You are either not logged in or not registered with our community. Click here to register.
 
December 07, 2016, 02:42:44 AM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length

Click here if you are having problems.
Default Wide Screen Beige Lilac Rainbow Black & Blue October Send us your theme!

Hark!  The Herald!
Holiday Issue 2016

Wiki Blogs Dicebot

Author Topic: Recruiting: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused  (Read 17948 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

For anyone just coming in, information is being put on a wiki as far as stuff like chargen and other useful bits: http://elliquiy.com/wiki/Taldor, and a timeline of relevant events http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=175702.msg8361397#msg8361397 and some notes on surrounding or relevant countries: http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=175702.msg8354393#msg8354393 Still, read the below as well, if you would.

So, particularly with the release of Ultimate Campaign that helps the GM do such things like help their players manage trading costers, thieves' guilds, noble houses, domains, the face and status games of court, whole nations going to war, the like, and with there being a periodic hankering for higher level Pathfinder in these parts that seems to go unfulfilled, my own thoughts have been turning in the direction of Pathfinder on a wider scale, the sweep of high imperial court in a glittering yet decadent city, that sort of thing, especially after a game that was trying for it somewheres else (different forum entirely in a Taldor focused game at that, nothing that happened here) that I was in just did a terrible job of it.

That and coming to a sad realization that I basically have to create and run the sort of games I want to see happen brings me to where I am. Bear with me here, this is more an interest check than a formal pitch, so it's going to be a bit rough.

So, Taldor! Taldor is a nation within the Golarion setting (and somewhat detailed here http://www.pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Taldor ) that is this really wonderful fusion of the twilight era of the Byzantine Empire with certain high chivalric touches. A nation that in its glory days ruled across two continents and spearheaded the defeat of great and terrible evils while bringing a measure of civilization to the world for thousands of years, leaving a legacy in that the common tongue of a continent and a half is the Taldan language, and a standard of culture and style that much of the rest of Avistan (the continent in question) still apes towards. A land that in contrast to many lands that war with their forest dwellers, has a pact with their fey and druids that has endured across centuries. Yet war and moribund decadence have brought a once great nation to a fallen state, wealth and opulence beyond all imagining having also bred lethargy, and smug self focus amidst a vast and sprawling royal caste of dynastic families. Though the periodic rising up of common men to both noble and senatorial class alike keeps a vast populace mollified, they too quickly mire themselves in narcissism and spectacle. It should be said that with a still potent army and navy (though nothing like what it once was), the dregs of empire have terrible strength left enough to give wary pause to those who would take advantage of weakness. Yet on sheer generational diminishment, Taldor seems to be taking an especially exquisite slow march to oblivion all the same, distracted in tournament and gala from arresting her fall. Certainly there are those who would see the glory and honour of their nation restored and defended from her many enemies, if they can survive the maneuvers of a cutthroat courtly society (in whom many are quite happy with being elegantly wasted, thank you very much) while moving to do so.

Taldor’s capital, Oppara the Gilded city is itself a microcosm of everything gone right and wrong with the Empire. Where noble scions can find themselves called home by the majestic roars of fifty foot tall lion statues at their gates. Where palaces the marvel of the world and monuments to catch the breath stretch across a city. Where people can walk across gleaming tiled mosaics that serve as the surface of a massive bridge forged otherwise of pure mithril. And yet where festers as an entire district one of the worst, most dangerous slums in all Golarion, the size of what in lesser lands would be a city itself, and with buildings and alleys so crowded and tottering there are large stretches where the sun never reaches, and people within who live their entire lives without seeing its light.

The campaign itself would be a fairly sandboxy thing open to a potentially large group of players, with a center around the Taldan capital, Oppara, the Gilded City (which again has some light detail here;  http://www.pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Oppara ), with players creating the people of, be they the high worthies of the royal or senatorial castes, envoys from afar,  or those on a lower societal rung getting by and moving for advantage and agenda in their own ways. While the GM, aka me, and whoever else might maybe help along, will certainly initiate plots, player agency and agenda should drive events as much as anything. The idea would be to do something of a sweep of potential starting levels, something like 8-14, simply to have a bit of run the gamut sort of people floating around, from criminals to counts. The further idea would be that if you want to go in at higher levels, you put in some more backstory work with me, that if you want to come in at the highest of the higher ones, it would make for being the head of your own noble house, and putting in some design work as to your family/house history (which is to say, yes, basically that’s a bribe of high levels to put in more conceptual work, the more you put in, the more levels you get).

