Lore-Win: Bane the Tyrant
Let’s talk a little about Bane.
No, not the big, muscular sometimes-luchador who breaks Batman. Nor the general concept of “bane” as a source of ruin for an individual, group, or organization. I am specifically talking about the Faerunian god who has become associated as the face of pure evil in the Forgotten Realms.
The one who rewarded his most faithful priests with unlife as liches.
But before Bane was a god, he was an adventurer. And like many adventurers, he had a party with whom he ventured through the planes in search of what might be the greatest treasure there is.
Welcome to Lore-Win, the Dungeons and Dragons lore series. I, as always, am your humble Loremaster, Sokar. Today, we will be taking a moment to look at another member of the Dead Three. The one who claimed his prize before his companions, and now rules over the domain of strife as the greatest bully in the realms.
Bane In Life
Much like his companions, the mortal Bane was an adventurer. An evil-aligned human fighter, to be specific. Unusually, he, Bhaal, and Myrkul formed an alliance of mutual aid and ambition that did not immediately fall into infighting.
Even more unusually, the three of them managed to achieve their goals without turning on each other and wiping themselves out. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul achieved much as an adventuring party. They served as the generals of armies, killed a primordial, and divided its essence between the three of them. They came into magical weapons, and grew strong, and powerful.
Powerful enough to take on gods.
And just as many adventuring parties have done, they descended into the lower planes. The three struck into the Gray Wastes of Hades, and fought their way through hordes of the undead. And then, they approached the god of death, Jergal, on his throne.
Jergal, seemingly interrupted from bookkeeping.
Source: Netheril: Empire of Magic (2e)
And as evil adventurers do, the three threatened him.
Bane claimed Jergal’s throne. Bhaal threatened to destroy Jergal. Myrkul threatened to imprison Jergal’s very essence.
And Jergal, much to their surprise, gave his throne up without a fight. Instead, he addressed the three, saying:
“The throne is yours. I have grown weary of this empty power. Take it if you wish—I promise to serve and guide you as your seneschal until you grow comfortable with the position. Who among you shall rule?”
Which is naturally where things fell apart. Where the three adventurers had worked together for so long in their search for divine power, now they began fighting among themselves. As they battled, Jergal had the perfect opportunity to strike.
Yet he didn’t.
“After all you have sacrificed, would you come away with nothing?” He asked instead. “Why don’t you divide the portfolios of the office by engaging in a game of skill for them?”
The three agreed to this, and chose to play for the power that they sought. At first, they chose to bowl skulls, with whoever rolled their skull the farthest being deemed the winner. However, this game was interrupted. As the three played, Malar the beastlord arrived and saw what was happening. Wanting a chance at Jergal’s power, he chased after the skulls to halt the game until he could play.
Again, the three adventurers fought amongst themselves until Jergal intervened once more.
"Why don't you allow Lady Luck to decide so you don't have to share with the Beast?" He asked.
The three agreed once more, and this time played a game of knucklebones (or jacks) to decide a winner. By the time Malar returned, the three had just finished their game, with Bane as the victor.
He chose to rule over the domain of strife, boasting, "As winner, I choose to rule for all eternity as the ultimate tyrant. I can induce hatred and strife at my whim, and all will bow down before me while in my kingdom."
Myrkul came in second, and proclaimed, "But I choose the dead, and by doing so I truly win, because all you are lord over, Bane, will eventually be mine. All things must die - even gods."
Bhaal had come in third, and he announced, "I choose death, and it is by my hand that all that you rule Lord Bane will eventually pass to Lord Myrkul. Both of you must pay honor to me and obey my wishes, since I can destroy your kingdom Bane, by murdering your subjects, and I can starve your kingdom, Myrkul by staying my hand."
And so, the Dead Three had achieved godhood.
Bane as a God
Bane had believed that with the domain of Strife he could rule over all of Toril. However, he soon found that he faced most of the rest of the divine as his foes. Those that he counted as his allies included his old adventuring party members, Bhaal and Myrkul, along with the gods Loviatar, Mask, and Talona.
Though, honestly, they may have just been afraid of him more than allies of him.
He's a pretty imposing guy.
