Meet the Iconics: Kess

Thursday, July 17, 2014

She was raised to be Lady Kessilandrie Anicia Vlastos, but the thousands of cheering fans that fill the arena's seats when she fights shout her preferred name—Kess the Bull.

Kess never squared herself with the life of pomp and nobility. As a kid growing up in an estate in the Westpark District of Oppara, she spent her time in opulent gardens, tipping over rocks to look for bugs, climbing the massive oaks, coordinating mock battles against imaginary monsters with her sisters and brothers in the plum orchard, and generally getting into trouble.


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

It was during these pretend adventures that she started learning how to fight. Her brothers and sisters were snobbish, bullying brats that never left the awkward young girl alone. Never one to just take abuse, Kess ended many of those make-believe bouts in flat-out fistfights. It wasn't the wooden swords and staves the kids played with that she mastered in these brawls, but rather a solid left jab, a well-placed kick, or a leg sweep. Her height gave her good reach, letting her even get in a good strike at her oldest brother to silence his bullying.

After too many busted lips and bloody noses, Kess's parents tried to send her to dueling masters in order to teach her the art of swordplay, hoping to channel her energy into a safe and respectable form of combat—something of which nobles could be proud.

As far as Kess was concerned, fencing was for dandies and duels were just tiresome ego dramas. This affluent instruction just didn't stick. After losing too many matches by dropping her training rapier and socking her opponent in the jaw, she was nearly expelled. An older student, sympathetic to her fighting style, tipped her off to an underground fighting ring in a seedy part of the city.

Her first night in the pit was exhilarating. The organizers paired her up with a brawny farm boy whose jaw jutted out as far as his forehead sloped back. He hit hard, but he didn't know a thing about technique. Using her skill and rangy frame to her advantage, Kess had him mewling on the ground in less than a minute.

Using the ruse of attending fencing class, Kess made her way to the underground rings every chance she could get. It was there that she discovered real honor—not that bogus social contract she grew up under. In those pit fights, she learned focus and found her calling. The roar of the crowd charged her, and she pushed her body, testing herself.

Kess learned a multitude of styles and forms from the various fighters and promoters that flowed through the ring, as well as the worship of Kurgess, god of bravery, competition, and sports. She also began to dream of bouts in the far-off nations from which many of her colleagues hailed. In particular, she focused on the gladiator nation of Tymon in the River Kingdoms, from which her coach had won a medal.

Yet everything came apart the night her older brother—eager to gamble on the fights—stumbled into the secret venue and noticed her in the ring. Her father was furious, and her mother worried. This was no way for a proper, highborn lady to act. What if she were hurt or killed? What would happen if other families were to find out? Which of them already knew?

For her own safety—and to quash a scandal—her parents threatened to send her off to their country estate, or even to a boarding school. In no way eager to have her destiny decided for her by others, Kess beat her parents to the punch and snuck down to the docks, boarding a Taldan merchant vessel headed up the Sellen River. With her wits, her skill, and a purse bulging with her winnings in the ring, she set off for Tymon. Once there, she fought enough bouts in the arena to get noticed by the masters of the Valknar Gladiatorial College, using the prize money from her Opparan fights to pay for tuition.

Yet Tymon is small, and Kess easily bored. While still one win shy of being considered “bloodied,” she was lured away from the city by the call of new arenas in distant locations, taking up the life of an adventurer not for treasure, but for the fun of it. Every so often, Kess attempts to alleviate some of her mother's worry by sending letters home telling of her adventures, yet has learned to obscure where they're sent from, lest her father send agents to track her down and try to bring her home.

Kess wears her bruises and scars as proudly as she wears the medals adorning her outfit—prizes from various fights, as well as a short stint with a mercenary company. Even though she tries to be positive and upbeat, she knows that she's often aggressive and sarcastic. Kess isn't afraid to say what's on her mind, especially when facing authorities who try to tell others what to do. She doesn't pay much mind to complicated bureaucracies and outdated social mores, and tends to live her life the way she wants. The only time Kess shows a strong respect for rules is during a competition—she doesn't tolerate cheaters. Kess is competitive, though she encourages others in their own tasks. She keeps her body fit, and trains every chance she gets—a crucial counterbalance to her love of good food, strong drink, and long nights of celebration after a fight.

