(Yes, I basically stuck the high level pc approachable npc cleric for the campaign in this house. It amused me to do so)
Notable Current Members of the House
Margrave Calidore Durahan, The Wall, The forcibly sedentary (Cleric 15 (Kurgess)//Monk 15 (Martial Artist)
It is a house truism that no one really wants to be the Margrave of the family. Most of the time the position sees a progression through family members into retirement age and otherwise unable to ignore that state or those too maimed for field duty. Given the nature of the family business, this cannot always be the case, with whole generations at times that have no one in that viable candidate pool otherwise alive. When that sort of situation arises, the family decides on who its most accomplished members are, and from them picks by lot. This generationís loser was Calidore. Heís at least managed not to kill anyone over it yet.
Which is something of a minor miracle for the big, big man with the impossible feats of strength to his name (which is only appropriate for a priest of Kurgess the Strong Man). The sheer amount of boundless energy he keeps pent up could consume a city block. A life lived in hunts and adventures that ranged across the length and breadth of Golarion itself has come to a screeching halt in his early 30s, and not in any of the ways he ever thought it would. When he can rouse himself to be the hero that he was, Calidore is an inspiring presence, boisterous and energetic, easy going, yet willful, good natured, yet determined. When his current responsibilities weigh too heavily upon him instead, he becomes brooding and sullen, and more than a bit of a drunk (there are rumours that he and Aurelian Branas ended up in a fairly ugly tavern brawl, but neither man seems inclined to speak of such things, if they were even true).
The why of it is not hard to see. Can you punch corruption away? Can you use a magic ritual to banish fundamental social inequality? Well, perhaps you can determine the secret weak spot of intolerance to let you plunge a blade through its otherwise armored belly. Calidore is surrounded by things that grieve his sense of decency, and for all his vast personal power, there seems nothing he can do about them.
Worse yet, when people do approach him, it is largely to negotiate the services of some other member of his family. Or even worse than that, theyíve realized he is probably the most powerful cleric within all of Taldorís borders, and instead look to him for consultation on matters of faith or healing. Gone are the days where he could spend weeks on end planning the hunt of some countryside ravaging monstrosity of legend, and months travelling to reach and draw it out. He tries to mostly take out his frustrations on an increasingly mangled home gymnasium.
It should be said, Calidore is not actually /that/ bad at the whole Margrave thing. Leading a diverse group of eclectic talents from one incomprehensible situation to the next makes for some experience in being a good leader. And some of his adventuring band/immediate retinue have turned out to have a decent head for land management and bookkeeping besides. While he is not the most courtly or nuanced of figures, he can at least be intimidating, and there is something to be said for managing to silence a cutting remark by being a 7 foot tall wall of muscle glaring down murderously.
Baron Robb ďthe SingerĒ Durahan, Coordinator and Center (Ranger 12//Wizard 7/Loremaster 5)
To get it out of the way, the nickname is a joke, Robbís terrible singing voice is a thing of legend. A grizzled older man who has come out the other side of a long life fighting horrors and losing loved ones to them, Robb is a steadying presence and counsellor to younger members of the house. With a keen mind and methodical understanding of the world, it would even seem like the Baron would be better suited to hold the title of Margrave. The very idea of that would of course send the house into uproar.
Robb already fills a role direly needed by the family. It is Robb that manages the vast storehouses of lore the family has gathered on everything from demons, to dragons, to the undead to even animated constructs, aiding his kin in critical research when it comes up. And it is Robb that sorts through tavern tales, direct pleas to the family, scattered rumours and old maps and histories brought out to him to plot out where the Durahan should be striking next, picking out members of the house to send out on such tasks. Through letters, sendings and summoned creatures, Robb keeps what could otherwise be a far flung family in touch. He maintains a network of contacts besides amongst scholars, and adventurers both active and retired. And when not tending to all that, or fielding innumerable requests for support from relatives, he trains his successor, a somewhat gangly and awkward youth by the name of Gareth.
Robb cannot thereby be spared to represent the house politically, to handle talks with outsiders, to manage resources. And the strain upon what time he does have tends to make him even more cantankerous and ornery than he might otherwise be. ďIdiotĒ is a common curse inflicted on family members who try his patience in some manner, though they in turn seem to love him as a second father, or in the case of the not infrequent Durahan of dead parents, first.