Concepts could be anything from members of high society, the owners of brothels, merchants, mercenaries, bodyguards, soldiers and officers, street scum, foreign diplomats/agents, representatives of the pact Taldor has with the fey, or anything in the middle of all that. Doing actual adventurer type shenanigans as a way to garner wealth/power/further your goals in some way would be something for which opportunities would exist. Wars on the scale of nations may or may not happen besides.

Knowledge of the Golarion setting would be great, but as you can see, they have a pretty thorough wiki, so it’s not that hard otherwise to pick up.

Some other general notes:

I quite like pathfinder, but the system can sometimes fall a bit short in letting you feel particularly rounded/competent/capable like characters from fiction. My usual personal solution to that is to award people a feat per level, instead of every other. Lets people branch outside taking only feats that are immediately super class relevant.

Related to the above notion, I like at least the /idea/ of gestalt (*watches people run screaming away*), that bit where you have two simultaneous class progressions (rules found here http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/gestaltCharacters.htm ). I say I like the idea of it, because obviously in practice it can turn into a horrifying min maxing disasterpiece. I’d still like to at least give it a try, and just try to keep a firm hand on any potential disasters and note that in exchange for all these go much broader options, I intend to invoke the Power of Me Saying No To Something Broke as Hell more firmly. Basically I’d prefer to be generous there and hope that people just respect a spirit of getting to have nice things. The rough guidelines would amount to that if you take a prestige class, you have to take it all the way through, that if you multiclass, you take at least 4 levels of that class, and that gestalt means none of the strong hybrid prestige classes or base classes (which basically amounts to..no eldritch knight, arcane trickster, that cleric/fighter hybrid prestige class whose name escapes me, the bard/cavalier one, and no magus. Gestalt Fighter/Wizard or Sorcerer, Wizard or Sorcerer/Thief, Cleric/Fighter, Bard/Cavalier, and Fighter/Wizard or Sorcerer would cover you for all those, respectively)

Related to that above, I’m going to be blunt for a moment. There was another effort a high scale PF campaign on Ell that some people fled from in a group, including me, because, well, it turned pretty fast just at character creation into a twinked out mess that was discouraging to deal with. The experience of that means I’m inclined to some restrictions, largely in the shape of: No Summoners (they are a screaming road to busted, I’ve yet to ever find them not be), No LA races (any player character race from Advanced Race Guide, from the Inner Sea World Guide, from the Inner Sea Bestiary, or from the Pathfinder Core are probably cool just fine though. Though you’ll really need to sell me on the more outlandish ones). We’re going to be using Pathfinder rules for this outside of the gestalt stuff meaning no, zip, zero stuff from 3.5 books, and no third party material. If you are just otherwise dying to use something third party, the most I could swing with is something from the stuff Kobold Press has put out, as their stuff has been generally pretty solid and interesting. I can talk that out at least.

I’m also going with no Gunslingers but, honestly, that’s nothing against how balanced they are, I just don’t find them fitting the thematics. If by some freak miracle this campaign takes off and trundles along for a while and someone wants to mess with Alkenstar or places like that, I’ll revisit that whole thing.

Finally, so, obviously this is a bit of “creating the game to run that I’d like to play in”, but, well, I can never really do that play in a game you run thing, I always find that too bizarre/awkward, which is just my personal vibe there. If someone wants to co-GM to allow for feeling like there’s more room to do that, hey, fantastic, I’ll love you forever. But if not, not, I’d at least like to see a game like this run and put into play, even if I’m the one running. That said, if someone wants to co-GM anyway, that would be fantastic.

So! Did you make it through all that? Congrats! If this is something that might interest you, respond and let me know, if there’s enough interest I’ll put together a more formal setting pitch, full chargen guidelines, some notes on how I intend to handle someone being a member of the upper crust as far as wealth and the like, some examples for what I would be looking for in noble house detail in either short or long versions. And some talking out of what forum rating people would prefer to see for something like this.

update: now including player made banners for organizations! http://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=175702.msg8457438#msg8457438

« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 06:19:50 PM by Kolbrandr »

Offline kckolbe

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2013, 04:05:32 AM »
Wow, high level and gestalt?  I love your balls!  I am interested.  What level-ish were you thinking of?  By the way, just to throw in 2 cents, LA races are generally weaker in gestalt, so I wouldn't worry as much about those.