Adam Daigle
Developer

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Rysky wrote:
Kess the Bull wrote:
Thanks everybody! Glad you like my debut!
Do you have a Flumph for a coach?

Must. resist. creating. Mickey Goldflumph alias...

Dark Archive

I like her.

Didnt expect a Taldan aristo, very pleased she's a Kurgess worshipper (long a fan favourite I feel).

Neutral Good then? Doesn't like cheating, but a little rebellious, writes nice letters to her parents.

Maybe CG. The dislike of cheating can be considered part of her Good aspect (along with general jolly behaviour and being nice to mother) and most other indicators point to Chaotic (doesn't settle down, doesn't respect family rules,)


Brawny farm boy:"I ent no sissy! I ent fightin' no girl!"

Rookie brawler:"Well, kess my ass, farm boy!"

And the rest is history.

Quinn,Kess, and Hakon. My faves so far :)


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Kvantum wrote:
The eyes give the art inspiration away. Zöe Bell.

It is! It's Zöe Bell made into an iconic! Way too cool! :D


Cheburn wrote:
Vee8 wrote:

Seeing as she is a brawler, who likely does a fair bit of grappling, it makes sense she has a bare midriff. Does anyone realize how hard it would be to grapple with an armored up abdomen? Even leather would be too stiff.

Kess doesn't seem the type to care for looks, just practicality.

It's perfectly reasonable to grapple with flexible armor covering your abdomen. Jujutsu (a grappling art) started among the samurai, who wore armor, and was aimed at defeating other opponents who were also wearing armor.

Sambo was also developed to be used by soldiers in the Red Army, who would certainly have been wearing clothing.

This does not count grappling (and submission) techniques taught to police and military worldwide, who often wear heavy gear.

Certain moves are less effective in heavier gear. Others are just as effective.

If anything, the bulky gloves on her forearms would limit the ability to apply a number of joint locks effectively.

The gear was clearly designed for looks, not for practicality, which puts it in line with most of the gear I've seen from Paizo.

Jujutsu, Iajutsu and certain other fighting styles in techniques weren't used while armored and on the battlefield though. They were used in duels or in self defense while out and about where they would be wearing their robes, not their armor. Also, having been in the Navy, grappling in full gear was much more taxing than without it.

I'm still leaning in favor of the bare midriff. Though you do have about the bulk of her armor on her left arm. It's too much. The right one though is fine.


The bare midriff is sensible. The rest of the outfit... Not so much. It's got way too many parts, but that's a complaint I have with most of Reynold's artwork, so eh.

The story, on the other hand, is excellent. This sounds like a character I would have made!


Arachnofiend wrote:

The bare midriff is sensible. The rest of the outfit... Not so much. It's got way too many parts, but that's a complaint I have with most of Reynold's artwork, so eh.

The story, on the other hand, is excellent. This sounds like a character I would have made!

His designs do seem to be more of separate armors cobbled together rather than single tailor made suits but I suppose it makes sense when you start getting loot that replaces bits of armor like boots of striding and springing or rust gauntlets and other such items that basically replace the mundane piece of armor the original suit came with.

Still, I would like to see someone rock a more uniformed appearance!


Vee8 wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:

The bare midriff is sensible. The rest of the outfit... Not so much. It's got way too many parts, but that's a complaint I have with most of Reynold's artwork, so eh.

The story, on the other hand, is excellent. This sounds like a character I would have made!

His designs do seem to be more of separate armors cobbled together rather than single tailor made suits but I suppose it makes sense when you start getting loot that replaces bits of armor like boots of striding and springing or rust gauntlets and other such items that basically replace the mundane piece of armor the original suit came with.

Still, I would like to see someone rock a more uniformed appearance!

Everything is homogeneous in materials and colour pallet leading me to believe it was originally assembled to have this look. That is fine though, its understandable she would wear a flashy costume for arena fights. But that exposed dagger blade hanging over her thigh is going to be the death of her :( I'm probably just fixating because i played with a critical fumble GM once who would have killed us all if we described a character like that.


Vee8 wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:

The bare midriff is sensible. The rest of the outfit... Not so much. It's got way too many parts, but that's a complaint I have with most of Reynold's artwork, so eh.

The story, on the other hand, is excellent. This sounds like a character I would have made!