Marquis Anastasius von Durahan, the shadowed hunter (rogue 5/Sleepless Detective 9//Inquisitor 14 (Zohls))
House Durahan has an ancient relationship with the fell cursed nation of Ustalav, stemming from the time even before the Shining Crusade, when Ioan the founder fought across its lands. The shadow tainted nation has become something between a burden, proving ground and killing field to the family, with those who survive the experience ending up as some of the more potent figures within the house.
Anastasius is one such survivor, though some might argue his sanity endures less well than his body. His manelike shock of hair gone prematurely white, the hunter non pareil has only recently emerged from one of his every so often stays in the family asylum, idling a bit of time in Oppara for the moment (of course the Durahan maintain an excellent hospital for both mental and physical health, it comes with the job). A figure who radiates a disturbing sense of obsession and intensity, it would be a joke that Anastasius doesnít blink, lest he lose a momentís observation, but, really, Anastasius actually doesnít seem to blink.
Itís a pity in a certain sense, for the Marquis has a sense of polished etiquette and decorous bearing otherwise unheard of amongst his kinsmen, the legacy of an Ustalavic noblewoman mother who drilled such lessons into him as a means of self control (and in whose posthumous honour he has added the ďvonĒ to his name). But it is the other legacy of his heritage that dominates his life. Not for Anastasius are clashes with orcs and giants, goblins and trolls. His war instead is against that which lurks and creeps in shadow, the lycanthrope, the vampire and its thralls, the damned pawns of subtler fiends, the ghost, the cultists to abominations from beyond reality and against those very abominations themselves. Anastasius has looked past the veil that separates sanity from sheer metaphysical insanity time and again and that he continues to recover from his experiences speaks to an impossible iron will. He has a particular keen talent for uncovering members of Tar-Baphonís surviving cultists and laying them low.
Aside from a capacity to stand in the very midst of horrific gore without flinching, the prim and proper Marquis tends to still what mockery might have otherwise arisen from his family about him via his sheer brilliance. An intellect that is particularly expressed in being a walking repository of lore of such as he hunts, to a degree that impresses even the Baron Robb.
Still, damn shame about the creepiness.
Count Rustov Durahan, Unholy Family Bane (Fighter 16/Wizard 16, vampire)
There is an aphorism amongst the part of the family Durahan that focuses on the undead, on Tar Baphonís undeath worshipping cult, and simply on the nation of Ustalav. That whatever foe you have bested or problem solved, you had best start training the next generation to deal with it now, because come the day theyíre going to have to go face the same damn thing over again (Anastasius does not truck in this aphorism, because, of course, aphorisms are lazy mnemonic devices for those unwilling to properly internalize and understand a truth. Anastasius is just great at parties). A source of this particular lesson comes from one of the great black marks on an otherwise shining family heritage.
Tar-Baphon was obviously furious at the progress of the Shining Crusade on all levels, but he managed to reserve a corner of fury for the family that had helped it along and had been defying him even beforehand. It was a fury that would linger as a legacy with the cultists of the Whispering Way that survived the Crusade to carry on what they believed to be his legacy. But the Durahan were mighty and opportunities for revenge few. That is until the beginning of the twinned disasters that were the Chelish rebellions, and the Qadiran invasion.
The Count had to that point lived a life fairly typical to his family. He had even claimed a beautiful young bride for himself, a maiden that was to otherwise have been a sacrifice to a draconic overlord. In the rescuing of her, they had captured each otherís hearts. He had even saved her from an attempt to slaughter them on the very eve of their wedding by vengeful relations of his scaly foe. It was the sort of thing you would hear in a fairy tale. Unfortunately, this was not an era conducive to happy endings.
When the wars came, the Count was occupied as much of his family was, turning back monstrous attentions that grew rampant as social order otherwise weakened. He trusted in his nation to keep his lands safe while he fought. He might have known better.
Returning home to a burning castle, he was not left even a corpse to weep over, only testimony that those who had pillaged his home, had turned dark attentions to the women there, with none spared. What monsters had failed to take from him, men had managed, despite all he had done for their race for his entire life. His familyís precious heroic reputation meant nothing, protected nothing. He held onto his sanity (for the most part), just long enough to find those that had wronged him, and teach them just what exactly he had learned from monsters.
It was then that the Whispering Way found him, and offered the broken wreck of a man a chance to have his wife back, but for it, he would have to walk the path of undeath. For his wife, he would have marched right into hell. He was made over into a vampire and turned loose on the world, his family especially.