EDIT: Saw the 8-14, but didn't know if those were levels you were considering, or if concept played into starting level.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 04:08:01 AM by kckolbe »

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2013, 04:10:49 AM »
Well, you know, it has a lot of potential to be really great, and a lot of potential to really suck. But hey, that to me at least means it's worth trying. You just have that much of a greater chance to bring to bear the sort of campaign that only otherwise exists as wistful sighs and dreams. Failure just means learning what not to do next time.

I'm keen on encouraging people to play pc races, so I'd rather no LA anyway, and like I say, thinking 8-14 range, with higher levels for more work put in for the concept, by way of crass bribes for doing some personal character setting work (do you want to play someone's courtesan? You don't need to try that hard* Do you want to run an entire thieves' guild? You need to do some outlining of that with me in fair depth). So yeah, that plays into starting level indeed.

*(unless you want to aim for something like the Grand Prince's mistress or some such thing)
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 04:18:09 AM by Kolbrandr »

Offline kckolbe

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2013, 04:15:23 AM »
So, with this being a sandbox, what were you planning on doing once everyone's char is approved?

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2013, 04:16:49 AM »
Setting up some initial scenes and events for people to react to as tailored to the mix of characters, and seeing where people go from there largely. Taking some time to talk with people besides on what their plans and desired character arcs might or might not be.

Offline kckolbe

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2013, 04:22:34 AM »
This may sound really weird, but I was also thinking of different methods of char gen as well.  Sometimes I want to play a higher level char with mediocre stats, and sometimes I want to play a low level prodigy.  Maybe have two or three different ability or point buy packages with different level modifiers.  For example (almost no math has been applied here), a package of 8, 9, 10, 10, 11, 12 might also grant +1 level.  A package of 8, 10, 12, 12, 14, 16 might have no modifiers, and 10, 12, 14, 14, 16, 18 might cost a level.

Online Muse

  • Bibliopheliac -- Luna's Arcangel -- PiP's Sidhe Lord -- Karasu's Heartthrob -- Tyloka's Dragon -- Mistress Voluptuouss's Hand Bra -- Making Allanger Welcome at her Destination
  • Knight
  • Addict
  • *
  • Join Date: Apr 2005
  • Location: Chasing unicorns in the Moonwood.
  • Gender: Male
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 6
Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2013, 04:23:29 AM »
  Fascinating!  I'd like to give this a try! 

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2013, 04:26:11 AM »
I think stat generation wise I may just fully embrace my "a game based on stuff I'd like to see" notion and go with rolled stats + an option to default to point buy if you don't like the results. And similarly to the spirit of "no, we can in fact have nice things!" be decently generous with the method for either.

Online Muse

  • Bibliopheliac -- Luna's Arcangel -- PiP's Sidhe Lord -- Karasu's Heartthrob -- Tyloka's Dragon -- Mistress Voluptuouss's Hand Bra -- Making Allanger Welcome at her Destination
  • Knight
  • Addict
  • *
  • Join Date: Apr 2005
  • Location: Chasing unicorns in the Moonwood.
  • Gender: Male
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 6
Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2013, 04:27:31 AM »
Oh, KC, low stats can be particularly dificult in Gestalt.  Just thought I'd point that out. 

Tentatively interested in a swashbuckling nobleman of good family, a duelist/wizard, perhaps recently forced to retire from the life of a young troublemaker to take family business more seriously? 

Just a thought. 

Offline kckolbe

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2013, 04:31:36 AM »
I think I shall play my own version of an artificer, maybe playing a rogue/sorcerer mix or something along those lines.  Basically a utility character focusing on the merchant life (since I did like that concept last time).  Probably human male.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 04:33:58 AM by kckolbe »

Offline avorae

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2013, 06:05:31 AM »
I am interested in this game. I am not sure of what I want to play just yet but it would probably be some sort of monk build.

Offline Meliai

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2013, 08:37:27 AM »
*(unless you want to aim for something like the Grand Prince's mistress or some such thing)

Funny you should mention that, I read up on Taldor a month or two ago when I was working out a backstory for a potential Reign of Winter character and accidentally came up with the concept for an unrelated character that might work well for this. It's not the Grand Prince I'm interested in though (he's...kind of gross...) but his daughter, Princess Eutropia. Sadly there's not really much canon word on what her personality or politics are like, and what there is is pretty vague. She's sort of waging a political war to have Taldor's dumb sexist succession laws changed so she can take the crown when her father dies. (Would fleshing her out myself be alright, or would you prefer to handle prominent characters like that yourself?)

