The Quintessential Aristocrat
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A character concept is like a character background. It provides adventuring and roleplaying suggestions as well as a small mechanical bonus and small mechanical penalty to help further define your character. Character concepts are an optional mechanic and should only be used with the approval of your game master.
A minor member of the nobility, the borderlands noble has been sent to the frontier as a representative of the king. He has been given his own territory to govern, however the vast majority of his time will be spent repelling invaders, be they barbarians, monsters, or armies from an enemy state. While possessing a noble title and his own territory to rule, assignment to the borders is often seen unfavourably among the rest of the nobility. Many borderlands nobles are actually not well liked at court, and are sent by the king to the farthest reaches of the kingdom to get them out of the way. Given the amount of warfare on the borderlands, it is expected that the border lord may meet with an “unfortunate accident” in the course of his duties.
Adventuring: Border lords are adventurers from the moment they are assigned their task by the king. The border lord is constantly adventuring, often as the party leader, to sweep through his territory and clear away bandits and other raiders. An adventuring company fighting invaders on the borderlands will benefit greatly from the border lord’s intimate knowledge of the terrain and enemies in his realm.
Role-Playing: The life of the border lord is a tough one. Stripped away from the luxury of court-life and thrust into a daily battle for survival on the farthest reaches of the kingdom, the border lord must often learn to make do with a lack of equipment, personnel and information. Gone from the capital for months to years at a time, the border lord slowly begins to lose touch with the courtly lifestyle of parties, rich foods and fine attire. Eventually when he returns to report to the king in person, many of his former friends and even relatives may not recognize the border lord, weathered by the environment and months of constant warfare.
Bonuses: Border lords learn to adapt to their surroundings quickly, receiving a +2 competence bonus to all Survival checks while in the territory over which they rule. He also receives a +2 competence bonus to all Ride skill checks. Lastly, while he is a very minor noble, his family rules a small area of land along the borderlands, and he is able to call upon the wealth generated by this land. At first level the borderlands noble receives the maximum amount of starting money for an aristocrat at first level (480 gold pieces).
Penalties: Living in the wild borderlands keeps the border lord out of touch with the current happenings at court and bestows upon him a brusque demeanour, generating a –2 circumstance penalty to Bluff, Diplomacy and Gather Information skill checks. He also loses Perform as a class skill, as there is little time for him to devote to the performing arts while on the borderlands fighting invaders. Lastly, if following the rules for Status presented in Chapter 9, the borderlands noble suffers a –2 penalty to his status score due to being relegated to the wild frontier.
Using his aristocratic background and wealth to gain status in the church, the church patron is a very influential individual. Allying himself with what he thinks is the most powerful religion in his region, the church patron makes large donations to help pay for the building of temples and the salaries of the clergy. With these donations come many benefits, as the church patron will typically have a whole section of the temple devoted solely for his and his family’s use. He has immediate access to the head priest of the temple for counsel and even for the casting of spells. Of course, with these benefits come many responsibilities. The patron is expected to continue making donations for the temple’s upkeep and expenses, and will be expected to attend services as often as they take place, usually weekly.
Adventuring: The cost to maintain the church patron’s status within the church is very high. For this reason, many church patrons take to the adventuring life in order to acquire more wealth, which they then contribute to their temple. These patrons are often very ostentatious with their wealth, wearing the finest clothes and displaying elaborate and expensive holy symbols of their chosen faith. Others actually begin adventuring as a way to increase the holdings of their church, acting as noble representatives and missionaries of the true faith. These devout patrons may actually be called upon to lead, or at least fund, a religious crusade.
Role-Playing: Although contributing substantial amounts of money toward a specific religion, some church patrons are not actually devout worshippers of the faith. These patrons see the church as a tool for advancing their political careers rather than as a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Most church patrons, however, strongly believe that they should use their influence and wealth to help their church create a more pious society. This second type of church patron may exhibit a level of spirituality nearly as strong as that of a paladin.
Bonuses: Church patrons receive expert tutelage in the history and tenets of his faith, and receive a +2 competence bonus to all Knowledge (religion) checks they make. Additionally, church patrons are shrewd and learned politicians and receive a +2 circumstance bonus to both Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks.