His designs do seem to be more of separate armors cobbled together rather than single tailor made suits but I suppose it makes sense when you start getting loot that replaces bits of armor like boots of striding and springing or rust gauntlets and other such items that basically replace the mundane piece of armor the original suit came with.

Still, I would like to see someone rock a more uniformed appearance!

Seelah's got your back.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Guys, the only way she'll get stabbed in the stomach or cut in the neck is if paizo asks for that in an art order.

Rules wise she's wearing Leather Armour, it's +2 AC, but lets her leverage her decent dexterity.

Anyway, love the background. I wonder if there were any long staircases in Oppara to run up in an inspiring montage.


Thinking of art, are we going to ever get mythic art of the new iconics? I'm aware not everyone likes the mythic rules, but I'd be really excited to see it


Sara Marie wrote:
catron1601 wrote:
I could totally see Kess, Valeros, Amiri, and Alain trying to drink each other under the table. :)
Harsk in the background brewing hangover relief tea?

That or Damiel whipping up a batch of alchemist's kindness.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Blackvial wrote:
spectrevk wrote:

Re: her backstory - Fun, though the wayward Taldan noble is becoming something of a cliche at this point.

i doubt 2 characters total makes a cliche

There's also the wayward Taldan noble Osirionologist from Mummy's Mask, various wayward Taldan nobles from PFS scenarios (including a notorious pirate)...seems like all of Taldor's young people are bailing to go cause trouble elsewhere.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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All those second sons have to go somewhere.


Green Smashomancer wrote:
Though "won't tolerate cheaters" and "disregards the rules to a fencing spar" mesh oddly. Does she only care about cheating in things she enjoys?

I'm pretty sure punching someone in a fencing duel isn't against the rules, just against the teacher's wishes- you're supposed to be more focused than that and not give up your sword so easily. Also, he's theoretically teaching you how to use the thing, so what will he have to show if you keep throwing it on the ground to get in closer?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Lilith wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Okay so I'm only like a paragraph into this but am I the only one who just pictures Pam from Archer? Like seriously if that vibe keeps up she might be one of my favorite characters thus far.
Totally okay with this.

Yeah seriously, all I can hear is "Here comes Kessy!" in that nasally awesome voice. Also I totally want Kess to have the massive tattoo quote across her shoulders.

Oh on a side note am I the only one who's noticed a trend of runaway kids who send letters home without return addresses amongst the Iconics?

Paizo Employee Developer

Kobold Commando wrote:
Green Smashomancer wrote:
Though "won't tolerate cheaters" and "disregards the rules to a fencing spar" mesh oddly. Does she only care about cheating in things she enjoys?
I'm pretty sure punching someone in a fencing duel isn't against the rules, just against the teacher's wishes- you're supposed to be more focused than that and not give up your sword so easily. Also, he's theoretically teaching you how to use the thing, so what will he have to show if you keep throwing it on the ground to get in closer?

That and she was still young. She didn't really learn discipline until she started competing in those underground fights.

Paizo Employee Developer

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spectrevk wrote:
Blackvial wrote:
spectrevk wrote:

Re: her backstory - Fun, though the wayward Taldan noble is becoming something of a cliche at this point.

i doubt 2 characters total makes a cliche
There's also the wayward Taldan noble Osirionologist from Mummy's Mask, various wayward Taldan nobles from PFS scenarios (including a notorious pirate)...seems like all of Taldor's young people are bailing to go cause trouble elsewhere.

People staying home and leading normal lives don't make good adventurers. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I digs this mightily. I digs it, I says.

So... worships Kurgess, eh? Nice. It's about time some of the non-Big 20 got a little love. Alignment wise, I can see NG, CG, or N.

Dark Archive

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Torbyne wrote:
But that exposed dagger blade hanging over her thigh is going to be the death of her :( I'm probably just fixating because i played with a critical fumble GM once who would have killed us all if we described a character like that.

Eh, she could be Damiel, who is going to go up in a pyroclaustic mushroom cloud of toxins and incendiaries if he ever so much as trips, let alone actually ever gets hit by something...

Lantern Lodge

Just asking, are all these new iconics, Pathfinders?

Cos their stories are really cool, but none of them mentioning joining the Pathfinder Society. Just curious.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Secane wrote:

Just asking, are all these new iconics, Pathfinders?