The Count was not an idiot of course, even gripped by heartbreak to the point of madness. He knew the cult was using him, and probably lying to him, but he knew also that he could use them, both their gathered lore and to send them chasing more as he needed. As distractions to breach the family vaults and steal from their collections of relics.
Eventually he had what he needed for the unholy resurrection of his bride, only to be stymied in the final moments by his own family. It was the final break and moment of his full descent into evil. He took a perverse, vengeful pride in travelling to any locale where the house had saved the innocent, had put right what was going wrong, and by his terrible hand bring the reverse to be, striving to unmake centuries of good deeds to prove a point about their fragility and meaninglessness. In his own wounded way, he likes to think he is doing the people who could not let him be happy a favour, to disabuse them of virtues that bring only pain. He has found man to be a miserable, wretched thing in his long unlife of observing them, unworthy of his family bleeding out for them time and again.
This running series of atrocities and catastrophe continued for over a century before his kinsmen were finally able to destroy the Count and send him to whatever rest could await such a creature as he. And then, some generations later, the Whispering Way were able to resurrect him through some twisted means, and the pattern repeated. And so it has gone, down to this day.
Sometimes the Count will again try to bring back his wife. Sometimes the Count will fixate on a particularly noble member of the family and try to break their spirit to prove his usual attempted point. And sometimes heíll just go on a vindictive rampage, occasionally against Cheliax or Qadira, which has some in Taldor finding him a curiously sympathetic figure.
Rustov was slain once more some thirty years ago, but no one in the family really believes it will take. There wasnít even a body left over this time, making it one more incident in the usual way business stayed between the Count and his house. Unfinished.
(OOC: The GM feels neither shame nor regret at having created this particular npc, for the record)
Strengths of House Durahan
Actually well liked outside of Taldor: The Branas are certainly respected and feared (and cursed) by all of Taldorís border nations. The Stromfords are certainly known and hated wherever colonial exploitation is possible. It is the Durahan by contrast, that are actually admired across a far wider spectrum. They are heroes after all, and if they are present in any particular nation, it is probably to help someone, somehow, with some terrible threat. The Grand Prince is generally pretty shameless about exploiting that, often including a Durahan with some diplomatic embassy or other (granted generally speaking someone else will do most of the talking for it). All the same, on an international scale, a Durahan can probably find some village or tavern or figure in some nation that has reason to think kindly on them, and want to help them out. The house even has a few cadet branches in the nations they most heavily find themselves within, and they are savvy enough to make use of all this for influence in Taldor proper.
House Durahan Aint Nothing To Fuck With: The Durahan donít really have much of an army to speak of. Taking an army along in their line of work feels to them like nothing more than a way to get good soldiers killed, so theyíve just not really bothered. On the other hand, they are basically a large fraternity of successful, powerful adventurers formed out of themselves and the allies they make along the road. A sheer incomprehensibly diverse conglomeration of talent to stack ontop of that gives almost anyone severe pause as far as a notion of bringing destruction to the house. An army that ever comes for them, is generally speaking an army that is going to bleed to the point of death to get one over on them. Beyond that, what if a Durahan survives? What do you then do if you have some relentless monster killing son of a bitch who is used to basically living like a barbarian in a muddy ditch coming after you to put you in the ground? This is not to say people donít politically screw with the Durahan to the same level any other house gets messed with, maneuver them into unfavourable positions at court, embarrass them, gain things at their expense, make them waste their money, or what have you. It just means that even the people who do such things have a line they donít cross, ever, in the name of self preservation.
Numerous: The family encourages its sons and daughters to have as large a family as they can plausibly manage. There is a sad and simple reason for this. There is a great deal of turnover in House Durahan due to the lifestyle they lead. So while at any point there is certainly a large group of them, itís best not to get too attached to those faces. Most of them wonít really make it far into the next generation.
Lore and Relics: He who would fight monsters had certainly better have some kind of idea about just what the hell those monsters are. The Durahan have accumulated a stunningly vast body of lore on every sort of unnatural peril that can be found in Golarion and the planes beyond. Twinned to that is a sizable collection of magical items and relics seized from fallen foes. Some of these have been deemed dangerous by the family of course, and legends have grown around the vast vaults they secure and conceal them in, rumours of being designed like the dungeons they have had to fight through, of caikalang guardians and even demiliches sealed away for the good of the world.