SuperMegaCondensed character concept; she was born into slavery, or captured at a very young age. When she was around 8 she was purchased by palace officials along with a number of other young girls, and eventually chosen to act as a playmate and handmaiden for the princess. She was a surprisingly feisty slave for one who had grown up in chains, at least when Eutropia's handlers were out of earshot, and as the pair grew she influenced the princess as much as she was influenced herself. In their mid-teens things took a strange turn when the handmaiden began developing odd, innate magical powers and, reluctantly, Eutropia allowed her friend to leave her service to seek her destiny out in the wider world. She spent several years abroad and what she did durring that time is the subject of endless speculation among Taldan citizens, but much to everyone's surprise she eventually returned to Oppara and the princess, despite having essentially been handed her freedom.
Class wise I'm leaning towards Rogue and either Oracle, Sorceress, or an even split of the two. She'll be either a human or changeling, and is unfailingly loyal to the princess. Officially she is still the princess's handmaiden, but she now also acts as her primary body guard and covertly works to further Eutropia's political agenda. Though she is given almost complete freedom she is still technically Eutropia's slave and still wears an ornamental collar. Some scandalous rumors have begun to spread in recent months revolving around the Princess's continued refusal of any and all marriage proposals and the lovely young servant who is constantly by her side.

I don't think I'm up for co-DMing a game of this scale thanks to my lack of experience, but I'd be more than happy to handle some NPCs and help with concept work :-)

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2013, 11:14:24 AM »
This could be fun I'm thinking as an idea a Cleric with a splash of Rogue serving Calistria but devoted to commoners and the social underbelly of the city, a more down to Earth approach maybe an rival to the main faiths holy places as in she sees their seeking power and wealth as corrupting to the true teachings of the goddess. To promote her portfolio to as many as possible.

I was thinking the main holy place would be a rustic sort of worship site not a working brothel but an open place for devotees and clergy to honor the goddess this could be in many forms from secrets rites asking for aid in revenge, orgiastic rites or thieves donating a coin or two for jobs to come but for services would have means to earn coin - henna body art and other services including clerical ones. And I could see her supporting vigilante justice in the area around the temple aiding those who don't have much going for them and who need revenge for wrongs done.

Anyway who should enjoy the fruits of the goddess most the well-to-do or those who labor most and have the least outlets for their desires?  ;D

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2013, 11:57:47 AM »
Some more things as I noodle on stuff:

The Leadership feat: I'm probably going to make this free to everyone who wants it (you don't have to take it if you don't want it), because really, most people giving themselves any kind of organizational heft will probably take it and at that point it just becomes a tax on being important, in a game that is supposed to help you facilitate being such a thing. I am thinking of doing some modification to it largely in the sense of.. if you are heading up a thing of any note, you probably have your personal retinue/immediate household/hangers on of quality.

Which is to say, I mentioned Kobold Press for instance, they have an "extra cohort" feat that is pretty much exactly what you think it is, an extra cohort. I'm inclined to pronounce something like "can take as many times as your unenhanced cha bonus", if you want to build a mini household around yourself of guaranteed loyalties and particular measure of competence (you can otherwise build a wider household/family around yourself to be sure, but, you know, the inclinations of those there have more potential to flux).

I was otherwise going to say "cohorts= unenhanced cha bonus, minimum 1", but that's probably a bit too good/too much work for prospective players as contrasted with "just take extra cohort as many times as you want to deal with, within the noted limits".

Thoughts? Is this a completely horrible idea either way? (leadership is still going to be free, as far as it goes, and I would reserve the right to go "no, that cohort is busted as fuck") And yes, that's a large cast of characters potentially for the fellow running to keep track of, but, I ran a 5 year plus ancient world set Aberrant game that broke 100+ in the Dramatis Personae, I don't mind keeping track is what I mean.

Offline Xerial

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2013, 12:01:34 PM »
Marking this as interested as all bloody hell, especially since I've been compulsively reading said guide.

Reading further now, will edit if I am a clown...

Love y'all!  :P

Offline kckolbe

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2013, 12:03:18 PM »
I am all for giving players more options, so love allowing extra cohort to be taken more than once.  I do think that it should have to be taken multiple times, though.  In truth, I would prefer that leadership itself have to be bought, but it is your game.

