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

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Brawler Iconics Meet the Iconics Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Wayne Reynolds
201 to 245 of 245 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>

Blackvial wrote:
Tels wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Needless to say, Kess is not evil. None of the iconics we've introduced thus far from the ACG have been evil.

(emphasis mine)

In other words- MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!? :D

I suspect the Slayer may be evil.
I thought there wasn't going to be any evil iconic characters?

The Magus, Seltyiel, is Lawful Evil.


Tels wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Needless to say, Kess is not evil. None of the iconics we've introduced thus far from the ACG have been evil.

(emphasis mine)

In other words- MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!? :D

I suspect the Slayer may be evil.

The slayer makes the most sense. Maybe they'll go the assassin route.


I wonder if there's any Cynthia Rothrock in there?

Paizo Employee Developer

Nah, Ronda Rousey knocked her out of there. ;)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adam Daigle wrote:
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.

I now have an answer for this. A couple of people asked Wayne about the sticks on his Facebook page and he had this to say:

Wayne on Facebook wrote:
The sticks are marker posts - Used in ancient travelling arenas. These days we're used to boxing or wrestling spaces marked out with four corners but in the distant past arenas were often marked out with just two poles or a couple of stones. The ring was usually formed by spectators.The markers could denote each combatants' "Corner" or sometimes used in "Capture the Flag" bouts too. They can also be combined with the mat to make a hammock. ;) As you can see, they've been used a few times as they've needed repair. :)

Any chance we could get Wayne Reynolds to do some blogs on how he creates these Iconic images and the reasons behind things like Lini's Sticks and Harsk's Tea Pot?


Dark Psion wrote:
Any chance we could get Wayne Reynolds to do some blogs on how he creates these Iconic images and the reasons behind things like Lini's Sticks and Harsk's Tea Pot?

I would love to see that. I found his insight about the hows and whys of Kess' sticks to be pretty fascinating. He clearly puts a lot of thought into the way he designs his characters, far more than we realize as viewers, and far more than I'd thought he would. (Not that I didn't think he put thought into what he was drawing, it just never really occurred to me that every element might have some kind of story behind it rather than just an appearance thing.)

Lantern Lodge

Humm... I wonder how Kess's brothers and sisters would see her now?
Would they be proud? Horrified?
And if they have grown out of the bullying attitude to her. (I mean people do change and grow up. How many times do we look back at our lives and realize how silly we are at certain ages.)

Nickname: "The Bull" - !
I'm sure I am going to get confuse her with The Bull from dragon age inquisition, whenever someone mentions the "Bull".
Heck! They even have the same live life large attitude! :P


I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Someone once called her a cow....no one has since,.


Reckless wrote:
Someone once called her a cow....no one has since,.

the one who did is still picking up all the pieces of what used to be his teeth


David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"

maybe because she fights like a bull in a china shop?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Blackvial wrote:
David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"
maybe because she fights like a bull in a china shop?

Very gracefully? Mythbusters

Paizo Employee Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.
David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"

I'm somewhat surprised it took this long for someone to bring that up. :)

Her final name hadn't been decided when I started working on this write up, and when I started I looked at her picture for a good while and my eyes were fixated on the bull on her left shoulder and "the Bull" jumped out at me as a boxer nickname. (I researched a ton of cool boxer nicknames in the process. I wanted something more grounded and less "epic" than something like Bonecrusher, Hurricane, or Thunder.)

After I finished writing the backstory and it was being edited, that part was flagged for the same gendered reason. I happened to like that it was not a gendered match and found it more interesting partially for that reason. I made my argument and it was accepted. Also, it's a nickname, and we all know you don't get to pick your own nickname. I figure Kess probably threw some side eye when she first heard it, but when people are cheering it at the top of their lungs (and paying to get into the arena to do so), you tend to let it slide. After a while, you get to like it. You gotta pick your battles.

On a more mundane level, bulls go with strength like, well, a spell that boosts your strength, so there's some continuity there. :)

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.

In my own mind, I was imagining "the Bull" nickname sprang from others (i.e., fellow competitors, pit-fight organizers, fight enthusiasts, audience members, etc.) being derisive towards her and thinking she was just bs'ing her way into the ring. And then, once she put the complete beatdown on all comers, someone with a healthy respect and appreciation for her actual skill made the remark that she wasn't a bs'er at all. Instead, she was "The Bull."


Plus, a (pardon the term) "ballsy", aggressive fighting style? Seems to fit, if you ask me.