Tolerance: Lifetimes on the road and amidst scraggly bands of adventurers tend to make the Durahan more accepting of difference in race, faith, social class and station than most. They readily adopt their bastard children, and the tieflings, aasimar and half elves that sometimes ensue from nights of passion in tense situations, well.. no, they donít acknowledge them in Taldor proper (even the Durahan understand the concept of political suicide), but they will often set them up with a family branch somewhere outside it with titles of their own. This sense of acceptance has broadened a range of talent in the house that one less welcoming might find closed off to them.
Weaknesses of House Durahan
Enemies. Enemies! ENEMIES! He who fights monsters, is going to seriously piss off a lot of monsters. The enemies of the Durahan are powerful, inhuman, and as diverse as the house itself in ability. Every so often they coordinate. The house in those times verges on ending up decimated for a few generations. Granted the stories of the various children avenging family deaths that result are of course quite exciting.
Honestly, they are kinda boors: The Durahan are a fairly moral bunch, but they donít really manage to bring that to bear on Taldan society as much as they might otherwise hope for. It doesnít help that they donít do great in the venues that might otherwise let them accomplish that, like court for instance. And while they might snort in the direction of the idea, people do want examples they can look to, be awed and, and thereby inspired to strive for better by. Thatís just not their thing.
Boom and bust: A house that gets most of its wealth and influence from monster slaying is going to have lean years depending on rewards given, hoards found, more Durahan being dead than alive in a particular generation to hunt monsters down, all that sort of thing. Said house is also going to have really flush years beyond the wildest dreams of other families for those same reasons and more. It veers wildly up and down, with little middle ground. An incident in lean times where the Varian tried to indebt the family to them so hard as to turn the Durahan into their permanent bodyguards has left a festering grudge between those houses. It has otherwise stuck in the houseís craw in leaner years when they have to take work they view as beneath them to get by. The Branas have generally been pretty good at finding ways to pay them for services close enough to their usual preference that comes off as neither pity nor charity in those eras.
Currently Politically Vulnerable: The Durahan usually count on the Branas to advocate for them at court somewhat from a shared sense of duty that is simply applied to different fields (You might wonder why the Eiredor donít similarly advocate, but honestly darling, the Durahan are boors, and they refuse to learn better even when you try to educate them. You canít help someone that doesnít want to be helped, donít you know. Tut tut.) With Maxentianís exile, Aurelian being a recently arrived unknown quantity, and Theodora it seems harboring a grudge against the Durahan for one of their paladins having encouraged Photius down his path, that arrangement is no longer guaranteed. And it would hurt the family pride to have to outright ask for something that has always been assumed to be default. At court right now, the Durahan stand alone, and that is never a good situation for them.
Count Rustov: The Count gets his own entry, even when currently, probably dead (maybe). Anything less would be an affront to him.
Relations with other Nations
As noted, the family is known and liked on a wide scale outside of Taldor, but a few nations stand out in that, for good or ill.
Lastwall: One of the three royal houses that especially contribute to the defense of Lastwall (along with the Branas and the Zonaras), the Durahan more focus on sending sons and daughters to focus on patrolling the lands around Gallowspire, the prison of Tar Baphon. The warriors of Lastwall are grateful for it all the same, and the Durahan actually have a cadet branch of the family in the nation out of personal bonds forged.
Ustalav: The Durahan like Lastwall, but it is Ustalav that is more like their second homeland. Their terrible, nightmare wreathed second homeland full of horrors and malevolent fog rolling in from everywhere. The Durahan bleed in Ustalav hunting its many shadowed monstrosities, out of a mix of ancient family obligation and a belief that if one does not fight the monsters and cults in Ustalav today, one will be fighting them across Golarion tomorrow. The main thing they get in exchange for such sacrifices are.. a mild sense of culturedness that rubs off on them from the Durahans that spend some time being born and raised there. So clearly an even trade.
Geb: Every so often there are Durahan working as rebels in Geb, trying to aid the beleaguered and increasingly fewer mortals of that land against their undead overlords. Geb himself will sometimes respond to this by unleashing some undead abomination on the family, or, in one instance, helping to resurrect Count Rustov (whose noble title is of course fully recognized in this most civilized of nations).
Cheliax and Nidal: Such as the family hunts tend to walk the streets in these nations as accepted parts of society. Naturally this has resulted in standing bounties of the heads of the family for being murderers most foul. The Durahan view these bounty hunters as excellent training, and in flush years, as an example of family sense of humour, tend to mail their heads to the courts of either nation, lacquered in gold and gems to the value of the bounty. Andronicus Branas is known to find this hysterical. But of course he would.