Offline GingerOne

  • His love can not be measured in mere words. A heart & soul that is treasured is worth a thousand mistakes of the past.
  • On Hiatus
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Feb 2013
  • Location: Wrapped in His arms.
  • Gender: Female
  • His Queen, Soulmate & Kitten
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2013, 12:04:56 PM »
I'm very interested. I would have to think further on what I would want to be but it is something that I would like to try.


Offline Xerial

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2013, 12:14:42 PM »
Ok, while the no gunslingers bit makes me a bit sad it's not a killer for me (it just means that I have a reason not to just bring over Professor Thaddeus Bloodhowl, the Half-Orc Alchemist/Gunslinger explorer and wandering educator). I haven't dabbled with Gestalt characters before, and was originally thinking rogue for the 'run a gang of thieves guild' aspect of things. Now the idea of a Rogue/Alchemist running a guild or gang seems like it would be fun.

Honestly, Pathfinder is one of those systems that makes me want to created characters like a madman.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2013, 01:00:00 PM »
I have a question under the Gestalt rules can you have an archetype say I want to play a CN Cleric with a Monk (but the Martial Artist version) where the CN thing isn't an issue can we?

Just looking at how this all will work.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2013, 01:13:41 PM »
You can take archetypes, yeap, but you still need to follow alignment limits.

Offline Meliai

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2013, 01:18:31 PM »
I believe the Martial Artist monk archetype negates the alignment restriction, which I'd assume is why she was asking

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2013, 01:25:02 PM »
Ahh, then yeah, that's fine besides.

edit: having checked martial artist, yeah, that's fine.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 01:37:36 PM by Kolbrandr »

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2013, 02:18:02 PM »
Well its an interesting combo after all she is no assassin and she can run around in nothing practically and have a good fighting capability, seeing her patron deity is The Favored Sting its kind of important to show off the goods as far as she can. Well its good for recruitment. My likely combo will be Evangelist/Martial Artist basically great at promoting the faith in public and can handle herself if attacked even if sweaty and naked kind of fun. That is a cleric AT and the monk AT.

Not sure of race the official race list is kind of big but human is most likely.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 02:33:58 PM by RubySlippers »

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2013, 02:47:51 PM »
I'm going to work on some sample noble house write-ups for people that might be inclined to go that way as a sort of guideline, and also as a way of getting some npc cast established. One relatively shorter, one well at length. I'll do a bunch of those besides for the royal and senatorial families just to have those in the mix.

Offline KolbrandrTopic starter

Re: Interest check: high scale Pathfinder, Taldor, aka Byzantium focused
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2013, 04:06:01 PM »
House Varian

Overall House Alignment: Neutral

Common Classes: Aristocrat, Expert, Noble Scion

Rarer, but not unheard of: Rogue

Rare: Bard

Extremely uncommon: All others

Favoured Deity: Abadar (.. more or less. In truth, given the family’s chief vocation, the Abadarian banks, while a useful place to squirrel away emergency and backup funds, are something of a competitor to them. They invoke Abadar’s patronage while veering between supportive to standoffish to his church depending on the situation. A previous attempt by the Prophets of Kallistrade at evangelizing to them ended in a contemptuous derision for ‘laughable ideas about the purpose and enjoyment of wealth’. The family periodically intrigues against the merchants of the nation of Druma to this day from a sense of sheer conceptual pique. Their stern and abiding rejection of the diabolical corruption of Mammonism by contrast is almost ironically perverse and based off their one iron conviction to always be the owners, not the owned.)

House Blazon: Four golden roses on a green field

House Motto: Forever Above

Overview: House Varian’s personal legendry traces their descent to the Azlanti refugees that settled Taldor, though of course this is not an unpopular thing to do amongst especially ancient royal caste families. There are some strikes against that claim, amongst them that the Varian have not managed, in thousands of years of royal family horse trading for the throne, to produce a single emperor, or carve out a particularly distinct place in Taldor’s legends of great deeds. On the other hand, this might instead be for that the Varian managed to realize early on the power that best suited them was the sort of power that owns other power. In a less developed society, they were money lenders. As Taldor grew more sophisticated, they became bankers. While thereby they might not be able to say their names were prominent in this or that great enterprise, they could almost always say they found some way to bankroll and profit off of it. Some argue thus that the Varian did not descend or earn their way into the royal lines, rather in a time distant enough to obscure it, they bought their way in. This is of course generally not spoken to their faces.