And I agree, I actually like that it plays against common expectations of feminine fighter nicknames/icons. That's certainly a portion of her background ... bucking tradition and expectation.


Tels wrote:
Blackvial wrote:
David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"
maybe because she fights like a bull in a china shop?
Very gracefully? Mythbusters

hahaha

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Blackvial wrote:
Tels wrote:
Blackvial wrote:
David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"
maybe because she fights like a bull in a china shop?
Very gracefully? Mythbusters
hahaha

Minotaur in a china shop on the other hand....

"OH MAH GOODSH AND SHERVISHES!!"


Adam Daigle wrote:
David Neilson wrote:
I was actually more curious that they used "The Bull" since it is obviously a male gendered animal for a female iconic. Unlike if they had called say "The Avalanche", "The Dragon" or "The Destroyer"

I'm somewhat surprised it took this long for someone to bring that up. :)

Her final name hadn't been decided when I started working on this write up, and when I started I looked at her picture for a good while and my eyes were fixated on the bull on her left shoulder and "the Bull" jumped out at me as a boxer nickname. (I researched a ton of cool boxer nicknames in the process. I wanted something more grounded and less "epic" than something like Bonecrusher, Hurricane, or Thunder.)

After I finished writing the backstory and it was being edited, that part was flagged for the same gendered reason. I happened to like that it was not a gendered match and found it more interesting partially for that reason. I made my argument and it was accepted. Also, it's a nickname, and we all know you don't get to pick your own nickname. I figure Kess probably threw some side eye when she first heard it, but when people are cheering it at the top of their lungs (and paying to get into the arena to do so), you tend to let it slide. After a while, you get to like it. You gotta pick your battles.

On a more mundane level, bulls go with strength like, well, a spell that boosts your strength, so there's some continuity there. :)

we get distracted easily


Adam this is a great character and my new crush out of all the Iconics. This little roachling would happily be squished under her boot any day. When will we be getting a novel out of you?


2 people marked this as a favorite.
DoomedPaladin01 wrote:
Adam this is a great character and my new crush out of all the Iconics. This little roachling would happily be squished under her boot any day. When will we be getting a novel out of you?

Suddenly feeling a need for art of Kess's boot on Valeros's head

"Please step on me, Bull-sama"

Contributor

26 people marked this as a favorite.
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Dark Psion wrote:
Any chance we could get Wayne Reynolds to do some blogs on how he creates these Iconic images and the reasons behind things like Lini's Sticks and Harsk's Tea Pot?

I would love to see that. I found his insight about the hows and whys of Kess' sticks to be pretty fascinating. He clearly puts a lot of thought into the way he designs his characters, far more than we realize as viewers, and far more than I'd thought he would. (Not that I didn't think he put thought into what he was drawing, it just never really occurred to me that every element might have some kind of story behind it rather than just an appearance thing.)

There seems to be a number of questions and theories about Kess’s costume and fighting style. And in response to Dark Psions’s request I thought I’d post some of the concepts I had when designing Kess.

The concept I had for the Brawler was a combination of a 2nd century European Gladiator combined with a 20th Century boxer. Her costume is an attempt to reflect both aspects without becoming too much of either and at the same time create something completely new.
She’s wearing sections of latticed leather armour combined with smooth sections of leather with padding underneath. The individual straps within the latticed leather provide a little bit more flexibility of movement than a complete hide. The “Criss-cross” pattern has been repeated throughout the armour to create a visual theme. The armour’s been designed around a gladiatorial aesthetic to enable Kess to fight mostly humanoid opponents. She hasn’t needed to be heavily armoured so far. All the impact points are protected; Knuckles, elbows, forearms, knees, feet and forehead. She’s relying on being able to move her vambraces, greaves and fascia to protect her vital organs - Just like gladiators and pugilists throughout history have.
On her left arm she wears a leather shoulder guard called a Galerus. Historically, a galerus would be made out of metal but as Kess wears leather armour I added the brass bull as both decoration and reinforcement. In Roman arenas, the combatants would wear these on their off- arm and present it to their opponent as a target. The gladiator’s fighting style was a series of responses to a blow. Not necessarily an efficient fighting technique but one that would look really cool and entertain a crowd. Afterall, the crowd wanted to see gladiators getting hit and a gladiatorial fighting technique was one that provided that aspect but also ensured that a gladiator wouldn’t get too injured by doing it.
Kess’s headgear was designed to look like a gladiatorial version of a boxer’s padded headgear. She’s never needed a full crown helmet. I added the brass lion as both decoration and reinforcement just like the galerus, again creating another visual theme.