Cos their stories are really cool, but none of them mentioning joining the Pathfinder Society. Just curious.

To my recollection, the only previous Iconic who actually specifically mentions interest in the Pathfinder Society is Ezren.


Secane wrote:

Just asking, are all these new iconics, Pathfinders?

Cos their stories are really cool, but none of them mentioning joining the Pathfinder Society. Just curious.

I'm not sure any of the iconics have been actual pathfinders. The only one I can think of is Ezren, who is more of a wannabe than an actual pathfinder.

Edit: Ah damn, ninja'd while I was double-checking Hakon.


Exactly the story I was expecting. Which makes it kind of disappointing in a certain way.

But still pretty good. Just not Hakon and Quinn good. =)


What are the two sticks for?

They are not thick enough to be escrima fighting sticks, don't look like they are bamboo and two aren't enough for a tent or shelter.


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Dark Psion wrote:

What are the two sticks for?

They are not thick enough to be escrima fighting sticks, don't look like they are bamboo and two aren't enough for a tent or shelter.

She gives them to her enemies for splints after she's done breaking their legs.


Maybe they're just sticks.


Dark Psion wrote:

What are the two sticks for?

They are not thick enough to be escrima fighting sticks, don't look like they are bamboo and two aren't enough for a tent or shelter.

Javelins because she worships Kurgess?


fishing poles? for her kinda quiet moment hobby?

but i like Tels' guess better :)


Given the bend and uneven lengths on the sticks, I can take a few guesses on what they are. Either a fishing pole, some firewood she was carrying on the way back to a brawl/bonfire, wood for splints, or general poking sticks for any traps. The end of one of them seems to more support the fishing pole theory.


Interesting. Not sure where she sits on my list of favourites yet, but interesting.


They seem to be wrapped up with that fabric, obviously it's her easy travel adventuring hammock. Do your characters actually sleep on the ground in dungeons? Barbaric...


Adam Daigle wrote:
Craig Bonham 141 wrote:
What's with the bare midriff? I really liked that Paizo avoided the cheesecake reletively well but they seem to be backsliding into that sad old fantasy art habit.
Wearing clothing that exposes your midriff does not mean that you're trying to be sexy.

No. It means you want to die from an infection caused by a perforated intestine.


This is now the... fourth mid riffing iconic? (monk, barbarian, bloodrager and brawler. Not sure if magus counts?) They must know something we don't, cause they keep doing it and their the ones surviving to adventure again.

The Exchange

I gotta say ... "I LIKE it!"
Perhaps that's because I'm a bare-knuckle prize fighter, m'self.

Paizo Employee Developer

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Torbyne wrote:
They seem to be wrapped up with that fabric, obviously it's her easy travel adventuring hammock. Do your characters actually sleep on the ground in dungeons? Barbaric...

I was thinking a hammock too. You'd have to ask Wayne to be sure.


Atarlost wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
Craig Bonham 141 wrote:
What's with the bare midriff? I really liked that Paizo avoided the cheesecake reletively well but they seem to be backsliding into that sad old fantasy art habit.
Wearing clothing that exposes your midriff does not mean that you're trying to be sexy.
No. It means you want to die from an infection caused by a perforated intestine.

Generally underground bare knuckle fights don't involve anything that could perforate anything.

Lantern Lodge

chavamana wrote:
Me'mori wrote:
Kess' Bio wrote:
While still one win shy of being considered “bloodied,”
*curious* is that not supposed to be "blooded"?

Nope.

People of the River/Tymon wrote:
The Rule of Blood states that any citizen who wins 10 fights in the Arena of Aroden is considered “bloodied”—a status that grants certain rights, among them the rights to own land and to carry weapons openly.

Ah, Thank you.

Liberty's Edge

Much as I was vaguely hoping for something else, I quite like this one, she seems both nice and fun.

And I'm betting on NG, Alignment-wise, though CG is also possible.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

Much as I was vaguely hoping for something else, I quite like this one, she seems both nice and fun.

And I'm betting on NG, Alignment-wise, though CG is also possible.

There's always headcanon for those who were disappointed.


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Nice, I like this one!

but...

an older student said wrote:
sympathetic to her fighting style, tipped her off to an underground fighting ring in a seedy part of the city.

The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
ibayboy wrote:

Nice, I like this one!

but...

an older student said wrote:
sympathetic to her fighting style, tipped her off to an underground fighting ring in a seedy part of the city.

