The Harpers range from “wholesome individuals trying to do what’s right” to “meddlers of the realms” to “idealists to the point of lunacy,” depending on who you ask. They have a long and complicated history compared to the other factions. The origins extends over a millennia back, with the first formation under the elves of Myth Drannor in 324 DR. They did not initially call themselves “Harpers”, but the forming family named Mistwinter used their family crest as its symbol – a silvery harp – which Harpers use as their symbol to this day. They would meet at secret at midnight to make plans to advance good without the watchful eye of rulers upon them. Over time, they gradually earned themselves the nickname “Harpers at Twilight.” They fought evil in its many forms for centuries as their numbers gradually dwindled off, and then suffered a great defeat in the Weeping War, in which their leader, Lady Mistwinter, died in battle. After the war, the Harpers at Twilight still existed, but were no more than a dozen, and the last of the Mistwinter family had died with the death of the Lady.
Now, we move forward to 720 DR into the Dancing Grove. A great gathering of godly folks, druids, dryads, and a certain high meddler named Elminster, were in council regarding unnatural events that had been occurring. At least seven deities were said to attend, speaking through their chosen, and it was determined that cruel and evil gods were obstructing the natural flow of the world. The assembled agreed that an organization needed to be formed that would gather information and fight against the rising evil, which would be led by Elminster and the dozen or so other Harpers that still remained. Thus, the first reformation of the Harpers occurred. This was a very religiously driven formation, which occupied many temples and openly fought against forces such as Thay and the Church of Bane.
It is now 1022 DR, and the Harpers are low in resources and manpower, having fought many battles against evil. The leadership decided to revitalize the Harpers with a new recruitment drive, branding them now more as a hidden army of adventurers with a much higher bar of entry than before. Recruits came in slower, but were of higher quality. Several were secretly tapped by Elminster, who was still in power as a leader of the Harpers, to become part of the leading council. Centuries went on with this new group of Harpers, who intended to be more behind-the-scenes, but like before, found themselves drawn out in to open conflicts with the forces of evil. They began seeing loses just like the hundreds of years before, so the leadership decided to go into hiding; to try another reformation.
But, unbeknownst to the other leaders, one particular Harper leader named Finder Wyvernspur turned against them, corrupted many aspects of the organization, and fought against the other members before being sealed away in an unknown location. However, the damage had been done. The Harpers were denounced for their corruption, and many among their ranks yearned for battle, throwing themselves into foolish situations, and the entire organization began to decline. Elminster, seeing what the Harpers had become, drew many of the more bloodthirsty Harpers away from their lands and into a war with extraplanar beings, which was known as the Harpstar Wars.
After the few remaining veterans from the Harpstar Wars returned in 1222 DR, they found that a so-called “Harper King” ruled over a twisted version of the Harpers. This twisted group were attempting to take over many ruling aspects of Faerún and succeeding in several areas. Battles ensued across many lines, including many forces of Thay, the Cult of the Dragon, and the returning Harpstar veterans. In the end, the Harper King was destroyed, and the Harper network continued on, somewhat free of the corruption that he had brought. This marked the decline of the Harpers as a much larger power, and from there it would begin to splinter into various sects or other organizations no longer called “Harper.”
From there until now, the Harper network still endured in many places, but it would never return to its larger form. The branches of this network have since taken on many different variants of the name “Harper”, and now operated in branches and cells with its own leadership. The faction we see today came from or were inspired by a single branch called the Harpers of Luruar, which began its growth around 1419DR. When they rose to prominence, other groups began to call themselves “Harpers” and take up a fight against corruption. The different cells do communicate with each other over a more organized Harper network (if they so desire), but they still operate out of entirely different groups or even operate individually. To this end, the name “Harpers” has become somewhat of a self-imposed label for groups and individuals rather than a single large organization. There has unfortunately been rampant corruption in certain groups calling themselves “Harpers” as well, which has manifested as mistrust in anyone claiming the silver harp. There are leading Harpers who supposedly lead the faction, but it is hard to prove that it has much sway based on the autonomy of the Harper cells and persons.
Regardless, true Harpers do seem to have one thing in common: they go to great lengths to promote fairness and equality across Faerún, and to keep rampant power in check. Although they have made themselves front-and-end in the public in instances such as the recent Cult of the Dragon incident, they also frequently act secretly in small groups and alone. A tyrannical governor taken down in the night; gold left on the doorstep of a needing family; an innocent saved from a mugger by a mysterious stranger. If you’ve seen these things before, you may just have seen the work of a Harper. It could be your baker, your neighbor, or even your ruler. You might be friends with a Harper and don’t even realize it.