Taldor has been very good to the Varian over the years, even (some might argue especially) in its fallen eras. There are always senators desperate to make displays as ostentatious as what they regard as far wealthier royal caste rivals, royal caste nobles whose decadence and arrogance cause them to come into financial misadventure, caravans in need of seed money. Waiting for them all are the Varian, willing to provide loans at what even manage to seem like favourable terms (though for the truly desperate, far less favourable). In that way, without having to especially engage in the “lesser affairs” of merchantry, warfare or politics, they all the same manage to leverage influence all such things.

In that sense, they do not truly seem to care about Taldor’s transitions. One ruler is as good as another, as long as they can still do business, as long as their influence is intact and both things remain true. Some point to this as a sign of their fundamental weakness. The Varian do not inspire loyalty or even great emotion, they can only create obligation. Where a house like the Branas has earned such admiration from the Taldan armed forces, and from their own house armies could rally a crack force of fervent thousands in extremis, the Varian must look to mercenaries. On the other hand, the Varian would argue, there are always desperate greedy men, so there are always more mercenaries to throw in wave after wave at an enemy until the problem finally sorts.

Which is a response characteristic of the house. Money as an end and power unto itself, as the very cornerstone of civilization. Greed, thereby, as a good. Smug, secure, aloof, decadent just enough to reward themselves for their achievements while still being cursed as ‘bloodless bankers’, the Varian endure and profit.   


Notable Historical Varian

Angrim Varian (fighter? Ranger? Rogue? Barbarian?)

While the house likes to affect to ancient Aztlanti heritage, the first historically viable member of the house is the Varian himself. Certainly at least he allows them to make claim to being ancient, as records of him pop up in the founding ages of Taldor. However, the only thing marking out his claim to Azlanti descent, are his own claims to it. Of course, one does not dispute the claims of a bandit lord, lest they find the rebuttal especially biting. In the sense that Angrim personally bit out the throats of those who displeased him. At least in the versions of the story other houses tell (amongst the Varian, he is of course an ancient noble warlord who learned how to properly invest his gains and build a life from doing so).

Angrim was, if nothing else, at least a wildly successful bandit lord, but in the uncivilized times after the fall of Azlant, survival and thriving on that path could lead to a dead end. Which is to say, once you had more gold than you could ever need, there was not a lot you could do with it. Lacking motivation, Angrim it was said began to fear growing soft and listless, becoming even more savage to compensate on the path to some epic self destruction. This running jag of brutality was only stopped by a priestess of Abadar who managed to reach him through calm counsel that the most vicious tortures imagined could not disrupt. She spoke of how to use his many ill gotten gains to build systems and societal workings that would last well beyond himself and into a prosperous family that could carry his name into eternity. She then followed that up by revealing a cynical ruthlessness that truly won the bandit over in response to his rejoinder that the world was too barbaric for anyone to buy into such sophistication. For surely if forced and beaten to live a certain way long enough, it would become second nature. And so bandit lord became robber baron, and as society developed and spread, loan shark. When Taldor itself grew enough to have reached his territories, he simply bought into them.

Needless to say, both the Varian and the church of Abadar are not fond of this version of the story, even remotely, and noting that there are various documents entirely supporting it (even a few remaining tattered “serfdom scrip” that Varian “paid” his dominated minions in), is the surest way to provoke a grudge.


Notable Members of House Varian


Duke-Archon Harkas Varian (Aristocrat 13//Rogue 5/Noble Scion 8), “The Bank of Taldor”

Harkas Varian has become so synonymous with his house, that their nickname has become his own (with such choice variants as “the bloody bank of Taldor” “the bastard bank of Taldor” and “the soul sucking vampire son of a bitch bastard bank of Taldor”). A near unnaturally perceptive and quick witted financial prodigy from his youth, Harkas came into his own at age 20, rescuing the family finances from what might have been a disastrous series of investments otherwise. In numb shock at the achievement, those now shamed and otherwise ahead of him in succession simply stepped aside. Some would argue that Harkas may have used his genius to in fact engineer those investments in the first place to create a calamity to save his family from, but who can remember what happened fifty years ago anyway? And really who cares what one Varian does to another Varian.

