So, was chatting with Kolbrandr about making a House, and the concept...mutated a bit in development. For GM approval:
Overall House Alignment: Lawful Evil, occasionally Lawful Neutral
Favored Deity: None. While they occasionally show reverence to certain gods, generally those of strength and war, there are none they champion. There are rumors that Moloch was once worshipped, and possibly still is.
House Blazon: A red lion facing away, one leg raised on a field of gold
Common Classes: Fighter, Cavalier, Warrior, Ranger and Rogue (Generally scouts), Cleric (domains of Strength, War, Law, and Fire are most common)
Rarer, but not unheard of: Aristocrat, Expert, Rogue (other), Barbarian
Rarer, but generational: Witch, Sorcerer, Bard, Cleric (Moloch)
Unheard of: All others
House Structure: The Grand Warden sits at the top, and controls all aspects of the House. Under him sit two Hands, named Left and Right. The Left manages the domestic issues of trade, law, and negotiations. The Right is the second in command of the House forces. Should the Grand Warden die without an heir, the Right assumes the title. Beneath the Right are the rest of the Stromford forces, in standard chain of command. Under the Left are three advisors, each chosen by the Left, and may be dismissed at discretion, though this rarely happens. A Left's advisor is more likely to be executed than dismissed. A Left serves for life unless imprisoned. A Left may never be executed by the Grand Warden, though clever Wardens have found ways to get Taldor law involved.
Promotion through the House military is the most common way to advance, though clerics capable of casting Righteous Might are given considerable influence and fast tracked through command, as the Stromford Church is organized rather militaristicly as well.
General Overview: House Stromford actually began as a single guard named Stromford, back in the early days of Taldor. Like many young soldiers looking to prove himself, he had joined House Branas as a free man, hoping to become noticed and eventually offered fealty. Though this did not happen, he did show promise, and was eventually promoted to second in command of a guard battalion commanded by a member of House Branas, though mainly comprised of various debt-soldiers and fellow aspirers. The majority of Branas soldiers went out exploring and conquering, leaving the less gloried tasks of guarding to such people.
On one shift, raiders attempted to storm Taldor. Obviously they had no chance of takinging and holding even a city, but their size was sufficient for them to overrun, loot, and destroy much of their territory. Acting quickly, the raiders targeted the Branas battallion commander and quickly killed him, hoping to strike fear and disorder among the ranks. Unfortunately, this left Stromford in charge, giving him the chance to prove himself that he'd always wanted. He immediately took control, rallying defenses, shoring up what barricades could be, and stopping the raiders at the gates, even though the gates themselves were destroyed. Stromford was wounded multiple times in the attack, but survived until the end of the battle.
Upon hearing the news, the Grand Duke of Branas immediately sent reinforcements to ensure no second attack would be successful, and declared Stromford a landed member of House Branas, but the Grand Prince felt more was deserved, and granted Stromford's heirs the title to their own lands and holdings outside of Branas, naming the House Stromford after the fallen commander. Their ranks were bolstered by the fellow members of the battalion, making them a very militaristic House. House Stromford was given command of Taldor's defense, just as House Branas commanded the explorers and conquerors.
Initially House Stromford was a vassal House to Branas, but as more was conquered and Taldor's forces grew, the two were separated from each other in 3842 A.R. The Houses remained on friendly terms for some time after that, continuing to share the burden of supplying Taldor's might. House Branas and Stromford became known as the Sword and Shield of Taldor, respectively.
It was not until the Even Tongued Conquest that things went south for Stromford. Like House Branas, they gave everything they had in the attempt to preserve the empire, but it wasn't enough. As Stromford bore the brunt of the internal revolts, the forces that now comprise Cheliax were particularly ruthless in targeting House Stromford. Waves of soldiers, many of them from within House Stromford's command, proved to be too much much for the legendary defenders. As Stromford found their holdings across the empire ravaged by Qadiran soldiers and Chelish rebels alike, the simultaneous assault seemed to promise complete annihilation for the family. In desperation, they turned to the same forces their fellow, and soon to be damned, House Adella was pacting with, only with greater focus, and thereby success. The common belief is that a pact was made with Moloch, though there are no records to confirm it. What is known is that House Stromford remained standing, and still commanded a fair number of power, and that the overall bearing of the House shifted significantly.