Penalties: The hours of religious study the patron undertakes tend to preclude martial training. Church patrons receive proficiency in simple weapons only. Additionally, to maintain his status and influence at his chosen temple, the church patron must tithe 10% of his income to his home temple, or arrange to have it delivered there once a month if he is not able to return home.
Aristocrats are in an excellent position to be spies at court, given that their birthright gains them access to people and places from which others are barred. By using her, or her family’s, good reputation, a court spy works her way into the daily politics of her home city, county, or even country. Many different types of people are interested in the type of information gathered by the court spy. She must be careful with whom she trusts, for she never knows if her best friend is also a court spy sent to spy on her.
Adventuring: Court spies live a life of adventure on a daily basis. Whether doing a good deed by spying on an evil emperor or having ‘gone rogue’ to work for the local Thieves’ Guild, a court spy relies on her adventuring companions. They exist to keep her out of scrapes, track down enemies of her employer, and provide her with magic to enhance her natural spying abilities. However, many a court spy has been known to actually spy upon her own friends and companions as insurance should these associated one day decide to disclose her activities to the public. Such turncoats are likely to keep quiet once they learn that their own skeletons in the closet will be revealed if they insist on trying to expose the court spy.
Role-Playing: A court spy tends to be at the forefront of the political scene, simply because this allows her access to the greatest amount of information. As such, she must be extremely knowledgeable and worldly, able to talk about many different subjects all at the same time. She often appears very sure of herself and will not hesitate at a moment’s notice to protect her undercover identity by turning on one of her companions. The court spy is not stupid, however, and if possible she will use her skills to help these unfortunate companions escape justice. Whether or not these betrayed companions will be appreciative of her efforts is debatable.
Bonuses: The court spy excels at blending in and passing herself off as something she is not. At first level, she receives four additional skill points that may be distributed as she chooses among the following skills: Bluff, Disguise, Forgery, Gather Information, Listen and Spot. In addition, Hide and Move Silently become class skills of the court spy.
Penalties: Weapons and armour make people nervous and less willing to entrust the court spy with their innermost secrets. The court spy is proficient only in light armour and with the following weapons: crossbow (light), dagger, dart, rapier and staff. The court spy must also buy at least one rank per level in the Knowledge (nobility and royalty) skill to maintain her ability to converse about courtly subjects with her victims.
In a world with many kingdoms, empires, theocracies, republics and more, the role of the diplomat is essential. As a student of international relations, the diplomat learns how the governments of other societies function and reports back to his lord what he has learned. The diplomat also serves to offer treaties, handle negotiations, and represent the overall interests of his home country while in a foreign court. A good diplomat is persuasive, cunning, and clever.
Adventuring: Diplomats become adventurers to speak on behalf of their country’s well being among the world at large. Many are sent to live in foreign lands and learn the customs of an ally or even a potential enemy. The diplomat is sure to have his share of adventures, although most of these will revolve around courtly intrigue and treaty negotiations. Assassinations at court are common, however, and the diplomat should ensure that he has a solid alibi when an inevitable murder occurs.
Role-Playing: Diplomats come from privileged families but are typically not of the highest level of the aristocracy. Due to their success at the negotiation table, many diplomats may appear arrogant or overconfident. This is not usually a true representation of their character, however, but is more a shield they use to maintain control in diplomatic situations. Nevertheless, this kind of behaviour can become quite infuriating for the diplomat’s companions, who watch his attitudes change quickly and frequently as he manoeuvres for the best bargaining position.
Bonuses: The intrigues of the court are the meat and drink of the diplomat, who gains a +2 competence bonus to all Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks. As diplomats must also be fluent in the language of the society or culture to which they have been assigned, they receive a bonus language at first level.
Penalties: The diplomat has little use for actual combat, preferring instead to use his words as his weapons. The diplomat receives proficiencies in the club, crossbow (heavy and light), dagger, rapier and staff, and with light and medium armour only.