The 50 years since have been one of a steady hand over the Varian fortunes, expanding them at the measured rate that characterizes the house, securing them against vicious Taldan politics and succession crises alike.

The increasingly elderly man is peculiar in that sense, given the sinister rumours around his rise. No great horrors, no truly outstanding cruelties or vendettas. Oh, he lives lavishly enough to his station, and has ruthlessly ruined some rivals and long in default debtors alike, but he lacks for anything like the purchase of a sun orchid elixir, for instance, even as his years advance. It speaks to something potentially far more disturbing. Harkas Varian perhaps truly believes in his house, its ethos (such as you could call them), its legacy, and everything he does is in the name of being able to provide it to his successor in the next generation, for all his kin to continue to work in and expand in the oppressive Taldan atmosphere that makes it possible.


Lady Melindrea Varian (Bard 12//Rogue 5/Noble Scion 7), Seeker of a Throne of Gold

In spite of her gender, many quietly acknowledge Melindrea as somehow still one of the current front runners in the incredibly vicious (yet somehow incredibly subtle) social and financial knife fight to be named Harkas’ successor (worse comes to worse, she’ll marry some idiot cousin and rule through him). The favour Melindrea holds bears a certain irony given a youth spent engaged in the activity the Varian hold in a near uniform disdain- actual work in the field. Melindrea took an active hand in personal oversight of a myriad of the family’s investments, travelling with caravans, securing the success of festivals, witnessing the efficiency of wars waged and colonial imperialism attempted. She was far too keenly interested in the family’s business to have accepted some lesser role, and it was only by travelling into the field that she could make a place for herself in Varian finance, family disdain or no. But nauseated chagrin at her lifestyle faded over the fifteen years of it as the money started rolling in from wildly successful endeavours, at loans recouped even at the most punishing rates of interest. Oh, not enough to change the family’s perspective on the whole, but certainly enough to accept her activities specifically.

Some might even mistake such pursuits as marking the lady out as one of the more beneficent of her house, encouraging success instead of default, of freedom from financial obligation to the house, of truly using money to let others flourish, but they would be fools to do so. Tales swirl in the wake of Melindrea’s oversight of an aggressively dominating personality usurping management where she saw fit, of hectoring and intimidating those under her eye towards success, no matter what ruthless measure was needed to make it so. This is not to say that Melindrea doesn’t perhaps rationalize her behaviours in the name of efficiency and return in the name of such noble principles, only that it would make a mockery out of them.

Still a beautiful and vibrantly energetic woman at 40, Melindrea has spent the past five years in Taldor proper, called home by her uncle Harkas to offer the house her benefits from experiences abroad, and to be something of a face to the imperial court. As worthies from afar come to peer in their usual curiosity at Taldan splendor, Melindrea’s diverse life allows the Varian to better position themselves to take advantage of new markets.

The seismic shift at the top similarly allows Melindrea to take advantage of a chance to come to a power and station as chaos potentially looms, and it is likely she will apply the same level of stone hearted relentlessness she has to finance to what would be the culmination of embodying her family.


Phocas (barbarian 13/fighter 13), Collector of Debts

Phocas is not actually a member of the house. A half elf at that, Phocas would be an ill fit anyway amongst royal family bloodline haughtiness. And yet, the degree of authority that Phocas holds in the house has sent lesser family members scurrying from him in dread. Harkas likes to call him, endearingly, “my little investment” despite his 6”9, heavily muscled build and deeply scarred face covered in tribal tattoos. Debt collection is critical for a house like Varian and not everyone always wants to pay. At which point it becomes time to send in the mercenaries, legbreakers and bounty hunters. The Collector of Debts is, for the Varian, a title of high honour, given to the best of the best of these agents, to the leader of their mercenary hosts, to the one that manages, of all rarities, to actually be loyal. Phocas was outright trained and shaped for the position since near birth.

A half Kellid slave child bought almost on a whim for the raw, screaming fury he responded with to a slavemaster’s attempt to keep him in line, Harkas exposed the child to deprivation and luxury in equal measure. He was honed through extreme hardship from one hand, and indoctrinated by the opulence that came from the other. It was a jarring life of being thrown from one extreme to the next that might have broken a lesser man for its confusions, but Phocas’ will was a sheer steel force that came from within, yet beyond. His ferocity and rage were channeled into becoming his weapons, reinforced to him always that he was the man that Harkas was building him to be. What has emerged is a devastating force in humanoid shape, a hunter of men, a leader of enforcers in groups small or large, a hand of punishment without hesitation, atrocity without question.  Phocas is his “father’s” tool, bought and paid for. It can be a disturbing thing to see the Collector move from one moment of utter indulgence in the depths of debauchery, to unstoppable, unpitying brutality and skill in the next.