Source: Forgotten Realms: Faiths and Pantheons promotional wallpaper
Among the churches of evil in the Forgotten Realms, Bane has one of the most stable. At least, currently. Once Bane did encourage violent confrontations between his followers, as you might expect the God of Strife to do. However, over time this attitude changed.
His attitude notably changed much later into his life, but there were hints earlier into his time as a divinity. Partially, this might be due to the fact that Bane had lost many followers to the forces of good. In fact, Bane was so dismayed at how many of his most devout followers had been slain, that he concocted a plan.
Bane decided to take direct action and every 50-or-so years, he would teach his most powerful priest how to become a divine lich. These liches were known as Baneliches, and they spent the centuries plotting and planning in the name of their god. Just as Bane himself has been doing.
One of Bane’s plots included siring a son, the half-demonic Iyachtu Xvim. While Xvim resented Bane, he still served his father compliantly.
But not all of Bane’s plots worked so well.
Conspiring with his old adventuring companion, Myrkul, the two gods steal the Tablets of Fate from the Overgod. This results in Ao casting the gods of the world down, to live as mortals. At least, until the tablets were returned. Ao’s hope was that the gods would learn some humility, but not all learned.
And not all survived.
Bane, along with his allies Myrkul and Bhaal were among the casualties. The three were struck down as mortals, and some of Bane’s powers were transferred to Xvim. Most, however, were transferred to the then-mortal Cyric, who went on to become the god of lies, trickery, and strife.
Bane was no more.
Until he was, once more.
See, “death” has a very different meaning for the gods of the Forgotten Realms. It is not so much an end, as it is a set back, and that seems doubly so for gods of death.
Just like his fellows, Myrkul and Bhaal, Bane has made a return to the realm of the divine. And just like his compatriot Bhaal, Bane’s revival came through his spawn.
More than just a son, Xvim was also a cocoon. A receptacle for Bane’s essence to grow within, until one day Xvim changed. The young god’s form burst forth into that of Bane’s, and Xvim ceased to be as his father was reborn.
The rebirth of Bane.
Source: Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3e)
And overnight, Bane’s revival changed the world.
His son’s followers changed their faith to worship Bane instead. Others, who had changed faith to worship Bane’s usurper, Cyric, returned to their master as well.
It was then that Bane went about reforming his church. Where he had once encouraged conflicts among his faithful to remove the weak, he had a change of heart. Undoubtedly, dying had given him a change in perspective. Not to mention how he had gotten a front row seat to see how self-defeating it was when your followers fought amongst themselves.
Resurrected, Bane went about re-establishing his alliances. He quickly rebuilt his ties with Loviatar, Mask, and Talona. He only prospered more when the Spellplague hit.
When his rival, Mystra the goddess of magic, was murdered, the Spellplague struck. Arcane magic was bound within Mystra’s Weave. So when she died and the Weave tore apart, the forces of magic were left to run amuck.
While some debate the logic of this explanation, as Mystra had died before, the results are clear. A cataclysm struck the world, and another of Bane’s foes was removed in the process. Cyric, the god who had inherited part of his powers, and who had murdered Mystra, was tried and imprisoned by the gods Lathander, Sune, and Tyr.
Bane on the other hand escaped unharmed, and had only benefited from the chaos. He then went on to conquer the goblin pantheon, making the gods Maglubiyet and Hruggek subservient to him.
Then another event occurred. The “Second Sundering”, or the sundering of Abeir and Toril, saw the separated worlds of Abeir and Toril overlap. Where many gods withdrew from the world, Bane was not among them. Instead, he along with the reborn Myrkul and Bhaal, remained in the material plane. The three of them live now as quasi-deities, trapped in mortal form.
And yet, still with the power to influence the world, seeking out more worshippers to build their powerbase.
So be wary, adventurers. If you ever run into a trio of adventurers with seeming-delusions of godhood… they might not be as delusional as you think.
I hope this article has intrigued you about one of the more tyrannical evil gods of the Realms, and given you some ideas for a more divine antagonist to include in your campaign. If you’re looking for supplies for your next campaign, be sure to grab them at the Tower!
And as always, until next time, may all your rolls be crits!