Heralds are aristocrats who specialise in the art of heraldry in order to make sure that their lords can identify each other while on the battlefield. In an era when combatants are covered nearly head-to-toe with armour, it can be difficult to tell one another apart on the battlefield save for identifying marks such as heraldic devices displayed on shields and standards. Even these symbols can become confusing, however, given the sheer number of different devices that may appear on a battlefield or at a tournament. Heralds are the masters of this craft, having memorised hundreds of symbols and patterns and remembering the name of the lord or lady associated with each one. They also keep genealogical records and act as a spokesperson, announcer, and official record keeper for their patron lords.
Adventuring: A herald takes up adventuring usually to accompany her patron as he goes off to war or sets out to complete a task assigned to him by the church or the king. In this case, a herald acts like an aide to her patron, providing extensive knowledge, information gathering, and interpersonal skills that her patron can use to his advantage. Other heralds adventure simply as a way to gather more information about key topics so as to make themselves more useful to current and future patrons.
Role-Playing: Heralds typically have very jovial and outgoing personalities which they put to good use for their patrons. The herald uses her sharp wit and cheerful disposition to advance the cause of her patron, and ultimately to make her patron look better among other courtiers and nobles at court and during tournaments. Given their vast array of interpersonal skills, heralds often enjoy being in the limelight. They make excellent party spokespeople during encounters with new and unfamiliar Non-Player Characters. Of course, if travelling with her patron, the herald will usually take a subservient, behind-the-scenes role.
Bonuses: Heralds have memorized a great deal of information relating to the noble and royal families of the day, and receive a +2 competence bonus to all Knowledge (nobility & royalty) skill checks. Additionally, they gain a +2 competence bonus to all Perform (storytelling) checks, as they are trained to announce their liege at tournaments and at court functions. Lastly, heralds may add Decipher Script to their list of class skills; they use this skill to evaluate the various symbols, designs and patterns on other people’s heraldic devices.
Penalties: The limited focus of the herald’s duties results in less time for training in other areas. Heralds count Handle Animal, Swim and Survival as cross-class skills, and they are proficient in light and medium armour only.
An elite core of highly schooled and skilled aristocrats, magistrates act on behalf of their lord to maintain justice and enforce law and order in the realm. Only those aristocrats who show exceptional honour and devotion to their lord are selected for this esteemed position. Magistrates can often be founding travelling throughout the kingdom, dispensing justice among its citizens. Typically, though, they are assigned to a particular city or county, and represent the highest legal authority in their domain.
Adventuring: While a magistrate is not normally an adventurer in the classical sense, he is often assigned to travel to far-reaching areas of the kingdom to hear a particular case and provide her judgment. These magistrates can encounter many types of adventures as they travel to less-civilised areas of the kingdom between cities. As a personal representative of the king or emperor, the magistrate is expected to dispense his law throughout the kingdom, whether by word or by sword. As such, a magistrate will encounter plenty of opportunities for adventure.
Role-Playing: A highly intelligent and very educated person, the magistrate will often be on the same level as a party wizard in terms of raw intelligence. However, the magistrate’s social skills give him the edge over the wizard in dealing with people, however, thus making him an excellent party spokesperson. A persuasive individual, the magistrate often sways the opinions of his fellow party members to follow his lead. Ultimately, the magistrate’s goal is to serve his lord and maintain law and order throughout the kingdom. If his fellow party members can help him with this task, all the better. If not, they may be the magistrate’s next targets for judgment.
Bonuses: Magistrates receive Profession as a class skill, and receive a +2 competence bonus to all Knowledge (law) and Profession (barrister/lawyer) checks that they are required to make. This bonus represents the immense amount of schooling that a magistrate undertakes to learn the details of his occupation. Also, as a direct representative of the king, the magistrate is above provincial justice in his home realm. A magistrate character may only be accused of a crime by another magistrate or by the king himself.