Truthfully Harkas might have had too good a return on his investment, for Phocas seems to find much of the house unworthy of the old man’s example. Not so much that the warrior would countenance some incredibly doomed effort to take power for himself, but certainly enough for some Varian to wonder if they’ll have to work to find a new Collector when Harkas finally dies. In quieter, more fearful whispers, some instead wonder if Phocas instead intends to apply a fanatic loyalty and the lessons learned in his life to /make/ a successor of Harkas be truly worthy of the name.


Strengths of House Varian

(Almost) More Money than God: In a country that has as its chief remaining strength wealth beyond all imagining, the Varian still stand out for their moneyed heritage. Only the Imperial Treasury and the Abadarian Bank exceed them. With that money comes sweeping influence over ever strata of society and the ability to support everything from wasteful monuments to excessive galas. The house as a whole continues to work to ensure that their money, makes money. Some would sneeringly point out that the house has few other strengths. The house would coldly rejoinder that they could just buy whatever they lack whenever they need it. Giving pause to their foes is that they are quite possibly right.

Mercenaries. Mercenaries! MERCENARIES! The Varian, as noted, need a fairly extensive debt collection force, along with the sort of bodyguards and security that come with the sheer amount of wealth they possess. Fortunately, talent is always for hire. House Varian are Taldor’s greatest employer of mercenary bands, with several companies at this point on almost semi permanent retainer. With the ability to outbid, well, almost anyone, the Varian have an almost singular capacity besides to keep their hired forces loyal (well mostly, see below). There is a certain intimidation value to this, as any other Taldan army will have ties of nation, family and faith weighing on them. Toughs for hire will do whatever they are paid to do, against whoever they are paid to do it to.


Weaknesses of House Varian

Lack of diversity: Need arcane expertise? Hire a mage. Need a warrior? Hire some mercenaries. Need divine favour? Donate to the Abadarian church. Money has replaced a need to pursue any skills beyond that of making more money and managing the wealth they have.

Lack of loyalty: If the going gets too tough, any number of mercenaries may simply proclaim “fuck the contract!” and run. If someone manages to find leverage to blackmail a spy with, devotion to House Varian is not likely to encourage them to stay true in the face of coercion. Certainly against outsiders the House can muster up an icily brutal unified front worthy of their bandit (er- noble warlord that is) progenitor, but even within the house, the bottom line is all.

Lack of Love:   There are exceptions of course (House Sclerina for instance), but on the whole, the best Taldans at large and the upper class in specific can manage towards House Varian is cold indifference as far as any real feeling. The worst is best not spoken of.


Foreign Relations Worth Noting

Kyonin: Perhaps the most bizarre relationship House Varian has ever forged rests with the elves (who are otherwise terrible for bankers, as races that seem to barely even believe in money go). Kyonin hates Druma’s efforts to insinuate themselves into their nation with a cold burning fury. The Varian just hate the merchants of Druma for existing. And the line between hate and love is of course quite thin. Just not love for the merchants of Druma. The Varian eagerly and enthusiastically support elvish effors to keep Druma’s influence out of their land, offering favourable alternatives in Kyonin’s trading city, facilitating contact between mercenaries and worthies of Kyonin inclined to skullduggery and sabotage of the merchant nation. Ties are pragmatically friendly enough that the occasional wandering elf archer can be found amongst the collection forces of the Varian.

Druma: It’s not just that they’ve turned wealth into some creepy religion instead of enjoying the meaning of it for its own sake. It’s not just that they compete with the Varian when they work to expand outside of Taldor. It’s that they wear on their faces the smug certainty that they are so better than the Varian at the craft the house has honed for thousands of years, that it is the Varian who must join /them/. Druma can die in a fire. Druma /will/ die in a fire.

Andoran: The Varian tend to find the Andoran banks, and the regulations they labour under adorable, and an object lesson in the dire perils of democracy. Given Varian banking practices, they don’t find themselves competing much otherwise as far as preferred customers in the Inner Sea at large.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 04:52:31 PM by Kolbrandr »