or so mercenaries and volunteer troops from Mistledale and Shadowdale. About half the Riders’ total were infantrymen. Unlike the cavalry, though, which somewhat depend on great numbers, the infantry had become too large to manage, and so was divided between Mestin and her former lieutenant, Reiner Trall.

By the time of Randal’s disappearance prior to the battle for Dagger Falls in 1369 DR, the Riders had peaked at a maximum strength of about 210 soldiers and mercenaries. During the days leading up to the battle, though, their numbers swelled to more than 500, possibly even 600, as volunteers poured in from every corner of the dale and beyond.

The organizational structure of the Freedom Riders has remained virtually unchanged since Daggerdale achieved its independence, the only exception being the addition of the town watch, the Dagger Guards, which is composed of almost 30 cavalry and footmen keeping order within the walls of Dagger Falls. The discussion below generally refers to the period before and during the retaking of the town, and so does not take into account the promotion of the various officers after the events of 1369 DR.


The Freedom Riders are more organized than the typical rebel band, but their structure allows for flexibility, which is necessary for conducting guerrilla operations. Most of these soldiers are typically 1st to 2nd level characters, and about a fifth of their total are 3rd-level or more.

Cavalry: The Riders’ cavalry unit is commanded by Capt. Ariton Delmis. It is divided into three divisions;1 one led by Lord Delmis himself and the others by his two lieutenants. Each division may be broken down further by their respective commanders as they see fit, usually into two companies led by a horse sergeant.

As cavalrymen should be, they are trained to fight on horseback with lances, swords, and other horseman’s weapons. Almost 50% of them have later developed their riding skills to effectively use light crossbows.

For game purposes, cavalrymen are considered to be proficient with Land-based Riding (horse), and crossbowmen are also considered to have Horse Archery/Missile Weapon Style Specialization (no penalty when mount is moving at half speed, and a -2 penalty to hit when moving at full speed).

For purposes of organization, the mounted infantry of the early stages of the rebellion is considered to be a cavalry unit, even when dismounted.

Footmen: The infantry is led by Capt. Mestin Durmark, who herself developed the unit’s surprisingly structured organization. The infantry was later divided into two, with the other half commanded by Capt. Reiner Trall.

When a footman first enters the Riders, he is assigned a buddy, another footman of about the same height, weight, and (usually) gender, with whom he develops a close bond. The reasoning for this is simple: when a footman falls in combat, his buddy must be able to carry him to safety, and this should also be the case when the situation is reversed. If one were larger, then the other would have a difficult time carrying his partner.

Although the buddy team is the basic unit of the infantry, a pair of footmen is rarely sent into the wilderness alone. The basic combat unit is the cell, a loosely knit four-man unit, small enough to escape detection by enemy scouts and to move through the forest unhampered. There are no designations within a cell, just two buddy teams trusting each other to know their respective jobs. Three to five cells would comprise a band, under the command of a field sergeant. Cells within a band rarely move in close formation (see Role-Playing Tips below).

Melee footmen usually use long swords, broadswords or short swords, and may carry small shields; armor depends on availability and the nature of the mission. Archers use long or short bows and wear light, nonmetallic armors. (Halfling archers are described separately below.) Regardless of whether the soldiers are melee- or missile-oriented, they are organized as above. A buddy team of each type may even be mixed within a cell.

The Dagger Guards, the town watch that was organized after the retaking of Dagger Falls, is organized in a similar fashion as the infantry. Since numbers are not as important as outside the town, the cavalry unit of the Guards also follows this structure. The Guards are independent of both the infantry and cavalry.

Other Military Units

The forces described here are independent and do not fall under the direct command of Ariton, Mestin or Reiner (with the exception of the halfling archers). They have their own leaders who work closely with the three Daggerdale officers, and not even Randal Morn himself has the authority to order them to perform tasks against their will.

Mistledale Riders: Mistledale is a close ally of Daggerdale, and has supported Randal’s cause from the beginning. A unit of about eight Riders of Mistledale is assigned to Dagger Falls, rotating every year since the early 1350s DR. They are equipped with lances (any type), swords (long or broad) and spears. They wear chain mail, and carry a shield (small or medium). In an emergency Daggerdale may request an additional unit of Riders or militiamen from Mistledale.

Often led by a warrior of at least 4th level, the Riders of Mistledale commonly function as skirmish horsemen, riding along one or both sides of the main cavalry body. Sometimes, they also train Daggerdale’s forces, both cavalry and infantry.