Penalties: Magistrates gain only light and medium armour proficiency. They are not trained in shields. When allocating their skill points each level, they must put maximum ranks into either Knowledge (law) or Profession (barrister/lawyer). All magistrates must be lawful in alignment, whether good, neutral, or evil. Lastly, magistrates are very likely to make enemies easily because they will often be forced to pick one side over another. These enemies have a way of staying in the background for months or even years at a time, only to surprise the magistrate when he least expects it.
The wealthy financiers behind large trading guilds, merchant magnates are not the hands-on traders and workers but rather the managers, directors, and officers of a guild. Most are born into wealthy families and trained to take over the family business when they get older. A select few, however, make their own way in the world, starting with little more than a small urban outpost of goods and they build their business over time to compete with the largest guilds of the day. Involved in a wide variety of businesses from importing and exporting goods and services to banking, the merchant magnate is probably the wealthiest individual in a given area aside from the nobility. A successful merchant magnate will own a fleet of ships or large caravans of wagons, warehouses and other storage facilities, and plush offices in major urban areas.
Adventuring: Given their need to move large quantities of goods throughout a kingdom or even across borders, many merchant magnates take to adventuring to help facilitate this movement. Particularly ambitious merchant magnates will travel the trade routes themselves over and over to get to know the best ways of moving goods for the least amount of money. Adventuring merchant magnates are likely to encounter highwaymen, smugglers, immoral taxmen, pirates and even monsters intent on stealing their goods. A careful merchant magnate learns to avoid these pitfalls only through trial and error, and when successful he can greatly increase his profits.
Role-Playing: Merchant magnates are obviously very wealthy individuals, and most delight in an ostentatious display of this wealth. Rich, imported fabrics, fine jewels and the latest in foreign fashions are the domain of the merchant magnate. This mixture of styles often has the opposite effect for the merchant magnate; the nobility view him as a necessary evil but certainly an embarrassment to the upper classes. Less well-off individuals may look on the merchant magnate as a self-important fop. Despite these attitudes, merchant magnates are often called upon by the nobility to help finance their construction and warfare efforts, and quite a few merchants have been able to use their wealth to propel themselves into the upper echelons of society.
Bonuses: A merchant magnate needs to have a good eye for evaluating the quality of goods and services, and receives a +2 competence bonus to all Appraise skill checks. He constantly seeks to lower the amount that he needs to pay for transportation, storage, bribes, and raw materials, and has learned the art of haggling, receiving a +2 competence bonus to all Bluff checks he makes. The merchant magnate also counts Profession (merchant) as a class skill.
Penalties: By focusing on his business skills, the merchant often neglects other areas of study. He receives proficiency in light and medium armour only. Also, he may only count Knowledge (economics & business) and Knowledge (geography) as class skills. All other Knowledge skills are considered cross-class for him.
Often a minor son of a noble house, military commanders are typically not in the direct line of inheritance of their family. With little to expect in the way of money or titles, many of these young men choose the honourable career of war. They study military tactics and strategy, learning the ideal way to conduct military campaigns. These professional strategists often lead their nation’s armies during war, using their vast knowledge of logistics to keep their army fed and to keep morale high. Often, however, these commanders have more education about warfare than they do first-hand experience. Some of these commanders use the opportunities afforded to them to gain practical experience and respect in the eyes of their men, while others act as knaves, leading from the rear of the army in the safety and comfort of a well appointed campaign tent.
Adventuring: Although very schooled in the theory of warfare, many military commanders have limited practical experience. For this reason, quite a few become adventurers, desiring to test their schooling first-hand against brigands, humanoids, and even monsters. As the military commander continues gaining experience, he may find that theoretical knowledge of fighting and warfare bears very little resemblance to the actual act. These more experienced adventuring commanders are more respected by their troops than leaders who obtain their command merely by virtue of having a noble title.
Role-Playing: Due to their comprehensive schooling, some military commanders have large egos because of their immense pride in their education and knowledge. These confident commanders may believe that they know the best way of doing things, and may argue incessantly with other party members when there is a disagreement. Most military commanders eventually cease this superiority complex once they suffer their first few defeats in actual combat and become useful and important party members.