Relations with House Branas quickly soured. House Stromford, despite being large, was poor. They petitioned for aid, both from House Branas and from the crown itself. House Branas not only refused aid, but convinced the Grand Prince to refuse it as well, as the auras of evil had become apparent among many of House Stromford's soldiers. House Branas inquisitors even managed to learn about the pact with Moloch, leading House Stromford to find themselves on the verge of annihilation for the second time in such a short span. Many of their number were executed, to include their Left (by the state) and many lower tier commanders. In addition, House Stromford lost command of Taldor's defenses, even the Oppara Constabulatory. These decisions only served to drive House Stromford further away from the light, feeling betrayed by a House they'd suspected had become jealous of their growth. They felt that Taldor no longer had honor or loyalty, and only respected strength. Since then, that is all they have pursued.
More recently, House Stromford has reclaimed a great deal of their former power, though they will likely never be as powerful as they once were. They have made efforts to assert themselves as a major power, and have had some success in weakening some of their rivals. Naturally, many suspected House Stromford to be behind the exile of Maxentian Branas, though nothing could be proven.
Strengths of House Stromford:
Sheer Military Might: Of Taldor’s royal houses, the Branas stand nearly alone for sheer martial puissance and force (the Durahan equal them in individual skill, and the Eiredor in quality of troops, as far as it goes). House Stromford, despite also being less numerous than that of Branas, has a greater percentage of their numbers devoted to the art of war, and are less restrained by honor. Were the family to gather up their personal guards, their border garrisons, and overall house forces, they would likely end up with an elite force of considerable size. Most houses are at least wary of the family for knowing that if it came to force, they’d face one of the most powerful foes, and possibly the most ruthless fighters.
Expansionists: There is a painful and loathed stereotype abroad of the Taldan colonialist, traveling from a decayed nation to lands across Golarion simply to ravage them for gain and amusement, acting on a smug air of superiority. The Stromfords are part of the reason this stereotype exists. Denied a role in Taldor's defense, they have money and men to burn, and in a darkly ironic reversal of their initial history, are the sort of Taldans heading out on well funded expeditions to some ancient ruin or "savage" land, returning with slaves and shiny trinkets seized alike to enrich their coffers immensely, even setting up exploitative mining and timber operations in the Mwangi jungles at one point. In this way they came into contact with Aurelian Branas long before he returned to his family and long before they had a clear sense of who he was, knowing him only as some ludicrously scrupulous merchant active in a Mwangi Expanse they otherwise enjoyed plundering, who helped the local tribesmen to smash their labour camps while killing several scions of the house. Knowing now who he is, they regard him with a deep fury, even as they plan to renew their operations.
Secret Infernalism: Certain select elements of the house have never really given up on Moloch. While they conceal their devotion as strenuously, even desperately as possible, the dark heart of the Stromfords is dark indeed, and pulses with infernal power.
Lion Hunters: House Stromford once shared the affinity for lions that House Branas currently does, though that bond has long since been severed. Still, unlike most forces, the sight of lions and lion riders does not daze them. More powerful warriors will even prove their might by killing grown lions without the use of weapons or armor. This is done both to prove one's worth, but the main reason is to remember their feud.
Loyalty: House Stromford only trusts House Stromford. While deals will be made and even alliances agreed upon, outsiders are never really trusted. This furthers the rumors that dark pacts are still made, or evil gods secretly worshipped.
Lack of Branas Weaknesses: Unlike Branas, House stromford does not refuse the arcane arts, though they rarely excel at them. Unlike Branas, they no longer suffer the burden of defending Taldor, though this freedom is not wisely mentioned by any (save for Branas). They are not seen as "holier than thou by other nobles." They do not suffer fools within their own House. Lastly, while not fast friends with bureaucrats, they aren't the target of bureaucrats, either, and they share an enemy with them...House Branas.
Weaknesses of House Stromford:
Bad Reputation: Even though they have so much good in their history, Stromford is seen as little more than a tolerable evil. Not once since the Even Tongued Conquest has a member of House Stromford been named as Commander of Taldor forces or placed in charge if the Royal Guard, though individual members have been worthy of the position.
To Worship Strength, And Not Be Strongest: On their best day, House Stromford could not survive all out war with House Branas, unless Branas were more strained by foreign war. At best, they could achieve mutual extinction, but that is as close to success as they could hope for. When strength is your primary and almost ONLY asset, not being the strongest is a weakness by itself.