Shadowdale Cadre: Daggerdale’s closest neighbor and ally does not send in ordinary troops, but instead dispatches a highly-trained force of guerrilla warfare specialists. This group, usually made up of seven men, stays with the Freedom Riders for an unfixed amount of time. They train new and not-so-new recruits in the ways of the wilderness, hit-and-run tactics, raid and ambush modules, stealth and scouting. This setup allows the officers of the Riders to concentrate on their actual operations.

This group is almost always led by a ranger of at least 6th level, and composed of experienced (averaging 4th level) wilderness-oriented adventurers such as thief-scouts, elven warriors and an occasional druid or some other priest of a nature deity (i.e., Mielikki). When the need is pressing, they may fight alongside the Freedom Riders and may also ask for a few reinforcements from Shadowdale.

Brightblade Dwarves: Sometime in the late 1350s DR Clan Brightblade sent a whole platoon of soldiers to aid in Randal Morn’s cause. Armed and clothed in the traditional dwarven battle-fashion (battle axes, warhammers, military picks, chain mail/improved mail, small/medium shield), they serve as shock troops in open battle against Zhentilar soldiers and are especially effective against humanoid troops. They number about 20 fighters from 1st to 3rd level, and the fallen are quickly replaced (though this seldom happens). The platoon is led by High Doubleaxe Realgar Runeguard, and chaplained by Aegirine “Aegis” Stonefist of Berronar Truesilver.

Halfling Archers/Slingers: Though not a separate group from the Freedom Riders, their unique talents make them stand out almost as a separate band. Because of their shorter stature, the tallfellows of Daggerdale are not usually mixed with the human troops so as not to slow the latter down. Nevertheless, halfling cells are among the most popular scouts and ambushers, which they owe to their natural stealth, ability to blend in with the woods, and attack bonuses with the short bow and sling (0th-level halflings gain a +3 to hit with these two plus any thrown weapon). Their unofficial leader (more like a spokesperson) is Chaz Sawyer, a self-proclaimed ranger (use the Forestwalker kit from CBoG&H).

Field Chaplains: Sometimes adventuring priests join the ranks of the Freedom Riders. They do not form a single unit, but are individuals who serve as spiritual advisers, healers, and sometimes even in a combative capacity. Their numbers vary greatly from time to time, from as few as two to as many as twenty. Most of these priests are druids of Chauntea from the Circle of Seven Daggers, but sometimes clerics of Lathander, Tymora, Helm, and even Mask can be found.

Wizards’ Ring: Practitioners of the Art who wish to join the Freedom Riders are not assigned to any of the units, even those with fighting skills needed, (those that are multi- or dual-classed). Instead they are “reserved” until their talents are which are usually on the battlefieldserving the , for spying, or for distance communication. There are only about five wizards Riders at any time; most of them are natives of Daggerdale, but some are volunteers from other Dales (especially Shadowdale) and even farther. Although Randal and his deputies tend to rely more on non-magical methods of warfare, they’ve found that an occasional fireball or two can work wonders in improving the odds against the Zhentarim.

Insiders: Randal has his own network of spies within the walls of Dagger Falls. These spies are quite effective at communicating Zhentarim movement and strength to the Freedom Riders, but unfortunately the network is not strong enough to penetrate the high Zhentarim posts to learn of their plans. These insiders may be professional spies, normal peasants, businessmen, artisans, or former adventurers living within the town.

Mercenaries: Randal often asks free-lance adventurers to take specific tasks such as investigating and spying, especially during those times that he could not spare men. Most of them understand the situation Randal is in and do not ask for a reward or payment. Unfortunately, some are just too mercenary to align themselves with a cause, or are just plain greedy.

Role-Playing Tips

When encountering footmen in the wilderness, the PCs would notice and/or interact with only one cell (four men). Unless this cell was an advance recon patrol, other cells would be nearby, possibly observing the encounter. The DM may give hints of movement or “a sense of being watched” to the PCs. The encountered cell would never hint nor say that there are more of them unless they thought it necessary.

Cavalrymen when encountered will always try to use their superior numbers and mobility to surround any group they perceive to be suspicious. A designated second-in-command will be the one to speak, asking for identification, allegiances and purpose of travel. They almost always travel as a large group (at least 15 cavalrymen).

The non-Daggerdale units are completely autonomous but are always cooperative, except perhaps for some mercenary groups.

Editor's Notes

  1. The terms division and company should not be interpreted in their strict modern military usage, since Randal's entire force would make up only one or two companies in a modern battalion. Instead, think of the divisions as modern platoons of about 30 men, and the companies as squads of 15. --Erskine Fincher

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