The Swords of Answering have a mysterious history in Dungeons and Dragons. They made their first appearance in First Edition and have carried through the editions to today.
They are strictly placed in the Greyhawk universe, however, there is no reason you can not lift them for your world.
Before we dive in to how to use this sword in your DnD 5E campaign, the good lore-keepers at Black Citadel RPG have done the research for you into what these swords actually are.
History in Greyhawk
The nine Swords of Answering are called so because they grant the wielder the ability to make an attack as a reaction, thus answering an offensive maneuver with more offense.
However, they were created as imitations of an original blade called Fragarach, which means “Answerer” in Oeridian, a language native to Greyhawk.
This blade was originally brought to Greyhawk by Kelanan, a deity of swords and swordsmanship. Legend has it he won the sword in battle against an unknown god.
Kelanen then gave Fragarach to his followers and was eventually lost in The Temple of Elemental Evil with Prince Thommel IV, never to be seen again (until the PC’s brave the temple, of course).
Fragarach was a sentient, Chaotic Good sword that would violently refuse any creature of a different alignment who tried to wield it.
After Fragarach was lost, nine other swords were made with the same abilities as Fragarach but corresponding to the nine alignment types.
These swords were then dispersed into the world and either lost or safely kept under guard in various treasuries and temples throughout the world.
These nine swords are what we now call The Swords of Answering, and though their mechanics have changed throughout the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons, their signature ability to respond to an attack with another attack has remained the same.
Real World History
In Irish Mythology, Fragarach translates roughly to “Whisperer,” “Retaliator,” or “Answerer.” It was the sword of Nuada, King of theTuatha De Danann, until he lost an arm.
In the second battle of Mag Tuired, Nuada chose Lugh Lefanan to hold the sword as a type of warlord or provisional king.
Even though Lugh preferred the use of his legendary sling and spear, he did accept the sword and take it to the battle, though there is no record of him actually wielding it against King Balor.
In these legends, the sword was said to have the ability to keep a person still and force them only to speak the truth if the blade was held at their throat.
A very interesting mechanic that could easily be adapted into Dungeons and Dragons 5E with the use of a once-per-day hold person and zone of truth ability added on to the material as presented in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, posted below.
The Sword of Answering in DnD 5E
Sword of Answering
Weapon (longsword), legendary (requires attunement by a creature with the same alignment as the sword)
In the world of Greyhawk, only nine of these blades are known to exist. Each is patterned after the legendary sword Fragarach, which is variously translated as “Final Word.”
Each of the nine swords has its own name and alignment, and each bears a different gem in its pommel.
You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this sword.
In addition, while you hold the sword, you can use your reaction to make one melee attack with it against any creature in your reach that deals damage to you.
You have advantage on the attack roll, and any damage dealt with this special attack ignores any damage immunity or resistance the target has.
Proficiency with a longsword allows you to add your proficiency bonus to the attack roll for any attack you make with it.
Notes: Bonus: Magic, creature with the same alignment as the sword, Damage, Control, Combat, Versatile
Item Tags: DAMAGE CONTROL COMBAT
Dungeon Master’s Guide , pg. 206
Using the Sword of Answering in Your Campaign
So, let’s be honest… not everyone plays in Greyhawk.
If running around the dark ages with little hidden villages of frightened peasants anxiously hoping they don’t get eaten by some monsters or a dark god while they pray for the Renaissance to just hurry up and get here sounds like your idea of a good time, then by all means, whisk your characters away to the Temple of Elemental Evil and search for Fragarach.
The great thing about Dungeons and Dragons, however, is that you can play whatever you like, so here are a few guidelines on dropping the sword onto your table.
Whenever you decide to drop an artifact into your world, you’ll have to answer these basic questions (unless, of course you want the firstlevel halfling rogue to find a random Short Sword of Sneak Attacking Goblins that was made by magical master smiths multiple millennia ago in a cave guarded by, I don’t know, trolls or something):
- Who made it?
- Where does it show up in the history of the world?
- How did it end up where the PC’s find it?
- Who wants it? Why?
- Is this a macguffin? A primary quest objective? Or a side quest bonus?
- What effect does this weapon have on the world as far as the PC’s are concerned?
When dealing with the Sword of Answering in particular, you will want to consider the relationship the blades have with each other and with Fragarach. Is there only one sword, or are their nine? Ten?
In a hypothetical Eberron game, the Swords of Answering were created by the smiths of a gem dragon (hence the gems on the hilts) and given to elven resistance leaders during the elven rebellion against the giants.
The Swords were then lost during the cataclysm that shattered Xendrik and were not found again until a drow ranger happened across one of them while exploring.
This drow ranger, empowered by the blade, has become a warleader among their tribe and is currently waging a war of unification across the jungle in the name of driving the inhabitants of Stormreach out.
After uniting the drow tribes, they intend to march on the city, calling it a den of murderers and thieves.
They cite the sheer number of adventurers who come out of Stormreach and into the jungle for riches and glory as criminals since those adventurers have been known to commit genocide and grand larceny in the name of dungeon delving.
At this point, how do the PCs respond? Will they try to work out a peace between the sides? Will they discover another sword and challenge the drow to battle? The rest is up to you.
The Sword(s) of Answering are a long-standing feature of Dungeons and Dragons, and even though its mechanics are simple, its lore is long.
Have fun wielding this blade in your adventure!