She wears medals won in various bouts on her costume. This says “Hey, look how many fights I’ve won – I'm gonna win this one too!” The one on her pelvis depicts a stylised image of a griffon with peacock wings.
She’s armed with a Cestus and a spiked knuckleduster. Initially, I was just going to limit her to bludgeoning weapons. The punch dagger on her hip was added as an afterthought. Maybe for use in particularly viscous fights.
She also has a money pouch and a waterbottle. I figured she’d travel around looking for fight arenas so I added the mat with the marker sticks.
Oh, and her nose IS broken.
Hope that answers a few questions.
This is by no means a definitive explanation of this character class, just the reasoning behind the design. I'm not usually privy to planned game mechanics or the fantastic back stories.If there’s something that I’ve described that doesn’t quite fit with your concept of the Brawler, you always have the option to change it to fit your game. That’s the beauty of Pathfinder RPG


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks Wayne, I love that you have well-thought-out details like this. So much better than the "it looked cool so I did it" explanation I get a lot visiting artists tables at cons.

Contributor

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Oath wrote:
Thanks Wayne, I love that you have well-thought-out details like this. So much better than the "it looked cool so I did it" explanation I get a lot visiting artists tables at cons.

Thanks Oath, I'm pleased that you found my trains of thought interesting. Some of the time it does come down to depicting things that just look cool. But most of the time the potentially cool - looking elements are a result of a specific function or aesthetic behind the character I'm depicting. Depending upon the interest level and reaction to the concept description, I may write about the other Iconics - Time permitting.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Wayne Reynolds wrote:
Depending upon the interest level and reaction to the concept description, I may write about the other Iconics - Time permitting.

I'd be very interested in hearing what sort of art order specifics you get for a character like Harsk, and then what inspires the creative contributions you add.


Wayne Reynolds wrote:
Oath wrote:
Thanks Wayne, I love that you have well-thought-out details like this. So much better than the "it looked cool so I did it" explanation I get a lot visiting artists tables at cons.
Thanks Oath, I'm pleased that you found my trains of thought interesting. Some of the time it does come down to depicting things that just look cool. But most of the time the potentially cool - looking elements are a result of a specific function or aesthetic behind the character I'm depicting. Depending upon the interest level and reaction to the concept description, I may write about the other Iconics - Time permitting.

I'd definitely like to know more about the design of the other Iconics.

I completely understand why you designed Kess like a Boxer/Gladiator mix and it makes sense for her character. I think the disconnect for many people would be that she isn't in the pit right now. She's an adventurer and will have to face Dragons, Demons, and people with bows. Her outfit doesn't make as much sense in that context.

I don't mind really because I see the Iconic's outfits as what they wore at the start of their career as an adventurer. Of course, Kess would still be wearing her Pit Fighter armor because what else would she own?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you, Wayne! That was a really cool insight into the aesthetic choices of Kess' wardrobe, but also one into the design process. I think- from what some of the developers have said- that your visuals are as much of an inspiration into the back stories of the characters as their own ideas are*- so getting a "behind the scenes" look like this is very interesting and fun.

Appreciate your taking the time and sharing! :D

*And if I'm reading too much into the design process for the writing of the back stories, apologies. I thought I recalled at least one designer mentioning how much the look WAR captures ends up defining the final story of the character, though.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Larkos wrote:
I completely understand why you designed Kess like a Boxer/Gladiator mix and it makes sense for her character. I think the disconnect for many people would be that she isn't in the pit right now...

Conclusion: We need a Gladiator AP. :D

Paizo Employee Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Wayne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your creation process with everyone!

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adam Daigle wrote:
Wayne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your creation process with everyone!

You're welcome Adam. Thanks for bringing the character to life with the awesome backstory :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
StarMartyr365 wrote:

I really didn't care much for the brawler until I read this. Now I can't wait to roll one up. I think I'm going to make a Varisian with a bunch of really crappy tattoos and a unfathomable accent who is legendary for his ability to get the stuffing kicked out of him and yet still end the match by landing a one punch knock out that breaks his opponent's skull.

SM

Someone a fan of Snatch?

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Adam B. 135 wrote:
StarMartyr365 wrote:

I really didn't care much for the brawler until I read this. Now I can't wait to roll one up. I think I'm going to make a Varisian with a bunch of really crappy tattoos and a unfathomable accent who is legendary for his ability to get the stuffing kicked out of him and yet still end the match by landing a one punch knock out that breaks his opponent's skull.