The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.

Second Rule of Fight Club too.

Third rule: No outside snacks.


Vee8 wrote:
I'm still leaning in favor of the bare midriff. Though you do have about the bulk of her armor on her left arm. It's too much. The right one though is fine.

Well if she's right handed the left wouldn't be used for much besides jabs and blocks (hence the heavier armour). Aside from Olympic wrestling I can't think of any style of unarmed combat which has you and your opponent face each other square, you typically lead (to varying degrees) with the arm you don't favour.

So picture her in a ring/cage/pit with her left shoulder angled towards her opponent and it makes a bit more sense, still somewhat excessive though. Also if the world of Pathfinder is predominantly right handed most of her opponents big swings are going to be coming from her left.


Kess kind of solidifies why I didn't have much interest in the Brawler class on first reading, and now I know why: because a pit fighter/street thug simply isn't heroic.


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I have confidence in Kess the Bull. I am sure she is perfectly aware of the vulnerable patches in her armor. These could be "false openings". By ensuring that certain parts of her are vulnerable, she can make easier guesses as to where her opponents will attempt to hit her. She is baiting her enemies. Technique is her true armor.

Liberty's Edge

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Calybos1 wrote:
Kess kind of solidifies why I didn't have much interest in the Brawler class on first reading, and now I know why: because a pit fighter/street thug simply isn't heroic.

Marv, from Sin City, begs to disagree with you. As does Fezzik from the Princess Bride. And Rorschach, from Watchmen. And Rocky, from the movie of the same name. And Robert B. Parker's Spenser (who might also have a level or three of Investigator, admittedly). And a host of other characters from various media.

Not all of those characters are nice, but most are heroic, and all would make excellent PCs.

And how is Kess less heroic than, say, Amiri or Valeros (to pick a couple of characters at random)? Her 'mission in life' isn't to help people, but she seems nice enough.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Awesome story.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Calybos1 wrote:
Kess kind of solidifies why I didn't have much interest in the Brawler class on first reading, and now I know why: because a pit fighter/street thug simply isn't heroic.

Marv, from Sin City, begs to disagree with you. As does Fezzik from the Princess Bride. And Rorschach, from Watchmen. And Rocky, from the movie of the same name. And Robert B. Parker's Spenser (who might also have a level or three of Investigator, admittedly). And a host of other characters from various media.

Not all of those characters are nice, but most are heroic, and all would make excellent PCs.

And how is Kess less heroic than, say, Amiri or Valeros (to pick a couple of characters at random)? Her 'mission in life' isn't to help people, but she seems nice enough.

why is she nice? No snark intended.


doc the grey wrote:
Lilith wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Okay so I'm only like a paragraph into this but am I the only one who just pictures Pam from Archer? Like seriously if that vibe keeps up she might be one of my favorite characters thus far.
Totally okay with this.

Yeah seriously, all I can hear is "Here comes Kessy!" in that nasally awesome voice. Also I totally want Kess to have the massive tattoo quote across her shoulders.

Oh on a side note am I the only one who's noticed a trend of runaway kids who send letters home without return addresses amongst the Iconics?

"How you gonna keep them down on the farm... after they seen... Kessy.."

Valeros: "Yeah... how... how can you? There's just no way!"


Zark wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
Calybos1 wrote:
Kess kind of solidifies why I didn't have much interest in the Brawler class on first reading, and now I know why: because a pit fighter/street thug simply isn't heroic.

Marv, from Sin City, begs to disagree with you. As does Fezzik from the Princess Bride. And Rorschach, from Watchmen. And Rocky, from the movie of the same name. And Robert B. Parker's Spenser (who might also have a level or three of Investigator, admittedly). And a host of other characters from various media.

Not all of those characters are nice, but most are heroic, and all would make excellent PCs.

And how is Kess less heroic than, say, Amiri or Valeros (to pick a couple of characters at random)? Her 'mission in life' isn't to help people, but she seems nice enough.

why is she nice? No snark intended.

Well uhhh.... She went to the pits in Daggermark? Wait a sec, don't the pits there fight to the death? So she was bored with life and went to the pits where she could fight to the death? She doesn't sound nice. Honestly if I were align her based on this story I'd call her Neutral Evil.

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