Bonuses: By virtue of his extensive schooling, the military commander gains a +2 competence bonus to all Knowledge (military tactics) skill checks that he makes. His confidence in his superior knowledge and education also provides him with a +2 circumstance bonus to all Intimidate checks.
Penalties: The strict focus on military strategy and warfare means that the military commander has had little time for other pursuits. He must put maximum ranks into Knowledge (military tactics) for each level of aristocrat gained. Additionally, the military commander’s focus on warfare as the best solution for all conflicts results in a -2 circumstance penalty to all Diplomacy checks he is required to make.
Noble knights represent the less martial, more diplomatic side of knighthood. While also skilled in the arts of warfare and combat, the noble knight seeks to hone his skills off the battlefield while adhering to the ideals of courtly love and chivalry. This means that the noble knight must have an understanding of a broad area of topics including science, arts and entertainment, politics, and religion. Noble knights also have a keen understanding of people and what motivates them, making them the ideal leader.
Adventuring: Noble knights are groomed for courtly life, but additionally they make excellent adventurers. Not all skills can be displayed in a social environment, and the noble knight will be expected to prove his mettle on the battlefield. In an adventure setting, the noble knight will predictably take over the leadership position of the party and call upon the various skills and abilities of the other party members to help him achieve his goals. Some noble knights adventure for the pure sport of it, seeking to improve their status in the eyes of their peers by capturing a sacred animal or by destroying a group of brigands who have invaded the noble knight’s realm. Others take to adventuring to help protect the defenceless commoners who refer to the noble knight as lord. These noble knights adventure often by leading companies of followers to defeat any humanoids, monsters or invaders who may threaten their domain.
Role-Playing: Noble knights represent some of the highest levels of aristocracy in the land. While still owing allegiance to their own lord or emperor, the noble knight is the symbol of the nobility to the common people of the land. He provides a shining example of the ideals of chivalry, and adheres to a strict code of honour. While some may view the behaviour of the noble knight as arrogant, this is usually very far off the mark. The noble knight may at times appear overbearing, but he is typically using his skills as he sees best for the greater good. Charismatic and well respected, a noble knight is a fine addition to any party of heroes.
Bonuses: As a skilled mounted combatant, the noble knight receives a +2 competence bonus to all Ride skill checks due to his extensive training. Just by being a member of the nobility, he also receives free at first level a superior weapon common among the nobility of his area (such as a longsword or rapier; the player must consult with the Games Master for final approval - superior weapons are described in the Tools of the Trade section).
Penalties: As honourable members of the aristocracy, noble knights must maintain a strict sense of chivalry and fair play. He does not count Bluff, Disguise or Forgery as class skills. Seeking to maintain his status among his peers, the noble knight requires the absolute best quality of armour, weapons, and equipment, paying extra for decorative scabbards, expensive fabrics, and other precious adornments. More specifically, the noble knight must pay an additional 10% on top of the normal price of goods listed in SRD (but not including the magic items listed in SRD). Lastly, the noble knight must adhere to a code of conduct similar to the paladin but without the alignment restrictions and penalties. He must respect officially recognized authorities, act honourably, help the helpless and hunt down those who seek to harm the innocent.
Occult Society Member
While many members of the aristocracy keep themselves busy with the administration of a family estate, or with the studies of warfare, religion, art and science, there are those among the well born who soon grow bored of the tedium of a noble’s life. Usually not in the direct line of succession, they may find themselves attracted by the mysteries of the occult. There are dozens of secret societies purporting to know the secrets of eternal life, ultimate power and of the universe itself. These promises are sometimes too much for the curious and bored aristocrat to avoid, and they begin to study the forbidden arts, either independently or as part of a group of like-minded occultists.
Adventuring: Occult members main purpose for adventuring is to gain access to more hidden and illicit information, seeking to improve their power. As part of a secret society, or as a test to join one, the occultist may be sent on a quest to retrieve an ancient book of power or a special crystal for use in a secret ritual. Most often, an occult society member will keep his affiliation with the occult a secret, and may join a band of adventurers under the pretext of simply wishing to explore life outside of his protected estate. Other times, the occult member’s organisation may be well known and even tolerated in certain lands. In these instances, the occultist may recruit like-minded individuals to travel with him as he seeks out the precious mysteries of the past.