SM

Someone a fan of Snatch?

I know I am. :)

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Me too!

Grand Lodge

I just realized that I could also do Tyler Durden.
I can't wait for this book to come out.

SM

Liberty's Edge

StarMartyr365 wrote:

I just realized that I could also do Tyler Durden.

I can't wait for this book to come out.

SM

Tyler Durden makes a better Alchemist (maybe with a level of Master Chymist), actually. He's not necessarily very good in a fight, he just does it a lot. Also, he has a thing for explosives and possesses multiple personalities, which are Alchemist trademarks...and Feral Mutagen makes him good in hand-to-hand to boot.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Wayne Reynolds wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:
Wayne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your creation process with everyone!
You're welcome Adam. Thanks for bringing the character to life with the awesome backstory :)

Thank you for the insight from both of you for Kess!

Grand Lodge

Deadmanwalking wrote:
StarMartyr365 wrote:

I just realized that I could also do Tyler Durden.

I can't wait for this book to come out.

SM

Tyler Durden makes a better Alchemist (maybe with a level of Master Chymist), actually. He's not necessarily very good in a fight, he just does it a lot. Also, he has a thing for explosives and possesses multiple personalities, which are Alchemist trademarks...and Feral Mutagen makes him good in hand-to-hand to boot.

OMG! I have a reason to run an Alchemist now. I'm adding that to my list of characters.

SM

Liberty's Edge

StarMartyr365 wrote:

OMG! I have a reason to run an Alchemist now. I'm adding that to my list of characters.

SM

Happy to be of assistance. :)


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

with the brawler class for Elliot, I now have everything I need to run my Leverage: Golarion edition.

Liberty's Edge

Squeakmaan wrote:
with the brawler class for Elliot, I now have everything I need to run my Leverage: Golarion edition.

What classes do you peg everyone else as? Because there's a Mastermind Archetype for Investigator...


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

Sophie is a Bard, Hardison and Parker are both Rogues with their skill points put in different places.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Squeakmaan wrote:
Sophie is a Bard, Hardison and Parker are both Rogues with their skill points put in different places.

Eh, I'll agree with Sophie, but not the others. Parker certainly could be a Rogue, but I'd be inclined to go Slayer (because it's a better Class), and Hardison, in Pathfinder, is obviously some sort of Int-based caster, with Wizard and Alchemist (Mindchemist) being the obvious choices.


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

Parker is absolutely not a Slayer, not gonna get in an argument of which class is better because I disagree, but Parker not only never kills anyone, she only rarely engages in combat of any kind and when she does she uses a taser. She is a Rogue. Any further discussion should probably be moved to a separate thread.

Liberty's Edge

Squeakmaan wrote:
Parker is absolutely not a Slayer, not gonna get in an argument of which class is better because I disagree, but Parker not only never kills anyone, she only rarely engages in combat of any kind and when she does she uses a taser. She is a Rogue. Any further discussion should probably be moved to a separate thread.

Class =/= Flavor, Slayer can be used for everything from a soldier to sneak-thief pretty readily. And besides, Parker wins every hand-to-hand fight she gets in, and is mentioned by Elliot as the second most likely of the protagonists to kill someone (not in quite so many words, but the implication is there). And yeah, I'll leave it at that.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I just stumbled across Kess, as she graces the cover of Dirty Tactics Toolbox, and in a frightening display of coincidence, she's practically the soul mate of my real life friend, Kess.

Seriously, its like Adam followed around my friend for a week for inspiration. They are so similar, its scary. But all in good ways. I had my friend Kess read her backstory, and she absolutely loves it!!

She is now determined to cosplay 'herself'.

Also, I totally wanna try and get her some official Kess art, because that would be amazing.

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Monkeygod wrote:

I just stumbled across Kess, as she graces the cover of Dirty Tactics Toolbox, and in a frightening display of coincidence, she's practically the soul mate of my real life friend, Kess.

Seriously, its like Adam followed around my friend for a week for inspiration. They are so similar, its scary. But all in good ways. I had my friend Kess read her backstory, and she absolutely loves it!!

She is now determined to cosplay 'herself'.

Also, I totally wanna try and get her some official Kess art, because that would be amazing.

That's awesome! It always makes me happy when someone can really connect with something I wrote.

201 to 245 of 245 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Paizo Products / Product Discussion / Paizo Blog: Meet the Iconics: Kess All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Product Discussion