Illustration by Dimitri Sirenko
Last week we took a look at villains of the natural world, with an in-depth look at Nature's Scourge. This week we're headed back to civilization to shine a light on the corruption and excesses that make villains like Nature's Scourge want to just burn the whole thing down.
The Regal Court is a hotbed of intrigue and schemes. The king and queen, once young and in love, have grown bitter and distant, yielding a political situation loosely based on the court of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, with the queen locked away in a tower. With the King's supporters, the Queen's supporters, and several other opportunistic factions, the Regal Court provides numerous opportunities for the PCs to become embroiled in a major political conflict with no clear "good guy" to back. As the queen says to her champion:
"A marriage is much like an empire, my friend. I've come to understand this intimately ever since I spoke my own vows. In the beginning, it is full of promise, hope, and bounty. Love is its decree. Children and prosperity are its crop. Power and vitality are its commerce. Life is brimming with adventure and endless possibility, and the borders of the lands seem boundless—limited only by one's ambition and ability to grasp all within reach. And in those heady days, you think those things will last forever, but they never do. The decrees become rote. Most of the crop has been reaped and consumed; the last of it lies rotting in the ditch. Time takes vitality from us all, especially those who do nothing to defend themselves against the inevitable. The empire crumbles, and all that is left is to try to survive, despite the parasites that have latched on and will not let go."
Today, let's take a look at one of those other opportunistic players in the political game, ostensibly loyal to the King but truly loyal only to himself. I speak, of course, of the vizier, since what intrigue-ridden court is complete without an evil vizier?
Always lurking in the shadows behind the throne, the vizier started serving the king just before the queen's rebellion. The vizier is a sly and treacherous fellow, and those who side with the queen see him as both the true power of the kingdom and the architect behind the court's strife.
Vizier CR 12
Male human mesmerist (vizier) 13 (Pathfinder RPG Occult Adventures 38, Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Intrigue 38)
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +3; Senses Perception +16
AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed 18 (+6 armor, +1 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 101 (13d8+39)
Fort +9, Ref +13, Will +10
Illustration by Florian Stitz
Speed 30 ft.
Melee mwk dagger +9/+4 (1d4–1/19–20)
Special Attacks bold stares (disorientation, sapped magic, susceptibility), hypnotic stare (–3), manifold tricks (4 tricks), mesmerist tricks 12/day (astounding avoidance, faked death, gift of will, meek facade, mesmeric mirror, misdirection, spectral smoke), painful stare (+6 or +4d6+6)
Mesmerist Spells Known (CL 13th; concentration +22)
5th (2/day)—foster hatredOA (DC 23), possessionOA (DC 21)
4th (4/day)—dimension door, dominate person (DC 22), modify memory (DC 22), phantasmal killer (DC 20)
3rd (5/day)—confusion (DC 21), glibness, scrying (DC 19), synaptic pulseOA (DC 21), witnessUM
2nd (7/day)—deflect blameUI (DC 20), detect thoughts (DC 18), mirror image, rumormongerUI, suggestion (DC 20)
1st (7/day)—beguiling giftAPG (DC 19), charm person (DC 19), deja vuOA, expeditious retreat, memory lapseAPG (DC 19), mental blockOA (DC 17)
0 (at will)—daze (DC 18), detect magic, detect poison, ghost sound (DC 16), mage hand, message
During Combat The vizier uses his power behind the throne ability to make it seem like his allies are the true threats to foes. He prefers to disable enemies before handing them over to the King's justice, but if in dire need, he will use phantasmal killer to make short work of his enemies.
Str 8, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 22
Base Atk +9; CMB +8; CMD 22
Feats Deceitful, Great Fortitude, Greater Spell Focus (enchantment), Persistent Spell, Spell Focus (enchantment), Subtle EnchantmentsUI, Third EyeOA, Toughness
Skills Bluff +29, Diplomacy +25, Disguise +11, Intimidate +25, Knowledge (nobility) +17, Perception +16, Sense Motive +16, Spellcraft +17, Stealth +17, Use Magic Device +13
Languages Common, Elven
SQ glib lie (DC 28), insidious influence, power behind the throne (DC 22), touch treatment 8/day (greater)
Combat Gear potion of gaseous form, potion of shield of faith (CL 12th), potion of bear's endurance; Other Gear +2 mithral chain shirt, mwk dagger, amulet of natural armor +1, ring of protection +1, headband of alluring charisma +2, cloak of resistance +2, belt of incredible dexterity +2
Careful in word and action, the vizier plays the part of the king's most loyal servant and advisor, but his true demeanor is far more self-serving. He is slowly draining the kingdom's coffers through the embezzlement of the treasury, manipulation of the bureaucracy, and accumulation of a patchwork of petty titles of land that he plans to parlay into a large holding that will one day be independent from the kingdom. His manipulation of both the king and the prince has been masterful, and the only person who stands in his way is the queen, who thwarts some of his schemes (even as she assists others) and has much more power in court than anyone knows. The vizier suspects the identity of his rival, though not the extent of her influence, and has been subtly and carefully suggesting that the queen should be executed for the sake of the kingdom. Thus far, the king is still loath to do so, and the vizier has begun to exert pressure on other members of the court, such as the prince and the captain of the guard.
The corrupt guard serve double duty in this book due to the way they're set up as an organization. Priding themselves on efficiency, fairness, and upholding the law, institutionally the corrupt guards are mostly lawful neutral (technically even the Guard Captain is lawful neutral, but only technically; you'll have to check out the book to find out way). The corruption in the guard's leadership is subtle enough that few rank-and-file members know about it, and they even have a paladin on staff. What this means is that not only do you have an organization set up for adventures full of conspiracies and corrupt law enforcement, but you also have stats you can easily use for the regular non-corrupt guard the next time your PCs roll a flaming sphere into a bar or whatever other mischief they get up to.
The Cruel Musketeers are the only direct tie-in between two villain organizations. Remember that queen locked away in a tower? Turns out her personal guard, the Queen's Musketeers, didn't take that too well. They were banished from the kingdom and are hoping for the day she calls for them to march back in and free her. Until then, however, they've been slowly descending into villainy just to survive adrift in foreign lands and keep up recruitment, making them one of the more tragic villain groups in the book. The Lord Marshal ostensibly in charge of the musketeers might be lawful neutral, but the decentralized organization of musketeers into fellowships mean that the cruel and ruthless captains find more recruits. Also, there's a foreign baroness trying to politically subvert the musketeers to add a Milady de Winter style character into the mix.
The Merchant Caravan are an unusual group of villains in that very few of them can stand against combat-focused PCs for long in a fair fight. Instead, they focus on deception, shady deals, shifty tricks, and all sorts of scams. Bait-and-switch, shorting, smuggling, snake-oil, and confidence games of all sorts follow in their wake. Take a look at the petty fence: "Hey there, need any potions or scrolls?"
What set of civilized villains is complete without a thieves' guild? These rogues are each specialists in particular criminal fields, including spying, safecracking, second-story work, gathering intelligence, fixing gambling, and more. Of course, every thieves' guild needs a wiseguy to crack a few skulls if necessary, but most of the thieves tend to be more combat-focused than the Merchant Caravan but most still prefer a proper heist where there's no need for a messy fight and there's always an escape plan.
Illustrations by Subroto Bhaumik, Tim Kings-Lynne, and Dimitri Sirenko
Stay tuned next week for the last installment, as we reveal the most secretive, enigmatic, and hidden groups of all!