Role-Playing: Occult society members do not share power easily. Whether working alone or as part of a secret society, the occultist is most likely on a quest to achieve more power through access to forbidden knowledge. Similar to the wealthy vigilante character concept (described next), there is a high chance that the occult society member’s fellow adventurers may not even be aware of his true plans. Secretive in personality, the occultist contributes to the adventuring party while at the same time quietly pursuing and pushing his own agenda. While this quest for forbidden knowledge gains the occultist powers and knowledge beyond most mortals, in the long run the price he pays may be his very soul.
Bonuses: The occult society member gains a familiar as though he were a sorcerer of the same level, but his familiar does not have the ‘Share Spells’ or ‘Touch’ abilities. His familiar gains the abilities as the aristocrat gains levels, as per the table for Familiars in Core Rulebook I. His association with a secret society also gives the occult society member access to a grimoire, a secret book of magical recipes. This book lets the occultist add Use Magic Device as a class skill and gives the occult society member a +2 competence bonus to Use Magic Device skill checks as long as he has his magical grimoire in his possession when making the check.
Penalties: Because the occult society member spends all of his time researching the occult, he has no time to train in the martial arts. He is only proficient in light armour, and only has weapon proficiency in simple weapons. Lastly, the occult society member may only be of non-good alignment.
Often, a member of the aristocracy seeks a higher purpose in life than just attending society functions. Many wish for an opportunity to use their wealth, status and skills to aid those less fortunate than themselves. These aristocrats may live in corrupt societies, where graft, bribery, and extortion run rampant among the official government. While taking up the mantle of a vigilante, these crusaders assume a dual identity. By day she acts as a regular member of the aristocracy, using her status to gain information concerning potential misdeeds that are about to occur. By night, she dons the cloak of an avenger and protector, disguising herself to maintain her secret identity and uses her access to wealth to buy special weapons and equipment, maintain secret hideouts, and pay informants.
Adventuring: The wealthy vigilante’s agenda is a source of many adventures. Constantly on the prowl to punish wrongdoers, she must also be wary to maintain her secret identity. Frequently, the very power she fights against is the legitimate government of the area, and they will spare no expense to try to bring the mysterious crusader to justice. When she is not using her powers of disguise and persuasion to stay one step ahead of the local authorities, she will be tracking down corrupt government officials, immoral members of the aristocracy, and common criminals to bring them to justice.
Role-Playing: A wealthy vigilante works hard to maintain two separate identities and sometimes may carry her secret so far as to almost appear to have two different personalities. As part of an adventuring party, it is conceivable that a wealthy vigilante’s own party members may not even know of her secret identity and may assume that she is just another privileged member of society. She lives by her own personal code of justice, serving as judge, jury, and sometimes even as executioner. A hero and legend to the downtrodden, the wealthy vigilante takes care to mark her victims with her own distinguishing symbol, almost daring the local authorities to try to catch her.
Bonuses: Needing to be quick on her feet to stay ahead of her pursuers, the wealthy vigilante has trained herself to be fast and agile. Her Reflex save progression advances as a typical aristocrat’s Will save would progress, starting at +2 at first level. As a master of keeping two separate identities, she also receives a +2 competence bonus to all Bluff and Disguise checks.
Penalties: While improving her reflexes, the wealthy vigilante has not maintained the strict regimen of mental training that is characteristic of other nobles. Her Will save progression advances at the same rate as her Fortitude save, starting at +0 at first level. Constantly on the run from the authorities, there are many nights when a wealthy vigilante cannot allow herself to get a full night’s rest. Every night when she goes to rest, there is a 30% chance that the wealthy vigilante will not be able to sleep, and instead ends up staying awake all night while fearing capture. This counts as not receiving any rest and affects hit point and spell recovery. Note that the wealthy vigilante cannot avoid this condition through any means, not even if her companions offer to keep watch for her. Magical sleep (such as via a sleep spell) still does not allow the wealthy vigilante to recover her spells and hit points.